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Title: Historical Parallels, vol 3 (of 3)
Author: Malkin, Arthur Thomas
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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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
 the volume where they belong. A full version of index has been
 mantained at the end of third volume.



                           IN THREE VOLUMES.

                               VOL. III.

                 CHARLES KNIGHT & Co., LUDGATE STREET.






  Siege of Platæa—Numantia—Tyre—Syracuse—Lines of
  Circumvallation—Siege of Jerusalem—Of La  Réole—Effects of the
  invention of gunpowder—Siege  of Ostend—Magdeburg—Character of
  the mercenary troops of the seventeenth century—Siege of
  Zaragoza                                                           5


  Corcyrean sedition—Civil wars of Rome—Jacquerie—Factions of the
  Circus at Constantinople—Massacre of Sept. 2, 1792                78


  Character of Cleon—Blockade and capture of the Lacedæmonians
  at Pylos—Comparison with the capture of Porto Bello by Admiral
  Vernon—Greek comedy—Sketch of the Knights of
  Aristophanes—Subsequent history of Cleon—Account of the Popish
  Plot—Character and history of Titus Oates—Mutilation of
  the Hermæ at Athens                                              121


  Athenian expedition against Sicily—Siege of Syracuse—Retreat
  and destruction of the army—Retreat of  Ney in Russia—Retreat
  of Sir John Hawkwood in Italy                                    171


  Sketch of the interval which elapsed between the defeat in
  Sicily, and the battle of Arginusæ—Battle of
  Arginusæ—Prosecution and death of the Athenian
  Generals—Massacre of the De Witts—End of the Peloponnesian war   198


  History and character of Socrates—Account of his
  death—Prosecution  of John Huss, and Jerome of Prague—Attempt
  to re–establish Prelacy in Scotland—Brown—Guthrie—Reformation
  in England—Account of Rowland Taylor                             218

  INDEX OF VOLUME III.                                             285




  Medal, containing a plan of Ostend                                 5

  Battering Ram, from Pompeii                                       22

  Moveable Towers, from ditto                                       25

  Plan of Zaragoza                                                  63

  Hippodrome of Constantinople                                     113

  Medal struck after Sir E. Godfrey’s murder                       151

  Medal of Titus Oates                                             168

  Prow of an ancient vessel found at Genoa                         198

  Disposition of Athenian fleet at Arginusæ                        201

  Medal struck after the massacre of the De Witts
                                           Obverse                 211
                                           Reverse                 212

  Bust of Socrates                                                 218

  Head of Plato                                                    242

The medals have been engraved from the originals in the British Museum.



[Illustration: Medal struck after the siege of Ostend.]

 Siege of Platæa—Numantia—Tyre—Syracuse—Lines of circumvallation—Siege
 of Jerusalem—Of La Réole—Effects of the invention of Gunpowder—Siege of
 Ostend—Magdeburg—Character of the mercenary troops of the seventeenth
 century—Siege of Zaragoza.

The cautious policy of Pericles, and the plague, combined to render
the two first years of the war barren of incidents. The third campaign
opened more energetically with the siege of Platæa, the old and
faithful ally of Athens. This is the earliest siege of which we have
any full and particular account; and some surprise may be felt at the
rudeness and inefficacy of the means employed in prosecuting it by the
most military nation of Greece. For this, however, all previous history
prepares us. To the early Greeks fortifications of any strength appear
to have presented insuperable obstacles. Not a city of any note can be
mentioned which was taken by fair fighting. Troy was impregnable by
force. Eira was taken in consequence of its being accidentally left
unguarded.[1] Ithome held out for ten years, and at last obtained
honourable terms of surrender. And when Cyrus marched against Babylon,
the inhabitants, trusting in their walls and their magazines, “made
no account at all of being besieged; but Cyrus became greatly puzzled
what to do, having spent much time there and made no progress at
all.”[2] The stratagem by which he took it at last is well known: he
laid dry the bed of the Euphrates, and introduced a body of troops
through the deserted channel; yet danger, even from this quarter, had
been foreseen and guarded against, if proper caution had been used.
Each side of the river was lined with walls, and gates were placed at
the end of the streets which led down to the water side; so that, as
Herodotus himself remarks, if the Persians had been on their guard the
attempt might have been defeated by merely closing the gates, and the
assailants might have been cut off entirely by missile weapons. But, to
return to Platæa; the Spartans were notoriously unskilled, even among
the Greeks, in this branch of warfare. Military engines they had none;
a want arising probably from their national poverty; for the ram was
known, and was employed, some say invented, by Pericles, at the siege
of Samos, some years before the Peloponnesian war broke out. It is
remarkable that from this time downwards to the invention of gunpowder,
no material discovery was made in this branch of the military art,
except the introduction of moving towers. Lines of circumvallation, as
they were the earliest, continued to be the surest means of overcoming
the pertinacious resistance of stone and mortar. Such was the case
even at Rome, after the vast influx of wealth from conquered provinces
had facilitated the construction of the largest and most expensive
machines; and the vast scale upon which those temporary enclosures were
completed, exhibits most strikingly the laboriousness of the Roman
legionaries. This, however, is foreign to our present subject. If the
reader has any curiosity respecting these works, he will find some
remarkable ones described in Cæsar’s Commentaries.[3]

Just before war broke out between Athens and Sparta, the Thebans,
always jealous of Athens, and more especially envious of its strict
connection with Platæa, over which, as the head of the Bœotian
confederacy, they claimed the same undefined but oppressive authority
which was exercised by the Athenians and other leading cities over
their allies, made an attempt to gain possession of Platæa, in concert
with a party within its walls, consisting of citizens dissatisfied
with the existing government. By the contrivance of the latter, a
body of Theban troops was introduced by night, who without a struggle
became, to all appearance, masters of the town, piled their arms in the
market–place, and invited the inhabitants to place themselves under the
protection of Thebes. But the Athenian party was greatly preponderant,
and discovering the small number of their enemies they took courage
and assaulted them. Almost all the Thebans were made prisoners, and
subsequently put to death, in contravention of a promise of personal
security implied, if not absolutely expressed in words. Immediate
notice of what had occurred was sent to the Athenians, who, considering
this as the commencement of war, removed the women and children, and
all who were unfit for military duty, from Platæa, sending thither
eighty of their own citizens to increase the garrison, and also
probably to guard against any further attempts on the part of the

No disturbance was given to Platæa during the two first years of the
war. At the commencement of the third, Archidamus, the Spartan king
and general, finding that the annual devastation of Attica was of no
service to the Peloponnesian confederacy, and unwilling perhaps to
incur the hazard of entering an infected country, marched to Platæa,
which, in consequence of its exertions in the Persian war, had been
invested by the general consent of Greece with privileges of an almost
sacred character. The nature of these privileges, and the singular
proposal to which they gave rise, will be best understood from the
narration of Thucydides.

“The next summer the Peloponnesians and their confederates came not
into Attica, but turned their arms against Platæa, led by Archidamus,
the son of Zeuxidamus, king of the Lacedæmonians, who, having
pitched his camp, was about to waste the territory thereof. But the
Platæans sent ambassadors presently unto him, with words to this
effect:—’Archidamus, and you Lacedæmonians, you do neither justly,
nor worthy yourselves and ancestors, in making war upon Platæa. For
Pausanias of Lacedæmon, the son of Cleombrotus, having (together
with such Grecians as were content to undergo the danger of the
battle that was fought in this our territory) delivered all Greece
from the slavery of the Persians, when he offered sacrifice in the
market–place of Platæa to Jupiter the deliverer, called together all
the confederates, and granted to the Platæans this privilege: that
their city and territory should be free; that none should make unjust
war against them, nor go about to enslave them; and if any did, the
confederates then present should use their utmost ability to revenge
their quarrel.[4] These privileges your fathers granted us for our
valour and zeal in those dangers. But now do you the clean contrary,
for you join with our greatest enemies, the Thebans, to bring us into
subjection. Therefore calling to witness the gods then sworn by, and
the gods peculiar to your ancestral descent, and our own local gods,
we require you, that you do no damage to the territory of Platæa, nor
violate those oaths; but that you suffer us to enjoy our liberty in
such sort as was allowed us by Pausanias.’[5]

“The Platæans having thus said, Archidamus replied, and said thus:—’Men
of Platæa, if you would do as ye say, you say what is just. For as
Pausanias hath granted to you, so also be you free; and help to set
free the rest, who having been partakers of the same dangers then,
and being comprised in the same oath with yourselves, are now brought
into subjection by the Athenians. And this so great preparation and
war is only for the deliverance of them and others: of which if you
will especially participate, keep your oaths; at least (as we have also
advised you formerly) be quiet, and enjoy your own, in neutrality,
receiving both sides in the way of friendship, neither side in the way
of faction. And these things will content us.’ Thus said Archidamus.
And the ambassadors of Platæa, when they heard him, returned to the
city; and having communicated his answer to the people, brought word
again to Archidamus, ‘That what he had advised was impossible for them
to perform, without leave of the Athenians, in whose keeping were their
wives and children; and that they feared also for the whole city, lest
when the Lacedæmonians were gone the Athenians should come and take
the custody of it out of their hands; or that the Thebans, as being
comprehended in the oath that they would admit both parties, should
again attempt to surprise it.’ But Archidamus, to encourage them,
made this answer: ‘Deliver you unto us Lacedæmonians your city and
your houses; show us the bounds of your territory; give us your trees
by tale, and whatsoever else can be numbered; and depart yourselves,
whither you shall think good, as long as the war lasteth. And when it
shall be ended we will deliver it all unto you again: in the mean time
we will keep these things as deposited, and will cultivate your ground,
and pay you rent for it, as much as shall suffice for your maintenance.’

“Hereupon the ambassadors went again into the city, and having
consulted with the people, made answer: ‘That they would first acquaint
the Athenians with it, and if they would consent they would then accept
the condition; till then they desired a suspension of arms, and not to
have their territory wasted.’ Upon this he granted them so many days’
truce as was requisite for their return, and for so long forbore to
waste their territory. When the Platæan ambassadors were arrived at
Athens, and had advised on the matter with the Athenians, they returned
to the city with this answer: ‘The Athenians say, that neither in
former times, since we where their confederates, did they ever abandon
us to the injury of any, nor will they now neglect us, but give us
their utmost assistance; and they conjure us, by the oath of our
fathers, not to make any alienation touching the league.’

“When the ambassadors had made this report, the Platæans resolved in
their councils not to betray the Athenians, but rather to endure, if
it must be, the wasting of their territory before their eyes, and to
suffer whatsoever misery could befal them; and no more to go forth, but
from the walls to make them this answer: ‘That it was impossible for
them to do as the Lacedæmonians had required.’ When they had answered
so, Archidamus the king first made a protestation to the gods and
heroes of the country, saying thus: ‘All ye gods and heroes, protectors
of the land of Platæa, be witnesses that we neither invade this
territory, wherein our fathers, after their vows unto you, overcame
the Medes, and which you made propitious for the Grecians to fight
in, unjustly now in the beginning, because they have first broken the
league they had sworn; nor what we shall further do will be any injury,
because though we have offered many and reasonable conditions, they
have yet been all refused. Assent ye also to the punishment of the
beginners of injury, and to the revenge of those that bear lawful arms.’

“Having made this protestation to the gods, he made ready his army for
the war. And first having felled trees, he therewith made a palisado
about the town that none might go out. That done, they raised a mound
against the wall, hoping, with so great an army all at work at once,
to have quickly taken it. And, having cut down timber in the mountain
Cithæron, they built a frame of timber and wattled it about on either
side, to serve instead of a wall, to keep the earth from falling too
much away, and cast into it stones and earth, and whatsoever else would
serve to fill it up. Seventy days and nights continually they cast up
the mound, dividing the work between them for rest in such manner, as
some might be carrying, whilst others took their sleep and food. And
they were urged to labour by the Lacedæmonian officers, who commanded
severally the contingents of the allied cities. The Platæans seeing
the mound to rise, made the frame of a wall with wood, which, having
placed on the wall of the city in the place where the mound touched,
they built it within full of bricks, taken from the adjoining houses,
for that purpose demolished; the timbers serving to bind them together,
that the building might not be weakened by the height. The same was
also covered with skins and leather, both to keep the timber from shot
of wildfire and those that wrought from danger. So that the height of
the wall was great on one side, and the mound went up as fast on the
other. The Platæans used also this device; they broke a hole in their
own wall, where the mound joined, and drew the earth from it into the
city. But the Peloponnesians, when they found it out, rammed clay into
cases made of reeds, which they cast into the cavity, with intention
that the mound should not moulder, and be carried away like loose
earth. The Platæans, excluded here, gave over that plot, and digging a
secret mine, which they carried under the mound from within the city
by conjecture, fetched away the earth again, and were a long time
undiscovered; so that the earth being continually carried out below,
it was no use to cast fresh stuff on the mound, which still settled
down into the excavation. Nevertheless, fearing that they should not be
able even thus to hold out, being few against many, they devised this
further; they gave over working at the high wall against the mound, and
beginning at both ends of it, where the wall was low, built another
wall in form of a crescent, inward to the city, that, if the great wall
were taken, this might resist, and put the enemy to make another mound,
in the continuing of which further inwards they should have their
labour over again, and withal should be more exposed on either side to
missile weapons. And at the same time that they were raising the mound,
the Peloponnesians brought to the city their engines of battery; one of
which, by help of the mound, they applied to the high wall, wherewith
they much shook it, and put the Platæans into great fear; and others to
other parts of the wall, which the Platæans broke partly by casting
ropes about them, and partly with great beams, which being hung in long
iron chains by either end upon two other great beams jetting over, and
inclining from above the wall like two horns, they drew up to them in
a horizontal position, and when the engine was about to make a blow
any where, they let go the chains and let the beam fall, which, by the
violence of its descent, broke off the head of the battering–ram.

“After this, the Peloponnesians, seeing their engines availed not, and
thinking it hard to take the city by any present violence, prepared
themselves to draw an enclosure all around it. But first they thought
fit to attempt it by fire, being no great city, and when the wind
should rise, if they could, to burn it; for there was no way they
did not think on, to have gained it without expense and long siege.
Having therefore brought faggots, they cast them from the mound into
the space between it and their new wall, which by so many hands was
quickly filled; and then into as much of the rest of the city as
at that distance they could reach; and throwing amongst them fire,
together with brimstone and pitch, kindled the wood, and raised such
a flame, as the like was never seen before, made by the hand of man.
For it has been known that a forest in the mountains has taken fire[6]
spontaneously from the friction of its boughs in a high wind, and burst
into flames. But this fire was a great one, and the Platæans, that had
escaped other mischiefs, wanted little of being consumed by this; for
there was a large part of the town within which it was impossible to
approach; and if the wind had blown the fire that way (as the enemy
hoped it might) they could never have escaped. It is also reported that
there fell uch rain then, with great thunder, and that the flame was
extinguished and the danger ceased by that.

“Now the Peloponnesians, when they failed likewise of this, retaining a
part of their army, and dismissing the rest, enclosed the city about
with a wall, dividing the circumference thereof to the charge of the
several cities. There was a ditch both within and without it, out of
which they made their bricks; and after it was finished, which was
about the rising of Arcturus,[7] they left a guard for one–half of the
wall (for the other was guarded by the Bœotians), and departed with the
rest of their army, and were dissolved according to their cities. The
Platæans had before this sent their wives and children and all their
unserviceable men to Athens. The rest were besieged, being in number
of the Platæans themselves four hundred, of Athenians eighty, and one
hundred and ten women to dress their meat. These were all when the
siege was first laid, and not more, neither free nor bond, in the city.
In this manner were the Platæans besieged.”[8]

The blockade continued for about a year and a half, during which the
historian does not advert to it. At the end of that time, in the
winter, B. C. 428–7, the garrison, after deliberation, being pressed by
hunger and despairing of any help from Athens, resolved to abandon the
city, and force a passage through the line of circumvallation. Half the
number took alarm at the seeming rashness of the attempt, and declined
to share it; but about two hundred and twenty persisted in their
resolution. We now return to the historian’s narrative:—

“As for the wall of the Peloponnesians, it was thus built; it consisted
of a double circle, one towards Platæa, and another outward, in case of
an assault from Athens. These two walls were distant one from the other
about sixteen feet; and that sixteen feet of space between them was
disposed and built into cabins for the force that kept the works, which
were so joined and continued one to another, that the whole appeared
to be one thick battlements stood a great tower of the same breadth
as the walls, and stretching across them from the inner to the outer
face, so that there was no passage by the side of a tower, but through
the midst of it. And such nights as there happened any storm of rain,
they used to quit the battlements of the wall, and to watch under the
towers, as being not far asunder, and covered beside overhead. Such was
the form of the wall wherein the Peloponnesians kept their watch.

“The Platæans, after they were ready, waiting for a tempestuous night
of wind and rain, and withal moonless, went out of the city, and were
conducted by those men who had proposed the attempt. And first they
passed the ditch that was about the town, and then came up close to
the wall of the enemy, who through the darkness could not see them
coming, nor hear them for the clatter of the storm, which drowned the
noise of their approach. And they came on besides at a good distance
one from the other, that they might not be betrayed by the clashing
of their arms; and were but lightly armed, and not shod but on the
left foot, for the more steadiness in the mud. They came thus to the
battlements in one of the spaces between tower and tower, knowing that
there was now no watch kept there. And first came they that carried
the ladders, and placed them to the wall; then twelve lightly armed,
only with a dagger and a breast–plate, went up, led by Ammeas, the son
of Coræbus, who was the first that mounted; and after him ascended
his followers, to each tower six. To these succeeded others lightly
armed, that carried the darts, for whom they that came after carried
targets at their backs, that they might be the more expedite to get
up, which targets they were to deliver to them when they came to the
enemy. At length, when most of them were ascended, they were heard by
the watchmen that were in the towers; for one of the Platæans, taking
hold of the battlements, threw down a tile, which made a noise in the
fall, and presently there was an alarm, and the army ran to the wall,
for in the dark and stormy night they knew not what the danger was.
And the Platæans that were left in the city came forth withal, and
assaulted the wall of the Peloponnesians on the opposite part to that
where their men went over; so that they were all in a tumult in their
several places, and not any of them that watched durst stir to the aid
of the rest, nor were able to conjecture what had happened. But those
three hundred[9] that were appointed to assist the watch upon all
occasions of need, went without the wall, and made towards the place
of the clamour. They also held up the fires by which they used to make
known the approach of enemies, towards Thebes. But then the Platæans
likewise held out many other fires from the wall of the city, which for
that purpose they had before prepared, to confound the meaning of the
enemy’s signal–fires, and that the Thebans, apprehending the matter
otherwise than it was, might forbear to send help till their men were
over, and had recovered some place of safety.

“In the mean time those Platæans, which having scaled the wall first
and slain the watch, were now masters of both the towers, not only
guarded the passages by standing themselves in the entries, but also
applying ladders from the wall to the towers, and conveying many men
to the top, kept the enemies off with shot both from above and below.
In the mean space the greatest number of them having reared to the
wall many ladders at once, and beaten down the battlements, passed
quite over between the towers, and ever as any of them got to the
other side, they stood still upon the brink of the ditch, and with
arrows and darts kept off those that came along the wall to hinder the
passage of their companions. And when the rest were over, then last of
all, and with much ado, came they also which were in the two towers
down to the ditch. And by this time the three hundred, that were to
assist the watch, came and set upon them, and had lights with them; by
which means the Platæans that were on the further brink of the ditch
discerned them the better from out of the dark, and aimed their arrows
and darts at their most disarmed parts; for, standing in the dark, the
light of the enemy made the Platæans the less discernible: insomuch as
the last of them passed the ditch in time, though with difficulty and
force; for the water in it was frozen over, though not so hard as to
bear, but watery, and such as when the wind is at east rather than at
north; and the snow which fell that night, together with so great a
wind as there was, had very much increased the water, which they waded
through, with scarce their heads above. But yet the greatness of the
storm was the principal means of their escape.

“From the ditch the Platæans in troop took the way towards Thebes,
leaving on the right hand the shrine of the hero Androcrates, both
for that they supposed it would be least suspected that they had
taken the road leading to their enemies; and also because they saw
the Peloponnesians with their lights pursue that way, which, by Mount
Cithæron and the Oakheads, led to Athens; and for six or seven furlongs
the Platæans followed the road to Thebes; then turning off they took
that towards the mountain leading to Erythræ and Hysiæ, and, having
gotten the hills, escaped through to Athens, being two hundred and
twelve persons out of a greater number: for some of them returned
into the city before the rest went over, and one of their archers was
taken upon the ditch without. And so the Peloponnesians gave over the
pursuit, and returned to their places. But the Platæans that were
within the city knowing nothing of the event, and those that turned
back having told them that not a man escaped, as soon as it was day
sent a herald to entreat a truce for the taking up of their dead
bodies; but when they knew the truth, they gave it over. And thus these
men of Platæa passed through the fortification of their enemies, and
were saved.”[10]

A bolder and more fortunate stroke for life and liberty has never
been described. How deep must have been the mortification of those
whose courage failed at the decisive moment, upon learning the
brilliant success of their comrades’ attempt! Dearly did they pay for
disgracing their brave resistance by a single moment of timidity.
Forced at last by famine to yield up the town, which the besiegers
could at any time have taken by assault, but that they had an ulterior
object in wishing to obtain it by surrender, the only terms they
could obtain were, that they should surrender themselves and their
city to the justice of Sparta, so that none but the guilty should be
punished. Commissioners were sent out to try them. The only question
asked was this: Had they done any service to the Lacedæmonians or
their allies in the present war? The Platæans requested that instead
of merely answering this question they might reply at length; and
having obtained it, commissioned two persons to plead their cause.
They set forth the peculiarly hard situation in which this mode of
trial, if such it could be called, placed them; which, setting aside
the justice of their cause, required them to pronounce their own
certain condemnation. They reminded the hearers of their services in
the Persian war, of the privileges and immunities conferred on them
by Pausanias and the Greeks, and the respect due to their territory,
as the repository of the bones of those who fell in the great battle
which for ever relieved Greece from the fear of Persia. They urged,
that when they had sought alliance with Sparta, and protection against
Thebes, the Spartans themselves had rejected their petition, and
referred them to Athens; they suggested skilfully the high reputation
of the Spartans for probity, and dwelt on the disgrace which they
would incur, if, in a cause of such importance, they should commit
injustice. But they pleaded in vain: the character which they ascribed
to the Spartans, if ever deserved, was now deserved no longer, and
their fate was predetermined. The question, Had they done any good to
the Lacedæmonians? was repeated to them one by one; and as it could not
be answered in the affirmative, they were led off to execution to the
number of 200 Platæans and twenty–five Athenians. Nor was this a single
instance of barbarity, for it was the practice of the Spartans to put
their prisoners to death, even the crews of such merchant ships as they
captured; an example too readily followed by their antagonists. One,
and but one, such action may be cited in modern times, the massacre of
the Turkish prisoners at Jaffa, the most hateful, and save one perhaps
the most hated, of the remorseless actions of Napoleon. Yet for this
there is some shadow of excuse, however insufficient to justify the
deed to modern morals, in the broken parole of those who were put to
death. To the Greeks such excuse would have been ample; nay, none such
was required. Humanity has made no small progress, even in the midst
of warfare. The town of Platæa was levelled with the ground by the

Similar was the fate, similar, but even more obstinate and remarkable
was the resistance, of Numantia, the last stronghold of those gallant
and generous Celtiberians, who, after the infamous murder of Viriatus,
upheld the liberties of Spain against Rome. During five successive
years, six Roman officers met with defeats, more or less signal, under
its walls, and peace, twice offered and concluded by the unsuccessful
generals to retrieve their safety, was as often disowned and violated
by the unblushing perfidy of the senate. The circumstances of one of
these treaties are so creditable to the _barbarian_ Spaniards, as they
were called by the Romans, that we will go somewhat out of the way to
relate them.

