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Title: Historical Parallels, vol 1 (of 3)
Author: Malkin, Arthur Thomas
Language: English
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                         TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:

—Obvious print and punctuation errors were corrected.

—This work is divided into three volumes, all of them available on PG;
 index is on third volume. It has been splitted replacing every item in
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 mantained at the end of third volume.



                           IN THREE  VOLUMES

                                VOL. I.


                 CHARLES KNIGHT & Co., LUDGATE STREET.


                           STAMFORD STREET.



  INTRODUCTION                                                  5


  Mythic period of Grecian history—Savage state of Greece
  compared with that of Scandinavia—Anecdotes of Northern
  warriors—Hercules—Theseus—State of Greece in their time,
  illustrated by that of England subsequent to the
  Conquest—Argonautic expedition—Theban war—Story of Don
  Pedro of Castile—Trojan war                                  11


  Aristomenes—Hereward le Wake—Wallace                         40


  Treatment of Prisoners of War—Crœsus—Roman Triumphs—Sapor
  and Valerian—Imprisonment of Bajazet—His treatment of the
  the advance of Civilization—Effect of Feudal
  Institutions—Anecdote from Froissart—Conduct of the Black
  Prince towards the Constable Du Guesclin and the King of
  France                                                       77


  Tyranny of Cambyses, terminating in madness—of
  Caligula—of the Emperor Paul                                114


  Early changes in the Athenian constitution—Murder of
  Cylon—Fatalism—Usurpation of Pisistratus—His
  policy—Hippias and Hipparchus—Conspiracy of Harmodius
  and Aristogiton—Expulsion of Hippias—Cosmo de’ Medici,
  Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici—Conspiracy of the Pazzi     153


  Invasion of Scythia by Darius—Destruction of Crassus and
  his army by the Parthians—Retreat of Antony—Retreat and
  death of Julian—Retreat from Moscow                         190

  INDEX                                                       239

                         HISTORICAL PARALLELS.


Works of history may be divided into two great classes: those which
select a single action or a detached period for their subject; and
those which follow a nation through the whole or a large portion
of its existence; and which, embracing a number of such subjects,
compensate for giving less minute and accurate information upon each,
by explaining their relation, and the influence which they have
exerted upon each other. To the former belong Thucydides, Xenophon,
and Cæsar; to the latter Diodorus and Livy: or, in English literature,
we may take Clarendon and Hume respectively as the representatives
of these divisions. It is obvious that the method of treating themes
so different in character, must also be essentially different; that
for an historian of the latter class to aim at the particularity
which we expect in the former, would involve something of the same
absurdity as if a landscape painter were to give to an extended horizon
the distinctness and detail which are proper to his foregrounds or
to a closely bounded scene. If our curiosity is not satisfied by a
comprehensive view, the remedy is to be found by multiplying pictures
of its most striking parts, not by introducing into one canvas a
multitude of objects which must fatigue and confuse the mind, and
obscure those leading features which ought to stand out in prominent
relief. Any one who wished to become acquainted with the nature and
characteristics of a country, which he could not survey personally,
would neither confine his inspection to bird’s–eye and panoramic
views, nor content himself with a series of detached paintings, though
representing separately whatever was most worthy of observation: in the
one case his ideas, though perhaps correct, would necessarily be slight
and superficial; in the other, his knowledge of the parts would never
enable him to form an accurate judgment of the whole.

Valuable, therefore, as is the assistance of those authors who have
devoted their talents and learning to epitomizing and rendering
accessible the story of past ages, it is far from desirable that we
should content ourselves with a blind trust in them, without checking
their assertions, and filling up their sketches by a more detailed
knowledge than it is possible for them to communicate. To apply these
observations to the present work, the History of Greece contained
in the Library of Useful Knowledge necessarily gives a very short
account of many things which deserve to be known in detail, both on
account of their historical notoriety and for the intrinsic value
which they possess as striking examples of human power, passion, and
suffering. Much of the excessive commendation which has been bestowed
upon ancient virtue and patriotism ought probably to be attributed to
the eager interest naturally excited by the revival of learning and
the peculiar circumstances under which it took place. The discovery
of the works of the most celebrated writers of antiquity, whose names
at least had not been forgotten, must at any time have produced much
curiosity and excitement: and peculiarly so when modern literature did
not yet possess many names to divide the palm of genius with them.
Besides this the political circumstances of the Italian states, in
which the new discoveries were at first most successfully and generally
prosecuted, would give an additional interest and a peculiar bias to
the study of ancient literature; for their inhabitants would naturally
be disposed, as Italians, to exult in the glories of ancient Italy,
and as republicans to look for patterns both of polity and of conduct
among the famous republics of Greece and Rome. A contrary cause, in a
later age, and in countries subject to arbitrary power, would probably
conduce to the continuance of the same feeling, when the prevalent
subjection of public opinion made it safer to enforce sentiments of
freedom and patriotism under the mask of an overstrained admiration
for actions, frequently of very questionable character, done in times
long past, than openly to profess the love of republican simplicity and
liberty, which was willingly left to be inferred. The usual course of
education long tended, and in an inferior degree perhaps still tends,
to cherish the same indiscriminate enthusiasm. The first histories
put into the hands of children are usually those of Greece and Rome,
taken not from the sober and comparatively unprejudiced relations of
the earliest authorities, but from Plutarch, and other compilers of a
later age, who, living themselves under despotic power, and compelled
to veil their philosophical aspirations after a better state of polity
and morals under extravagant praises of a by–gone period of imaginary
virtue and disinterestedness, were for the most part ready to warp
truth into correspondence with their own views. In such works actions
are held up to admiration because they are brilliant, without much
inquiry whether they were justifiable; wanton and unjust aggressions,
and other crimes of still deeper dye, are glossed over upon some false
plea of patriotism; or their moral quality is never alluded to, and the
young reader is too much captivated by the splendour of bravery and
talent, to remember that the ends to which these gifts are directed
should never be forgotten in estimating their claim to applause.[1]
But whatever be our opinion touching Grecian and Roman virtue, or the
moral character of the most celebrated portions of their history, these
have obtained a degree of currency and notoriety which render familiar
acquaintance with them almost necessary for the full understanding of
much even of modern literature. The object of this work is to supply,
in part, these details from the original historians, and to compare
or contrast them with other remarkable incidents of ancient or modern
times; in hope of forming a collection of narratives of some interest
to those who are not largely read in history. And even those who are
in some degree familiar with the subjects here treated, but whose
knowledge is chiefly drawn from compilations of modern date, may be
gratified by the variety in style, feelings, and opinions observable in
a collection of extracts from authors of various dates and nations.

We have selected from the Grecian History, in chronological order,
as furnishing the readiest principle of arrangement, a series of
occurrences of which some have obtained remarkable notoriety; some,
being less known, are either striking in themselves, or characteristic
of the age and people to which they belong; and finally some, with
less intrinsic value, may serve to introduce curious or instructive
matter of comparison. To every person well acquainted with the
subject, many things will probably occur, of which the omission may
be regretted. Completeness, however, is evidently unattainable in an
undertaking of this sort, and the passages taken from Grecian history
have necessarily been regulated in part by the correspondences which
presented themselves in the histories of other nations. It has been
our object to draw examples from a great variety of sources; from
different countries, in different ages, and in different states of
civilization: and to show that no particular virtues or vices have
been inherent in any age or nation: believing that human nature and
human passions are everywhere alike, and that the great differences in
national character are mainly to be ascribed to external circumstances
and training. Comparisons of contrast, therefore, are no less valuable
than comparisons of resemblance, when we can trace the causes which
have produced a difference in conduct. It only remains to add, that we
have not always thought it necessary to require a close analogy either
of motives or of actions.

The instances chosen have not been very strictly confined to what
rests upon undoubted testimony. Perhaps we learn little less of the
habits and opinions of men, from ascertaining what they have believed
of others, than from knowing what they have done themselves; and,
therefore, even works of fiction may be resorted to in some degree,
care being taken to distinguish the character of the authorities.
For example, we should have no hesitation in quoting even from the
Mort d’Arthur, and still more from the earlier romances on which
it is founded, in illustration of the manners of the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries, in which those romances were written; or,
though on different grounds, the admirable narratives of the plagues
of Florence and London by Boccaccio and Defoe, which probably are no
less trustworthy for the character of the narrative, and in a great
degree for the facts themselves, than Thucydides’ description of
the plague at Athens. Again, there is a sort of debateable ground,
where genuine history begins to gain the ascendant over fable, as
in the case of Aristomenes and Wallace, where we cannot tell, nor
is it important to know, the exact measure of truth contained in
the legends concerning them. The outlines of their lives we have
reason to believe to be correct, and rejecting from their exploits
all that is grossly improbable, the remainder will furnish us with a
sufficiently clear idea of the accomplishments and adventures of a
warrior of their respective ages. The poem of Blind Harry abounds in
improbable fictions, but much more information concerning Wallace
and his contemporaries may be gained from it than from the meagre
chronicles which composed the graver literature of the age. From
such sources, therefore, we shall not scruple to borrow, though not
without advertising the reader of their nature, and endeavouring, where
necessary, to draw the boundary line between truth and fiction.

For reasons above stated, our extracts have usually been taken from
contemporary authors, or at least from the earliest authorities
extant. Where this rule has been departed from, it is because the
originals offer no striking passages to select, and are too prolix
to be given entire. In this case, condensation becomes necessary,
and we have gladly availed ourselves of the labours of others who
have already performed that task, in preference to seeking novelty
at the expense perhaps of accuracy or elegance. For the same reason
existing translations have been used, whenever a good translation of
the particular passage could be found. Where none such occurred, we
have endeavoured to adhere closely to our author, and even where his
narrative has been much compressed, to give, as far as was possible,
not only his substance, but his words.



 Mythic period of Grecian history—Savage state of Greece
 compared with that of Scandinavia—Anecdotes of Northern
 warriors—Hercules—Theseus—State of Greece in their time, illustrated by
 that of England subsequent to the Conquest—Argonautic expedition—Theban
 war—Story of Don Pedro of Castile—Trojan war.

The traditions from which our knowledge of what is called the mythic
age of Greece, or the age of fable, from the earliest notices of it
to the Trojan war, is almost entirely derived, furnish few materials
for a work like this, for where everything is misty and undefined,
there can be little opportunity for comparison. The wonderful poetic
talent displayed in their narration and embellishment has, however,
given them a place in history, and an importance otherwise undeserved,
and men study the actions and genealogy of an Achaian prince, as
gravely as if he had been really the descendant of Jupiter, and the
conqueror of monsters and oppressors innumerable. It becomes the more
interesting therefore to inquire into the actual condition of Greece
in its earliest times, and ascertain, if possible, whether the godlike
men, sprung from the Gods, of whose superhuman powers and exploits
succeeding ages have read, until by the mere force of repetition they
have half believed them, had in reality any advantage over barbarians
of other races and regions. To guide us in the inquiry we have two
sorts of information, totally distinct in their nature: the meagre
notices of authentic history, and a copious store of mythological and
poetical legends. So far as the former is available, we have no reason
to think that the heroic age had much advantage over those dark times
in which the foundations of modern Europe were laid. Passing over the
account given by Thucydides of the earliest inhabitants of Greece as
being applicable to any savage race, in the next stage of society, when
the arts had somewhat advanced, in the reign of Minos, the first person
perhaps of whom any rational and credible account is given, a code of
honour existed which made strength not only the first but the sum–total
of all virtues, and filled the sea with pirates and the land with

“Minos was the most ancient of all that by report we know to have
built a navy, and he made himself master of the now Grecian sea, and
both commanded the Isles called Cyclades,[2] and also was the first
who sent colonies into most of the same, expelling thence the Carians,
and constituting his own sons there for governors, and also freed the
sea from pirates as much as he could, for the better coming in, as is
likely, of his own revenue.

“For the Grecians in old time and such barbarians[3] as in the
continent lived near unto the sea or else inhabited the islands, when
they began more often to cross over to one another in ships, became
thieves, and went abroad under the conduct of their most puissant men,
both to enrich themselves and to fetch in maintenance for the weak:
and falling upon towns unfortified, and scatteringly inhabited, rifled
them, and made this the best means of their living; being at that time
a matter nowhere in disgrace, but rather carrying with it something
of glory. This is manifest by some that dwell on the continent, among
whom, so it be performed nobly, it is still esteemed as an ornament.
The same also is proved by some of the ancient poets, who introduce
men questioning such as sail by, on all coasts alike, whether they be
thieves or not;[4] as a thing neither scorned by such as were asked,
nor upbraided by those that were desirous to know. They also robbed
one another within the main land: and much of Greece useth that old
custom, as the Locrians called Ozolæ (or _Stinkards_), the Acarnanians,
and those of the continent in that quarter unto this day. Moreover the
fashion of wearing iron remaineth yet with the people of that continent
from their old trade of thieving.

“For once they were wont throughout all Greece to go armed, because
their houses were unfenced and travelling unsafe, and accustomed
themselves like the barbarians to the ordinary wearing of their armour.
And the nations of Greece that live so yet, do testify that the same
manner of life was anciently universal to all the rest.”[5]

A condition of society identical with that described in the latter
part of this extract still exists among the Curdish and Caucasian and
other Asiatic mountaineers, and existed till lately in the Scottish
Highlands. But descriptions of the latter have been multiplied, until
they have become familiar in men’s mouths as household terms; and we
pass in preference to a less hackneyed subject. In the eighth and
ninth centuries the piratical spirit of ancient Greece was revived
among those fierce Danes and Norwegians, who led a life of constant
rapine and bloodshed; of interminable warfare at home, of frightful
devastation abroad. “The Sea–kings of the North were a race of beings
whom Europe beheld with horror. Without a yard of territorial property,
with no wealth but their ships, no force but their crews, and no
hope but from their swords, they swarmed upon the boisterous ocean,
and plundered in every district that they could approach.... It is
declared to have been a law or custom in the North, that one of the
male children should be selected to remain at home to inherit the
government. The rest were exiled to the ocean, to wield their sceptres
amid the turbulent waters. The consent of the northern societies
entitled all men of royal descent, who assumed piracy as a profession,
to enjoy the name of kings, though they possessed no territory. The
sea–kings had the same honour, but they were only a portion of those
pirates, or _vikingr_, who in the ninth century were covering the
ocean. Not only the children of the kings, but every man of importance
equipped ships, and roamed the seas to acquire property by force.
Piracy was not only the most honourable occupation and the best harvest
of wealth; it was not only consecrated to public estimation by the
illustrious who pursued it, but no one was esteemed noble, no one was
respected, who did not return in the winter to his home with ships
laden with booty.”[6] Part of the regulations of a band of pirates is
preserved by Bartholinus, and may serve as a specimen of the better
class, though the reader may not be inclined to agree with him in
considering them as men “devoted to virtue, bravery, and humanity,
rather than to the oppression of innocent persons.” These regulations
were called the Constitutions of King Half. “No one might wear a
sword more than an ell in length, that they might be compelled to
close in battle. Each was to be equal in strength to twelve ordinary
men. They made prisoners neither women nor boys. None was to bind his
wounds until the lapse of twenty hours. These men everywhere infested
the land, and everywhere were victorious. They lay at anchor at the
ends of headlands. They never raised bulwarks on their ships’ sides,
and never lowered their sails, let the wind blow as it would. Their
captain never had in his ship more than sixty men.” No less creditable
were the ordinances of Hialmar, the sum of which was, that his men
should plunder neither traders nor husbandmen; that they should neither
rob women of their money, nor carry them off against their consent:
and should not eat raw flesh.[7] The fiercer class indulged in this
disgusting food, and washed it down suitably with draughts of blood.
Savage in all things, it was an amusement to toss infants from one to
another, and catch them on the points of their lances. Many used to
work themselves literally into a state of bestial ferocity. Those who
were subject to these paroxysms were called Berserkir: they studied
to resemble wild beasts; they excited themselves to a strength which
has been compared to that of bears; and this unnatural power was
succeeded, as we may well suppose, by corresponding debility. In the
French and Italian romances, we frequently find a warrior endowed,
for a part of the day, with a double or treble share of strength;
and it is not improbable that the fiction may have been derived
from this species of frenzy, which is thus described by the Danish
historian, Saxo Grammaticus. “Sivald had seven sons, so skilled in
magic, that, impelled by the sudden access of fury, they used often
to howl savagely, to gnaw their shields, to devour live coals, and
rush fearlessly into fire; and this passion could only be appeased by
confinement in fetters, or by human blood.” This Sivald and Haldan
were rivals for the Swedish crown. Sivald challenged Haldan to decide
their quarrel by contending alone with himself and his seven sons. The
latter answered that the legitimate form of the duel did not admit of
more than two. “No wonder,” replied his antagonist, “that a man without
wife or offspring, whose mind and body are alike deficient in warmth,
should refuse the proffered encounter. But my children, who own me as
the author of their existence, and myself, have one common origin, and
must be considered as one man.” The force of the argument was admitted,
and, in obedience to this modest request, Haldan knocked out the brains
of the eight.

The same warrior was challenged by another Berserkir, named Harthben,
who always had twelve chosen men in attendance to prevent his doing
mischief when the fit was upon him. Upon hearing that Haldan undertook
to fight himself and his followers, he was seized with a paroxysm which
was not subdued until he had killed six of them, by way of trying his
hand: and then he was killed by his antagonist, as he richly deserved,
for throwing away half his chance.[8] So also we read that Odin could
blunt the weapons of his enemies; that his soldiers went to battle
without armour, biting their shields, raging like wolves or dogs: like
bears or bulls in strength, they slaughtered their foes, and were
themselves invulnerable to fire and sword.[9] At length, however, this
passion changed from a distinction to a reproach, and was ultimately
prohibited by penal laws.

Harold Harfager, or the Fairhaired, who consolidated Norway under
his sceptre, A.D. 910, cleared the Northern Ocean from the
scourge of piracy, as did Minos the Grecian seas. Still the spirit
of depredation was alive. The spread of Christianity moderated the
excesses of the Northmen, but it was long ere their fondness for
freebooting was extinguished; nay, the very rites of religion were
employed to give a sanction to robbery. Maritime expeditions seemed
to the Danes pious and necessary, that they might protect themselves
from the incursions of their Sclavonic neighbours on the continent, and
piracy was therefore practised under certain laws, which in the opinion
of Bartholinus breathe a spirit of defence rather than of aggression.
“Pirates had power to take such ships as appeared suited to their
purpose, even without consent of the owners, upon payment of one–eighth
of the booty by way of hire. Before a voyage they made confession to
the priests, and having undergone penance, they received the sacrament,
as if at the point of death, believing that things would go more
prosperously if they duly propitiated God before war. Content with
their food and armour, they avoided burdening their vessels, and took
nothing that could delay their voyage. Their watches were frequent,
their mode of life sparing. They slept leaning upon their oars. Their
battles were numerous: their victory ever easy, and almost bloodless.
The booty was shared equally, the master receiving no larger portion
than a common rower. Those Christians whom they found enslaved in the
captured vessels, they presented with clothing, and dismissed to their
own homes.”[10]

The frantic ravages of these barbarians have been described by the
sufferers, and belong in part to our own history; while those committed
by the unknown tribes who two thousand years before occupied the other
extremity of Europe, are long since forgotten, or remembered only in
the flattering traditions of their countrymen. The former, therefore,
are known and execrated, while the latter stand fair with the world:
and in the absence of evidence, we are far from wishing to impute to
them that bestial ferocity which so often disgraced the Northmen:
but who can compare the passages just given with that quoted from
Thucydides, without being convinced that they refer to corresponding
periods of civilization, and describe similar principles, if not
similar modes of action? And as the best historical accounts which we
can procure represent the feelings and habits of the early Greeks
as closely akin to those of our own barbarous ancestors, so their
traditions and fables lead us to the same conclusion. The Scaldic poems
bear, indeed, a more savage cast; some say from the inhospitable rigour
of our northern sky; but more probably because we possess them in their
original or nearly their original state, while the earliest Greek
compositions extant were written in an age comparatively civilized.
But the heroes of both were actuated by the same spirit. Siegfrid and
Wolf Dietrich differ little but in external ornament from Castor, or
Achilles, or Diomed; their pride was in the same accomplishments, their
delight in the same pleasures, their hope in an immortality of the same
sensual enjoyments.[11]

Some sketch of the life of Starchaterus, a purely fictitious person,
may serve as a specimen of these stories.

Starchaterus was born in Sweden, a few years after the Christian era.
He was of giant stature, and of strength and courage correspondent to
the magnitude of his frame, so that in prowess he was held inferior to
none of mortal parentage; and, as he excelled all in bodily endowments,
so his life was protracted to three times the usual duration of human
existence. Like his great prototype, the Grecian Hercules, he traversed
the neighbouring regions, and went even to Ireland and Constantinople
in quest of adventures; but, unlike him, he was animated by a most
intolerant hatred of everything approaching to luxury, insomuch that
he treated an invitation to dinner as an insult, and inflicted severe
punishment upon all who were so imprudently hospitable as to request
his company. For it was the mark of a buffoon and parasite, he said, to
run after the smell of another man’s kitchen, for the sake of better
fare.[12] In other respects the severity of his manners was more
commendable; when he found any of the classes who live by the follies
or vices of mankind mixing with soldiers, he drove them away with the
scourge, esteeming them unworthy to receive death from the hands of
brave men. In addition to his other accomplishments, he was skilled in
poetry, and persecuted luxury in verse no less successfully than by
corporeal inflictions, as is evident from certain of his compositions,
which have been translated into Latin by Saxo Grammaticus.

He went to Russia on purpose to fight Visin, who possessed the power
of blunting weapons with a look, and trusting in this magic power,
exercised all sorts of cruelty and oppression. Starchaterus rendered
the charm of no avail by covering his sword with thin leather, and then
obtained an easy victory.

Nine warriors of tried valour offered to Helgo, king of Norway, the
alternative of doing battle singly against the nine, or losing his
bride upon his marriage–day. Helgo thought it best to appear by his
champion, and requested the assistance of Starchaterus, who was so
eager for the adventure, that in following Helgo to the appointed
place, in one day, and on foot, he performed a journey which had
occupied the king, who travelled on horseback, during twelve days.
On the morrow, which was the appointed day, ascending a mountain,
which was the place of meeting, he chose a spot exposed to the wind
and snow, and then, as if it were spring, throwing off his clothes,
he set himself to dislodge the fleas that nestled in them. Then the
nine warriors ascended the mountain on the other side, and showed the
difference of their hardihood by lighting a fire in a sheltered spot.
Not perceiving their antagonist, one went to look out from the mountain
top, who saw at a distance an old man covered with snow up to the
shoulders. They asked him if it were he who was to fight with them, and
being answered in the affirmative, inquired further, whether he would
receive them singly or all together. His reply was rather more churlish
than the question deserved: “When the dogs bark at me, I drive them off
all together, and not one by one.” Then, after a severe battle, he
slew them all.

At last, being overtaken by age, he thought it fit to terminate his
life before his glory was dimmed by decrepitude; for men used to
consider it disgraceful for a warrior to perish by sickness. So he
hung round his neck one hundred and twenty pounds of gold, the spoil
of one Olo, to buy the good offices of an executioner, thinking it fit
that the wealth which he had obtained by another man’s death should be
spent in procuring his own. And meeting Hather, whose father he had
formerly slain, he exhorted him to take vengeance for that injury, and
pointed out what he would gain by doing so. Hather willingly consented,
and Starchaterus, stretching out his neck, bade him strike boldly,
adding, for his encouragement, that if he leaped between the severed
head and the trunk before the latter touched the earth, he would become
invincible in arms. Now, whether he said this out of good will, or to
be quits with his slayer, who ran a good chance of being crushed by the
falling giant, is doubtful. The head, stricken off at a blow, bit the
earth, retaining its ferocity in death: but Starchaterus’ real meaning
remained unknown, for Hather showed his prudence by declining to take a
leap, which had he taken, he might never have leaped again.[13]

This is an early and rude specimen of an errant knight; the same
character which was afterwards expanded into Roland and Launcelot, the
paladins and peers of Charlemagne and Arthur, worthies closely allied
to the heroes of Homer and Hesiod. The triple–bodied Geryon, the Nemean
lion and Lernæan hydra, the deliverance of Andromeda by Perseus, the
capture of the golden fleece, and above all, perhaps, Amycus, who
compelled all strangers to box with him, till he was beaten by Pollux,
and bound by oath to renounce the practice, are entirely in unison with
the spirit and imagery of chivalric romance. Examples to this effect
might easily be multiplied. But an essay on the fictions of the Greeks
would be foreign to the scope of this publication: and it would be
absurd to enter upon a critical investigation of a series of stories,
extended by some chronologers over seven centuries, from the foundation
of Argos to the Trojan war, while Newton contracts them within a
century and a half, which tell of little but bloodshed, abductions,
and violence of all sorts, intermixed, however, with notices of those
who invented the useful arts and fostered the gradual progress of
civilization. As we approach to the Trojan war, a sort of twilight
history begins to dawn upon us. It is to what may seem at first the
strongholds of fiction, to the exploits of Hercules and Theseus, that
we refer. The earliest ascertained fact is the establishment of a
regular government by Minos, who also cleared the sea from pirates.
At no long interval the above–named heroes made another step in
civilization; they cleared the land from rapine, as Minos had cleared
the sea. Other men, roaming in search of adventures, had carried
bloodshed through the land at the suggestion of their passions or for
the advancement of their fame; but Hercules first traversed the earth
with the express design of avenging the oppressed and exterminating
their oppressors, and the example was soon after followed by his
kinsman Theseus. Their exploits, of course, are chiefly fabulous:
but it is worthy of observation that those of Theseus approach much
nearer to probability than the far–famed labours of Hercules. Indeed
the history of the former presents this peculiarity, that the accounts
of his youth are consistent, and scarcely improbable, while those of
his age run into all the extravagance of romance. Theseus, travelling
from Trœzen to Athens, was strongly urged to go by sea, the way by
land being beset with robbers and murderers. He refused to do so,
being inflamed with emulation of Hercules’ renown; and on the journey
signalized himself by slaying Sinnis, surnamed the Pine–bender, because
he dismembered travellers by tying them to the tops of trees forcibly
brought together and then allowed to start asunder; Procrustes, who
exhibited a passion for uniformity worthy a German general of the
old school, in reducing all men to the measure of his own bed, by
stretching those who were too short, and docking those who were too
long; together with others of less note, and similar habits. That
Plutarch believed in these stories is evident, from the tone in which
he recites them; a corroboration, indeed, of no great weight, for
he proceeds with equal gravity to relate things which no one will
credit; but in this instance his account of the state of Greece gives
warranty for his belief, and is itself confirmed by our knowledge of
later ages. The passage has often been quoted, but it is striking and
to the purpose, and its want of novelty, therefore, shall be no bar
to its insertion. “The world at that time brought forth men, which
for strongness in their arms, for swiftness of their feet, and for
a general strength of the whole body, did far pass the common force
of others, and were never weary for any labour or travail they took
in hand. But for all this, they never employed these gifts of nature
to any honest or profitable thing; but rather delighted villainously
to hurt and wrong others; as if all the fruit and profit of their
extraordinary strength had consisted in cruelty and violence only,
and to be able to keep others under and in subjection; and to force,
destroy, and spoil all that came to their hands. Thinking that the more
part of those which think it a shame to do ill, and commend justice,
equity, and humanity, do it of faint, cowardly hearts, because they
dare not wrong others, for fear they should receive wrong themselves;
and, therefore, that they which by might could have vantage over
others, had nothing to do with such qualities.”[14]

The enormities ascribed to Sinnis and his fellows have discredited
the whole train of adventures to which they belong; but this is an
untenable ground of doubt. He who reads descriptions of the state of
England, before laws were strong enough to control private violence,
given by contemporaries who saw what they relate, and whose narratives
bear the impress of sincerity, will better appreciate the extent of
human ferocity. In the reign of Stephen disorder was at its height.
“The barons cruelly oppressed the wretched men of the land with
castle–works, and when the castles were made, they filled them with
devils and evil men. Then took they those whom they supposed to have
any goods, both by night and day, labouring men and women, and threw
them into the prison for their gold and silver, and inflicted on them
unutterable tortures: for never were any martyrs so tortured as they
were. Some they hanged up by the feet, and smoked them with foul smoke,
and some by the thumbs, or the head, and hung coats of mail on their
feet. They tied knotted cords about their heads, and twisted them until
the pain went to their brains. They put them into dungeons where were
adders, and snakes, and toads, and so destroyed them. Some they placed
in a crucet house; that is, in a chest that was short and narrow, and
not deep, wherein they put sharp stones, and so thrust the man therein,
that they broke all the limbs. In many of the castles were things
loathsome and grim, called Sachenteges, of which two or three men had
enough to bear one. They were thus made: they were fastened to a beam,
having a sharp iron to go about a man’s throat, so that he could in no
direction either sit, or lie, or sleep, but bear all that iron. Many
thousands they wore out with hunger. I neither can, nor may I tell
all the wounds and pains which they inflicted on wretched men in this

“Some, seeing the sweetness of their country turned into bitterness,
went into foreign parts: others built hovels about churches in hope
of security, and there passed life in fear and pain, subsisting for
lack of food (for famine was felt dreadfully over all England) upon
the forbidden and unused flesh of dogs and horses, or relieving hunger
with raw herbs and roots, until throughout the provinces men, wasted
by famine, died in crowds, or went voluntarily with their families
into a miserable exile. You might see towns of famous name, standing
lonely, and altogether emptied by the death of their inhabitants of
all ages and sexes; the fields whitening under a thriving harvest, but
the husbandman cut off by pestilential famine ere it ripened: and all
England wore the face of grief and calamity, of misery and oppression.
In addition to these evils, the savage multitude of barbarians who
resorted to England for the gains of warfare was moved neither by the
bowels of piety nor by any feeling of human compassion for such misery:
everywhere they conspired from their castles to do all wickedness,
being always at leisure to rob the poor, to promote quarrels, and
intent everywhere upon slaughter with all the malice of a wicked
mind.” Even churchmen amused themselves with these pastimes. “The
bishops themselves, as I am ashamed to say, not all indeed, but many
of them, clad in handsome armour, rode up and down on prancing horses
with these upsetters of their country; shared in their booty; exposed
to fetters, or torture, knights, or any wealthy persons soever, whom
they intercepted; and being themselves the head and cause of all this
wickedness, they threw the blame not on themselves, but only upon their

Enough of general descriptions, which are fully borne out by the
particulars related. “In the reign of Stephen, Robert, the son of
Hubert, had gotten possession of the castle of Devizes. He was a man
exceeding all within memory in barbarity and blasphemy, who used
freely to make boast, that he had been present when twenty–four monks
were burnt together with their church, and profess that he would do
as much in England, and ruin utterly the abbey of Malmesbury. If he
ever dismissed a prisoner unransomed, and without the torture, which
very seldom happened, at such times, when they thanked him in God’s
name, I have with these ears heard him answer, ‘God will never own the
obligation to me.’ He would expose his captives naked to the burning
sun, anointed with honey, to attract flies, and such other tormenting
insects.”[17] This worthy met with a fit end, being taken and hanged;
but this act of retribution was one of illegal violence, being done by
a knight who held Marlborough Castle, without a shadow of authority,
and apparently on the principle that any one had a right to abate a

“In these times (the reign of William Rufus) men come not to great
name but by the highest wickedness. Thomas, a great baron near Laudun
in France, was great in name, because he was extreme in wickedness. At
enmity with the surrounding churches, he had brought all their wealth
into his own exchequer. If any one by force or guile were holden in his
keeping, truly might that man say, ‘the pains of hell got hold upon
me.’ Murder was his glory and delight. Against all usage, he placed
a countess in a dungeon, whom the foul ruffian harassed with fetters
and torments to extort money. He would speak words of peace to his
neighbour, and stab him to the heart with a smile, and hence, under his
cloak, he more often wore his sword naked than sheathed. Therefore,
men feared, respected, worshipped him. All through France was he
spoken of. Daily did his estate, his treasure, his vassalage increase.
Wouldst thou hear the end of this villain? Being stricken with a sword
unto death, refusing to repent, and turning away his head from the
Lord’s body, in such manner he perished: so that it might well be
said, ‘Befitting to your life was that death.’ You have seen Robert de
Belesme, a Norman baron, who when established in his castle was Pluto,
Megæra, Cerberus, or anything that can be named more dreadful. He took
pains not to dismiss, but to dispatch his captives. Pretending to be in
play, he put out his son’s eyes with his thumbs, while he was muffled
up in a cloak; he impaled persons of both sexes. Horrid slaughter was
as a meat pleasant to his soul: therefore was he found in all men’s
mouths, so that the wonderful doings of Robert de Belesme passed into
proverbs. Let us come at length to the end. He who had afflicted
others in prison, being at last thrown into prison by King Henry, ended
his wicked life by an enduring punishment.”[18]

It was this state of disorder which produced knight–errantry, and
there is nothing absurd in believing that equal lawlessness in another
country was checked by the same sort of interference. The reality of
knight–errantry has, indeed, been questioned; it has been pronounced a
fiction, suited to the wants of the period in which it was supposed to
exist. If this were so, and the tales of Hercules and Theseus equally
groundless, it would still be curious to see that men had been led to
imagine the same means of making amends for the want of an executive
power: but we do not believe this to be the case. The romances gave
system and consistency to the scattered acts of individuals; they
described the better qualities of knighthood in their own days, and
filled up the picture with imaginary virtues and preter–human prowess,
attributes which men are always ready to confer on their ancestors, as
Nestor makes the heroes with whom he fought in youth far superior to
those whom he lectured in old age, and Homer endows those who fought
under Troy with the strength of three or four men, “such as mortals now
are.” But their productions bear the stamp of copies, not originals,
and it is not very easy to believe that they would have invented, or
their audience and readers relished, characters and rules of action for
which their own experience gave no warrant.

There is, however, a double Theseus, of historic as well as legendary
fame. In his latter capacity, both for the degree of reality and
the nature of his exploits, he may be compared to Arthur; in his
former, still to draw an illustration from British history, he is not
unworthy to be placed by the side of Alfred. The union of these two,
discordant as it may appear, is not more so than that of the poetic
and the historical Theseus. Alfred, indeed, signalised his military
talents in many hard–fought fields, but his victories were those of
a general: the exploits of Theseus were those of a knight. But among
the mass of stories of questionable truth or unquestioned falsehood
relating to him, it is generally acknowledged that this man, whose
very existence we might else have doubted, was the author of extensive
and judicious reforms in government, such as proved the foundation
of Attic greatness: reforms which he effected by the rarest and most
virtuous of all sacrifices, the resignation of his own power.[19]
Attica was divided into twelve districts, shires we might call them,
except that, taken all together, they were less than one of the
larger English counties. Professedly forming one body, and owning a
precarious obedience to one prince, they had still their petty and
conflicting interests, and could with difficulty be induced to concur
in any measures for the benefit of the whole. Theseus, encouraged
by the popularity which he had gained by delivering Athens from its
subjection to Crete,[20] undertook to substitute a better polity. “He
went through the several towns, and persuaded the inhabitants to give
up their separate councils and magistrates, and submit to a common
jurisdiction. Every man was to retain his dwelling and his property
as before; but justice was to be administered and all public business
transacted at Athens. The mass of the people came into his measures,
and to subdue the reluctance of the powerful, who were loath to resign
the importance accruing from the local magistracies, he gave up much of
his own authority, reserving only the command of the army, and the care
of watching over the execution of the laws. Opposition was silenced
by his liberality, together with the fear of his power, ability, and
courage, and the union of Attica was effected by him and made lasting.
To bind it closer, without disturbing the religious observances of the
several towns, he instituted a common festival in honour of Minerva,
which was called the feast of union, and (_Panathenæa_) the feast of
all the Athenians.”[21]

This process bears some resemblance to the consolidation of the Saxon
Heptarchy, nominally effected by Egbert, but completed and made truly
beneficial by Alfred. The evils which were to be reformed were very
different in the two cases: at Athens civil dissension was to be
remedied; in England a rude people, intermixed with foreign barbarians
more ferocious than themselves, and reduced to poverty by a series of
destructive invasions, required a strong curb for the re–establishment
of order and security. We must not expect, therefore, to find any
resemblance between their institutions: the Saxons required no measures
to prevent civil war, and inspire a spirit of nationality; the
Athenians, though well inclined to civil broils, respected, from the
earliest dawn of history, the security of property, and in consequence
far outstripped the rest of Greece in wealth and refinement.
Nevertheless the names of these princes may fairly be selected to
adorn the same page: both advanced beyond their age in legislative and
political science; both directed their wisdom, power, and popularity to
truly noble ends; and therefore merit the respect of all who believe
rank and office to have been instituted for other ends than for the
advantage of those who possess them.

We have spoken of Hercules and Theseus as indicating the commencement
of Grecian history. Previous to them, facts are mentioned which we
have no ground to disbelieve, as the various settlements by Phœnician
or Egyptian emigrants; but all further particulars of these persons,
with the exception of Minos, are of such a nature, that where we find
no internal evidence to pronounce them fabulous we can yet assign but
scanty reasons for relying confidently upon their truth. But about
this era our knowledge begins to increase. We must refer to it an
event of which it is not easy to fix the date with certainty; namely,
the celebrated Argonautic expedition, in which both these heroes
are said to have joined: a statement, however, irreconcileable with
the accounts of Theseus’ introduction to Ægeus, and the plot formed
against him by Medea.[22] Without troubling ourselves to account for
these discrepancies, it is evident that the expedition, if it ever
took place, which there seems reason to believe in spite of Bryant’s
opposition, who would ascribe this, and almost all other legends, to
some faint traditions of the deluge and preservation of Noah, must have
borne a close resemblance to the Danish piratical excursions which we
have already described. Not long after occurs the first confederate war
mentioned in Grecian history, that of the Seven against Thebes;[23]
an event so closely connected with mythology that its reality might
reasonably be questioned, but for the testimony of Homer and Hesiod.
The revolting nature of the struggle between two brothers, for the
kingdom of a banished, miserable, and neglected father, would incline
us indeed to give as little credit to the concluding tragedy of the
house of Laius, as to the series of crimes and misery by which that
house had been polluted: but all arguments founded upon the horrors
of such fratricidal warfare fall to the ground, when in the brightest
period of chivalry we find it revived with no less rancour, and a no
less fatal end, and the flower of French knighthood a calm spectator,
nay, almost an actor in the scene. The strife between Don Pedro of
Castile, and his brother Henry of Transtamara, the deadly struggle in
which Pedro, who had already slain one brother, fell, when defeated
and a prisoner, by the dagger of another against whom his own hand was
armed, involve circumstances of horror scarce less adapted to dramatic
effect than those legends which have so often employed the Greek

Don Pedro was the legitimate heir to the crown of Castile. Don Henry
and Don Fadrique (or Frederick) were his half–brothers by Donna Leonora
de Guzman, whom their father had entertained as his mistress, and even
proclaimed queen, during the life–time of his lawful wife. When Pedro
succeeded to the throne, at his mother’s instigation he put her rival
to death: his brothers, Henry and Fadrique, escaped, and the former
renounced his allegiance: the latter fled into Portugal; but after
some time he made his peace, returned, and was appointed master of the
order of St. Iago. When several months had elapsed, he was invited to
join the court at Seville, and take his share in the amusements of an
approaching tournament. He accepted the invitation, but was sternly
and ominously received, and immediately executed within the palace.
The friends of Pedro asserted, that the king had, that very day,
detected Don Fadrique in a correspondence with his brother Henry and
the Arragonese; while popular belief attributed the slaughter of the
master to the influence of Pedro’s mistress, Maria de Padilla. The
circumstances of this event are powerfully described in one of the
Spanish ballads, so admirably translated by Mr. Lockhart. There is a
peculiarity of construction in the ballad, the person of the narrator
being changed in the course of it. It is commenced by the victim
himself, who describes the alacrity with which he obeyed his brother’s

  I sat alone in Coimbra—the town myself had ta’en,—
  When came into my chamber a messenger from Spain:
  There was no treason in his look, an honest look he wore,
  I from his hand the letter took—my brother’s seal it bore.

  “Come, brother dear, the day draws near (’twas thus bespoke the king)
  For plenar court and nightly sport, within the listed ring.”
  Alas, unhappy master, I easy credence lent:
  Alas, for fast and faster I at his bidding went.

  When I set out from Coimbra, and passed the bounds of Spain,
  I had a goodly company of spearmen in my train;
  A gallant force, a score of horse, and sturdy mules thirteen;
  With joyful heart I held my course, my years were young and green.

  A journey of good fifteen days within the week was done,
  I halted not, though signs I got, dark tokens many a one;
  A strong stream mastered horse and mule, I lost a poniard fine,
  And left a page within the pool, a faithful page of mine.

  Yet on to proud Seville I rode—when to the gate I came,
  Before it stood a man of God to warn me from the same:
  The words he spake I would not hear, his grief I would not see;
  “I seek,” I said, “my brother dear—I will not stop for thee.”

  No lists were closed upon the sand, for royal tourney dight,
  No pawing horse was seen to stand, I saw no armed knight:
  Yet aye I gave my mule the spur, and hasted through the town,
  I stopt before his palace–door, then gaily leapt I down.

  They shut the door—my trusty score of friends were left behind;
  I would not hear their whispered fear, no harm was in my mind;
  I greeted Pedro, but he turned—I wot his look was cold;
  His brother from his knee he spurned—“Stand off, thou master bold.

  “Stand off, stand off, thou traitor strong!” ‘twas thus he saith to me,
  “Thy time on earth shall not be long—what brings thee to my knee?
  My lady craves a new year’s gift, and I will keep my word;
  Thy head methinks may serve the shift—good yeoman, draw thy sword—“

  The master lay upon the floor, ere well that word was said,
  Then in a charger off they bore his pale and bloody head.
  They brought it to Padilla’s chair, they bowed them on the knee—
  “King Pedro greets thee, lady fair, his gift he sends to thee.”

  She gazed upon the master’s head, her scorn it could not scare,
  And cruel were the words she spoke, and proud her glances were.
  “Thou now shalt pay, thou traitor base, the debt of many a year,
  My dog shall lick that haughty face, no more that lip shall sneer.”

  She seized it by the clotted hair, and o’er the window flung:
  The mastiff smelt it in his lair, forth at her cry he sprung;
  The mastiff that had crouched so low, to lick the master’s hand,
  He tossed the morsel to and fro, and licked it on the sand.

  And ever as the mastiff tore, his bloody teeth were shown,
  With growl and snort he made his sport, and picked it to the bone!
  The baying of the beast was loud; and swiftly on the street
  There gathered round a gaping crowd to see the mastiff eat.

  Then out and spake King Pedro—“What governance is this?
  The rabble rout the gate without torment my dogs, I wiss.”
  Then out and spake King Pedro’s page—“It is the master’s head,
  The mastiff tears it in his rage, therewith they have him fed.”

  Then out and spake the ancient nurse, that nursed the brothers twain—
  “On thee, King Pedro, lies the curse; thy brother thou hast slain;
  A thousand harlots there may be within the realms of Spain,
  But where is she can give to thee thy brother back again?”

  Came darkness o’er King Pedro’s brow, when thus he heard her say;
  He sorely rued the accursed vow he had fulfilled that day;
  He passed unto his paramour, where on her couch she lay.
  Leaning from out her painted bower, to see the mastiff’s play.

  He drew her to a dungeon dark, a dungeon strong and deep;
  “My father’s son lies stiff and stark, and there are few to weep.
  Fadrique’s blood for vengeance calls, his cry is in mine ear;
  Thou art the cause, thou harlot false; in darkness lie thou here.”

After Pedro had alienated his people’s hearts by his cruelty, Don
Henry returned with a formidable body of French auxiliaries. At first
the fortune of the rightful owner of the throne, who was supported
by Edward the Black Prince, prevailed, and the invader was obliged
to retire back to France: but suddenly renewing the attack, assisted
by Du Guesclin, the flower of French knighthood, after the English
auxiliaries had quitted Spain, he defeated and took prisoner his
brother. Upon entering the chamber where he was confined, Henry
exclaimed, “Where is that whoreson and Jew, who calls himself King
of Castile?” Pedro, as proud and fearless as he was cruel, stepped
instantly forward, and replied, “Here I stand, the lawful son and heir
of Don Alphonso, and it is thou that art but a false bastard.” The
rival brothers instantly grappled like lions; the French knights, and
Du Guesclin himself, looking on. Henry drew his poniard, and wounded
Pedro in the face, but his body was protected by a coat of mail. A
violent struggle ensued. Henry fell across a bench, and his brother,
being uppermost, had well nigh mastered him, when one of Henry’s
followers seizing Don Pedro by the leg, turned him over, and his master
thus at length gaining the upper hand, instantly stabbed the king to
the heart. Menard, in his history of Du Guesclin, says that, while all
around gazed like statues on the furious struggle of the brothers, Du
Guesclin exclaimed to this attendant of Henry, “What! will you stand
by, and see your master placed at such a pass by a false renegade?
Make forward and help him, for well you may.”[24]

At Athens, the poets who contended for the tragic prize, were expected
to exhibit three pieces, which, from their number, were called
collectively a trilogy, together with a fourth, satirical, drama,
which came last in the order of representation, like our farces now.
Often they chose for the argument of these tragedies different events
in the same story, so that the three formed a connected whole: of
which an instance, the only instance extant, remains in the Agamemnon,
Choephoroi, and Eumenides of Æschylus. The tale which has just been
narrated is well fitted for this kind of representation, and would
furnish materials not unworthy even of that poet’s genius. In the first
play we may imagine an insulted queen and deserted wife, brooding over
past injuries, rejoicing in the prospect of revenge, and urging the
savage temper of her son to seek it in the blood of those who should
have been dearest to him; the play terminating with the death of
Leonora de Guzman, and the escape of her sons, preserved, like Orestes,
to be at once the ministers of vengeance and the instruments of further
crime. For the second the unsuspecting confidence of Don Fadrique, his
rejection of the signs and warnings, which were offered in vain, and
the successful machinations of a wicked, perhaps a rejected woman,
acting upon the proud and cruel Pedro, are well suited; while the
chorus would find a fitting part, at first, in dark and indistinct
presages of evil, and lamentations over the blindness with which the
fated victim rushed into the snare; and at the end, in indignant
description of the circumstances of horror narrated in the ballad, and
in joining the aged nurse to bewail the death of her foster son, and
denouncing vengeance upon the murderer’s head. The third would contain
the capture of Pedro, the mutual defiance and death–struggle of the
brothers, and the barbarous exposure by Henry of his brother’s corpse:
while at the end the impression of these horrors might be relieved by
the constant love of Maria de Padilla, who, now neglected and despised,
still watched over the forsaken body of her monarch and lover, with a
fidelity worthy of a purer bosom.[25]

We reach at length the Trojan war, the point assumed by Thucydides for
the commencement of his sketch of Grecian history: a circumstance alone
sufficient to discredit the scepticism of those who believe it to be
a mere fabulous legend. The universal voice of antiquity testifies to
its reality, and we know not of any arguments strong enough to shake
this testimony. Herodotus, on the authority of the Persians, mentions
the Rape of Helen as one of a series of reprisals consequent upon
the aggression of the Phœnicians, who carried off Io; the cause and
commencement of hostility between the Greeks and the Asiatic nations.
The former were clearly in the wrong, in the opinion of the Persians,
both because the rape of Helen only balanced accounts, and because
the Greeks made such injuries a ground for war. “Up to that time they
confined themselves to mutual depredations; but the Greeks set the
example of carrying war from one continent to the other. Now, to carry
off women is the act of rogues; but to be over eager to avenge their
loss is the part of fools; and wise men will take no thought for them
after they are gone: for it is plain that they would not have been
run away with, except with their own good will. And in truth, say
the Persians, the Asiatics made no account of the carrying off their
women: but the Greeks collected a mighty armament on account of a
Lacedæmonian female, and then came to Asia, to pull down the empire of
Priam!”[26] So thought the Persians. Herodotus confesses that he is not
prepared to say how these things took place, and sets us the example of
hastening to ground which he can tread with some certainty. That there
is no intrinsic improbability in the story, has already been asserted
by Mitford, on the ground of its close analogy to an incident in the
history of the British islands.

Dermod Mac Morough (or Mac Murchad), prince of Leinster, was attached
to Dervorghal, wife of Tiernan O’Ruark, another Irish chief, who held
the county of Leitrim, with some adjacent districts,—a lady of great
beauty, but small virtue, who took advantage of her husband’s being
driven into hiding by O’Connor, who was then predominant in Ireland, to
elope with her lover. “An outrage of this kind was not always regarded
with abhorrence by the Irish; they considered it rather as an act of
pardonable gallantry, or such an offence as a reasonable pecuniary
compensation might atone for. But the sullen and haughty prince,
provoked more by the insolence and treachery of his ravisher than
the infidelity of his wife, conceived the most determined animosity
against Dermod. He practised secretly with O’Connor, promised the most
inviolable attachment to his interest, and prevailed on him, not only
to reinstate him in his possessions, but to revenge the insult of
Mac Morough, whom he represented, and justly, as a faithless vassal,
really devoted to the service of his rival. The King of Connaught led
his forces into Leinster, rescued Dervorghal from her paramour, and
restored her to her friends; with whom she lived, if not in a state
of reconciliation with her husband, at least in that opulence and
splendour which enabled her to atone for the crime of infidelity, by
the usual method of magnificent donations to the church.”[27] This
domestic squabble led to more than usually important results, for
the expelled Dermod applied to our Henry II. for assistance, and the
conquest of Ireland followed.