The highest estimate of the Numantine force falls short of 10,000
men. C. Hostilius Mancinus, consul A. U. 615 (B.C. 139), succeeding
to the command of 30,000 men employed in besieging them, found his
army so dispirited by a long train of reverses, that he judged it
best to retire to some distance from the town. He intended to effect
this secretly by a night march, but the besieged, getting notice of
his design, fell upon the Roman rear, killed 10,000, it is said, and
surrounded the rest in such a manner that escape was hopeless. Anxious
only for peace and independence, they readily accepted the terms
offered by Mancinus as a ransom for his army. What these were does
not appear, but they were sworn to by the consul and chief officers.
Mancinus, on the first rumour of his defeat, was recalled to Rome, and
deputies from Numantia accompanied him, to obtain the ratification of
the treaty. But the haughty senate, as once before in the celebrated
surrender at the Caudine Forks, refused to admit terms humiliating
to the dignity of the republic, though not to profit by the release
of their countrymen. The war was continued; but to satisfy their
notions of equity Mancinus was given up to the Numantines, a voluntary
testimony, to do him justice, to his own good faith in the transaction.
Returning to Spain with his successor, Furius, he was led naked to the
waist, his hands tied behind him, to the gates of Numantia. But the
Numantines refused to take vengeance on an innocent man; saying, that
the breach of the public faith could not be expiated by the death of
one person. Let the senate abide by the treaty, or deliver up those who
have escaped under the shelter of it.

At first perfidy did not seem to prosper. Furius and his successor
Calpurnius Piso made no more progress than their predecessors, and
so high grew the reputation of the besieged for valour, that no one,
Florus says, ever expected to see the back of a Numantine. At last,
A. U. 619, the Romans, weary of the war, and anxious above all things
to bring it to an end, re–elected to the office of consul Scipio
Æmilianus, celebrated as the final conqueror and destroyer of Carthage,
and expressly assigned Spain to him as his province, instead of
suffering the two consuls to draw lots for the choice of provinces, as
was the usual course. Scipio’s first care was to restore discipline
in his army, which he found corrupted by luxury. With this view he
expelled all the idle and profligate followers of the camp; practised
his troops in all military exercises, inured them to exposure and
fatigue, and when he thought the ancient tone of Roman discipline was
restored, led them, not against the formidable Numantines, but against
a neighbouring people. Obtaining a trifling advantage over a party of
the former who had attacked his foragers, he refused to prosecute it,
thinking it enough that the reputed invincibility of the Numantines
was disproved. On this occasion, says Plutarch, the Numantines being
reproached on their return to the city, for retiring before an enemy
whom they had so often beaten, replied, “The Romans might indeed be the
same sheep, but they had gotten a new shepherd.”

In the ensuing winter, his army being increased to 60,000 men, Scipio
determined to invest the town. Regardless of the disproportion of
force, the besieged often offered battle, which he refused, preferring
the slow work of famine to encountering the desperation of veteran
and approved soldiers. With this view he proceeded to draw lines of
circumvallation round the town; and it is said by Appian, that he
was the first general who ever took that method of reducing a place,
the garrison of which did not decline a battle in the open field.
The town was about three miles in compass, and lay on the slope of a
hill, at the foot of which ran the river Durius, now called the Douro.
Around it Scipio traced a double ditch, six miles in circuit, with a
rampart eight feet thick and ten feet high, not including a parapet
strengthened by towers at intervals of 125 feet. The river, where it
intersected the works, was effectually blocked up by chains and booms.
The besieged often endeavoured to check the progress of the Romans, but
the superiority of numbers, aided by restored discipline, was too much
for them.

The blockade had lasted six months, and the Numantines were hard
pressed by famine, before they condescended to inquire whether, if
they surrendered, they would meet with honourable treatment. An
unconditional surrender was required. Urged even to desperation,
they still refused to consign themselves to slavery or mutilation,
for the latter often was the fate of those whose strength and valour
the Romans had found reason to respect. Rather than submit to such a
fate, they consumed their arms and effects, and houses, in one general
conflagration, and dying by the sword, or poison, or fire, left the
victor nothing of Numantia to adorn his triumph but the name.[12]

Such was the unworthy fate of a city which had spared more Roman
soldiers than itself could muster armed men. “Most brave,” says the
historian, “and, in my opinion, most happy in its very misfortunes!
It asserted faithfully the cause of its allies; alone it resisted,
for how long a time, a nation armed with the strength of the whole
world.”[13] It is an easy thing to write rhetorical flourishes, and
very often mischievous as well as easy. Had Florus ever undergone one
tithe of the sufferings inflicted on the miserable Numantines, we might
possibly not have heard of their supreme felicity. It might have done
him some good by quickening his moral sense, and might have prevented
his beginning the next chapter with the assertion, that “hitherto the
Roman people was excellent, pious, holy.” Verily, such history as this
is a profitable study!

[Illustration: Battering–ram, combined with tower, from Pompeii, vol.
i. p. 78.]

In reading of such sieges as these, one of the first things which
strikes a reader not familiar with ancient warfare, is the extreme
rudeness of the methods employed, and the vast expense of time and
labour; yet, compared with earlier times, even the siege of Platæa is
of no extraordinary duration. Not to go back to the ten–year sieges of
Troy and Eira, the Messenians in Ithome held out against the Spartans
during nine years; and, in the Peloponnesian war itself, Potidæa
resisted for a still longer period than Platæa: such was the patience
of a besieging army in waiting for the slow operation of hunger, or for
some fortunate chance which, as at Eira, might give possession of the
town at an unguarded moment. Before the battering–ram was invented,
force could avail little against solid walls; and men soon found out,
with Wamba, in Ivanhoe, that their hands were little fitted to make
mammocks of stone and mortar. A well–conducted escalade might succeed;
a skilful stratagem might deceive the vigilance of the garrison; an
ingenious general might devise some method of attack which should
render walls useless, as in the attempt to burn out the Platæans, and
might derive some advantage from natural facilities, or even from
natural obstacles, so as to convert what the besieged most trusted in
into the means of their destruction; but to overthrow or pass the walls
by violence was commonly beyond his power. But the introduction of the
ram worked a material change in the relative strength of the besiegers
and besieged, for few walls could be found strong enough to bear the
repeated application of its powerful shocks. Next in importance to the
ram were those huge moving towers which overtopped walls, and were
provided with drawbridges, by means of which, the battlements being
previously cleared of their defenders by missile weapons from above, a
body of troops might at once be thrown upon them.

[Illustration: Moveable towers, from Pompeii, vol. i. p. 80.]

No material alteration in the methods of attack took place till the
discovery of gunpowder gave force enough to projectiles to batter down
the strongest walls, without exposing men and machinery to the hazard
of close approach. The only improvements which did take place consisted
in supplying means by which the assailants might approach with less
danger to the foot of the walls, and there apply the powerful ram, or,
in some instances, resort to mining.

In illustration of these remarks we may notice, very shortly, two
of the most remarkable sieges in ancient history, those of Tyre and
Syracuse, both resolutely sustained, both finally successful, both
carried on by rich and powerful nations who commanded every thing
that the best skill of the engineer, or the labour of numbers, could
effect. The first was undertaken by Alexander soon after the battle
of Issus, B.C. 333. From past ages the Phœnicians had been celebrated
among Asiatics for their maritime skill, and Tyre was the most powerful
of the Phœnician cities. Trusting in their naval strength to obviate
blockade and famine, and in the height of their walls and strength
of their situation to repel violence, the Tyrians refused admission
to Alexander, remaining faithful to their engagements with Persia.
Too weak at sea to assault the walls from his fleet, Alexander had no
resource but to carry out a mole to the island. Near the walls there
were three fathoms of water, which shoaled gradually to the shore. The
mole was built of stone, heaped up, we may suppose, of rough uncemented
blocks, like the Plymouth breakwater, and strengthened with piles; and
the top was constructed entirely, or in part, of wood. At first it
proceeded with despatch, but more slowly and more difficultly as it
approached the walls, from which the besieged annoyed the workmen with
missiles, and, at the same time, constantly harassed them from the sea.
To protect themselves from these attacks the Macedonians built on the
verge of the mole two high towers, armed with engines, and covered with
raw hides as defence against darts armed with fire. These the Tyrians
destroyed by a peculiarly constructed fire–ship. Having filled a large
transport with dry twigs and combustible matter, they fixed two masts
in the prow, heaped faggots high around them, and added pitch, sulphur,
and every thing that was proper to feed the flames. To each mast they
fastened two yard–arms, from the ends of which two cauldrons were
suspended, filled with combustibles. The ballast they moved entirely to
the stern, to raise her head as high out of the water as possible. Thus
prepared, they took advantage of a favourable wind to run her up on
the mole, and set fire to her, the crew escaping by swimming; and both
mole and towers were speedily involved in the conflagration. Meanwhile
the Tyrians, from ships and boats, assisted in the ruin, destroyed the
piles, and burnt those engines which would otherwise have escaped the
flames. The work therefore had to be recommenced, and it was rebuilt on
a larger scale.[14]

While this labour was proceeding, Alexander’s fleet was reinforced in
consequence of the submission of the Cypriots and Sidonians, to an
extent which enabled him to command the sea, and compelled the Tyrians
to block up the mouths of their harbours. Numerous mechanics were
employed in constructing military engines; some of which were placed
on board the largest ships of the fleet, and the rest were mounted
on the mole. The Tyrians, still to have the advantage of height,
built wooden towers upon their walls facing the mole. This would seem
scarcely necessary if we credit Arrian’s assertion, that the city
wall in that part was 150 feet high;[15] but it gives us a scale for
measuring the altitude of Alexander’s towers, which we may assume,
from this precaution, to have been as great or greater. On the side to
the sea they cast fiery darts into the attacking ships, and showers of
stones, which not only did much harm in their fall, but raised a bank
which made it impossible to get close up to the walls. The Macedonians
therefore were obliged to clear away these impediments; a work in
itself of difficulty and labour, increased by the resolution of the
Tyrians, who openly, by sending armed ships, and secretly, by means of
divers, cut adrift from their moorings the vessels employed on this
service. The Macedonians frustrated this method of defence by using
chains instead of cables for mooring, and succeeded at last in clearing
away the bank, and getting access to the wall. On the north side,
and that next the mole, it resisted their efforts; but a breach was
effected on the south side by battering from the ships, and an assault
was made, but without success. On the third day afterwards, the breach
being enlarged, a second assault was made under Alexander in person,
and the town was carried. Eight thousand Tyrians were slain, and thirty
thousand persons, natives and strangers, are said to have been sold for

The most remarkable feature of this siege is the battering in breach
from the shipping, which would seem a most unstable base for the
cumbrous and weighty engines which must have been used. It may be
wished that Arrian had been more explicit on this subject, but he has
given no explanation of the means employed. Quintus Curtius relates
far greater wonders, and in the same proportion is less worthy of
belief than the plain and unassuming statement of Arrian, which we have

The siege of Syracuse, undertaken by the Romans under command of
Marcus Claudius Marcellus, B.C. 213, is rendered most remarkable by
the interposition of the celebrated geometrician Archimedes. Many
extraordinary stories are told of the wonderful things done by him,
which, if they rested only on the authority of Plutarch, and other
compilers of stories, it would be the natural and simple course to
reject; but some of the most singular are affirmed by Polybius, almost
a contemporary, well skilled in war, and of undoubted credit for
honesty and discernment; and one point, of which Polybius makes no
mention, has been ascertained to be practicable by modern experiment.
It is to be regretted that but a fragment of his account remains.

Syracuse was divided into five districts, the little island of Ortygia,
Acradina, Tycha, Neapolis, and Epipolæ. Marcellus directed his attack
against Acradina, which adjoined the sea, with fifty quinqueremes, or
vessels with five banks of oars, well filled with soldiers armed with
all kinds of missile weapons to clear the walls. He had also eight
ships fitted out in a peculiar way with machines called _sambucæ_,
from some fancied resemblance to a harp. They where thus prepared: two
ships were lashed together, the oars being taken from the two adjoining
sides, so as to form, as it were, one large double–keeled vessel,
affording a broad and stable base. A ladder was then made, four feet
broad, of the necessary height, protected at the sides and above with
gratings and hides, so as to form a sort of covered way to the very
summit of the walls. It was then so placed, the foot at the stern,
the head projecting beyond the prow, that it could be raised by ropes
run through pulleys at the mast–heads. At the top was a platform large
enough to contain four men, with high sides which turned on hinges, and
which being let down served as bridges to connect the ladder with the
walls of the besieged town.

At the request of Hiero, king of Syracuse, Archimedes had in past
years constructed a great number of machines for casting stones and
darts; with which the walls were so well supplied, that the Romans were
defeated in every attempt to approach: Marcellus ran his ships by night
beneath the walls, hoping to be within the range of these destructive
engines. Here, however, he was anticipated, for Archimedes had hollowed
chambers in the walls themselves, with narrow openings, like the
embrasures of a Gothic castle, from which archery, and the smaller
sorts of missile engines, were directed against the Roman ships with
destructive effect. Against the sambucæ he had contrived machines, from
which long beams or yards projected, when in use, far beyond the walls.
These were heavily weighted with stone or metal to the extent of not
less than ten talents, or 1250 pounds. A rapid circular motion being
then given to the beam by machinery within the walls, this weighted
lever was dashed against the ladder with such force as generally to
break it, while the ship itself was exposed to considerable danger.
This story not being good enough for Plutarch, he has told us, that
when the sambuca was a good way off the walls, a stone ten talents
weight was thrown into it, and then a second, and third, which
destroyed the vessel; and in consequence considerable ridicule has
been thrown on the tale. As told by Polybius it seems little open to
objection. Weights, not of half a ton, but several tons, are constantly
to be seen on our wharfs suspended on cranes, at a considerable
distance from a centre of motion. Add to one of these the machinery
requisite to give a rapid circular motion to the projecting arm thus
laden, and we have the engine of Archimedes, as described by Polybius.
The geometrician had also fitted out powerful cranes, with hooks and
chains, by which he could lift a ship almost out of the water. When it
was raised to the greatest practicable height, the chain was slipped,
and the vessel usually was either upset by the fall, or plunged so deep
as to fill with water. Marcellus is reported to have observed (it must
have been a forced joke), that Archimedes used his ships for cups to
draw water in. Finally he was obliged to abandon the attack by sea.
Appius Claudius, who conducted the siege by land, fared no better: and
it was resolved at last to give up all hopes of succeeding by force,
and trust to the slow operation of blockade. “Thus,” says Polybius,
“one man, and one art rightly prepared,[16] is for some matters a
mighty and a wonderful thing; for the Romans, having such power by land
and sea, take away but one old man of Syracuse, might have expected
immediately to capture the city; but while Archimedes was there, they
dared not even to attack it in that manner against which he was capable
of defending it.”

It is also said that Archimedes set the Roman ships on fire by means of
burning mirrors, composed of a combination of plane mirrors, adjusted
so as to reflect all the incident rays of light to the same point. The
possibility of this has several times been the subject of inquiry to
modern philosophers. Kircher took so much interest in the subject, that
he went to Syracuse expressly to inquire into the probable position of
Marcellus’s fleet, and he arrived at the conclusion, that it might have
been within thirty yards of the walls. Buffon’s experiments, made as
well as those of Archimedes with a combination of plane mirrors, are
conclusive as to the facility of setting tarred fir plank on fire at a
distance of one hundred and fifty feet, and the possibility of doing
it at considerably greater distances. Similar planks, and even more
combustible materials, were precisely what Archimedes had to deal with.
He is said to have operated in this way at the distance of a bow–shot,
in which there may very probably be exaggeration.

The sequel of the siege contains no matter of interest. Syracuse was
taken by surprise through the negligence of the guard, and Archimedes
is said to have been slain by a soldier, as he was deeply intent on the
solution of a problem.

Lines of circumvallation continued long to be the principal means
employed by the Romans in the reduction of strong places. Even the
inventive genius of Cæsar does not appear to have devised the means of
dispensing with this tedious and most laborious process. In his Gallic
wars he had frequent recourse to it, though the Gallic fortifications,
it might be thought, could not be of the most formidable description;
and the siege of Alesia furnishes one of the most remarkable instances
of it on record. The town stood on an eminence, surrounded on three
sides by hills of equal height, at a moderate distance: in front
extended a plain, three miles in length. Round the foot of this
eminence he dug a trench, twenty feet in width; and again, at an
interval of 400 feet, two more, of which the inner one was filled with
water: behind them he built a rampart twelve feet high, crowned with
battlements, and strengthened with towers at intervals of eighty feet;
and, more effectually to confine the besieged, and enable a smaller
force to guard the works, the space between them and the inner ditch
was filled with three distinct rows of obstacles. The first consisted
of a sort of abattis, made with large branches of trees, with the
ends squared and sharpened, set firmly in the earth (_cippi_). The
next were called lilies (_lilia_), from their resemblance to the
calix of that flower, with its upright pistil: these were circular
cup–shaped cavities, three feet deep, with a sharpened stake in the
centre, projecting about four inches above ground, and covered over
with brushwood to deceive assailants. Still nearer to the town iron
hooks (_stimuli_, like the Scottish _calthrop_, often used with effect
against the English cavalry) were scattered, to lacerate the feet of
the advancing enemy. The whole circuit of these works was fourteen
miles, and a similar series protected the troops from attack from

To come down to a period more interesting to modern readers, we find,
in the middle ages, the same principles of operation followed, but in a
ruder way, since neither men, nor money, nor science were so abundant
among the nations who established kingdoms on the ruins of the western
empire, as among the Romans; and, moreover, the turbulent independence
of a feudal army, whose term of service was usually limited to a
certain time, was unfitted for the severe labour, or the patient and
continued watching, which the Roman legionaries cheerfully underwent.
Still such skill as our ancestors of the middle ages had was borrowed
from the Romans; they employed the same species of machines, towers,
rams, and moveable galleries called cats, and the same or similar
projectile engines, mentioned under the same names of catapultæ,
onagri, scorpiones, &c., in the Latin authors of the eleventh and
twelfth centuries; and mangonels, trebuchets, war–wolfs, &c. in the
vernacular tongue. The first defence of a castle or city was usually
a strong wooden palisade called the barriers; and at these many of
the most obstinate contests and remarkable feats of arms recorded by
Froissart and other chroniclers of the times took place. These being
carried, the next step was to level the ground, drain or fill up the
ditch, and prepare for bringing up the battering–rams or towers, or
scaling–ladders, if it were thought fit to attempt an escalade. In the
first crusade the headlong valour of the Christian knights endeavoured
in vain to overleap the walls or force the gates of Jerusalem: time
was required to construct two moving towers, and on the difficulty
of procuring wood the fiction of the enchanted forest of Armida, in
Tasso’s poem, is founded. The leader of the Genoese, one of the great
maritime states of Italy, was the architect.

  This man begunne with wondrous art to make
  Not rammes, not mighty brakes, not slings alone,
  Wherewith the firm and solid walls to shake,
  To cast a dart, or throw a shaft or stone;
  But, framed of pines and firres, did undertake
  To build a forteresse huge, to which was none
    Yet ever like, whereof he clothed the sides
    Against the balles of fire with raw bulls’ hides.

  In mortisses and sockets framed just
  The beames, the studdes, and punchions joyned he fast;
  To beat the cities wall, beneath forth burst
  A ram with horned front; about her wast
  A bridge the engine from her side out thrust,
  Which on the wall, when need required, she cast;
    And on her top a turret small up stood,
    Strong, surely armed, and builded of like wood.

  Set on a hundred wheels, the rolling masse
  On the smooth lands went nimbly up and downe,
  Though full of armes, and armed men it was,
  Yet with small pains it ran as it had flowne;
  Wondered the camp so quick to see it passe,
  They praised the workmen, and their skill unknowne;
    And on that day two towres they builded more,
    Like that which sweet Clorinda burnt before.[18]

         *       *       *       *       *

  The archers shotte their arrowes sharpe and keene,
  Dipt in the bitter juyce of poyson strong;
  The shady face of heaven was scantly seen,
  Hid with the cloud of shafts and quarries long;
  Yet weapons sharp with greater fury beene
  Cast from the towres the Pagan troops among;
    For thence flew stones, and clifts of marble rocks,
    Trees shod with iron, timber, logs, and blocks.