The ambition of Agamemnon, however, is regarded by Thucydides as the
cause of the war; the abduction of Helen served only as the pretext.
“To me it seemeth that Agamemnon got together that fleet, not so much
for that he had with him the suitors of Helena, bound thereto by oath
to Tyndareus, as for that he exceeded the rest in power. For Atreus,
after that Eurystheus was slain by the Heraclidæ, obtained the kingdom
of Mycenæ, and whatever else had been under him, for himself. To which
greatness Agamemnon succeeding; and also far excelling the rest in
shipping, took that war in hand, as I conceive it, and assembled the
said forces, not so much on favour as by fear. For it is clear, that
he himself both conferred most ships to that action, and that some
also he lent to the Arcadians. And this is likewise confirmed by
Homer (if any think his testimony sufficient), who, at the delivery
of the sceptre unto him, calleth him, ‘Of many isles, and of all
Argos king.’”[28] Argos here signifies the whole peninsula, called
afterwards Peloponnesus. It is plain, however, from Homer, that the
sovereignty here ascribed to him was of a most uncertain and insecure
tenure; that his subordinate princes were in fact independent within
their own dominions, and were too high spirited and powerful to be
maltreated with impunity. Altogether, without the elaborate machinery
of the feudal system, the power and influence of Agamemnon seem to
have resembled that possessed by the kings of France, and emperors of
Germany, over those great vassals who held whole provinces, and singly
or united often proved an overmatch for their sovereign.

Here ends the Mythic age. We shall pass over the next three, or
according to most chronologers the next five centuries, which are but
partially filled up by notices of events, such as the return of the
Heraclidæ, the gradual subversion of monarchy throughout Greece, and
the great emigrations which peopled the Asiatic coast with a Hellenic
race. About the sixth century B.C. we begin to reap the
benefit of contemporary authorities; and thenceforward history, if not
free from an admixture of fiction, at least runs with a copious and
uninterrupted stream.



Aristomenes.[29]—Hereward le Wake.—Wallace.

Sparta had not long acquired strength under the institutions of
Lycurgus, before she discovered that thirst of dominion which
distinguished her after–history. The neighbouring state of Messenia
was the first to suffer. As usual, it is hard to say which party gave
the first provocation; but if the Lacedæmonians were ever in the
right, they lost that advantage when, in time of peace, with studied
secrecy they bound themselves never to return home until Messenia was
conquered; and when, without the formality of a declaration of war,
they stormed by night Ampheia, a frontier town, and put the unprepared
inhabitants to the sword. Their enterprise succeeded better than its
iniquity merited; for after a vigorous and protracted defence Messenia
was subdued, and continued in servitude for forty years. At the end
of that time a new race had grown up, ignorant of the evils of war,
and too high–spirited to bear their degradation tamely. A gallant
leader is seldom wanting to gallant men engaged in a good cause; and
Aristomenes might serve as a type for all later heroes, whose exploits
belong to the debateable ground which lies between truth and fiction.
He was a young Messenian of the royal line, according to the report of
his countrymen; but other Greeks, with a more unbounded admiration,
related that the hero Pyrrhus,[30] son of Achilles, was his father. His
valour, at least, did not disgrace his reputed parentage; and, though
daring in extremity even to desperation, was not of that blind and
foolish kind which hurries unprepared into action, and sacrifices a
good cause to the vanity and temerity of its supporters. Before taking
the field, he secured the co–operation of Argos and Arcadia, to support
and strengthen the eager spirit of his countrymen, and then, with a
force entirely Messenian, attacked the Lacedæmonians at a place called
Deræ. The event was doubtful; but that a conquered people should meet
its masters in battle, and part from them on equal terms, was in itself
equivalent to a victory. Aristomenes is said to have performed deeds
beyond human prowess, and was rewarded by his grateful countrymen with
a summons to the vacant throne. He declined the dignity, but accepted
of the power under the title of commander–in–chief.

His next exploit was of a singular and romantic cast, such as would
befit a knight of the court of Arthur, or Charlemagne, or the less
fabulous, but scarce less romantic era of Froissart, better than it
assorts with modern notions of a general’s or a sovereign’s duties.
Considering it important to alarm the Spartans, and impress them with
a formidable idea of his personal qualities, he traversed Laconia, and
entered Sparta by night, which, in obedience to Lycurgus’ precepts, was
unwalled and unguarded, to suspend from the temple of Pallas a shield,
inscribed “Aristomenes from the Spartan spoils dedicates this to the
goddess.”[31] Violence was not offered, and his object, therefore,
must have been to win her favour, or at least to alarm the Spartans,
lest their protecting deity should be wiled away. It is to be wished
that we knew the result of this exploit, of which, unfortunately,
no account remains. The year after the battle at Deræ, he again led
his countrymen, supported by their allies, into battle, at a place
called the Boar’s Tomb; and if upon this occasion fortune favoured the
rightful cause, it was again mainly owing to his personal exertions.
Supported by a chosen band of eighty men, who gloried in the privilege
of risking their lives by the side of Aristomenes, he attacked and
broke in detail the choice infantry of Sparta, committing to others the
task of routing a disordered enemy, himself ever present where they
showed the firmest front; till the Lacedæmonians forgot the precepts
of their lawgiver in a hasty flight. Their disorder was complete, but
the pursuit was early stopped, either by the prudence of Aristomenes,
or the promptitude with which the Spartans availed themselves of local
advantages. The latter is probably the real meaning of the following
legend. There lay a wild pear–tree in the track of the retreating
army; Theoclus, the Messenian seer, warned Aristomenes not to urge the
pursuit beyond this tree, for that Castor and Pollux, the tutelary
deities of Lacedæmon, were perched upon it. But Aristomenes thought as
little of his friend’s advice, as Hector of Polydamas’s warning not to
attack the Grecian camp, and was still hard pressing upon the enemy,
when suddenly his shield disappeared. The loss of this weapon was
esteemed disgraceful, and therefore we can scarcely wonder that even
Aristomenes, whose character stood above detraction, should have lost
time in a fruitless search, which, if improved to the full, might have
broken for ever the power of his country’s oppressor. So great was the
loss and dismay of Sparta, that the war was kept alive with difficulty,
and that only through the influence acquired by Tyrtæus, who devoted
his poetical talents to recruiting the courage and exasperating the
hatred of the Lacedæmonians.[32]

The history of this man is somewhat singular. At the beginning of the
war, the Lacedæmonians had been directed by the Delphic oracle to send
to Athens for an adviser: they did so, and the city, unwilling either
to aid in the aggrandizement of a rival, or to disobey the god, thought
to extricate itself from the dilemma by making choice of one Tyrtæus,
an obscure schoolmaster, halt of one leg, and esteemed to be of mean
ability. From the event, a Grecian would have argued in support of the
favourite doctrine, that the decrees of fate were inevitable; for to
the unknown talents of one so lightly valued did Sparta, upon this and
other occasions, owe the favourable issue of the war.

But the reader may be curious to know the fate of Aristomenes’ shield.
Applying at Delphi, he was informed that he would find it in the
cave of Trophonius,[33] at Lebadeia, in Bœotia, where he afterwards
dedicated it, “and I myself have seen it there,”[34] adds Pausanias,
lest any doubt should attach to a story which seems to border somewhat
on the marvellous. How it came there, we are left to conjecture: and
in these days of scepticism and research, may well envy the historian
whose readers’ incredulity was so easily overcome. But, with one or two
brilliant exceptions, it was sufficient for the Greeks that a story
passed current; they cared little to investigate probabilities, or
enter upon long and intricate inquiries, which in modern times have
been so successfully employed in disentangling the mingled web of
truth and fiction. It is curious to mark the importance attached to
this miraculous loss. Aristomenes thought it of sufficient consequence
to render necessary an immediate journey to Delphi; for we find that,
returning from Lebadeia, he renewed the war with his recovered shield,
which therefore must have been dedicated at a later period. At first
he confined himself to predatory incursions. Returning from “driving
a creagh,” in Laconia, he was attacked and wounded, but repelled the
assailants; and, on his recovery, projected an attack upon Sparta,
which, under such a leader, might have been fatal to an unfortified and
unwatched city; but was deterred a second time by the interposition of
Castor and Pollux. Turning aside, therefore, to Carya, he carried off
a band of Spartan maidens while engaged in a religious ceremony; and
on this occasion he showed that a life of warfare had not deadened the
kindlier feelings of his heart, by protecting them from the drunken
intemperance of his soldiers, even to the death of some who persisted
in their disobedience. The captives, according to the custom of the
age, were released upon ransom.

Another adventure terminated less happily, in which he attacked a
quantity of matrons employed in celebrating the rites of Ceres, with
similar views, but with a very different result. Armed only with spits
and the implements of sacrifice, they showed the value of their Spartan
breeding, animated by religious enthusiasm, in the entire defeat of
the marauding party. Aristomenes, beaten down with their torches,
was taken prisoner. This might have been an awkward and ill–sounding
termination to a life of lofty adventure: many a hero has fallen victim
to female wiles; but to be overcome and captured in open war by women
armed with spits and staves, is an event not to be matched since the
days of the Amazons, either in history or romance. The usual course
of events, indeed, was inverted; for love was his deliverer from the
dangers in which valour had involved him. Archidamia, the priestess
of the goddess, who had been previously enamoured of him, forgot her
patriotism, and set him free.

The Arcadians were zealous in the Messenian cause. Unhappily their
prince, Aristocrates, proved treacherous, and took bribes from Sparta
to betray his trust. “For the Lacedæmonians gave the first example
of setting warlike prowess up to sale: prior to the transgression of
Lacedæmon, and the treason of Aristocrates, combatants referred their
cause to the arbitration of valour, and the fortune which Providence
should allot to them. So also did they bribe the Athenian generals
at Ægos–Potami:[35] but in the end the poisoned shaft recoiled upon
themselves. It was through Persian gold, distributed at Corinth, Argos,
Athens, Thebes, that the victorious career of Lacedæmon was stopped
at its height, when, the Athenian fleet being destroyed, and a large
part of Asia delivered, Agesilaus was compelled by the disturbances
of Greece to lead home his victorious army. Thus did the gods turn
to their own ruin the fraud which the Lacedæmonians had devised.”[36]
Aristocrates kept his own counsel, until the eve of the battle of
Megaletaphrus (the great ditch), and then disseminated an opinion
among his countrymen that their position was bad, and offered no means
of retreat if they were worsted; and, moreover, that the omens were
unfavourable: finally, he advised all to betake themselves to flight,
so soon as he should give the word. The Arcadians were steady friends
to the Messenians, yet, strange to say, they became the abettors of
their prince’s baseness, without sharing his reward. They formed the
centre and left wing, and the consternation of the Messenians may be
imagined, when two–thirds of their army at once deserted them. To
complete his treachery, Aristocrates led the flying troops through the
Messenians, and threw them into irretrievable confusion; forgetful of
the battle, they betook themselves to expostulation and upbraiding of
their treacherous allies; and the Lacedæmonians readily surrounded and
defeated them with such slaughter, that from the hope of becoming lords
of their former masters, they were reduced even to despair of safety.
Aristomenes collected from all quarters the scattered remnant of his
countrymen, into one new city which he founded on Mount Eira.

By this step they gave up all their territory, except a strip along
the coast held by the Pylians and Methonæans. But they were not men to
starve peaceably in the neighbourhood of full garners,

      For why, the good old rule
  Contented them; the simple plan
  That they should take, who have the power,
  And they should keep, who can:

and in truth circumstances fully justified them in adopting this
simple and compendious rule of action, which they followed with no
ordinary success, carrying off corn, wine, and cattle, equally from
their own country, now occupied by Lacedæmonians, and from Laconia;
and providing for their other wants with the ransoms paid for men and
moveables captured in their predatory excursions. At last the Spartans
found out that it was worse than lost labour to sow, where an enemy was
to reap; and forbade the cultivation, not only of Messenia, but even of
the borders of Laconia. So great a sacrifice bespeaks the formidable
nature of the enemy, and produced disturbances, in appeasing which the
value of Tyrtæus was again displayed. The measure was highly politic,
for it compelled the Messenians to gain their livelihood by long and
dangerous excursions. In one of these Aristomenes, being surprised by
a superior force, was stunned by a blow, and taken, with fifty of his
comrades. Cruelty is almost the necessary consequence of injustice;
and though the Messenians, and especially Aristomenes, seem always to
have treated their prisoners with humanity, it was resolved to insure
future quiet by sacrificing a man whose only crime was perseverance in
his country’s cause. The Spartans executed criminals by throwing them
into a deep pit, called Ceada: into this Aristomenes and his companions
were precipitated. All, except the hero, were killed by the fall,
and he, reserved apparently for a more dreadful fate, retired to the
extremity of the cavern, and for three days sat, his head wrapped in
his cloak, in patient expectation of a lingering and painful death. At
the end of that time he heard a slight noise, and raising his head (his
eyes by this time had become accustomed to the gloom) perceived a fox
gnawing the dead bodies. It might have occurred to a less ready wit,
that where there is an entrance there may also be a way out; he caught
the fox, and allowing it to follow its own path without suffering it
to escape, was led along a dark passage, terminating in a crevice just
large enough to admit the animal, through which a glimmering of light
appeared. Dismissing his guide uninjured, he enlarged the opening with
his hands, and against hope even, as well as probability, stood once
more free to vindicate his country. It was of course supposed that a
special providence, on this as on other occasions, guarded his safety;
and many, to magnify the wonder, asserted that an eagle interposed
itself in the fall, and bore him down secure from all harm.

The whole event was considered marvellous: first, such was his lofty
spirit, and renown in arms, that none believed Aristomenes would be
taken alive; but his return from the bowels of the earth was still more
amazing, and was held to be a manifest interposition of the Deity.
The Lacedæmonians, indeed, refused to believe it, until the total
destruction of a body of Corinthians marching to assist in the siege of
Eira, “convinced them that Aristomenes, and no other of the Messenians,
had done this.”

After this occurrence he performed a second time a rite peculiar to
the Messenians, called Hecatomphonia; a sacrifice offered to the
Ithomæan[37] Jupiter, by such as had slain a hundred men in battle. He
had celebrated it for the first time after the battle at the Boar’s
Tomb; the slaughter of the Corinthians gave him a second opportunity;
and he is said to have offered it yet a third time. The Lacedæmonians
now concluded a truce for forty days, that they might go home, to
celebrate one of their great annual festivals. Aristomenes wandering
abroad without suspicion during its continuance, was seized by seven
Cretan bowmen, who, while the Spartans were feasting, amused themselves
by traversing the country. Two of them set off to bear the news to
Sparta: the others carried him to a neighbouring village, in which a
girl dwelt, who, in a dream in the preceding night, had seen a lion
brought thither in bonds, and deprived of claws, by wolves. She loosed
it, the claws returned, and it destroyed its captors. When Aristomenes
was brought in, and she heard his name, the interpretation of the dream
flashed across her mind. She intoxicated the soldiers, and set him
free; the treacherous Cretans fell an easy prey. In recompence for his
life, he gave his preserver in marriage to his son Gorgus.

Such was the fortune of the war for ten years. After the destructive
battle at Megaletaphrus, in the third year, when their cause was ruined
by the defection of the Arcadians, Aristomenes and the seer Theoclus
consulted the Delphic oracle concerning the fate of their country. The
answer ran thus—

  When the he–goat shall bend to drink where dimpling Neda flows,
  Messene’s fate draws nigh; no more can I avert her woes.

In the eleventh year of the siege of Eira, the fourteenth of the war,
Theoclus, while walking along the bank of the river Neda, observed a
wild fig–tree, which in the Messenian tongue was called by the same
word which signifies a he–goat, that had grown slanting out of the
bank, and then just swept the water with its branches. He brought
Aristomenes to the place, and they agreed that the prophecy had
received its fulfilment, and the hope of the nation was at an end.
There were certain objects preserved in secret, and invested with
peculiar sanctity, such as the Palladium enjoyed in Troy. If these were
lost, the fortune of Messenia sunk with them for ever; if not, ancient
oracles foretold that the Messenians should again enjoy their own.
Believing that the fated time had arrived, Aristomenes buried secretly
the mystic treasure in the wildest and most desolate part of Mount
Ithome; in the persuasion that the deities, who had till then supported
them in a righteous struggle, would still watch over the mysterious
pledge of their safety.[38]

Pausanias seems to take a malicious pleasure in observing that Eira,
no less than Troy, owed its ruin to a woman. A herdsman, belonging to
Emperamus, a Spartan of distinction, had fled from his master, and
lived near the river Neda. He gained the affections of a Messenian
woman, who dwelt without the walls of Eira, and used to visit her
when her husband was on guard. One night, the husband’s sudden return
compelled him to conceal himself: a storm of extraordinary violence
had caused the guard to disperse, trusting that the inclement season
would keep the Lacedæmonians quiet, and aware that Aristomenes could
not go the rounds, according to his custom, since he was lying ill of
a recent wound. The herdsman listened to this account, and perceived
that it was a favourable opportunity for making his peace, and even
securing reward. He hastened to Emperamus, his master, who was in
command at the camp, narrated what had happened, and conducted the army
to the assault. The way was difficult, and the night terrible, but they
surmounted these impediments, and entered the town before the alarm was
given. Taken by surprise, its devoted inhabitants still acted up to the
reputation they had so deservedly acquired. Aristomenes and Theoclus,
aware that Messenia at length must fall, yet concealed the fulfilment
of the oracle, and roused the courage of their comrades to desperation:
even the women showed that they preferred death to captivity, and
excited the men to higher daring by the participation of their danger.
The night passed without advantage to either party, but at day–break
the rain poured down in still greater fury, and drove in the faces of
the Messenians; and the lightning flashing from the left, an evil omen,
at once blinded them and depressed their spirits, while to the Spartans
it came from the right, and was welcomed as the harbinger of success.
The latter too were far superior in number; but since they could
not avail themselves of this advantage in the narrow streets, their
general sent back a part to the camp to rest and refresh themselves,
with orders to return in the evening, to relieve that division which
remained. Pressed thus continually by fresh foes, the wretched
Messenians yet protracted the struggle. Three days and three nights
they maintained an unceasing fight; at the end of these, watching, and
cold, and wet, and thirst, and hunger, had exhausted their strength.
Then Theoclus addressed Aristomenes: “Why do we still maintain this
fruitless labour? The decree has gone forth that Messene must fall:
that which we now see was foretold to us long since by the priestess
of Apollo, and the fig–tree lately warned us that the time was at
hand. God grants to me a common end with my country: it is your part
to preserve the Messenians and yourself.” He rushed among the enemy,
exclaiming, “Ye shall not rejoice in the possessions of the Messenians
for ever!” and, sated with slaughter, fell surrounded by the victims
of his despair. Aristomenes collected the survivors into a close
column, in the centre of which he placed their wives and children,
and stationing himself with his chosen band at their head, motioned
with his spear to the enemy to allow them a free passage; which the
Spartans granted, rather than exasperate their well–tried intrepidity
to frenzy. They found a hospitable and friendly reception in Arcadia,
the inhabitants of which supplied their wants, and would willingly have
assigned to them a portion of their lands; but the ardent spirit of
Aristomenes could not brook a quiet submission. Selecting five hundred
men, the flower of his army, he asked if they were prepared to die
with him in their country’s behalf; and having received their hearty
concurrence, proposed a scheme for surprising Sparta, and holding it as
a pledge for their own restoration. Three hundred Arcadians volunteered
to join him; but their hopes were frustrated a second time by the
traitor Aristocrates. On this occasion, however, he was detected, and
his former villainy being at the same time revealed, the Arcadians,
in just anger, stoned him to death. The Messenians, exhorted to join
in the punishment, looked to Aristomenes, who sat weeping, and in
imitation of their beloved leader, abstained from sharing in a merited
revenge. Tender by nature must have been the heart of one, who, after
having slain three hundred men with his own hand, could yet weep over
the deserved punishment of an old companion in arms; and it is pleasing
to contrast the staunch patriotism of the Messenians, still tempered by
moderation and mercy, with the savage and wanton cruelties acted by
the polished Greeks of later ages.

The Pylians and Methonæans, who had preserved their navy, invited their
countrymen in Arcadia to join them, and seek a settlement in some
foreign land. Aristomenes refused to accept the proffered command; he
would never cease, he said, to war against the Lacedæmonians, and well
knew that he should ever be the cause of some evil to them. His son
Gorgus, and Manticlus, son of Theoclus, supplied his place. Ere they
had resolved on their course, Anaxilas, prince of Rhegium, sent to
invite their co–operation in a war against the Zanclæans, promising,
in case of success, to assign to them that wealthy city. Zancle soon
fell before their joint efforts. Anaxilas wished to slay the male
citizens, and reduce their families to slavery; but the Messenians
had learnt pity in the school of adversity, and deprecated being
made the instruments of inflicting upon others the miseries which
they themselves deplored. Interchanging oaths of fidelity with the
inhabitants, they dwelt in union with them in the city, to which, in
memory of their beloved country, they gave the name of Messene, which
it bears to this day, under the slightly altered form of Messina.[39]

Shortly after their departure, Damagetus, king of Ialysus, in Rhodes,
inquiring at Delphi where he should seek a wife, was directed to choose
the daughter of the best of the Grecians. He hesitated not to fix
on Aristomenes, and took his youngest and only unmarried child. The
warrior passed with her into Rhodes, and died soon after, ungratified
in his wish of striking another blow at Lacedæmon. He was honoured with
a splendid monument, and worshipped as a hero in Rhodes, and by his
grateful countrymen.

Such of the Messenians as remained on the land were consigned to the
miserable class of Helots. But even in this degraded state they were
still a source of trouble to their masters; and at last revolting,
made so obstinate a defence, that they obtained permission to depart
unarmed, and were settled by the Athenians at Naupactus, on the
Corinthian gulf. Two centuries after their subjection, Epaminondas
collected the scattered remnants of the people, and re–established
them in possession of their country, in a new city, named Messene,
built under his patronage, on Mount Ithome. Thus ancient oracles were
fulfilled, the tutelary deities preserved their trust, and the dying
prophecy of Theoclus was accomplished.

The annals of the Norman conquest of England introduce us to a fit
companion for Aristomenes, in respect of similarity of fortunes, as
well as character. Hereward le Wake, a youth of noble Saxon family,
while yet a boy was distinguished for strength and turbulence of
character: so rough was he in play, that his hand was against every
one, and every one’s hand against him; and so impatient of superiority,
that if the prize of wrestling, or their other games, was awarded to
another, he would assert his own title by the cogent argument of an
appeal to the sword. His father’s love of quiet seems to have been
greater than his parental affection, for he took upon himself the task
of ridding the neighbourhood of his troublesome son, and set forth so
ably his violences against others, and certain boyish impertinences
committed against himself, that he obtained from Edward the Confessor
an order for his banishment. Hereward went to Northumberland, and
thence travelling to Cornwall, Ireland, and Flanders, he distinguished
himself everywhere so highly, for daring, skill in arms, and success
in extricating himself from the greatest dangers, that it was a doubt
whether his courage or his good fortune were the more admirable. His
fame, won in many a conflict, and confirmed even by the report of his
enemies, was not long in reaching England; and so entirely changed the
temper of father, mother, relations, and friends, that the worthy abbot
of Croyland, from whom our narrative is taken, can only account for the
sudden conversion of so much ill will into such violent affection, by
attributing it to the special interposition of Providence.

During his abode in Flanders, he received news of the Norman invasion,
of his father’s death, and the bestowal of his inheritance upon a
Norman, who insulted and oppressed his widowed mother. Hastening to
avenge her, he quickly expelled the spoiler; and then remembering that
he was no knight himself, though knights were now under his command,
he received the order from his uncle the Abbot of Peterborough. For
the English considered the investiture as a religious ceremony, and
whoever underwent it confessed himself, received absolution, and spent
the eve of his consecration in prayer in the church. In the morning,
after hearing mass, he offered his sword upon the altar; and after the
gospel had been read the priest blessed the weapon, and completed the
ceremony by laying it upon his shoulder. But the Normans, who looked
upon the order as exclusively military, held in abomination this method
of receiving it.[40]

A body of noble Saxons, who, like Hereward, had been expelled from
their inheritances, or driven by maltreatment into rebellion, occupied
the Isle of Ely, a tract then environed by morasses, which now have
almost disappeared, and admirably fitted to be a place of refuge from
a more powerful but less active enemy. They chose Hereward for their
leader, and he justified their preference and his own reputation by
a series of exploits, which continued long after to be favourite
subjects of the popular ballads; for the preservation of some of which
posterity would have owned a much greater obligation to Ingulph, than
for the minute details connected with the monastery of Croyland, which
he has thought it more important to preserve.

Upon his uncle’s death the abbey of Peterborough was bestowed by
the Conqueror upon a Norman, by name Thorold, to Hereward’s great
displeasure. In conjunction with the Danes, who then infested the
eastern coast, he resolved to disturb the temporal enjoyments at least
of the intruder. Let the Monk of Peterborough tell his own melancholy

“Early in the morning of the above–mentioned day, came the aforesaid
evil doers, with many ships;[41] but the monks and their men shut the
gates, and bestirred themselves manfully in their defence from above,
so that the battle waxed very sore at the gate called Bulehithe.[42]
Then Hereward and his comrades, seeing they could by no means gain the
mastery, and force entrance, set fire to the houses near the gate,
and so made passage by burning; also, they consumed all the offices
of the monks, save the church and one house. Yet the monks met them,
and besought that they would not do this evil; but they listened not,
and went armed into the church, and would have carried away the great
crucifix, but they could not. Nevertheless they took from its head a
golden crown set with jewels, and a stool, also made of pure gold and
jewels, from under its feet; also two golden reliquaries, and nine
made of silver, fashioned with gold and jewels, and twelve crosses,
some made of gold, others of silver, gold, and jewels. Nor did this
content them, but they went up into the tower, and took thence a
great table made entirely of gold and gems and silver, which the monks
had hidden there, which used to stand before the altar; and they took
such a quantity of gold and silver in articles of all sorts, books,
and ornaments, as can neither be told nor valued. All these were of
the best quality, nor did the like of them remain in England. Yet they
said that out of fealty to the church they did thus, and that the Danes
would preserve those valuables for the use of the church, better than
the Normans. And, indeed, Hereward himself was of a monastic order,
and therefore they put some trust in him, and he afterwards made oath
that he had done this from good motives, because he thought they should
conquer King William, and themselves possess the land.

“So it came to pass that nothing that was taken away was ever restored,
and the monastery, which had been so rich, was now reduced to poverty.
And from that day nothing was ever added or restored to it, but its
wealth continually diminished. Since Abbot Thorold himself not only
added nothing, but dispersed its compact estates among his kinsmen and
the knights that came with him.”[43]

The Abbot gave away sixty–two knights’ fees (feoda) upon tenure of
military service. Not long after, being naturally anxious to dislodge
so formidable an enemy, he summoned his friends and vassals to drive
Hereward from the vicinity. Ivo Tailboys, a Norman baron, to whom
the Conqueror had granted the district of Hoyland, or Holland, in
Lincolnshire, still known by the latter name, entered the woods at the
head of his troops: the Abbot, with other dignitaries, kept warily on
the outside; but while Ivo entered upon the right, Hereward darted
round upon the left, carried off the Abbot and his companions, and made
them pay a ransom of three thousand marks. At length William in person
brought a powerful army against him, beleaguered the island closely
by land and water, and, at vast expense, proceeded to make causeways
across the marshes, by which his position was defended. Ivo Tailboys
was a great believer in witchcraft, and he prevailed upon the king to
try its efficacy. As the causeway proceeded, therefore, a witch was
kept in advance, in a wooden turret, to fulminate her incantations
against the enemy: but the farce soon met with a tragical conclusion,
for Hereward, watching his time when the soldiers and workmen had gone
somewhat forward, made a circuit, and by setting fire to the reeds
upon their flank, involved soldiers, witch, and works, in one common
ruin. But the odds were overwhelming, and at last the Saxons were
compelled to submit. The other chiefs, including some of the most noble
of the land, surrendered to the conqueror’s mercy, and suffered death,
mutilation, or fine, according to the sense entertained by him of their
guilt. Hereward alone, by his superior gallantry and conduct, provided
for the escape of his followers and himself, and was ultimately
rewarded for his valour and perseverance, by being admitted to favour,
and reinstated in his paternal estates. He finished his days in peace,
and was buried in Croyland Abbey.

But British history offers another character to our notice, who bears
perhaps a nearer personal resemblance to Aristomenes, although both
his own fate and the issue of the struggle in which he engaged were
different,—Wallace, the earliest, the stoutest, and the most fondly
remembered champion of Scottish independence: whose name has been
preserved and magnified in the recollection of his countrymen, with an
affection not inferior to that which led the Messenians to pay divine
honours to their departed hero. The fame of both rests chiefly upon
tradition, for the earliest Scottish author who gives the history of
Wallace wrote more than a century after his death, and the notices of
his exploits in the English chroniclers are meagre and unsatisfactory.
It is impossible therefore accurately to depict his character, or to
draw the line minutely between truth and fiction. We see a form of
commanding and colossal proportions, but we see it dimly, and the
features must be filled up from our own imaginations: but we may at
least trace indomitable courage, constancy, and patriotism; and if
these lofty qualities were sometimes sullied by ferocity, yet, in
justification of the sympathy and interest which his career excites,
we may plead not only the character of the age, and the sufferings
endured by Scotland under the English yoke, but the exacerbation of
temper which must necessarily arise from a life of constant hardship
and danger. Hunted continually from morass to forest, denied the
enjoyment of domestic happiness, dependent upon his own right hand for
the security which was to be found only in the death of his pursuers,
it is rather matter for regret, than for stern censure, if in the hour
of victory the call of mercy was unheeded. And in further extenuation
we may add, that to control the excesses of his followers does not
seem always to have been in the power even when it was in the wish of
their chief; and that it is reasonable and consistent with the bitter
spirit of national enmity which long prevailed, to conjecture that the
blind minstrel, who is his principal biographer, consulted the passions
and prejudices of his hearers no less by exaggerating the deeds of
vengeance acted by his hero, than his hair–breadth escapes, and almost
superhuman might.

It is amusing to note how party spirit has biassed the view taken of
his origin and motives. The English writers speak of him slightingly,
without notice of the extraordinary qualities ascribed to him, as a
common robber, who having by degrees collected round him a large band
of desperate men, was emboldened to attack and plunder the suite of
Ormesby, chief justiciary of Scotland. Compare this with the account
given by Bower,[44] in whose eyes, it is but fair to say, the having
fought stoutly in defence of Scotland was cloak enough to cover a
multitude of offences.

“In the same year (1297) that famous warrior William Wallace, the
hammer and the scourge of the English, son of a noble knight of the
same name, lifted up his head; and when he saw the affliction of his
nation, and the goods of the Scots delivered into the hands of their
enemies, his heart pined and was sore afflicted. For he was tall of
stature, gigantic in body, of calm aspect, and cheerful countenance,
broad shouldered, big boned, proportionately corpulent, pleasant, yet
stern to behold, thick loined, powerful of limb, a most stout champion,
and very strong, and well knit in all his joints. Moreover the Most
High had so distinguished him by a certain prepossessing mirthfulness,
had so graced with some heavenly gift both his deeds and words, that
by his mere aspect he disposed the hearts of all true Scots to love
him. And no wonder, for he was most generous, in judgment most just, in
ministering comfort most patient, in council most wise, in sufferance
most enduring, in speech most eloquent: above all things hostile to
lies and falsehood, and abhorrent of treachery: wherefore the Lord was
with him, through whom he was in all things prosperous, venerating the
church, revering churchmen, supporting the poor and widowed, cherishing
orphans, raising the oppressed, lying in wait for thieves and robbers,
and without reward inflicting deserved punishment upon them.”

The following extract comprises such particulars of his early career
as seem entitled to historical credit. “At this time (1297), and out
of this middle class of the lesser barons, arose an extraordinary
individual, who was at first driven into the field by intolerable
injury and despair, and who in a short period of time, in the
reconquest of his native country, developed a character which may
without exaggeration be termed heroic. This was William Wallace, or
Walays, the second son of Sir Malcolm Wallace, of Ellersley, near
Paisley, a simple knight, whose family was ancient, but neither rich
nor noble. In those days bodily strength and knightly prowess were of
the highest consequence in commanding respect and ensuring success.
Wallace had an iron frame. His make, as he grew up to manhood,
approached almost to the gigantic, and his personal strength was
superior to the common run of even the strongest men. His passions were
hasty and violent; a strong hatred to the English, who now insolently
lorded it over Scotland, began to show itself at a very early period of
his life; and this aversion was fostered in the youth by an uncle, a
priest, who, deploring the calamities of his country, was never weary
of extolling the sweets of liberty and the miseries of dependence.

“The intrepid temper of Wallace appears first to have shown itself in
a quarrel with one of the English officers, who insulted him. Provoked
by his taunts, Wallace, reckless of the consequences, stabbed him with
his dagger, and slew him on the spot. The consequence of this was to
him the same as to many others, who at this time preferred a life of
dangerous freedom to the indulgence and security of submission. He
was proclaimed a traitor, banished his home, and driven to seek his
safety in the wilds and fastnesses of his country. It was here that he
collected by degrees a little band, composed at first of a few brave
men of desperate fortunes who had forsworn their vassalage to their
lords, and refused submission to Edward, and who at first carried on
that predatory warfare against the English, to which they were impelled
as well by the desire of plunder, and the necessity of subsistence,
as by the love of liberty. These men chose Wallace for their chief.
Superior rank, for as yet none of the nobility or barons had joined
them, his uncommon courage and personal strength, and his unconquerable
thirst of vengeance against the English, naturally influenced their
choice, and the result proved how well it had fallen. His plans
were laid with so much judgment, that in his first attacks against
straggling parties of the English, he was generally successful; and if
surprised by unexpected numbers, his superior strength and bravery, and
the noble ardour with which he inspired his followers, enabled them to
overpower every effort which was made against them.

“To him these early and desultory excursions against the enemy were
highly useful; as he became acquainted with the strongest passes of
his country, and acquired habits of command over men of fierce and
turbulent spirits. To them the advantage was reciprocal, for they
began gradually to feel an undoubting confidence in their leader; they
were accustomed to rapid marches, to endure fatigue and privation, to
be on their guard against surprise, to feel the effects of discipline
and obedience, and by the successes which these ensured, to regard with
contempt the nation by whom they had allowed themselves to be overcome.

“The consequences of these partial advantages over the enemy were
soon seen. At first few had dared to unite themselves to so desperate
a band. But confidence came with success, and numbers flocked to the
standard of revolt. The continued oppressions of the English, the
desire of revenge, and even the romantic and perilous nature of the
undertaking recruited the ranks of Wallace, and he was soon at the head
of a great body of Scottish exiles.”[45]

About this time he was joined by Sir William Douglas at the head of
all his vassals. A series of brilliant successes followed the union of
their little armies: and such was the effect produced on the public
mind, that when their united strength broke in upon the West of
Scotland, they were joined by some of the most powerful of the Scottish
nobles, among whom we find the Steward of Scotland, Sir Andrew Moray of
Bothwell, his brother, and Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow.

Such is the outset of Wallace’s career, so far as it is matter of
authentic history. His biographer, Blind Harry, carries him through
a great number of adventures before this period; but they possess
so little of interest or poetical merit, and are written in such
antiquated language, that the reader would probably derive little
pleasure from them. They consist chiefly of rencontres with the
English soldiery; enterprising attacks upon the strongholds scattered
throughout Scotland, and the various events of a desultory and almost
predatory warfare, in all which his knightly prowess and sagacity
are represented as compensating for inferiority in numbers, and as
extricating his followers and himself even in the extremity of danger.
The following specimens will probably be sufficient.

The first relates to the surprisal of Dunbarton Castle. Wallace,
entering the town, found the captain and part of his garrison drinking,
and bragging of what they would do if the rebel leader and his men were
within reach.

  When Wallace heard the Southron made sic din,
  He garred all bide, and him alane went in;
  The lave[46] remained, to hear of their tithans,[47]
  He saluit them with sturdy countenance.
  “Fellows,” he said, “sen I come last fra hame
  In travail I was our land, and uncouth fame.
  Fra south Ireland I come in this countree,
  The new conquest of Scotland for to see.
  Part of your drink, or some good would I have.”
  The captain then a shrewish answer him gave;
  “Thou seemest a Scot unlikely, us to spy;
  Thou may be ane of Wallace company.
  Contrar our king he is risen again,
  The land of Fife he has rademyt in playne.[48]
  Thou sall here bide, while we wit how it be;
  Be thou of his, thou sall be hanged on high.”
  Wallace then thought it was no time to stand,
  His noble sword he grippit soon in hand;
  Athwart his face drew that captain in tene,[49]
  Strake all away that stood abowne his eyne;
  Ane othir braithly in the breast he bare,
  Baith brawn and bayn,[50] the burly blade through share;
  The lave rushed up to Wallace in great ire;
  The third he felled full fiercely in the fire.
  Stenyn of Ireland and Kerle, in that thrang,
  Kepyt na cherge, but entred them amang;
  And othir more that to the door can press:
  While they saw him, there could no man them cess,[51]
  The Southron men full soon were brought to dead.

The following extract is of a more romantic character. Wallace, being
closely pursued by the English, had, in a mingled fit of anger and
suspicion, struck off the head of one of his followers, by name
Fawdoun. At night, when he and his men had taken refuge in a tower,
they heard a horn blown at hand. Two of them went out to see what the
cause might be; they did not return, and the horn was again heard
louder than before. Two more were sent, and so, till Wallace was left

  When he alane Wallace was leavit there,
  The awfull blast abounded mickle mair.
  Then trowed he they had his lodging seen;
  His sword he drew, of noble metal keen,
  Syne[52] forth he went whereat he heard the horn.
  Without the door Fawdoun was them beforn,
  As till his sight, his awn head in his hand.
  A cross he made, when he saw him so stand.
  At Wallace in the head he swaket[53] there;
  And he in haste soon hynt[54] it by the hair,
  Syne out again at him he couth[55] it cast;
  Intil his heart he greatly was aghast.
  Right well he trowed that was no sprite of man,
  It was some devil, that sic malice began.
  He wist no waill[56] there longer for to byde.
  Up through the hall thus wight Wallace can glide,
  Till a close stair: the boards rave in twain.
  Fifteen foot large he lap out of that inn.[57]
  Up the water suddenly he couth fare;
  Again he blent[58] what perance he saw there.
  Him thought he saw Fawdoun, that hugly sir;
  That haill hall he had set in a fire;
  A great rafter he had intill his hand.
  Wallace as then no longer would he stand.
  Of his gude men full great merveill had he,
  How they were lost through his fell fantasy.

In the spring of 1297 his career of victory was checked at Irvine, by
the dissensions and desertion of his army; but the cloud soon passed
away, for in the autumn we find him engaged in the siege of Dundee,
from which he was recalled by the approach of the English, under the
command of Warenne, Earl of Surrey. Wallace determined to await the
enemy on the banks of the Forth, near Stirling, where the river could
be crossed only by a narrow and inconvenient bridge, that scarce
admitted the passage of two horsemen together. The Scottish army
consisted of forty thousand foot, and one hundred and eighty horse; the
English, of fifty thousand foot, and one thousand horse.

Surrey was probably aware of the strong position occupied by the
Scots, and the danger of passing the bridge in face of the enemy, for
he despatched two friars to propose terms to Wallace. “That robber,”
says Hemingford, “replied, ‘Tell your fellows, that we come not hither
for the benefit of peace, but are prepared for battle, to avenge and
to free our kingdom. Let them, therefore, come up when they will, and
they shall find us ready to meet them beard to beard.’ And when these
tidings came to our men, they that were hot–headed said, ‘Let us go up
against them, for these are but threats.’ But the wiser part added,
‘We may not yet advance, until we have well reflected what counsel
to pursue.’ Then said that stout knight, Sir Richard Lundy, who had
surrendered to us at Irvine,[59] ‘My lords, if it shall be that we
ascend the bridge, we are dead men. For we can only pass by two and
two, and the enemy are on our flank, and when they please, will form in
line and charge us. But not far off there is a ford where sixty men can
cross at once. Now then give me five hundred horse and a small body of
foot; and we will make a circuit in the enemy’s rear and overthrow him:
and meanwhile you, Lord Earl, and your company will pass the bridge in
safety.’ But they would not abide by his good counsel, saying that it
was unsafe to separate. So being divided in opinion, some cried out
to pass the bridge, others the contrary. Among whom Cressingham, the
king’s treasurer, a proud man and a child of perdition, said, ‘It is
not well, my Lord Earl, to put off this matter farther, and to spend
the king’s money in vain. Rather let us march up, and do our devoir
as we are bound.’ The earl, therefore, being moved by his words, gave
orders that they should pass the bridge. A strange thing was it, and
very direful in its issue, that so many, and such wise men, who knew
the enemy to be at hand, should venture on a narrow bridge, which
two horsemen could hardly pass abreast. So that, as some said, who
were in that battle, if they had filed over without bar or hindrance
from break of day till eleven o’clock, still a large part of the rear
would have remained behind. Neither was there a fitter place in all
Scotland to deliver over the English to the Scots, or the many into
the hands of the few. The banners of the king and earl passed over,
and among the first that most valiant knight, Sir Marmaduke Twenge.
And when the enemy saw that as many as they thought to overthrow had
crossed, they ran down the hill, and blocked up the bridge end with
their spearmen; so that from thenceforth there was neither passage nor
return, but in the attempt many were cast over the bridge and drowned.
As the Scots came down from the mountain, Sir Marmaduke said, ‘Is it
not time, my brethren, to charge them?’ And they assented, and spurred
their horses: and in the shock some of the Scots horsemen fell, and
the others, to a man, ran away. As our men pursued the fugitives, one
said to Sir Marmaduke, ‘Sir, we are betrayed, for our comrades do not
follow, and the banners of the king and earl are not to be seen.’
Then looking back, they saw that many of our men, and among them the
standard–bearers, had fallen, and said, ‘Our way to the bridge is cut
off, and we are barred from our friends: it is better to make trial
of the water, if it be that we may pass it, than to plunge into the
columns of the enemy, and fall to no purpose. It is difficult, yea,
impossible, for us to pass through the midst of the Scots.’ Then
replied that valiant knight, Sir Marmaduke, ‘Surely, my dear friends,
it shall never be said of me, that I drowned myself for nothing. Do
not ye so either, but follow me, and I will clear a passage through
them even to the bridge.’ Then spurring his charger, he plunged among
the enemy, and dealing blows on either side, passed unhurt through
the throng, and laid open a wide path for his followers. For he was
tall, and stout of body. And as he fought thus valiantly, his nephew,
who was wounded, his horse being slain, shouted after him, ‘Sir, save
me.’ He replied, ‘Get up behind me.’—‘I cannot,’ he answered, ‘for my
strength is gone.’ Presently his comrade, an esquire of the same Sir
Marmaduke, came up, and descending from his horse, he placed the young
man on it, and said to his master, ‘Sir, go where you will, I follow;’
and he followed him to the bridge, so that both were preserved. All
who remained, to the number of one hundred horsemen, and five thousand
foot, perished, except a few who swam the river. One knight, also, with
much difficulty, passed the water upon his barded horse.”[60]

The Earl of Surrey quitted the field as soon as he was rejoined by
Twenge, giving orders for the destruction of the bridge. The Scots,
therefore, did not cross to pursue their success: but notwithstanding,
quantities of plunder fell into their hands, and the decisive nature
of the defeat is evident from the consequences which attended it. In
the words of Knighton, “This awful beginning of hostilities roused the
spirit of Scotland, and sunk the hearts of the English.” In a short
time not a fortress of Scotland remained in Edward’s possession. The
castles of Edinburgh and Roxburgh were dismantled, and Berwick, being
abandoned by the English upon the advance of the Scots, was occupied by
Wallace, who resolved on an immediate expedition into England, with the
view of providing sustenance for his troops, and lightening the horrors
of famine, which now fell severely upon Scotland.

“After that ill–omened beginning,” Hemingford continues, “the Scots
were animated, and the hearts of the English troubled. Wallace overran
and devastated the whole of Northumberland. In that time the praise
of God ceased to be heard in all monasteries and churches from
Newcastle–upon–Tyne to Carlisle. For all monks, canons, and other
priests, with all the commons, fled before the face of the Scots.”
Turning then westward, he passed Carlisle, which refused to surrender,
ravaged Cumberland, and was advancing into Durham, when his progress
was stopped by the winter’s setting in with unusual severity: a
deliverance ascribed to the miraculous assistance of Cuthbert, the
patron saint of the diocese. “Returning to Hexham, where stood a
wealthy monastery, which the Scots had plundered on their advance,
three canons of that house, who, having no fear of death, had just
returned, fled into an oratory which they had rebuilt, that, if it
were the Divine will, they might there be offered as a sacrifice of
sweet savour. Presently the spearmen came in and shook their lances
over them, saying, ‘Show us the treasures of your church, or ye shall
instantly die.’ One of them replied, ‘It is not long since you and
your people carried off our property, as if it had been your own, and
you know where you have placed it. Since then we have sought out a few
things, as you now see.’ Meanwhile Wallace appeared and rebuked his
men, and bid them give way, and asked one of the monks to celebrate
mass, which was done. And at the moment of elevating the host, Wallace
went forth to lay aside his armour; and then, when the priest was about
to take the holy sacrament, the Scots gathered round him, to snatch
away the cup. And after Wallace had washed his hands, and returned
from the sacristy to the altar, he found the chalice and the napkins,
and other ornaments of the altar, carried off; even the book in which
the mass had been begun, was gone. And while the priest was hesitating
what he should do, Wallace returned, and seeing what had passed, he
gave order that those sacrilegious men should be sought out, and put to
death. But they were not found, inasmuch as they were not sought for in
earnest. And he said to the canons, ‘Go not away from me, but keep near
me, as you value your safety. For this people is ill–disposed, and may
neither be excused nor punished.’”[61]

Soon after his return from this expedition, he was elected governor
of Scotland, and his measures in this high office appear to have been
judicious and temperate. But the haughty barons could not bear the
superiority of one whose only claim was in his merit, and thus division
was sown in the Scottish councils at the time when unanimity was more
than ever needed. In the summer of 1298 Edward himself invaded Scotland
at the head of a powerful army. The plan adopted by Wallace upon this
occasion was the same as that which was afterwards so successfully
executed by Bruce. He avoided a general battle, which with an army far
inferior to the English must have been fought to a disadvantage,—he
fell back slowly before the enemy, leaving some garrisons in the most
important castles, driving off all supplies, wasting the country
through which the English were to march, and waiting till the scarcity
of provisions compelled them to retreat, and gave him a favourable
opportunity of breaking down upon them with full effect.[62]

They advanced unopposed, therefore, but found an inhospitable desert;
and Edward, unable to replace his exhausted stores, was at length
compelled to issue orders for a retreat to Edinburgh, hoping to meet
his fleet at Leith, and then to recommence offensive warfare. At
this critical juncture, when the military skill and wisdom of the
dispositions made by Wallace became apparent, and when the moment to
harass and destroy the invading army in its retreat had arrived, the
treachery of her nobles again betrayed Scotland to the enemy. Two
Scottish lords, Patrick, Earl of Dunbar, and the Earl of Angus, at
day–break privately sought the quarters of the Bishop of Durham, and
informed him that the Scots were encamped not far off in the forest
of Falkirk. The Scottish earls, who dreaded the resentment of Edward
on account of their late renunciation of allegiance, did not venture
to seek the king in person. They sent their intelligence by a page,
and added, that having heard of his projected retreat, it was the
intention of Wallace to surprise him by a night attack. Edward, on
hearing this welcome news, could not conceal his joy. “Thanks be to
God,” he exclaimed, “who hitherto hath extricated me from every danger.
They shall not need to follow me, since I shall forthwith go and meet

The consequence of this treachery was the fatal battle of Falkirk, in
which the Scots were totally defeated, with vast slaughter, owing to
the jealousy and dissensions of the nobility; and Wallace, finding his
own exertions thwarted, resigned his office.

  “Beside the watyre of Forth, he
  Forsook Wardane ever to be.
  For lever[64] he had to lyve simply.
  Na under sic doubt in Seigniory.
  Na the leal comonys of Scotland
  He wold not had peryst under his hand.
    “Of his good deeds, and manhood
  Gret Gestis, I hard say, are made.
  But sa mony I trow not
  As he intil hys dayis wroucht.
  Wha all his Dedis of price wald dyte
  Him worthyd a gret Book to wryte
  And all thae to wryte in here
  I want both wyt and good laysere.”[65]

For several years after this, we do not meet with his name in the
records of authentic history. The blind minstrel transports him to
France during this period, where he goes through many adventures, and,
among others, kills a lion in single combat. But we must hasten to the
closing scene of his life. After Edward had overrun and subjected the
whole country in 1303, all others who had distinguished themselves in
the war were admitted to pardon upon terms more or less hard. “As for
William Wallace,” says the deed, “it is covenanted, that if he thinks
proper to surrender himself, it must be unconditionally to the will
and mercy of our lord the king.” To accept such terms was to deliver
himself over to death; he therefore betook himself to the woods and
mountains, and lived upon plunder.

It is amusing to trace the effects of national partiality in the
contradictory accounts of the Scottish and English historians. Bower
tells us that Wallace’s friends endeavoured to induce him to submit,
upon the same terms as themselves; and that Edward was so anxious upon
this head, that he offered, not only personal security, but an earldom,
with ample domains, to be selected by himself, either in Scotland or
England, as the price of his allegiance. But Wallace answered, that if
every other Scot should submit, still he and his companions would stand
up for the freedom of the kingdom; and never, as they hoped for God’s
favour, obey any one except their monarch or his deputy. Langtoft, on
the other hand, says that the Scottish hero offered to surrender upon
assurance of safety in life, limb, and estate; but Edward’s anger was
so hot against him, that he burst into a fury at the bare proposition.