  A thunderbolt seemed every stone; it brake
  His limmes and armour so on whom it light,
  That life and soule it did not only take,
  But all his face and shape disfigured quight:
  The lances staid not in the wounds they make,
  But through the gored body tooke their flight
    From side to side; through flesh, through skin and rinde
    They flew, and flying left sadde death behinde.

  But yet not all this force and fury drove
  The Pagan people to forsake the walle,
  But to revenge these deadly blowes they strove
  With darts that flie, with stones and trees that fall;
  For need so cowards oft courageous prove,
  For liberty they fight, for life, for all,
    And oft with arrows, shafts, and stones that flie,
    Give bitter answer to a sharp replie.

  This while the fierce assailants never cease,
  But sternly still maintaine a threefold charge,
  And ’gainst the cloud of shafts draw nigh at ease,
  Under a pentise made of many a targe;
  The armed towres close to the bulwarks prease,
  And strive to grapple with the battled marge,
    And launch their bridges out; mean while below
    With iron fronts, the rammes the walls down throwe.


Rinaldo, according to the romancer, raises a ladder, and scales the
walls single–handed; but Godfrey of Bouillon, who is present in one of
the towers, finds greater obstacles:—

    For there not man with man, nor knight with knight
    Contend, but engines there with engines fight.

  For in that place the Paynims reared a post
  Which late had served some gallant ship for mast,
  And over it another beam they crost,
  Pointed with iron sharpe, to it made fast
  With ropes, which as men would the dormant tost
  Now in, now out, now backe, now forward cast;
    In his swift pullies oft the men withdrew
    The tree, and oft the riding balke forth threw.

  The mighty beame redoubled oft his blowes,
  And with such force the engine smote and hit,
  That her broad side the towre wide open throwes,
  Her joynts were broke, her rafters cleft and split;
  But yet, ‘gainst every hap whence mischief grows
  Prepared, the piece (’gainst such extremes made fit),
    Lanched forth two sithes, sharpe, cutting, long, and broade,
    And cut the ropes, whereon the engine roade.

  As an old rocke, which age, or stormy winde
  Teares from some craggy hill, or mountaine steepe,
  Doth breake, doth bruise, and into dust doth grinde
  Woods, houses, hamlets, herds, and folds of sheep;
  So fell the beame, and down with it all kinde
  Of arms, of weapons, and of men did sweep,
    Wherewith the towers once or twice did shake,
    Trembled the walls, the hills and mountains quake.

  (80, 81, 82.)

The Turks attempt to burn the tower with wildfire, but are prevented by
a providential tempest, and it approaches so close that the besiegers
throw their drawbridge on the walls. The courage of Godfrey was
animated by a divine vision of all those princes who had been slain in
the sacred war, bearing arms in behalf of the crusaders.

  And on the bridge he stept, but there was staid
  By Soliman, who entrance all denied;
  That narrow tree to virtue great was made
  The field, as in few blowes right soon was tried.
  Here will I give my life for Sion’s aid,
  Here will I end my days, the Soldan cried;
    Behind me cut, or breake this bridge, that I
    May kill a thousand Christians first, then die.

  But thither fierce Rinaldo threatening went,
  And at his sight fled all the Soldan’s traine;
  What shall I do? if here my life be spent,
  I spend and spill (quoth he) my blood in vaine;
  With that his steps from Godfrey back he bent,
  And to him let the passage free remaine,
    Who threatening followed as the Soldan fled,
    And on the walls the purple crown dispred:

  About his head he tost, he turned, he cast
  That glorious ensign with a thousand twines;
  Thereon the wind breathes with his sweetest blast—
  Thereon with golden rays glad Phebus shines:
  Earth laughs for joy, the streames forbeare their hast,
  Floods clap their hands, on mountains dance the pines;
    And Sion’s towres and sacred temples smile
    For their deliv’rance from that bondage vile.

  (xviii. 98–100.)

We originally meant only to introduce Tasso’s description of the
towers, and have been led on to protract the quotation to far greater
length, from finding not only so lively, but there is all reason to
believe so accurate, a description, making allowance for a little
poetical exaggeration, of the mode of combat then in use. The poet
has at least the merit of being true to the facts related by the
historians. Two towers were constructed, one of which, intrusted to
the charge of Raymond, Count of Toulouse, was burnt by the besieged;
the other, directed by Godfrey in person, was brought safely up to
the walls. Large beams were applied to prevent its close approach, as
described by the poet, and these being cut away, were taken possession
of, and proved very serviceable to the crusaders. The walls were
cleared, not only by archery, but by a much less warlike and romantic
device. The wind blowing into the town, the assailants set on fire a
mattress stuffed with silk (_culcitram bombyce plenam_), and bags of
straw, so that “they who were appointed to defend the wall, unable to
open eyes or mouth, besotted and bewildered with the eddies of the
smoky darkness, deserted their post. Which being known, the general
with all haste commanded the beams which they had captured from the
enemy to be brought up, and one end resting on the machine, the other
on the wall, he ordered the moveable side of the tower to be let down;
which being supported on them, served in the place of a bridge of
suitable strength.”[19] This, it must be confessed, is a less romantic
way of gaining entrance than fighting hand to hand with Solyman: but
it is true, for the valour and personal prowess of Godfrey of Bouillon
were unsurpassed, and there is no reason to suspect that flattering
historians have perverted the fact, that Godfrey, noblest of the
crossed chiefs in character as in station, was the third man to enter
that holy city, for the delivery of which he longed so ardently, and
had sacrificed so much. Two brothers named Letold and Engelbert,
otherwise unknown to fame, were the first who won their way to these
contested walls.

For reasons above given the strong fortresses of feudal pride were
more frequently carried by a sudden and vigorous attack, than by the
tedious and expensive process of regular siege. Of such attacks some
remarkable instances occur in the wars between England and Scotland,
which at some future period we may perhaps notice; at present it is
more to our purpose to quote from the graphic pages of Froissart this
short passage, which is so completely ancient in character that change
the names and it might pass for the act of a Roman army:—

“The Englysshemen, that had lyen long before the Ryoll[20] more than
nyne weekes, had made in the mean space two belfroys of grete tymbre,
with four stages, every belfroy upon foure grete whelys, and the sydes
toward the towne were covered with cure boly,[21] to defend them fro
fyre and fro shotte; and into every stage there were poynted a C
archers: by strength of men these two belfroys were brought to the
walles of the towne, for they had so filled the dykes, that they might
well be brought just to the walles; the archers in these stages shotte
so holly togyder, that none durst apere at their defence, without they
were well pavysshed,[22] and between these two belfroys there were a
CC men with pic–axes to mine the walles, and so they brake through the
walles. * * * When sir Agous de Ban, who was captain within, knewe that
the people of the towne wolde yelde up, he went into the castell with
his companye of soudyers, and whyle they of the towne were entretyng he
conveyed out of the towne gret quantyte of wyne and other provisyon,
and then closed the castell gates, and sayd how he wolde not yeld up so
sone. Then the erle (of Derby) entred into the towne and layde siege
round about the castell as nere as he mighte, and rered up all his
engynes, the which caste nyght and day agaynst the walles, but they
dyd lytell hurt, the walles were so strong of harde stone; it was sayd
that of olde tyme it had been wrought by the handes of the Sarasyns,
who made their warkes so strongly that ther is none such now a dayes.
When the erle sawe that he colde do no good with his engynes, he caused
theym to cease; then he called to hym his myners, to thyntent that
they shuld make a myne under alle the walles, the whiche was nat sone

In the time of Froissart the invention of gunpowder had already begun
to work a change in the art of war: still, then and for some time
afterwards, the imperfection of the artillery in use rendered them
of little real service.[24] Usually of immense and unwieldy size and
weight, the difficulty of transporting them from place to place was
extreme, and they could not be fired more than three or four times in
the day, at great expense and with uncertain execution. Even so late
as the siege of Magdeburg, in 1631, it is said that 1550 cannon shots
where fired against one wall with but little effect. But as the art
of gunnery advanced, the battering train was found to be an overmatch
for the strongest fortresses that had yet been constructed, and a new
system of fortification came gradually into use. Low bastions and
curtains took place of the lofty towers and walls of former castles;
and still the advantage is so entirely transferred from the besieged
to the besiegers, that the termination of a siege pursued according
to the rules of art is reduced almost to certainty as to the time
and method of its issue. This has diminished the interest of modern
sieges, by making ultimate capture almost a certainty, and rendering
it the interest of the garrison rather to make terms while they have
something to give up, than to hold out to those extremes of difficulty
and distress, of which ancient history abounds in striking examples.
It has also rendered both the attack and defence matters more of
combination and science, and less of individual gallantry. There is,
however, one war in the transition stage, as it were, from ancient to
modern tactics, distinguished especially by the number and length of
its sieges, and by the constancy and desperate valour shown by the
beleaguered party in every instance. Even were we indifferent to the
parties, the narrations would in themselves be deeply interesting,
but the nobleness of their cause renders the sufferings of the brave
defenders doubly affecting—their triumphs doubly glorious. The reader
will readily conclude that we refer to the desperate struggle of
the Netherlands for civil and religious liberty against the mighty
despotism of Spain. Three sieges which occurred in this war are
especially worthy of the reader’s attention, those of Leyden, Haarlem,
and Ostend. That of Leyden has been already noticed in the first
volume; and after some hesitation we have selected the siege of Ostend
for relation here, as being more full of incident, not of interest,
than that of Haarlem. We give it from the contemporary historian,

“We will now come to the siege of Ostend, which, being one of the most
memorable of this our age, doth certainly challenge, that, as much
brevity and diligence as may be being joyned together, it be duly
considered and represented with all clearness. It was above three years
before it was brought to an end; and it was almost as uncertain at the
last day as at the first to which side the victory did incline. The
besieged never wanted fresh succours by sea, nor did the besiegers
at any time cease advancing by land. Infinite were the batteries,
the assaults infinite; so many were the mines, and so obstinate the
countermines, as it may be almost affirmed as much work was done under
ground as above ground. New names were to be found for new engines.
There was a perpetual dispute between the sea and land: the works on
the latter could not operate so much as the mines made by the former
did destroy. Great store of blood ran every where, and men were readier
to lose it than to preserve it, till such time as the besieged wanting
ground, and rather what to defend than defence, they were at last
forced to forego that little spot of ground which was left them, and to

“Ostend stands upon the sea–shore, and in the midst of a marish ground,
and of divers channels which come from the continent; but it is chiefly
environed almost on all sides by two of the greatest of them,[25] by
which the sea enters into the land, and grows so high when it is full
sea, as you would rather think the town were buried than situated in
the sea. In former times it was an open place, and served rather for
a habitation for shepheards than for soldiers. But the importancy of
the seat being afterwards considered, the houses were inclosed with
a platform instead of a wall, and from time to time the line was so
flank round about it, as it proved to be one of the strongest towns
of all the province of Flanders. It is divided into two parts, which
are called the old town and the new. The former, which is the lesser,
stands towards the sea; the latter and greater lies towards the land.
The old town is fenced from the fury of the sea by great piles of wood
driven into the ground, and joined together for the defence of that
part, and there the waves sufficiently supply the part of a ditch.
The channels may be said to do the like on the sides; and, especially
at full sea, of channels they become havens, being then capable of
any kind of vessels, and by them at all times the middle size of
barks enter into the ditches, and from the ditches in diverse parts
into the town itself; to boot, with the chief wellflanked line on
the outside of the ditch, towards the land side is a strada coperta
raised, which is so well furnished with new flanks, and with a new
ditch, as this outward fortification doth hardly give way to any of
the inward ones. The town is but of a small compass, and is ennobled
rather by its situation and fortifications than by any splendour either
of inhabitants or houses. The United Provinces caused it to be very
carefully kept at this time, wherefore it was largely provided of
men, artillery, ammunition, and of whatsoever else was necessary for
the defence thereof. In this condition was the town when the Archduke
resolved to sit down before it.”

On the east of the town there was a detached fort called St. Alberto,
on the west another called Bredene, both which had been abandoned
by the garrison. These were occupied by the besieging army, which
proceeded to surround Ostend on the landward with a chain of works, not
without sharp fighting, for the governor, Sir Francis Vere, had raised
redoubts in front of his fortifications, and hotly contested every inch
of ground. It seemed also necessary to cut off the communication with
the sea, and with this view a bank was run out on the eastern side
from St. Alberto to prevent barks from entering by the channel on that
quarter. But it was also expedient to block up the channel on the side
of Bredene, and in doing this greater difficulties were to be overcome.

The siege began in the summer of 1601, and the autumn had been consumed
in these works, when, towards the end of December, a terrible storm
at sea so shattered the town, that the inhabitants, despairing to
resist an assault, began to parley; but their spirits were recruited,
and the negotiations broken off by a seasonable reinforcement both of
men and all manner of provisions. The Archduke, being thus deluded of
his hopes, gave order that a battery should be raised on the side of
St. Alberto, which played so furiously upon the sea bulwark, that a
practicable breach was soon made, and an assault ordered. To divert
the enemy, directions were given that Count Bucquoy, who commanded
at Bredene, should pass the channel there, and fall with his men on
the wall where it was beaten down, and that upon the land side there
should be alarms given every where. “When they came to the assault the
assailants behaved themselves gallantly, and used all means to get upon
the wall; and though many of them fell down dead and wounded, and that
the horror of night, which already came on, made their dangers the more
terrible, yet did it serve rather to set the Catholics on fire, than to
make them cool in their fight. But there appeared no less resoluteness
of resistance in those within: for opposing themselves valiantly on all
sides, and being very well able to do it, as having so many men, and
such store of all other provisions, they stoutly did defend themselves
on all sides. Upon the coming on of night they had set up many lights
in divers parts of the town, whereby they the better maintained the
places assigned to them, did with more security hit those that assailed
them, and came the better to where their help was required. They
also soon discerned that they were all false alarms that were given
without, and that the true assault was made only in one place. To this
was added, that Count Bucquoy, not finding the water of the aforesaid
channel so low as he believed, he could by no means pass over them.
Yet the Catholics did for a long time continue their assault, but the
defendants’ advantages still increasing, the assailants were at last
forced to give over with great loss; for there were above six hundred
slain and wounded. Nor did those within let slip the occasion of
prejudicing yet more the Catholics as they retreated: for plucking up
some of their sluices, by which they both received the sea–water into
their ditches and let it out again, they turned the water with such
violence into the channel, which the Catholics had passed over before
they came to the assault, and which they were to pass over again in
their retreat, as many of them were unfortunately drowned.”

The year 1602 set in with such severe cold that the Archduke was
advised to abandon the siege. But he would not be persuaded thereto,
thinking the King’s honour and his own engaged in its success. He
ordered therefore a great platform to be raised in the quarter of St.
Alberto, which might command the town as much as possible, and gave new
orders that Bucquoy should advance, with all possible speed, the great
bank which was designed to obstruct the channel of Bredene. Having
given these orders, he retired to Ghent, and left the campmaster, John
di Rivas, in command of the siege, who employed himself diligently in
forwarding these important works. “To the first and largest foundation,
which was well incorporated with wet sand and other condense matter,
others of the like sort were added, till the dyke was grown to the
height it ought to be; and the breadth thereof was very extraordinary
great. To boot with the ordinary plain thereof, upon which two great
cannons might stand abreast, there was a great parapet raised in it
against the town to shelter the soldier; and which, being in divers
places furnished with artillery, did greatly endamage the enemy
likewise on that side. This work was made in a sandy and low situation,
and whither the sea at full tide came; so as it cannot be said with how
much expense, labour, and loss of blood, this work was advanced.” Still
the town continued to receive succours as plentifully as ever, and the
works proceeded so slowly from without, that the hopes of bringing the
siege to a happy end did daily rather decrease than increase. Yet Rivas
was very diligent in discharging his duty; the platform was completed
and mounted with cannon, and the besieged were driven from some of
their outer works: these were then furnished with artillery, which he
turned against the fortifications which sheltered the town on that side.

“Some progress was likewise daily made on Bredene’s side in the
advancing the great dyke. Bucquoy had the chief charge thereof, and it
was called by his name. And he used all possible diligence to infest
the town and the entrance of the channel on that side. But there
appeared no less vigilancy in the besieged; their courage abounded,
according as the town did abound with all sorts of provisions. There
was hardly any one day in which they did not sally out; nor did the
besiegers do any thing which cost not much labour and blood. The
platform was made chiefly of bavins and other wood, and the great
dyke was composed of the like materials. Two furious batteries were
therefore levelled from the town, with artificial fire–balls against
these two works, to set them on fire, and indamage them by that means.
Nor did they fail in their design: for by long battery they at last
took fire, and were thereby so torn and spoiled, as it cost much time
and the death of many men to remake them. Nor was the enemies’ loss
less either in number or quality.

“Pompeio Torgone, a famous engineer, was at this time come from Italy
to Flanders, drawn thither by the fame of this siege. He had a very
ready wit, which made him apt for inventions in his calling; but
having never till then passed from the theory to the practical part
in military affairs, it was soon seen that many of his imaginations
did not, upon trial, prove such as in appearance they promised to be.
He began to build a castle of wood upon boats fastened together. The
castle was round, high, and large proportionably. On the top thereof it
was capable of six great pieces of artillery on one side, and on the
other side there was place enough for those soldiers who were to attend
them. Torgone intended to bring this machine into the mouth of the
channel, and to firm it there, where succour was brought into Ostend,
hoping hereby to keep the town from relief. But this could not so soon
be done, but that it was preceded by the other work of drawing the
great dyke to the same channel, whereupon to raise afterwards a fort,
by which that passage might be so much the more impeded. To accelerate
this work likewise, Torgone bethought himself of other engines, by
which that so great quantity of materials, whereof the dyke was made,
might the more easily be brought to employment. The said materials
being put together in manner as they ought to be, he put a certain
number of little barrels under the hollow of the middle thereof, and
on the sides, by which at full sea the engines floated, and were
afterwards brought by cranes to joyn with the dyke in that part where
the work was continued on. These engines were called flotes. But such
was the tempest of the enemies’ cannon–shot, which incessantly fell
upon them, when they rested upon the sand; and then again they were so
prejudiced by the sea–storms, as oft–times the work of many days was
destroyed in a few hours. And really it was a pitiful case to see how
much blood was there shed, and how little the meaner sort of people who
were employed therein did out of a desire of gain value it.”

This was the condition of Ostend when the Archduke bethought himself to
give the care of the siege to the Marquis Spinola. Great certainly was
the honour of such an employment, yet there seemed so little prospect
of success that Spinola hesitated for some time; but, finally, being
persuaded there was more of hope than fear in the offer that was made
him, he resolved cheerfully to accept it.

“The first thing the Marquis did was to make great store of provision
of all such materials as were necessary, as well for the work of the
great dyke on Bredene’s side, as for the other works which were to be
made on the side of St. Alberto, on which side the town was chiefly
intended to be straitened and forced: the ground over against it was
all sandy, and full of several channels and little rivulets, besides
those two greater channels which fell into the sea, as you have
often heard. The same sea likewise, at the flood, did so whirl about
every place thereabouts, as ground was not any where to be found to
make trenches, which were therefore to be supplied with the above
said materials. These were chiefly brought by the flotes invented by
Torgone; and though the great dyke did daily advance, yet it was known
that such a work would prove too long and too uncertain. The hope of
keeping out succour growing there every day less and less, Spinola
bent all his endeavours to take the town by force. We told you before
that all vessels were hindered from coming into the lesser channel,
on St. Alberto’s side, which falls there into the sea by a fort. Yet
the channel itself was of great advantage to the enemy on that side,
for it served for a great ditch to their counterscarp, which was
strong of itself, and yet made stronger by many flanks by which it was
defended. Before the Catholics could come to assault the counterscarp,
they must first pass over the channel, which was so hard to do with
safety or shelter in any place thereof, as it was evidently seen that
many of them must perish, being exposed to be injured by the enemy. The
oppugnation was led on, on four sides, from St. Alberto’s quarter. The
Germans wrought nearer the sea; then followed the Spaniards; after them
the Italians; and on the outmost side, more towards land, the Walloons
and Burgonians. Great was the fervency of all these nations; and such a
contention there was among them in striving which of them should most
advance the works, as the soldiers’ emulation seemed rather a contest
between enemies than between rivals. The channel was narrower and more
shallow where the Burgonians and Walloons wrought. They were therefore
the first that passed over it, and afterwards the other nations did
the like. To pass over it, a great quantity of the aforesaid materials
were thrown into every part thereof, where the aforesaid nations
wrought. Those materials were reduced to dykes or banks, upon which
the soldiers advanced towards the town. But very many of them were
slain and wounded. For the defendants, with their hail of musquet–shot
and tempest of greater artillery, charged with little bullets and
murdering shot in great quantity, and oft–time with artificial fire,
made the Catholics’ work on all sides very bloody. The soldiers, that
they might go the best sheltered that they could, invented many fences:
some consisted of gabions filled with earth, well joined and fastened
together; others of long bavins, which stood upright, and stood so
thick as they were musket proof; and others, of several forms, made of
the aforesaid materials. Torgone invented likewise a great cart, from
which a bridge made of cloth and cords might unexpectedly be thrown
over the channel, and so the enemies’ defences might the easier be
assaulted. The cart stood upon four very high wheels; and upon the
fore–part thereof rose up, as it were, the mast of a ship, which
served chiefly to let down and to take up the bridge. But the whole
bulk proved to be of so cumbersome a greatness, and so hard to be
managed, that, before it was undertaken, it was known it could work no
effect. The aforesaid fences were wrought where the artillery of the
town could not reach; and, at the flowing of the sea, they were brought
upon the floats, to the places where they were made use of. Great was
the mortality likewise of those that wrought here; the enemy making
usually such havock of them with their muskets, artillery, and sallies,
as oft–times hardly one of them could be saved. But money still got new
men, and oft–times the soldiers themselves wrought. Nor was Spinola
wanting in being in all places at all times, and in exposing himself
as well as any of the rest to all labour and danger; encouraging some,
rewarding others, and behaving himself so, as his imitating, without
any manner of respect unto himself, the most hazardous works of others,
made the rest the more ready to imitate his.

“When each nation had passed the channel, each of them began with
like emulation to force the ravelins and half–moons which sheltered
the counterscarp. And the Walloons and Burgonians, by reason of their
quarter, were the first that did it, but with much effusion of blood,
even of the noblest amongst them; for amongst the rest, Catris, a
Walloon campmaster, was lost; a valiant and greatly experienced
soldier, and whom Spinola highly esteemed, both for his deeds and
counsel. With the like progress, and no less loss of blood, did
the other nations advance. So as the enemies at last lost all the
fortifications which they had without their principal line; about which
a great ditch ran, but not so hard to pass as was the channel which
fenced the counterscarp. The easier doing of it made the Catholics hope
better in the effecting thereof; wherefore, full of fresh courage, they
prepared to continue their labours more heartily than ever, that they
might the sooner end the siege; but the winter being already come on
did much injure their works, and the sea did then more destroy them by
her tempests. The enemy did likewise make very fierce opposition; they
set up batteries within against the batteries without; mines opposed
countermines; they repaired themselves on all sides, and as fast as
one rampire was lost they set up another. So as the Catholics were to
advance by inchmeal; and yet they did so advance, as by the spring they
were got well forward into the ditch.

“These already progressions of Marquis Spinola, together with his still
daily proceedings, made the United Provinces shrewdly afraid that
they should at last lose Ostend. It was therefore consulted amongst
their chief commanders how the town might be best preserved: which
might be done by two ways; either by some important diversion, or by
raising the siege by main force. The second affair brought with it
such difficulties, as the first was embraced. Wherefore they resolved
to besiege Sluce; a town which likewise stood upon the sea, and of so
great consequence, as did rather exceed than come short of those of

Sluys was accordingly besieged and taken, to the great satisfaction
of the Flemish, that, in three months’ time and with the loss of so
little blood, they had made a greater acquisition than that of Ostend,
which would cost above three years’ expense of time, and an infinity
of Spanish gold and blood, if it could hold out no longer. But though
Spinola made an unsuccessful attempt to relieve Sluys, he could not
be prevailed on to break up the siege of Ostend, and his troops were
inflamed the more by a desire of counterbalancing that loss. So that at
last, after much slaughter, they won the ditch and the first line of
fortifications; but meanwhile a new one had been raised by those within.

“Sluce was just then lost: and it was feared that Count Maurice would
come to the relief of Ostend. The Catholics being therefore so much the
more moved, and Spinola being again returned, it is not to be expressed
with what fervour they fell to their works on all sides. The greatest
progress was made towards the old town of Ostend; and because when they
should have won that, they might easily hinder the entrance into the
channel, by the mouth whereof succour was brought from the sea; and
for that the new town was much commanded by the old, therefore Spinola
did the more reinforce his batteries, assaults, mines, and all his
other most efficacious works on that side than on any other; nor was it
long ere the Catholics had almost wholly taken it.

“They likewise advanced after the same manner against the new
fortifications, so as now the besieged had no where whither to
retreat; wherefore, wanting ground to defend, when they most abounded
in all things for defence, they were at last forced to surrender the
town; which was done about the midst of September, upon all the most
honourable conditions that they could desire. Count Maurice was often
minded to attempt the succour by main force; but considering that he
was to enter into an enemy’s country, amongst strong and well–guarded
towns, and that he should meet with men that were very ready to
fight, he thought it not fit, after his prosperous success at Sluce,
to hazard falling into some misfortune, as upon such an occasion he
might peradventure do, and therefore he forebore to do it. It was a
remarkable thing to see so many soldiers march out of a town; for
there were above four thousand of them, all strong and healthful, they
having enjoyed great plenty of all things in Ostend, by reason of their
continual succours. So as besides great store of artillery, there
was found in the town such abundance of victuals, ammunition, and of
whatsoever else may be imagined for the defence of a royal town, as the
like was never known to be in any other place.

“Thus ended the siege of Ostend; very memorable, doubtless, in itself,
but much more in consideration of the so great expense of monies and
time which the winning and losing of it cost. The siege continued
above three years; in which time the constant opinion was, that there
died, what by the sword, what by sickness, above a hundred thousand
men between the one and the other side; whereby it may be conceived
what proportionable monies and other things were therein spent. The
town being yielded up, the Archduke and Infanta had the curiosity to
go see it, and went from Gaunt thither, where they found nothing but a
misshapen chaos of earth, which hardly retained any show of the first
Ostend. Ditches filled up; curtains beaten down; bulwarks torn in
pieces; half–moons, flanks, and redoubts so confused one with another,
as one could not be distinguished from another; nor could it be known
on which side the oppugnation, or on which side the defence was; yet
they would know all, and receive the whole relation from Spinola’s
own mouth. He represented at full the last posture of the siege: he
showed the Spaniards’ quarters, and that of the Italians, as also
those of each other nation. He related how stoutly they contended who
should outvie one another in painstaking; on which part the greatest
resistance was made within: where the dispute was most difficult
without; where they wanted ground to retreat unto; where the enemy
used their utmost power; and where at last the town was surrendered.
The Archduke saw the great platform, the great dyke, and whatsoever
else of curious might be suggested by the unusual face of that siege;
but not without the Infanta’s great compassion, and even almost tears,
by looking upon the horror of those parts where the sword, fire, sea,
and earth may be said to have conspired together in making so long and
so miserable a destruction of Christians. They both of them did very
much commend Spinola, and did also thank the rest of the commanders
who had deserved well in that enterprise. Nor did they less gratulate
the inferior officers and soldiers, who had exposed themselves most to
those dangers.”[26]

Remarkable in modern history is the siege and storm of Magdeburg in the
thirty years’ war by the Imperial troops, commanded by Tilly, when that
general blighted the laurels acquired in thirty–six successful battles,
and fixed an indelible stain upon his reputation. Even poetical justice
might be satisfied by the events of his after–life, which, from a
series of victories became one of reverses, produced in part, at
least, by his own act, if it be true that the excesses perpetrated
on this occasion produced a lasting bad effect on the discipline of
his army. But, on the plains of Leipzic, in the person of Gustavus
Adolphus, he met at length with his superior in the art of war.

“I must now arm my breast with sternness, my heart with
impenetrability, while I relate the events which broke in foaming
billows over this wretched city,—events, for their magnitude,
extraordinary: for their mournfulness, but too calamitous; for their
importance, rarely known in former ages; and for their rarity, easily
unheard of. So may this mind be able to recite the reverses, the tragic
incidents which in this our age, by inevitable destiny, have oppressed
Magdeburg, a city of the empire, powerful and strong as ancient,—this
pen endure through the description of such horrid destruction. But
whence to commence the tempests of so pitiable an event? whence seek
those dreadful varieties of punishment, for the relation of which all
Germany is scarce sufficient? I am far from thinking that with this
pen I can do justice to so mournful, so extraordinary a calamity. For
he who would worthily express a catastrophe, which will amaze furthest
posterity, must needs be qualified by an iron memory, a strong and
unconquered style, since it is his duty to find words answerable to

The modest doubts expressed in the above rather pompous passage have
not restrained the historian, from whom we quote, from proving, in
a long and tedious narrative, that he justly estimated the relative
extent of his subject and his powers. We purpose to take warning by his
example, and act upon the diffidence which he expresses. The reader
is as capable of imagining, as the author, unless an eye–witness, of
describing, the behaviour of soldiers flushed with rage and blood let
loose upon an unarmed population: and either is likely to produce
but a confused picture, made up chiefly by ringing the changes upon
what the author of ‘Old Mortality’ calls “the four pleas of the
crown.” Instead, therefore, of multiplying anecdotes of brutality and
suffering, we shall only give the narratives of two eyewitnesses,
the simplicity of which is a guarantee for their truth. The first is
written by the minister of a church in Magdeburg. It is necessary to
premise that the assault was made at daybreak, as the hour when the
garrison were most likely to be off their guard, and at a time when a
general belief was entertained that Tilly was about to break up the
siege. It was therefore entirely unexpected.

“Going out of church immediately after sermon, some people of St.
James’s parish passed by, and told me the enemy had entered the town.
With difficulty could I persuade myself that this was anything more
than a false alarm; but the news unfortunately proved too true. I then
lost my presence of mind, and as my wife and maid–servant were with me,
we ran directly to my colleague, M. Malsio’s house, and left our own
house open. At M. Malsio’s we found many people, who had fled to him
in great perplexity. We comforted and exhorted each other, as far as
the terror of our minds would give us leave. I was summoned thence to
discharge the last duties to a colonel, who lay dangerously wounded.
I resolved to go, and sent my maid to fetch my gown: but before my
departure from my wife and neighbours, I told them that the affair
appeared to me to be concluded, and that we should meet no more in
this world. My wife reproached me in a flood of tears, crying, ‘Can
you prevail on yourself to leave me to perish all alone? You must
answer for it before God!’ I represented to her the obligations of my
function, and the importance of the moments I was called upon to give
my assistance in.

“As I crossed the great street a multitude of matrons and young women
flocked about me, and besought me, in all the agonies of distress, to
advise them what to do. I told them, my best advice was to recommend
themselves to God’s protecting grace, and prepare for death. At length
I entered the colonel’s lodging, and found him stretched on the
floor, and very weak. I gave him such consolation as the disorder of
my mind would permit me: he heard me with great attention, and ordered
a small present of gold to be given me, which I left on the table. In
this interval, the enemy poured in by crowds at the Hamburg gate, and
fired on the multitude as upon beasts of prey. Suddenly my wife and
maid–servant entered the room, and persuaded me to remove immediately,
alleging we should meet with no quarter, if the enemy found us in an
apartment filled with arms. We ran down into the court–yard of the
house, and placed ourselves in the gateway. Our enemies soon burst
the gate open, with an eagerness that cannot be described. The first
address they made to me was, ‘Priest, deliver thy money.’ I gave them
about four and twenty shillings in a little box, which they accepted
with good will: but when they opened the box, and found only silver,
they raised their tone, and demanded gold. I represented to them that I
was at some distance from my house, and could not at present possibly
give them more. They were reasonable enough to be contented with my
answer, and left us, after having plundered the house, without offering
us any insult. There was a well–looking youth among the crowd, to whom
my wife addressed herself, and besought him in God’s name to protect
us: ‘My dear child,’ said he, ‘it is a thing impossible; we must pursue
our enemies;’ and so they retired.

“In that moment another party of soldiers rushed in, who demanded
also our money. We contented them with seven shillings and a couple
of silver spoons, which the maid fortunately had concealed in her
pocket. They were scarce gone before a soldier entered alone with the
most furious countenance I ever saw; each cheek was puffed out with a
musket–ball, and he carried two muskets on his shoulder. The moment
he perceived me, he cried with a voice of thunder, ‘Priest, give me
thy money, or thou art dead.’ As I had nothing to give him, I made my
apology in the most affecting manner: he levelled a piece to shoot me,
but my wife luckily turned it with her hand, and the ball passed over
my head. At length, finding we had no money, he asked for plate: my
wife gave him some silver trinkets, and he went his way.

“A little after came four or five soldiers, who only said, ‘Wicked
priest, what doest thou here?’ Having said thus much, they departed.

“We were now inclined to shelter ourselves in the uppermost lodgings
of the house, hoping there to be less exposed and better concealed.
We entered a chamber that had several beds in it, and passed some
time there in the most insupportable agonies. Nothing was heard in
the streets but the cries of the expiring people; nor were the houses
much more quiet; every thing was burst open or cut to pieces. We were
soon discovered in our retirement: a number of soldiers poured in, and
one who carried a hatchet made an attempt to cleave my skull, but a
companion hindered him and said, ‘Comrade, what are you doing? Don’t
you perceive that he is a clergyman?’

“When these were gone a single soldier came in, to whom my wife gave a
crape handkerchief off her neck; upon which he retired without offering
us any injury. His successor was not so reasonable: for entering the
chamber with his sword drawn, he immediately discharged a blow upon my
head, saying, ‘Priest, give me thy money.’ The stroke stunned me; the
blood gushed out in abundance, and frightened my wife and servant to
that degree that they both continued motionless. The barbarian turned
round to my wife, aimed a blow at her, but it glanced fortunately on
her gown, which happened to be lined with furs, and wounded her not.
Amazed to see us so submissive and patient, he looked at us fixedly
for some moments. I laid hold of this interval to represent to him
that I was not in my own house, being come to the place where I was to
discharge my duty to a dying person, but if he would grant us quarter,
and protect us to our home, I would then bestow upon him all I had.
‘Agreed, priest,’ said he, ‘give me thy wealth, and I will give thee
the watchword: it is Jesu Maria; pronounce that, and no one will hurt
thee.’ We went down stairs directly, highly contented to have found
such a protector. The street was covered with the dead and dying;
their cries were enough to have pierced the hearts of the greatest
barbarians. We walked over the bodies, and when we arrived at the
church of St. Catherine, met an officer of distinction on horseback.
This generous person soon discovered us, and seeing me covered
with blood, said to the person who conducted us, ‘Fellow–soldier,
fellow–soldier, take care what you do to these persons.’ At the same
time he said to my wife, ‘Madam, is yonder house yours?’ My wife
having answered that it was, ‘Well,’ added he, ‘take hold of my
stirrup, conduct me thither, and you shall have quarter.’ Then turning
to me, and making a sign to the soldiers with his hand, he said to
me, ‘Gentlemen of Magdeburg, you yourselves are the occasion of this
destruction: you might have acted otherwise.’ The soldier who had used
me ill, took this opportunity to steal away. Upon entering my house, we
found it filled with a multitude of plunderers, whom the officer, who
was a colonel, ordered away. He then said he would take up his lodging
with us, and having posted two soldiers for a guard to us, left us with
a promise to return forthwith. We gave, with great cheerfulness, a good
breakfast to our sentinels, who complimented us on the lucky fortune
of falling into their colonel’s hands; at the same time representing
to us that their fellow–soldiers made a considerable booty while
they continued inactive merely as a safe–guard to us, and, therefore
beseeching us to render them an equivalent to a certain degree. Upon
this I gave them four rose–nobles, with which they were well contented,
and showed so much humanity as to make us an offer to go and search for
any acquaintance whom we desired to place in safety with us. I told
them I had one particular friend who had escaped to the cathedral, as
I conjectured, and promised them a good gratuity on his part if they
saved his life. One of them accompanied by my maid–servant went to the
church, and called my friend often by name; but it was all in vain, no
one answered, and we never heard mention of him from that period.

“Some moments after our colonel returned, and asked if any person
had offered us the least incivility. After we had disculpated the
soldiers in this respect, he hastened abroad to see if there was any
possibility to extinguish the fire, which had already seized great part
of the city: he had hardly got into the street, when he returned, with
uncommon hastiness, and said, ‘Show me the way out of the town, for I
see plainly we shall perish in the flames if we stay here a few minutes
longer.’ Upon this we threw the best of our goods and moveables into a
vaulted cellar, covered the trap–door with earth, and made our escape.
My wife took nothing with her but my robe; my maid seized a neighbour’s
infant child by the hand, whom we found crying at his father’s door,
and led him away. We found it impossible to pass through the gates
of the town, which were all in a flame, and the streets burnt with
great fury on either side: in a word, the heat was so intense that
it was with difficulty we were able to breathe. Having made several
unsuccessful attempts, we determined at last to make our escape on the
side of the town next the Elbe. The streets were clogged with dead
bodies, and the groans of the dying were insupportable. The Walloons
and Croatians attacked us every moment, but our generous colonel
protected us from their fury. When we gained the bastion, which stands
on the bank of the Elbe, we descended it by the scaling–ladders which
the Imperialists had made use of in the assault, and arrived at length
in the enemy’s camp near Rottensee, thoroughly fatigued and extremely

“The colonel made us enter his tent, and presented us some
refreshments. That ceremony being over, ‘Well,’ said he, ‘having saved
your lives, what return do you make me?’ We told him that for the
present we had nothing to bestow, but that we would transfer to him
all the money and plate that we had buried in the cellar, which was
the whole of our worldly possessions. At this instant many Imperial
officers came in, and one chanced to say to me, ‘Ego tibi condoleo, ego
sum addictus Fidei Augustanæ.’ The distressed state I found myself in
made me unable to give a proper reply to the condolences of a man who
carried arms against those whose religion he professed, and whose hard
fortune he pretended to deplore.

“Next day the colonel sent one of his domestics with my maid–servant to
search for the treasure we had buried in the cellar, but they returned
without success, because as the fire still continued they could not
approach the trap–door. In the mean while the colonel made us his
guests at his own table, and during our whole stay treated us not as
prisoners, but as intimate friends.

“One day at dinner an officer of the company happened to say, that
our sins were the cause of all the evil we suffered, and that God had
made use of the Catholic army to chastise us; to whom my wife replied,
that the observation perhaps was but too true; however, take care,
continued she, lest God in the end should throw that very scourge into
the flames. This sort of prophecy was fulfilled soon afterwards on the
self–same Imperial army, which was almost totally destroyed at the
battle of Leipzic.

“At length I ventured one day to ask our colonel to give us leave to
depart: he complied immediately, on condition that we paid our ransom.
Next morning I sent my maid into the town to try if there was any
possibility of penetrating into the cellar: she was more fortunate that
day, and returned with all our wealth. Having returned our thanks to
our deliverer, he immediately ordered a passport to be prepared for us,
with permission to retire to whatever place we should think proper, and
made us a present of a crown to defray the expense of our journey. This
brave Spaniard was colonel of the regiment of Savelli, and named Don
Joseph de Ainsa.”[28]

The sack of Magdeburg was an event of uncommon atrocity, and abhorred
as such even in that age. But from the sort of clemency experienced
by this clergyman, who was plundered of his goods after having nearly
lost his life, and yet seems to feel much gratitude to his protector,
we may imagine the treatment which the peasantry and citizens received
from the rude soldiery of that time. These men, both officers and
soldiers, were in a great degree mercenaries, who resorted to the wars
expressly to mend their fortunes, and were not likely to exercise
the presumed rights of the victor with much moderation. Few of their
generals had much sympathy with the sufferings of non–combatants, of
peaceable countrymen, and wealthy burghers; and those who might have
been inclined to enforce discipline and soften the evils of war, were
shackled by the deficiency of financial resources, and the consequent
irregularity in issuing pay and other requisites to their armies.
“There are things, my lord, in the service of that great prince
(Gustavus Adolphus) that cannot but go against the stomach of any
cavalier of honour. In especial, albeit the pay be none of the most
superabundant, being only about sixty rix–dollars a month to a captain;
yet the invincible Gustavus never paid above one–third of that sum,
which was distributed monthly by way of loan, although when justly
considered it was in fact a borrowing by that great monarch of the
additional two–thirds, which were due to the soldier.”

“But were not these arrears,” said Lord Monteith, “paid to the soldiery
at some stated period?” “My lord,” said Dalgetty, “I take it upon my
conscience that at no period, and by no possible process, could one
creutzer of them ever be recovered. I myself never saw twenty dollars
of my own all the time I served the invincible Gustavus, unless it
was from the chance of a storm or victory, or the fetching in of some
town or doorp, when a cavalier of fortune who knows the usage of wars,
seldom faileth to make some small profit.”

“I begin rather to wonder, sir,” said Lord Monteith, “that you should
have continued so long in the Swedish service, than that you should
have ultimately withdrawn from it.”

“Neither should I,” answered the captain, “but that great leader,
captain and king, the Lion of the North, and bulwark of the Protestant
faith, had a way of winning battles, taking towns, over–running
countries, and levying contributions, whilk made his service
irresistibly delectable to all true–bred cavaliers who follow the noble
profession of arms. Simple as I ride here, my lord, I have myself
commanded the whole stift of Dunklespiel on the Lower Rhine, occupying
the Palsgrave’s palace, consuming his choice wines with my comrades,
calling in contributions, requisitions, and caduacs, and failing not
to lick my fingers as became a good cook. But truly all this glory
hastened to decay after our great master had been shot with three
bullets, upon the field of Lutzen; wherefore, finding that fortune had
changed sides, that the borrowings and lendings went on as before out
of our pay, while the caduacs and casualties were all cut off, I e’en
gave up my commission, and took service with Wallenstein in Walter
Butler’s Irish regiment.”

“And may I beg to know of you,” said Lord Monteith, “how you liked this
change of masters?”

“Indifferent well,” said the captain, “very indifferent well. I cannot
say that the Emperor paid much better than the great Gustavus. For hard
knocks, we had plenty of them. * * * Howbeit, in despite of heavy blows
and light pay, a cavalier of fortune may thrive indifferently well in
the Imperial service, in respect his private casualties are nothing so
closely looked to as by the Swede; and so that an officer did his duty
on the field, neither Wallenstein nor Pappenheim, nor old Tilly before
them, would likely listen to the objurgations of boors or burghers
against any commander or soldado by whom they chanced to be somewhat
closely shorn. So that an experienced cavalier, ‘knowing how to lay,’
as our Scottish phrase runs, ‘the head of the sow to the tail of the
grice,’ might get out of the country the pay which he could not obtain
from the Emperor.”

“With a full hand, sir, doubtless, and with interest,” said Lord

“Indubitably, my lord,” answered Dalgetty, composedly; “for it would be
doubly disgraceful for any soldado of rank to have his name called in
question for any petty delinquency.”[29]

We do not quote the great romancer as historical authority; but there
is no doubt but that Captain Dalgetty, though perhaps highly coloured,
is no unfaithful likeness of those needy and profligate adventurers who
bartered blood for gold, and formed a large portion of the armies of
the age, indifferent on which side they fought, and constant only while
pay, plunder, or promotion were at hand to reward their services.

The other narrative is that of a fisherman, a child at the time of this
event, who is said to have survived it nearly ninety years.