  When they brought that tiding, Edward was full grim,
  And betaught him the fende,[66] als his traytoure in lond.
  And ever–ilkon his frende, that him susteyned, or fond.
  Three hundred marke he hette unto his warisoun,[67]
  That with him so met, or bring his hede to toun.
  Now flies William Wallis, of pes nought he spedis,[68]
  In mores and in mareis with robberie him fedis.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Ah Jhesu whan thou will, how rightwis is thy mede:
  That of the wrong has gilt, the endyng may he drede.
  William Waleis is nomen,[69] that maister was of theves.
  Tiding to the kyng is comen, that robberie mischeves.[70]
  Sir Jon of Menetest sewed William so nehi,[71]
  He took him whan he wend lest,[72] on nyght his lemman by.
  That was thought treson of Jak Short his man,
  He was the encheson,[73] that Sir Jon so him nam.[74]
  Jak’s brother had he slayn, the Waleis that is said,
  The more Jak was fayn to do William that braid.[75]
  Selcouthly[76] he endis, the man that is fals,
  If he trest on his frends, they begile him als.
  Begiled is William, taken is, and bondon.
  To Inglond with him thei came, and led him to London.
  The first dome he fanged,[77] for treson was he drawen.
  For robberie was he hanged, and for he had men slawen,
  And for he had brent abbeis, and men of religion,
  Eft[78] from the galweis quick[79] thei let him doun,
  And bouweld him all hote,[80] and brent them in the fire.
  His hede than of smote, swilk[81] was William’s hire;
  And for he had mayntend the werre at his myght,
  On lordship lended thore[82] he had no right,
  And stroied thore he knew, in fele stede sers.[83]
  His body thei hewed on four quarters,
  To hang in four tounes, to mene[84] of his maners,
  In stede of Gonfaynounes[85] and of his baners.
  At London is his heved, his quarters ere leved,[86] in Scotland spred,
  To wirschip ther isles,[87] and lere of his wiles, how well that he sped.
  It is not to drede, traytour sall spede,[88] als he is worthi,
  His lif sall he tyne, and die thorgh pyne, withouten merci.
  Thus may men here, a lad for to lere, to biggen in pays.[89]
  It fallis in his eye, that hewes over high, with the Walays.

  _Langtoft’s Chronicle of Edw. I._

“The day after his arrival at London, he was brought on horseback to
Westminster, the mayor, sheriffs, and aldermen, and many others, both
on foot and horseback, accompanying him; and in the greate hall at
Westminster, he being placed upon the south bench, crowned with laurel,
for that he had said in times past, that he ought to bear a crowne
in that Hall (as it was commonly reported), and being appeached for
a traytor by Sir Peter Mallorie, the king’s justice, hee answered,
that he never was traytor to the king of England, but for other things
whereof he was accused, he confessed them, and was after headed and

His head was set up at London, his quarters were sent to Newcastle,
Berwick, Perth, and Aberdeen. But Edward reaped no advantage from
this act of cruelty and injustice, except the gratification of his
implacable temper. If intimidation was his object, it failed, as was to
be expected in the case of a high–spirited people: and the only effect
of raising these ghastly trophies was to inspire a deeper hatred of
the tyrant who commanded them, and of the treacherous minister of his
revenge. The latter long continued to be an object of especial hatred
to the Scottish nation; and is condemned to shame in its traditional
literature under the fitting title of the “false Menteith.”

Here, it might be supposed, history must end, and the ultimate destiny
of the oppressor and oppressed, the tyrant and his victim, remain a
mystery until the time when all things shall be brought to light.
But the patriotic chronicler before quoted, who probably could not
bear that the last scene of his hero should be one of suffering and
degradation, undertakes to enlighten our curiosity on this subject. We
read in the continuation of Fordun by Bower, that, according to the
testimony of many credible Englishmen, “an holy hermit, being rapt in
the spirit, saw innumerable souls delivered from purgatory marshalling
the way, while the spirit of Wallace was conducted to heaven by angels,
in reward of his inflexible patriotism. To whom the proverb may be
applied, ‘The memory of the just with praise, and the name of the
wicked stinketh.’”

Soon after, he proceeds to illustrate the latter clause of the proverb.
When Edward died upon his march to Scotland, an English knight,
Bannister by name, upon the night of his decease, saw in a trance his
lord the king, surrounded by a multitude of devils, who were mocking
him with much laughter, and saying,

  En rex Edwardus, debacchans ut leopardus!
  Olim dum vixit populum Dei maleflixit.
  Nobis viæ talis comes ibis, care sodalis,
  Quo condemneris, ut dæmonibus socieris.
  Te sequimur voto prorsus torpore remoto.[91]

Meanwhile they drove him on with whips and scorpions. “Let us sing,”
they said, “the canticle of death, beseeming this wicked soul; because
she is the daughter of death, and food of fire unquenchable; the friend
of darkness, and enemy of light.” And then they repeated _En rex_, &c.

While thus tormented by the evil spirits, he turned, said the knight,
his trembling and bloodless visage towards me, as if to implore the
aid which I was used to minister to him. But when voice and sense both
deserted me, he cast upon me such a dreadful look, that while I live
and remember it I can never more be cheerful. With that, he was in a
moment swallowed up into the infernal pit, exclaiming in a doleful

  Heu cur peccavi? fallor quia non bene cavi.
  Heu cur peccavi? perit et nihil est quod amavi.
  Heu cur peccavi? video, quia littus aravi,
  Cum sudore gravi mihimet tormenta paravi.[92]

Bannister was so terrified by this vision, that he forsook the
world and its vanities, and, for the improvement of his life and
conversation, spent his latter days in solitude.[93]

Scotland did not long languish in want of a deliverer. The place of
Wallace was quickly filled up by one scarce his inferior in knightly
renown, or in the affections of his countrymen. Were it not for the
length of this article, we should willingly narrate some of the
exploits and hair–breadth escapes which procured for Robert Bruce,
even among the English, the reputation of being the third best knight
in Europe; but we must hasten to conclude with the panegyric of the
affectionate Bower.

“There is no living man who is able to narrate the story of those
complicated misfortunes which befell him in the commencement of this
war; his frequent perils, his retreats, the care and weariness, the
hunger and thirst, the watching and fasting, the cold and nakedness,
to which he exposed his person, the exile into which he was driven,
the snares and ambushes which he escaped, the seizure, imprisonment,
execution, and utter destruction of his dearest friends and relatives.
And if, in addition to these almost innumerable and untoward events,
which he ever bore with a cheerful and unconquered spirit, any man
should undertake to describe his individual conflicts, and personal
successes, those courageous and single–handed combats in which, by the
favour of God, and his own great strength and courage, he would often
penetrate into the thickest of the enemy,—now becoming the assailant,
and cutting down all who opposed him; at another time acting on the
defensive, and evincing equal talents in escaping from what seemed
inevitable death;—if any writer shall do this, he will prove, if I am
not mistaken, that he had no equal in his own time, either in knightly
prowess, or in strength and vigour of body.”[94]


 Treatment of Prisoners of War—Crœsus—Roman Triumphs—Sapor and
 Valerian—Imprisonment of Bajazet—His treatment of the Marshal
 Boucicaut and his Companions—Changes produced by the advance
 of Civilization—Effect of Feudal Institutions—Anecdote from
 Froissart—Conduct of the Black Prince towards the Constable Du Guesclin
 and the King of France.

The wealth of Crœsus is proverbial, and the vicissitudes of his fortune
have been a favourite subject for moralists in all ages. In Mitford’s
History of Greece, as well as in that published in the Library of
Useful Knowledge, all notice of them is confined to the simple
statement, that he was conquered by Cyrus. The circumstances of his
treatment, however, as they are related by Herodotus, are curious; and
we propose, therefore, to translate them literally from that author,
leaving it to the reader’s discretion to reject whatever is evidently

It is well known that he was induced to make war upon Cyrus by an
ambiguous response of the Delphic oracle, which predicted to him,
“that if he made war upon the Persians, he would destroy a great
empire.” The oracle was a very safe one. Crœsus understood it, that
the Persian empire would be destroyed; but the credit of the god was
equally supported by the event which really took place, the defeat of
Crœsus and the destruction of his kingdom. Upon his defeat he took
refuge in Sardis, which was besieged and ultimately stormed. “So the
Persians captured Sardis and took Crœsus alive, after he had reigned
fourteen years; and led him before Cyrus, who caused a mighty funeral
pile to be built, upon which he set Crœsus in fetters, and with him
fourteen Lydian youths; whether it were in his mind to offer them to
some deity as the first–fruits of his conquest, or with intention
to perform some vow, or because he had heard of Crœsus’s piety and
therefore set him upon the pile, that he might know whether any god
would deliver him from being burnt alive. Howbeit, he did so: but while
Crœsus stood upon the pile, it struck him, even in this extremity of
evil, that Solon was inspired when he said that no man ought to be
called happy while he was yet alive.[95] And when this thought occurred
to him, after being long silent, he thrice repeated with groans the
name of Solon. Cyrus heard him, and bade the interpreters ask who this
Solon, whom he invoked, might be; and they drew near, and did so. But
Crœsus spoke not for some time, and replied at length, when he was
compelled, ‘One whom I would rather than much wealth, were introduced
to the conversation of all monarchs.’ But as he spoke unintelligibly
to them, they again asked what he meant; and when they became urgent
and troublesome, he related at length how Solon, an Athenian, came to
him, and having beheld all his treasures, set them at nought, having
spoken to such purpose, that all things had happened according to his
words, which yet bore no especial reference to himself more than to the
rest of mankind, particularly to those who trusted in their own good
fortune. So by the time Crœsus had given this account, the pile being
lighted, the outside of it was in flames. And when Cyrus heard from
the interpreters what Crœsus said, he repented, and reflected that he,
being but a man himself, was casting another alive into the flames who
formerly had been no whit inferior to himself in prosperity: and being
also in dread of divine vengeance, and considering that nothing human
is unchangeable, he ordered the fire to be forthwith extinguished, and
Crœsus, with his companions, to be taken down; but his officers, with
all their endeavours, were unable to master it. Then Crœsus, as the
Lydians say, discovering that Cyrus had changed his purpose, when he
saw that all were endeavouring, and yet were unable to quench the fire,
called loudly upon Apollo, entreating the god, if that he ever had
offered any acceptable gifts, now to stand by, and deliver him from the
present evil. And as he called upon the god in tears, suddenly clouds
collected in the serene sky, and the storm broke down, and a torrent of
rain fell, and extinguished the fire. Cyrus, therefore, being by these
means instructed that Crœsus was a good man, and beloved by the gods,
inquired of him, when he was come down from the pile, ‘Crœsus, who
persuaded you to invade my kingdom, and thus become an enemy instead of
a friend?’ And he said, ‘O king, I have done thus to further your good,
and my own evil fate: but the god of the Grecians, who puffed me up to
war, has been the author of these events. For no man is so witless as
to choose war instead of peace, when, in the one, fathers bury their
sons, and in the other, sons their fathers. But it was the pleasure of
the gods that these things should turn out thus.’

“Thus spoke Crœsus, and Cyrus released him, and kept him near his
person, and thenceforth treated him with much respect.”[96]

The evident intermixture of fable with this tale is calculated to
throw doubt upon the whole of it, and indeed it seems at variance
with the character of Cyrus. That Xenophon omits all mention of the
circumstances related would be a strong argument in disproof of them,
if they were calculated to advance his hero’s reputation; but in the
present case his silence is of little weight. The close resemblance,
however, between the preservation of Crœsus, and the miraculous
deliverance of the Jewish youths condemned by Nebuchadnezzar to
the furnace, might warrant us in suspecting that some account of so
impressive a display of Divine power had reached the western coast of
Asia, and that the careless or unfaithful annalists of those early
times transferred the scene from Babylon to Lydia, and substituted the
names best known in their own history for the barbarian appellations
of the Assyrian monarch and his prisoners. This idea may be supported
by the expression of Herodotus, that Cyrus condemned Crœsus to be
burnt “because of his piety, that he might know whether any god would
deliver him from being burnt alive.” Cyrus was neither cruel nor a
scoffer, so that we cannot suppose it to have been an impious jest,
and can as little imagine that it was a serious experiment on the part
of the Persian to try the power of the Grecian deities. It is not very
likely, therefore, that such a reason was invented to account for the
action; but the recorded preservation of the Jews, and the decree of
Nebuchadnezzar “that there is no other god that can deliver after this
sort,” may well enough have led to the inference that the monarch’s
object was to prove the power which in the end he was obliged to

No extraordinary quantity either of humanity or reflection was
necessary to have impressed on Cyrus’s mind, in the first instance, the
truths contained in Solon’s warning to his rival. But humanity towards
prisoners was no virtue of antiquity; and in this respect the practice
of European nations of modern times offers a striking contrast to that
of heathenism in all ages and regions. Our Scandinavian ancestors
and the North American Indians put prisoners to death for revenge,
or for the mere pleasure of inflicting pain: the rude Druids and the
comparatively polished priests of Mexico alike esteemed an enemy’s
blood the most grateful offering to their savage deities. The histories
of Greece and Rome abound also with acts of atrocious cruelty; while
the East is notorious alike for the frequent changes of her dynasties,
and for the unsparing policy which has prompted successive conquerors
to establish their own thrones by the extermination of all possible

It is not fair, however, to select none but unfavourable examples; and
of favourable ones, few or none are more celebrated than the generosity
of Alexander and the virtue of Scipio. After Alexander had gained the
important battle of Issus (B.C. 333), in the Persian war,
Darius’s family fell into the victor’s hands.[97] They were treated
with the respect due to their rank and their misfortunes. “Not long
after, one of his queen’s eunuchs escaped to Darius, who, when he
saw him, first asked whether his children and his wife and mother
were alive. And hearing that they were so, that they were addressed
as queens, and enjoyed all the respect and attention which they had
possessed at his own court, he inquired in addition, whether his wife
had preserved her faith; and being satisfied on this point also, he
again inquired whether any insult or violence had been offered to her.
The eunuch affirmed with an oath, ‘O king, your wife remains even as
you left her, and Alexander is the best and most temperate of men.’
Upon which Darius lifted up his hands towards heaven, and prayed, ‘O
sovereign Jupiter, in whose hands are placed the fortunes of kings upon
earth, above all things do thou maintain the kingdom of the Medes and
Persians, which thou hast given to me! But if thou wilt that I be king
of Asia no longer, then intrust my power to none but Alexander.’”[98]

Closely akin to this in all its circumstances is the celebrated story
of the continence of Scipio, who has obtained immortal praise by
surrendering untouched to her lover a beautiful Spanish lady who had
been selected from the other prisoners and presented to him; and from
the admiration testified by all antiquity for the virtue displayed
alike by the Grecian and the Roman hero, we may form an opinion of
the treatment which captives generally endured. We have no wish to
detract from the praise which is justly due to them, or to undervalue
the merit of those who precede their age in humanity and refinement;
but it is worthy of observation that in modern times, far from such
conduct being regarded as an effort of virtue almost super–human,
infamy or death would be the portion of a general who acted otherwise.
These exceptions therefore do really serve to confirm the rule; and the
extravagant commendation which has been bestowed upon such self–denial
bears incontrovertible evidence to the general want of generosity in
conquerors, and to the unhappy condition of the conquered.

Few foreigners of regal dignity or exalted fortune fell into the power
of the Grecian commonwealths: of their treatment of each other’s
citizens we shall have occasion to speak hereafter. But the gigantic
grasp of Roman ambition comprehended the most powerful of the earth,
and made them drink deep of degradation. The usual lot of prisoners
of war was slavery; a practice bad enough, but common to the rest of
antiquity with Rome: the institution of triumphs is her peculiar glory
and distinction. Something may be said in palliation of a victor,
who, having possession of his enemy, obviates the danger of further
resistance or revolt by committing him to that narrow prison from
which alone there is no chance of escape. But when a Roman general’s
arms were crowned with success, the prisoners of highest estimation
were carefully reserved; and when all danger from their life was at
an end, and their degradation, as far as external circumstances can
degrade, was complete, after they had been led in chains before their
conqueror’s car, to swell his vanity and satiate the pride of Rome,
they were sent to perish unheeded and unlamented by the hands of the
executioner, and the thanksgiving due to the gods and the triumphal
banquet were delayed until the savage ritual was duly performed. “Those
even who triumph, and therefore grant longer life to the hostile
chiefs, that from their presence in the procession the Roman people
may derive its fairest spectacle and fruit of victory, yet bid them
to be led to prison when they begin to turn their chariots from the
Forum to the Capitol; and the same day puts an end to the conqueror’s
command and to the life of the conquered.”[99] They led the prisoners
to execution at the moment when the triumphal chariot began to ascend
the Capitoline hill, in order, they said, that their moment of highest
exultation might be that of their enemies’ extremest agony. There is
a needless barbarity and insolence in the whole proceeding which is
peculiarly disgusting; and which was aggravated by the solemn hypocrisy
of placing in the triumphal chariot a slave to whisper in the victor’s
ear, “Remember that thou art a man,” when in the same instant they
displayed so signal a disregard for the reverses to which humanity is
exposed, and such contempt for the lessons which that warning ought to
have taught.

We may take as an example the treatment of Jugurtha, king of Numidia;
for whom, indeed, so far as his own merits are concerned, no treatment
could have been too severe. “Marius, bringing home his army againe out
of Lybia into Italy, took possession of his consulship the first day
of January, and therewithall made his triumph into the city of Rome,
shewing that to the Romans which they thought never to have seen;
and that was, king Jugurth prisoner, who was so subtill a man, and
could so well frame himself unto his fortune, and with his craft and
subtilty was of so great courage besides, that none of his enemies
ever hoped to have had him alive. But it is said that after he was
led in this triumph, he fell mad straight upon it; and the pompe of
triumph being ended, he was carried unto prison, where the serjeants,
for hast to have the spoil of him, tore his apparel by force from off
his back: and because they would take away his rich gold earrings,
that hung on his eares, they pulled away with them the tippe of his
eare, and then cast him naked to the bottome of a deep dungeon, his
wits being altogether troubled, Yet when they did throw him downe,
laughing he said, ‘O Hercules, how cold are your baths!’ He lived there
yet six days, fighting with hunger, and desiring alwaies to prolong
his miserable life to the last hour: the which was a just deserved
punishment for his wicked life.”[100]

Marius, however, with all his military talents was but a rude and
blood–thirsty soldier. From Cæsar, on the contrary, who throughout
the civil wars displayed signal generosity and mildness of temper, we
might have expected a fairer estimate of the treatment due to a noble
enemy. But in his treatment of Vercingetorix those noble qualities are
exchanged for the haughty and selfish cruelty which the foreign policy
of Rome was most admirably calculated to produce. That prince, after a
most gallant and almost successful stand in defence of the liberties
of Gaul, being shut up in Alesia, and reduced to extremity by Cæsar,
surrendered himself to the victor’s mercy in hope of obtaining better
terms for his comrades. The scene is thus described by Dion Cassius:—

“Vercingetorix being still at liberty, and unwounded, might have
escaped; but hoping, for the sake of their previous friendship, to
obtain forgiveness from Cæsar, he went out to him without notice of
his coming. And while the Roman general was seated on the tribunal,
he appeared suddenly, so as to alarm some persons, for he was tall of
stature, and made a gallant appearance in his armour. All around being
hushed, he said nothing, but fell on his knee, stretching out his hand
in gesture of supplication. All others were struck with compassion,
both by the recollection of his former high state, and by the exceeding
piteousness of the spectacle before them. But Cæsar made that from
which he chiefly expected to derive safety, the heaviest charge
against him; for, dwelling on the return for his friendship, he made
the injury appear the heavier. And therefore he pitied him not in that
conjuncture, but for the present cast him into bonds, reserving him
until his triumph, after which he slew him.”[101]

But Rome, which had so often insulted the majesty of fallen royalty,
endured in the person of one of her emperors a greater degradation
than any which she had inflicted. When the emperor Valerian was taken
prisoner by Sapor, king of Persia, his life was spared, but spared
that his age might waste in the most humiliating slavery; and when the
haughty monarch mounted his horse, he used the prostrate body of his
royal captive for a footstool. That, said the haughty Sapor, was a real
triumph; not painting imaginary processions upon walls, as the Romans
did. To gratify the victor’s pride still more, he was compelled to wear
the imperial purple and decorations, and in this attire, laden with
chains, he followed in the train of Sapor, and exhibited to the whole
Persian empire a striking picture of the fallen pride of Rome. This
system of insult extended even beyond the grave: his skin is related
to have been dyed scarlet, and stuffed, and then placed in a temple as
an enduring monument of the shame of Rome. The Christian writers, who
alone relate all the particulars of Valerian’s humiliation,[102] see
in it the just vengeance of God for his persecution of our faith: the
reason, probably, that Gibbon seems inclined to consider the story as
a pious fiction. If so, however, it soon obtained currency, for the
Emperor Constantine, who flourished not much more than half a century
after the event, alludes to it in a letter to the king of Persia: “All
these emperors (the persecutors of Christianity) have been destroyed by
such a dreadful and avenging end, that since their times all mankind
doth usually wish their calamities may fall as a curse and punishment
upon those who shall study to imitate them. One of which persons I
judge him to have been (him, I mean, whom divine vengeance like a
thunderbolt drove out of our regions, and conveyed unto your country)
who by his own disgrace and ignominy erected that trophy so much
boasted of among you.”[103]

Somewhat similar to the indignities offered to Valerian was the
treatment which the Sultan Bajazet is said to have experienced from
Tamerlane after his defeat and capture.

  Closed in a cage, like some destructive beast,
  I’ll have thee borne about in public view;
  A great example of the righteous vengeance
  That waits on cruelty and pride like thine.[104]

Voltaire and other modern writers have discredited this story, chiefly
on the authority of D’Herbelot. It has been shown, however, by Sir W.
Jones, that the premises of that distinguished orientalist are false,
and his authority therefore falls to the ground. On the other hand,
Leunclavius, in his History of the Turks, professes to have heard from
an old man, who was in Bajazet’s service at the time of his defeat,
“that an iron cage was made by Timour’s command, composed on every side
of iron gratings, through which he could be seen in any direction.
He travelled in this den slung between two horses. Whenever Timour
and his retinue, on moving his camp, made ready for a journey, he was
usually carried before; and after the march, when they dismounted, he
was placed upon the ground in his cage, before Timour’s tent.” Poggio
also, himself a contemporary, mentions this strange imprisonment as an
undoubted fact.[105]

The English reader will find some countenance for the story in Edward
the First’s inhuman treatment of the Countess of Buchan. That lady
having dared, it is said, in virtue of hereditary privileges, to place
the crown of Scotland on the Bruce’s head, and afterwards falling into
the English monarch’s hands, was confined in a cage built upon one of
the towers of Berwick Castle, exposed, as it should seem, to the rigour
of the elements and the gaze of passers by. One of Bruce’s sisters was
similarly dealt with. So much for the devoted respect paid to women in
the age of chivalry, and that by a prince who, when young, was inferior
to none in knightly renown. But the demoralizing effects of absolute
power found a fitting subject to work upon in Edward’s stern and
unforgiving temper. The original order for the Countess’s confinement
is to this effect:—

“Ordered and commanded, by letters under the privy seal, to the
Chamberlain of Scotland, or his deputy at Berwick–upon–Tweed, that in
one of the turrets, upon the castle of that place, in such place as he
shall chuse, and shall be most convenient, he do make a cage of strong
lattice–work and bars, and well strengthened with iron–work, in the
which he shall place the Countess of Buchan.

“And that he shall so well and surely guard her in the same cage, that
in no manner shall she pass out from it.

“And that he do appoint one or two English women of the said town of
Berwick who shall be in no wise suspected, who understand to serve the
said Countess with meat and drink, and all things pertaining to her.

“And that he do so well and strictly guard her in the cage, that she
speak to none, and that no man or woman of the Scotch nation, nor any
other appear before her, but only the woman or women who shall be
assigned her, and those who shall have guard of her.

“And that the cage be so made, that the Countess may have there the
convenience of a fair chamber, but that it be so well and surely
ordered, that no danger may betide in respect of the custody of the
said Countess.

“And that he who has care of her be charged to answer for her, body for
body, and that he be allowed her expenses.

“In like manner it is ordered that Mary, sister of Robert Bruce,
sometime Earl of Carrick, be sent to Roxburgh, to be kept there in the
castle, in a cage.”[106]

The reader will not sympathise much with the harshness of Bajazet’s
durance, if he knows the character of that redoubtable conqueror. The
following passage will convey a fair idea of it, and presents a good
specimen of the style of the 15th century:—

“In the year 1396, Sigismond, King of Hungry, sent sweet and amyable
letters to the French king by a notable ambassador, a bysshop and
two knights of Hungry. In the same letters was contayned a greate
parte of the state and doyng of the greate Turke (Bajazet), and how
that he had sent worde to the King of Hungry, that he would come and
fight with him in the middes of his realme, and would go fro thens
to the cytie of Rome, and would make his horse to eate otes upon the
high altar of Saynt Peter, and there to hold his see imperiale. Thus
the King of Hungry in his letters prayed the French king to ayde and
succour him.”[107] In consequence of this application, a strong body
of French and other knights marched into Hungary, under command of
John of Burgundy, Earl of Nevers. They crossed the Danube, and after
a successful campaign were besieging Nicopolis in union with the
Hungarian forces, when Bajazet marched to the relief of that city.
The loss of the battle which ensued is attributed by Froissart to the
precipitance of the French knights, who led the van, and rushed madly
into combat, against the order of the King of Hungary, and without
waiting for his support. The biographer of the Marshal Boucicaut, on
the other hand, throws the whole blame upon the cowardly desertion of
the Hungarians. However this may be, the French charged in a body not
exceeding 700 men,[108] routed the first body of Bajazet’s cavalry, and
penetrated through a line of stakes, behind which the infantry were
formed. “Then the noble Frenchmen, like men already enraged at the loss
which they had endured, ran upon them with such valour and hardihood
that they frightened all. I may not say how they laid upon them. For
never did foaming boar, or angry wolf, shew a fiercer recklessness of
life. There the valiant Marshal of France, Boucicaut, among other brave
men, thrust himself into the thickest press, and well proved whether he
were grieved or no. For there without fail did he so many acts of arms,
that all marvelled, and there bore himself so knightly, that whoso
saw him still avers there never was any man, knight or other, seen to
do in one day more brave and valiant acts than he did then.”[109] The
Earl of Nevers, the Lord of Coucy, and the other French nobility well
approved their valour; but Boucicaut, if we may trust his biographer,
was the hero of the day. Mounted on a powerful war–horse, he spurred
forwards, and struck so fiercely to the right and to the left that he
overthrew everything before him. “And ever doing thus, he advanced so
far, which is a marvellous thing to relate, and yet true, as all who
saw it can bear witness, that he cut through the whole Saracen array,
and then returned back through them to his comrades. Heaven, what a
knight! God protect his valour! Pity will it be when life shall fail
him! But it will not be so yet, for God will protect him. Thus fought
our countrymen as long as their strength lasted. Ah, what pity for
so noble a company, approved so gentle, so chivalrous, so excellent
in arms, which could have succour from no quarter, so ran they in to
their enemies’ throats, so as is the iron on the anvil![110] For they
were surrounded and oppressed so fatally on all sides that they could
no longer resist. And what wonder? for there were more than twenty
Saracens against one Christian! And yet our people killed more than
20,000 of them, but at last they could exert themselves no more. Ah,
what a misfortune, what pity! Ought not those disloyal Christians to
have been hanged who thus falsely abandoned them? Shame fall upon them,
for had they helped the valiant French and their comrades with good
will, not Bajazet nor one of his Turks would have escaped death or
captivity, which would have been a mighty good to all Christendom.

“Great pity was there again the morrow of this dolorous battle. For
Bajazet, sitting within a tent in the midst of the field, caused to
be led before him the Earl of Nevers and those of his lineage, with
all the French barons, knights, and esquires who remained after the
slaughter of that field. Sad was it to see these noble youths, in the
prime of life, of blood so lofty as that of the royal line of France,
fast bound with ropes, disarmed, in their under doublets, conducted by
these ugly, frightful dogs of Saracens before the tyrant enemy of the
faith who sat there. He knew for certain, through good interpreters,
that the Earl of Nevers was grandson and cousin–german to a king of
France, and that his father was a duke of great power and wealth, and
that others were of the same blood and nearly related to the king. So
he bethought himself, that for preserving them he might have great
treasure: therefore he did not put them to death, nor any other of
the greatest barons, but made them sit there on the ground before
him. Alas! immediately after began the cruel sacrifice. For then were
led before him the noble Christian barons, knights, and esquires,
naked; and then, as they paint on the walls King Herod sitting on a
chair, and the Innocents cut in pieces before him, there were our
faithful Christians cut in pieces by these Saracen curs before the
Earl of Nevers and under his very eyes. So you may understand, you
who hear this, what grief went to his heart, good and kind lord as
he is, and what pain it gave him to see thus martyred his good and
loyal companions, and his people that had been so faithful to him,
and who were so distinguished for gallantry. Certes I think he was so
grieved at heart, that fain would he have been of their company in that
slaughter. And so the Turks led them one after another to martyrdom,
as men led in old times the blessed martyrs, and struck their heads
and chests and shoulders fearfully with great knives, and felled them
without mercy. Well may one know with what woful countenances they went
in that sad procession. For even as the butcher drags a lamb to the
slaughter, so were our good Christians, without a word being spoken,
led to die before the tyrant. But notwithstanding that their death was
hard and their case pitiful, every good Christian should esteem them
thrice fortunate, and born in a happy hour, to receive such a death.
For they must sometime have died, and God gave them grace to die in
the advancement of the Christian religion, the holiest and worthiest
death (as we in our faith hold) that a Christian can die; and also he
made them to be the companions of the blessed martyrs, the happiest of
all the orders of Saints in Paradise. For there is no doubt but that
they are Saints in Paradise, if they met their fate with good will. In
this piteous procession was Boucicaut, the Marshal of France, naked,
except his small clothes (petits draps). But God, who willed not to
lose his servant, for the sake of the good service which he was to do
thereafter, as well in avenging the death of that glorious company
upon the Saracens, as in the other great benefits which were to follow
from his talents and by his means, caused the Earl of Nevers to look
at the Marshal and the Marshal at him right sorrowfully, at the very
moment that some one was about to strike him. Then was the foresaid
Earl wonderfully vexed at heart for the death of such a man, and he
called to mind the great good, the prowess, loyalty, and valour that
were in him. So, on a sudden, God put it in his mind to clasp his hands
together as he looked at Bajazet, and he made sign that the Marshal
was to him as a brother, and that he should respite him: which sign
Bajazet soon understood, and released him. When this stern execution
was complete, and the whole field was strewed with the bodies of
these blessed martyrs, as many French as others of divers countries,
that cursed Bajazet arose, and ordered the Marshal, who had been so
respited, to be committed to prison in a large handsome town of Turkey,
called Bursa. So his bidding was done, and he was kept there till the
arrival of the said Bajazet.”[111]

Innumerable instances of the like ferocity might be produced from
Eastern history. Rowe’s polished and pious Tamerlane put to death
100,000 persons in the streets of Delhi. Few men have so well and
fairly estimated their own character, and the class to which they
belong, as did Nadir Shah, when to the remonstrance, “If thou art a
king, cherish and protect thy people,—if a prophet, shew us the way
of salvation,—if a God, be merciful to thy creatures,” he replied,
“I am neither a king to protect my subjects, nor a prophet to teach
the way of salvation, nor a God to exercise the attribute of mercy;
but I am he whom the Almighty has sent in his wrath to chastise a
world of sinners.” The following anecdote, striking in itself, is the
more interesting as an exception to a general rule: “In the year 1068
Alp Arslan, the second sultan of Persia, of the Seljukian dynasty,
defeated and took prisoner Romanus Diogenes, husband of Eudocia, the
reigning empress of Constantinople. He treated his prisoner with
extreme kindness and distinction; he uttered no reproaches that could
wound a humbled monarch, but gave vent to the honest indignation of
a warrior at the base and cowardly conduct of those who had deserted
and abandoned so brave a leader. We are told that he asked his captive
at their first conference, what he would have done if fortune had
reversed their lot. ‘I would have given thee many a stripe,’ was the
imprudent and virulent answer. This expression of haughty and unsubdued
spirit excited no anger in the brave and generous conqueror. He only
smiled, and asked Romanus what he expected would be done to him? ‘If
thou art cruel,’ said the emperor, ‘put me to death. If vain–glorious,
load me with chains, and drag me to thy capital. If generous, grant
me my liberty!’ Alp Arslan was neither cruel nor vain–glorious: he
released his prisoner, gave all his officers who were captives dresses
of honour, and distinguished them by every mark of friendship and

Far from wishing to cast an undue reproach upon the past by these
melancholy details of cruelty and suffering, we should have been glad
to relieve the narrative by more numerous instances of generosity
and mercy. But that these virtues are not the attributes of a savage
race, will readily be granted by all: that they are not necessarily
the fruit of refinement and civilization (if that term be applicable
to an advanced stage of art and knowledge, without a corresponding
improvement in moral wisdom) is shown by the universal experience of
the past, and nowhere more forcibly than in the history of Greece and
Rome. The progress of society seems only to have taught one lesson;
that it is better to make the conquered subservient to the profit
or amusement of the conqueror, than to put him to death, like any
other formidable or offensive animal. In man’s earliest and rudest
condition, as a hunter, slaves are worse than useless; for sustenance
is of more value than labour, and the precarious supply of the chase
is insufficient to provide permanently and plentifully for his own
wants. The avenging or preventing encroachments upon each other’s
hunting–ground is therefore a most frequent cause of warfare among
neighbouring tribes, and the massacre of the conquered is prompted
equally by revenge and policy. We find accordingly that in North
America a prisoner’s only chance of escape lay in being adopted
into the hostile tribe in the place of some one who had fallen in
battle. The still more savage practice of feasting upon prisoners
is sufficiently proved to have existed at a very recent period in
New Zealand. In other heathen countries they have been reserved from
indiscriminate slaughter, only to perish on the altars of false gods.
But labour becomes valuable, and the command of labour an advantage,
in proportion as men emerge from barbarism, and apply themselves
to agriculture, or a pastoral life; and when it is found out that
a prisoner’s services may be made worth more than his maintenance,
the policy of the victor changes, and he preserves an enemy whom
formerly he was almost compelled to destroy. Slavery, therefore,
is, in the infancy of nations, an index of increasing civilization,
and an amelioration of human misery, since the bulk of mankind have
ever hailed with joy a respite from death, even though existence be
attended with degradation and suffering. A generous spirit, indeed,
would be little gratified at receiving life upon terms of hopeless
servitude; yet even to such the introduction of slave labour lightened
the evils of defeat. When men were detained merely for the value of
their services, it was natural to release them if an equivalent for
that value were paid, and hence arose the custom of admitting prisoners
to ransom, which exercised a two–fold influence in favour of slaves:
first by enabling them to acquire freedom at the sacrifice of wealth;
secondly, by removing the utter hopelessness and degradation of their
state, and introducing a possibility that the slave and master might
some day be replaced in their original relation to each other. This
practice was familiar in the Homeric age, though revenge or the heat
of battle often caused mercy and interest to be alike disregarded.
Melancholy indeed was the fate of a captured city. The adult males were
usually slaughtered, the females and children reserved for slavery;
those even of the highest rank were employed as menial servants in the
victor’s household. “What evils,” says Priam, “does Jupiter reserve me
to behold on the threshold of age! My sons slain, my daughters dragged
into slavery, my chambers plundered, the very infants dashed against
the ground in mournful warfare, and my sons’ wives dragged by the
destructive hands of the Greeks. The dogs which I fed in my palace,
at my own table, to protect it, will tear me, even me, stretched dead
at the outer door, as they lie ravening in the vestibule lapping my
blood. To a young man it is becoming to lie slain in warfare, pierced
by the sharp sword; to such nothing that can happen in death is
unseemly. But that dogs should defile the grey head and the grey beard
of a slaughtered elder, this is the mournfulest thing that happens to
wretched mortals.”[113]

For the lot of those who were reserved, we may quote Hector’s parting
speech to Andromache.

  I know the day draws nigh when Troy shall fall,
  When Priam and his nation perish all:
  Yet less forebodings of the fate of Troy,
  Her king, and Hecuba, my peace destroy;
  Less that my brethren, all th’ heroic band,
  Should with their blood imbrue their native land;
  Than thoughts of thee in tears, to Greece a prey,
  Dragged by the grasp of war in chains away,
  Of thee in tears, beneath an Argive roof
  Labouring reluctant the allotted woof,
  Or doomed to draw, from Hypereia’s cave,
  Or from Messeis’ fount, the measured wave.
  A voice will then be heard which thou must bear,
  ‘See’st thou yon captive, pouring tear on tear?
  Lo! Hector’s wife, the hero bravest far
  When Troy and Greece round Ilion clashed in war.’[114]

As time advanced the Greeks became more humane, and the treatment
of their prisoners improved; insomuch that about the year 500
B.C. it seems to have been usual among the Peloponnesian
states to admit each other’s citizens to ransom at a fixed sum of two
minæ, something less than eight pounds of our money;[115] and the
Athenians released certain Bœotians for the same sum.[116] The meridian
splendour of Greece, as we shall have future occasion to notice, is
more especially dimmed by the cold–blooded cruelty of her civil wars.
It is observable, however, that in the 10th year of the Peloponnesian
war, the mutual restoration of prisoners formed a condition in a treaty
of peace; and this, we believe, is the first instance on record at all
resembling the humane usage of the present day.

In the youth of Rome, as she gradually extended her dominion,
cities were depopulated to be refilled by her citizens, and their
inhabitants sold like cattle, by public auction.[117] In her days of
greatness, when whole kingdoms fell before her, the rights of conquest
were necessarily more leniently exercised; for nations cannot be
dispossessed and enslaved in mass. But the number of Greek and of
Syrian slaves in Rome shows that the independence of those nations
was not overturned without a corresponding loss of private freedom;
and those uncivilised countries, which could contribute little else
of wealth to satiate a Roman general’s extortion, saw droves of
their inhabitants sold into captivity to supply the labourers and
gladiators of an idle and dissolute empire.[118] The exemption of
modern Europe, from these horrors is chiefly referable to the influence
of Christianity, which, however ineffectual to purify the minds and
lives of a vast majority of those who have outwardly embraced it, has
given unquestionable proof of its intrinsic excellence by refining
and enlarging men’s views of morality and benevolence, wherever its
doctrines have not been altogether obscured and corrupted.[119] It is
true that in the reign of Justinian, Constantinople witnessed for the
first and only time the insolent splendour of a Roman triumph, granted
to Belisarius after the reduction of the Vandal kingdom; on which,
as on former occasions, the noblest of the conquered nation, headed
by Gelimer, their king, swelled the vainglorious procession. But the
changed spirit of the times is shown in the subsequent treatment of
them. To the king and his family a safe retirement and an ample estate
in Galatia were allotted; and the flower of the Vandal youth were
enlisted, and served with distinction in the Persian wars. Among other
claims to our gratitude, the clergy of the dark ages have the merit of
steadily resisting the practice of enslaving Christians. The working of
the feudal system was also beneficial in this respect. The aristocracy
of the land were also its soldiery; to make prisoners, therefore,
was a greater object than to kill, for the ransom of prisoners was
a never–failing source of revenue to the brave and powerful. And as
the inferior classes might not be reduced to domestic servitude, and
besides passed naturally with the land, whether as serfs, in absolute
and acknowledged bondage, or as vassals, free in name, but bound to the
soil by all the ties of property, the victor had no interest in the
detention of prisoners, except such as were able to purchase freedom.
The singular institutions of chivalry also exercised a strong influence
in humanizing warfare. Knighthood formed a bond of union throughout
Europe. Men fought for gain, for honour, for revenge; but victory,
which ensured all but the last, was seldom tarnished by cruelty,
except in instances of deadly feud. We are by no means inclined to
overrate the savage virtues of those times, or to deny that they
abound in examples of most flagrant cruelty and oppression; but we
contend, that compared with earlier ages, place even barbarism against
refinement, the half–savage Teuton against the polished Greek or Roman,
we see the tokens of a vast improvement in this respect. And we may
further observe that of the cruelties recorded a large proportion
are foreign to the question, being perpetrated in prosecution of the
cherished spirit of revenge, or to extract wealth from Jews, or others
of inferior rank, and not on prisoners of war. We do not plead this
in extenuation of those enormities; the evil passions of the heart
sprung up unchecked into a plentiful harvest of evil actions: but
of cruelty to their prisoners of war, the Europeans and the middle
ages were comparatively guiltless. Among them, for the first time in
history, the victor and the defeated mixed in social intercourse upon
terms of equality, without degradation being felt by the one, or an
undue and ungenerous superiority assumed by the other; each aware that
on the morrow the turn of fortune might reverse their situations,
and that disgrace attached to misfortune only when occasioned by
misconduct.[120] And the lofty, though fantastic notions of honour
which prevailed, tended still further to lighten captivity, when the
word of a knight was considered as sufficient surety for his ransom,
and prisoners were enabled to obtain their release upon parole. Nowhere
is this courteous and humane spirit more strongly marked than in the
wars of England and Scotland during the 14th century. Yet we might
expect to find the warfare of that century distinguished by more than
usual inhumanity. The perfidious aggression, the inveterate hostility
of Edward I., were calculated to raise in the Scotch a most implacable
resentment; while the obstinate resistance and successful reprisals in
which our northern counties were repeatedly devastated, were equally
well fitted to inspire the English with no friendly feelings towards
their northern brethren. A hundred years had elapsed since the first
quarrel, during which the sword had scarcely been sheathed, the fire
of burning villages scarcely quenched. We might reasonably then expect
to find these wars carried on “à outrance;” to find no mercy in their
battles, no gentleness or generosity in their intercourse. But the
account of Froissart is very different.

“Englysshmen on the one partye, and scottes on the other partye, are
goode men of warre, for when they mete there is a hard fight, without
sparynge; there is no troo bytwene them as long as speares, swordes,
axes, or dagers wyll endure, but lay on eche upon other; and whan they
be well beaten, and that the one parte hath optaygned the victory, they
then glorifye so in their dedes of armes, and are so ioyfull, that
such as be taken, they shall be raunsomed or they go out of the felde,
so that shortely eche of them is so content with other, that at their
departynge curtoysly they will saye, Gode thank you, but in fyghtynge
one with another there is no playe, nor sparynge; and this is trewe,
and that shall well apere by this sayde rencounter (of Otterbourn), for
it was as valyauntly foughten as coulde be devysed.... This batayle was
fierse and cruell, tyll it came to the end of the discomfiture; but
whan the scottes saw the englysshmen recule, and yelde themselves, than
the scottes were curtes, and sette them to their raunsom, and every
manne sayde to his prisoner, Sirs, go and unarm you and take your ease,
I am your mayster; and so made their prisoners as goode chere as though
they had been brethern, without doyng them any damage.”[121]

Another anecdote of the same battle, from the same graphic and
delightful historian, will serve to illustrate more than one of the
points to which the reader’s attention has been drawn. Sir Matthew
Reedman, the governor of Berwick, fought under Percy at Otterbourn and
endeavoured to escape when fortune declared against the English.

“Now I shall shewe you of sir Mathue Reedman, who was on horsback
to save himselfe, for he alone coulde not remedy the mater: at his
departing sir James Lynsay was nere to hym, and sawe how sir Mathue
departed, and this sir James, to wyn honour, folowed in chase sir
Mathue Reedman, and came so nere hym, that he myght have stryken hym
with his speare if he had lyst; than he sayd, Ah sir knyght, tourne,
it is a shame thus to flye: I am James of Lynsay: if ye will not
tourne I shall stryke ye on the back with my spere. Sir Mathue spake
no worde, but strake his horse with the spurs sorer than he dyde
before. In this maner he chased hym more than thre myles, and at last
sir Mathue Reedman’s horse foundred and fell under hym: than he stepte
forthe on the erthe, and drewe oute his sworde, and took corage to
defende hymselfe: and the scotte thought to have stryken him on the
brest, but sir Mathue Reedman swarved from the stroke, and the speare
poynt entred into the erthe: then sir Mathue strake asonder the spere
with his sworde; and whan sir James Lynsay sawe howe he had loste his
speare, he caste awaye the tronchon, and lyghted afote, and toke a
lytell batayle–axe that he caryed at his backe, and handeled it with
his one hande, quickely and delyverly, in the whiche feate scottes be
well experte, and than he set at sir Mathue and he defended hymselfe
properly. Thus they tourneyed toguyder, one with an axe, and the other
with a swerde, a long season, and no man to lette them: fynally, sir
James Lynsay gave the knyght suche strokes, and helde hym so shorte,
that he was putte out of brethe in such wyse that he yelded hymselfe
and sayde, Sir James Lynsay, I yelde me to you. Well, quod he, and I
receyve you, rescue or no rescue. I am content, quod Reedman, so you
deale with me lyke a good companyon. I shall nat fayle that, quod
Lynsay, and so putte up his swerde. Well, sir, quod Reedman, what wyll
you nowe that I shall do? I am your prisoner, ye have conquered me; I
wolde gladly go agayne to Newcastell, and within fyftene dayes I shall
come to you into Scotlande, whereas ye shall assigne me. I am content,
quod Lynsay: ye shall promyse by your faythe to present yourself within
this thre wekes at Edenborowe, and wheresoever ye go, to reporte
yourselfe my prisoner. All this sir Mathue sware, and promysed to
fulfyll. Than eche of them toke their horses, and toke leave, eche of
other. Sir James returned, and his entent was to go to his owne company
the same way as he came, and sir Mathue Reedman to Newcastell. Sir
James Lynsay could nat keep the ryght waye as he came: it was darke,
and a myst, and he hadde nat rydden halfe a myle, but he met face to
face with the bysshoppe of Durham and mo than v hundred Englysshmen
with hym: he myght wel have escaped, if he had wolde, but he supposed
it had been his owne company that had pursued the Englisshmen: whan he
was among them, one demaunded of hym what he was. I am, quod he, sir
James Lynsay. The bysshoppe herde those words, and stepte to hym, and
sayde, Lynsay, ye are taken; yelde ye to me. Who be you? quod Lynsay.
I am, quod he, the bysshop of Durham. And fro whens come ye, sir? quod
Lynsay. I come fro the batayle, quod the bysshoppe, but I strake never
a stroke there; I go back to Newcastell for this night, and ye shall
go with me. I may nat chuse, quod Lynsay, sithe you will have it so:
I have taken, and I am taken; such is the adventures of armes. Whom
have ye taken? quod the bysshop. Sir, quod he, I toke in the chase sir
Mathue Reedman. And where is he? quod the bysshop. By my faythe, sir,
he is retourned to Newcastell: he desyred me to trust hym on his fayth
for thre wekes, and so have I done. Well, quod the bysshop, lette us
go to Newcastell, and there ye shall spake with hym. Thus they rode to
Newcastell toguyder, and sir James Lynsay was prisoner to the bisshop
of Durham.”