“The 10th of May, early in the morning, at the time the master of our
school was reading prayers, a report flew through the streets that the
town was taken, which was confirmed by the ringing of the alarm bells.
Our master dismissed us all in a moment, saying, ‘My dear children,
hasten to your homes, and recommend yourselves to the protection of
God; for it is highly probable we shall meet no more except in heaven.’
In an instant we all disappeared, some one way, and some another. For
my own part, I took my course with speed along the high street; and
found where the public steelyards are (and where the grand guard of the
city was kept), a considerable body of troops with their swords drawn;
and saw near them, and at a distance round them, a great number of
soldiers stretched dead upon the pavement. Terrified with so melancholy
a sight, I shaped my course down the street called Pelican, with a view
to conceal myself in my father’s house; but had hardly advanced a few
steps, before I fell in with a band of soldiers who had that moment
murdered a man whom I saw weltering in his blood. This sight shocked me
to such a degree, that I had not power to move forwards; but sheltering
myself in a house opposite to the Pelican inn, found a kind–speaking
middle–aged man, who said to me, ‘Child, why comest thou hither? save
thyself before the soldiers seize thee.’ I was strongly tempted to
put his advice in practice; but in that moment a party of Croatians
rushed in, and holding a sabre to his throat, demanded his wealth. The
old man immediately opened a coffer to them, full of gold and silver,
and precious stones. They crammed their pockets with his riches; yet
as the coffer was not emptied, they filled a small basket with the
part that remained, and then shot the poor old man through the head. I
stole away behind them, and found a place of safety among some empty
casks, and there found a young lady, perfectly handsome, who conjured
me to remove and make no mention of her. Anxiously reflecting where
to dispose of myself, the same Croatians surprised me again, and one
of them said, ‘Bastardly dog, carry this basket for us.’ I took it up
immediately, and followed them wherever they went. They entered several
cellars, and rifled women, maidens, and all persons that fell into
their hands, without remorse. As we ascended from one of these cellars,
we saw with astonishment that the flames had seized upon the whole fore
part of the house. We rushed through the fire, and saved ourselves. In
all probability, every soul was destroyed that remained within doors.
As for my father, mother, and relations, I never heard a syllable
concerning them from that time to the present.”[30]

This last sentence expresses briefly and emphatically the fate of
the population. The whole town was burnt, except the cathedral, the
convent of Notre Dame, with a few houses about it, and about a hundred
and thirty fishermen’s cottages on the banks of the Elbe. The number
of the slain cannot be distinctly ascertained, for we have no certain
knowledge of the population of the city; but the slaughter seems to
have been almost universal. It is said, however, that according to the
computation of those who were appointed to clear the streets, 6440
bodies were thrown into the Elbe; and this does not include those,
probably much the greater number, who were massacred in their houses,
and buried under the ruins, or consumed in the general conflagration.
One author says that 30,000 persons perished; Harte, that of 40,000
inhabitants, scarce 800 it was thought escaped: but contemporary
authors vary in their numbers, which indeed in these cases can hardly
ever be ascertained with certainty. The only lives expressly said to
have been preserved, are those of 400 persons who took refuge in the
cathedral; and in the Florus Germanicus, published only ten years later
(a book written in the Imperial interest), it is asserted that none
other were spared, and these only from respect to the sanctity of the
place. The author, however, reduces their number to a hundred. Others
must have been saved, like those whose narratives are given above, by
chance, or individual compassion; but it is plain that indiscriminate
destruction was the order of the day. This massacre will be an
everlasting blot upon Tilly’s reputation. He remained without the town;
and when solicited by those who had witnessed the horrors acted within,
to stop the indiscriminate slaughter, he replied, “The town must bleed;
it has not yet made sufficient expiation. Let the soldiers persist
another hour, and then we will reconsider the matter.” According to
another story, he said that the soldiers must have some recompense for
so much time and trouble. Yet, say the historians of his own party,
when on the third day he rode over the crackling ashes, and through
piles of corpses, he wept as he quoted some lines of Virgil, relative
to the destruction of Troy.[31]

There was no want of prodigies to foretell the fate of Magdeburg, by
monstrous births, the fall of towers, and other circumstances of equal
moment; several of which the curious reader will find mentioned by
Harte, and many more minutely described by Lotichius, as above quoted.
Such follies must have been deeply implanted in men’s minds when a
Christian writer, in the seventeenth century, has thought it worthwhile
to corroborate one of these omens by quoting a similar one from
Valerius Maximus.

[Illustration: PLAN OF ZARAGOZA.—(Copied by permission from Napier’s
History of the Peninsular War.)

1. St. Engracia. 2. Mad–house. 3. Convent of St. Francisca. 4. St.
Monica. 5. St. Augustin. 6. University. 7. Convent of Jesus. 8. Mines.
9. St. Lazar. The dotted portion shows how much of the city was gained
by the French during the second siege.]

The engineer’s art has materially diminished the interest of modern
sieges, by reducing them, independent of external relief, almost
to certainty, and substituting the combinations of science for the
personal exertions of the soldier. The warfare of trenches and
batteries, by which outwork after outwork is rendered untenable, often
without a bayonet being crossed in their defence, fails to rivet the
attention, and indeed is scarce intelligible without some share of
professional knowledge. It is not until the cannon have done their
work, and opened a way to individual strength and courage, not until
the assaulting columns are ready to ascend the breach, that the deep
interest is roused which even against our better judgment attends on
military daring. Still, after giving so many various specimens of
this branch of warfare, it may naturally be supposed that we shall
not pass in silence over all the brilliant actions of our own time:
and the attention is at once directed to the Peninsular war, not
only as the field in which the military energy of our empire was
most successfully developed, but because it produced a great number
of sieges of remarkable interest; while not one such occurs in the
campaigns which Napoleon conducted in person. A volume of sieges might
be compiled from this war, illustrative both of military resolution and
of popular energy and desperation: no wonder then if we have hesitated
between the contending claims of Zaragoza and Gerona. The latter city
is the favourite of Colonel Napier, who cites its resistance to prove
how far the regulated warfare of a disciplined force is superior to
the enthusiasm of a population untrained to arms. The grounds of his
preference are briefly these. Zaragoza was manned by above 30,000
soldiers and 25,000 armed citizens and peasants; but she wanted heavy
artillery, regular fortifications, and a controlling spirit: for both
the reputation and authority of Palafox appear to have been nominal,
and it is to the influence of plebeian leaders that the ferocious
energy of the defence is to be ascribed. Gerona contained about 3000
regular troops, and less than 6000 armed citizens; but she was well
fortified, and commanded by an experienced and resolute officer.
With this inferior force she held out twice as long as Zaragoza
against a superior attacking army, conducted the defence in regular
military order, and kept the enemy without her defences, instead of
admitting him to wage a desperate struggle on her hearthstones and in
her churches. On these grounds the defenders of Gerona may merit the
preference assigned to them by Colonel Napier for having displayed
equal bravery and devotion, with better fortune or greater skill. Still
the irregular and desperate struggle in the streets of Zaragoza, where
every house was a fortress, the end of every street a battery, where
miner counterplotted miner, and every foot of ground was purchased by
blood and ruin, will win the attention of more readers than would the
systematic warfare carried on under the walls of Gerona.

Zaragoza is situated on the right bank of the Ebro. Before its first
siege, in 1808, it contained 50,000 inhabitants. It possessed no
regular defences, and few guns fit for service, but was surrounded
by a low brick wall. These deficiencies were in some degree remedied
by the nature of its buildings, which were well calculated for the
internal warfare subsequently carried on: the houses being mostly built
of brick and stone, and vaulted, so as to be almost incombustible.
The city was also full of churches and convents, strongly built, and
surrounded by high thick walls. A broad street, called the Cosso, bent
almost into a semicircle, concentric with the wall, and terminated at
each end by the Ebro, divided the city into an outer and an inner part.
It occupied the ground on which the Moorish walls had formerly stood,
before the city attained its present size. This street was the scene
of that heroic resistance in 1808, which kept the French at bay after
the walls and one–half of the place had fallen into their hands. On
the 3rd of August, rather more than a month after the commencement of
the siege, the convent of St. Engracia, which formed part of the wall,
was breached; and on the 4th it was stormed, and the victorious troops
carried all before them as far as the Cosso, and before night were in
possession of one–half of the city. The French general now considered
the city as his own, and summoned it to surrender in a note containing
only these words: “Head–quarters, St. Engracia: Capitulation.”
The emphatic reply is well–known, and will become proverbial:
“Head–quarters, Zaragoza: War to the knife.”

“The contest which was now carried on is unexampled in history. One
side of the Cosso, a street about as wide as Pall–Mall, was possessed
by the French, and in the centre of it their general, Verdier, gave his
orders from the Franciscan convent. The opposite side was maintained
by the Arragonese, who threw up batteries at the openings of the
cross–streets, within a few paces of those which the French erected
against them. The intervening space was presently heaped with dead,
either slain upon the spot, or thrown out from the windows. Next day,
the ammunition of the citizens began to fail: the French were expected
every moment to renew their efforts for completing the conquest, and
even this circumstance occasioned no dismay, nor did any one think of
capitulation. One cry was heard from the people, whenever Palafox rode
amongst them, that if powder failed, they were ready to attack the
enemy with their knives—formidable weapons in the hands of desperate
men. Just before the day closed, Don Francisco Palafox, the general’s
brother, entered the city with a convoy of arms and ammunition, and
a reinforcement of 3000 men, composed of Spanish guards, Swiss, and
volunteers of Arragon: a succour as little expected by the Zaragozans,
as it had been provided against by the enemy.

“The war was now continued from street to street, from house to house,
and from room to room; pride and indignation having wrought up the
French to a pitch of obstinate fury, little inferior to the devoted
courage of the patriots. During the whole siege no man distinguished
himself more remarkably than the curate of one of the parishes within
the walls, by name P. Santiago Suss. He was always to be seen in the
streets, sometimes fighting with the most determined bravery, at other
times administering the sacrament to the dying, and confirming with
the authority of faith that hope, which gives to death, under such
circumstances, the joy, the exaltation, the triumph, and the spirit of
martyrdom. Palafox reposed the utmost confidence in the brave priest,
and selected him when anything peculiarly difficult or hazardous was to
be done. At the head of forty chosen men he succeeded in introducing
into the town a supply of powder so essentially necessary for its

“This most obstinate and murderous conflict was continued for eleven
successive days and nights, more indeed by night than by day; for it
was almost certain death to appear by daylight within reach of those
houses which were occupied by the other party. But under cover of the
darkness, the combatants frequently dashed across the street to attack
each other’s batteries; and the battles which began there were often
carried on into the houses beyond, where they fought from room to room,
and from floor to floor. The hostile batteries were so near each other,
that a Spaniard in one place made way under cover of the dead bodies
which completely filled the space between them, and fastened a rope
to one of the French cannons; in the struggle which ensued the rope
broke, and the Zaragozans lost their prize at the very moment when they
thought themselves sure of it.

“A new horror was added to the dreadful circumstances of war in this
ever memorable siege. In general engagements the dead are left upon
the field of battle, and the survivors removed to clear ground and
an untainted atmosphere; but here, in Spain, and in the month of
August, there where the dead lay the struggle was still carried on, and
pestilence was dreaded from the enormous accumulation of putrefying
bodies. Nothing in the whole course of the siege so much embarrassed
Palafox as this evil. The only remedy was to tie ropes to the French
prisoners, and push them forward amid the dead and dying, to remove
the bodies and bring them away for interment. Even for this necessary
office there was no truce, and it would have been certain death to the
Arragonese who should have attempted to perform it: but the prisoners
were in general secured by the pity of their own soldiers, and in this
manner the evil was in some degree diminished.

“A council of war was held by the Spaniards on the 8th, not for the
purpose which is too usual in such councils, but that their heroic
resolution might be communicated to the people. It was, that in those
quarters of the city where the Arragonese still maintained their
ground, they should continue to defend themselves with the same
firmness: should the enemy at last prevail, they were then to retire
over the Ebro into the suburbs, break down the bridge, and defend the
suburbs till they perished. When this resolution was made public, it
was received with the loudest acclamations. But in every conflict
the citizens now gained ground upon the soldiers, winning it inch by
inch, till the space occupied by the enemy, which on the day of their
entrance was nearly half the city, was reduced gradually to about an
eighth part. Meantime intelligence of the events in other parts of
Spain was received by the French, all tending to dishearten them.
During the night of the 13th, their fire was particularly fierce and
destructive: in the morning, the French columns, to the great surprise
of the Spaniards, were seen at a distance retreating over the plain, on
the road to Pampeluna.”[32]

Zaragoza, however, was a place of too much importance long to enjoy in
quiet her hard–earned laurels. In the course of the autumn, the French
recovered their superiority in Arragon, and had no sooner done so,
than they bent their strength to repair the disgrace which their arms
had sustained, and overthrow the firmest bulwark of independence in the
western provinces of Spain. The inhabitants, aware that their heroic
resistance had purchased only a temporary deliverance, employed the
intervening time in repairing and improving their external defences,
and still more so in preparing to renew to greater advantage that
internal conflict, in which experience had shown their real strength to

“It has already been observed, that the houses of Zaragoza were
fire–proof, and generally of only two stories, and that in all the
quarters of the city the numerous and massive convents and churches
rose like castles above the low buildings, and that the greater streets
running into the broadway, called the Cosso, divided the town into
a variety of districts, unequal in size, but each containing one or
more large structures. Now the citizens, sacrificing all personal
convenience, and resigning all idea of private property, gave up
their goods, their bodies, and their houses to the war; and being
promiscuously mingled with the peasantry and the regular soldiers, the
whole formed one mighty garrison, well suited to the vast fortress into
which Zaragoza was transformed: for the doors and windows of the houses
were built up, and their fronts loop–holed; internal communications
were broken through the party–walls, and the streets were trenched
and crossed by earthen ramparts mounted with cannon, and every strong
building was turned into a separate fortification. There was no weak
point, because there could be none in a town which was all fortress,
and where the space covered by the city was the measurement for the
thickness of the ramparts; nor in this emergency were the leaders
unmindful of moral force.

“The people were cheered by a constant reference to their former
successful resistance; their confidence was raised by the contemplation
of the vast works that had been executed; and it was recalled to their
recollection that the wet, usual at that season of the year, would
spread disease among the enemy’s ranks, and impair, if not entirely
frustrate, his efforts. Neither was the aid of superstition neglected:
processions imposed upon the sight, false miracles bewildered the
imagination, and terrible denunciations of divine wrath shook the
minds of men whose former habits and present situation rendered them
peculiarly susceptible of such impressions. Finally, the leaders were
themselves so prompt and terrible in their punishments, that the
greatest cowards were likely to show the boldest bearing, in their wish
to escape suspicion.

“To avoid the danger of any great explosion, the powder was made as
occasion required; and this was the more easily effected, because
Zaragoza contained a royal depôt and refinery for saltpetre, and
there were powder–mills in the neighbourhood, which furnished workmen
familiar with the process of manufacturing that article. The houses
and trees beyond the walls were all demolished and cut down, and the
materials carried into the town. The public magazines contained six
months’ provisions; the convents were well stocked; and the inhabitants
had likewise laid up their own stores for several months. General Doyle
had also sent a convoy into the town from the side of Catalonia, and
there was abundance of money, because, in addition to the resources
of the town, the military chest of Castaños’s army, which had been
supplied only the night before the battle of Tudela, had been in the
flight carried into the town.

“Companies of women, enrolled to attend the hospitals, and to carry
provisions and ammunition to the combatants, were commanded by the
Countess Burita, a lady of an heroic disposition, who is said to have
displayed the greatest intelligence and the noblest character during
both sieges. There were thirteen engineer officers, and 800 sappers and
miners, composed of excavators, formerly employed on the canal, and
there were from 1500 to 2000 cannoneers.

“The regular troops that fled from Tudela being joined by two small
divisions which retreated at the same time from Sanguessa and Caparosa,
formed a garrison of 30,000 men, and together with the inhabitants
and peasantry presented a mass of 50,000 combatants, who with passions
excited almost to frenzy awaited an assault amidst those mighty
entrenchments, where each man’s home was a fortress and his family a
garrison. To besiege with only 35,000 men a city so prepared was truly
a gigantic undertaking.”[33]

It was on December 20, 1808, that Marshals Moncey and Mortier appeared
in front of the town. We pass over the early part of the siege, which
contains nothing to distinguish it from a multitude of others. The
French, supported by a powerful battering and mortar train, advanced
their trenches slowly towards the town until January 22, when Marshal
Lasnes arrived to assume the command. On the 29th four breaches were
declared practicable. That night four columns rushed to the assault;
one was repulsed, the other three established themselves, and the
ramparts of the city became the front line of the French trenches.

“The walls of Zaragoza thus went to the ground, but Zaragoza herself
remained erect; and as the broken girdle fell from the heroic city,
the besiegers started at the view of her naked strength. The regular
defences had indeed crumbled before the skill of the assailants, but
the popular resistance was immediately called with its terrors into
action. * * * The war being now carried into the streets of Zaragoza,
the sound of the alarm–bell was heard over all the quarters of the
city, and the people assembling in crowds, filled the houses nearest to
the lodgments made by the French. Additional traverses and barricadoes
were constructed across the principal streets; mines were prepared in
the more open spaces; and the communications from house to house were
multiplied, until they formed a vast labyrinth of which the intricate
windings were only to be traced by the weapons and the dead bodies of
the defenders. The members of the junta, become more powerful from
the cessation of regular warfare, with redoubled activity and energy
urged the defence, but increased the horrors of the siege by a ferocity
pushed to the very verge of frenzy. Every person, without regard to
rank or age, who excited the suspicion of these furious men, or those
immediately about them, was instantly put to death; and amid the noble
bulwarks of war a horrid array of gibbets was to be seen, on which
crowds of wretches were suspended each night, because their courage had
sunk beneath the accumulating dangers of their situation, or because
some doubtful expression or gesture of distress had been misconstrued
by their barbarous chiefs.

“From the heights of the walls which he had conquered, Marshal Lasnes
contemplated this terrific scene; and judging that men so passionate
and so prepared could not be prudently encountered in open battle, he
resolved to proceed by the slow but certain progress of the mattock and
the mine; and this was also in unison with the Emperor’s instructions.
Hence from the 29th of January to the 2d February, the efforts of the
French were directed to the enlargement of their lodgment on the walls;
and they succeeded after much severe fighting and several explosions in
working forward through the nearest houses, but at the same time they
had to sustain many counter–assaults from the Spaniards.

“It has been already observed that the crossing of the large streets
divided the town into certain small districts or islands of houses.
To gain possession of these, it was necessary not only to mine but to
fight for each house. To cross the large intersecting streets it was
indispensable to construct traverses above or to work by underground
galleries, because a battery raked each street, and each house was
defended by a garrison that, generally speaking, had only the option of
repelling the enemy in front, or dying on the gibbet erected behind.
But as long as the convents and churches remained in possession of
the Spaniards, the progress of the French among the islands of small
houses was of little advantage to them, because the large garrisons in
the greater buildings enabled the defenders not only to make continual
and successful sallies, but also to countermine their enemies, whose
superior skill in that kind of warfare was often frustrated by the
numbers and persevering energy of the besieged. * * *

“The experience of these attacks[34] induced a change in the mode
of fighting on both sides. Hitherto the play of the French mines
had reduced the houses to ruins, and thus the soldiers were exposed
completely to the fire from the next Spanish posts. The engineers
therefore diminished the quantity of powder, that the interior only
might fall, and the outward walls stand, and this method was found
successful. Hereupon the Spaniards, with ready ingenuity, saturated
the timbers and planks of the houses with rosin and pitch, and setting
fire to those which could no longer be maintained, interposed a burning
barrier which often delayed the assailants for two days, and always
prevented them from pushing their successes during the confusion that
necessarily followed the bursting of the mines. The fighting was
however incessant, a constant bombardment, the explosion of mines, the
crash of falling buildings, clamorous shouts, and the continued echo of
musketry deafened the ear, while volumes of smoke and dust clouded the
atmosphere, and lowered continually over the heads of the combatants,
as hour by hour the French with a terrible perseverance pushed forwards
their approaches to the heart of the miserable but glorious city.

“Their efforts were chiefly directed against two points, namely, that
of San Engracia, which may be denominated the left attack, and that of
St. Augustin and St. Monica, which constituted the right attack. At
San Engracia they laboured on a line perpendicular to the Cosso, from
which they were separated only by the large convent of the daughters
of Jerusalem, and by the hospital for madmen, which was entrenched,
although in ruins since the first siege. The line of this attack was
protected on the left by the convent of the Capuchins, which General
Lacoste had fortified to repel the counter–assaults of the Spaniards.
The right attack was more diffused, because the localities presented
less prominent features to determine the direction of the approaches:
and the French, having mounted a number of light six–inch mortars on
peculiar carriages, drew them from street to street, and from house
to house, as occasion offered. On the other hand, the Spaniards
continually plied their enemies with hand–grenades, which seem to have
produced a surprising effect, and in this manner the never–ceasing
combat was prolonged until the 7th of February, when the besiegers, by
dint of alternate mines and assaults, had worked their perilous way at
either attack to the Cosso, but not without several changes of fortune
and considerable loss. They were, however, unable to obtain a footing
on that public walk, for the Spaniards still disputed every house with
undiminished resolution.

“The 8th, 9th, and 10th were wasted by the besiegers in vain attempts
to pass the Cosso; they then extended their flanks. * * * The 11th
and 12th, mines were worked under the University, a large building on
the Spanish side of the Cosso, in the line of the right attack; but
their play was insufficient to open the walls, and the storming party
was beaten with the loss of fifty men. Nevertheless, the besiegers
continuing their labours during the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th,
passed the Cosso by means of traverses, and prepared fresh mines under
the University, but deferred their explosion until a simultaneous
effort could be combined on the side of the suburb.

“At the left attack also a number of houses bordering on the Cosso
being gained, a battery was established that raked that great
thoroughfare above ground; while under it, six galleries were carried,
and six mines loaded to explode at the same moment; but the spirit of
the French army was now exhausted; they had laboured and fought without
intermission for fifty days; they had crumbled the walls with their
bullets, burst the convents with their mines, and carried the walls
with their bayonets. Fighting above and beneath the surface of the
earth, they had spared neither fire nor the sword; their bravest men
were falling in the obscurity of a subterranean warfare; famine pinched
them, and Zaragoza was still unconquered!

“‘Before this siege,’ they exclaimed, ‘was it ever heard that 20,000
men should besiege 50,000?’ Scarcely a fourth of the town was won, and
they themselves were already exhausted. ‘We must wait,’ they said,
‘for reinforcements, or we shall all perish among these cursed ruins,
which will become our own tombs before we can force the last of these
fanatics from the last of their dens.’

“Marshal Lasnes, unshaken by these murmurs and obstinate to conquer,
endeavoured to raise the soldiers’ hopes. He pointed out to them
that the losses of the besieged so far exceeded their own, that the
Spaniards’ strength must soon be wasted, and their courage must sink,
and that the fierceness of their defence was already abated; but if,
contrary to expectation, they should renew the example of Numantia,
their utter destruction must quickly ensue from the combined effects of
battle, misery, and pestilence.

“These exhortations succeeded, and on the 18th, all the combinations
being complete, a general assault took place. The French at the right
attack having opened a party wall by the explosion of a petard, made
a sudden rush through some burning ruins, and carried without a check
the island of houses leading down to the quay, with the exception
of two buildings. The Spaniards were thus forced to abandon all the
external fortifications between St. Augustin and the Ebro, which they
had preserved until that day. And while this assault was in progress,
the mines under the university, containing 3000 pounds of powder, were
sprung; and the walls tumbling with a terrific crash, a column of the
besiegers entered the place, and after one repulse secured a lodgment.
During this time fifty pieces of artillery thundered upon the suburb,
and ploughed up the bridge over the Ebro, and by mid–day opened a
practicable breach in the great convent of St. Lazar, which was the
principal defence on that side. Lasnes, observing that the Spaniards
seemed to be shaken by this overwhelming fire, immediately ordered an
assault, and St. Lazar being carried forthwith, all retreat to the
bridge was thus intercepted, and the besieged falling into confusion,
and their commander, Baron Versage, being killed, were all destroyed
or taken, with the exception of two or three hundred men, who, braving
the terrible fire to which they were exposed, got back into the town.
General Gazan immediately occupied the abandoned works, and having
thus cut off above 2000 men that were stationed on the Ebro, above the
suburb, forced them also to surrender.

“This important success being followed on the 19th by another fortunate
attack on the right bank of the Ebro, and by the devastating explosion
of 1600 pounds of powder, the constancy of the besieged was at last
shaken. An aide–de–camp of Palafox came forth to demand certain terms,
before offered by the Marshal, adding thereto that the garrison should
be allowed to join the Spanish armies, and that a certain number of
covered carriages should follow them. Lasnes rejected these proposals,
and the fire continued; but the hour of surrender was come. Fifty
pieces of artillery, on the left bank of the Ebro, laid the houses on
the quay in ruins. The church of Our Lady of the Pillar, under whose
especial protection the city was supposed to exist, was nearly effaced
by the bombardment; and the six mines under the Cosso, loaded with many
thousand pounds of powder, were ready for a simultaneous explosion,
which would have laid a quarter of the remaining houses in the dust. In
fine, war had done its work, and the misery of Zaragoza could no longer
be endured.

“The bombardment, which had never ceased from the 10th of January,
had forced the women and children to take refuge in the vaults, with
which the city abounded. There the constant combustion of oil, the
closeness of the atmosphere, unusual diet, and fear and restlessness of
mind, had combined to produce a pestilence, which soon spread to the
garrison. The strong and weak, the daring soldier and the timid child,
fell before it alike; and such was the state of the atmosphere, and the
disposition to disease, that the slightest wound gangrened and became
incurable. In the beginning of February the deaths were from four
to five hundred daily; the living were unable to bury the dead, and
thousands of carcases scattered about the streets and court–yards, or
piled in heaps at the doors of the churches, were left to dissolve in
their own corruption, or to be licked up by the flames of the burning
houses as the defence became contracted.

“The suburb, the greatest part of the walls, and one–fourth of the
houses were in the hands of the French; 16,000 shells thrown during
the bombardment, and the explosion of 45,000 pounds of powder in the
mines, had shaken the city to its foundations, and the bones of more
than 40,000 persons of every age and sex bore dreadful testimony to the
constancy of the besieged.

“Palafox was sick; and of the plebeian chiefs, the most distinguished
having been slain in battle, or swept away by the pestilence, the
obdurate violence of the remaining leaders was so abated that a fresh
junta was formed; and, after a stormy consultation, the majority being
for a surrender, a deputation waited on Marshal Lasnes on the 20th of
February to negotiate a capitulation.”[35]

Some doubt exists as to the terms obtained; the French writers assert
that the place surrendered at discretion; the Spaniards say the
following conditions were obtained: that the garrison should march out
with the honours of war, to be constituted prisoners and marched to
France; the peasants to be sent home, and property and religion to be
guaranteed. On the 21st, from 12,000 to 15,000 sickly men laid down the
arms which they could scarcely support, and this memorable siege was


 Corcyrean sedition—Civil wars of Rome—Jacquerie—Factions of the Circus
 at Constantinople—Massacre of Sept. 2, 1792.

The year which witnessed the unhappy fate of the brave Platæans was
made remarkable by the Corcyrean sedition also: on which, as on the
plague of Athens, the pen of Thucydides has conferred a lasting

Corcyra, an island situated on the western coast of Greece, by sedulous
attention to commerce, had risen, a little before the Peloponnesian
war, to the possession of a navy capable of rivalling in strength
that of any Grecian state, except Athens. It was a colony of Corinth;
but, in consequence of some disputes which arose out of the affairs
of Epidamnus, a Corcyrean colony, war broke out between Corcyra and
the mother country, the Corcyreans concluded a defensive alliance with
the Athenians, and the democratical interest was of course established
in power. A naval battle ensued, in which the Corinthians had the
advantage, and took upwards of a thousand prisoners. It rarely happened
in any of the smaller Grecian states, that either the democratic or the
oligarchical party obtained an uncontested and permanent ascendancy;
and the Corinthians were not inclined to resign without a struggle that
respect and influence which the manners and religion of Greece taught
to be due from the colony to the mother country. Of the prisoners above
mentioned, eight hundred, who were slaves, were sold by the victors;
the rest, to the number of two hundred and fifty, were citizens, most
of them men of consequence in Corcyra, who probably looked with no
friendly eye on the Athenian alliance, and at all events were ready to
break it off, and revert to the connexion of Corinth, as the price
of their liberty. They were accordingly suffered to return home. The
tumults to which their subsequent attempts to restore the oligarchy
gave rise are celebrated in history under the name of the Corcyrean
sedition. A more heinous scene of treachery and murder has seldom
been exhibited even in civil warfare; or a more deplorable state of
morals described than that which is said by Thucydides in the following
passage to have prevailed, not only in Corcyra, but throughout Greece.

“The sedition in Corcyra began upon the coming home of those captives
which were taken in the battles by sea at Epidamnus, and released
afterwards by the Corinthians at the ransom, as was voiced, of eight
hundred talents, for which they had given security to their hosts,[36]
but in fact, because they had persuaded the Corinthians that they would
put Corcyra into their power. These persons going round from man to
man, solicited the city to revolt from the Athenians; and two galleys
being now come in, one of Athens, another of Corinth, with ambassadors
from both those states, the Corcyreans, upon audience of them both,
decreed to hold the Athenians for their confederates, on articles
agreed on: but withal to remain friends to the Peloponnesians, as
they had formerly been. There was one Pithias, voluntary host of the
Athenians, and that had been principal magistrate of the people. Him
these men called into judgment, and laid to his charge a practice to
bring the city into the servitude of the Athenians. He again, being
acquit, called in question five of the wealthiest of the same men,
saying they had cut certain stakes[37] in the ground belonging to the
temples both of Jupiter and of Alcinous, upon every one of which there
lay a penalty of a stater.[38] And being sentenced to pay the fine,
they took sanctuary in the temples, to the end, the sum being great,
they might pay it by portions, as they should be taxed. But Pithias
(for he was also of the senate) obtained that the law should proceed.
These five being by the law shut out of hope, and understanding that
Pithias, as long as he was a senator, would cause the people to hold
for friends and foes the same that were so to the Athenians, conspired
with the rest, and armed with daggers, suddenly brake into the senate
house, and slew both Pithias and others, as well private men as
senators, to the number of about sixty persons; only a few of those of
Pithias his faction escaped into the Athenian galley that lay yet in
the harbour.

“When they had done this, and called the Corcyreans to an assembly,
they told them, that what they had done was for the best, and that they
should not be now in bondage to the Athenians. And for the future they
advised them to be in quiet, and to receive neither party with more
than one galley at once; and to take them for enemies if they were
more: and when they had spoken forced them to decree it accordingly.
They also presently sent ambassadors to Athens, both to show that
it was fit for them to do what they had done, and also to dissuade
such Corcyreans as were fled thither of the other faction, from doing
anything to their prejudice, lest there should be a counter–revolution.

“When these arrived, the Athenians apprehended both the ambassadors
themselves, as seditious persons, and also all those Corcyreans whom
they had there prevailed with, and sent them to custody in Ægina.
In the mean time, upon the coming in of a galley of Corinth with
ambassadors from Lacedæmon, that party that had the rule assailed
the commons, and overcame them in fight; and night coming on, the
commons fled into the citadel, and the higher parts of the city, where
they rallied themselves and encamped, and made themselves masters
of the haven called the Hillaic haven. But the others seized on the
market–place (where also the most of them dwelt) and on the haven on
the side toward the continent.

“The next day they skirmished a little with shot,[39] and both parts
sent abroad into the villages to solicit the slaves, with promise of
liberty, to take their parts; and the greatest part of the slaves took
part with the commons, and the other side had an aid of 800 men from
the continent.

“The next day but one they fought again, and the people had the
victory, having the odds both in strength of places, and in number of
men. And the women also manfully assisted them, throwing tiles from the
houses, and enduring the tumult, even beyond the condition of their
sex. The few began to fly about twilight, and fearing lest the people
should attack, and at the first onset gain possession of the arsenal,
and put them to the sword, to stop their passage, set fire to the
houses in the market–place, and those adjoining them, sparing neither
their own property nor others. Much goods of merchants were hereby
burnt, and the whole city, if the wind had risen and carried the flame
that way, had been in danger to have been destroyed. Then ceasing from
battle, forasmuch as both parties were at rest, they set watch for the
night. And the Corinthian galley stole away, because the people had
gotten the victory, and most of the auxiliaries got over privily to the

“The next day Nicostratus the son of Diotrephes, an Athenian commander,
came in with twelve galleys and five hundred Messenian men of arms
from Naupactus, and both negotiated a reconciliation, and induced them
(to the end they might agree) to condemn ten of the principal authors
of the sedition (who presently fled) and to let the rest alone, with
articles both between themselves and with the Athenians, to esteem
friends and enemies the same as the Athenians did. When he had done
this, he would have been gone, but the people persuaded him before he
went to leave behind him five of his galleys, the better to keep their
adversaries from stirring, and to take as many of theirs, which they
would man with Corcyreans, and send with him. To this he agreed, and
they made a list of those that should embark, consisting altogether of
their enemies. But these fearing to be sent to Athens, took sanctuary
in the temple of Castor and Pollux: but Nicostratus endeavoured to
raise them, and spake to them, to put them into courage: but when he
could not prevail, the people (arming themselves on pretence that
their diffidence to go along with Nicostratus proceeded from some evil
intention) took away their arms out of their houses, and would also
have killed some of them, such as they chanced on, if Nicostratus had
not hindered them. Others also, when they saw this, took sanctuary in
the temple of Juno, and they were in all above four hundred. But the
people, fearing some innovation, got them by persuasion to rise, and
conveying them into the island that lieth over against the temple of
Juno, sent them their necessaries thither.

“The sedition standing in these terms, the fourth or fifth day
after the putting over of these men into the island, arrived the
Peloponnesian fleet from Cyllene, where, since their voyage of Ionia,
they had lain at anchor, to the number of three and fifty sail.
Alcidas had the command of these, as before, and Brasidas came with
him as a counsellor. And having first put in at Sybota, a haven of the
continent, they came on the next morning by break of day toward Corcyra.

“The Corcyreans being in a great tumult and fear, both of the seditious
within, and of the invasion without, made ready threescore galleys,
and still as any of them were manned, sent them out against the enemy;
whereas the Athenians had advised them to give leave to them to go
forth first, and then the Corcyreans to follow after with the whole
fleet together. But when their scattered ships neared the enemy, two
of them immediately deserted, and in others they that were aboard
went together by the oars, and nothing was done in due order. The
Peloponnesians, seeing their confusion, opposed themselves to the
Corcyreans with twenty galleys only, the rest they set in array against
the twelve galleys of Athens.

“The Corcyreans having come disorderly up, and by few at once, were
of their own fault in much distress; but the Athenians, fearing
an overmatch of numbers, and that they should be surrounded, did
not charge upon the close array, nor on the centre of the enemy;
but attacked the wing, and sunk one of their galleys: and when
the Peloponnesians afterwards had put their fleet into a circular
figure, they then went about and about it, endeavouring to put them
into disorder; which they that were fighting against the Corcyreans
perceiving, and fearing such another chance as befel them formerly at
Naupactus, went to their aid, and uniting themselves, came upon the
Athenians all together. But they, backing their oars, retreated with
their prows to the enemy, that the Corcyreans should take that time to
escape in; they themselves in the mean time going as leisurely back as
was possible, and keeping the enemy still opposed to them. Such was
this battle, and it ended about sunset.

“The Corcyreans fearing lest the enemy, in pursuit of their victory,
should have come directly against the city, or take aboard the men
which they had put over into the island, or do them some other
mischief, fetched back the men into the temple of Juno again, and
guarded the city. But the Peloponnesians, though they had won the
battle, yet durst not invade the city, but having taken thirteen of
the Corcyrean galleys, went back into the continent from whence they
had set forth. The next day they came not unto the city, no more than
before, although it was in great tumult and affright: and though also
Brasidas (as it is reported) advised Alcidas to it, but had not equal
authority: but only landed soldiers at the promontory of Leucimna, and
wasted their territory.

“In the mean time the people of Corcyra, fearing extremely lest
those galleys should come against the city, not only conferred with
those in sanctuary, and with the rest, about how the city might be
preserved, but also induced some of them to serve on shipboard. For
notwithstanding the confusion they had still manned thirty galleys, in
expectation that the fleet of the enemy should have entered. But the
Peloponnesians having been wasting of their fields till it was about
noon, went their ways again. And during the night the Corcyreans had
notice by beacon–fires of threescore Athenian galleys coming toward
them from Leucas, which the Athenians, upon intelligence of the
sedition, and of the fleet to go to Corcyra under Alcidas, had sent to
aid them, under the conduct of Eurymedon the son of Thucles.

“The Peloponnesians, therefore, as soon as night came, sailed speedily
home, keeping still the shore, and causing their galleys to be carried
over at the Isthmus of Leucas, that they might not come in sight as
they doubled it. But the people of Corcyra, hearing of the Attic
galleys coming in, and the going off of the Peloponnesians, brought
into the city the Messenians,[40] who till this time had been kept
outside the walls, and appointing the galleys which they had equipped
to come about into the Hillaic haven; they in the mean time slew all
the contrary faction they could lay hands on, and also afterwards threw
overboard out of the same galleys all those (i. e., of the oligarchical
party) they had before persuaded to embark, and so went thence. And
coming to the temple of Juno, they persuaded fifty of those that had
taken sanctuary, to refer themselves to a legal trial; all which they
condemned to die. But most of those who had taken sanctuary, that is,
all those that were not induced to stand to trial by law, when they saw
what was done, killed one another there, right in the temple: some
hanged themselves on trees; every one, as he had means, made himself
away. And for seven days together that Eurymedon staid there with his
threescore galleys, the Corcyreans did nothing but kill such of their
city as they took to be their enemies, laying to their charge indeed
that they had conspired against the commons, but some among them were
slain upon private hatred, and some by their debtors, for the money
which they had lent them. All forms of death were then seen, and (as in
such cases it usually falls out) whatsoever had happened at any time,
happened also then, and more. For the father slew his son, men were
dragged out of the temples, and then slain hard by; and some walled
up within the temple of Bacchus[41] died there. So cruel was this
sedition; and it seemed so the more, because it was among these men the

“For afterwards all Greece, as a man may say, was in commotion; and
quarrels arose every where between the patrons of the commons, that
sought to bring in the Athenians, and the Few[42] that desired to
bring in the Lacedæmonians. Now in time of peace they could have no
pretence, nor would have been so forward to call them in; but being
war, and confederates to be had for either party, both to hurt their
enemies, and strengthen themselves, such as desired alteration easily
got foreign help to their end. And many heinous things happened in
the cities through this sedition, which though they have been before,
and shall be ever, as long as human nature is the same, yet they are
more violent, or more tranquil, and of different kinds, according to
the several[43] conjunctures at which they occur. For in peace and
prosperity both cities and private men are better minded, because
they fall not into such emergencies as constrain men to do things,
whether they will or no; but war taking away the affluence of daily
necessaries, is a most violent master, and conformeth most men’s
passions to the present occasion. So sedition prevailed in the cities,
and those that fell into it later, having heard what had been done in
the former, far exceeded them in newness of conceit, both for the art
of assailing, and for the strangeness of their revenges. The received
value of names imposed for signification of things, was changed
into arbitrary: for inconsiderate boldness was counted true–hearted
manliness; provident deliberation, a handsome fear; modesty, the cloak
of cowardice; to be wise in every thing, to be lazy in every thing.
A furious suddenness was reputed a point of valour. To re–advise for
the better security, was held for a fair pretext of tergiversation.
He that was fierce, was always trusty; and he that contraried such
a one, was suspected. He that did insidiate, if he took, was a wise
man; but he that could find out the trap, a cleverer man than he:
but he that had been so provident as not to need to do one or the
other, was said to be a dissolver of fellowship, and one that stood
in fear of his adversary. In brief, he that could outstrip another
in the doing of an evil act, or that could persuade another thereto,
that never meant it, was commended. To be kin to another, was not
to be so near as to be of his fellowship, because these were ready
to undertake any thing, without standing upon pretexts. For these
fellowships[44] looked not to benefits consistent with the existing
laws, but to self–aggrandizement, contrary to them. And as for mutual
trust amongst them, it was confirmed not so much by divine law,[45] as
by the communication of guilt. And what was handsomely spoken by their
adversaries, they received with an eye to their actions, to see whether
they were too strong for them or not, and not ingenuously. To be
revenged was in more request, than never to have received injury. And
oaths of reconcilement (if any were) given by one to another, because
in the present conjuncture they could do nought else, were binding, as
long as the parties had no power otherwise; but upon opportunity, he
that first durst, if he saw an unguarded place, thought his revenge
sweeter by the trust than if he had taken the open way. And this course
was valued both for its security, and because he that circumvented his
adversary by fraud assumed to himself withal a mastery in point of
wit. And dishonest men for the most part are sooner called able, than
simple men honest. And men are ashamed of this title, but take a pride
in the other. The cause of this is desire of rule, out of avarice and
ambition, and the zeal of contention[46] from those two proceeding.
For such as were of authority in the cities, both of the one and the
other faction, the one under the decent pretext of political equality
of the many, the other of moderate aristocracy, though in words they
seemed to be servants of the public, they made it in effect but
the prize of their contention. And striving by whatsoever means to
overcome, both ventured on most horrible outrages, and revenged them
even beyond the provocations, without any regard of justice, or the
public good, but limiting them, each faction, by their own appetite:
and stood ready, whether by unjust sentence, or with their own hands,
when they should get the uppermost, to satisfy their spite. So that
neither side thought to do any thing by honest means; but they were
best spoken of, that could pass a business though against the grain,
with fair words. The neutrals of the city were destroyed by both
factions; partly because they would not side with them, and partly for
envy that they should so escape.

“Thus was wickedness on foot in every kind, throughout all Greece,
by the occasion of the party conflicts. Sincerity (whereof there is
much in a generous nature) was laughed down, and vanished. And it
was far the best course to stand distrustfully against each other,
for neither were words powerful, nor oaths terrible enough to assure
reconciliation. And being all of them, the more they considered, the
more desperate of security, they rather contrived how to avoid a
mischief, than were able to rely on any man’s faith. And for the most
part such as had the least wit had the best success; for both their own
defect, and the subtilty of their adversaries, putting them in a great
fear to be overcome in words, or at least in pre–insidiation, by their
enemies’ great craft, they therefore went roundly to work with them,
with deeds. Whereas the other, thinking in their arrogance that they
should be aware in time, and that they needed not to take by force what
they might do by plot, were thereby unprovided, and so the more easily

“In Corcyra then were most of these evils committed first: and besides
these, all that men might perpetrate in retaliation, who had been
tyrannically governed by that very party which they now saw in their
power; or that men just freed from their accustomed poverty, and
greedily coveting their neighbour’s goods, would against justice agree
to; or which men, assailing each other, not upon desire of gain, but
as equal against equal, in the intemperance of anger would cruelly and
inexorably execute. And the common course of life being at that time
confounded in the city, the nature of man, which is wont even against
law to do evil, gotten now above the law, was very ready to display
itself as intemperately passionate, too strong for justice, and an
enemy to all superiority. For they would never else have preferred
revenge to sanctity, and gain to that condition of justice, in which
envy would have lost its power to do harm. And for the laws common to
all men in such cases (which, as long as they be in force, give hope to
all that suffer injury), men desire not to leave them standing, against
the need a man in danger may have of them, but by their revenges on
others, to be beforehand in subverting them.[47]

“Such were the passions of the Corcyreans first of all other Grecians,
towards one another in the city. And Eurymedon and the Athenians
departed with their galleys. Afterwards such of the Corcyreans as had
fled (for there escaped about five hundred of them) having seized
on the forts in the continent, established themselves in their own
territory on the mainland opposite the island, and from thence came
over and robbed the islanders, and did them much hurt; and there
grew a great famine in the city. They likewise sent ambassadors to
Lacedæmon and Corinth, to negotiate concerning their return; and when
they could get nothing done, having gotten boats, and some auxiliary
soldiers, they passed a while after to the number of about six hundred
into the island. Where when they had set their boats on fire, that
they might have no hope but in the making themselves masters of the
country, they went up into the hill Istone, and having there fortified
themselves with a wall, infested those within, and were masters of the

“In the seventh year of the war[49] Eurymedon and Sophocles, after
their departure from Pylus with the Athenian fleet towards Sicily,
arriving at Corcyra, joined with those of the city, and made war upon
those Corcyreans which lay encamped upon the hill Istone, and which,
after the sedition, had come over, and made themselves masters of the
country, and done much harm: and having assaulted their fortification,
took it. But the men all in one troop escaped to a certain high ground,
and thence made their composition, which was this; ‘that they should
deliver up the foreigners that aided them; and that they themselves,
having rendered their arms, should stand to the judgment of the people
of Athens.’ Hereupon the generals granted them truce, and transported
them to the island of Ptychia, to be there in custody till the
Athenians should send for them; with this condition, ‘that if any one
of them should be taken running away, then the truce to be broken for
them all.’ But the leaders of the commons of Corcyra, fearing lest the
Athenians would not kill those who were sent to them, devise against
them this plot. To some few of those in the island they secretly send
their friends, and instruct them to say, as if forsooth, it were for
good will, that it was their best course with all speed to get away
(and withal to offer to provide them of a boat), for that the Athenian
commanders intended verily to deliver them to the Corcyrean people.