“After that sir Mathue Reedman was retourned to Newcastell, and hadde
shewed to dyvers howe he had been taken prisoner by sir James Lynsay;
than it was shewed him howe the bisshoppe of Durham had taken the
sayd sir James Lynsay, and how that he was thene in the towne as his
prisoner: as sone as the bysshoppe was departed, sir Mathue Reedman
wente to the bysshoppes lodgyng to see his mayster, and there he founde
hym in a studye, lyeng in a wyndowe, and sayd, What, sir James Lynsay,
what make you here? Than sir James came forth of the studye to hym,
and gave hym good morowe, and sayd, By my fayth, sir Mathue, fortune
hath brought me hyder; for as sone as I was departed fro you, I mette
by chaunce the bysshoppe of Durham, to whome I am prisoner, as ye
be to me. I beleve ye shall nat nede to come to Edenborowe to me to
make your fynaunce: I think rather we shall make an exchaunge one for
another, if the bysshoppe be so contente. Well, sir, quod Reedman, we
shall accorde ryght well toguyder: ye shall dyne this daye with me; the
bysshop and our men be gone forthe to fyght with your men. I can not
tell what shall fall; we shall know at their retourne. I am content to
dyne with you, quod Lynsay. Thus these two knyghtes dyned toguyder in,

Some danger unquestionably there was, that where the marketable value
of prisoners was so clearly recognised, humanity would be forgotten
in avarice; a lapse of memory which our acquaintance with Algiers
and other piratical states proves not altogether impossible. One
of the causes which prevented this, the union and equality produced
by knighthood, has been alluded to; and we may find another in the
high–spirited notions of personal honour which prevailed.[123] To
refuse a prisoner his liberty upon payment of ransom, either directly
or covertly, by demanding a sum disproportionate to his rank and means,
was held dishonourable; for a knight would have esteemed himself
disgraced if it could be suspected that he retained an enemy in prison
through fear of meeting him in the open field. “After that the Prince
of Wales was returned from Spain into Acquitayne, and his brother,
the Duke of Lancastre, into Englande, and every lorde into his owne,
sir Bertram du Guesclin was styll prisoner with the prince, and with
sir Johan Chandos, and coulde nat come to his raunsome, nor fynaunce,
the whiche was sore displeasaunt to kyng Henry,[124] if he might have
mended it: and it so fortuned after, as I was enformed, that on a
day the prince called to hym sir Bertram du Guesclin, and demaunded
of hym how he dyde; he answered and sayd, Sir, it was never better
with me; it is reason that it shulde be so, for I am in prison with
the most renowned knyght of the worlde. With whome is that? sayd the
prince. Sir, quoth he, that is with Sir Johan Chandos; and, sir, it is
sayd in the realme of Fraunce, and in other places, that ye feare me
so moche, that ye dare nat let me out of prison, the whiche to me is
full great honour. The prince, who understode well the wordes of sir
Bertram du Guesclin, and parceyved well how his own counsayle wolde in
no wyse that he shuld delyver hym, unto the tyme that king Don Peter
had payed him all suche sommes as he was bound to do. Than he sayd to
sir Bertram, Sir, then ye thinke that we kepe you for feare of your
chivalry; nay, thynke it nat, for I swere by saint George, it is nat
so; therfore pay for your raunsome an hundred thousand fraunkes, and ye
shall be delyvered. Sir Bertram, who desyred gretly to be delyvered,
and herde on what poynt he might depart, toke the prince with that
worde, and sayd, Sir, in the name of God so be it, I wyll pay no
lasse. And whan the prince herde hym say so, he wolde than gladly have
repented hymselfe; and also some of his counsayle came to hym, and
sayd, Sir, ye have nat done well so lightly to put him to his raunsome.
And so they wolde gladly have caused the prince to have revoked that
covenant; but the prince, who was a true and noble knight, sayd, Sithe
that we agreed therto, we wyll nat breke our promise; it shulde be to
us a grete rebuke, shame and reproche, if we shulde nat put him to
raunsome, seyng he is content to pay such a grete somme as an hundred
thousand fraunkes.”[125]

The following story of William Rufus, which is told by William of
Malmsbury, illustrates the character of the man, rather than the spirit
of the age. Helias de Flechia laid claim to the city of Mans, part of
that monarch’s continental possessions. He was taken and brought before
William, who said insultingly, “I have you, sir.” “You have taken me by
chance,” said the baron; “could I escape, I should find something new
to do.” The hot–headed king, shaking his fist, replied, “You rascal,
what would you do? Troop, shog off, make yourself scarce—you may do
what you can; and by the face of St. Luke, if you get the better of me,
I will ask you nothing for this favour.”[126]

In conclusion we give a celebrated passage from English history, which
is strongly and pleasantly contrasted with the early part of the
chapter. It is well known that the king of France was taken prisoner by
the Black Prince at the battle of Poictiers. “The day of the batayle at
night, the prince made a supper in his lodginge to the frenche kyng,
and to the moost parte of the great lordes that were prisoners: the
prince made the kynge, and his son, the lorde James of Bourbon, the
lorde John D’Artois, the erle of Tancarville, the erle D’Estampes, the
erle Dampmertyne, the erle of Gravyll, and the lorde of Pertenay, to
syt all at one borde, and other lordes, knyghtes, and squiers at other
tables; and alwayes the prince served before the kyng as humbly as he
coude, and wolde nat syt at the kynges borde, for any desyre that the
kynge could make: but sayd he was nat sufficient to syt at the table
with so great a prince as the kyng was; but than he sayd to the kyng,
Sir, for goddes sake make none yvell, nor heavy chere, though god this
day dyd not consent to folowe your wyll: for syr, surely the kyng my
father shall bere you as moche honour and amyte as he may do, and shall
acorde with you so reasonably that ye shall ever be frendes toguyder
after; and sir, methinke ye ought to reioyse, though the journey[127]
be nat as ye wolde have had it, for this day ye have wonne the hygh
renome of prowes, and have past this day in valyantnesse all other of
your partie: sir, I say natte this to mocke you, for alle that be on
our partie that saw every mannes dedes are playnly acorded by true
sentence to gyve you the price and chapelette. Therewith the frenchemen
began to murmure, and sayd among themselves how the prince had spoken
nobly; and that by all estimation he shulde prove a noble man, if Gode
send him lyfe, to perceyver in such good fortune. Whan supper was done,
every man went to his lodgyng with their prisoners: the same night
they put many to raunsome, and beleyved them upon their faythes and
trouthes, and raunsomed them but easily, for they sayde, _they wolde
sette no knyghts raunsom so hygh, but that he might pay at his ease and
mayntaygne still his degree_.

“The same wynter the prince of Wales, and such of Englande as were
with him at Bardeaux, ordayned for shippes, to convey the frenche
king and his son and all other prisoners into Englande. Then he took
the see, and certayne lordes of Gascoyne with hym: the frenche kyng
was in a vessell by hymselfe, to be the more at hys ease, accompanyed
with two hundred men at arms, and two thousand archers: for it was
showed the prince that the thre estates, by whom the realme of France
was governed, had layed in Normandy and Crotoy two great armyes to
the entent to mete with hym, and to gette the frenche kyng out of his
handes if they might: but there were no such that apered, and yet thei
were on the see xi dayes, and on the xii day they aryved at Sandwych;
then they yssued out of their shyppe, and lay there all that nyghte,
and taryed there two dayes to refresh them; and on the therde day
they rode to Canterbury. When the kynge of Englande knew of their
commynge, he commaunded them of London to prepare theym, and their
cyte, to receyve suche a man as the frenche kyng was: then they of
London arrayed themselfe, by companyes, and the chief maisters clothing
different fro the other; at saynt Thomas of Canterbury the frenche
kyng and the prince made their offerynges, and there taryed a day, and
than rode to Rochester, and taryed there that day, and the next day
to Dartforde, and the fourth day to London, wher they were honourably
receyved, and so they were in every good towne as they passed: the
frenche kynge rode through London on a whyte courser, well aparelled,
and the prince on a lyttell black hobbey by hym: thus he was conveyed
along the cyte till he came to the Savoy, the which house pertayned to
the heritage of the duke of Lancaster; there the frenche kynge kept hys
house a long season, and thyder came to se hym the kyng and the quene
ofttimes, and made him great feest and chere.”[128]

It has been said that the Prince’s conduct was too ostentatiously
humble; that in refusing to sit at table with the King of France, and
in making him the principal object of attention in their entry into
London, he exceeded the modesty of a conqueror, and exposed himself
to the charge of hypocrisy. The censure is, we think, erroneous, and
arises from ignorance of the feelings of the times. The humility of the
Black Prince was that of a vassal in presence of his feudal lord, due,
not because he owed allegiance to the King of France, but because that
monarch was the peer of the King of England, and in courtesy entitled,
especially as a visitor, though a forced one, to an equal measure of
respect from his subjects. The victor merely overlooked the fortune
of war, and paid to his royal prisoner the homage which he would have
shown to his father, and which the King of France would have received
from the heir to his own crown.


(_Referred to in the Note, p. 104._)

“One day the Prince of Wales was risen from dinner, and gone into
a private chamber with his barons, who had been served with wine
and spices. So they began to speak of many a bold deed of arms, of
love–passages, of battles, and of prisons, and how St. Louis to save
his life was made prisoner in Tunis, from whence he was ransomed for
fine gold, paid down by weight. Until the Prince, who spoke without
caution, said, ‘When a good knight well approved in battle is made
prisoner in fair feat of arms, and has rendered himself, and sworn to
abide prisoner, he should on no account depart without his master’s
leave. And also one should not demand such portion of his substance,
that he be unable to equip himself again.’ When the Sire de Lebret
heard these words, he began to take heed, and said to him, ‘Noble Sire,
be not angry with me if I relate what I have heard said of you in your
absence.’ ‘By my faith,’ said the Prince, ‘right little should I love
follower of mine sitting at my table, if he heard said a word against
my honour, and apprised me not of it.’ ‘Sire,’ said he of Lebret, ‘men
say that you hold in prison a knight whose name I well know, whom you
dare not delyver.’ ‘It is true,’ said Oliver de Clisson, ‘I have heard
speak of it.’ Then the Prince swore and boasted, ‘that he knew no
knight in the world, but, if he were his prisoner, he would put him to
a fair ransom, according to his ability.’ And Lebret said, ‘How then do
you forget Bertrand du Guesclin, that he cannot get away?’ And when the
Prince heard this, his colour changed; and he was so tempted by pride,
anger, and disdain, that he commanded Bertrand to be brought before
him; with whom he wished to make terms, in spite of all who had spoken
of the matter, and would fain not let him be ransomed, unless they
themselves should fix the amount. Then certain knights went and found
Bertrand, who, to amuse himself and forget his weariness, was talking
with his chamberlain. Which knights saluted him. And Bertrand arose
towards them, and showed a fair seeming, saying ‘that they were come in
good time.’ Then he ordered the aforesaid chamberlain to bring wine.
The knights answered ‘that it was right fitting they should have much
wine, good and strong; for they brought him good, joyful, and pleasant
news with good will.’ Then one of them who was wise and discreet said,
‘that the Prince sent for him to appear in his presence, and he thought
that he would be ransomed by help of those friends he had at court, who
were many.’ ‘What say you?’ said Bertrand; ‘I have neither halfpenny
nor penny, and owe more than ten thousand livres, that have been lent
me, which debt has accrued in this city while I have been prisoner.’
One of them inquired of him, ‘How have you accounted for so much?’ ‘I
will answer for that,’ said Bertrand; ‘I have eaten, drunk, given,
and played at dice with it. A little money is soon spent. But if I be
set free, I shall soon have paid it: he saves his money, and has it
in good keeping, who shall for my help lend me the keys of it.’ And
an officer who heard him said, ‘Sir, you are stout–hearted, it seems
to you that every thing which you would have must happen.’ ‘By my
faith,’ said Bertrand, ‘you are right, for a dispirited man is nothing
better than beaten and discomfited.’ And the rest said, ‘that he was
like one enchanted, for he was proof against every shock.’ Then he was
brought to the chamber where was the Prince of Wales, and with him John
Chandos, a true and valiant knight. And had they chosen to believe
him, they would long before have disposed of the war: for he gave much
good advice. And also there were Oliver de Clisson and other knights,
before whom came Bertrand, wearing a grey coat. And when the Prince
saw him, he could not keep from laughing, from the time he saw him.
Then he said, ‘Well, Bertrand, how fare you?’ And Bertrand approached
him, bowing a little, and said, ‘Sir, when it shall please you, I may
fare better: many a day have I heard the rats and mice, but the song of
birds it is long since I heard.[129] I shall hear them when it is your
pleasure.’ ‘Bertrand,’ said the Prince, ‘that shall be when you will;
it will depend only on yourself, so that you will swear, and make true
oath, never to bear arms against me, nor these others, nor to assist
Henry of Spain. So soon as you will swear this, we will fully set you
free, and pay that you owe, and besides give 10,000 florins to equip
you anew, if you consent to this; else you shall not go.’ ‘Sire,’ said
Bertrand, ‘my deliverance then will not come to pass; for before I do
so, may I lie by the leg in prison while I live. God willing, I will
never be a reproach to my friends. For by Him who made the world, I
will serve with my whole heart those whom I have served, and whose I
have been from my outset. These are the good King of France, the noble
Dukes of Anjou, of Berry, of Burgundy, and of Bourbon; whose I have
been, as became me. But so please you, suffer me to go. For you have
held me too long in prison, wrongfully and without cause; and I will
tell you how I had gone from France, I and my people meaning to go
against the Saracens. And so I had promised Hugh de Carvalay, intending
to work out my salvation.’ ‘Why then went you not straight without
stopping?’ said the Prince. ‘I will tell you,’ said Bertrand in a loud
voice. ‘We found Peter,—the curse of God confound him! who had long
since thrice falsely murdered his noble Queen, born of the noble line
of Bourbon, and of the blood of my Lord, St. Louis, which lady was
your cousin by the best blood in your body. Straightway then I stopped,
to take vengeance for her, and to help Henry; for well I know, and
surely I believe, that he is the right king and the true heir of Spain.
And also to destroy, and put to an end, Jews and Saracens, of whom
there are too many in these parts. Now through great pride you have
come to Spain to the best of your ability, both through covetousness of
gold and silver, and that you may have the throne after the death of
Peter, who reigns wrongfully, by which journey you have, in the first
place, injured your own blood, and troubled me and my people: whence
it has come to pass, that after you have so ruined your friends, and
you and your people have been all famished, and suffered great pain
and labour, Peter has deceived you by cheating and trickery, for he
has not kept faith nor covenant with you, for which, by my faith, I
thank him heartily.’ When Bertrand had related his reasons, the Prince
rose, and could not help saying that on his soul Bertrand was right,
and the barons said that he had spoken truth. Then was there great
joy stirring all round and about, and they said of Bertrand, one to
another, ‘See there a brave Breton.’ But the Prince called, and said
to him, ‘You shall not escape me without paying a good ransom; and yet
it vexes me that you obtain such favour. But men say that I keep you
prisoner because I fear you; and to the end that every one may cease to
suspect this, and may know that I neither fear nor care for you, I will
deliver you on payment of sufficient ransom.’ ‘Sir,’ said Bertrand,
‘I am a poor knight of little name, and not so born as that I should
find help in plenty. And besides, my estate is mortgaged for purchase
of war–horses, and also I owe in this town full ten thousand florins.
Be moderate, therefore, and deliver, me.’ ‘Where will you go, fair
Sir?’ said the Prince. ‘Sir,’ said Bertrand, ‘I will go where I may
regain my loss, and more I say not.’ ‘Consider then,’ said the Prince,
‘what ransom you will give me: for what you will shall be enough for
me.’ ‘Sir,’ said Bertrand, ‘I trust you will not stoop to retract your
meaning. And since you are content to refer it to my pleasure, I ought
not to value myself too low. So I will give and engage for my freedom
one hundred thousand double golden florins.’ And when the Prince heard
him his colour changed, and he looked round at his knights, saying,
‘Does he mean to make game of me that he offers such a sum? for I
would gladly quit him for the quarter.’ ‘Bertrand,’ said he, ‘neither
can you pay it, nor do I wish such a sum; so consider again.’ ‘Sire,’
said Bertrand, ‘since you will not so much, I place myself at sixty
thousand double florins; you shall not have less, sobeit you will
discharge me.’ ‘Well,’ said the Prince, ‘I agree to it.’ Then said
Bertrand loudly, ‘Sir, Prince Henry may well and truly vaunt that he
will die King of Spain, cost him what it may, and he will lend me one
half my ransom, and the King of France the other; and if I can neither
go nor send to these two, I would get all the spinstresses in France to
spin it rather than that I should remain longer in your hands.’[130]
And when the Prince had heard him he thus said: ‘What sort of man is
this? He startles at nothing, either in act or thought, no more than
if he had all the gold which is in the world. He has set himself at
sixty thousand double florins, and I would willingly have quitted him
for ten thousand.’ And all the barons also marvelled greatly. ‘Am I
then at liberty?’ said the gallant Bertrand. And Chandos asked him
whence the money should come. ‘Sir,’ said he, ‘I have good friends, as
I shall find, I am certain.’ ‘By my faith,’ said Chandos, ‘I am much
rejoiced therefore, and if you have need of my help, thus much I say,
I will lend you ten thousand.’ ‘Sir,’ said Bertrand, ‘I thank you. But
before I seek anything of you I will try the people of my own country.’
The news of this matter went through the city of Bordeaux. There you
might see all persons, great and small, citizens, and artisans of all
sorts, run towards the mansion of the Prince to see Bertrand. And
when the Prince’s knights saw the people assemble thus, and knew the
cause of their coming, they brought the said Bertrand to lean out at
a window, who laughed heartily at the matter. And when the commoners
saw him from a distance, they said, ‘He is a downright enemy! cursed
be the hour that he escapes alive. He has done much evil, and will do
worse.’ And others said, ‘Have we idled and yawned, and run away from
our business, to look at such a squire as this? May God bless him not!
for he is an ugly fellow, and unable to pay the ransom at which he is
valued.’ ‘Whence should he draw it?’ said others; ‘he will never pay a
single penny of his own, but will pilfer it through the broad land.’
And those who knew Bertrand better said to them, ‘Now argue not so much
in using such words, for there is no better knight in the world, and
none that better knows how to make war. And there is no castle, however
strong, however high the rock on which it stands, that would not
soon surrender if he went thither to assault it: and, throughout the
kingdom of France, there is no man nor woman, however poor, who would
not contribute, if he needed it, rather than that he should remain in



Tyranny of Cambyses, terminating in madness—of Caligula—of the Emperor

No questions which can become the subject of judicial examination
are more delicate and difficult than those which depend upon a man’s
mental sanity, whether the case be of a civil or a criminal nature;
whether it regard his competence to manage his own affairs, or his
possession of that moral feeling of right and wrong in the absence
of which he cannot be justly punished as a responsible agent. In the
first instance, daily experience shows us that general eccentricity,
and even delusion upon particular subjects, may exist in union with
the most acute perception of personal interests; in the second, it is
equally clear that the moral sense may be perverted upon one or more
points without being destroyed, and indeed without any other indication
of mental disease. We may take as an example of this the burning of
York Cathedral some years ago. Martin believed this to be morally a
meritorious act, and herein lay his madness: on a case of murder,
robbery, or any other infraction of the laws, he would have judged
aright. But though he believed it to be meritorious, he knew it to
be illegal; he knew that he was subject to punishment, and fled from
it accordingly: and upon this ground the question might be raised,
whether his madness should have protected him from the penalty affixed
to his act. But exclusively of those more strongly marked cases,
which alone are likely to become subjects of judicial inquiry, no man
can converse extensively with the living, or, through the medium of
books, with the dead, without continually asking himself whether the
eccentricity, perverseness, intemperance, and extravagance which he
sees on all sides are compatible with a perfectly sound state of mind.
Mental as well as bodily illness may assume all shapes, and be of all
degrees: and both reflection and observation lead us to conclude that
excessive indulgence of the passions will impair the understanding,
as surely as sensual intemperance injures the constitution. It would
not be difficult to enumerate a long list of causes tending more or
less to unsettle the reason; indeed, no pursuit, however unexciting
it may seem, can be exclusively followed without risk of this result.
Science has its dangers as well as love: the philosopher’s stone and
the quadrature of the circle have probably turned as many heads as
has female ingratitude, from the time of Orlando Furioso downwards.
At present, however, we mean to confine ourselves to one particular
manifestation of insanity, or something nearly allied to it, with the
view of illustrating, in some degree, that large portion of history
which is occupied by the crimes and follies of absolute monarchs.

In reading such narratives as the following, we naturally wonder how
it is that anything human can have been led to play a part so entirely
at variance with all the kindly feelings of human nature. To believe
that Caligula and Nero came into the world fully prepared for the
part which they were afterwards to play, would be as unreasonable as
to adopt the other extreme, and maintain, as some have done, that the
tempers and abilities of all men are originally similar and equal. But
“the child is father of the man.” The work of education begins at an
early period, and circumstances seemingly too trivial to notice, may
exert a powerful effect in fixing our future destiny for good or evil.
There are few persons whose patience has not been more or less tried by
spoiled children, and who cannot point out examples where the temper
of the mature man has been seriously injured by early injudicious
indulgence; and many must know cases in which the paroxysms of a
naturally bad temper, exasperated by uncontrolled licence and habitual
submission, have amounted almost to occasional insanity. Causes closely
analogous to those which render one man the dread of his domestic
circle, may render another the terror and the scourge of half the
earth. The same spirit which vents itself in ill–humour for a broken
piece of china, or execrations for an ill–cooked dinner, if fostered by
power, might correct breaches of etiquette with the knout, and deal out
confiscations and death as unsparingly as oaths. We may observe that,
bloody and unfeeling as their administration may have been, it is not
among the adventurers who have carved their own way to a crown that
the wantonness of tyranny has been most developed; it is rather among
their descendants, men nurtured among parasites, with the prospect of
despotism ever before their eyes. Surrounded from infancy by those
whose interest it has been to pamper, not to repress their evil
passions, taught, in Pagan countries, to regard themselves as gods, and
worshipped as such by a servile and besotted multitude, what wonder
that they tread under foot those who bow the neck before them, and
scorn to sympathise with a confessedly inferior race? In private life,
however, the regulation of the mind may be neglected, the supremacy
of law, and the knowledge that excess, beyond a certain point, cannot
be committed with impunity, exerts a salutary restraint over the
wildest spirits. But he who is above the influence of fear, whose angry
passions have never been checked, nor his desires controlled, and who
is harassed by the craving after excitement consequent upon satiety
of sensual pleasures, is prepared for any caprice or enormity which
the humour of the moment may suggest. The mind can hardly be thus
morally depraved without becoming intellectually depraved also: as the
animal man is cherished, and the reasonable man neglected, the former
will assume the guidance due to the latter, and human becomes little
superior to brute nature, except in its greater power to do mischief.
In this state of degradation

                      Even–handed justice
  Condemns the ingredients of the poisoned chalice
  To our own lips.

The dominion of the passions is worse than external oppression, and
conscience exasperates, after it has lost its power to reform. Misery
may then complete the ruin which intemperance began, and cruelty, from
being only indifferent, become congenial.

If a man deprives himself almost of the common necessaries of life,
for the purpose of accumulating money which he will never use or want;
if he sleeps all day, and wakes all night; if he chooses to wear
his shoes upon his hands, and his gloves upon his feet, or indulge
in any other such ridiculous fancies; we call him odd, eccentric, a
madman, according to the degree of his deviation from established
usages: and justly, for in all these things a sound mind is wanting.
Yet that man may be perfectly able to foresee the consequences of
his actions, perfect master of his reason upon every subject; and
therefore be both legally and morally responsible. It is a state of
mind strictly analogous, as we believe, to this, which has produced
the worst excesses of the worst oppressors; and one which has sprung
from the same cause—habitual submission to the will instead of the
reason. From the childish passion of George II., who manifested his
displeasure on great occasions by kicking his hat about the room, to
the superhuman crimes of Caligula, we find this disease, if we may call
it so, manifested in every variety of degree and form. In Henry VIII.
of England, we trace it in the contrast between the early and later
years of his reign, in the increased violence of his passions, and in
the capriciousness and cruelty ingrafted on a temper not naturally
ungentle. We ascribe to it the ungovernable fury which obscured the
brilliant qualities of Peter of Russia; and we find it still more
strongly marked in the extravagances which are ascribed to Xerxes. His
very preparations for invading Greece, on a scale so disproportionate
to the value of his object if attained, show how subordinate was his
judgment to his inclinations; and no one can read the narration of his
chastisement of the Hellespont, without recognising the weakness of a
mind unsettled by extravagant presumption. “When Xerxes heard that his
bridges were carried away, he was much vexed, and ordered three hundred
lashes to be given to the Hellespont, and a pair of fetters to be cast
into it. And I have heard that he sent men at the same time to brand
the Hellespont. Moreover, he commanded those that inflicted the stripes
to use unholy and barbarian language, saying, ‘Thou bitter water, thy
master inflicts this punishment upon thee, because thou hast wronged
him, having received no injury at his hands. And King Xerxes will cross
thee, whether thou wilt or no: and, as is fit, no one sacrifices to
thee, because thou art a salt and crafty river.’ So he ordered them to
punish the sea thus, and to cut off the heads of the Grecians who had
charge of the bridge.”[132] This is as downright frenzy as the walls of
Bedlam ever witnessed: a paroxysm of temporary insanity, produced by
disappointment acting on a vain, ungoverned mind.

Before proceeding to relate in detail the lives of some remarkable
persons which bear upon the point in question, we wish briefly to
allude to the very singular and striking history of Nebuchadnezzar,
though with no view of resolving that preternatural visitation, which
is expressly stated to have been from God, into a natural consequence
of his intemperate pride. From the few notices of him preserved in the
Bible, he seems to have been a man cast in no ordinary mould; to have
been endowed with powers and capability of excellence commensurate with
the exalted situation which he was appointed to hold. It is evident,
however, that he had drunk deep of the intoxication of despotism. His
intended massacre of the wise men, and the Chaldeans, in point of
wisdom and justice is on a par with the anger of a child who beats
his nurse because she will not give him the moon to play with; and
his conduct with respect to the image of the plain of Dura, if less
preposterous, is not more creditable to his notions of toleration or
humanity. In fact, he appears to have been in a fair way to become as
truculent a tyrant as Cambyses or Caligula, when that awful vision,
related at length in the fourth chapter of Daniel, was presented to
him, which foretold his banishment from the throne and from men: and we
may infer from the warning of the inspired interpreter, and from the
course of the narrative, that his overweening pride and hardness of
heart, the food and origin of that mental alienation of which we have
been speaking at such length, were the vices against which Divine anger
was especially directed. “This is the decree of the Most High, which
is come upon my lord the king: They shall drive thee from men, and thy
dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, till thou know that the
Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he
will.... Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and
break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing
mercy to the poor: if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity....
At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of
Babylon. The king spoke and said, Is not this the great Babylon that I
have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and
for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king’s mouth,
there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O King Nebuchadnezzar, to thee
it is spoken; the kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive
thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field;
they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass
over thee, until thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of
men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.”[133]

Of the following sketches the two first exhibit the dominion of passion
in its most violent form; the last differs rather in degree than in
nature. Strictly speaking, the life of Cambyses is not entitled to a
place here; but Herodotus makes us so familiar with Persian history
from the time of Cyrus, that it seems naturally to find a place in
works relating to the history of Greece.

Cambyses succeeded to the undisturbed possession of that vast empire
which his father Cyrus had acquired, extending from the Indus to the
Ægean, and from the Caspian to the Red Sea. This extent of dominion
might seem enough to satisfy the most ambitious, and employ the
most active mind; but the son, unhappily for himself, inherited the
father’s military spirit, and in the fourth year of his reign quitted
his paternal kingdom to conquer Egypt. He marched along the coast
from Palestine to Pelusium, where he found encamped Psammenitus, who
had succeeded his father Amasis on the Egyptian throne. A battle was
fought, in which the Egyptians were defeated; they fled to Memphis, and
the rest of the country submitted without further struggle. Herodotus,
who visited the field of battle, relates a curious story. The bones of
either nation were heaped apart, as they had been originally separated;
and the Persian skulls were so weak that you could throw a pebble
through them, whereas the Egyptian would hardly break, though beaten
with a large stone. Their descendants do not appear to have degenerated
in this respect.

Cambyses sent a ship of Mitylene up the Nile, to summon Memphis to
surrender. The savage and exasperated inhabitants tore the herald
and crew limb from limb, and made a long defence, during which the
Cyrenæans and the neighbouring Libyans submitted. The city being at
last taken, he put Psammenitus to a singular trial.

“On the tenth day after the capture of Memphis, he placed Psammenitus,
together with other Egyptians, without the gates; and meaning to make
essay of his temper, he acted thus. He clothed that king’s daughter in
servile raiment, and sent her, bearing a water–pitcher, to fetch water,
and with her other maidens of the noblest families similarly clad. And
as they went with wailing and lamentation past their fathers, these,
all but Psammenitus, re–echoed their cries, seeing the evil condition
of their children; but he bowed his head to the earth. When they had
passed, his son came by with two thousand Egyptians of like age, with
bits in their mouths, and their necks bound with halters, who were
thus led to death in retaliation for the Mityleneans who were slain at
Memphis. For the royal judges had decided that for every one of them
ten of the noblest Egyptians should perish. And he, seeing them pass,
and knowing that his son was carried to execution, while his countrymen
who were around him wept and were much distressed, did as in the case
of his daughter. When they were gone, an old man, who was formerly of
his drinking parties, being now deprived of his fortune, and compelled
to beg through the army, chanced to come where Psammenitus was sitting;
and Psammenitus, when he saw his friend, cried aloud, and smote his
head, calling upon him by name. Men were placed near, who told Cambyses
every thing that happened; and he was much surprised, and sent this
message: ‘Psammenitus, your master Cambyses asks why, having given way
neither to cries nor tears when you saw your daughter maltreated and
your son going to execution, you have honoured with them a man nowise
related to you?’ He answered, ‘Son of Cyrus, my domestic misfortunes
were too mighty to be wept; but the sufferings of a friend, who, on
the threshold of old age, has fallen from a high and happy state into
beggary, form a fit subject for tears.’”[134] The heart of Cambyses was
touched for once, and he ordered the Egyptian prince to be sought and
saved; but his mercy came too late.

Proceeding from Memphis to Sais, he broke open the tomb of Amasis,
the late king, and caused the body, which was embalmed as usual, to
be scourged, and insulted in every possible way.[135] Finally, he
ordered it to be burnt, wherein he transgressed equally the religion
of the Persians and Egyptians. For the former say that it is not fit
to consign a dead man to a divinity, esteeming fire as such; while the
latter believe it to be a savage animal, which consumes every thing
within its reach, and then dies; and consider it unlawful to let their
corpses be the prey of wild beasts. Hence the practice of embalming,
that worms may not prey upon their flesh. This wanton and disgusting
outrage was prompted by personal hatred, arising from a slight said to
have been put upon him by Amasis, in consequence of which the invasion
of Egypt was undertaken.

That country being subdued, far from being contented with his
acquisitions, he now meditated three expeditions at once: one against
Carthage, which was frustrated by the Phœnicians, who composed the
chief part of his fleet, refusing to serve against their kinsmen and
descendants; another against the Ammonians, who lived in the Libyan
desert, in a spot made famous by the oracle of Ammon;[136] a third
against the Æthiopians, called Macrobii, or long–lived, who were said
to be the tallest and handsomest of all men, and to reach the age of
120 years and upwards. The monarchy was elective, and they chose for
their king whoever was most eminent for strength and stature. Before
he set out, Cambyses sent spies into this country, charged with gifts
and professions of friendship, to which the Æthiopian replied, “The
king of Persia has not sent you with gifts, as setting a high price on
my alliance; and you speak falsely, for you are come as spies of my
realm. Neither is that man upright, for then he would covet none other
country than his own, and not have enslaved those from whom he has
had no wrong. Give to him, then, this bow, and say, ‘The king of the
Æthiopians advises the king of the Persians to invade the long–lived
Æthiopians with overpowering numbers, as soon as the Persians can draw
thus easily such bows as these; and, until then, to thank the gods who
have not inclined the sons of the Æthiopians to add the lands of others
to their own.’”[137]

Cambyses, as we may suppose, flew into no small passion at the receipt
of such an answer, and urged his march, says Herodotus, like one out
of his right mind, and too impetuously to wait until magazines could
be formed,—a precaution the more needful, because, according to the
prevalent notions of geography, he was going to the uttermost parts of
the earth. From Thebes he detached 50,000 men to enslave the Ammonians,
and burn the temple of Ammon, while he advanced towards Æthiopia with
the rest: but before one–fifth of the journey was accomplished, all
their food was consumed, even to the beasts of burden which attended
the camp. “If, when he found this out, he had changed his mind, and
brought home his army, then, bating the original fault, he would have
been a wise man. But, instead of this, he pressed continually forward,
without any consideration.”

The consequence of this improvident obstinacy was, that his soldiers,
who had lived on herbs so long as the earth produced anything, began
to live upon each other when they reached the sandy desert. Cambyses
had no relish for this sort of supper, whether he was to eat, or, like
Polonius, to be eaten, and at length turned back, not before he had
lost a large part of his army. The other detachment advanced deep into
the desert, whence they returned not, nor was it known what became of
them. The Ammonians said that a mighty south–west wind had overwhelmed
them with sand. The circumstances of their supposed destruction are
powerfully though rather extravagantly described by Darwin:—

  “Now o’er their head the whizzing whirlwinds breathe,
  And the live desert pants and heaves beneath;
  Tinged by the crimson sun, vast columns rise
  Of eddying sands, and war amid the skies,
  In red arcades the billowy plain surround,
  And stalking turrets dance upon the ground.
  Onward resistless rolls the infuriate surge,
  Clouds follow clouds, and mountains mountains urge;
  Wave over wave the driving desert swims;
  Bursts o’er their heads, inhumes their struggling limbs;
  Man mounts on man, on camels camels rush,
  Hosts march o’er hosts, and nations nations crush,—
  Wheeling in air the winged islands fall,
  And one great earthy ocean covers all!—
  Then ceased the storm.—Night bowed his Ethiop brow
  To earth, and listened to the groans below.—
  Grim Horror shook—awhile the living hill
  Heaved with convulsive throes—and all was still!”[138]

The king returned to Memphis, his army much weakened, and his warlike
ardour probably no less cooled, by this double failure; for he made
no more trials to extend his empire. So humiliating a disappointment
was not likely to sweeten his arbitrary temper, and to its effects
we are inclined to attribute the sudden change which appears to have
taken place in his conduct. We say appears, because up to this time
nothing is related of his private life: it is not probable, however,
that the historian would have omitted occurrences such as those which
characterise it from henceforward. The seeds of the evil which now
shot up had long been rooting themselves. Self–gratification had
been the end, and his will the guide, of his actions; and on such
persons uncontrolled power acts like a hot–bed, to draw up their bad
qualities into tenfold rankness. Old tales make frequent mention of
magicians being torn in pieces by the spirits whom they have called
up. He who gives loose to the evil passions of his nature, has a worse
set of fiends to deal with, than the grotesque imaginations of our
forefathers ever figured, and will find it harder to escape from them
in safety: what wonder is it if the reason proves unequal to bear
the shocks of such a warfare? That the mind of Cambyses so yielded,
the cruelty, impiety, and extravagance of his latter years, in which
his conduct was as impolitic as wicked, will not allow us to doubt.
Disappointment and vexation could not have produced the disorder,
though they may have hastened the crisis and increased its violence.

The Egyptians referred this change to another cause. When Cambyses
reached Memphis he found the city in great joy. Apis,[139] the sacred
bull, one of their most venerated deities, had just appeared, and,
as usual, the whole country celebrated it as a festival. The despot
suspected, not unnaturally, that they were rejoicing over his defeat,
and sent for the magistrates, to ask why the Egyptians, who had done
nothing of the sort when he was before at Memphis, made such show of
joy, now that he came there after losing his army. They replied, that
their god, who was wont to appear at long intervals, had manifested
himself, and that on this occasion the Egyptians always kept holiday.
Cambyses said they lied, and therefore sent them to execution. He
next sent for the priests, and being similarly answered, said that he
would soon know whether any tame god was come among the Egyptians.
At his command, the animal was produced; he drew his dagger, struck
Apis in the thigh, and said, laughing, “Fools, are such things gods,
composed of flesh and blood and penetrable to steel? He is indeed a
god worthy of the Egyptians! For you, you shall not make a mock of me
with impunity.” So saying, he ordered the priests to be scourged, and
all persons found celebrating the feast to be slain. Apis died, and was
buried secretly. From this sacrilege the Egyptians dated the madness
of Cambyses. Others ascribed it to epilepsy, to which he is said to
have been subject from his birth. The disease might have produced a
liability to insanity, but it could scarcely have been the agent in
working so sudden a change. The extravagances of Caligula, however,
were referred by many to the same cause.

The change in his temper was first shown by the murder of his brother
Smerdis, whom he had sent back to Susa in a fit of jealousy because he
was the only man in the army who could draw the King of Ethiopia’s bow,
even for two fingers’ breadth. After taking this step, he dreamed that
a messenger came to him from Persia, with tidings that Smerdis sat upon
the throne, and touched the heavens with his head. Fearing, therefore,
that this vision portended his being deposed and murdered, he sent a
trusty follower, named Prexaspes, to Susa, with orders to assassinate
his brother. The commission was faithfully performed.

A sister also, who had followed him into Egypt, and with whom he
cohabited, fell a victim to his intemperate passion. “Before this
time,” Herodotus says, “the Persians never married their sisters, but
he, wishing to do so, managed it thus. Knowing that he was about to act
contrary to their customs, he sent for the royal judges, and asked them
if there were any law permitting any one who wished to cohabit with his
sister. Now the royal judges are select men among the Persians, who
retain their office during life, or till convicted of some injustice;
and it is they who preside in the Persian courts and interpret the laws
and institutions of the nation, and all things are referred to them.
So to this question of Cambyses they returned an answer that was both
just and safe, saying that they could find no law permitting a brother
to marry his sister; but they had indeed discovered another—that it
was lawful for the king of the Persians to do whatever he liked. Thus,
then, they did not break the law from fear of Cambyses; and yet, lest
they should themselves perish out of regard for the law, they found
another law to help him in marrying his sister.”[140] Cambyses and
his judges seem to have been well suited. There is on record a better
instance of courtly evasion, related by Waller. The poet went, on the
day of a dissolution of parliament, to see the King, James II., at
dinner. “Dr. Andrews, Bishop of Winchester, and Dr. Neal, Bishop of
Durham, were standing behind his majesty’s chair, and there happened
something in the conversation these prelates had with the King on
which Mr. Waller did often reflect. His majesty asked the bishops, ‘My
lords, cannot I take my subjects’ money when I want it, without all
this formality in parliament?’ The Bishop of Durham readily answered,
‘God forbid, sire, but you should! You are the breath of our nostrils.’
Whereupon the King turned and said to the Bishop of Winchester, ‘Well,
my lord, what say you?’ ‘Sire,’ replied the bishop, ‘I have no skill
to judge of parliamentary cases.’ The King replied, ‘No put–offs, my
lord—answer me presently.’ ‘Then, sire,’ said he, ‘I think it is lawful
for you to take my brother Neal’s money, for he offers it.’”[141]

It was another sister who followed Cambyses into Egypt, and perished
there by his violence. She was present when he set a lion’s whelp to
fight a puppy. The latter had the worst, till another of the same
litter broke loose, and came to help it, when the two together beat the
lion. The princess shed tears at the sight, and being questioned why
she did so, replied that it was for the remembrance of Smerdis, and the
thought that there was no one to avenge his death. The brute kicked
her, and thereby inflicted a mortal injury.

He held Prexaspes, the person employed to murder Smerdis, in especial
favour, and among other marks of it appointed that nobleman’s son to
be his cup–bearer. One day he asked, “Prexaspes, what sort of person
do the Persians think me?” He replied with unseasonable candour, “that
they praised him very highly, only they said that he was terribly fond
of wine.” Cambyses was very angry at the imputation. “Do the Persians,”
he answered, “say that I am beside myself for love of wine? You shall
see whether they speak the truth, or whether it is they that are
beside themselves when they talk thus. If I cleave your son’s heart
with my arrow as he stands without the door, then the Persians will be
proved to talk nonsense: if I miss, then say that the Persians speak
truth, and it is I that am mad.” He drew his bow, the boy fell, and he
commanded that he should be opened: the arrow was found fixed in his
heart. He turned to the father and said, laughing, “Prexaspes, I have
made it clear to you that the Persians are mad, and not I. Now tell me
whether you have seen any man who shot so well?” The miserable wretch,
fearing for his own safety, replied that not even a god could have done
so well.

Crœsus, who was kept in attendance in his court, as before in Cyrus’s,
ventured to remonstrate on the course which he was pursuing, but
so unsuccessfully, that nothing but a rapid flight saved him from
furnishing another proof of Cambyses’ skill in archery. He was then
ordered to execution, but the officers who had charge of him, knowing
the value that their master set upon Crœsus, and expecting rewards for
saving his life, concealed him until the king’s anger should be over.
One day at length they produced him, when Cambyses was expressing
his regret for the Lydian’s death. It is dangerous to calculate upon
a madman’s conduct. The king said that he was very glad Crœsus was
preserved, and put the officers to death for disobeying his orders.

He had now been absent from Persia three years nearly, when a revolt
broke out; the natural consequence of so long a desertion of the seat
of empire, especially under a despotic government; in which case the
people, habituated implicitly to submit to those in authority, care
little from what head that authority emanates, provided it is conveyed
through the customary channels. On leaving Persia, Cambyses had
appointed Patizeithes, a Magian, or one of the hereditary priesthood,
to be steward or inspector of the royal household. This man probably
possessed rank and influence, as, under all monarchies, the nobility
have been eager to fill even menial offices about the royal person;
perhaps his station gave him political importance, as in France, under
the Merovingian dynasty, the Maires du Palais wielded the whole power
of the state. He had a brother named Smerdis, closely resembling in
person Smerdis the son of Cyrus; and knowing both that the latter was
dead, and that the fact of his death was carefully concealed from the
nation, he conceived a plan, founded probably on the reputed madness
and necessary unpopularity of Cambyses, for dethroning him, and
substituting his own brother as the son of Cyrus. The attempt seems
to have succeeded without opposition: for the historian merely states
that he set his brother on the throne, and sent heralds throughout the
empire, to say that in future obedience was to be paid to Smerdis,
son of Cyrus, and not to Cambyses. The herald sent into Egypt found
the latter with his army in Syria, and (a service of no small danger)
boldly delivered his message to the king in public. On this occasion
the madman behaved reasonably, for instead of killing Prexaspes and
the herald in the first instance, and then proceeding to inquire how
Smerdis came to be alive, he began by investigating, and soon perceived
the real state of the case. The true meaning of the dream already
referred to then struck him, in which he saw a messenger from Susa,
who told him that Smerdis sat upon the throne, and reached the heavens
with his head. Some remnant of kindly feeling and remorse now touched
his heart, and he wept to think that he had destroyed his brother to
no purpose; but this soon gave way to a natural anger, and with his
usual precipitation he would instantly have departed to assert his
own empire, and punish the conspirators. But as he sprung to horse
the button dropped off which closed the end of his scabbard; and the
naked point pierced his thigh, the spot in which he had sacrilegiously
wounded Apis. He thought that the injury was mortal, and asked the
name of the city where he then was. It was called Ecbatana,[142]
and in Ecbatana an oracle had forewarned him he should die; but he
naturally interpreted it of the more celebrated Ecbatana, the residence
of the ancient Median kings. When he heard the name he was sobered,
and comprehending the oracle aright, said “Here then Cambyses, son of
Cyrus, is destined to end his life.”[143] The wound mortified, and on
the twentieth day after the accident he sent for the most eminent of
his countrymen, and addressed them in these words: “Men of Persia, I
am now forced to declare to you what I have hitherto concealed most
carefully. For, being in Egypt, I saw in my sleep a vision which I
would fain never have seen, and thought a messenger from home brought
word that Smerdis sat upon the throne, and reached the heavens with
his head. Fearing, therefore, to be deposed by my brother, I did more
hastily than wisely, for it is not in man’s nature to turn aside that
which is decreed: but I, fool as I was, sent Prexaspes to Susa to kill
Smerdis, and lived in security when this great evil was done, never
thinking that, though he was removed, some other person might rise
up against me. And thus, being wrong concerning every thing that was
to happen, I have needlessly become a fratricide, and yet am equally
deprived of my kingdom. For it was Smerdis, the Magian, whose revolt
the divinity foretold in my dream. The deed then is done, and be
assured that you have no longer Smerdis, son of Cyrus, but the Magi
fill the royal office; he whom I left steward of my household, and
Smerdis his brother. He is dead, then, whose part especially it was to
avenge the wrongs done to me by the Magi; dead, impiously murdered by
his nearest of kin. And as he is no more, I am compelled to give in
charge to you, O Persians, those things which at the end of life I wish
to be done. I require of you then, and call the gods of our empire to
witness, that you suffer not the sovereignty to revert to the Medes,
but if they have obtained it by fraud, by fraud let them be stripped
of it; if by force, by force do you recover it. And as you do this,
may your land be fruitful, and your wives and flocks yield increase to
you as a free people for ever; but if you recover not the empire, nor
attempt to recover it, I imprecate upon you the reverse of all these
things, and further pray that the end of every Persian may be like
mine.” So saying, he bewailed in tears his whole condition. And when
the Persians beheld their king weeping they rent their clothes, and
made lamentation unsparingly.[144] Thus died Cambyses, in the seventh
year and fifth month of his reign.

The Egyptians, who were horror–struck at the outrage committed upon
Apis, and who ascribed the atrocities perpetrated by the Persian
monarch to madness, the consequence of this crime, saw in the manner
of his death a further manifestation of divine vengeance. Strange
inconsistency, that men should believe a deity unable to protect his
own person, and yet thus capable of inflicting punishment upon his
injurer! In a similar spirit, the death of Cleomenes, King of Sparta,
an event attended with remarkable and impressive circumstances, was
attributed to no less than four different acts of impiety by different
parties, each believing that it was caused by an infringement upon
those things which they themselves considered as peculiarly sacred.
Cleomenes’ mind was impaired before he ascended the throne, insomuch
that his younger brother endeavoured to set aside the strict order of
succession in his own favour. We may notice this as a strong proof of
what has been said of the efficacy of moral restraint in preserving
mental sanity, and checking the progress of existing disease. The
strict discipline of Sparta, the subjection of her kings in common with
all other citizens, not merely to written law, but to public opinion,
was sufficient to restrain the wanderings even of an impaired mind; for
though his reign was overbearing and violent, nothing is related of him
which can be considered as a proof of madness until towards its close,
when he became addicted to drunkenness, a vice especially contrary to
the Spartan laws. Being proved to have bribed the priestess to return
an answer suitable to his own interests on one occasion when the
Spartan government consulted the Delphic oracle, he fled to Thessaly,
and from thence to Arcadia, where he employed himself so successfully
in stirring up war against Sparta, that he was recalled and reinstated.
Shortly after he broke out into frenzy, having been before, says
Herodotus, somewhat crazed; and being placed in confinement under the
charge of a Helot, he obtained a sword from his guard, with which he
deliberately cut himself into pieces, beginning at the legs and so
proceeding upwards, until he reached the vital parts, and died.[145]

That so tragical an end should excite general attention, that it should
be referred to the direct interposition of the Deity to punish some
crime, is no wonder: what is chiefly observable, and characteristic of
Grecian religion, is that no one thought of attributing the anger of
the gods to moral guilt, of which Cleomenes had no lack, but merely to
some injury or insult offered especially to the gods themselves. Hence,
according to the religious prepossessions of the party speculating,
there were four methods current of accounting for his madness. Some
time before, when commanding in an invasion of Argolis, he had defeated
the opposing army, and driven many of them into a wood sacred to the
hero Argus (not he with the many eyes), from whom the Argians traced
their descent. Unwilling to lose his prey, he at first enticed them one
by one with promises of safety, and when his treachery was discovered,
and they refused to quit their asylum, he caused the Helots attendant
on the army to surround the grove with dry wood, and burnt it together
with the wretches it contained. The Argians then said that the hero
Argus thus avenged the pollution and destruction of his grove: the
Athenians were equally confident that he was thus afflicted because he
had once ravaged the sacred precincts of Eleusis: the other Greeks,
who cared comparatively little either for Argus or Ceres, found a
sufficient cause in his corruption of the Delphian oracle, which was
consulted and venerated by all alike. And the Spartans, bigoted
to nothing so much as to their own institutions, probably stumbled
upon the truth when they said that there was nothing divine about
the business, but that he was driven mad by hard drinking. A similar
feeling led the royalists to see something extraordinary in the death
of Lord Brooke, who was killed by a musket–shot in the eye, fired from
Lichfield Cathedral, while besieging it for the Parliament in 1643.
“There were many discourses and observations upon his death, that it
should be upon St. Chad’s day, being the 2nd of March, by whose name,
he being a bishop shortly after the planting of Christianity in this
island, that church had anciently been called. And it was reported
that in his prayer that very morning (for he used to pray publicly,
though his chaplain were in the presence), he wished ‘that if the cause
he were in were not right and just, he might presently be cut off.’”
Others went still further, and observed not only that he was killed in
attacking St. Chad’s church on St. Chad’s day, but that he received his
death–wound in the very eye with which he had said he hoped to see the
ruin of all the cathedrals in the kingdom. It is observable that the
honour of the tutelary saint seems to have been more thought of than
that of the Deity.

C. Cæsar Caligula, son of Germanicus and Agrippina, being left
an orphan at an early age, passed under the guardianship of his
grand–uncle Tiberius, who adopted and declared him his successor. In
this critical situation he profited so well by the admirable example of
duplicity ever before him, that neither the destruction of his nearest
relations, nor even the insults studiously offered to himself, drew
from him a complaint, or interrupted his obsequious attentions to the
reigning power. It was well said after his accession, in reference to
this period, that there never was a better slave or a worse master.
But cruelty and licentiousness showed themselves through this mask of
milkiness; and the clear–sighted Tiberius, it is said, often predicted
that Caligula would live for his own and all men’s perdition, and that
he was cherishing a serpent against the Roman people, and a Phaeton
against the whole world. If the speech be genuine, the emperor’s kind
intentions towards others merited that he should be the first victim
of his amiable pupil, and such was the case. At the close of his last
illness, while he lay in a stupor which was supposed to be death,
Macro, the favourite minister, proclaimed Caligula. But he revived—his
courtiers slunk away from the new–made monarch, and Caligula in passive
terror awaited the consequences of his precipitance, until Macro caused
his reviving benefactor to be smothered under the bed–clothes.

The news of a change of masters was received with universal joy, partly
from hatred to Tiberius, partly from love to the family of Germanicus;
and the early conduct of the young prince was calculated to increase
the general attachment. He honoured the ashes of his mother and
brothers with a splendid funeral, remitted punishments, discharged all
criminal proceedings, professed to have no ears for informers, watched
over public morals and the administration of justice, and in all things
assumed the semblance of a mild and conscientious monarch. But this
affectation of popularity lasted no longer than the caprice or fear
which produced it.

The extravagant folly of his nature broke out in the assumption of
divinity. This was no new pretension; but he surpassed his predecessors
in the extent and absurdity of his claims. He mutilated without remorse
the products of Grecian art, by placing his own head upon the images
of the gods, without regard either to the beauty or sanctity of the
statues which he thus disfigured. He built a temple in his own honour,
appointed priests, and laid down a ritual of sacrifice, including
only those birds which were most esteemed by the epicures of the day.
He assumed the title of Latian Jupiter, and completed the mummery
by pretending to hold secret conferences with the Jupiter of the
Capitol, in which he was heard threatening to send him back to Greece
in disgrace; and was only mollified by the repeated entreaties of the
father of gods and men, who invited him to share his own abode, the
venerated Capitol.

The Jews of course did not acknowledge his divinity, which angered
him exceedingly, insomuch that he issued an order to erect his own
statue in the temple at Jerusalem. At the intercession of Agrippa this
edict was recalled, but his anger against the nation still continued,
and gave rise to a very curious scene. A deputation of Jews had gone
to Rome in order to conduct a dispute between themselves and the
Alexandrians. Caligula appointed the parties to come before him at
a villa which he had ordered to be thrown open for his inspection.
On the introduction of the Jews, “You,” he said, “are those fellows
who think me no god, though I am acknowledged to be such by all men,
and who confess none except that unpronounceable one of yours;” and
raising his hands towards heaven, he uttered that word which it was
not lawful to hear, far less to speak. The Jews were in despair, while
their adversaries jumped and clapped their hands, and accumulated the
epithets of all the gods on Caligula. One of them, to improve this
advantage, said that the emperor would detest the Jews still more if
he knew that they were the only people who had never sacrificed in his
behalf. The Jews all exclaimed that it was false—that they had thrice
offered hecatombs for his welfare. “Be it so,” he answered; “what
then? You sacrificed to another, and not to me.” All this time he was
running over the whole house, up and down stairs, and dragging the
poor Jews after, who, besides being in mortal terror, were exposed to
the ridicule of all the court. Presently he gave some orders about the
building, and then turned to them and said gravely, “But why do you not
eat pork?” This was another triumph for their adversaries, who burst
into such immoderate laughter that the courtiers began to be shocked.
The Jews answered, “that the habits of nations varied. Some persons,”
they added, “do not eat lamb.” “They are right,” said the emperor, “it
is a tasteless meat.” At last he said, rather angrily, “I should like
to know on what plea you can justify your city;” and as they entered
into a long speech, he ran over the house to give orders about the
windows; then returning, he asked again what they had to say, and then,
when they began their speech again, ran off to look at some pictures.
Finally he sent them off, with the observation, “These are not such bad
fellows after all, but they are great fools for not believing me to be
a god.”[146]

No man ever spilt blood more lightly, with more refinement in cruelty,
or with less excuse. He had no rivals to fear, no conspiracies to
provoke him; but selfishness seemed to have stifled every humane
feeling, and to have left him a prey to the guidance of his evil
passions, unrestrained by that natural abhorrence of blood which
few even of the worst entirely overcome. To relate one half of his
atrocities would weary and disgust the reader: the few here given are
selected to show how closely levity was mingled with brutality. He
asked one who had been banished by Tiberius, how he employed himself
in exile. “I besought the gods that Tiberius might perish, and you
be emperor,” was the courtly reply. Thinking that those whom he had
banished might be similarly employed, he sent persons around the
islands of the Mediterranean, the abodes usually prescribed to those
unhappy men, commissioned to put all to death. Cowardly as cruel, he
was conscious that the prayer merited a hearing, and had superstition
to fear, though not religion to venerate or obey. A civil officer of
rank, resident for the sake of his health in Anticyra (an island of
the Ægean Sea, celebrated for the growth of hellebore), requested
the extension of his leave of absence. Caligula answered, “that
blood–letting was necessary, where so long a course of hellebore had
failed,” and sent at the same time an order for his execution. The
joke, such as it is, appears to have been the only provocation to this
act. Imperial wit need be brilliant if it is to be displayed at so high
a price. It was his frequent order to the executioner, whose work he
loved to superintend, “Strike so that he may feel himself die.” When,
by a mistake of name, one man had suffered for another, he observed
that both deserved alike; and here he probably stumbled upon a truth.
One of his exclamations is notorious: “Oh that the Roman people had one
neck!” In a similar spirit he lamented that his reign was distinguished
by no public misfortunes—he should be forgotten in the prosperity of
the age. It was a mistaken diffidence: he might have trusted in his
own powers to avert such a misfortune. Another source of bloodshed was
his profuse expenditure. Within a year he spent the treasure left by
Tiberius, amounting to twenty–two millions sterling, and then supplied
his extravagance by every species of extortion. He abrogated the wills
of some, because of their ingratitude in not making his predecessor,
or himself, their heir; those of others he annulled, because witnesses
were found to say that they had meant to do so; and having thus
frightened many into appointing him a legatee conjointly with their
friends and relations, he said that they were laughing at him, to
continue alive after making their wills, and sent poisoned dishes to
many of them. And being thus callous, and boastfully indifferent to
his subjects’ sufferings, he chose to affect horror when in the savage
sports of the amphitheatre one gladiator killed five others, and
published an edict to express his abhorrence at the cruelty of those
who had endured such a sight.

One instance of his extortion we could pardon. After an exhibition
of gladiators, he caused the survivors to be sold by auction. While
so employed he observed that one Aponius was dozing in his seat, and
turning to the auctioneer, desired him on no account to neglect the
biddings of the gentleman who was nodding to him from the benches.
Finally thirteen gladiators were knocked down to the unconscious
bidder for near 73,000_l._ Among other equally honest and dignified
ways of raising money, he sold in Gaul the jewels, servants, and other
property, even the very children of his sisters; and he found this so
profitable, that he sent to Rome for the old furniture of the palace,
pressing all carriages, public and private, for its conveyance, to the
great inconvenience and even distress of the capital. But the sale, we
may suppose, went off dully, for the emperor complained loudly of his
subjects’ avarice, who were not ashamed to be richer than himself, and
affected sorrow at being compelled to alienate the imperial property.

The most ludicrous part of his life is the history of his wars. Being
told that his Batavian guards wanted recruiting, he took a sudden whim
to make a German campaign, and set out with such speed that he arrived
at his head–quarters in Gaul before the troops could be entirely
collected. He now assumed the character of a strict disciplinarian;
broke those officers whom his own causeless hurry had made too late;
and mingling a due attention to economy with his caprices, deprived
6000 veterans of the pensions due to them. He claimed the conquest of
Britain, on the ground of receiving homage from an exiled prince of
that island; and having sent a pompous account of this magnificent
acquisition to the senate, he proceeded to the Rhine and even crossed
it. While marching through a defile, he heard some one observe that
the appearance of an enemy at that moment would cause no little
confusion. The notion of war in earnest was too much for the descendant
of Germanicus and Drusus. He mounted his horse, hurried to recross
the river, and rather than wait until an obstructed bridge could be
cleared, was passed from hand to hand over the heads of the crowd.
Not finding, or rather not seeking a real enemy, he made some Germans
of his own army conceal themselves in the forest, and while he was at
table caused the approach of an enemy to be hurriedly announced. On
this he rushed to horse, galloped with his companions and part of his
guard into the next wood, erected a trophy in honour of his exploit,
and quickly returned to censure the cowardice of those who had refused
to share the danger of their prince. In a similar spirit he sent away
some hostages privately, then led the hue and cry to overtake them,
and brought them back in fetters as deserters. But his most brilliant
exploit was that of giving battle to the ocean. He drew his troops up
in line upon the sea–shore, ranged his artillery, machines for throwing
large darts and stones, as if against an enemy, and then, while all
were wondering what folly would come next, commanded the soldiers to
fill their helmets and pockets with shells, calling them the spoils
of the ocean, due to the Capitol and the palace. To celebrate this
victory he built a lighthouse, and distributed a hundred denarii to
every soldier; and then, as if he had surpassed all former instances of
liberality, “Depart,” he said, “depart happy and rich.”

Such victories deserved a triumph, but there was some difficulty in
procuring proper ornaments for the ostentatious ceremony: for his
German victories had produced no prisoners, and it does not appear to
have occurred to him that the ocean contained fish as well as shells. A
live porpoise would have formed a novel and appropriate feature in the
procession, and have done honour to his own prowess and to the majesty
of the empire. To supply the deficiency he collected a number of Gauls,
distinguished by their stature and personal advantages, caused them
to let their hair grow, and to dye it red (the characteristics of the
German race), and even to learn the German language, and to assume
German names. Strange mixture of vanity with disregard of his own
character and contempt of the public opinion! The slightest reflection
must have shown the futility of these pretences, and the immeasurable
littleness of his own behaviour. But so long as he had the pleasure of
wearing his borrowed plumes, it seems to have mattered not that the
world knew them to be borrowed. In a similar spirit he affected to wear
the breast–plate of Alexander the Great. What bitterer satire could his
worst enemy have devised?

The capricious variations of his temper exposed his associates to
constant danger. At one time he loved company, at another solitude:
sometimes the number of petitions made him angry, and sometimes the
want of them. He undertook things in the greatest hurry, and executed
them with sluggish neglect. To flatter, or to speak truth, was equally
dangerous, for sometimes he was in a humour for one and sometimes for
the other; so that those who had intercourse with him were equally at
a loss what to do or say, and thanked fortune rather than prudence if
they came off unhurt.

His private life was polluted by vice and intemperance of every
description. Cowardly as cruel, the report of a rebellion among those
Germans of whose conquest he boasted, terrified him into preparing a
refuge in his transmarine dominions, lest, like the Cimbri of old, they
should force a passage into Italy. At a clap of thunder he would close
his eyes and cover his head, and in a heavy storm the Latian Jupiter
used to run under the bed, to hide himself from his Capitoline brother.
He usually slept but three hours in the night, and that not calmly,
but agitated by strange visions: the rest he passed sitting upon the
bed, or traversing extensive colonnades, impatiently calling for the
return of day. Justice began the work of retribution early, and he who
troubled the rest of all others was unable to find quiet for himself.
Among his other extraordinary qualities was a most insane jealousy of
the slightest advantages enjoyed by others. He overthrew the statues of
eminent men erected by Augustus in the field of Mars, and forbade them
to be erected to any one in future except with his express permission.
He even thought of not allowing Homer to be read: “Why not I, as well
as Plato, who expelled that poet from his republic?” and talked of
weeding all libraries of the writings and images of Virgil and Livy.
This folly he carried even to envying the personal qualifications of
his subjects, and being bald himself, he sent the barber abroad to
shave every good head of hair that came in his way.

Little remains to complete the picture, but to say that his tastes were
low, as his character was brutish. Passionately fond of theatrical
entertainments and the sports of the amphitheatre and circus, it
was from the profligate followers of these arts that he chose his
favourites, to whom, and to whom alone, he was devotedly attached.
The story of his meaning to appoint his horse consul is well known:
the brute would have done more credit to the subordinate, than his
master to the imperial dignity; but it is apocryphal. But besides a
marble stable and an ivory manger, indulgences to which so dignified
an animal might reasonably aspire, Caligula assigned to him a house
and establishment, that he might entertain company more splendidly.
We regret not to know whether the senators or their horses were the
objects of this hospitality.

He was wont to say, that of all his qualities, he most valued his
firmness of purpose (_̓ αδιατρεψία_). The judgment was in one sense
correct: this was indeed the predominant feature of his character.
But it was the firmness not of principle, not even of policy, but of
obstinate and entire selfishness, which regarded not the weightiest
interests of others when placed in opposition to its caprices; of
habitual self–indulgence, which gratified the whim of the moment, alike
careless of its folly or of its guilt. At first he would not, in the
end he probably could not, control his passions; and this inflexibility
is the symptom of that mental disease which we believe to originate
in uncontrolled power. This plea furnishes no particle of excuse for
him, no more than drunkenness for the excesses of the drunkard: in both
the loss of reason is a crime in itself, and in neither probably is it
ever so complete as to obliterate the perception of right and wrong.
Of genuine madness we find no trace in his life. He appears to have
been subject to no delusions upon particular subjects, to no access
either of frenzy or melancholy. As a boy he, as well as Cambyses, was
subject to epileptic fits, which were supposed to have impaired his
mind; and he entertained, it is said, doubts of his own sanity, and
had thoughts of submitting to a course of medicine for his recovery.
Others thought that a love potion, administered by his wife to fix
affection, had produced madness; but the tenor of his life countenances
neither supposition. Folly, selfishness, cruelty, and the restlessness
of a self–upbraiding spirit cannot be allowed shelter under the plea
of insanity; and the mental weakness and incapacity of self–control
which arises from the habitual dominion of passion, is no less
widely different in its effects than in its origin from that which is
dependent upon physical causes.

He perished by domestic conspiracy, in the fourth year of his reign and
the twenty–ninth of his age. He oppressed the people and the nobility
with impunity: he fell, when his jealous temper rendered him formidable
to his servants and favourites.

Paul, emperor of Russia, was the son of Catherine II., who, as is
well known, murdered her husband Peter III., and took possession of
his throne, which she retained till death. She conceived a strong
aversion for her son, who was in consequence brought up in retirement,
neglected, and even exposed to want. When arrived at manhood he was
still forbidden to reside at court; his children were taken away to
be educated under the empress’s care; he was studiously excluded
from all knowledge or participation in affairs of state; and even
denied permission to gratify his military taste by active service.
His mother’s object was at once to render him unfit for empire, and
to spread abroad the notion that he was so; with the view of passing
him entirely over in favour of his son Alexander, whom in her will she
appointed to succeed to the throne. Paul seems to have been naturally
affectionate, methodical, a lover of justice, temperate, even amidst
the most consummate profligacy ever witnessed in a court; but these
good qualities were stifled by the faults of his education. Privation,
contumely, and a constant sense of injury, soured his temper, and
rendered him distrustful and cruel, at the same time that the enjoyment
of a minor despotism made him capricious and ungovernable; for he was
the undisputed master of his little court, and could vent upon others
the ill–humour inspired by his own crosses, unchecked by the presence
of a superior, or the influence of public observation. He lived at the
country palaces of Gatschina and Paulowsky, surrounded by his household
officers and troops, and shunned by all others; devoted to the minutiæ
of military discipline, and employed chiefly in reviewing his guards,
for whom he devised a new system of dress and regulations, which it
was afterwards his great pride and pleasure to introduce into the army
at large. There was a long terrace at Paulowsky, from which he could
see all his sentinels, who were stuck about wherever there was room
for a sentry–box. Here he used to promenade with an eye–glass, sending
orders from time to time to one man to open a button more or less, to
another to carry his musket higher or lower, and sometimes trotting a
quarter of a league to administer a good caning with his own royal hand
to one soldier, or to bestow a rouble on another, as he was pleased or
displeased with his bearing.

One or two anecdotes of this part of his life will best illustrate his
temper. Travelling through a forest, with marsh on each side of the
road, he recollected some reason for going back, and ordered the driver
to turn. He did not do so instantly, and Paul repeated the order. “In
a moment,” the man replied; “here the road is too narrow.” Paul flew
into a passion, jumped out of the carriage, and called to an equerry to
stop the driver and chastise him. The equerry endeavoured to allay the
storm by assurances that the carriage would turn as soon as possible.
“You are a scoundrel as well as he,” was the reply; “he shall turn
even though he break my neck: at all hazards he shall do as I bid, the
moment I give the order.” Meanwhile the coachman had done so, but too
late to save himself from a sound beating.

He ordered a horse that stumbled under him to be starved. On the eighth
day word was brought him of the animal’s death; to which he merely
answered, “Good.” The same accident happened after his accession in the
streets of St. Petersburgh, on which he got off, made his equerries
hold a court–martial, and sentenced the offending beast to receive
a hundred blows with a stick, which were immediately inflicted in
presence of the Czar and the people. Worse anecdotes might be found.
His passion for the strict observance of military minutiæ has been
mentioned. One day, as he exercised his regiment of cuirassiers, an
officer’s horse fell. Paul ran to the spot in a fury: “Get up, you
rascal!” “I cannot, Sire—my leg is broken.” Paul spit upon him, and
walked away swearing.

Catherine, as before said, appointed Alexander her successor by
will. She had intrusted this important document to Zoubow, her last
favourite, who hastened immediately upon her death, in the year 1796,
to place it in Paul’s hands. It is due to the late emperor to say,
that he never took any part in the measures adopted for excluding his
father, who succeeded to the vacant throne without opposition. The
Czar’s conduct towards his family, on this occasion, does him honour:
the more, that under similar circumstances, few of his predecessors
would have hesitated to establish their power by the imprisonment or
death even of an involuntary rival. Instead of using severity, he gave
an affectionate reception to his sons, who had been separated from him
since childhood, increased their revenues, and assured them and the
empress, to whom he had been a harsh and capricious husband, of his
love and protection; and at the same time, with prudence commendable on
his son’s account no less than on his own, he provided employment for
Alexander which kept the prince near his person till the critical time
was over.

The court and city of St. Petersburgh, the whole public of Russia,
received with fear their new sovereign, whose caprice and extravagance
were well known; but his first measures belied their expectation.
He showed a decent respect to his mother’s memory, though he fully
returned the hatred which she felt for him, retained her ministers,
whom he had no reason to love, and displayed judgment and honesty
in his first political measures, until every body thought that a
false estimate had been formed of his character. This good sense and
moderation did not last long. His first step was to secure his throne
by incorporating with the royal guards his own household troops, on
whose fidelity he depended. The latter, like the Prætorian bands
of the Roman emperors, were a highly privileged and powerful body,
captains of which held the rank of colonels of the line. Its officers
of course were chiefly of high rank, and many of them, to the amount of
some hundred, resigned their commissions, angry at seeing men not of
noble birth, perhaps raised from the ranks, placed over their heads,
or unwilling to undergo the new and harassing discipline which Paul
introduced. The Czar became alarmed at this general desertion, and,
by way of conciliation, issued an order that all who had resigned, or
should thereafter resign their commissions, should quit St. Petersburgh
within twenty–four hours. Many persons transported suddenly without
the barriers, and forbidden to re–enter the city, and left on the high
road, without shelter or clothing fitted to protect them from the cold,
perished miserably for want of money to reach their homes.

Paul came to the throne ambitious of signalizing himself as a
reformer, but his mind was far too confined to perform so hard a task
successfully. In the civil department, he did little but reverse all
that his mother had done; in the military, his attention was confined
to insignificant details. His great object was to conform the dress and
exercise of the whole army to the model which he had been so long and
anxiously forming at Gatschina. The very morning after his accession
he commenced this important task by establishing what he called his
Wachtparade, to which every morning he devoted three or four hours.
However severe the cold, he was still there, dressed in a plain green
uniform, with thick boots and a large hat, for he placed his pride in
bearing a Russian winter without furs; stamping about to warm himself,
with his bald head bare and his snub–nose turned up to the wind, one
hand behind his back, and the other beating time with his cane, and
crying _Raz, dwa_—_Raz, dwa_, one, two—one, two—surrounded by gouty old
generals, who dared neither to absent themselves nor to dress warmer
than their master. The old Russian uniform was handsome, suited to the
climate, and could be put on in an instant: it consisted merely of a
jacket and large trousers, which enabled the wearer to protect himself
by any quantity of interior clothing, without injury to uniformity of
appearance. The hair was worn long, and falling round the neck, so
that it defended the ears from cold. Paul introduced the old–fashioned
German uniform, which every true Russian hated for its own sake,
and despised as holding the Germans in supreme contempt; he encased
their legs in long tight gaiters, made them powder and curl their
hair, and hung false pigtails from their necks. Marshal Suvarof, on
receiving orders to introduce these changes, together with the measure
of the men’s curls and pigtails (for everything under Paul was done
by measure), observed that “hairpowder was not gunpowder, nor curls
cannon, nor pigtails bayonets;” and this witticism is said to have cost
him his recall.

Not content with modelling the army after his own notions of elegance,
his meddling spirit exerted itself in the most vexatious and tyrannical
interferences with the freedom of private life. The dress, the colour
of carriages and liveries, the method of harnessing horses, everything
was matter of rule, and woe to him who met the Czar with anything about
his equipage contrary to etiquette. One day he saw Count Razumoffski’s
sledge standing in the street without the driver, and ordered it
to be immediately broken in pieces. It was of a blue colour, and
the servants wore red liveries: upon which he issued a proclamation
forbidding the use of blue sledges and red liveries in any part of
the empire. He waged a crusade against round hats, which he thought a
mark of jacobinism, the object of his greatest hate and fear. If any
person appeared in one, it was taken from his head by the police; if he
resisted, he was well beaten. The cocked hats in St. Petersburgh were
of course soon exhausted, and then round hats were metamorphosed into
three–cornered hats, by pinning up the sides. The emperor himself is
said to have stopped persons and pinned up their hats with his royal
hands, to show his people how a loyal subject ought to be dressed. An
order against wearing boots with coloured tops was no less rigorously
enforced. The police officers stopped a gentleman driving through the
streets in a pair. He remonstrated, and said he had no others with
him, and certainly would not cut off the tops of those; upon which the
officers, seizing each a leg as he sat in his droski, pulled them off,
and left him to go barefoot home. Coming down a street, the emperor
saw a nobleman who had stopped to look at some workmen planting trees
by his order. “What are you doing?” said he. “Merely seeing the men
work,” replied the nobleman. “Oh! is that your employment? Take off
his pelisse and give him a spade. There—now work yourself!” Once, when
he met an officer going to the palace wrapped in his cloak, a servant
following with his sword, he gave the servant his master’s commission,
and reduced the officer to the ranks.

It was an ancient Russian usage that all who met the Czar, male or
female, should quit their carriage, be it in mud or snow, to salute,
and even to prostrate themselves before him. Peter the Great used to
cudgel soundly any person who did so, and Catherine II. had abolished
the practice; but Paul revived it, and exacted its observance most
severely. Of course, amid a crowd of carriages continually passing at
full speed, it was easy to neglect it, without intentional disrespect;
but no such excuse was admitted. A lady, wife of a general in the army,
hastening into St. Petersburgh, from the country, to procure medical
advice for her sick husband, passed the Czar inadvertently, and was
immediately arrested and sent to prison. Alarm and anxiety threw her
into a burning fever, which terminated in madness; and her husband
died from the same causes, and for want of proper care and attendance.
On being presented to Paul, it was necessary to drop plump on your
knees, with force enough to make the floor ring as if a musket had been
grounded, and to kiss his hand with energy sufficient to certify to all
present the honour which you had just enjoyed. Prince George Galitzin
was placed under arrest for kissing his hand _too negligently_. When
enraged he lost all command of himself, which sometimes gave rise to
very curious scenes. In one of his furious passions, flourishing his
cane, he struck by accident the branch of a large lustre and broke it;
whereupon he commenced a serious attack, from which he did not relax
until he had entirely demolished his brittle antagonist.

Under a sovereign of such a temper no man could feel secure for an
hour. The police kept strict watch over the words, the actions, the
correspondence of every one; and the knout, exile to Siberia, or at
the best deportation without the frontiers, were unsparingly dealt out
for involuntary or chimerical offences: and suspected persons were
continually hurried out of the country without time being allowed for
the arrangement of their affairs, and in ignorance at once of their
offence and of the nature of the intended punishment. Such a state
of things was not likely to last very long in Russia, with so many
examples to prove how easy the descent is from the palace to the grave.

Towards the close of his reign his conduct became more and more
intolerable, and at last he took care to advertise all Europe of his
folly or madness, or both, by inserting in the St. Petersburgh Gazette
a notice to the following effect: “That the Emperor of Russia, finding
that the powers of Europe cannot agree among themselves, and being
desirous to put an end to a war which has desolated it for eleven
years, intends to point out a spot to which he will invite all the
other sovereigns to repair and fight in single combat, bringing with
them as seconds and esquires their most enlightened ministers and
able generals, such as Turgot, Pitt, Bernstorff, and that the Emperor
himself proposes being attended by Generals Count Pahlen and Kutusoff.”
This piece of extravagance appears to have completed the disgust of the
nobility, and consummated his ruin.

A plot was formed, at the head of which was Count Zoubow, the man to
whom he had been indebted for the important service of suppressing
Catherine’s will. Paul’s aversion to every thing which his mother had
favoured soon overcame his gratitude, and Zoubow was ordered to quit
the court, and reside upon his estates. Fresh intrigues again brought
him into favour, and the first use he made of it was to plan the
murder of his master. He opened his mind gradually to other noblemen:
it was resolved, as private crime will often assume the guise of
public virtue, that the safety of the empire required the deposition
of Paul; and as there is but one prison whose doors can never open to
a dethroned monarch, they resolved, in conformity with all Russian
precedent, to put him to death. The details of this catastrophe are
interesting, and, it is presumed, authentic and accurate, since they
were thus related to Mr. Carr by an eye–witness, and therefore an agent
in the deed.

“The Emperor used to sleep in an outer apartment, next the Empress’s,
upon a sofa, in his boots and regimentals; the other branches of the
imperial family being lodged in different parts of the same building.
On the, 10th March, o.s. 1801, the day preceding the fatal night
(whether Paul’s apprehension, or anonymous information suggested
the idea, is not known), conceiving that a storm was ready to burst
upon him, he sent to Count P——, the governor of the city, one of
the noblemen who had resolved on his destruction. ‘I am informed,
P——,’ said the Emperor, ‘that there is a conspiracy on foot against
me: do you think it necessary to take any precaution?’ The Count,
without betraying the least emotion, replied, ‘Sire, do not suffer
such apprehensions to haunt your mind; if there were any combination
forming against your Majesty’s person, I am sure I should be acquainted
with it.’ ‘Then I am satisfied,’ said the Emperor, and the governor
withdrew. Before Paul retired to rest, he unexpectedly expressed
the most tender solicitude for the Empress and his children, kissed
them with all the warmth of farewell fondness, and remained with
them longer than usual; and after he had visited the sentinels at
their different posts, he retired to his chamber, where he had not
long remained, before, under some colourable pretext that satisfied
the men, the guard was changed by the officers who had the command
for the night, and were engaged in the confederacy. An hussar, whom
the Emperor had particularly honoured by his notice and attention,
always at night slept at his bed–room door, in the antechamber. It was
impossible to remove this faithful soldier by any fair means. At this
momentous period, silence reigned through the palace, except where it
was disturbed by the pacing of the sentinels, or at a distance by the
murmurs of the Neva; and only a few lights were to be seen distantly
and irregularly gleaming through the windows of this dark colossal
abode. In the dead of the night, Z—— and his friends, amounting to
eight or nine persons, passed the drawbridge, easily ascended a private
staircase which led directly to the Emperor’s chamber, and met with no
resistance till they reached the anteroom, where the faithful hussar,
awakened by the noise, challenged them, and presented his fusee. Much
as they must have admired the brave fidelity of the guard, neither
time nor circumstances would admit of an act of generosity which might
have endangered the whole plan. Z—— drew his sabre and cut the poor
fellow down. Paul, awakened by the noise, sprung from his sofa; at this
moment the whole party rushed into the room: the unhappy sovereign,
anticipating their design, at first endeavoured to entrench himself in
the chairs and tables; then recovering, he assumed a high tone, told
them they were his prisoners, and called on them to surrender. Finding
that they fixed their eyes steadily and fiercely on him, and continued
advancing towards him, he implored them to spare his life, declared his
consent instantly to relinquish the sceptre, and to accept of any terms
they would dictate. In his raving he offered to make them princes, and
to give them estates, and titles, and orders, without end. They now
began to press upon him, when he made a convulsive effort to reach the
window; in the attempt he failed, and indeed so high was it from the
ground, that, had he succeeded, the attempt would only have put an end
to his misery. In the effort, he very severely cut his hand with the
glass; and as they drew him back, he grasped a chair, with which he
felled one of the assailants, and a desperate resistance took place. So
great was the noise, that, notwithstanding the massy walls and double
folding–doors which divided the apartment, the Empress was disturbed,
and began to cry for help, when a voice whispered in her ear, and
imperatively told her to remain quiet, otherwise she would be put to
instant death. While the Emperor was thus making a last struggle, the
Prince Y—— struck him on one of his temples with his fist, and laid
him upon the floor: Paul, recovering from the blow, again implored his
life; at this moment the heart of Z—— relented, and on being observed
to tremble and hesitate, a young Hanoverian resolutely exclaimed, ‘We
have passed the Rubicon: if we spare his life, before the setting
of to–morrow’s sun we shall be his victims.’ Upon which he took off
his sash, turned it twice round the naked neck of the Emperor, and
giving one end to Z—— and holding the other himself, they pulled for a
considerable time with all their force, until their miserable sovereign
was no more: they then retired from the palace without the least
molestation, and returned to their respective homes.”[147]

After the accession of the new emperor, Zoubow was ordered not to
approach the court, and Count P—— was transferred from the government
of St. Petersburgh to that of Riga. No other notice was taken of the
actors in this tragedy. Whether this extraordinary lenity is to be
ascribed to fear, or to a sense of the necessity of removing Paul from
the throne (for the high personal character of Alexander places him
above the suspicion of having been an accomplice), the late emperor
would better have consulted justice, the interests of his throne, and
his own reputation, if he had exacted a severer retribution for the
murder of a father and a sovereign.[148]




 Early changes in the Athenian constitution—Murder of
 Cylon—Fatalism—Usurpation of Pisistratus—His policy—Hippias and
 Hipparchus—Conspiracy of Harmodius and Aristogiton—Expulsion of
 Hippias—Cosmo de’ Medici, Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici—Conspiracy of
 the Pazzi.

For nearly four centuries subsequent to the age of Theseus, scarce any
mention of Athens occurs in Grecian history: a circumstance honourable
to that city, as denoting a long course of tranquil prosperity, and
indicative of candour and veracity in the writers, who were content
to relate the few incidents preserved by tradition, without taxing
their imaginations to cast a fabulous splendour over an unknown
period. The change of dynasty in the person of Melanthus, and the more
celebrated devotion of his son Codrus,[149] with the alterations in
the constitution subsequent to, and partly consequent upon, the death
of the latter, constitute the only remarkable events during this long
lapse of years; and when at length her authentic history commences, it
is in consequence of the interruption of that happiness which we are
led to believe she so long enjoyed. Upon the death of Codrus it was
resolved that no living person could be worthy to bear the title which
he had borne, and his son Medon was appointed chief magistrate, with
the title of Archon, or ruler. Twelve Archons followed in hereditary
succession, when a further change took place, the office being made
elective, and limited to the period of ten years; and at the end
of the seventh decennial Archonship the duties of the office were
divided between nine persons annually elected. After this change,
the possession of political supremacy became an object of strife
to the Eupatridæ, or nobles, in whom all power was vested: and the
Alcmæonidæ, or descendants of Alcmæon, the last hereditary Archon,
secured the prize. Cylon, a man eminent for rank and influence, bore
their superiority impatiently, and endeavoured by force of arms to
make himself master of the government. He seized the citadel; but the
people rose against him, and being unprovided for a siege he sought
safety in flight, abandoning his followers to the rage of the adverse
faction. As their best hope, they took refuge at the altars, where
violence could not be offered to them without incurring the guilt of
sacrilege. Megacles, the head of the Alcmæonidæ, was then Archon; and
by his partisans, some of the suppliants, induced to quit their refuge
upon condition of personal safety, were perfidiously executed; others
were put to death even at the dreaded altars of the Eumenides.[150]
Thus far there is nothing in this occurrence to distinguish it
from a hundred other instances of perfidy and cruelty: it is to the
remote consequences that we wish to direct the reader’s attention.
The Athenians, without caring for the murder, were deeply shocked at
the sacrilege; insomuch that not long after, when parties had changed
place, it was decreed that of those who had been concerned in it, all
yet alive should be condemned to banishment, and the bones of the
deceased be taken up and cast out of Attica. The exiles afterwards
returned; but, a prejudice long existed against their posterity, which
proved no ineffectual weapon in political warfare, and twice furnished
Sparta with the means of embarrassing her enemy by requiring the
expulsion of some of the leading citizens of the state. The demand was
aptly met by recalling to mind two similar transactions in which the
principal families of Sparta had been engaged, and bidding them set
the example of expiation.[151] It appears, however, from Aristophanes
(unless the passage is merely a squib against the Lacedæmonians) that
the charge of being “one of the polluted” had not, even after the lapse
of one hundred and sixty years, or more, lost all its influence.[152]

We have already mentioned that it was the insult offered to the gods,
rather than the crime against man, which produced so deep a sensation.
That the perpetrators of a cruel and treacherous action should be
regarded with abhorrence, will not indeed surprise us: but the lasting
ban entailed upon their posterity is connected with some remarkable
tenets, and deserves a few words in explanation. The Greeks were firm
believers in the doctrines of fatalism. Man, it was held, struggled in
vain to escape from the vortex of destiny; however repugnant to his
wishes, or abhorrent to his principles, he was borne on to do or suffer
that which was decreed, by an irresistible force, against which even
the immortal gods contended in vain. A very curious passage to this
effect occurs in Herodotus. Crœsus, after his defeat and captivity,
sent messengers to reproach the Delphian oracle with misleading to
ruin, by its false predictions, one who had merited the favour of the
god by the magnificence of his offerings. The answer ran thus:—“It is
impossible even for a god to escape from fate. Crœsus but expiates
the sin of his fifth ancestor,[153] who, being in the guard of the
descendants of Hercules, in subservience to a woman’s treachery, slew
his master, and seized upon a kingdom which belonged not to him. Fain
would Apollo have deferred the fall of Sardis until the time of the
sons of Crœsus; but he could not turn aside the Fates.”[154] Here,
coupled with the assertion of an immutable destiny, we find the not
unnatural deduction that the crime of an ancestor entailed misfortune
on his posterity: but this doctrine was extended much farther, and
it was taught that deeds of extraordinary blackness introduced a
malignant demon into the family of the offender, which empoisoned its
prosperity, and hurried generations yet unborn to inevitable guilt and
ruin. The office of inflicting this retribution was assigned with some
degree of confusion and uncertainty to the Fates, “who follow up the
transgressions of gods and men,”[155] to the Erinnyes, or Furies, or
to Nemesis, the personification of divine displeasure. But when once
these fearful visitants were established in a house, that house was
marked out for misery and ruin. Such was the fate of the descendants
of Pelops and Labdacus, the royal families of Argos and of Thebes,
whose misfortunes have furnished a never–failing theme to the Greek
tragedians, who abound in references[156] to the fatal curse upon these
races.[157] It is from the presence of these dread ministers of wrath,
visible to her inspired eyes, that Cassandra draws her fearful presages
of evil in that scene, perhaps the grandest in Grecian tragedy.

  “For never shall that bard, whose yelling notes
  In dismal accord pierce the affrighted ear,
  Forsake this house. The genius of the feast,
  Drunk with the blood of man, and fired from thence
  To bolder daring, ranges through the rooms
  Linked with his kindred furies: these possess
  The mansion, and in horrid measures chaunt
  The first base deed; recording with abhorrence
  The adulterous lust which stained a brother’s bed.”[158]

So, after the catastrophe, the chorus refers to the same cause the
accumulated horrors and crimes which weigh down the house of Atreus.

  “O thou demon, who dost fall
  On the high Tantalid hall,
  Well I know thee, mighty fiend,
  Who here dost ever wend,
  Haunting down the double line
  From father unto son!

  “_Clytem._  Aye, now thy words have sense and grace,
  Calling on that thrice great fiend,
  The demon of this race,
  For ‘tis from him their bowels burn
  With rage of lapping blood;
  Ere the old grief has ceased to throb,
  Young gore comes on amain.”[159]

With such ideas concerning an avenging destiny, it is no wonder that
the Greeks shunned contact with the inheritors of divine anger; and
national prejudice might be more strongly raised by the sacrilege
of the Alcmæonidæ, because many of the sufferers were slain at the
very altars of the Eumenides, to whom the punishment of such deeds
peculiarly belonged, and whose worship had been introduced into Attica
in amends for the judicial sentence which delivered Orestes from their
power. In modern times an analogous persuasion concerning the fortunes
of particular families has prevailed; in illustration of which we
may cite the belief in the ill–luck of the Stuarts, a belief almost
justified by the series of calamities and bloody deaths which beset
the princes of that house: and, indeed, this faith in the influence
of misconduct to produce hereditary misfortune has been general in
Ireland and the Scottish Highlands, and probably in other countries
where a vivid imagination is found in union with no high degree of
cultivation and knowledge. In Ireland it is the popular creed, that
an estate gained by fraud brings a curse along with it[160] (to open
force they seem to be more indulgent); that the possessor becomes a
doomed man, and neither he nor his descendants prosper. In Scotland it
was thought that a pious parent entailed a blessing upon his offspring,
while the punishment of the wicked and oppressor, if not immediately
manifested upon himself, or his children, yet surely descended even on
succeeding generations. This feeling extended to all classes; and a
striking instance of it is connected with the massacre of Glencoe, the
blackest incident in Scottish history. Colonel Campbell, of Glenlyon,
grandson of Glenlyon, who commanded the military upon that fatal day,
being with his regiment at Havannah, was ordered to superintend the
execution of a soldier condemned to be shot. A reprieve was sent, but
with directions that no person was to be told of it until the prisoner
was on his knees prepared to receive the volley, not even the firing
party, who were informed that the signal would be the waving of a white
handkerchief by the commanding officer. “When all was prepared, and
the prisoner in momentary expectation of his fate, Colonel Campbell
put his hand into his pocket for the reprieve, and in pulling out the
packet, the white handkerchief accompanied it, and catching the eyes
of the party, they fired, and the unfortunate prisoner was shot dead.
The paper dropped through Colonel Campbell’s fingers, and clapping his
hand to his forehead, he exclaimed, “The curse of God and of Glencoe
is here! I am an unfortunate, ruined man.” He soon after retired from
the service, not from any reflection or reprimand on account of this
melancholy affair, for it was known to be entirely accidental. The
impression upon his mind, however, was never effaced. Nor is the
massacre, and the judgment which the people believe has fallen on the
descendants of the principal actors in this tragedy, effaced from
their recollection. They carefully note, that while the family of the
unfortunate gentleman who suffered is still entire, and his estate
preserved in direct male succession to his posterity, this is not the
case with the family, posterity, and estate of those who were the
principals, promoters, and actors in this black affair.”[161]

In addition to the strife of faction consequent upon Cylon’s attempt,
Athens was convulsed by discord between the rich and poor, arising
from the oppressive rights possessed by creditors over the persons of
their debtors, and the difficulty experienced by indigent freemen in
supporting themselves by their own exertions, in consequence of the
general prevalence of slave labour. Solon was appointed archon, with
power to remodel the constitution; and having done so, he quitted
Athens, and remained abroad, it is said, for ten years, the people
having engaged not to alter his institutions within that time. But to
put an end to faction was beyond his power. The landholders of Attica
were divided into three parties, denominated from the lowlands, the
highlands, and the coast. The first consisted chiefly of the nobility,
the great proprietors; the second were a poorer class, among whom the
democratical interest predominated; and the third, consisting in a
great degree of men engaged in trade, held an intermediate station,
both in circumstances and politics. Lycurgus headed the first party;
Megacles was chief of the third; and during the absence of Solon,
Pisistratus, with whom we are more immediately concerned, advanced
to eminence, and assumed the direction of the second. Of his early
life few particulars have reached us; it is only said that he was
distinguished by eloquence and military talents, which he displayed
on different occasions in the wars against Megara. Not long after
Solon’s return, Pisistratus came in his chariot into the market–place,
complaining that, in consequence of the jealousy excited by his support
of the democratical interest, his life had been attempted while he was
on his road into the country, in confirmation of which he exhibited
wounds upon his own person and upon his mules. Whether the story
were true or false, has been controverted, and must remain a matter
of opinion; but that it was a fiction, seems to have been generally
thought by the ancient writers. At all events, the people believed
the tale, and a body of guards was decreed him, the numbers of which
were gradually augmented, until he was enabled to gain possession of
the Acropolis, or citadel, and, in the language of Greece, became
tyrant[162] of Athens.

Death and confiscation being the usual concomitants of a Grecian
revolution, it was a matter of course that the leaders of the defeated
party should consult their safety by flight; and accordingly, Megacles,
with the other chiefs of the Alcmæonidæ, withdrew from Athens. The
terms on which he was invited to return, which happened soon after, are
curious and characteristic. He was distinguished by victories gained
in the public games of Greece, and during his exile he had conquered
in the chariot–race at the Olympic festival. The condition of his
restoration was, that the glory of this success should be ascribed to
Pisistratus.[163] It may be doubted, though horse–racing in modern
days, and chivalrous exercises in the middle ages, have been cultivated
with ardour by men distinguished by birth and station, whether the
possession of the best horses in the world has at any time since
availed to procure the forgiveness of a political enemy. But the high
estimation of such honours forms a striking feature in the Grecian
character. We know from Homer, that, long previous to the institution
of public games, princes contended with each other in athletic
exercises: and when stated times were set aside, at which the flower
of all Greece might vie in displaying strength and activity under the
sanction and with all the pomp of religion, and the victor was rewarded
by the acclamations of his assembled countrymen, it is no wonder that
a nation highly imaginative and susceptible of the love of fame should
have been led to set an extravagant price upon the superiority in
qualities whose value was in truth great in times when the arm of one
man was sufficient to decide a battle, but diminished proportionably to
the progress of art and science. The chariot–race almost always formed
a part of these games; and naturally, for when warriors fought from
chariots, the possession of the best horses was a valuable distinction.
This method of warfare had been disused long before the time of
Pisistratus; but the chariot–race still formed a part, perhaps the most
important one, in the Grecian games. And the welcome of a conquering
general to his native city was less distinguished than that of an
Olympic victor, whose prowess reflected honour upon the state which
gave him birth: and thus such triumphs, by gratifying popular vanity,
might become important, even to the interests of a statesman.

The year 560 B.C. is fixed as that of Pisistratus’s
usurpation. The union of Megacles and Lycurgus produced his expulsion,
after he had possessed the tyranny, it is thought, for about six years;
of the transactions during which we have no information. He remained
in banishment for an equal time, when the enmity between the united
factions broke out afresh, and Megacles, to establish his superiority,
brought back Pisistratus, connecting their interests by giving him
his daughter in marriage. To gain the consent of the Athenians to
his return, they devised a plan, characterised by Herodotus, from
whom we have the story, as a most simple device to ensnare a people
distinguished for intellect and very far removed from a simple
good–nature. In one of the boroughs of Attica there lived a woman
named Phya, of extraordinary stature, and withal of handsome person,
whom they selected to personate the patron Goddess of Athens; and
having carefully instructed her how to act her part, they dressed her
in appropriate armour, placed her in a chariot, and sent her into the
city, preceded by heralds, making proclamation, “O Athenians, receive
with favour Pisistratus, whom Athene,[164] honouring him above all
men, herself brings back unto her own Acropolis.” The news flew abroad
throughout Attica, that Athene had brought back Pisistratus, and those
who were in the city, believing that it was the Goddess, paid divine
honours to a mortal and received the exile.[165]

His prosperity, however, was of very short duration: a domestic
quarrel is said to have produced his expulsion a second time, about a
year after his return, and he remained in banishment for a period of
ten years, at the end of which his son Hippias, who had now attained
manhood, induced him to attempt the recovery of his power. Thebes,
Argos, and other cities assisted him with loans, by means of which
he collected an army; and sailing from Eretria, where he had fixed
his abode, he disembarked at Marathon, was joined by many of his
countrymen, and defeating the ruling party, for the third time became
master of Athens. Both now and formerly his success was characterised
by moderation and lenity; for his only measure of precaution against
future conspiracies was to take as hostages the children of such of his
chief opponents as chose to remain in Athens, who were committed to the
charge of Lygdamis, the friendly ruler of Naxos.

That Pisistratus’s temper and character were mild and amiable, is
proved by the bloodless nature of the revolutions which he effected;
and confirmed even by the testimony of those authors who have
endeavoured to raise the reputation of Solon at his expense, by
narrating many not very probable stories of the sage’s pertinacious
opposition to his schemes of advancement. That Solon saw and lamented
the ambition of Pisistratus is probable, but we learn upon the same
authority that they lived on terms of intimacy and esteem from the
return of the former until his death; and Plutarch, whose object was
to exalt the patriot philosopher, has yet, in doing so, drawn a most
favourable picture of the tyrant. “He was courteous, and marvellously
faire spoken, and showed himself beside very good and pitifull to the
poore, and temperate also to his enemies: further, if any good quality
were lacking in him, he did so finely counterfeit it, that men imagined
it was more in him, than in those that naturally had it in them indeed.
As, to be a quiet man, no meddler, contented with his owne, aspiring
no higher, and hating those which would attempt to change the present
state of the Common Wealth, and would practise any innovation. By this
art, and fine manner of his, he deceived the poore common people.
Howbeit Solon found him out straight, and saw the mark he shot at: but
yet hated him not at that time, and sought still to win him, and bring
him to reason, saying oft times, both to himselfe and to others, that
whoso could pluck out of his head the worme of ambition, by which he
aspired to be the chiefest, and could heale him of his greedy desire
to rule, there could not be a man of more virtue, nor a better citizen
than he would prove.”[166] He adds a strong testimony to the beneficent
administration of Pisistratus, in saying that Solon afterwards became
one of his council; and while Herodotus has distinctly asserted that
he ruled Athens honourably and well, neither changing the magistracies
nor altering the laws, we learn from other authorities that he adhered
to the regulations of Solon. And it is to his credit that he obeyed
a citation to appear before the court of Areopagus, on a charge of
murder, even if we grant that he ran little risk of being condemned;
for it shows prudence, and good sense, and good feeling, that he
chose rather to wear the appearance of submission to authority, than
to outrage popular opinion by the visible assumption of irresponsible
power. Of his lenity towards those who personally offended or injured
him, several stories are told. A young man who was attached to his
daughter, with the help of his friends carried her off forcibly from
a sacrifice upon the sea–shore, at which she was assisting. Their
galley was intercepted by Hippias, who was then cruising in search of
pirates, and they were led captives to Athens. Being brought before the
injured father, they scorned to use the language of entreaty, boldly
declaring that they had held death cheap from the time of undertaking
the enterprise. Pisistratus, struck with the high spirit of the youth,
gave his daughter in marriage to the principal, and thus converted
dangerous enemies into valuable and attached friends.[167] The above
extract from Plutarch bears witness to his charity, which yet was not
indiscriminate, nor abused to the encouragement of idleness; against
which he not only enacted laws, but would inquire of any one whom he
saw unemployed in the market–place, whether it were owing to the want
of agricultural implements, and if it were so, he would supply the

In this, however, perhaps policy was as much concerned as charity.
Having obtained his power through the support of the democratical
party, it was now his object to consolidate and establish it upon
the downfall of that interest, by removing the multitude as far as
possible from the city, and compelling them to follow agricultural
labour. Another reason might be the improvement of the revenue, towards
which he exacted the tithes of all agricultural produce. A humorous
story is told of an old man, who was found by him cultivating a
stubborn and rocky piece of ground. “What harvest can you derive from
thence?” he said. “Aches and blisters, and the tithe of them goes to
Pisistratus.” The answer was well received, and procured for him an
immunity from the tax. On this subject, however, Pisistratus’s conduct
was generally unjust and oppressive, for he not only forced the poorer
Athenians to a rural life, but excluded them from the city, and made
them wear a particular dress, that this exclusion might be the better
enforced.[168] At the same time he proved himself not indifferent to
their interest, by appointing a public provision for those who were
wounded in the public service.

It were much to be wished that our information concerning the policy of
Pisistratus and the public affairs of Athens during his administration
were more minute; but the total silence of history concerning this
period indicates at least that it was one of tranquillity and
happiness. We have seen already that his private character was
amiable; it remains to be added that his tastes were elegant and
his mind cultivated. By many he is included in the list of worthies
distinguished as the seven sages of Greece; indeed all writers who
mention him bear testimony to the successful cultivation of his mental
powers; and he possesses a strong claim to the gratitude of the world
at large, if it be true that he collected and rendered into order the
scattered fragments of Homer’s poems before they were irretrievably
corrupted and confused by the inaccuracies of oral tradition.[169]
And he scarcely deserves less credit for having been the first to
establish a public library: an institution most valuable in all ages
and places, but especially before the introduction of printing, when
the price of books rendered it impossible for any but the wealthy to
possess them. He also devoted much of his attention and revenue to the
embellishment of the city; he built fountains, and a gymnasium, or
place of exercise; he threw his private gardens open to the public; he
dedicated a temple to the Pythian Apollo, and had commenced another to
Olympian Zeus, the Latin Jupiter, when his labours were interrupted
by death, B.C. 527, after he had enjoyed for ten years in
tranquillity the sovereignty which he had pursued for so many anxious
years. He left a name adorned by many virtues and accomplishments, and
blemished apparently only by one great fault, ambition: but this, the
master–passion of his life, has sullied his numerous great and good
qualities, as a tainted fountain pollutes the whole stream. Had he
been a rightful sovereign, he might have been hailed as the father of
his country: instead of which his fellow–citizens saw in him only the
parent of a hated and proscribed race, and later ages “damn him with
the faint praise” of being the best of tyrants.

His sons Hipparchus and Hippias[170] appear to have succeeded quietly
to his authority; which they shared in common, Hipparchus filling
the more prominent station. Their father’s virtues descended to
them, and Athens for some time flourished under their guidance. The
strong expression of Plato is, that the Athenians lived as in old
times under the reign of Saturn. He goes on to say that Hipparchus
made the collection of Homer’s poems which others have ascribed to
Pisistratus, and caused them to be publicly read in the order of their
arrangement at the Panathenaic festival; and further displayed his
taste in the patronage of Anacreon and Simonides, whom he induced
by his liberality to take up their abode in Athens. And having thus
provided for the mental cultivation of the citizens, he turned his
attention to the improvement of the rustic population, and with
this view caused Hermæ[171] to be erected in the main streets of
the city and boroughs, upon which he inscribed in verse the most
pithy maxims which he had heard or invented, that so the countrymen,
wandering about, might taste of his wisdom, and come from the fields
and woods to be further instructed in it. Two of these sentences are
preserved—“The memorial of Hipparchus. Do not deceive a friend.” “The
memorial of Hipparchus. Depart, meditating justice.” Further, we have
the testimony of Thucydides, that he oppressed not the many, but bore
himself ever inoffensively, and that “these tyrants held virtue and
wisdom in great account for a long time, and taking of the Athenians
but a twentieth part of their revenues, (they diminished, therefore,
Pisistratus’s impost by one half,) adorned the city, managed their
wars, and performed the rights of their religion. In other points they
were governed by the laws formerly established, save that they took
care ever to prefer to the magistracy men of their own adherence.” Thus
fourteen years they ruled in peace and honour, when at length a single
act of oppression and insult, a moment’s violation of the maxims of
temperance and virtue, which their conduct as well as their precepts
enforced, produced a revolution upon which probably the destinies of
all Greece have hinged.