“When they were persuaded to do so, and that a boat was treacherously
prepared, as they rowed away they were taken, and the truce being
now broken, were all given up into the hands of the Corcyreans. It
did much further this plot, by giving to the pretence held out an
appearance of reality, and making the agents in it less fearful, that
the Athenian generals evidently did not wish the men to be carried
home by others, whilst they themselves were to go into Sicily, and
the honour of it be ascribed to those that should convoy them. The
Corcyreans having received them into their hands, imprisoned them in a
large edifice, from whence afterwards they took them out by twenty at a
time, and made them pass through a lane of men of arms, bound together,
and receiving strokes and thrusts from those on either side, according
as any one espied his enemy. And to hasten the pace of those that went
slowliest on, others were set to follow them with whips.

“They had taken out of the room in this manner, and slain, to the
number of threescore, before they that remained knew it, who thought
they were but removed, and carried to some other place. But when they
knew the truth, some or other having told them, they then cried out
to the Athenians, and bid them, if they wished their death, kill them
themselves; and refused any more to go out of the building, nor would
suffer, they said, as long as they were able, any man to come in. But
neither had the Corcyreans any purpose to force entrance by the door,
but getting up to the top of the house, uncovered the roof, and threw
tiles, and shot arrows at them. They in prison defended themselves as
well as they could; but many also slew themselves with the arrows shot
by the enemy, by thrusting them into their throats, and strangling
themselves with the cords of certain beds that were in the room, and
with halters made of their own garments rent in pieces. And having
continued most part of the night (for night overtook them in the
action), partly strangling themselves by all such means as they found,
and partly shot at from above, they all perished. When day came, the
Corcyreans laid them one across another[50] in carts, and carried them
out of the city. And of their wives, as many as were taken in the
fortification, they made bond–women. In this manner were the Corcyreans
that kept the hill,[51] brought to destruction by the commons. And thus
ended this far–spread sedition, for so much as concerned this present
war: for other seditions there remained nothing worth the relation.”[52]

It would be difficult to find a more thoroughly hateful state of
society than that which appears from this passage, and from the
description of the plague of Athens, to have existed in Greece at
this period. The picture, it is to be remembered, comes to us on the
authority of one whose impartiality and deep powers of observation
are alike unquestioned, no splenetic, no visionary, but one who had
mixed largely and in high station among the stirring times of which he
writes. The most astonishing circumstance connected with the depravity
here exhibited, is the short period in which it appears to have shot
up into such rank growth. We possess, it is true, little knowledge of
any thing but the public acts of Greece anterior to the Peloponnesian
war, at which time the contemporary historian, and still more the
contemporary comedian Aristophanes, supply us with abundant notices of
private life, which are continued and enlarged by the philosophers and
orators. Still, as far as we have the means of judging, there seems no
reason to ascribe to the Greeks, until about the Peloponnesian war,
a smaller share of morality and religion than has usually been found
among heathen nations. Whence then in so short a time this utter loss
of moral sense and disruption of the bonds of society? The question is
not an easy one to answer, but the substance of the best answer that we
can give is comprised in the introductory chapter to this volume.

To supply a series of parallels to this domestic contest is scarcely
possible. Among insurrections and civil wars, events of equal atrocity
and more astounding magnitude might be found, but scarcely events
of the same character. We naturally turn first to the other great
nation of antiquity. Here we are warned against the most obvious
comparison by a late eminent scholar. After speaking of the dangers
incident to the struggle between the aristocracy and the people in
that often–occurring form of a nation’s early existence, when it is
divided into a privileged race or caste, whose power is founded on
conquest, and a commonalty personally free, but politically dependant,
as were the Saxons, while the distinction between Saxon and Norman
blood continued in England; after speaking of the dangers which beset
that contest which is sure to take place when the spread of wealth and
knowledge has equalized the personal qualities of the rulers and the
ruled, he continues: “If the nation escapes these, either originally
or finally, it enters upon its state of manhood, and is exposed to a
somewhat different succession of struggles. The contest is then between
property and numbers, and wherever it has come to a crisis, I know not
that it has in any instance terminated favourably. Such was the state
of Greece in the time of Thucydides; of Rome from the passing of the
Publilian laws to the end of the commonwealth: and such has been the
state of England since the Revolution of 1688. Comparisons drawn from
the preceding period are inapplicable to this; while on the other hand,
as the phenomena of this second period arise out of causes connected
with the earlier state of things, they cannot be clearly understood
unless that former state be fully known to us. Thus, to argue that
the Romans were less bloody than the Greeks from a comparison between
the factions of the Peloponnesian war, and the struggles of the Roman
commons against the patricians, is to compare the two nations under
very different circumstances; it is instituting a comparison between
the intensity of our passions in manhood and in childhood. The bloody
factions of Corcyra and Megara are analogous to the civil wars of
Marius and Sylla, of Cæsar and Pompey, of Brutus and Cassius against
the Triumvirs: the harmless contests between the commons and patricians
can only be compared to those which prevailed in Greece before the
Persian invasion, when the party of the coast at Athens was disputing
the exclusive ascendency so long enjoyed by the eupatridæ or party of
the plain.[53] And the true conclusion is, that the second contest
between property and numbers is far more inevitably accompanied by
atrocious crimes, than that earlier quarrel, in which property and
numbers were united against property and birth.”[54]

The Corcyrean sedition differed from the secession to the Mons
Sacer, and other disputes between patricians and plebeians, in being
a struggle of parties, not ranks. Very little positive information
concerning the constitution of the island has been preserved.[55]
Originally, probably, its Corinthian colonists established an
oligarchy: but the prosecution of maritime affairs was always held
greatly to favour the ascendency of the people, and in Thucydides we
find no trace of a privileged body of citizens at Corcyra any more than
at Athens. When speaking of the 250, whom the Corinthians selected
as a sort of hostages to regain their influence, he calls them, “for
the most part the first men of the city in power.”[56] Elsewhere he
describes them as “those in possession of things,” or “the few,”[57]
but not as the magistracy, or in terms which lead us to suppose that
they formed a constitutional aristocracy either of birth or wealth.
This, therefore, was a branch of the great struggle which gave its
character to the whole Peloponnesian war, whether the oligarchical
principle, under the patronage of Lacedæmon, or the democratic under
the patronage of Athens, should reign in Greece. The co–existence of
the two in peace seems, from the restless and intriguing temper of the
people, to have been impossible; and the experience of other cities had
shown that for the worsted party there was no security but in flight,
attended usually by sentence of exile and confiscation. And there is
no authority to which men submit so reluctantly, no hardships which
they feel so keenly, as those which arise from the elevation of their
former equals. The circumstances of the times, therefore, combined with
the spreading moral pestilence to give a desperation to this contest,
from which the early dissensions of patricians and plebeians, happily
for Rome, were free. Here each party had a definite object to contend
for; the one, the relaxation of oppressive privileges; the other, to
maintain unimpaired the immunities and dignity of their order: and each
had wisdom, the one to be moderate in its demands; the other to concede
moderately, rather than hazard the very being of the state by an
appeal to arms. No personal or political hatred inflamed the passions,
unless where some enslaved debtor was maddened by suffering, or some
hot–headed patrician, such as the old legends of Rome represented
Coriolanus to be, became impatient that the swinish multitude should
believe they had rights; each party felt that the other was necessary
to its welfare, and though driven to violence, the plebeians still
looked up with respect and affection to their hereditary aristocracy.

As these disturbances belong to an earlier, so the civil wars of
Marius and Sylla, and those which ended in the establishment of
the Empire, belong, we think, to a more advanced stage of society
than does the Corcyrean sedition, which is compared to them in the
foregoing quotation. Rome had reached, and had passed the period at
which a true democracy becomes impossible except through the medium of
representation; while at Corcyra, even when the popular faction was
supreme, the government was an oligarchy, in respect of the _whole_
population of the state, of which slaves and foreigners constituted, we
may presume, a considerable majority. The legislative and the armed
body were identical; a part of that body might triumph over the rest,
but no one could mount on the shoulders of the people to a military
despotism, and then kick away the step by which he had risen. No leader
seems to have risen to the absolute power of Marius, or Sylla, or
Cæsar; if there had, it must have been by consent of the prevailing
party, who would therefore have been implicated in his actions. At
Rome the case was very different: the legislative authority centred in
the resident citizens, the military power of the state was more than
equally shared with them by the provincial armies, composed partly of
barbarians, partly of subjects of the state, entitled to a greater
or lesser share of the privileges of citizenship, but not to vote in
the assemblies of the people, and partly, it is true, of citizens,
but those long absent from the seat of government, and careless about
politics, but devoted to the leader who had led them on to plunder,
honour, and victory. Some faction therefore was to be courted to gain
place and power, but he who had gained them, and with them military
command and influence, was in great measure independent of his former
associates. Sylla and Marius were terrible to friends as well as foes,
and it would be unfair to charge upon the Roman people the enormous
crimes committed under the military tyrannies which they established.

If we look for parallels in modern history, the search will not be
more successful. The domestic quarrels as well as the structure of the
Italian states, bear a close analogy to those of the Greek republics,
and the contests of the oligarchical and democratic parties, and the
influence of Sparta or Athens, as one or the other prevailed, may
be closely exemplified by the bitter quarrels of the Guelphs and
Ghibelines, and the interest exerted, by means of these parties, by
the Pope and the Emperor. But full as is Italian history of desperate
feuds, we cannot call to mind any one worthy to be compared with the
transactions at Corcyra. The massacre, called the Sicilian Vespers,
when 8000 French were surprised and slain in one night, by a
simultaneous insurrection of the native Sicilians, is a memorable and
frightful example of popular revenge: but the act of a people rising in
defence of its rights, atrocious as is such a method of asserting them,
is not to be placed by the side of so cold–blooded, and unprovoked, and
faithless a massacre as that of the conquered Corcyreans. The massacre
of St. Bartholomew might compete with it in point of treachery, but the
ground of quarrel, and the relation of the contending parties, were
entirely dissimilar.

The outrages committed in France by the insurgent peasantry, called
Jacquerie, are unlike the massacres at Corcyra, inasmuch as they belong
to an earlier stage of society, a stage again different from that
contemplated by Dr. Arnold, when he speaks of the harmless nature of
that earlier quarrel in which property and numbers are united against
property and birth. These risings, and the corresponding risings in
England, were the acts of men without property, and many of them
without a legal capability of acquiring it; men hostile to all the
institutions of society, because to them society had been little but
an engine of oppression. They were the efforts of brute force against
all that is superior to itself; the rage of the untamed wolf after he
has broken his chain. We say this not in justification of the conduct
of their feudal lords, nor in censure of their earnest desire to break
the yoke which bore them down to the ground. But whether their cause
was good or bad, the method of their advocating it was brutal; and
herein servile wars, if not most formidable as to their result, are
most to be deprecated, because the passions of each party are sure to
be exasperated to the uttermost: and because the insurgents, being
without the pale of the laws of war, have no temptation to show mercy,
and no hope but in victory. And so to the Jacquerie, every thing more
refined or exalted than themselves was the object of their deadly hate.
They had no thought to raise themselves; that was beyond the grasp of
their minds: but they were bent on pulling down others to their own
level, so that distinctions the most inoffensive or laudable were as
odious to them as the rank and power which had been misused to the
oppression of the commonalty. “Be it known unto thee by these presence,
even the presence of Lord Mortimer, that I am the besom that must sweep
the court clear of such filth as thou art. Thou hast most traitorously
corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a grammar–school: and
whereas, before our fore–fathers had no other books but the score and
the tally, thou hast caused printing to be used, and contrary to the
king, his crown, and his dignity, thou hast built a paper–mill. It will
be proved to thy face that thou hast men about thee that usually talk
of a noun and a verb, and such abominable words as no Christian can
endure to hear. Thou hast appointed justices of peace, to call poor men
before them about matters that they were not able to answer. Moreover,
thou hast put them in prison, and because they could not read thou hast
hanged them, when, indeed, only for that cause they have been most
worthy to live.”[58]

This picture is somewhat highly coloured, but if the reader will
consult Holinshed for the account of Wat Tyler’s rebellion in 1381,
he will find that there is good authority for it. “To recite what was
done in every part of the realme, in time of these hellish troubles,
it is not possible; but this is to be considered, that the rage of the
commons was universallie such, as it might seem they had generallie
conspired together to do what mischeefe they could devise. As among
sundrie other, what wickednesse was it to compell teachers of children
in grammar schooles to swear never to instruct any in their art! Again,
they could never have a more mischievous meaning than to burn and
destroy all old and auncient monuments, and to murder and despatch out
of the way all such as were able to commit to memorie either any new or
old records. For it was dangerous among them to be known for one that
was learned, and more dangerous if any man were found with a penner and
inkhorn at his side, for such seldom escaped from them with life.”[59]
The fidelity with which Shakspeare has copied the chronicles may be
readily exemplified from a variety of passages.

 _Cade._ How now! who’s there?

 _Smith._ The clerk of Chatham; he can write, and read, and cast accompt.

 _Cade._ O, monstrous! Come hither, sirrah. I must examine thee. What is
 thy name?

 _Clerk._ Emmanuel.

 _Dick._ They used to write it on the top of letters. ‘Twill go hard with

 _Cade._ Let me alone. Dost thou use to write thy name, or hast thou a
 mark to thyself, like an honest plain–dealing man?

 _Clerk._ Sir, I thank God, I have been so well brought up that I can
 write my name.

 _All._ He hath confessed: away with him: he’s a villain and a traitor.

 _Cade._ Away with him, I say: hang him with his pen and inkhorn about
 his neck.

  _Henry VI._, II. iv. 2.

It is time, however, to proceed to the historical evidence on which our
statements of the excesses of the Jacquerie are founded.

“Anon (A. D. 1358) there began a marvelouse trybulacion in the realme
of France, for certayne people of the common villages, without any head
or ruler, assembled togyder in Beauvoisin. In the beginning they passed
nat a hundred in nombre: they sayd how the noblemen of the realme of
Fraunce, knyghtes, and squyers, shamed the realme, and that it shulde
be a grete wealth to distroy them all; and eche of them sayd it was
true, and sayd alle with one voice,—Shame have he that doth nat his
power to distroy all the gentylmen of the realme. Thus they gathered
togyder without any other counsayle, and without any armure, saving
with staves and knyves, and so went to the house of a knyght dwelling
thereby, and brake up his house, and slew the knyght, and the lady,
and all his children, grete and small, and brent his house: and so dyd
they to dyvers other castelles and good houses. And they multiplied
so that they were a six thousand; and ever as they went forward they
increased, for such lyke as they were fell ever to them; so that every
gentylman fledde fro them, and took their wyves and chyldren with them,
and fledde x or xx leages off to be in suretie, and left their houses
voyde and their goods therein.—These myschevous people thus assembled
without capitayne or armure, robbed, brent, and slew all gentylmen
that they coude lay handes on, and forced and ravysshed ladyes and
damoselles, and dyd such shameful dedes, that no humayn creature ought
to think on any such, and he that dyd most mischiefe was most pleased
with them, and greatest maister.—Whan the gentylmen of Beauvoisin, of
Corbois, of Vermandois, and of other lands whereas these myschevous
people were conversant, saw the woodnesse[60] among them, they sent for
socours to their frendes into Flanders, to Brabant, to Hainault, and
to Bohemia: so there came fro all partes, and so all these gentylmen
straungers assembled togyder, and dyd sette upon these people wher
they might fynde them, and slew and hanged them upon trees by heapes.
The kynge of Naver on a day slew of them mo than thre thousand, beside
Cleremont in Beauvoisin. It was time to take them up, for and they had
been all togyder assembled, they were mo than an hundred thousand, and
when they were demanded why they dyd so yvell dedes, they wolde answer
and say, they could nat tell, but they did as they sawe other do,
thinking thereby to have distroyed all the nobles and gentylmen of the

It was the same spirit which somewhat later, in England, prompted that
rebellion of Wat Tyler, of which we have above spoken. This was a
servile war, produced by oppression and misery; a rising of the serfs
against the nobles, “who hade grete fraunchise over the commons, and
kepeth them in servage, that is to say, their tenants ought by custom
to laboure the lorde’s landes, to gather and bring home theyr corne,
and some to thrash and to fanne; and by servage to make theyr hay, and
to hew theyr wood, and bring it home: all these things they ought to do
by servage.”——“These unhappy people beganne to styrre because they were
kept in grete servage; and in the begynning of the world, they sayd,
there were no bondmen; wherefore they mayntayned that none ought to be
bonde, without he dyd treason to his lorde, as Lucifer dyd to God; but
they sayd they coude have no such batayle, for they were nouther angels
nor spirittes, but men formed to the similitude of their lordes. Of
this imagynacyon was a folisshe priest of Kent, called Johan Ball, who
wolde oft tymes, on the sondaye after masse, assemble the people about
him, and say thus, A ye good people, the mater goth nat well to passe
in Englande, nor shall nat do tyll every thing be common; and that
there be no vyllayns nor gentylmen, but that we be all unied togyder,
and that the lordes be no greater maisters than we be. What have we
deserved, or why sholde we be thus kept in servage? We be all come
fro one father and one mother, Adam and Eve; whereby can they say or
showe that they be gretter lordes than we be?”[62] Part of the matter
of the priest’s sermon was well enough, and the cause was good, if its
supporters had been capable of self–government; but their object was to
establish anarchy, not liberty, and none will be found hardy enough to
regret their failure.

After dwelling so long on things which ought to be distinguished
from the Corcyrean sedition, it is time now, if ever, to produce
those which admit of being compared with it. We have but two to
bring forward: the second bears a more than usual resemblance to it
in respect of the events which took place; the first bears little
resemblance to it in respect of events, but is distinguished, if we
may trust the contemporary historian, by a forgetfulness of natural
ties, and relaxation of the bonds of society, very like that described
by Thucydides, and not less worth noticing because the two arose out
of entirely different circumstances, political and other. We allude
to the seditions which tore Constantinople, especially under the
reign of Justinian, ostensibly commencing in so petty a cause as the
superiority of one colour to another in skill or fortune in the public
games, in which those who contended for prizes, like our jockies,
were distinguished by colours. “The race,” says Gibbon, “in its first
institution, was a simple contest of two chariots, whose drivers were
distinguished by white and red liveries; two additional colours, a
light green and a cerulean blue, were afterwards introduced, and as the
races were repeated twenty–five times, one hundred chariots contributed
in the same day to the pomp of the circus. The four factions soon
acquired a legal establishment, and a mysterious origin, and their
fanciful colours were derived from the various appearances of nature
in the four seasons of the year; the red dogstar of summer, the snows
of winter, the deep shades of autumn, and the cheerful verdure of the
spring. Another interpretation preferred the elements to the seasons,
and the struggle of the green and blue was supposed to represent the
conflict of the earth and sea. Their respective victories announced
either a plentiful harvest, or a prosperous navigation, and the
hostility of the husbandmen and mariners was somewhat less absurd than
the blind ardour of the Roman people, who devoted their lives and
fortunes to the colour which they had espoused.”[63]

With the seat of government, the amusements and the laws of the Roman
circus were of course transferred to Constantinople. Here the mutual
jealousy of the colours soon became combined with political and
theological quarrels, and gave rise to disturbances which shook some
emperors on their thrones, and vitally affected the peace and welfare
of the state. The historian of the eastern empire has not traced the
steps by which these graver discords became connected with the badges
of amusement. A scholar of our own day has collected the scattered
facts which bear on this question, but still without furnishing a
satisfactory account of the origin or history of these divisions.[64]
It may indeed be inferred from a passage in Procopius, which we shall
presently quote, that even in his time no account could be given
or reason be assigned for so preposterous and blind an enmity. Nor
will this surprise any person who reflects how easily an accidental
quarrel is perpetuated by the adoption of a name or symbol, and how
greedily the vulgar adopt the outward sign of faction, regardless of
the principles which it indicates. Many bloody tumults and desperate
feuds would have been spared to Ireland if green and orange had never
been adopted as the signs of national and religious hatred; for men
would soon have ceased to care or inquire whether their neighbour went
to church or chapel, had not the insulting badges of ascendancy and of
dissent been continually paraded before their eyes. Any measure which
did away with the use of party colours at elections would contribute
largely to the quiet and well–being of England. Whatever raises an
ostensible division between two classes of society should be sedulously
discouraged by a government. The late Lord Liverpool, according to a
current story, showed his prudence in wearing and recommending white
hats, when that article of dress was the badge of a party violently
opposed to his government. His intention was answered perfectly, and
we now wear what we please without compromising our political faith.