Hipparchus had conceived a personal ill–will towards an Athenian
citizen named Harmodius, which he vented by insulting publicly the
offender’s sister. Another citizen, Aristogiton, had reasons of his
own for wishing ill to Hipparchus: he stimulated his friend Harmodius
to a keener sense of the injury, and they resolved to wash away their
wrongs in blood. But few associates were admitted to the knowledge
of their plot, which was to be executed at the Panathenaic festival,
when it was usual for all persons to appear in arms. Hipparchus
alone was personally offensive; but to dissolve the tyranny, and to
secure themselves from retribution, Hippias was to be involved in his
brother’s fate. On the morning of the festival, while Hippias, attended
by his guards, was in the Ceramicus,[172] ordering the procession,
Harmodius and Aristogiton saw one of the conspirators conversing
with him familiarly, “for Hippias was accessible to all.” Thinking
themselves betrayed, they resolved, at least, to take vengeance on the
more obnoxious party, and hastened to seek Hipparchus, whom they slew.
Harmodius was slain in the tumult which ensued. Aristogiton escaped for
a time, but was soon after taken and put to death.

The news being brought instantly to Hippias before others had heard
it, he dissembled his emotion, and bade the citizens repair to a
certain spot without their arms, as if he wished to address them
previous to the procession. He then summoned his guard, and selected
from the assembled multitude all whom he suspected, or found armed
with daggers, a weapon not generally worn by those celebrating the
festival. Thus for the present he preserved his power; but his temper
was changed by the danger which he had escaped, and his government
became jealous and intolerable. Many were slain, and many fled to
join the exiled Alemæonidæ, whose cause became daily more popular at
Athens, and throughout the rest of Greece, until at length they gained
strength sufficient to enable them, with the assistance of Lacedæmon,
to lay siege to Hippias in Athens, in the fourth year after the death
of Hipparchus. The city, however, was strong and well provisioned;
and he might have baffled their patience, but for a fortunate chance
which threw his children, with those of his leading partisans, into
the hands of the assailants. Parental anxiety prevailed, and the town
surrendered, on condition that the obnoxious should receive no injury,
but should quit Attica within five days. Hippias retired to Sigeum.
When advanced in years, he accompanied the armament of Darius in hope
of recovering his sovereignty; it was he that counselled its descent
upon the plain of Marathon, where once before he had landed under a
better star, and he is reported by Cicero to have been slain in the
memorable battle which ensued.[173]

After the expulsion of Hippias, the memory of Harmodius and Aristogiton
was hallowed by the Athenians in every way which the imagination of a
grateful people could devise. Brazen statues were erected in honour
of them (by the side of which, in after–times, those of Brutus and
Cassius were placed), their descendants were gifted in perpetuity with
the privilege of eating in the Prytaneum[174] at the public cost,
with select places at the public spectacles, and with immunity from
taxes: their names, forbidden to be borne by slaves, were ordered to
be celebrated at all future Panathenaic festivals: and if the orators
of Athens wished to find a theme agreeable to national vanity, it was
to the praises of the tyrant–killers, or the events of the Persian
war, that they resorted. Yet, after all these tributes of admiration,
it is asserted by Æschines, that “a temperate and governed feeling
so modified the character of those benefactors of the state, men
supereminent in all virtues, that those who have panegyrised their
deeds do yet appear therein to have fallen short of the things
performed by them.” This extravagant, or probably pretended, enthusiasm
may be endured, though not commended, as a privilege assumed by
advocates and public speakers in all ages: but we cannot extend the
same toleration to Simonides, who had benefited by the friendship
and liberality of the deceased, when he asserts “that a light broke
upon Athens when Harmodius and Aristogiton slew Hipparchus.” Their
exploit was a favourite subject of the odes[175] with which the musical
Athenians enlivened their entertainments, one of which, composed by
Callistratus, has been preserved, and is esteemed among the noblest
specimens of the lyric muse of Greece.

  I’ll wreath my sword in myrtle bough,
  The sword that laid the tyrant low,
  When patriots, burning to be free,
  To Athens gave equality.

  Harmodius, hail! though reft of breath,
  Thou ne’er shalt feel the stroke of death;
  The heroes’ happy isles[176] shall be
  The bright abode allotted thee.

  I’ll wreathe the sword in myrtle bough,
  The sword that laid Hipparchus low,
  When at Minerva’s adverse fane
  He knelt, and never rose again.

  While Freedom’s name is understood,
  You shall delight the wise and good;
  You dared to set your country free,
  And gave her laws equality.[177]

Nevertheless there seems not to be the smallest ground for supposing
that the actors in this tragedy were guided by patriotic motives.
The authors who speak of it vary somewhat in the circumstances which
they relate, but all agree that it was a private quarrel, a personal
offence, which inspired their resolution and their hatred. Many have
been the instances in which the wantonness of power exercised on an
individual has proved fatal to men who have trampled unopposed upon the
liberties of their country, as if it were beneficially ordained that
the vices of individuals should work out the general good.

But though this conspiracy can in no respect be regarded as the
proximate cause of the re–establishment of democracy; though neither
its motives nor its effects, so far as we can judge after the long
lapse of ages, merit the encomiums which have been showered on them
so profusely, it nevertheless affected vitally the interests of
Athens, and, through her, of the civilised world. The mind need indeed
be far–sighted and acute which presumes to trace the changes which
a single deviation from the ordained course of events would have
produced; yet it is neither uninteresting nor uninstructive to consider
in what way a nation’s destiny might have been modified, and to observe
the natural connexion by which crime results from intemperance and
injustice, misfortune and misconduct from crime; while the melancholy
series is still overruled to restore freedom to an injured people,
and to punish the ambition which produced such fatal effects. From the
apparently uninterrupted content which prevailed at Athens during a
period of twenty–four years, from the last return of Pisistratus to
the death of Hipparchus, there is good reason to believe that, but for
private enmity, the brothers might have borne uninterrupted sway for
the natural period of their lives. That of Hippias was prolonged for
twenty–three years; making a sufficient period in the whole to have
habituated the Athenians to usurpation, and to have enabled him to
transfer the sceptre to his children as easily as he received it from
his father. Athens, thus converted, like the Ionian cities, into a
tyranny,[178] would probably have offered no more effectual progress
than they did to the Persian power, and without her assistance all
Greece would have fallen under the dominion of the King.[179] To pursue
the subject further would be both rash and useless: it is obvious that
such an event would have exercised a most powerful influence over
the subsequent history of mankind: to define that influence would be
difficult to the most penetrating and comprehensive understanding, and
the attempt would be presumption here.

In the Italian republics of the middle ages we find the age of Greece
revived, though on a smaller scale and with diminished splendour.
They exhibit, in the same colours the results of multiplying small
independent states, where every citizen may feel that he has an
individual as well as a general interest in public affairs, and every
city that she is concerned in the domestic quarrels of her neighbours.
The effects of such a system are manifest alike in either country:
the good, in the remarkable number of distinguished men produced
by them; the bad, in the prevalence of external aggression and
internal discord, signalised alike by political acuteness, unblushing
profligacy, and revolting cruelty. Above all, Florence and Athens are
naturally associated by their kindred eminence in art and literature;
they were alike distinguished for the mercurial temper and lively
imagination of their citizens, and political resemblances are not
wanting to complete the comparison. The early changes in the Florentine
constitution, the gradual depression of the nobles, by the rise of
the commons to wealth and importance, their exclusion from public
offices and honours, the elevation of a plebeian aristocracy upon the
ruins of the feudal nobility, and the division of the commons into an
oligarchical and a democratical party, are briefly and clearly related
in Perceval’s History of Italy, and may not inaptly be compared to
the gradual subversion of the Athenian Eupatridæ. Towards the close
of the fourteenth century, the oligarchy, headed by the family of
Albizzi, succeeded in obtaining possession of the government, which
it held for fifty years with a mild and undisturbed sway. But their
opponents, though silent, were not crushed: as new families gained
wealth by trade, they grew impatient of political inferiority and
exclusion: and the Medici, one of the most distinguished houses of the
popular nobles, who had long ranked in opposition to the Albizzi, were
naturally regarded as the stay of the democratic cause. It was at this
time that Cosmo de’ Medici appeared in public life. The characters and
adventures of this distinguished man and of his immediate descendants
offer a singular number of coincidences with those of Pisistratus and
his family.

At the beginning of the fifteenth century, Giovanni, the father of
Cosmo, was the most distinguished person of his house and party. The
great wealth which he had acquired by commercial adventure was set
off by generosity and unblemished integrity: and though hereditarily
opposed to the ruling faction, his own disinclination to interfere
in politics, and the moderation of his opponents, left him in
undisturbed possession of his riches and influence. To these his son
Cosmo succeeded, and being possessed of greater talents and a more
stirring ambition, he took an active part in public life, and became
the recognised leader of the popular party. The older heads, under
whose temperate guidance Florence had enjoyed a long interval of
tranquillity, were now deceased, and Rinaldo degl’Albizzi, a young man
of inferior judgment and stronger passions, had succeeded to their
influence. He observed and endeavoured to check the growing spirit of
discontent, and thereby hastened a crisis which he was unprepared to
meet. By his machinations Cosmo was brought to trial upon a frivolous
and unfounded charge, and though his life, which was aimed at, was
preserved by a judicious bribe, he was convicted and sentenced to
banishment for ten years. He quietly submitted to the decree, and
retired to Venice, where he was received with distinguished honour:
but Rinaldo had miscalculated his strength; the next year a set of
magistrates came into office who were attached to the Medici, and
by them the dominant family was overthrown and expelled, and Cosmo
triumphantly recalled.

The youth then of Pisistratus and of the Florentine commenced under the
same political aspect, and was marked by the same adventures; but the
advantage thus far is clearly on the side of the latter, who owed his
first elevation to hereditary distinction and to his own merit, and
his recall to the voice of his countrymen constitutionally expressed.
And the resemblance of their youth holds good through their maturer
years: they alike retained their sway to the end of a prosperous life,
and alike employed it with beneficence and moderation; for though the
triumph of Cosmo was not unstained by blood, and he hesitated not to
ensure its stability, when threatened, by the exile of his opponents
and the retrenchment of popular rights, yet his measures seem dictated
by prudence, not by revenge: they are unpolluted by the atrocious
cruelties so common in Italian party contests, and Florence prospered,
and was respected under his administration. He avoided, even more than
Pisistratus, the ostentation of that power which it would have been
nobler not to have possessed; and presented to the world the spectacle
of a merchant raised to the head of a powerful state, pursuing his
original profession with industry and success, and declining the
alliance of sovereigns to marry his children among his fellow–citizens,
whom he treated as if they were in reality, no less than in appearance,
his equals. No superior magnificence distinguished his establishment
or his table; but his wealth was profusely employed in distributing
favours to all around him, until there was scarce a man of his party
who was not bound to him by some personal tie. To this happy temper,
and to the simplicity of his tastes and manners, he owes the enviable
reputation which he has gained. Had he assumed the ostentation of a
prince, which his riches and power might well have warranted, the
obligations which he dispensed would have carried with them the impress
of servitude. But men forgive injuries more easily than mortifications,
and his fellow–citizens reconciled themselves to the unconstitutional
superiority of one who treated them in every–day life as his equals,
or displayed his elevation only in the extent of his generosity, and a
freer cultivation and patronage of all that is fascinating in art and

We have described Cosmo de’ Medici as exercising a power little
less than regal in a republic whose magistrates were changed every
two months, and in which he neither possessed ostensible office and
authority, nor that armed support which has often enabled usurpers
to dispense with all other title. The reader, therefore, may be at a
loss to understand the nature of his influence; it is explained in
the following passage. “The authority which Cosmo and his descendants
exercised in Florence, during the sixteenth century, was of a very
peculiar nature, and consisted rather in a tacit influence on their
part, and a voluntary acquiescence on that of the people, than in any
prescribed or definite compact between them. The form of government
was ostensibly a republic, and was directed by a government of ten
citizens, and a chief executive officer, called the gonfaloniere,
or standard–bearer, who was chosen every two months. Under this
establishment the citizens imagined they enjoyed the full exercise
of their liberties; but such was the power of the Medici, that they
generally either assumed to themselves the first offices of the state,
or nominated such persons as they thought proper to those employments.
In this, however, they paid great respect to popular opinion. That
opposition of interests, so generally apparent between the people and
their rulers, was at this time scarcely perceived at Florence, where
superior qualifications and industry were the surest recommendations to
public authority and favour; and, satisfied that they could at any time
withdraw themselves from a connexion that exacted no engagements, and
required only a temporary acquiescence, the Florentines considered the
Medici as the fathers, and not the rulers of the republic. On the other
hand, the chiefs of this house, by appearing rather to decline than
to court the honours bestowed upon them, and by a singular moderation
in the use of them when obtained, were careful to maintain the
character of simple citizens of Florence, and servants of the state. An
interchange of reciprocal good offices was the only tie by which the
Florentines and the Medici were bound, and perhaps the long continuance
of their connexion may be attributed to the very circumstance of
its being in the power of either of the parties at any time to have
dissolved it.”[180] The state of things described in a former part
of this passage corresponds with what the Greeks called tyranny, and
in the same sense in which Pisistratus was tyrant of Athens, Cosmo
and Lorenzo de’ Medici were tyrants of Florence. But in his remarks
upon the nature of their power, Mr. Roscoe’s partialities appear to
have led him astray. The Medici, from their brilliant qualities, were
possessed of the affections of a large portion of their countrymen,
and it so chanced, therefore, that the one were as ready to submit
as the other to command. But it will scarcely be believed that the
connexion with a family which had usurped the entire command of the
state, the sole disposal of the magistracies, could have been dissolved
at any time; or indeed that it could ever have been dissolved, except
by force of arms: and the praise of moderation, however applicable to
the two elder Medici, is scarcely due to Lorenzo, who abolished even
the shadow of a popular magistracy, and asserted the dependence of all
functionaries upon himself,[181] whose expenditure was upon a scale
of regal extravagance, and who made his country bankrupt to prevent
the bankruptcy of his house. For he carried on the vast commercial
establishment by which his grandfather Cosmo had acquired wealth;
but with such different success, that he was compelled to debase the
national currency to raise means for meeting his mercantile engagements.

Cosmo, resembling Pisistratus in the elegance of his taste, lived,
like him, at a time which enabled him to confer singular benefits
upon society. To the Athenian we probably owe the preservation of
Homer’s poems in a connected form; to the Florentine and to his family
we are mainly indebted for those treasures of ancient literature
which time has spared; which, four centuries ago, were rapidly
decaying in obscurity, or, by a more ignoble fate, were defaced to
make room for lying legends and scholastic quibbles, until, early
in the fifteenth century, a few enlightened spirits eagerly devoted
themselves to rescuing what still remained. The vast wealth of Cosmo
and his extensive correspondence were ever ready to be employed in the
service of learning; at the request of the men of letters, by whom he
loved to be surrounded, his agents were continually charged to buy
or to have copied whatever manuscripts could be found in Europe or
Asia; he founded public libraries, and among them that which is still
named after his grandson, the Laurentian, and supported the cause of
literature by affording countenance to all who cultivated it with
success. His mansions were filled with gems, statues, and paintings,
the master–pieces of ancient and modern art, and he was the friend no
less than the protector of Donatello and Masaccio, to whom sculpture
and painting respectively are much indebted for their rapid advance.
Nor was he so much absorbed by these tastes, or by affairs of state,
as to neglect his domestic concerns, and the flourishing condition of
his estates of Careggi and Caffagiuolo bore witness to his skill and
attention to agriculture, as did his foreign dealings to his mercantile
knowledge and success.

Architecture, however, was his favourite pursuit. Like Pisistratus,
he spent vast sums in ornamenting his city, and if his glory as
a patron of the art be inferior to that of Pericles—if he cannot
boast, like Augustus, that he found Florence of brick, and left it
of marble, he has one claim to our praise which neither they nor
probably any other public improver of ancient or modern times has
possessed, namely, that the expenses of his works were defrayed from
his private fortune. It appears from a memorandum of his grandson,
Lorenzo, that in thirty–seven years their house had spent in buildings,
charities, and contributions to the state, no less than 663,755 golden
florins, equivalent to more than 1,300,000_l._ of the present day.
The magnificent edifice known as the Riccardi palace was built by
Michelozzi for Cosmo’s residence; under his patronage the dome of the
Florentine cathedral was reared; he built churches and convents, the
enumeration of which would be tedious, and erected a palace upon each
of his four country estates. To these retreats he betook himself in his
declining years, and, estranged from politics and surrounded by men of
letters, he passed the evening of his life in tranquillity, unmolested
by any enemy except the gout. Its close alone was clouded by the death
of his younger son, whom he regarded as the destined supporter of his
name and grandeur, for the bad health of the elder incapacitated him
for an active life; and the aged statesman, as he was carried through
the vast palace which he had no longer strength to traverse on foot,
exclaimed with a sigh, “This house is too large for so small a family.”
He died within a year of his son, in 1464, loved by his friends,
and regretted even by his enemies, who dreaded the rapacity of his
partisans when restrained no longer by the probity and moderation of
their chief; and Florence bore the best witness to his virtues, when
she inscribed on his tomb the title of Father of his Country.

Piero de’ Medici, his eldest son, in name succeeded to his father’s
influence; but owing to his infirmities he resided chiefly in the
country, while, under shelter of the respected name of Medici, a few
citizens monopolized the administration of justice and the management
of the state, and converted both to their own private and corrupt
emolument. He died in 1469, leaving two sons, Lorenzo, named the
Magnificent, and Giuliano; the former being less than twenty–one years
of age, and the latter five years his junior. Had the Florentines still
been animated by their ancient spirit, there was now a most favourable
opportunity for the recovery of liberty: but, under various pretexts,
most of the distinguished families under whom the people might have
ranked themselves had been driven into exile, and the personal virtues
of Cosmo, and his unquestioned pre–eminence as a party leader, had laid
the foundations of an hereditary influence, and prepared a way for
the entire change of the constitution. So fully was the predominant
party aware of this, that the men who had ruled Florence in the name
of Piero, but without reference to his will, and who had embittered
the close of his life by their profligacy and corruption, instead
of profiting by the youth of his sons to shake off this nominal
subjection, were eager to ascribe to them a power which they did not
possess. They took measures to continue, under an empty name, a junto
which assured to them the distribution of all places and the disposal
of the revenue. The ambassadors who had been used to treat with Thomas
Soderini, the citizens who had long been aware that their fortunes
depended on his favour, hastened to visit him, upon the death of Piero.
But Soderini feared to rouse the jealousy of his associates, and to
weaken his party by accepting these marks of respect. He sent the
citizens who waited on him to the young Medici, as the only chiefs
of the state; he assembled the men of most importance, and presenting
Lorenzo and his brother, advised them to preserve to those young men
the credit which their house had enjoyed during thirty–five years,
and suggested that it was far easier to maintain a power already
strengthened by time than to found a new one.

The Medici received with modesty the marks of attachment and respect
which were paid to them in the name of the commonwealth, and for
several years they did not endeavour to assume an authority which
ostensibly was centred in the magistrates alone, and which could not
be exerted in secret, except by men whose long services and known
abilities ensured attention. For seven years Florence enjoyed domestic
peace; the Medici, divided between their studies and the tastes of
youth, at one time entertained men the most distinguished in art and
letters, at another amused the people with brilliant spectacles. But
as they advanced to manhood, and took the administration into their
own hands, their rule became more absolute, and their innovations
on the constitution more obvious. They appointed a body of five
electors, who named the magistracy without any reference to the people:
they converted the _balia_[182] into a permanent council, in whose
hands they placed the legislative, the administrative, and judicial
power; and by its means they got rid of their enemies without legal
proceedings, imposed new taxes at pleasure, and diverted the revenue
to the maintenance of their commercial credit and the support of their
luxury. Unwilling that any should enjoy consideration, excepting as
it was derived from his own influence and favour, Lorenzo excluded
from office, and depressed to the utmost of his power, all those whose
rivalry seemed most to be feared, but especially the Pazzi, one of the
noblest and most powerful families of the state. At this period it
contained nine men of mature age, and of the first rank in the city:
yet since the death of Piero, but one of its members had been admitted
to the magistracy. This exclusion was the more offensive because
one of them had married Bianca, the sister of the Medici. Giuliano,
whose temper was less ambitious, as his talents were inferior to his
brother’s, expressed his dissatisfaction at this conduct, and said to
his brother, that he feared they should lose what they had by grasping
at too much. It was believed also that Lorenzo had interfered with the
course of justice to deprive Giovanni de’ Pazzi of a rich inheritance
which was justly his due; and Francesco, one of the brothers–in–law of
Bianca, a man of violent and haughty temper, withdrew from Florence,
and established a bank at Rome.

Sixtus IV., the reigning Pope, nourished also an inveterate hatred
against the Medici, and under his auspices a conspiracy was formed
to murder them and place Florence under the power of the Pazzi, in
which Francesco Pazzi and Salviati, Archbishop of Pisa, were the chief
actors. [183] “The design of the conspirators was to assassinate both
the brothers, Lorenzo and Giuliano, at the same instant, for the murder
of one would otherwise only have the effect of putting the other on his
guard.[184] The Pope therefore wrote to the Cardinal Riario, nephew
of Count Girolamo, a youth of only eighteen years of age, whom he had
just admitted into the sacred college, and who was then studying at
the University of Pisa, to desire him to obey whatever directions he
should receive from the Archbishop of Pisa; and Salviati accordingly
carried him to a seat of the Pazzi near Florence. The conspirators knew
that the new Cardinal must be welcomed with public entertainments,
at which they hoped that the Medici might be found present together,
and despatched while unsuspicious of danger. Jacopo de’ Pazzi gave a
fête, to which both the brothers were accordingly invited: Lorenzo,
however, alone came, for Giuliano was indisposed. But Lorenzo, as had
been foreseen, made sumptuous preparations to receive the Cardinal at
his villa at Fiesole; and there the conspirators fully resolved to
execute their purpose. The entertainment took place, but still Giuliano
was absent; and the Pazzi, thus again disappointed, and despairing of
securing the presence of the younger Medici, at a second festival to be
given by his brother, resolved to defer their enterprise no longer than
the following Sunday, when the Cardinal was to be present at high mass
at the cathedral of Florence; an occasion at which it was thought that
neither of the Medici could with decency absent himself. There it was
determined that, in the midst of the most solemn offices of religion,
the crime of assassination should be perpetrated; that the elevation
of the host, as the kneeling victims bowed their heads, should be
the signal of murder; and that at the moment of the sacrifice, the
Archbishop Salviati and others should seize the palace of the signiory,
while Jacopo de’ Pazzi was to raise the city by the cry of liberty.
Francesco de’ Pazzi charged himself, together with Bernardo Bandini,
a daring and devoted partisan of his house, with the assassination of
Giuliano. Giovanni Battista Montesecco, a condottiere in the papal
service, had boldly engaged with his single hand to despatch Lorenzo,
while he understood that the murder was to take place at a festival.
But when Montesecco found that it was before the altar of God that it
was intended he should shed the blood of a man whose hospitality he had
enjoyed, his courage failed him. The soldier declared that he dared not
add sacrilege to murder and perfidy; and his office was committed to
two ecclesiastics, who had not the same scruples.

“When the appointed morning arrived, the Cardinal Riario and Lorenzo
de’ Medici were already at the cathedral, the church was rapidly
filling with people, and still Giuliano de’ Medici did not appear. The
conspirators began to dread another disappointment, and Francesco de’
Pazzi and Bernardo Bandini left the cathedral to seek for him, and to
persuade him that his absence would be insidiously remarked. Every
feeling which revolts at murder and treachery is strengthened, when we
learn the terms of familiarity on which these men had just been living
with him whom they were hurrying to death. They passed their arms round
his waist, as if to draw him in playful violence towards the church,
but in reality to feel whether he had put on his cuirass, which he wore
with habitual timidity under his garments. But Giuliano was indisposed;
he had discarded his armour; and so unsuspicious was he at that hour
of impending evil, that he even left at home the dagger which usually
hung at his side. As he entered the church and approached the altar,
the two conspirators kept close to him; the two priestly assassins had
also fixed themselves in the throng beside Lorenzo; and when the host
was raised, and every knee was bending in adoration, Bandini struck
his dagger into the breast of Giuliano. The victim staggered and fell,
and Francesco de’ Pazzi threw himself upon him, with such blind fury,
that besides inflicting on him several blows with his dagger, the
least a death, he grievously wounded himself in the thigh. At the same
moment the two priests attacked Lorenzo. One of them struck at his
throat, but missed his aim; and the blow, which grazed the intended
victim’s neck, merely startled him to his defence.[185] Rapidly
throwing his cloak about his left arm for a shield, he drew his sword
and courageously defended himself until his attendants came to his aid.
The priests then lost courage and fled: but Bandini, his dagger reeking
with the blood of Giuliano, now endeavoured to rush upon Lorenzo, and
stabbed one of his train to the heart, who interposed to defend him.
Lorenzo, however, was by this time surrounded by his friends, who
hastily sought refuge with him in the sacristy, and closed its brazen
doors. Meanwhile the whole church was filled with consternation; and
the first moment of surprise and alarm had no sooner passed, than the
friends of the Medici collected from all quarters, and conveyed Lorenzo
in safety to his palace.

“During this scene in the cathedral, the Archbishop Salviati, with
a strong band of conspirators, attempted, as had been concerted, to
seize the palace of the signiory and the persons of the magistrates.
After filling the outer apartments with his followers, the archbishop
obtained by his rank an easy admission to the presence of the
gonfaloniere and priors who were sitting. But instead of immediately
attacking them he hesitated; and his manner betrayed so much confusion,
that the suspicion of the gonfaloniere being excited, he rushed from
the hall and assembled the guards and servants of the palace. The
doors were secured, and the conspirators were furiously assaulted by
the magistrates and their attendants with such motley weapons and
instruments as the furniture of the palace afforded. Dispersed and
intimidated, they made but a feeble resistance, and were all either
slaughtered on the spot, hurled from the windows, or made prisoners.
Jacopo de’ Pazzi, followed by a troop of soldiery, attempted to succour
them, after an abortive effort to excite the citizens to revolt by
crying liberty through the streets. But the magistrates held the palace
until numerous citizens came to their aid, and Jacopo, seeing that the
game was lost, fled into the country.

“The fate of most of the conspirators was not long delayed. The
Archbishop Salviati was hanged from a window of the public palace, even
in his prelatical robes. Francesco de’ Pazzi, who, exhausted by loss
of blood from his self–inflicted wound, had been obliged to confine
himself to his uncle’s house, was dragged from his bed, and suspended
from the same place of execution. Jacopo himself, being discovered
and arrested in the country by the peasantry, was brought into the
city a few days afterwards, and similarly executed, with another of
his nephews, whose knowledge of the conspiracy was his only crime,
for he had refused to engage in it: and the whole of the devoted
family of the Pazzi were condemned to exile, except Guglielmo, the
brother–in–law of Lorenzo. The priests who had attacked Lorenzo, the
condottiere Montesecco, and above seventy inferior persons besides,
suffered death; and even Bernardo Bandini, though he escaped for a
time to Constantinople, paid the forfeit of his crimes; for Lorenzo
had sufficient interest with Mahomet II. to cause him to be seized and
sent to Florence for execution. The young Cardinal Riario, rather an
instrument than an accomplice in the conspiracy, was with difficulty
saved by Lorenzo from being torn to pieces by the fury of the
Florentine mob; but his attendants were mercilessly butchered by them.”

The conspiracy of the Pazzi strikingly displayed the absoluteness of
the Medician dominion over the will and affections of the people of
Florence. So far from shewing any disposition to join the Pazzi in
revolt, the populace were filled with grief and fury at the murder of
Giuliano, and at the peril in which Lorenzo had stood. They had flown
to arms to defend the Medici: and they paraded Florence for whole days
to commit every outrage upon the dead bodies of the conspirators which
still defiled the streets. The cry of “Palle, Palle!” the armorial
device of the Medici,[186] continually resounded through the city;
and the memory of the tragedy wherein Giuliano had fallen, was always
associated in the public mind with a deepened and affectionate interest
for the safety of Lorenzo, and with an attachment to his person which
lasted to his death.

We might perhaps search history in vain to find two families, whose
fortunes, whose dispositions, and even whose tastes were so faithfully
reflected in each other, as those of Pisistratus and Cosmo de’ Medici.
If we consider the younger Medici as immediately succeeding to their
grandfather (and the concession is not important, for in the interval
no political changes occurred in Florence), the resemblance between
their fortunes, so far as we have traced them, is perfect. The founders
of either house, after similar reverses, established tyrannies in their
native cities, and yet lived and died beloved and respected by their
countrymen, and delivered their usurped sovereignty peaceably to their
successors. These successors were in either case two brothers, who
instead of running the usual course of jealousy and discord, exercised
their joint power for years in harmony, and were at length separated
by conspiracies which succeeded against the one, only to render more
despotic the sway of the other. With respect to personal character, the
resemblance between Pisistratus and Cosmo de’ Medici has been fully
dwelt upon. That between the brothers their descendants is necessarily
less completely made out, for we know very little of the political
conduct of the two Athenians; but we may observe the same hereditary
love of art and literature, the same absence of jealousy, and the
same superiority of one brother over the other in the cultivation of
learning. The resemblance of their histories, so far as we have traced
that of the Medici, fails only in one respect: the death of Hipparchus
was due to his own intemperance, the murder of Giuliano de’ Medici to
the arbitrary measures of his brother.




 Invasion of Scythia by Darius—Destruction of Crassus and his army by the
 Parthians—Retreat of Antony—Retreat and death of Julian—Retreat from

Darius, son of Hystaspes, having gained possession of the vast empire
which had been established by Cyrus, devoted his attention to the
regulation of its internal policy: a task which we are led to believe
he exercised with moderation and judgment. But the Persians were a
warlike nation, less advanced in civilization than their sovereign;
hence his care of the finances of the empire degraded him in their
eyes, and comparing his character with that of their former princes,
while they called Cyrus the father, and Cambyses the master, they
denominated Darius the broker of the empire. It was probably under the
knowledge of these feelings, that his wife, Atossa, daughter of Cyrus,
thus addressed him:[187] “O king, though possessed of such ample means,
thou sittest still, and gainest increase for the Persians neither of
subjects nor power. But it befits a young man who is the master of vast
resources, to manifest his worth in the performance of some mighty act,
that the Persians may fully know they have a man for their king. Now,
therefore, it profiteth thee twofold to do thus, both that the Persians
may understand there is a man at their head, and also that they may
be harassed by war, and for lack of leisure may not conspire against
you. And now thou mightest distinguish thyself during thy youth, for
the spirit groweth with the growing body; but it ageth also with the
aging body, and is blunted towards all action.” Darius answered, “All
these things which thou hast suggested, I have resolved to perform,
for I mean to build a bridge from this mainland to the other, to march
against the Scythians, and within a little while all these things
shall be accomplished.” Atossa replied, “Do not go first against the
Scythians, for they will be at your disposal at any time; but for my
sake lead an army against Greece. For I have heard reports of the
Grecian women, and wish much to have female slaves of Lacedæmon, and
Argos, and Corinth, and Athens.”

Some time elapsed before Darius was at leisure to pursue his schemes
of conquest; but after the Babylonian rebellion was quelled, when the
prosperity of Asia was at its height, he determined to invade the
Scythians under pretence of revenging the desolating incursion of
their ancestors into Media, a century before. With this view he sent
orders throughout his dominions, to some nations that they should
prepare infantry, others a fleet, others construct a bridge across the
Thracian Bosphorus, in which a Grecian artist, Mandrocles of Samos,
was employed. The fleet, which was contributed by the Asiatic Greeks,
he sent on to the Ister, or Danube, with orders to construct a bridge
there also, which was done, two days’ sail from the mouth of the river;
the land forces[188] he himself conducted through Thrace. Darius,
though a wise prince, was not exempt from that inordinate spirit of
boasting which has beset the eastern sovereigns in all ages. At the
source of the river Tearus, where are hot and cold medicinal springs
issuing from the same rock, he caused a column to be set up, with this
inscription:—“The fountains of Tearus pour forth the best and fairest
water of all rivers, and thither, on his march against the Scythians,
came the best and fairest of all men, Darius, son of Hystaspes, King
of the Persians, and of all the continent.” Another instance of this
spirit occurs, when he ordered a pile of stones to be raised at the
river Artiscus, as a monument of the magnitude of his army, each
individual being ordered to contribute one stone to the heap. Passing
onward,[189] he crossed the Ister, and entered Scythia, leaving the
Ionians behind to protect his return, but with permission to depart
home, unless he should reappear within sixty days. The Scythians did
not attempt open resistance; they blocked up the wells and springs,
and destroyed the forage throughout the country; and taking advantage
of their own wandering habits, harassed the Persians by leading them a
fruitless chase in pursuit of an enemy who seemed always within reach,
and yet could never be overtaken. After wandering over a vast extent
of desert, Darius began to weary of so unprofitable an occupation,
and indulging a hope, perhaps, that the enemy would be complaisant
enough to change their tactics for his own convenience, sent the
following message to Idanthyrsus, the Scythian king: “O wonderful man,
why wilt thou still fly, having the choice of these two things? If
thou esteemest thyself capable to stand up against me, abide, and do
battle; but if thou acknowledgest thyself to be the weaker, even then
desist from flight, and come to my presence, bringing earth and water,
gifts due to your master.” The proposal was conceived in the spirit
of our own chivalrous ancestors, and from them might have met with a
prompt acquiescence; but Idanthyrsus was not to be piqued into an act
of imprudence, and in truth more wisdom is visible in his reply than
in the request which led to it. “O Persian, this is my way: hitherto
I have never fled for fear of any man, neither do I now fly before
thee, nor act otherwise than I am wont in peace. And I will tell
thee wherefore I decline a battle. We have neither towns nor tilled
land, in defence of which we are compelled to fight; but if it be of
importance to thee to bring us to battle, lo, there are the tombs of
our ancestors; find them out, and endeavour to destroy them, and thou
shalt then know whether we will fight for our sepulchres, or whether
we will not. But, until this, unless we ourselves see reason, we
will not fight. So much for fighting. For masters, we own none, save
Jupiter, my ancestor, and Vesta, Queen of the Scythians. And instead of
sending earth and water, I will send you such a present as befits the
occasion; but as for calling thyself our master, I say, go hang.”[190]
Now the Scythians were very angry at the bare mention of servitude,
and sent one division to commune with the lonians who guarded the
bridge, while the rest of them, instead of still retreating before
the Persians, began to harass them by desultory attacks, in which
the Scythians had always the advantage over the Persian cavalry; but
when these fell back upon the infantry, they were secure from further
molestation. These attacks were made continually by night and day.
And now, says Herodotus, I will mention a very strange thing, that
was of great service to the Persians against these assaults. Scythia
produces neither ass nor mule, neither are there any such throughout
the country, by reason of the cold. The noise of the asses therefore
disordered the Scythian cavalry, and very often in a charge, when the
horses heard them bray, they would start and fly aside in terror,
pricking up their ears, for that they had never seen the like, nor
heard such a sound. At length, when the country was exhausted, and it
was known that Darius was in want, the Scythian princes sent a herald,
bearing a present of a mouse, a bird, a frog, and five arrows. The
Persians asked what was the meaning of this offering; but he replied,
that his orders were merely to deliver it and depart immediately; and
bade them, if they were skilled in such things, discover what these
gifts should signify. Now Darius thought that the Scythians surrendered
to him themselves, their land, and waters, arguing thus: that a mouse
dwells in the earth, living on the same food as man, and a frog in the
water, and that a bird is likest to a horse, and the arrows meant that
they delivered up to him their power. But Gobryas conjectured that it
meant this: “Unless, O Persians, you should become birds and soar into
the skies, or mice and sink beneath the earth, or frogs and leap into
the water, never shall ye return home, being stricken by these arrows.”
Now that division of Scythians which had been sent to confer with the
Ionians, when they arrived at the bridge, said, “Ye men of Ionia, we
bring you liberty, if you will hearken to us. For we hear that Darius
bade you depart home, after you had watched the bridge sixty days, if
he should not return within that time: now therefore by so doing you
will be free from blame, both towards him and towards us.” And when the
Ionians had promised to do so, the Scythians returned in all haste.

Idanthyrsus, after sending the above alarming intimation, changed
his tactics, and offered battle to Darius. It chanced that while the
hostile armies were drawn up, waiting for the signal to engage, a
hare jumped up from among the Scythians, who broke their ranks and
joined unanimously in the chase. Darius inquired from what cause such
a tumult arose, and hearing that the enemy were engaged in hunting
the hare, he said to his confidential advisers, “These men hold us in
great contempt; and now methinks Gobryas has spoken rightly concerning
the Scythian presents. Since, therefore, things are so, we need good
advice, how may we retreat in safety.” Gobryas made answer, “O king,
I was pretty well acquainted by report with the poverty of these men,
and now I am the more convinced of it, seeing how they make sport of
us. Therefore it seems best to me, to light our fires as usual, so
soon as the night comes on, and then shackling the asses, and leaving
them behind, with such as are least able to bear fatigue, to depart
before the Scythians can reach the Danube to destroy the bridge, and
before such a plan, which might be our ruin, can be resolved upon by
the Ionians.” This advice gave Gobryas: and when it was night, Darius
left in the camp all those who were wearied, and of whose death least
account was made, together with the asses, under pretence that he
would himself attack the enemy with the flower of the army, and that
the others should remain to protect the camp. So the Scythians seeing
the fires, and hearing the asses as usual, suspected nothing: but the
next morning, when the deserted Persians came and made submission, they
set out with all speed, and arrived at the Danube before Darius, who
had wandered from the direct way. Then they said, “Ye men of Ionia, ye
act unjustly in staying here after the days that were numbered have
passed away. Hitherto you have remained through fear; but now, destroy
the bridge, and depart with all haste, rejoicing in your freedom, and
acknowledging your obligation to the gods and the Scythians. And him
that was heretofore your master we will so handle, that from henceforth
he shall wage war upon no man.” Therefore the Ionians took counsel; and
Miltiades the Athenian (the same who afterwards commanded at Marathon)
that was their leader, and ruler over the Thracian Chersonese, was
minded to take the counsel of the Scythians, and thus set free Ionia.
But Histiæus, of Miletus, said, on the contrary, that now each of
them that were in council was ruler over his own city through the
influence of Darius, which being destroyed, neither he himself nor any
of them would retain his sovereignty, for every city would choose the
government of the many rather than of one. Those, therefore, that had
adopted Miltiades’ opinion, now came over to that of Histiæus, and
it was resolved to break up the Scythian end of the bridge for the
distance of a bowshot, that they might appear to comply with what had
been requested, and thus be secured from all attempts to destroy it.
Histiæus therefore replied, “O Scythians, you bring good advice, and
urge it at a seasonable moment, and as your proposition guides us to
our advantage, even so we are inclined to follow it carefully. For, as
you see, we are breaking up the bridge, and we will manifest all zeal,
desiring to be free. But while we are thus employed, it is fit time for
you to go in search of the Persians, and to exact the vengeance that
is due both to us and to you.” So the Scythians, a second time giving
credit to the Ionians for speaking the truth, returned in quest of the
Persians, but missed their track; so that the latter arrived at the
passage without interruption, but coming there by night, and finding
the bridge broken, they were thrown into much alarm lest the Ionians
should have deserted them. There was in Darius’s train an Egyptian,
whose voice was louder than that of any known man. Darius bade him
stand on the bank, and call Histiæus the Milesian, who heard him at
the first shout, and reconstructed the bridge, so that the army passed
over in safety. And the Scythians, judging of the Ionians from these
transactions, say, on the one hand, that they are the basest and most
unworthy of all freemen; and on the other, reckoning them as slaves,
that of all such they best love their masters, and are least disposed
to run away.[191]

If Darius’s real object was to extend his empire, or take revenge
upon the Scythians, his failure was complete and humiliating; if
undertaken on the ground suggested by Atossa as a measure of policy, a
safety–valve to guard against the explosion of Persian turbulence, his
purpose probably was fully answered in the loss and suffering which the
army underwent. But whatever were his motives, he escaped more easily
and creditably than most generals who have presumed to contest the
possession of their deserts with the numerous and active cavalry of
Tartary and Persia. Troops of the highest character, irresistible where
their proper arms and discipline can be made available, have often sunk
under the fatigue and hardships of warfare against a new enemy, under
a new sky, and have been conquered by circumstances, almost without
the use of the sword. By varying the climate and natural features of
the earth—by giving man a frame which, notwithstanding the wonderful
flexibility which adapts it equally for the snows of Greenland and the
vertical splendour of the torrid zone, is ill calculated for violent
and sudden changes, Providence has set bounds in some degree to the
march of ambition, and often turned the triumph of the conqueror into
mourning. We shall devote the rest of this chapter to relating a few
of the most striking disasters which have occurred from the neglect
of these considerations, and the rash invasion of regions where the
elements, the face of the country, or the manners of its inhabitants
have presented invincible obstacles to the success of the attacking

The unfortunate expedition of Crassus against the Parthians furnishes
us with a second testimony to the valour of the Scythian hordes.
Expelled or emigrating from Scythia Proper, that tribe long dwelt to
the eastward of the Caspian Sea, and successively obeyed the Mede,
the Persian, and the Macedonian dynasties, until at length they shook
off the yoke of the last, and planted a new race upon the throne of
Cyrus. The motives of avarice and ambition which led Crassus to the
fatal enterprise in which he fell, are well known. From the first
he was marked out for destruction by superstitious terrors: as he
quitted Rome he was solemnly devoted by a tribune to the infernal
gods; ill–omened prodigies attended the passage of the Euphrates,
and even the exhortations of the general were so equivocally worded,
that, instead of raising, they damped the courage of his soldiers.
Instead of penetrating through the friendly country of Armenia, where
the mountains would have protected him from the enemy’s cavalry, and
the king had promised not only a large reinforcement, but to provide
food for the consumption of the Romans, Crassus was induced, by
the treachery of a pretended friend, to plunge into the deserts of
Mesopotamia, the region of all others best adapted to the operations
of his enemies. We shall not detain the reader with the particulars of
his advance, which for some time was unopposed; but when he was fairly
involved in that inhospitable region, the enemy was not long in making
his appearance.

“The enemies seemed not to the Romans at the first to be so great a
number, neither so bravely armed as they thought they had been. For
concerning their great number, Surenas[192] had of purpose hid them
with certain troops he sent before; and to hide their bright armour
he had cast cloaks and beasts’ skins over them; but when both the
armies approached near the one to the other, and that the sign to give
charge was lift up in the air, first they filled the field with a
dreadful noise to hear; for the Parthians do not encourage their men to
fight with the sound of a horn, neither with trumpets, but with great
kettle–drums, hollow within, and about them they hang little bells and
copper rings, and with them they all make a noise everywhere together;
and it is like a dead sound mingled as it were with the braying or
bellowing of a wild beast, and a fearful noise as if it thundered,
knowing that hearing is one of the senses that soonest moveth the heart
and spirit of any man, and maketh him soonest beside himself. The
Romans being put in fear with this dead sound, the Parthians straight
threw the clothes and coverings from them that hid their armour, and
then showed their bright helmets and cuirasses of Margian tempered
steel, that glared like fire, and their horses barbed with steel and
copper. And Surenas also, general of the Parthians, who was a goodly
personage and valiant as any other in all his host, though for his
beauty somewhat effeminate, showed small likelihood of such courage:
for he painted his face and wore his hair after the fashion of the
Medes, when the other Parthians drew their hair back from the forehead
in the Scythian manner to look more terrible. The Parthians at the
first thought to have set upon the Romans with their pikes, to see if
they could break their first ranks. But when they drew near, and saw
the depth of their battell standing close together, firmly keeping
their ranks, then they gave back, making as though they fled, and
dispersed themselves; and yet, before they were aware, environed them
on every side; whereupon Crassus commanded his shot and light–armed
men to assail them; the which they did: but they went not far, they
were so beaten in by arrows, and driven to retire to their force of
the armed men. And this was the first beginning that both feared and
troubled the Romans when they saw the vehemency and great force of the
enemy’s shot, which brake their armours, and ran through everything it
hit, were it never so hard or soft. The Parthians, thus still drawing
back, shot altogether on every side at adventure: for the battell of
the Romans stood so neare together, as, if they would, they could not
miss the killing of some. These bowmen drew a great strength, and had
much bent bowes, which sent the arrows from them with a wonderful
force.[193] The Romans by means of these bowes were in hard state, for
if they kept their ranks they were grievously wounded: again, if they
left them, and sought to run upon the Parthians to fight at hand with
them, they suffered none the less, and were no nearer to effecting
anything. For the Parthians, in retreating, yet cease not from their
shot, which no nation but the Scythians could better do than they. And
it is an excellent contrivance that they do fight in their flight, and
thereby shun the shame of flying. The Romans still defended themselves,
and held it out so long as they had any hope that the Parthians would
leave fighting when they had spent their arrowes, or would joyne battel
with them. But after they understood that there were a great number of
camels laden with quivers full of arrowes, where the first that had
bestowed their arrowes fetched about to take new quivers; then Crassus,
seeing no end to their shot, began to faint, and sent to Publius his
son, willing him to charge upon the enemies before they were compassed
in on every side. For it was on Publius’ side that one of the wings
of the enemies battell was nearest unto them, and where they rode up
and down to compasse them behind. Whereupon Crassus’ sonne, taking
thirteene hundred horsemen with him (of the which a thousand were of
the men of armes whom Julius Cæsar sent) and five hundred shot, with
eight ensignes of footmen having targets, wheeling about, led them unto
the charge. But they seeing him coming, turned straight their horses
and fled, either because of the steadiness of his array, or else of
purpose to beguile this young Crassus, inticing him thereby as far from
his father as they could. Publius Crassus seeing them flie, cryed out,
‘These men will not abide with us;’ and so spurred on for life after
them. Now the horsemen of the Romans being trained out thus to the
chase, the footmen also were not inferior in hope, joy, or courage.
For they thought all had been won, and that there was no more to do
but to follow the chase: till they were gone far from the army, and
then they found the deceit. For the horsemen that fled before them
suddenly turned again, and a number of others besides came, and set
upon them. Whereupon they stayed, thinking that the enemies, perceiving
they were so few, would come and fight with them hand to hand. Howbeit
the Parthians drew up again them their men at armes, and made their
other horsemen wheele round about them, keeping no order at all: who
gallopping up and down the plain, whirled up the sand–hills from the
bottom with their horses’ feet, which raised such a wonderful dust,
that the Romans could scarce see or speak to one another. For they
being shut up into a little roome, and standing close one to another,
were sore wounded with the Parthian arrowes, and died of a cruell
lingering death, crying out for anguish and paine they felt; and being
still harassed by the shot thereof, they died of their wounds, or
striving by force to pluck out the forked arrow–heads that had pierced
farre into their bodies through their veines and sinewes, thereby
they opened their wounds wider, and so injured themselves the more.
Many of them died thus, and such as died not were not able to defend
themselves. Then when Publius Crassus prayed and besought them to
charge the men at armes with the barded horse, they shewed him theirs
hands fast nailed to the targets with arrowes, and their feet likewise
shot through and nailed to the ground; so as they could neither flie,
nor yet defend themselves. Thereupon himself encouraging his horsemen,
went and gave charge, and did valiantly set upon the enemies, but
it was with too great disadvantages, both for offence and also for
defence. For himself and his men, with weak and light staves, brake
upon them that were armed with cuirasses of steele, or stiff leather
jackes. And the Parthians, in contrary manner, with mighty strong pikes
gave charge upon these Gaules, which were either unarmed, or else but
lightly armed. Yet those were they in whom Crassus most trusted, and
with them did he wonderfull feates of war. For they seized hold of
the Parthians’ pikes and took them about the middles and threw them
off their horse, being scarce able to stir for the weight of their
harnesse;[194] and there were divers of them also that lighting from
their horse crept under their enemies’ horse bellies, and thrust their
swords into them, which flinging and bounding in the aire for very
paine, trampled confusedly both upon their masters and their enemies,
and in the end fell dead among them. Moreover extream heat and thirst
did marvellously comber the Gauls, who were used to abide neither of
both: and the most part of their horses were slain, charging with all
their power upon the Parthian pikes.

“At the length, they were driven to retire towards their footmen, and
Publius Crassus among them, who was very ill by reason of the wounds
he had received. And seeing a sand–hill by chance not farre from
them, they went thither, and setting their horses in the middest of
it, compassed it in round with their targets, thinking by this means
to cover and defend themselves the better from the barbarous people:
howbeit, they found it contrary. For the country being plain, they
in the foremost ranks did somewhat cover them behind, but they that
were behind standing higher than they that stood foremost (by reason
of the nature of the hill that was highest in the middest) could by
no means save themselves, but were all hurt alike, as well the one
as the other, bewailing their inglorious and unavailing end. At that
present time there were two Grecians about Publius Crassus, Hieronymus
and Nicomachus, who dwelt in those quarters, in the city of Carrhæ:
they both counselled Publius Crassus to steale away with them, and
flie to a city called Ischnæ, that was not farre from thence, and took
the Romans’ part. But Publius answered them, that there was no death
so cruel as could make him forsake those that died for his sake.[195]
When he had so said, wishing them to save themselves, he embraced
them, and took his leave of them: and being very sore hurt with the
shot of an arrow through one of his hands, commanded his shield–bearer
to thrust him through with a sword, and so turned his side to him for
the purpose. And most part of the gentlemen that were of that company,
slew themselves with their own hands. And for those that were left
alive, the Parthians got up the sandhill, and fighting with them thrust
them through with their speares and pikes, and took but five hundred
prisoners. After that, they struck off Publius Crassus’ head, and
thereupon returned straight to set upon his father, Crassus, who was
then in this state.

“Crassus, the father, after he had willed his son to charge the
enemies, and that one brought him word he had broken them, and pursued
the chase; and perceiving also that they that remained in their great
battell, did not presse upon him so neare as they did before, because
that a great number of them were gone after the other; he then took
courage, and keeping his men close, retired with them the best he
could by a hill’s side, looking ever that his sonne would not be long
before that he returned from the chase. But Publius seeing himselfe in
danger, had sent divers messengers to his father, to advertise him of
his distresse, whom the Parthians intercepted, and slew by the way;
and the last messengers he sent escaping very hardly, brought Crassus
newes that his sonne was but cast away, if he did not presently aid
him, and that with a great power. But in the meane time the enemies
were returned from his son’s overthrow with a more dreadfull noise, and
cry of victory than ever before, and thereupon their deadly sounding
drummes filled the air with their wonderful noise. The Romans then
looked straight for a hot alarme; but the Parthians that brought
Publius Crassus’ head upon the point of a lance, coming neere to the
Romans, showed them his head, and asked them, in derision, if they knew
what house he was of, and who were his parents: for it is not likely,
said they, that so noble and valiant a young man should be the son of
so cowardly a father as Crassus. This sight killed the Roman hearts
more than any other danger throughout all the battell. For it did not
set their hearts on fire, as it should have done, with anger and desire
of revenge, but far otherwise, made them quake for fear. Yet Crassus
selfe shewed more glorious in this misfortune than in all the warre
beside. For riding by every band, he cried out aloud, ‘The grief and
sorrowe of this losse, my fellowes, is no man’s but mine, mine onely:
but the mighty fortune and honour of Rome remaineth still unvincible,
so long as you are yet living. Now, if you pity my losse of so noble
and valiant a son, my good soldiers, shew this in fury against the
enemy; make them dearly buy the joy they have gotten; be revenged of
their cruelty, and let not my misfortune fear you. For why! aspiring
minds sometime must needs sustaine losse.’

“Crassus, using these persuasions to encourage his soldiers for
resolution, found that all his words wrought none effect; but
contrarily, after he had commanded them to give the shout of battell,
he plainly saw that their heartes were done, for that their shout
rose but faint, and not all alike. The Parthians on the other side,
their shout was greate, and lustily they rang it out. Now when they
came to joyne, the Parthians’ horsemen wheeling all round the Romans,
still galled them with their archery, while their men at armes,
giving charge upon the front of the Romans’ battell, with their great
lances compelled them to draw into a narrow roome, a few excepted
that valiantly and in desperate manner ran in among them, as men
desiring, though they could do the enemy but little harm, rather to
die quickly by a mortal wound. So were they soone dispatcht, with the
great lances that ranne them through, head, wood and all, with such a
force as oftentimes they ranne through two at once. Thus when they had
fought the whole day, night drew on, and made them retire, saying that
they would give Crassus that night’s respite, to lament and bewaile
his sonne’s death: unlesse that otherwise he, wisely looking about
him, thought it better for his safety to come and offer himself to
King Arsaces’ mercy, than to tarry to be brought to him by force. So
the Parthians camping hard by the Romans, were in very good hope to
overthrow them the next morning.”

In this miserable condition the only hope of safety lay in the
immediate prosecution of their retreat under cover of the night; and
this measure was accompanied by the melancholy necessity of abandoning
their wounded men to the mercy of an implacable enemy. Crassus,
overcome with sorrow, laid himself down with his head covered, and
would see no man. His chief officers, therefore, among whom was
Cassius, afterwards celebrated as one of the murderers of Cæsar,
held a council of war, and resolved upon immediate departure; a step
which held out the greater prospect of security, as the Parthians
never attacked by night, nor indeed took up their quarters in near
neighbourhood even to the weakest enemy, for they used no sort of
fortification or defence, and if attacked in the dark their cavalry
was difficult to be equipped and their skill in archery useless.[196]
Those of the Romans who were capable of marching, retreated without
further loss to the town of Carrhæ; but the Parthians slew all that
were left, to the number of 4000 and upwards. Surena, lest the
fugitives should outstrip him by immediate flight, had recourse to
a fraudulent negotiation, which was insultingly broken off as soon
as his end was answered, and his troops collected before the city.
Escape, therefore, was now more difficult than ever, and Crassus’ evil
fortune, or want of penetration, led him again to place confidence in
a traitor, who informed the enemy of the period fixed for departure,
and completed his villainy by entangling the army in a morass. Cassius,
mistrusting this man, returned to Carrhæ. His guides advised him to
remain there until the moon were out of the sign of Scorpio; but he
answered, “I fear the sign of Sagittarius (_the archer_) more,” and,
departing immediately, escaped to Assyria with 500 horsemen. Crassus,
and the main body of the army, after long struggling, had overcome
the difficulties in which they were involved, and were within a few
furlongs of the hills, when they were overtaken and attacked by the

“Then compassing Crassus in the middest of them, covering him round
with their targets, they spake nobly, that never an arrow of the
Parthians should touch the body of their general, before they were
slain, one after another, and that they had fought it out to the last
man in his defence. Hereupon Surena, perceiving the Parthians were not
so courageous as they were wont to be, and that if night came upon
them, and that the Romans did once recover the high mountains, they
could never possibly be met withall againe: he thought cunningly to
beguile Crassus once more by this device. He let certain prisoners go
of purpose, before whom he made his men give out this speech, that the
King of Parthia would have no more mortal war with the Romans; but
far otherwise; he rather desired their friendship, by shewing them
some notable favour, as to use Crassus very courteously. And to give
colour to this bruit, he called his men from fight, and going himself
in person towards Crassus with the chiefest of the nobility of his
boast, in quiet manner, his bow unbent, he held out his right hand, and
called Crassus to talk with him of peace, and said unto him, ‘Though
the Romans had felt the force and power of their king, it was against
his will; howbeit that now he was very willing and desirous to make
them taste of his mercy, and was contented to make peace with them, and
to let them go where they would.’ All the Romans besides Crassus, were
glad of Surena’s words. But Crassus, that had been deceived before by
their crafty fetches and devices; considering also no cause apparent
to make them change thus suddenly, would not hearken to it, but first
consulted with his friends. Howbeit the soldiers, they cried out on him
to go, and fell at words with him, saying that he would fain set them
to fight with an enemy, with whom he had not the heart to talk unarmed.
Crassus tried entreaty first, saying that if they would but persevere
for the remainder of the day, they might depart at night through the
mountaines and straight passages, where their enemies would not follow
them: and pointing them the way with his finger, he prayed them not to
be faint–hearted, nor to despair of their safety, seeing they were so
neare it. But in the end, Crassus perceiving that they fell to mutiny,
and, beating of their harnesse, did threaten him if he went not,
fearing there they would do him some villainy, went towards the enemy,
and coming backe a little, said only these words: ‘O Octavius, and
you, Petronius, with all you Roman gentlemen that have charge in this
army, you all see now how I against my will am enforced to go to the
place I would not, and can witnesse with me how I am driven with shame
and force; yet I pray you, if your fortunes be to escape this danger,
that ye will report wheresoever you come, that Crassus was slaine,
not delivered up by his own soldiers into the hands of the barbarous
people, but deceived by the fraud and subtilty of his enemies.’

“Octavius would not tarry behind on the hill, but went down with
Crassus: but Crassus sent away his sergeants that followed him. The
first that came from the Parthians unto Crassus were two mongrell
Grecians, who, dismounting from their horse, saluted him, and prayed
him to send some of his men before, and Surena would shew them, that
both himself and his train came unarmed towards him. Crassus thereto
made him answer, that if he had made any account of his life, he would
not have put himself into their hands. Notwithstanding he sent two
brethren before, called the Roscii, to know what number of men, and to
what end they met so many together. These two brethren came no sooner
to Surena but they were staid, and himselfe in the mean time kept on
his way a horsebacke, with the noblest men of his army. Now when Surena
came neare to Crassus, ‘Why, how now,’ quoth he, ‘what meaneth this? a
consul and lieutenant–generall of Rome on foot, and we on horseback!’
Therewithal he straight commanded one of his men to bring him a horse.
Crassus answered Surena again: ‘In that neither of them offended,
each coming to the meeting according to the custom of his country.’
Surena replied, ‘As for the treaty of peace, that was already agreed
upon between the king Hyrodes and the Romans: howbeit that they were
to go to the river and there to set down the articles in writing; for
you Romans,’ said he, ‘do not greatly remember the capitulations you
have agreed upon.’ With those words, he gave him his right hand. As
Crassus was sending for a horse; ‘You shall not need, saith Surena,
for, look, the king doth present you with this.’ And straight one
was brought him, with a golden bridle; upon which his grooms mounted
Crassus immediately, and following him behind, lashed his horse to make
him run the swifter. Octavius, seeing that, first laid hand on the
bridle, then Petronius; and after them, all the rest of the Romans also
gathered about Crassus to stay the horse, and to take him from them
by force, that pressed him on of either side. So they thrust one at
another at the first very angrily, and at the last fell to blowes. Then
Octavius drew out his sword, and slew one of the barbarous noblemen’s
horsekeepers; and another came behind him, and slew Octavius, and
on the other side came Pomaxæthres, one of the Parthians, and slew
Crassus. As for them that were there, some of them were slain in the
field fighting for Crassus, and others saved themselves by flying to
the hill. The Parthians followed them, and told them that Crassus had
paid the paine he deserved, and for the rest, that Surena bad them
come down with safety. Then some of them yielded to their enemies;
and others dispersed themselves when night came, and of them very few
escaped with life. Others being followed and pursued by the natives,
were all put to the sword. So as it is thought there were slain in
this overthrow above twenty thousand men, and ten thousand taken

Not many years subsequent to this signal overthrow the Roman eagle
again swooped upon Assyria, and was again compelled to wing back its
disastrous flight to a more congenial soil and climate. Encouraged
by the Syrian victories of his lieutenant Ventidius (the only Roman
down to the time of Trajan who ever celebrated a triumph over the
Parthians), and desirous to efface the stain upon the empire’s honour
by extorting the restoration of the captured standards and prisoners,
Antony led into Media an army of 100,000 men. But his enterprise, like
those of his predecessors, proved barren alike of profit or renown: for
if he could boast that the enemy, far from gaining any advantage over
his veteran troops, were uniformly baffled and repulsed during a long
and dangerous retreat, yet that retreat proved as calamitous as the
advance had been useless; and the hardships of the desert were scarce
less fatal to him than the Parthian arrows to Crassus.

“When they came to go down any steep hills, the Parthians would set
upon them with their arrowes, because they could go down but fair and
softly. But then again, the soldiers of the legion, that carried great
shields, returned back and enclosed the light–armed in the middest
amongst them, and did kneel one knee upon the ground, and so set downe
their shields before them; and they of the second rank also covered
them of the first rank, and the third also covered the second; and
so from ranke to ranke all were covered. Insomuch that this manner
of covering and shading themselves with shields was devised after
the fashion of laying tiles upon houses, and to sight was like the
steps of a theatre, and is a most strong defence and bulwarke against
all arrowes and shot that falleth on it. When the Parthians saw this
countenance of the Roman soldiers of the legion which kneeled on the
ground in that sort upon one knee, supposing that they had beene
wearied with travel, they laid down their bowes, and took their spears
and launces, and came to fight with them man for man. Then the Romans
suddenly rose upon their feete, and with the darts that they threw
from them they slew the foremost, and put the rest to flight, and so
did they the next day that followed. But by means of these dangers and
letts, Antonius’ army could win no way in a day, by reason whereof they
sufferred great famine: for they could have but little corne, and yet
were they daily driven to fight for it; and besides that, they had no
instruments to grind it, to make bread of it. For the most part of them
had been left behind, because the beasts that carried them were either
dead or else employed to carry them that were sore and wounded. For
the famine was so extream great, that the eighth part of a bushell of
wheate was sold for fifty drachmas,[198] and they sold barley bread by
the weight of silver. In the end they were compelled to live on herbes
and roots; but they found few of them that men do commonly eat of, and
were enforced to taste of them that were never eaten before: among
the which there was one that killed them, and made them out of their
wits. For he that had once eaten of it, his memory went from him, and
he knew not what he did, but only busied himself in moving and turning
over every stone that he found, as though it had been a matter of great
weight. All the campe over, men were busily stooping to the ground,
digging and carrying off stones from one place to another; but at the
last, they cast up a great deal of bile, and suddenly died, because
they lacked wine, which was the only sovereigne remedy to cure that

Such were their suffering till they crossed the Araxes and gained the
rich and friendly country of Armenia. The retreat from Phraata, or
Phraaspa, the extreme point of advance, a distance of three hundred
miles, had occupied twenty–seven days, and been signalized by eighteen
battles. On mustering the army it was found that twenty thousand
infantry and four thousand horse, nearly a quarter of the whole force,
had perished by the joint effects of sickness and the sword.

After a long series of wars waged with various success during a
period of four hundred years, the plains of Assyria again beheld the
destruction of a Roman army under circumstances of still greater
interest. The emperor Julian, redoubted for his brilliant victories in
Gaul and Germany, advanced with a veteran army of sixty–five thousand
soldiers, to avenge the insulted majesty of the empire, and retaliate
upon the Persian monarch (for a Persian dynasty again occupied the
throne of Darius, long held by a Grecian, and then by a Parthian
conqueror) for the invasion of Mesopotamia, in the reign of his
predecessor Constantius. He directed his march towards Ctesiphon,[200]
where he crossed the Tigris, and advanced into the central provinces,
in hope, like Alexander at Arbela, to rest the issue of the war on the
event of a single battle. Up to this point success attended his arms;
but now the evils which had destroyed his predecessors began to work
their fatal effect on him; where–ever he turned the country was laid
waste, the treachery of his guides caused him to spend several days
in fruitless wandering, which diminished the already scanty stores of
the army, and at length, without a blow being struck, he found himself
compelled to give the signal for retreat.

“The very morning, however, upon which the army began to retrace its
steps, a cloud of dust appeared in the distant horizon. Many thought
that it was caused by the troops of wild asses which abound in those
regions; others more justly augured from it an enemy’s approach. Being
thus uncertain and fearful lest by advancing they should fall into some
snare, the emperor put an early stop to their march, and the night was
spent in watchfulness and continual alarm. At sunrise, the glitter of
distant armour announced the presence of the royal forces, and the day
was spent in a succession of desultory and unsuccessful attacks. In the
evening the Romans arrived at a small town abounding in provisions,
where they spent two days. Resuming their march, upon the first day
they were exposed only to the same interruptions as before, but upon
the third day, when the army had reached the district called Maranga,
about dawn there appeared a vast multitude of Persians, with Merenes,
general of the cavalry, two sons of the king, and many of the chief

“All the troops were armed in iron, every limb being protected by thick
plates, the rigid joinings of which were adapted to the joints of the
body; and a mask, fashioned to resemble the face, was so carefully
fitted upon their heads, that, their whole bodies being plated with
metal, the darts which struck them could pierce nowhere, except at the
eyes or nostrils, before which there were narrow apertures for sight
and breathing. Those who were armed with lances remained immoveable,
as if fixed with brazen chains: while near them the archers (from its
very cradle the nation has grown powerful by its great reliance on
that art) stretched their supple bows, with disparted arms, till the
string touched their right breasts, while their left hands were in
contact with the arrow head; and the shafts, thus skilfully driven,
flew shrilly whistling, charged with deadly wounds. After them the
affrighted mind could hardly bear the fearful aspect and savage yawns
of the glittering elephants; by whose roar and smell, and unusual
appearance, the horses were yet more terrified. Those who guided them
wore hafted knives tied to their right hands, remembering the injury
received from these animals at Nisibis;[201] that if the frantic animal
became unmanageable by his driver, to prevent his carrying destruction
into the ranks of his own army, as then happened, they might pierce the
spine, where the skull is connected with the neck. For it was long ago
discovered by Hasdrubal, the brother of Hannibal, that such was the
speediest way of killing these beasts. All this being observed, not
without much dread, the emperor proceeded with all confidence to draw
up the infantry for battle in a half–moon with curving flanks;[202]
and lest the advance of the archers should scatter our close array,
he broke the efficacy of their arrow–flight by a rapid onset; and the
word to engage being as usual given, the dense infantry of Rome dashed
in the firm front of the enemy by a most spirited charge. The conflict
growing hot, the clang of shields, and the melancholy crash of men and
armour, leaving now no room for inactivity, covered the ground with
gore and corpses; but the slaughter of the Persians was the greatest,
who being often slack and faint in close conflict, fought at heavy
disadvantage when foot was opposed to foot; though they use to battle
bravely at a distance, and if they find themselves compelled to give
way, deter the enemy from pursuit by a shower of arrows shot behind
them. The Parthians then being routed by their overpowering strength,
our soldiery, long since relaxed by a blazing sun, at the signal of
recall went back to their tents, inspirited to higher daring for the
future. In this battle the Persian loss appeared, as I have said, to be
the greater; our own was very light.” Milton has a gorgeous description
of the Parthian power and method of making war, in which his immense
learning is profusely introduced to illustrate this subject

                          “The Parthian king
  In Ctesiphon[203] hath gathered all his host
  Against the Scythian, whose incursions wild
  Have wasted Sogdiana; to her aid
  He marches now in haste: see though from far
  His thousands, in what martial equipage
  They issue forth; steel bows and shafts their arm
  Of equal dread in flight, or in pursuit;
  All horsemen, in which fight they most excel;
  See how in warlike muster they appear,
  In rhombs and wedges, and half–moons and wings.
     “He looked, and saw what numbers numberless
  The city gates out–poured, light–armed troops
  In coats of mail and military pride;
  In mail their horses clad, yet fleet and strong,
  Prancing their riders bore, the flower and choice
  Of many provinces from bound to bound
  From Arachosia,[204] from Candaor east,
  And Margiana to the Hyrcanian cliffs
  Of Caucasus, and dark Iberian dales,
  From Atropatia, and the neighbouring plains
  Of Adiabene, Media, and the south
  Of Susiana, to Balsara’s haven.
  He saw them in their forms of battle ranged,
  How quick they wheeled, and flying, behind them shot
  Sharp sleet of arrowy showers against the face
  Of their pursuers, and overcame by flight;
  The fields, all iron, cast a gleaming brown:
  Nor wanted clouds of foot, nor on each horn
  Cuirassiers all in steel for standing fight,
  Chariots or elephants indorsed with towers
  Of archers, nor of labouring pioneers
  A multitude, with spades and axes armed
  To lay hills plain, fell woods, or valleys fill
  Or where plain was raise hill, or overlay
  With bridges rivers proud, as with a yoke;
  Mules after these, camels, and dromedaries,
  And waggons fraught with utensils of war.
  Such forces met not, nor so wide a camp
  When Agrican with all his northern powers
  Besieged Albracca, as romances tell,
  The city of Gallaphrone, from thence to win
  The fairest of her sex, Angelica
  His daughter, sought by many prowest knights
  Both Paynim and the peers of Charlemain.
  Such and so numerous was their chivalry.”[205]

“After the battle,” Ammianus continues, “three days being passed
in repose, that each might cure his own or his neighbour’s wounds,
intolerable want of victuals began to afflict us; and the burning both
of corn and green crops having reduced men and horses to the extremity
of distress, a large part of the provisions brought by the chief
officers of the army for their own use was distributed to the indigent
soldiery. And the emperor, who, in place of delicacies prepared with
regal luxury, satisfied his hunger under a small tent, with a scanty
portion of meal and water, which even the labouring common soldier
would have disdained; careless of his own safety, performed whatever
services were required in the tents of his poor comrades. Then having
withdrawn awhile to an anxious and uncertain repose, devoted not to
sleep, but to some literary work, written in the camp, and under the
tent–skins, in emulation of Julius Caesar, in the dead of night, while
deeply meditating upon some philosopher, he beheld, as he acknowledged
to his friends, that vision of the genius of the empire which he had
seen in Gaul, when about to reach the dignity of Augustus,[206] pass
sorrowfully from the tent in mourning habit, his head and horn of
abundance covered with a veil. For a moment he was fixed in amazement;
yet, superior to all fear, he commended futurity to the gods. As he
rose from his lowly couch, to supplicate the powers of heaven with the
rites deprecatory of misfortune, a blazing torch appeared to flash
across the sky, and vanished, leaving him filled with horror lest it
were the star of Mars which thus openly menaced him.”[207]

Before daybreak he consulted the Etruscan soothsayers, who still
retained the monopoly of this profitable art, concerning the meaning
of this portent. They replied that on no account should anything be
commenced, in obedience to the rules of their science, which forbade
the giving battle, or undertaking military operations, subsequent
to the appearance of such a meteor: but the emperor neglected their
predictions, and gave order to march. Taught by experience not rashly
to close with the firm ranks of the legions, the Persians hovered all
around, and while Julian, unarmed by reason of the heat, advanced to
reconnoitre in front, he was alarmed by tidings of an attack upon the
rear. Forgetful or careless of his want of armour, he hurried to the
spot, which was scarcely reached when a fresh alarm came that the
van, which he had quitted, was similarly menaced, and at the same
moment the iron–clothed Parthian cavalry, supported by elephants,
dashed in upon the flank. The light–armed troops, encouraged by
their sovereign’s presence, rushed forwards, and put to flight these
formidable assailants; and while Julian, forgetting the prudence of
a general in his ardour, cheered them on, a dart grazed his uplifted
arm, and penetrated deep into his unprotected side. He tried to draw it
out, but the sharp edges cut the tendons of his fingers; and falling
in a swoon from his horse, he was borne back by his attendants to the
camp. The prince being withdrawn, it is scarce credible with what
ardour the soldiery, heated by rage and anger, flew to their revenge,
and though the dust blinded them, and the heat relaxed their sinews,
yet, as if released from discipline by the fall of their leader, they
rushed prodigal of life upon the enemies’ steel. The Persians, on the
other hand, shot still more eagerly, till they were almost hidden by
the constant arrow flight; while the bulk and nodding plumes of the
elephants stationed in their front struck terror into horse and man.
Night put an end to a bloody and indecisive contest, in which fifty of
the chief Persian nobility fell, including the two generals, Merenes
and Nohodares.

This success, however, was dearly purchased by the death of Julian,
which occurred soon after he reached the camp. He made a short address
to those officers who surrounded his bed, expressing his willingness to
die, and a hope that the empire would devolve on a worthy successor,
declining to interfere, or in any way direct their choice; and breathed
his last while arguing upon the nature of the soul. Among the tumult
and intrigues consequent upon the election of a new emperor, Jovian, a
household officer of the highest rank, was chosen, rather as a means
of reconciling the disputes of others of higher pretensions, than for
his personal merits, which rose not above mediocrity. The news of
Julian’s death was carried to Sapor the Persian king by deserters, and
he, inspirited by the death of his most formidable enemy, pursued the
retreating army with increased vigour. On one occasion the heavy–armed
horse and elephants broke the Jovian and Herculean legions which had
been trained to war in the able school of Diocletian; on another the
Persian cavalry broke into the camp, and penetrated almost to the
emperor’s tent. At length, after five days of constant harass and
alarm, they reached the town of Dura on the Tigris. Four days were here
consumed in repelling the unceasing attacks of the Persians, until
the army, impatient of this daily annoyance, hopeless of bringing the
enemy to battle, and stimulated by a notion that the Roman frontier was
at no great distance, impatiently demanded permission to recross the
Tigris. The emperor and his officers in vain pointed out to them the
river swollen by the summer floods, and entreated them not to trust
its dangerous whirlpools: they represented that most of the troops
were unable to swim, and showed the enemy, who lined the opposite
bank of the overflowed river. But when these arguments proved vain,
and dissatisfaction seemed ready to end in mutiny, a reluctant order
was given that the Gauls and Germans, trained to the passage of rapid
rivers from their youth, should first risk the attempt; in expectation
that the others’ obstinacy would be overcome by the spectacle of
their fate, or else that their success would embolden and encourage
the less able. Accordingly, as soon as the fall of night concealed
their purpose, they passed the river, swimming or supported by skins,
occupied the opposite bank, and made slaughter of the Persians, who had
been lulled to sleep by the fancied security of their position. Their
comrades, informed of their success by signal, were only restrained
from emulating their courage and success by the engineers undertaking
to construct a bridge upon inflated hides. But these attempts were
baffled by the strength of the stream, and at the end of two days,
all sorts of food being consumed, the soldiery, reduced to want and
desperation, were loud in complaint of the ignoble death for which they
were reserved.

This would have been the time for a vigorous and decisive blow; but the
Persian king was staggered in his confidence by the Romans’ obstinate
and successful resistance. The destruction among his troops had been
severe; the loss of elephants unequalled in any former war: while
his foes were seasoned and encouraged by a continuance of successful
resistance, and, instead of being intimidated by the death of their
noble general, seemed rather to consult revenge than safety, careless
whether they were extricated from their difficulty by a brilliant
victory or a memorable death. These considerations, and the yet
unbroken power of the empire, induced him to send ambassadors to treat
of peace. But the conditions proposed were hard and humiliating,
and four days were spent amid the agonies of famine in fruitlessly
discussing what was best to be done, which if diligently employed would
have brought the army into the fruitful district of Corduene, distant
but a hundred and fifty miles from the scene of their sufferings. Five
provinces situated east of the Tigris were to be given up, together
with three important fortresses in Mesopotamia, Castra Maurorum,
Singara, and Nisibis, the latter uncaptured since the Mithridatic wars,
and regarded as the especial key of the East. The strong expression of
Ammianus is, that it would have been better to have fought ten battles,
than to have surrendered one of these things. But a crowd of flatterers
surrounded the timid prince; they urged the necessity of a speedy
return, lest other pretenders to the empire should start up, and his
weak and easy temper was readily persuaded to acquiesce.

The delay occasioned by these negotiations, in which, in return for
such important concessions, even the safe passage of the Tigris was
not provided for, proved fatal to numbers, who, impatient of the
sufferings which they endured, plunged secretly into the stream, and
were swallowed up by its eddies, or, if they reached the shore, were
slain or sold into a distant captivity by the Saracens and Persians.
And when at last the trumpet gave the signal of passage, it was
wonderful to see how every one hurried to escape the danger which they
still feared upon the eastern bank. Wicker vessels hastily constructed,
to which their beasts of burthen were attached, or the hides of sheep
and oxen, were the precarious means of transport to which most were
reduced: the emperor and his suite crossed in a few small boats which
had laboriously accompanied the march, and continued to ply backwards
and forwards, as long as any remained upon the farther shore. News came
meanwhile that the Persians were constructing a bridge, with intent of
falling suddenly and secretly upon the exhausted enemy; but either the
intelligence was false, or the betrayal of their intention caused the
Persians to desist from the meditated treachery, and Jovian, released
from this apprehension, arrived by long and fatiguing marches at the
town of Hatra, of ancient fame in the wars of Trajan and Severus. From
hence, for seventy miles, an arid plain extended, offering only salt,
fetid water, and the bitter, nauseous herbs of the desert: and such
provision as opportunity afforded was made for the further march by
filling the water vessels, and slaughtering camels and other beasts
of burthen. But a six days’ march, through a country where not even
grass was to be found, reduced them to extremity; and it was with no
small joy that they hailed a convoy of provisions, doubly welcome as
providing for the relief of present distress, and assuring the fidelity
of Procopius and Sebastian, the powerful officers whom Julian had sent
to co–operate with him in Armenia. Passing Thilsaphata the army at
length reached Nisibis, and found an end of its distresses under the
walls of the city, which the emperor was unwilling, perhaps ashamed, to

In all these cases the thirst of conquest worked its own punishment by
subjecting its votaries to the guidance of will instead of reason, and
like all other passions, when indulged, misleading them both as to the
character and the probable consequence of their actions. The expedition
of Darius is said, indeed, to have been prompted by policy; but we look
in vain for prudence and sound judgment in his unavailing pursuit of
the Scythians, in his protracted stay, in the treacherous abandonment
of a part of his army, or in his hurried retreat; while his resolution
(if Herodotus be credited) of destroying the bridge, and thus, in case
of reverses, cutting off all hope of escape, could only have been
suggested by a frantic presumption in his own power and fortune. In
the other cases an eager desire and hope of terminating the war by one
decisive blow, and a well–grounded confidence that in fair field no
troops would stand the shock of the Roman legions, stifled the voice of
common sense, of wisdom and of experience, which concurred in teaching
that the desired opportunity was attainable only by the enemy’s
misconduct, and that the failure of success necessarily involved severe
misfortune. We may draw from hence a lesson touching the pernicious
influence of power and prosperity upon the mind. The warning of Amasis
to Polycrates[208] contains valuable instruction, though we reject
the superstitious and unworthy notion of the Deity upon which it is
founded, and the equally superstitious remedy proposed. It is true
that a life of unbroken prosperity is frequently terminated by some
memorable reverse, but the effect of such prosperity upon ourselves
is the greatest of evils, and the parent of all the others which may
befall us: and this chapter may be considered as a supplement to the
one which has been devoted to the effects of absolute power upon
the morals and intellect; for the judicial blindness produced by an
inferior degree of grandeur and good fortune resembles that species of
insanity which we have noticed, and differs from it rather in degree
than in nature. History abounds in examples of such infatuation; the
most striking and perhaps the most important of them, it has been
reserved for our own age to witness.

If ever there was an instance of a powerful mind delivered over
for its ruin to a strong delusion, it is to be found in Napoleon’s
campaign in Russia. An unparalleled series of victories appears to
have confirmed the turn of his mind to fatalism, and to have inspired
a belief that no difficulties were insuperable by his genius and
fortune. It is in such a belief, and in his natural resoluteness of
purpose, aggravated into inflexibility by the habit of dictating to
all who came within his widely extended sphere, that we must look for
the explanation of conduct into which no man would have been betrayed
while in the full and sane possession of his judgment, however just
and unbounded his confidence in himself and his troops. That he was
fully aware of the difficulties which he was about to meet (it is
impossible that they should have escaped his penetration) is evident
from his own declarations. “For masses like those we are about to move,
if precautions be not taken, the grain of no country can suffice. The
result of my movements will be to assemble four hundred thousand men
on a single point. There will be nothing to expect from the country,
and it will be necessary to have everything within ourselves.”[209]
Immense preparations were accordingly made, but made in vain, for a
very small portion of them ever reached the borders of Russia, and
those too late to supply the needs of the army. It is here that the
obstinacy and infatuation of which we have spoken first appear. Too
impatient to wait for the supplies which he had declared indispensable,
and unable to resist the temptation of endeavouring to gain his object
by one decisive stroke, Napoleon plunged headlong into a savage
country, without a commissariat, and with a most insufficient hospital
department, and suffered grievous loss before an enemy was even seen.
Without anything approaching to a general action, the effective force
under his immediate command was reduced in six weeks, between the
passage of the Niemen and his departure from Witepsk, from two hundred
and ninety–seven thousand to one hundred and eighty–five thousand;
and was besides in so shattered and unsoldier–like a condition, that a
fortnight later, at Smolensk, Napoleon himself declared halt or retreat
to be impracticable. “This army cannot stop: with its composition, and
in its disorganized state, movement alone supports it. We may advance
at its head, but not stop or retreat. It is an army of attack, not of
defence; of operation, not of position.”[210] The desperate enterprise
was therefore pursued, and the nominal victory of Borodino, which
cost in killed and wounded thirty thousand men, gave Moscow into his
hands—the specious prize which he hazarded so much to gain. But the
advantages hoped from its possession vanished when in his grasp, and
this seeming success proved but a snare to disguise his failure, and
ensure destruction by delaying retreat.

We probably shall never be satisfied as to the real origin of the
conflagration of Moscow. If the voluntary act of the Russian people,
it deserves to be classed, with the abandonment of Athens, among the
noblest acts of patriotism recorded; but with this difference, that the
Athenians trusted their property to the victor’s mercy, the Russians
inflicted on themselves the utmost losses of war, rather than allow
an invader to profit by the shelter of their homes. That a rugged but
deep love of their country did animate even those among them who had
least to love, is certain. Palaces and hamlets were alike committed to
the flames; the serf and the prince were equally indignant at their
national injuries. “It is an admitted fact, that when the French, in
order to induce their refractory prisoners to labour in their service,
branded some of them in the hand with the letter N. as a sign that they
were the serfs of Napoleon, one peasant laid his hand upon a block of
wood, and struck it off with the axe which he held in the other, in
order to free himself from the supposed thraldom.”[211]

Napoleon depended on the possession of Moscow as a sure means of
dictating peace to Russia on his own terms. As formerly at Vienna and
Berlin, he expected to give laws in the Kremlin to a conquered nation;
and his disappointment in finding this vantage–ground crumble under his
feet was extreme. It was lost, however, irrecoverably lost, for the
Russians had no longer anything to hope or fear for their capital, and
Moscow, ruined and deserted, was no place for the invader to pass a
five–months’ winter in. Policy therefore prompted an immediate retreat,
sufficient time being allowed to refresh and re–organize the army; but
Napoleon still clung with obstinacy to his original plan of dictating
a peace to Alexander from his capital, and sacrificed a fortnight of
precious time to this deceitful hope. It was frustrated; the Russian
monarch refused to listen to any overtures of peace, and the French,
who on the 12th of September had hailed Moscow as the goal of their
labours, quitted it on the 19th of October, to retrace their steps over
a ravaged country through a numerous and exasperated enemy.

We must touch very lightly upon the horrors of the retreat, confining
ourselves to a brief statement of the leading facts, and of the results
of the whole. Famine, cold, and the sword combined to punish an unjust
aggression. When the French left Moscow they numbered one hundred and
twenty thousand men under arms, with an immense train of baggage and
camp followers: in twenty–six days, from October 19th to November
13th, when the Emperor quitted Smolensk, their organized force was
reduced to thirty–six thousand men, and they had lost three hundred
cannon. Napoleon’s partisans have tried to shelter him from blame, by
alleging the premature rigour of winter as the cause of this wholesale
destruction. No doubt cold was the main agent in it, but the nature of
a Russian winter was well known, and should have been considered in the
scheme of the campaign; and so far was it from being premature, that
the frost did not begin till November 7th, only three days before the
French van and the Emperor arrived at Smolensk. Other causes aided to
produce this result. Napoleon intended to return to the above–named
town by the unwasted route of Kalouga and Medyn, but the Russian
army barred his way, and, after an obstinate contest,[212] turned him
back on the ravaged country through which he had already passed. Here
neither food, shelter, nor clothing could be procured, and thousands
fell victims rather to the want of all appliances to bear it, than to
the intolerable severity of the winter itself. Numbers fell in battle,
or were intercepted and slain, or made prisoners by the ever active
hostility of the Cossacks who hovered round their march: still the loss
sustained in warfare was small in comparison to that which resulted
from the combined operation of hunger and cold. The appearance of this
new enemy, and its effects, moral and physical, are powerfully, though
rather theatrically, described by the Comte de Segur, himself a sharer
in the miseries which he describes.

“On the 6th of November the sky declared itself. Its azure disappeared.
The army marched enveloped in cold vapours, which soon thickened into
a vast cloud, and descended in large flakes of snow upon us. It seemed
as if the sky were coming down, and uniting with this hostile land and
people to complete our ruin. All things are indistinguishable; while
the soldier struggles to force his way through the drifting whirlwind,
the driven snow fills up all hollows, and its surface conceals unknown
depths which yawn under our feet. The men are swallowed by them, and
the weakest, resigning themselves to fate, there find a grave. Those
who follow turn aside, but the storm dashes in their faces the snow
from heaven and the drift from the earth, and seems to oppose itself
rancorously to their march. The Russian winter under this new form
attacks them from all sides; it pierces their thin dress and torn
shoes. Their wet clothes freeze on them, a sharp and strong wind
impedes their breath, which at the instant of expiration forms round
the mouth icicles depending from the beard. The wretches, shivering,
still drag themselves on, till the snow which clogs their feet, or
some chance obstacle, causes them to stumble and fall. There they
groan in vain: the snow soon covers them; slight elevations alone
distinguish them: behold their graves! Everywhere the road is strewn
with these undulations like a burial–ground: the most fearless, the
most unfeeling are moved, and turn aside their eyes as they pass in
haste. But before, around, every thing is snow—the sight is lost in
this immense and sad uniformity; the imagination is astounded: it is
like a huge winding–sheet, with which nature envelops the army. The
only objects which appear from out it are sombre pines, trees of the
tombs, with their funereal verdure; and the gigantic fixedness of their
black trunks and their deep gloom complete this desolate aspect of a
general mourning, and of an army dying amid the decease of nature....
Then comes the night, a night of sixteen hours! But on that snow which
covers all things, one knows not where to stop, where to rest, where
to find roots for food, or dry wood for firing. However, fatigue,
darkness, and repeated orders stop those whom their own physical and
moral force, and the efforts of their officers, have retained together.
They seek to establish themselves; but the ever–active storm scatters
the first preparations for a bivouac. The pines, laden with hoar–frost,
resist the flames; and the snow upon them, mixed with that which falls
continually from the sky, and that lying on the earth, which melts
with the efforts of the soldier and the first effect of the fires,
extinguishes those fires and the strength and courage of the men.

“When the flame at length is raised, officers and soldiers prepare
around it their sad meal, composed of lean and bloody fragments of
flesh, torn from wornout horses, and, for a very few, some spoonfuls
of rye flour diluted with snow–water. The next day soldiers, laid
stone–dead in circles, mark the bivouacs, and the ground about them is
strewed with the bodies of many thousand horses.

“From this day, men began to reckon less upon each other. In this
army, lively, susceptible of all impressions, and inclined to speculate
from its advanced civilization, disorder soon gained footing,
discouragement and insubordination spread rapidly, the imagination
wandering without bounds in evil as well as good. Henceforward at every
bivouac, at every difficult passage, some portion of the yet organized
troops detached itself, and fell into disorder. Yet there were some who
resisted this mighty contagion: they were the officers, subalterns,
and seasoned soldiers. These were extraordinary men; they encouraged
themselves by repeating the name of Smolensk, which they felt they were
approaching, and where everything had been promised to them.

“Thus since this deluge of snow, and the redoubled cold which it
announced, all, officers and soldiers alike, preserved or lost their
strength of mind, according to their age, their character, and
temperament. He of our chiefs, whom till then we had seen the strictest
in maintaining discipline, now found himself no longer in his element.
Thrown out of all his fixed ideas of regularity and method, he was
reduced to despair by so universal a disorder, and judging sooner than
others that all was lost, he felt himself ready to abandon all.”[213]

The army quitted Smolensk in four divisions: that under the command of
the Emperor, which led the way, marched on the 14th November. Ney, who
throughout this long retreat brought up the rear, who distinguished
himself amid its horrors by indomitable courage and constancy, and was
hailed by the general voice as the hero of the army, remained behind
until the 17th. On the 20th all were once more united at Oreza, after
seven days of almost continued fighting, in which nothing but the
sluggishness of the Russian general saved the French from destruction,
and Napoleon from captivity or death. Opposed with fifteen thousand
men, half starved and half armed, to a force treble that number, and
in good condition, the Russians must have overthrown him by mere
physical force, had they ventured upon a vigorous attack; but even in
his distresses the presence of Napoleon inspired awe. At no time do
the brilliant qualities of the French troops appear more conspicuous
than in this disastrous retreat: headed on all sides, inclosed by an
overwhelming force, every general outmanœuvred or cut his way through
the enemy,[214] fortunate if it cost him but half of his corps to
preserve the remainder from the disgrace of surrender. Between Smolensk
and Oreza the army was still further reduced to twelve thousand men,
who still preserved their arms and their discipline, encumbered with
thirty thousand stragglers, who grievously increased its wants and its
embarrassments, without adding a single bayonet to its strength.

Hitherto its retreat had been unopposed, the Russian army having
been unwilling or unable to head the French and compel them to force
a passage by the sword; and being in possession of Oreza, it passed
the river Dnieper at that town without opposition. But Admiral
Tchitchagoff, the general in command of the Moldavian army, which was
opposed to the Austrians on the south–eastern end of the French base
of operation, finding them slack and unenterprising in the cause of
an ally, or master rather, to whom in truth they owed little good
will, left merely a division in the duchy of Warsaw to observe their
movements, and himself marched upon Minsk and Borizoff, to cut off
Napoleon’s retreat. At the latter town there was a bridge over the
Beresina, the place itself being on the eastern bank, and on the
possession of the town and command of the bridge depended the means
of crossing that river. Tchitchagoff however, owing to some mistake
of the French general opposed to him, had taken that town, and though
afterwards expelled, had made the bridge impassable in his retreat.
It was necessary, therefore, to seek a passage elsewhere, and a place
above Borizoff, called Studzianka, was selected, where the river was
only fifty–five fathoms across. The chance seemed desperate, for the
opposite heights were occupied by six thousand Russians, and bridges
were to be built, and the army was to defile across them under their
fire; but desperate as it was, this seemed their only hope, and
Napoleon quitting the highway plunged into the thick pine–woods which
border the Beresina, to conceal his march. The joy of the army may
well be imagined, when, in traversing these forests, they met the
division of Victor, of fifty thousand men, in good order, which had
been employed in checking Wittgenstein upon the western flank. “They
were ignorant of our disasters, which had been carefully hidden even
from their chiefs. So that when, instead of a grand victorious column
returning from Moscow, they saw behind Napoleon nothing but a train
of squalid spectres, covered with rags, with women’s pelisses, pieces
of carpet, or squalid cloaks scorched red and burnt into holes by the
fires, their feet wrapped up in tatters of all sorts, they stopped in
terror. They saw with affright these poor fleshless soldiers file past,
with faces like the grave, bristled with ghastly beards, without arms,
without shame, marching in disorder with downcast heads, eyes fixed on
the earth, and silent like a troop of captives.”[215] So contagious was
this spectacle, that on the first day two corps of Victor’s army fell
into the same state of disorganization.

Among other attempts to deceive Tchitchagoff and make him believe that
a passage would be attempted elsewhere, some Jews had been interrogated
concerning the passes of the river; and to secure the breach of their
faith, they had been sworn to meet the army on the Beresina, below
Borizoff, with intelligence of the enemy. The stratagem succeeded;
they carried a false report to the Admiral, and he and Napoleon turned
their backs on each other, and while the latter marched up the river
to Studzianka, the former marched down it to a ford at Oukoholda. All
night the French laboured to construct a bridge, expecting momentarily
the first salvo of the Russian artillery. Napoleon passed a restless
and agitated night in a château near the river, continually repairing
to the spot on which his last hope of escape rested. At morning, when
all were prepared for a desperate and almost hopeless struggle, they
were equally astonished and delighted to see the Russian watch–fires
abandoned and the opposing force in full retreat. Napoleon would
scarce believe the tidings, and when at last convinced by the evidence
of his own eyes, he cried in transport, “Then I have outwitted the

That day, November 26th, two bridges were completed, and the opposite
bank was occupied by Ney. Two days and two nights elapsed before the
Russians came up, but this valuable respite was lost, owing to the
breaking of the bridge for artillery, and the insubordination of the
stragglers, which rendered it impossible to force them across. On the
night of the 26th they were dispersed among the neighbouring villages;
on the 27th men, horses, and carriages rushed in an overwhelming mass,
and choked the narrow entrance of the bridges: all efforts to restore
order were fruitless, and it was necessary to employ force to clear a
passage for the Emperor. A corps of grenadiers of the Guard declined
from mere pity to open for themselves a way through these wretches.
On the approach of night another simultaneous movement drove them all
to seek shelter in the village of Studzianka, which was torn down to
furnish materials for fires, from which they could not be moved; and
thus another night was lost.

On the 28th, while Tchitchagoff on the right bank in vain endeavoured
to drive Ney back upon the bridges, Wittgenstein, with vastly superior
forces, attacked Victor, who still remained on the left bank with 6000
men to cover the retreat of his unhappy comrades. The first thunder of
the artillery drove this confused mass pell–mell from their bivouacs to
the bridge, and the first Russian bullet which fell among them seemed
the signal of distraction and despair. The horrors of the scene which
ensued are almost too great for description. The more desperate forced
a way sword in hand through the crowd; others, prompted by a horrible
avarice, crushed their fellow–creatures under their carriage–wheels,
rather than abandon the booty hitherto preserved with such labour;
while those who felt themselves unequal to the struggle sat apart in
silence, their eyes fixed on the snow which was soon to be their tomb.
Once driven from the direct passage, men struggled in vain to climb the
sides of the bridge; they were mercilessly forced back into the river:
even women, their infants in their arms, shared this fate.

In the midst of this disorder the bridge for artillery broke, and all
upon it, hurried on by the press, were ingulfed in the stream. The
shriek of the perishing multitude rose high above the storm and the
battle: a witness of the scene declared that for weeks that horrible
sound never quitted his ears. Artillery and waggons then poured to the
other bridge, and on the steep and icy bank whole ranks were prostrated
under their wheels, or crushed between their unmanageable weights. The
noise of the storm, the roaring of cannon, the combined whistling of
the wind and bullets, the bursting of shells, the cries, the groans,
the fearful imprecations of the crowd, united in as horrible a concert
as ever was presented to human ears. At nine at night Victor, who till
then had kept Wittgenstein in check, commenced his retreat, and opened
a dreadful passage through the wretches whom he had hitherto defended.
A rear–guard was still left, and the bridges were allowed to stand
that night, but in vain; men seemed to lose their reason with their
discipline, and to be stupified by the horrors of their situation. The
baggage and plunder, to which they clung so obstinately, was burnt:
still it was impossible to drive them on. The next morning the French
set fire to the bridge, and numbers lost their lives in a final effort
of despair, endeavouring to swim the icy river or to cross upon the
burning rafters. After the thaw, according to the Russian reports,
36,000 bodies were found in the Beresina.[217]

The French, having forced back and defeated Tchitchagoff, were now
delivered from all immediate danger; and Napoleon, who had hitherto
refused to quit the army, hastened to Paris, where internal affairs
called for his presence, leaving Murat his successor in command. From
this time forward the Russians, except Platoff and his Cossacks,
desisted from the pursuit; but this alleviation of their misfortunes
was fully compensated by other evils. A change had already taken place
in the weather; the storms which had hitherto been experienced were
succeeded by a still more dreadful calm. Icy needles were seen floating
in the air; the very birds fell stiff and frozen, everything possessing
life or motion seemed congealed by the intensity of cold.

“In this empire of death we passed on like unhappy spirits. The dull,
uniform sound of our march, the crackling of the snow, the low groans
of dying men, alone broke this mighty melancholy silence. There was no
more anger, no more imprecations, nothing to indicate a trace of heat;
strength scarce remained even for prayer, and the majority fell even
without complaint, whether through weakness or resignation, or that men
only complain when they hope to move, and believe that they are pitied.

“In fact, when for an instant they stopped through exhaustion, the
winter laid her icy hand on them, and seized them as her prey. It
was in vain then that, feeling themselves numbed, they arose, and
speechless, stupified, advanced some paces like automatons: the blood
freezing in their veins checked the beating of their hearts, and
thence rushed to the head; then stricken by death, they staggered like
drunken men. Real tears of blood dropped from their eyes, inflamed by
the unvaried glare of snow, by want of sleep, and by the smoke of the
bivouacs; deep sighs burst from their breasts; they looked to heaven,
to us, and to the earth with a dismayed, fixed, and wild eye; it was
their last adieu, perhaps a reproach to that savage nature which so
tormented them. Soon they dropped, on their knees first, then on their
hands; their heads wandered still some moments to right and left; a few
sounds of agony escaped from the gasping mouth, which in its turn fell
on the snow, and reddened it with livid blood, and their sufferings
were over.

“Such were the last days of the grand army; its last nights were still
more dreadful. When surprised by the dark at a distance from all
dwellings, they stopped on the border of some wood; there they lighted
fires, before which they spent the night, upright and immoveable as
spectres. Unable to get enough of heat, they crowded so close to them,
that their clothes and even frozen portions of their bodies were burnt.
Then a horrible pain compelled them to enlarge their circle, and on the
morrow they endeavoured in vain to rise.”[218]

We trace no further the details of suffering too great for human
endurance. Sixty thousand men are computed to have crossed the
Beresina. Loison, with 15,000, advanced from Wilna to meet and protect
them; he lost 12,000 by three days of frost. Other reinforcements
joined the retreat; yet of this total, amounting fully to 80,000 men,
there recrossed the Niemen but 20,000 stragglers, nine cannon, and 1000
infantry and cavalry under arms, and the merit of preserving this
remnant belongs to Ney alone. Murat, to whom Napoleon at his departure
intrusted the command–in–chief, and other marshals, had ceased to issue
orders, or commanding, had ceased to be obeyed: Ney alone retained some
influence and authority. Ever last in the retreat, with a rearguard
sometimes of twenty men, he opposed a bold front to his pursuers, and
pre–eminently merited the title of “bravest of the brave,” when the
tried valour of others was changed into confusion and despair.

Scott’s summary of the total loss in the campaign runs thus:—

  Slain in battle                        125,000
  Died from fatigue, hunger, and }
    the severity of the climate  }       132,000
  Prisoners, comprehending 48    }
    generals, 3000 officers, and }       193,000
    upwards of 190,000 soldiers  }



London: Printed by W. CLOWES and Sons, Stamford Street.



  Battle between Theseus and a Centaur, from a design of
  Flaxman              11

  Warrior, in the undress of the heroic age         39

  Head of Hercules, from a Camarinæan coin          ib.

  Medal of Caligula         114

  Profile of the Emperor Paul          152

  Cosmo de’ Medici, from a Florentine medal       153

  Lorenzo de’ Medici, from ditto        189

  Giuliano de’ Medici, from ditto          189

  Head of Napoleon, from the series of Napoleon medals       190

  Medal struck by Napoleon after the retreat from Moscow,
  from ditto          237

       *       *       *       *       *

All the medals have been engraved from the originals preserved in the
British Museum.


Alp Arslan, 93.

Antony, retreat of, from Parthia, 211-213.

Aristogiton, 169-174.

Aristomenes, 40-54.

Bajazet, imprisoned by Tamerlane, 86.
  ----his treatment of French prisoners, 88-92.

Brooke, death of Lord, 134.

Buchan, Countess of, imprisoned by Edward I., 87, 88.

Caligula, 134-143.

Cambyses, 120-131.

Cleomenes, 132, 133.

Crassus, retreat and death of, 198-211.

Crœsus, 77-80, 156.

Cylon, insurrection of, 154.

Darius, invasion of Scythia by, 190-198.

England, state of, under first Norman kings, 23-27.

Fatalism, 156-161.

Greek history, mythic period of, 11-13, 21-23.

Guesclin, Bertrand du, treatment by Black Prince, 103, 104, 108-113.

Harmodius, 169-174.

Hereward le Wake, 54-58.

Hipparchus and Hippias, 168-174.

John, King of France, treatment by Black Prince, 105-107.

Julian, Emperor, invasion of Parthia, and death, 213-223.

Medici, Cosmo de’, 175-180.
  ----Piero, 181.
  ----Lorenzo and Julian, 181-189.

Messenians, early history of, 40-54.

Napoleon, retreat from Moscow 224-237.

Paul, Emperor, 143-152.

Pazzi, conspiracy of, 183-189.

Pedro, Don, King of Castile, 31-36.

Pisistratus, 163-168.

Power, effects of absolute, 114-119.

Prisoners of war, treatment of, 77-113.

Reedman, Sir Matthew, anecdote from Froissart, 100-102.

Retreat of Darius from Scythia, 196-198;
  ----Antony from Parthia, 211-213;
  ----Julian in Assyria, 213-223;
  ----Napoleon from Moscow, 225-237;
  ----Ney in Russia, 190, 194;
  ----Hawkwood in Lombardy, 194-197.

Roncesvalles, battle of, 74-85.

Scandinavia, compared with Greece in its early state, 9-20.

Triumphs, Roman, 82-86.

Trojan War, 36-39.

Valerian, treatment by Sapor, 85, 86.

Wallace, 58-76.


[1] A striking instance of this occurs in Justin. Speaking of Harmodius
and Aristogiton (see chap. v.), he says, “One of the murderers, being
put to the torture to extract the names of his accomplices, enumerated
all the nearest friends of Hippias. These were all put to death, and
being asked whether any others were privy to his designs, he answered,
that now none remained whom he wished to perish, except the tyrant
himself. The city, admonished by his virtue, expelled Hippias.”—Lib.
ii. 9. The _virtue_ of this act consisted in sacrificing innocent lives
to his revenge, by means of a lying accusation: and the stern endurance
of this man is dignified with the praise of fortitude and patriotism,
without the slightest reference to its atrocious injustice. The story
itself rests upon Justin’s authority, and may reasonably be rejected as
an improbable fiction.

[2] The cluster of the Archipelago nearest Attica.

[3] The Greeks called all other nations barbarians, which generally
means no more than people of a different stock.

[4] So Nestor addresses Telemachus, “Strangers, who are you, from
whence do you navigate the watery way? Is it with any settled purpose,
or do you roam at hazard like robbers over the sea, who wander wagering
their own lives, bearing evil to others?” Odyss. iii. 71.

[5] Thucyd. book i. chap. 4, 5, 6. We use Hobbes’ translation.

[6] Turner, Ang.–Sax.

[7] Bartholinus, De Causis Contemptæ a Danis Mortis, lib. ii. 9.

[8] Saxo, lib. vii.

[9] Bartholinus, ii. 5.

[10] Barthol., l. ii. 9.

[11] We speak with some degree of doubt, both from the fluctuating
notions of the Greeks upon this head, and from imperfect acquaintance
with their opinions. The unhesitating belief of the Celtic nations
in a happy immortality was known even in the time of Lucan, and is
celebrated by him in a fine and well–known passage. The immortality
of Homer’s heroes was mournful and discontented. “Talk not to me of
death,” says Achilles (Od. xi. 487), “I would rather be the hired
servant of some needy man, whose means of life are scanty, than rule
over the whole of the deceased.” Other passages to the same effect are
collected at the beginning of the third book of the Republic, by Plato,
who objects seriously to their effect as making death an object of
terror. Yet, in another passage, Homer speaks of the “Elysian plain,
and the ends of the earth, where man’s life is easiest, where there
is no snow, nor rain, nor winter, but thither ocean ever wafts the
clear–toned gales of the west to refresh men.” (Od. iv. 565.) Hesiod,
on the other hand (Works and Days, v. 166), and, some centuries after,
Pindar (Ol. ii.), speak of a future life as perfectly happy, describing
it in terms closely similar to those of the last quotation from Homer.
All these writers appear to place their happiness in perfect rest: the
blessed are no longer compelled to till the earth, or navigate the
ocean; they lead a _careless_ life; there is no reference to sensual
pleasures, except that the earth produces fruits spontaneously thrice
a year, nor even to their continuing to take delight in arms or in the
chace. In later authors they are described as retaining the habits and
pleasures of life: see the note on the scholium of Callistratus, chap.
v.; Ov. Met. iv. 444; and more especially the passage in Virgil, vi.
651, which, but for wanting the personal superintendence of Odin, bears
much resemblance to a refined Valhalla.

  The chief beheld their chariots from afar,
  Their shining arms, and coursers trained to war;
  Their lances fixed in earth, their steeds around,
  Free from their harness, graze the flowery ground.
  The love of horses, which they had alive,
  And care of chariots, after death survive.
  Some cheerful souls were feasting on the plain,
  Some did the song and some the choir maintain.


Mitford, on the other hand, says, that “the drunken paradise of the
Scandinavian Odin was really a notion, as we learn from Plato, of the
highest antiquity among the Greeks.” (Chap. ii. sect. 1.) He has not,
however, given references, and we much regret that we have not been
able to find the passage.

[12] He had the advantage over Hercules here; see the Alcestes, v. 763,
ed. Monk.

[13] Joannes Magnus, Hist. Gothorum.

[14] We quote here, and in future, from Sir Thomas North’s translation,
A.D. 1579. North translated from the French of Amyot. His
version has been compared with the original, and corrected.

[15] Ingram’s Saxon Chronicle.

[16] Gesta Stephani, ap. Duchesne, Script. Normann. p. 961, 2.

[17] William of Malmesbury, Hist. Novell. lib. ii.

[18] Henry of Huntingdon, De Episcopis sui temporis.

[19] Perhaps this is too positively asserted. No doubt exists as to the
political operation, but it has been questioned whether Theseus had a
more real existence than the other heroes who gave their names to, or
were named after, the several Athenian tribes. See Arnold’s Thucyd.,
Appendix II.

[20] History of Greece, p. 5.

[21] History of Greece, p. 6.

[22] The arrival of Theseus at Athens roused Medea’s jealousy, and she
proposed to poison him. She did not arrive at Athens until some time
after she had reached Greece with Jason and the Argonauts; while the
journey of Theseus from Trœzen to Athens appears to have been his first
exploit. Either, therefore, Theseus was not an Argonaut, or this charge
against Medea is ungrounded.

[23] Eteocles and Polynices, the sons of Œdipus, agreed, after the
expulsion of their father, to reign alternate years in Thebes.
Eteocles, however, at the end of the first year, refused to surrender
his power, upon which Polynices laid siege to the city, assisted by six
other princes. The brothers met in battle, and fell by each other’s

[24] Lockhart’s Spanish Ballads.

[25] See a subsequent ballad in the same collection:—

  In her hot cheek the blood mounts high, as she stands gazing down
  Now on proud Henry’s royal state, his robe and golden crown,
  And now upon the trampled cloak, that hides not from her view
  The slaughtered Pedro’s marble brow, and lips of livid hue.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Away she flings her garments, her broidered veil and vest,
  As if they should behold her love within her lovely breast—
  As if to call upon her foes the constant heart to see
  Where Pedro’s form is still enshrined, and evermore shall be.

  But none on fair Maria looks, by none her breast is seen,
  Save angry heaven, remembering well the murder of the Queen;
  The wounds of jealous harlot rage, which virgin blood must staunch,
  And all the scorn that mingled in the bitter cup of Blanch.

  The utter coldness of neglect that haughty spirit stings,
  As if ten thousand fiends were there, with all their flapping wings.
  She wraps the veil about her head, as if ‘twere all a dream,
  The love—the murder—and the wrath—and that rebellious scream.

  For still there’s shouting on the plain, and spurring far and nigh;
  “God save the King—Amen! Amen! King Henry!” is the cry,
  While Pedro all alone is left upon his bloody bier—
  Not one remains to cry to God, “Our Lord lies murdered here.”

[26] Herod, i. 4. It may be inferred from hence that the high
estimation of female chastity, and implacable resentment consequent
upon injuries in that respect, which now characterise Eastern manners,
did not prevail in the age of Herodotus. That these feelings did
prevail at a very remote period, appears from the story of Darius and

[27] Leland’s Hist. Ireland.

[28] Thucyd. i. 9.

[29] Pausanias evidently founded his account of Aristomenes upon the
traditions and legendary ballads of the Messenians; which, probably,
were about as historical as Chevy Chase, or the Spanish ballads of the
Cid, and other celebrated warriors. The reader will be on his guard,
therefore, against taking all that is here told for veracious history:
but we have not attempted to discriminate accurately between truth and
fiction, which would entirely destroy the spirit and romance of the
narrative, very probably without coming nearer to the reality.

[30] Pausanias merely says that the Greeks in general believed Pyrrhus
to be his father. We have no doubt, from the context, that the hero is
the person meant, though the passage has been otherwise interpreted.
The practice of deifying eminent men prevailed in Greece at an early
period, though apparently not in the age of Hesiod and Homer. Homer is
fond indeed of dwelling on the superiority of the past; a superiority
referred to the celestial descent of the heroes who then flourished;
but he gives us no reason to think that divine honours were paid them.
In later times, a patron hero was as necessary to a Grecian, as a
patron saint formerly to a European city: and there are few names of
eminence in the heroic age, in honour of which temples have not been
built, and sacred rites instituted. The twelve Athenian tribes had each
its protecting hero: Æacus and his descendants were believed to preside
over Ægina and Salamis. It is needless to multiply examples.

[31] Probably this story is founded on the theft of the Palladium by
night from Troy, by Ulysses and Diomed. A similar spirit of chivalrous
daring, mingled with superstition, suggested a similar enterprise to
Fernando Perez del Pulgar, surnamed ‘of the Exploits,’ when serving
at the siege of Granada under Ferdinand of Castile. “Who will stand
by me,” said he, “in an enterprise of desperate peril?” The Christian
cavaliers well knew the hair–brained valour of del Pulgar, yet not
one hesitated to step forward. He chose fifteen companions, all men
of powerful arm and dauntless heart. In the dead of the night he led
them forth from the camp, and approached the city cautiously, until
he arrived at a postern gate, which opened upon the Darro, and was
guarded by foot soldiers. The guards, little thinking of such an
unwonted and partial attack, were for the most part fast asleep. The
gate was forced, and a confused and chance medley skirmish ensued.
Fernando stopped not to take part in the affray. Putting spurs to his
horse, he galloped furiously through the streets, striking fire out of
the stones at every bound. Arrived at the principal mosque, he sprang
from his horse, and kneeling at the portal, took possession of the
edifice as a Christian chapel, dedicating it to the blessed Virgin.
In testimony of the ceremony, he took a tablet, which he had brought
with him, on which was inscribed, in large letters, Ave Maria, and
nailed it to the door of the mosque with his dagger. This done, he
remounted his steed, and galloped back to the gate. The alarm had been
given, the city was in an uproar; soldiers were gathering from every
direction. They were astonished at seeing a Christian warrior speeding
from the interior of the city. Fernando, overturning some and cutting
down others, rejoined his companions, who still maintained possession
of the gate by dint of hard fighting, and they all made good their
retreat to the camp. The Moors were at a loss to conjecture the meaning
of this wild and apparently fruitless assault, but great was their
exasperation when, on the following day, they discovered the trophy of
hardihood and prowess, the Ave Maria, thus elevated in the very centre
of the city. The mosque, thus boldly sanctified by Fernando Perez del
Pulgar, was eventually, after the capture of Granada, converted into a
cathedral.—_Washington Irving, Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada_,
chap. 91.

[32] The spirit–stirring strains, which are said to have produced so
wonderful an effect, are the dullest longs and shorts that ever were
coupled together, if they are the same which have reached us under
Tyrtæus’s name.

[33] A celebrated oracle; those who entered the cave are commonly said
never to have smiled again. It appears, however, from Pausanias, that
this loss of the important faculty which is said to distinguish men
from brutes was only temporary. The method of consulting the oracle
was singular. The aspirant descended into a cave, where was a small
crevice, into which he proceeded to insinuate himself feet foremost.
So soon as he had got his knees in, the whole body was sucked forwards
by an overpowering force, and after passing through the circuit of the
mysteries, he was ejected, feet foremost, at the place where he had


  _Cade._ The elder of them, being put to nurse,
        Was by a beggar–woman stolen away:
        And, ignorant of his birth and parentage,
        Became a bricklayer, when he came to age.
        His son am I; deny it if you can.

 _Smith._ Sir, he made a chimney in my father’s house, _and the bricks
 are alive to this day to testify it_; therefore deny it not.

  _Henry VI. Part 2_, Act iv., sc. 2.

[35] We by no means pledge ourselves to the truth of this piece of
secret history, which is not supported by the testimony of earlier

[36] Pausanias, iv. 17.

[37] Ithome was a strong town on Mount Ithome, now Vourkan, in which
the Messenians made their last stand in the first war.

[38] When the Messenians were restored by Epaminondas, the locality
of this deposit was indicated by a dream. It was found to consist
of a tin plate beaten thin, and folded into the shape of a book,
upon which were engraved the rites and doctrines of the Eleusinian
mysteries.—_Pausanias_, iv. 26.

[39] We have retained this story in the text for its intrinsic beauty,
and regret being obliged to say that it is entirely false. It has been
shown by Bentley to be inconsistent with Herodotus and Thucydides,
and is tacitly rejected by Clinton. Zancle was taken by the Samians,
B.C. 494, at the suggestion of Anaxilas, tyrant of Rhegium;
who afterwards expelled the Samians, and filling the city with men of
various nations, called it Messene, being himself of Messenian descent.

[40] Ingulph, Hist. Croyland. In later times the ceremony seems to
have been universally religious:—see, for example, the dubbing of
Don Quixote. We cannot doubt, however, but that Ingulph knew the
practice of his own times. Probably the Normans, whose conversion to
Christianity was not of very old standing, still retained a flavour of

[41] It is interesting to trace the physical changes of the island; the
formidable swamps above mentioned are now converted into the richest
land in England, and we doubt whether Peterborough, or Lincoln, then
a centre of trade and commerce, be now accessible to any vessel more
dignified than a coal–barge or an eight–oared cutter.

[42] “Now (A.D. 1692) Bulldyke Gate, on the south side of the
monastery.”—_Gibson’s Saxon Chronicle._

[43] Hugo Candidus.

[44] Bower continued the Scotichronicon of Fordun. The whole work is
usually quoted under the latter name.

[45] Tytler, History of Scotland, vol. i.

[46] Remainder.

[47] Tidings.

[48] Recovered entirely.

[49] In anger.

[50] Bone.

[51] Stop.

[52] Then.

[53] Cast forcibly.

[54] Caught.

[55] Could.

[56] Knew of no advantage.

[57] Abiding place.

[58] Glanced.

[59] A town in Ayrshire, where many of the insurgents had submitted a
short time before.

[60] Hemingford, Hist. Edw. I., ed. Hearne, p. 126–9. Barded, clad in
armour as well as his rider.

[61] Hemingford, Hist. Edw. I., ed. Hearne, p. 134.

[62] His system of war is embodied in some monkish Latin verses called
‘The Bruce’s Testament,’ of which the following is an old Scottish

  On fut suld be all Scottis weire,
  Be hyll and moss thaimself to weire,
  Lat wod for wallis be; bow, and spier,
  And battle–axe, their fechting gear.
  That ennymeis do thaim na dreire
  In strait placis gar keip all stoire,
  And birnen the planen land thaim befoire.
  Thanan sall they pass away in haist
  Quhen that thai find nothing bot waist;
  With wyles and wakenen of the nycht,
  And mekil noyse maid on hycht;
  Thanen shall thai turnen with gret affrai
  As thai were chasit with swerd away.
  This is the counsall and intent
  Of gud King Robert’s testament.

[63] Tytler, vol. i.

[64] Rather.

[65] Wyntown, VIII, xv. _v._ 65.

[66] Consigned him to the devil as a traitor.

[67] Promised for his reward.

[68] Fails in obtaining peace.

[69] Taken.

[70] Has ill luck.

[71] Menteith followed so nigh.

[72] Least expected.

[73] Occasion.

[74] Nimmed, taken.

[75] Office.

[76] Strangely.

[77] Sentence he received.

[78] Afterwards.

[79] Alive.

[80] Embowelled him while warm.

[81] Such.

[82] Seized there.

[83] Destroyed where. In many different places.

[84] In memory.

[85] Standards.

[86] Head. Were left (?)

[87] ?

[88] It is not to be feared a traitor shall succeed.

[89] A lad learn (?) to build in peace.

[90] Stow, Edw. I.

[91] It is impossible in English to give the odd effect of the leonine
rhymes. The meaning of these rude lines may be as rudely given thus:

  Behold the proud and cruel king, who like a leopard dread
  In life the people of the Lord did put in woeful stead:
  For which, good friend, along with us unto that place of woe,
  Where friends and devils company, right merrily you go.


  Why did I sin, woe, woe is me? and took no heed or thought.
  Why did I sin, woe, woe is me? all that I loved is nought.
  Why did I sin, woe, woe is me?  my seed upon the shore
  I sowed with toil and sweat, to reap of pains an endless store.

[93] Lib. xii. 13.

[94] Lib. xii. 9.

[95] In the celebrated interview between Solon and Crœsus, the sage
first offended the king by questioning the power of wealth to produce
happiness, and concluded by reading him a long moral lesson, to the
purport, that since no man knew what the morrow might produce, no man
could be called happy until present prosperity was crowned by a happy

[96] Herod, i. 86–88.

[97] “Ci doivent prendre garde cils qui leur fames mainent avec euls en
os, et en batailles, car Daires li rois de Perse, & Antoines, et autre
prince terrien manerent leur fames en lor compaignie en os quant il i
aloient, & en batailles: et pour ce furent desconfit et occis, Daires
par le grant Alexandre, et Antoines par Octavien. Pour ce meismement ne
devroient mener nus princes fames en tex besoignes: car elles ne sont
fors empecchement.” The language is that of the thirteenth century.
Croniques de S. Denys, liv. v. 1.

[98] Arrian, iv. 20.

[99] In Verrem. Act. ii. lib. v. 30.

[100] Plut. in Mar.

[101] Dion, lib. xl.—Cæsar, in his Commentaries, slurs this transaction
over with the mere notice that Vercingetorix was surrendered (viii. 89).

[102] “Valerian for his persecutions was exposed to insult and
reproaches, according to what was spoken to Isaiah, saying, ‘They have
chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.
I also will choose their delusions, and recompense their sins upon
them.’”—_Dionysius of Alexandria, ap. Euseb._, lib. vii. 10.

[103] Euseb., Life of Constantine, lib. iv. 11.

[104] Tamerlane—a tragedy worth reading, to see the notion which Rowe
had of a Tartar chief, and the absurdity produced by treating such
subjects with the sentimental bombast of the heroic romance.

[105] M. de Masson asserts (it is to be taken on his authority, not
on ours) that he knew a lady of the Russian court, in the reign of
Catherine II., who kept a slave who was her perruquier shut up in a
cage in her own chamber. She let him out every day to arrange her
head–dress, and locked him up again with her own hands after the
business of the toilet was over. His box was placed at her bed–head,
and in this fashion he attended her wherever she went. His fare was
bread and water. He passed three years in this captivity, the object of
which was to conceal from all the world that the lady wore a wig. The
close confinement was a punishment for running away from her service;
the meagre diet a measure of revenge, because he could not prevent her
growing older and uglier every day.—_Mémoires Secrets sur la Russie._

[106] Rymer, Fœdera, vol. ii.

[107] Lord Berners’s Froissart, vol. ii. chap. 203.

[108] Froissart.

[109] Hist. de M. Boucicaut.

[110] “Ains cheurent en la gueule de leurs ennemies, si comme est
le fer sur l’enclume.” It is a queer comparison: the only apparent
resemblance is in the thorough beating which they and the iron were
both destined to undergo.

[111] Hist. de M. de Boucicaut; première partie, chaps. xxv. xxvi.

[112] Malcolm, History of Persia.

[113] Il. xxii. 60–76.

[114] vi. 447–461. Sotheby’s Homer.

[115] Weight for weight: to determine the sum which two minæ would
correspond to in value is less easy.

[116] Herod, v. 77; vi. 79.

[117] See the instances of Fidenæ, Liv. iv. 34; Veii, v. 22.—_Carthage.

[118] In Epirus, 150,000 persons are said to have been enslaved by L.
Æmilius Paulus. In Cæsar’s Gallic wars 1,000,000 prisoners were taken
and of course sold. (_Plin. Hist. Nat._ vii. 25.) Another million is
said to have been slain: but these round numbers may be suspected to
be much exaggerated. Upwards of 100,000 Jews, according to Josephus,
were reduced to slavery by Titus. Cicero says of Britain, “It is well
known that there is not a drachm of silver in the island, and no hope
of booty except in slaves; and among them you will hardly find learned
men or musicians.” Ad Att. iv. 16.

[119] It would be uncandid to pass in entire silence over the two
deepest stains perhaps in modern history—the Spanish conquests in
America, and the slave trade.

[120] See, below, the Black Prince’s address to John of France.

[121] Froissart, vol. ii. cap. 142, 145 (138, 141).

[122] Froissart, vol. ii., cap. 146 (142).

[123] We cannot deny this merit at least to what is called, vaguely
enough, the age of chivalry. Few indeed merited the appellation of
Bayard, “sans peur, et sans reproche,” but many were “sans peur,” and
thereby escaped one most fruitful source of “reproche.”

[124] In the contest for the crown of Castile, between Don Pedro and
Henry of Transtamara, the former was supported by the Black Prince, the
latter by the French under Du Guesclin, who had been taken prisoner by
Sir John Chandos.

[125] Froissart, vol. i. chap. 239. Subjoined to the chapter the reader
will find another version of this story, taken from a most amusing
book, entitled ‘Mémoires de Messire Bertrand du Guesclin.’ The passage
from Froissart, which illustrates the same point in a much smaller
compass, seemed better fitted for insertion in the text; but the other
gives such a minute and pleasant representation of manners, that we
cannot altogether omit it; and it is too long for a note.

[126] Lib. iv.

[127] Fr. journée—though the day has not gone, &c.

[128] Lord Berners’s Froissart, vol. i. chap. 168, 169, 173.

[129] This expression will remind the reader of a favourite saying of
the “Good Sir James” Douglas, the companion of Robert Bruce’s dangers,
that “It is better to hear the lark sing, than the mouse cheep:”
meaning that he would never shut himself up in a castle while he could
keep the open field.

[130] Si le gagneroie aincois a filler toutes les filleresses qui en
France sont, que ce que je demourasse plus entre vos mains.

[131] Hist. du Messire Bertrand du Guesclin.

[132] Herod. vii. 35.

[133] Daniel, iv. 24, 25, 27, 29–32.

[134] Herod. iii. 14.

[135] The body of Cromwell was taken from the grave, exposed on a
gibbet, and finally buried under the gallows, and this in the gay and
polished reign of Charles II., who had not even the poor excuse for
this despicable revenge which the Persian king’s unbridled passions may

[136] The modern Siwah.

[137] iii. 21.

[138] Botanic Garden, v. 473.

[139] Apis was a black calf, with a square white spot on its forehead,
the figure of an eagle on its back, a double tuft of hair on its tail,
and the figure of the cantharus, the sacred beetle, under its tongue.
When an animal bearing these marks was found, or manufactured, the
birth of Apis was announced to the people, a temple was built on the
spot, where he was fed for four months, and after various ceremonies he
was finally conveyed to Memphis, where he spent the rest of his life in
a splendid palace, receiving divine honours.

[140] iii. 31.

[141] Preface to Waller’s Poems, Lond. 1711.

[142] A Syrian city; its site is not clearly ascertained. Cambyses
seems to have been at this time on his route home.


  _K. Henry._ Doth any name particular belong
                   Unto the lodging where I first did swoon?

  _Warw._    ‘Tis called Jerusalem, my noble lord.

  _K. Henry._ Laud be to God!—even there my life must end.
                   It hath been prophesied to me many years
                   I should not die, but in Jerusalem,
                   Which vainly I supposed the Holy Land:—
                   But bear me to that chamber; there I’ll lie.
                   In that Jerusalem shall Harry die.

  _King Henry IV._ Part 2, iv. 4.

The ground work of this passage is to be found in Holinshed; and the
same tale is told in Fabyan’s Chronicles, and in Restell’s Pastime of
Pleasure. The latter writers state it without any appearance of doubt.
But Holinshed uses a degree of caution not very common in a chronicler
of that time: “Whether this was true that so he spake, as one that gave
too much credit to foolish prophecies and vain tales, or whether it
was fained, as in such cases it commonly happeneth, we leave it to the
advised reader to judge.” The advised reader will probably hesitate
little in adopting the latter conclusion; especially as the same tale
is told of other persons. See the notes to Shakspeare, in the edition
of 1821. The actors and the scenes differ in the different cases; but
the equivoque arises in all upon the name “Jerusalem.”

[144] Herod, iii. 65.

[145] Loss of sensation or a depraved state of sensation in the
extremities, is a common symptom of madness. Where the former exists,
it is not uncommon for patients to burn themselves dreadfully,
from mere insensibility to the action of fire. The latter is often
manifested by a sort of irritation which leads the sufferer to cut
and lacerate the hands and feet. These facts, with a little allowance
for exaggeration, may do something to explain rather a startling
passage.—See Dr. Conolly on Insanity.

[146] Philo _Περὶ Ἀρετῶν_. sub fin.

[147] Carr’s Northern Summer.

[148] This sketch of Paul’s life is chiefly taken from Masson, Mémoires
Sécrets sur la Russie. Several of the anecdotes rest on Dr. Clarke’s

[149] Hist. of Greece, p. 18.

[150] The Furies. These goddesses were worshipped with mysterious
veneration by the Athenians, who held it an ill omen to call them
by their proper name, and spoke of them as the venerable goddesses
(_σεμνὰι θεὰι_), or the Eumenides, because they had been propitious
(_ἐυμενεῖς_) to Orestes after his acquittal by the court of Areopagus.
This was owing partly to a general dislike of alluding to gloomy
subjects, which led them, among other things, to avoid speaking openly
of death or the dead (hence the phrases _ὁι καμόντες,
ὁι κατοιχόμενοι_, those who are worn out, the departed, &c.); partly
to wishing to propitiate an object of dread by fair words, as the
Highlanders called fairies “men of peace,” especially on a Friday,
when their power was greatest, and the Lowlanders entitled them “good
neighbours,” and the devil himself the “goodman,” keeping reverentially
out of sight his territorial designation.

[151] See Greece, p. 55.


  _Ἐκ τῶνἀλιτηρίων σἐ φημὶγ εγονέναι τῶν τῆν θεοῦ._

  _Ιππ. 445._

[153] Gyges. Candaules, whom he murdered, was one of the Heraclidæ, or
descendants of Hercules. The story is told in Herodotus, i. 8.

[154] Herod, i. 91.

[155] Hesiod., Theog., 220.

[156] Æsch., Sept. c. Theb., 832, 951. Eurip., Phœnissæ, 1518.

[157] Some modern historical instances of a similar superstitious
feeling are given lower down in the text. Its nature, however, cannot
be better illustrated than by reference to the legend attaching to the
family of Redgauntlet in the novel of that name. The downfall of the
house of Ravenswood, in the admirable tale of the Bride of Lammermoor,
though foretold and fated, is not sufficiently identified with the
story of the Mermaid’s Well, to be quoted on this occasion. If it were
so, that work, from the severe grandeur of its serious parts, and the
singularly impressive way in which all events, and all agency, human
and supernatural, combine from the outset to bring about a catastrophe,
foreseen and prophesied, but not the less inevitable, would offer
to the English reader an excellent example of the spirit of the
superstitions and tragedies here alluded to, though widely differing
from them in form.

[158] Potter’s Æschylus: Agam., 1157; ed. Blomf. We give the
translation as we find it, and are not answerable for the rendering of
_Κῶμος ... ξυγγόνων Ἐρινύων_.

[159] Symmons’ Agamemnon; 1414, ed. Blomf.

[160] A similar belief existed in England with respect to the
alienations of church property at the Reformation, of which the
following is a remarkable instance.

Sir Walter Raleigh was gifted by Queen Elizabeth with the lands of
Sherborne in Dorsetshire, which had been bequeathed by Osmund, a
Norman knight, to the see of Canterbury, with a heavy denunciation
against any rash or profane person who should attempt to wrest them
from the church. This anathema was, in the opinion of the vulgar,
first accomplished in the person of the Protector Somerset, to whom,
after sundry vicissitudes, the property belonged. This nobleman was
hunting in the woods of Sherborne when his presence was required by
Edward the Sixth, and he was shortly afterwards committed to the Tower,
and subsequently beheaded. The forfeited estate then lapsed to the
See of Salisbury until the reign of Elizabeth, to whom it was made
over by the bishop, at the instigation of Raleigh, who was blamed,
and apparently with justice, for having displayed on this occasion a
grasping and even dishonourable spirit. So strong were the religious
prejudices of the day, that even the discerning Sir John Harrington
attributed to a judgment from heaven a trifling accident which occurred
to Raleigh while surveying the demesne which he coveted. Casting his
eyes upon it, according to the notion of that writer, as Ahab did upon
Naboth’s vineyard, and, in the course of a journey from Plymouth to
the coast, discussing at the same time the advantages of the desired
possession, Sir Walter’s horse fell, and the face of the rider, then,
as the relater observes, “thought to be a very good one,” was buried
in the ground. After Raleigh’s fall the estate was seized by James the
First, who wished to bestow it on his favourite, Car, Earl of Somerset;
but Prince Henry interfered, and obtained possession, intending to
restore it to the owner. The prince’s death, however, frustrated his
intentions, and left Sherborne still in the favourite’s hands. The
premature death of this promising youth was thought by the vulgar again
to corroborate the old prophecy. To Carew, the youngest son, and the
injured survivor of Sir Walter, the subsequent attainder of Car, and
the forfeiture of his estates upon his committal to the Tower, appeared
to confirm the ill fortune attendant upon the owners of Sherborne; and
the misfortunes which afterwards befell the house of Stuart were also
considered by him to corroborate the old presage. On the confiscation
of Car’s estates, Digby, Earl of Bristol, obtained Sherborne from the
king, and in his family it now remains.—_Life of Sir W. Raleigh, by
Mrs. Thomson_, chap. vi.

[161] Stewart, Sketches of Highlanders, part i. sect. xii.

[162] The proper meaning of this word will form the subject of a future
article; meanwhile it is sufficient to observe, that it will never be
employed here to denote specifically a blood–thirsty and oppressive
ruler, but merely one who has raised himself to a degree of power
unauthorised by the constitution of his country.

[163] Schol. in Nub. Meurs. Pisistratus. This story is told of Cimon,
the father of Miltiades, instead of Megacles, by Herodotus, vi. 103.

[164] Or Pallas, the Latin Minerva.

[165] Herod. i. 60.

[166] Plut. vit. Solon.

[167] Meursius, Pisistratus.

[168] Meurs. Pisistratus.

[169] He is accused, however, of having interpolated several lines to
gratify Athenian vanity, and one with a deeper view; that, namely,
which says of Ajax, that he ranged his own alongside of the Athenian
ships (Il. ii. 558) with the purpose of strengthening Athens’ claim to
Salamis, then hotly contested by Megara. The Megarian versions said, on
the other hand, that Ajax led ships from Salamis, and from Polichne,
Nisæa, and other towns of Megaris. Both this trick, and the credit
of collecting Homer’s poems, are ascribed by other authors to Solon.
Some eminent modern scholars have doubted whether this arrangement and
revision ever took place.—See Knight, Proleg. ad Hom. § 4, 5.

[170] Much doubt has arisen which of these was the elder. Thucydides
says, contrary to the general opinion, that it was Hippias, and
he seems to be corroborated by Herodotus; but it is a question of
no importance, and not worth discussion. Pisistratus left a third
legitimate son, named Thessalus, of whom scarce any mention is made in
history, and a natural son, Hegesistratus, established by his father as
tyrant of Sigeum, on the Hellespont.

[171] Statues of Hermes, the Latin Mercury, consisting of a square
pillar surmounted by a head of the god.

[172] A space in the city, surrounded by public buildings, in which the
people usually held their meetings.

[173] Ad. Att. lib. ix. 10.

[174] In modern language this would be the town–hall. There was a
table kept here for the Prytanes (the officers presiding in the senate
for the time being), and to have the right of eating here (_σίτησις
ἐν Πρυτανείῳ_) was one of the greatest honours that his country could
bestow on an Athenian.

[175] Allusions to the affection with which these patriots were
regarded, both generally and with reference to this custom, are
frequent in Aristophanes.—See _Ἱππ_ 786, _Ἀχαρν_. 980, _Σφ_. 1225.

[176] Not the Hesperides, but an island called Achilleia, or Leuce,
at the mouth of the Danube, consecrated to Achilles, where his tomb
was visible. The hero, however, must have been there in proper person,
since he espoused either Helen or Iphigenia, and had a son by her.
Here he dwelt in perpetual youth, with Diomed, the Ajaxes, and other
heroes. Many mythological tales are related concerning the island.
Birds swept and sprinkled the temple of Achilles with water from their
wings: passing vessels often heard the sound of sweet yet awe–inspiring
music; others distinguished the din of arms and horses and the shouts
of battle. If vessels anchored for the night off the island, Achilles
and Helen would come on board, drink with the sailors, and sing them
the verses of Homer, with particulars of their personal adventures,
even of the most delicate description. Once a man who ventured to sleep
upon the island was awoke by Achilles, and taken home to sup with him,
when the hero played the lyre, and Patroclus served wine: Thetis and
other gods were there. Many other stories, equally amusing and no less
worthy of credit, are related concerning this wonderful place.—_Bayle,
art. Achilleia._

[177] Bland, Anthology

[178] See Herod. iv. 137, for the change in policy arising from such a
change in constitution.

[179] _Βασιλεὺς._ The king, simply and by pre–eminence,—the title by
which the Persian monarch was universally known in Greece.

[180] Life of Lorenzo de’ Medici, chap. i.

[181] Sismondi, chap. xc.

[182] Upon any emergency, real or pretended, it was usual for the
magistrates to convene the citizens, and procure the appointment of a
_balia_, or extraordinary council, which possessed the absolute power
of a Roman dictator.

[183] It would have been more agreeable to the plan of this book to
translate from the original accounts of Machiavelli, or Politiano, who
was an eye–witness of the conspiracy; but their accounts are long and
minute, not to say tedious, and would require much condensation; and
we gladly avail ourselves of the brief and spirited narrative of Mr.

[184] “Conspiring against one prince,” says Machiavelli, “is a
doubtful and dangerous undertaking; but to conspire against two at
the same time must be either downright folly or madness:” and he
enforces his principle by the examples of the Pazzi and of Harmodius
and Aristogiton. “Pelopidas,” he adds, “had ten tyrants instead of
two to deal with:” it would be very dangerous, however, for any man
to build on the success of this conspiracy, which, indeed, was almost
miraculous, and is mentioned by all writers who speak of it, as not
only a rare, but almost unexampled event.—_Political Discourses_, book
iii. chap. 6.

[185] Machiavelli has drawn a shrewd caution to conspirators from the
failure of the attack upon Lorenzo. “It is necessary, in undertakings
of this kind, to make use of men that have been sufficiently hardened
and tried, and to trust no others, how courageous soever they may
be accounted: for no man can answer even for his own resolution, if
he have not thoroughly proved it before; for the confusion he must
naturally be in at such a time may either make him drop the dagger
out of his hand, or say something which may have the same effect.
Lucilla, sister to Commodus, having spirited up Quintianus to kill her
brother, he waited for him as he came to the amphitheatre, and stepping
up towards him with a drawn dagger in his hand, told him ‘the senate
had sent him that:’ upon which he was immediately seized before he
got near enough to stab him. Antonio de Volterra being fixed upon to
kill Lorenzo de’ Medici, cried out, as he advanced to kill him, ‘Ha!
traitor!’ which proved the preservation of Lorenzo, and the ruin of the
conspiracy.”—_Political Discourses_, b. iii. 6.

[186] The family arms of the Medici were six golden balls (palle
d’oro). They asserted that this bearing was derived from the
impressions left on the shield of one of their ancestors by a gigantic
Saracen, who wielded a mace with six iron globes hung from it. Their
detractors said that they were the arms of an apothecary, from whom
the family derived the name of Medici, and that the golden balls were
nothing better than gilded pills.

[187] Herod. iii. 134.—The style of Herodotus is highly dramatic, and
we by no means intend to say that such a conversation took place,
though there are circumstances attendant on the narrative which may
satisfactorily answer the natural question, how came it to be reported
and known? But whether we believe it to be genuine or not, it embodies
a plausible reason for an expedition which seems at variance with
the character of Darius, and probably contains the grounds on which
Herodotus accounted for it.

[188] They are said by Herodotus to have consisted of 700,000 men,
horse and foot; the fleet of 600 ships.

[189] Some curious particulars remain concerning the Getæ, whom he
encountered on his march. They believed in the immortality of the soul,
as taught them by their lawgiver Zalmoxis, or as the name is otherwise
read, Zamolxis, and in, a future state of happiness. Every fifth year
they sent a messenger to inform Zalmoxis, whom they had deified, of
their wants, in this manner. Choosing a man by lot, they first give him
full instructions as to the purport of his embassy, and then certain
men, taking him by the hands and feet, toss him in the air, others
hold three spears placed so that he might fall upon them. If he die
immediately, Zalmoxis is thought to be favourably disposed; if not,
they call the messenger a scoundrel, and proceed to make trial of
somebody else.

[190] The reader may compare the following passage of Froissart, chap.
xviii. The English army were in pursuit of the Scots, then employed in
ravaging Northumberland under the Earl of Douglas, who was strongly
posted upon a hill side, with a deep and rocky river in his front. “And
there were harauldis of armes sent to the Scottis gyvyng them knowledge
if that they would come and passe the ryver to fight with them in the
playne felde, they wolde draw backe fro the ryver, and gyve theym
sufficient place to arraynge theyr batelles, eyther the same day, or
els the next, as they wolde chuse them selfe, or els to lette them do
lyke wyse, and they wolde come over to them. And whan the Scottis harde
this they toke counsell among theymselfe: and anon they answered the
harauldis, how they wolde do nother the one nor the other, and said,
syrs, your kyng and his lordis se well how we be here in this realme,
and have burnt and wasted the countrey as we have passed through, and
if they be displeased therwith, lette them amend it whan they wyll, for
here we wyll abide, as long as it shall please us.” Challenges of this
sort were often given in the days of chivalry, and not unfrequently

[191] Herod. lib. iv. c. 83–142.

[192] This seems to be not a name, but a title of office, belonging to
the commander–in–chief of the Parthian army, as the appellation Brennus
is supposed to have denoted a similar office among the Gauls.

[193] This description will bring to the reader’s recollection the
skill of our own ancestors in the use of this destructive weapon,
which mainly contributed to many of their most celebrated victories.
The following extract relates to the battle of Crecy. “Ther were of
the genowayes(a) crosbowes about a fiftene thousand, but they were
so wery of goying a fote that day, a six leages, armed with their
crosbowes, that they sayde to their constables, we be nat well ordred
to fyght this day, for we be nat in the case to do any grete dede of
arms, we have more nede of rest:—these wordes came to the erle of
Alencon, who sayd, a man is well at ease to be charged with such a
sort of raskalles, to be faynt, and fayle nowe at most nede.... When
the genowayes were assembled toguyder, and beganne to approche, they
made a grete leape, and crye, to abasshe thenglysshemen, but they stode
styll, and styredde nat for all that: than the genowayes agayne the
second tyme made another leape, and a fell crye, and stepped forward
a lyttell, and thenglysshemen remeued nat one fote: thirdly agayne
they leapt, and cryed, and went forth tyll they came within shotte;
than they shotte feersly with their crosbowes; than thenglysshe
archers stept forth one pase, and lette fly their arowes so holly and
so thycke, that it seemed snow: when the genowayes felte the arowes
persynge through heedes, armes, and brestes, many of them cast downe
their crosbowes, and dyde cut their strings, and retourned dyscomfited.
When the French kynge sawe them flye away, he sayd, slee these
raskalles, for they shall let and trouble us without reason: than ye
shulde have seen the men at armes dasshe in amonge them, and kylled a
grete nombre of them: and ever styll the englysshemen shot whereas they
saw thickest preace; the sharp arowes ranne into the men of armes, and
into their horses, and many fell, horse and men, amonge the genowayes:
and whan they were downe, they coulde nat relyve again, the preace was
so thicke that one overthrewe another.”—_Froissart_, chap. 130. So at
the battle of Homildoun, Percy wished to charge the Scots, who were
drawn up upon a hill, but the Earl of March retained him, and bid him
open their ranks by archery. “Then the English archers marching against
the Scots, _stitched them together_ with arrows, and made them bristle
like a hedgehog, as it were with thorns and prickles; the hands and
arms of the Scots they nailed to their own lances, so that with that
sharp shower of arrows some they overthrew, others they wounded, and
very many they slew. Upon which the valiant Sir John Swinton exclaimed,
as with the voice of a herald, ‘My noble fellow–soldiers, what has
bewitched you, that you give not way to your wonted gallantry: that
you rush not to the mellay, hand to hand, nor pluck up heart like men,
to attack those who would slaughter you with arrows, like hinds in
a park. Let such as will go down with me, and in God’s name we will
break into the enemy and so either come off with life, or else fall
knightly with honour.’”—(_Fordun, Scotichr._ lib. xv. cap. 14.) One
manuscript adds, “I have never heard nor read that the English in fair
field beat an equal number of Scots by charge of lance, but very often
by the thunder–shower (_fulminatione_) of their arrows. Let the latter
therefore beware of waiting the flight of archery, but hasten to close
combat, even as Sir John Swinton then did.” This is the story which Sir
Walter Scott has worked up into his poem of Halidon Hill.

                                          (a) Genoese.

[194] In European warfare, overthrown knights were often unable to
rise from the incumbrance of their ponderous defences, and not very
unfrequently suffocated by dust, heat, and want of air.

[195] Examples of a similar high sense of honour might be multiplied
from the history of chivalry. Once during his crusade Richard
Cœur–de–Lion saw a party of Templars surrounded and overmatched by
Saracens, and being unarmed, sent some of his barons to support the
Christians until he himself should be ready for combat. “Meanwhile an
overpowering force of the enemy came up, and when he arrived at the
field, the danger appeared so imminent, that he was entreated not to
hazard his own person in the unequal contest. The king replied, his
colour changing with his boiling blood, ‘Sith I have sent dear comrades
to battle with a promise of following to assist them, if, as I have
engaged, I do not defend them with all my strength, but being absent,
and wanting, which Heaven forbid, they should meet death, I will never
again usurp the name of king.’ So with no more words, rushing into the
midst of the Turks like a thunderbolt, he pierced through, and cut them
down and dispersed them, and then with many prisoners and his friends
delivered, he returned to the camp.”—(_Broad Stone of Honour_, book iv.
p. 174.)—So also the Marquis de Villena, a distinguished warrior of the
court of Ferdinand of Arragon, being asked by Queen Isabella why he
had exposed his own life to save a trusty servant nearly overpowered
by odds, replied, “Should I not peril one life to serve him, who would
have adventured three, had he possessed them, for me?”

[196] So Xenophon says, in the Anabasis, that the Persians never
encamped less than 60 stadia (6 or 7 miles) from the Greeks. “The
Persian army is a bad thing by night. For their horses are tethered,
and shackled also for the most part, that they may not run away if they
get loose: and if there be any disturbance, the Persian has to saddle
and bridle his horse, and mount him loaded with his armour, which is
all difficult by night, especially in any tumult. For these reasons
they encamped away from the Grecians.”

[197] North’s Plutarch; Life of Crassus. This statement of numbers,
though large, is not incredible, since the army originally consisted of
seven legions, besides 4000 horse and as many light–armed infantry; and
few appear to have effected their escape.

[198] Nominally about 1_l._ 13_s._; but calculations of this sort
convey little instruction, unless the relative value of the precious
metals, then and now, were known.

[199] North’s Plutarch; Life of Antony.

[200] A city founded by the Parthians as the capital of their empire,
on the eastern bank of the Tigris, nearly opposite to Seleucia, which
was built shortly after the death of Alexander by Seleucus Nicator, and
intended as the capital of the East. The history of Julian’s campaign
is full of interest, and will repay the perusal. It has, however,
no particular connexion with the subject of this chapter, which
has already reached length sufficient to preclude the introduction
of extraneous matter, and we therefore are compelled to take up
the narrative of Julian’s proceedings only at the point where his
misfortunes commenced.

[201] At the siege of Nisibis, in the invasion of Mesopotamia above
mentioned, the elephants being brought up to the attack of a breach,
became unmanageable from pain and terror, and did much damage to the
assaulting force.

[202] Lunari acie, siuuatisque lateribus occursuros hosti manipulos

[203] Ctesiphon—see note, p. 214. Sogdiana, the northern province of
the Parthian empire, adjoining Scythia.

[204] Arachosia, now Arakhaj, one of the eastern provinces of Persia,
separated by Candahar (Candaor) from the Indus. Margiana, a province
of Parthia, south of the Oxus, and rather between that river and the
Caspian Sea. Iberia lies between the Caspian and Black seas, south of
Caucasus. Atropatia is south of Iberia, separated from Armenia by the
Araxes. Adiabene is the western part of Babylonia. The poet proceeds
southward through Media to Susiana, the province of Susa, on the lowest
part of the eastern bank of the Tigris, to Balsora, a celebrated city
and emporium of the East; having completed the circuit of the Parthian
empire, except the deserts forming its southern boundary, between the
Persian Gulf and Arachosia, where he began.

[205] Paradise Regained, iii. 300–344.

[206] The night before Julian consented to accept the imperial purple
at the hands of his rebellious army, he saw in a vision (so at least he
told his friends) one with the attributes of the tutelary genius of the
empire. The phantom complained that hitherto his desire to serve the
sleeper had been, frustrated, and warned him to accept the proffered
dignity as he valued the continuance of his care and protection.

[207] Ammianus Marcellinus, lib. xxv. 2.

[208] Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, was remarkable for the favourable
issue of all his undertakings. Amasis, king of Egypt, wrote thus to
him: “It is pleasant to hear of the good fortune of a friend and
connexion; but your extraordinary prosperity pleases not me, knowing,
as I do, that the Deity is envious: and I would have those for whom
I am interested meet both with success and failure, and think a
chequered life better than unclouded fortune. For I have never heard
of any man who, being prosperous in all things, has not at last
perished miserably, root and branch. Be persuaded, then, and take
this precaution against your good fortune; select whatever you have
most valuable, and would most regret to lose, and so bestow this that
it shall never come to man again; and if, in future, good and evil
fortune are not blended, remedy it in the manner which I now propose.”
Polycrates took the advice and cast into the sea an engraved gem of
extraordinary value; and within a few days a fish was presented to him
within which the gem was found. Amasis, hearing of it, renounced all
friendship and connexion with him, as a man predestined to an evil
fate. The event must have strongly confirmed the notion from which the
advice proceeded; for Polycrates having given offence to the satrap
of Sardis, or, as is more likely, being considered too powerful and
dangerous a neighbour to remain on the Ionian coast, was entrapped into
that nobleman’s power, and crucified by him.—Herod. iii. 40.

[209] Scott, vol. vii. p. 215.

[210] Segur, liv. vi. chap. 6.

[211] Scott, p. 301.

[212] It is curious that Kutusoff and Napoleon were actually retreating
from Malo–Yarowslavitch, the scene of the battle, at the same moment;
the one fearing another attack, the other despairing of success in
forcing the position.

[213] Segur, ix. 11

[214] During the whole retreat only one corps grounded arms to the
enemy, and that not until it was surrounded and cut off from the main
army, and reduced to extremity. This occurred just before the passage
of the Beresina.

[215] Segur, xi. 3

[216] Segur, xi. 5.

[217] To get at the exact truth is no easy matter, even where the
means of ascertaining it seem most ample. General Gourgaud, who also
served in 1812, has published an elaborate criticism of the Comte de
Segur’s work, in which he maintains that the difficulties and losses
of the passage of the Beresina have been excessively exaggerated,—that
the French had 250 guns, which commanded the opposite bank, and
45,000 men under arms,—and that of women and children, whom Segur is
always fond of introducing, there were next to none. Throughout the
narrative we have followed Segur’s account, as generally considered
most authoritative, though he seems fond of writing for effect, and his
accounts, as far as disparity of numbers in this latter part of the
retreat is concerned, are somewhat startling.

[218] Segur, xii. 2.

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