Whatever was the origin and progress of the quarrel, we find in
the early part of the sixth century the blue and green factions
inveterately opposed to each other; the red having merged in the green,
and the white in the blue. In the reign of Anastasius, the greens
having brought concealed weapons into the theatre, massacred at once
3000 of their blue adversaries. A soldier of fortune, named Justin,
succeeded Anastasius, and was succeeded by his own nephew, Justinian,
during whose reign the blue faction gained the ascendancy: “A secret
attachment to the family or sect of Anastasius was imputed to the
greens; the blues were zealously devoted to the cause of orthodoxy and
Justinian, and their grateful patron protected, above five years, the
disorders of a faction, whose seasonable tumults overawed the palace,
the senate, and capitals of the East.”[65] “In every city,” says the
contemporary Procopius, “the people are from old time split into two
factions, of the blue and green; but it is not long since this frenzy
first possessed them, that in the cause of these names and colours in
which they appear at the public games, they will spend their substance,
expose their bodies to the bitterest indignities, and even consent to
die by a shameful death. And while they fight with the opposite party
they cannot tell the nature of their quarrel; being at the same time
aware that even if they get the upper hand in battle, they will then be
led to prison, and suffer a death of the worst tortures. This hatred of
one man to another springs up without cause; but it remains endless,
yielding neither to the rights of kindred or friendship, even though
brethren, or such near relations, be partisans of these colours. And
so long as their faction may have the uppermost, they care neither for
things human nor divine, whether there be any impiety offered towards
God, or whether the laws and government be violated by friend or
enemy. For being themselves probably in want of common necessaries,
they care not however deeply their country be injured, so long as their
own party is likely to thrive by it. And even women share in this
taint, not merely following their husbands, but even opposing them (if
it shall so chance), though they go never to the theatres, and are not
therefore excited by any such motives. So that I can call this nothing
better than a disease of the mind.”[66]

“In the Anecdotes, he speaks again, and more fully, of the excesses
committed by the blues under the protection of Justinian.

“They dressed their hair in a manner new to the Romans, letting the
moustache and beard grow to an extreme length, like the Persians, while
they shaved the fore part of their heads to the very temples, leaving
it to grow as long and thick as it liked behind, in imitation of the
Massagetæ, after whom they called this the Hunnish mode. In dress they
affected a splendour beyond their means, defraying the cost at other
men’s expense. Their sleeves were made very close at the wrist, but
up towards the shoulder they spread to an unutterable breadth.[67]
So that in the theatre or hippodrome as often as they moved their
hands in shouting, or encouraging others, as was their custom, they
usually raised the limb to make fools think their bodies so robust,
as that a garment of that size was necessary; not perceiving that by
the emptiness of the garment the spareness of the body was the more
shown. At first they carried arms, by night openly, and by day wore
double–edged daggers concealed under their clothes; and coming out
in companies as it grew dark, they stripped the better sort either
in the open market or in passages, robbing those who fell into their
hands of cloaks, golden brooches, or whatever else it might be. And
some they even killed after robbing them, that they might tell no
tales. By these doings all men were much grieved, and especially those
that were not of the blue faction (for even they themselves went not
scot–free), and from thenceforth men wore brass brooches, and girdles
and cloaks beneath their condition.... There was no known crime which
at this time was not committed and left unpunished. First they only
killed their adversaries, then advancing in guilt they slew those who
never had offended them. Many hired them to take off an enemy, which
they did under pretence that the dead man was of the green party,
though really he were quite unknown to them. And these things were not
done in darkness as before, but in every hour of the day and place
of the city, and before the eyes of the most eminent men: for being
in no fear of punishment they cared not for concealment; but rather
esteemed it a glory to those who laid claim to strength and manhood,
that at one blow they could kill any unarmed person who came across
them. In this slippery conjuncture no one had any hope of surviving;
for no place was strong, no season sacred enough to warrant security;
for even in the most honoured temples and assemblies men were slain,
and no account taken of them. There was no more trusting either in
friends or relations, for many perished by those who were nearest to
them. And no inquiry was made into what had been done, but evil fell
without warning, and no one helped him that was down. Law and contracts
were no longer binding; every thing went according to the will of the
strongest, and the state was like an unestablished tyranny, continually
passing into new hands and beginning afresh. The minds of the
authorities seemed to be amazed and enslaved by fear of one man; and
the judges determined causes not according to law and justice, but as
the parties in the suit were in good or bad odour with the parties in
the state. For it was a capital offence that a judge should controvert
the orders of the ruling party, the blues.”[68]

Such was the state of Constantinople, the blues exulting in the royal
favour, when, in January, 532, the citizens were assembled in the
hippodrome, the Emperor himself presiding over the games. The green
faction disturbed the peace of the assembly by complaints, until at
length Justinian was induced to enter into a parley with them by the
voice of an officer called Mandator, a sort of civil aide–de–camp,
whose duty was to receive and transmit his sovereign’s orders. The
dialogue which ensued is justly characterized by Gibbon, who has only
given a short specimen of it, as the most singular that ever passed
between a prince and his subjects.

We may premise, to account for the strange and unintelligible turn of
many of the sentences, that the original is written in the corrupt
Greek popularly spoken at Constantinople in the sixth century, and
is full of allusions to which we possess no key, and words which the
lexicographers have not explained, and sentences in which it is not
possible to make out any grammatical construction. These difficulties,
however, make the passage the more curious; inasmuch as they give
reason to suppose that the dialogue was taken down as it occurred, and
has not been polished in passing through the hands of historians.

 _Green._ Long may you live, august Justinian. I am aggrieved, thou only
 good one, I cannot bear it. God knows, I dare not name him, lest it turn
 to his advantage and to my peril.

 _Mandator._ Who is he? I know not.

 _Green._ He who wrongs me will be found among the shoemakers,[69] thrice

 _Mand._ No one wrongs you.

 _Green._ One, and one only wrongs me. Mother of God, may he never lift
 his head again!

 _Mand._ What man is he? I know not.

 _Green._ You, and you only know, august Justinian, who wrongs me to–day.

 _Mand._ If in truth there be any, I know him not.

 _Green._ Calopodius, the armour–bearer, wrongs me, Master of all.

 _Mand._ Calopodius has no employment.

 _Green._ Be he who he may, he shall die the death of Judas! God repay
 him his injuries to me, and that quickly!

 _Mand._ You come, not to the games, but to insult your rulers.

 _Green._ If any wrong me, he shall die the death of Judas!

 _Mand._ Be quiet, ye Jews, Manichæans, and Samaritans.

 _Green._ Jews are we, and Samaritans? the mother of God is with all.

 _Mand._ How long will you heap curses on yourselves?

 _Green._ If any deny that our master believes rightly, let him be
 accursed like Judas!

 _Mand._ I tell you to be baptized in the name of one.

This seems to be a theological gibe at the unorthodox party, which
they repel with anger. There is an ambiguity in the reply, which it is
not easy to translate, because, from the corruption of the text, or
from the debased Greek in which the dialogue is chiefly written, we
can come to no certain conclusion as to the real meaning. They express
their willingness to be baptized according to order, and use a word
which has been interpreted either to mean “Bring water,” or to confer
on Justinian the appellation of “Pump.” There certainly was something
in it which raised the Emperor’s wrath, and extracted from him a reply
more to the purpose than any yet made.

 _Mand._ In truth, if you are not quiet I will cut off your heads.

 _Green._ Every one seeks power for his own safety, and if we speak
 because of our affliction, let not your greatness be indignant, for God
 endures all of us. We having cause for what we say, give to every thing
 its right name. We know not, thrice august, where the palace is, nor the
 condition of the state. We go not into the city, except to lay snares
 against the ass,[70] and I wish we went not for that, thrice august.

 _Mand._ Every free man appears where he will, without danger.

 _Green._ I hope I am free, yet I cannot appear without danger. And if a
 man is free, if he be suspected to be green, he shall be openly punished.

 _Mand._ Hang–dogs, have you no mercy on your own lives?

 _Green._ Abolish our colour—justice is at an end. Cease yourself from
 slaughter; then go to, we will be punished. See that blood–streaming
 fountain, and then punish whom you will. Verily human nature cannot bear
 these two things at once! O that Sabbatius[71] had never been born, then
 would he never have begotten such a murderer. This is the twenty–sixth
 murder that is done at Zeugma. In the morning he was at the theatre, in
 the evening he was slain, Master of all!

 _Blue._ You alone contain all the murderers of this stadium.

 _Green._ When do you depart without slaughter?

 _Blue._ You slay and disturb us; for you alone contain all the murderers
 of the stadium.

 _Green._ Justinian, master, they provoke and no one kills them. One
 cannot choose but understand this. Who killed the carpenter at Zeugma?

 _Mand._ You did.

 _Green._ Who killed the son of Epagathus, O Emperor?

 _Blue._ You murdered him, and you accuse the blues.

 _Green._ Now the Lord pity us! Truth is oppressed. I should like to
 enter into controversy with those who say that God directs affairs.
 Whence this misery?

 _Mand._ God is not tempted by evil. (_Θέος κακῶν ἀπέιραστος_)

 _Green._ God is not tempted by evil. And who then is it that wrongs me?
 If there be here philosopher or hermit, let him distinguish between the

 _Mand._ Blasphemers, odious to God, when will you cease?

 _Green._ If your greatness wishes it I keep quiet, though against my
 will. Thrice august, I know all—all—but I am silent. Justice, farewell,
 your time is up. I change sides and turn Jew; nay, better to turn
 Gentile than blue, God knows.

 _Blue._ May I never see such a pollution! their envy troubles me.

 _Green._ Dig up the bones of the spectators.[72]

After this the green party quitted the hippodrome, and left there
the Emperor and the blues. The sequel may warn sovereigns against
encouraging faction for their own ends. At this moment seven notorious
murderers of both factions were paraded through the city previous
to their execution. Five were immediately put to death, the other
two obtained a respite by the breaking of the rope which should have
hanged them. One of these surviving wretches belonged to the blue, the
other to the green faction; and the parties forgot their enmity for
a time to join in taking vengeance upon the government, which durst
do justice upon their members. The consequence was a desperate tumult
and insurrection, which lasted five days, during which a great part of
the city was burnt; and which is known by the name of Nika, Conquer,
from the watchword adopted by the rioters. For the history of it we
must refer to Gibbon, or to the original authorities quoted by him,
especially Procopius (Pers. i. 24) and Theophanes. At length Justinian
found means to revive the mutual animosity of the factions; the blues
resumed their allegiance to their protector, and the greens, left alone
in the hippodrome, were attacked by the veteran troops of Belisarius,
supported by their inveterate opponents. More than 30,000 persons are
said to have perished in the massacre.

A curious anecdote connected with this subject is related elsewhere by
Procopius. When Chosroes, the King of Persia, invaded Syria, he went to
Apamea to see the sports of the circus; and having heard of Justinian’s
devotion to the blue faction, he thought it expedient to patronize
the green. The blue charioteer at first had the advantage, the green
following close upon his track. Chosroes thinking this was done on
purpose to thwart him, became very angry, and cried out with threats,
that it was not fair to give Cæsar the start,[73] and ordered the
foremost to hold in their horses, and let the green get before them.
This was done, and Chosroes and the greens plumed themselves on their

The other example which we proposed to bring forward, which probably
has already suggested itself to many of our readers, is one of the most
memorable events of the French Revolution, the massacre of September
2–6, 1792. A short preface may serve to introduce it, since the history
of the Revolution is pretty generally familiar.

In the summer of 1792 the executive power of the state was in effect
wrested from the nominal authority, the Legislative Assembly, by a
body of men styled the Commune, who had possessed themselves of the
municipal government of Paris. In this body the leading persons were
the flagitious triumvirate, Robespierre, Danton, and Marat. It is
needless to speculate on the motives of such men. Whether the deed
which we are about to relate was perpetrated only to further the
ends of their party; whether, as some have said, it was prompted by
the desire to get rid of those who might lay claim to a large mass
of valuable personal property which had been seized from persons who
had been denounced and arrested, and is said to have been embezzled
by those disinterested patriots; or whether it were prompted solely
by a savage thirst for blood:—which of these, or what other motive
was the moving cause of this transaction, is of so little consequence
towards determining its character, that it would be a waste of words to
institute the inquiry. We proceed briefly to relate the facts.

[Illustration: Hippodrome of Constantinople.]

At the end of August, 1792, the invasion of the Prussians, their
advance to Verdun, and the capture of that strong place, created a
great panic in the capital. Apprehensions were felt or expressed of a
corresponding movement within the country on the part of the royalists,
and the stern Danton asserted, in boding words, that it was necessary
to strike fear into those who were disaffected to the republic. Before
this time many _aristocrats_, chiefly priests and nobles, had been
confined within the various prisons of Paris. Their numbers were now
increased to a fearful extent by recent arrests of persons adverse to
the Jacobin party, which then ruled in the Commune, until all these
receptacles of human misery were filled to overflowing. The near
approach of the Prussians was doubly favourable to the views of that
party; it gave a colourable pretext for taking strong measures against
all who could be represented as favouring the views of the invaders,
and a reason for summoning to the field the citizens who could be
called on to bear arms. The city being thus cleared of a large portion
of those who were most able, and probably most inclined to interfere by
force in the cause of justice and humanity, a free and safe course was
left open to the fury of that turbulent party, whose yoke bore so heavy
upon the liberated nation. It was determined by the junta in authority,
that the safety of France required the massacre of the prisoners; and
in the Marseillois and the mob of the capital, fit agents of the bloody
mandate were readily found.

The total number of persons confined in the Parisian prisons is so
differently stated that it is no easy matter even to approximate to the
truth; it is estimated by Scott (vol. ii. p. 41) at about 8000. Early
on the morning of September 2, news arrived of the capture of Verdun by
the Prussians. This struck a terror into Paris, by which the projectors
of the massacre hastened to profit. The barriers were shut, the tocsin
sounded, the alarm–gun fired. The prisons of Les Carmes, the Abbaye,
and La Force, were first attacked, not in consequence of any general
popular impulse; not by multitudes, such as had carried the Bastille
and the Tuileries against superior arms and discipline; but by a crew
of ruffians, composed partly of Marseillois, partly of the savage mob
of Paris, in number not perhaps much exceeding a hundred, and goaded,
it is said, with wine and spirits mixed with stimulating and maddening
drugs. Armed with pikes, sabres, and similar weapons, they beset the
prison doors to the sound of the Marseillois hymn, and demanded that
the conspirators, as they called them, should be delivered into their
hands: and the gaolers offered no resistance to their entrance.

Les Carmes, the Carmelite convent, had been converted into a prison
for suspected ecclesiastics. This was the first object of attack; and,
without parley, or the pretence of trial or inquiry, the murderers
burst in and began to fire on their victims. “Where,” it was asked,
“is the Archbishop of Arles?” That prelate advanced boldly, and was
cut down without his uttering a word of complaint. Others were hunted
round the gardens, and shot like wild beasts; some escaped over the
walls. At last, to proceed in a more orderly manner, and give less
opportunity for escape, the survivors were all collected in the church,
and led down two by two to be executed in the garden. The Bishop of
Saintes, whose leg had been broken by a bullet, is reported to have
said, “Gentlemen, I am ready to go and die, like the rest; but you see
the state in which I am, my leg is broken; I beg that you will assist
me, and I will go willingly to execution.” The difficulty of obtaining
correct information concerning these events may be estimated from the
statements of the number of ecclesiastics who perished in Les Carmes. A
royalist account raises it to 1168, a republican account reduces it to
163.[74] If it were necessary to make choice of either, we should not
hesitate to adopt the smaller number.

The Abbaye and La Force were the next objects of attack. Here there
was some mockery of judicial observances. The form of trial was brief
enough; a few armed ruffians constituted themselves a tribunal, before
which the prisoners were led one by one. The investigation seldom went
much beyond asking the name of the person, and referring to the charges
alleged against him in the gaoler’s register. If these afforded ground
for the suspicion of incivism, and the judges, as was almost always
the case, decreed his death, their sentence, to prevent the dangerous
efforts of despair, was conveyed in the equivocal terms, “Give the
prisoner freedom,” or, “Convey him to La Force,” if he were confined at
the Abbaye, and _vice versâ_. He was then led from the room, and struck
down, for the most part, before he reached the court–yard, with eager
cruelty. Women as well as men mingled in this frightful scene, and
inflicted the most loathsome indignities on the mangled bodies.

These proceedings were virtually authorized and encouraged by the
presence of deputies from the Commune, wearing the municipal scarf, but
nominally charged to select and deliver those who were imprisoned for
debt. Not content with this negative sanction, Billaud Varennes, who
was one of them, openly stimulated the murderers, promising them not
only the plunder of the dead bodies, but the further gratification of
a louis per day, as the reward of their good service. And it appears
from the records of the time, that this money was actually paid. Yet
much of the trifling property found on the persons of the slain was
delivered up, it is said, for the use of the state; as if the actors
of these horrors, by some strange caprice, had professed to be really

An officer named Saint Méard, who was confined in the Abbaye, has
written, under the title, ‘Mon Agonie de trente–huit heures,’ an
account of the feelings and conduct of the prisoners during the
frightful period of suspense, which elapsed between the commencement
of the massacres, and the moment when the fatal summons reached each
of the sufferers. “Our most important occupation,” he says, “was to
observe in what manner death might be met most easily when we should
enter the place of slaughter. From time to time we sent one of our
number to a turret–window, to let us know how the miserable men who
were destroyed met their fate, and to consider, from what they told
us, how it would be best for us to conduct ourselves. They said that
those who stretched out their hands protracted their sufferings,
because the sabre–strokes were deadened before they reached the head:
that sometimes their hands and arms were even hewn off before they
fell, and that those who placed their hands behind their backs would
suffer least. It was on such horrid particulars as these that we
had to deliberate. We calculated the advantages of this last–named
position, and in turn advised each other to assume it when our turn
should arrive.” It is hard to conceive a situation more trying to
human fortitude. The prisoners generally met their fate with firmness,
and in many instances boldly avowed and gloried in the principles and
hereditary honours which were the sure passports to their fate. In some
few instances the murderers relented. One or two men were preserved by
the devoted interposition of female relatives. But very few of those
who were imprisoned on political grounds lived to relate the horrors
which they had passed through. Saint Méard, although he boldly avowed
himself a royalist, was one of the number.[75]

For four days did this frightful scene continue, unsanctioned by
authority, save the instigation and half–expressed approbation of the
Commune, perpetrated by an insignificant mob, who, with the smallest
portion of energy, might have been overpowered at once. The Legislative
Assembly sent some of their members to remonstrate; men known as
Jacobins, who came back, and related that their interference had
been ineffectual, and no further steps were taken. The National Guard
remained quiet, waiting the orders of their superiors. Meanwhile, amid
this fear or lethargy, for neither the Assembly nor the Guard viewed
this butchery with favourable eyes, the judges and executioners ate,
drank, and slept, and returned unmolested and with new vigour to their
several functions.

The thirst of blood, once indulged, appears to have given rise to a
sort of intoxication. The mob attacked even the Bicêtre, a prison
containing none but criminals and lunatics. Here only they experienced
resistance; and the resistance was desperate. The gaolers made common
cause with the prisoners against the assailants; the stones and iron
bars of the building supplying them with weapons. They made good their
defence until cannon were brought against them, and they were mowed
down in the mass.

Of the number of persons who perished in this fearful scene no exact
account has ever been given. It is said, however, that not more than
200 or 300 of the prisoners committed for political offences are known
to have escaped; and on the smallest reckoning the slain amounted to
2000 or 3000. Some estimate them at double that number. Truchat stated
to the Legislative Assembly that 4000 had fallen. One statement, which
is introduced only to show the tendency to exaggeration in these
matters, raised the number to 12,800. Those who were imprisoned for
debt were set free by order of the Commune; and to these we must look
to make up the difference between the number of the slain and the
total number of 8000, said to have been in prison on September 2. The
bodies were interred in trenches, prepared, it is said, beforehand
by the Commune, but their bones were subsequently transferred to
the Catacombs. “In these melancholy regions, while other relics of
mortality lie exposed all around, the remains of those who perished in
the massacres of September are alone excluded from the public eye. The
vault in which they repose is closed with a screen of freestone, as if
relating to crimes unfit to be thought of even in the proper abode of
death, and which France would willingly hide in oblivion.”[76]


 Character of Cleon—Blockade and Capture of the Lacedæmonians at
 Pylos—Comparison with the capture of Porto Bello by Admiral Vernon—Greek
 comedy—Sketch of the Knights of Aristophanes—Subsequent history of
 Cleon—Account of the Popish Plot—Character and history of Titus
 Oates—Mutilation of the Hermæ at Athens.

Within very few years after the beginning of the Peloponnesian war,
a striking change took place both in the measures and the ministers
of the state. Miltiades, Aristides, Themistocles, Cimon, Pericles,
were all pre–eminent in personal merit, and most of them possessed
of hereditary distinction also. Nicias, a man of rank and virtue,
succeeded in appearance to the high station of Pericles, but not to
his talents and influence over his turbulent countrymen, who, after
having been long governed by the most illustrious of Grecian statesmen,
threw themselves into the arms of the worst of Grecian demagogues.
After Pericles’ death, popular favour veered for a short time between
Eucrates, a flax–seller, and Lysicles, a sheep–seller; until a man,
low equally in origin, habits, and education, carried away the prize,
and employed it, as the folly of his supporters deserved, to the ruin
of the state. “The son of a tanner, and himself bred to the trade;
without those generous feelings which seem inherent in high birth,
and without that regard for character which it is the purpose of
education to inspire, Cleon possessed those corporeal powers, which,
in the eyes of a mob, often supply the place of both:—with a bulky
body, a voice potent even beyond the extreme extent of value attached
to such a qualification among the Greeks, with a most republican
indifference to all exterior decorations of person, and a face bearing
on it the marks of vulgar intemperance, Nature herself seems to have
formed Cleon for a demagogue. His interior qualifications were just
what his exterior promised; he being, as Mr. Mitford observes, ‘of
extraordinary impudence and little courage; as slack in the field as he
was forward and noisy in the assembly, and as base in practice as he
was corrupt in principle.’ That such a man should ever have stood in
the situation of head of a party seems to us almost incredible: but he
possessed one redeeming qualification in an eminent degree; and among
a nation which pardoned everything to the pleasure of indulging its
ears, the coarse but ready eloquence of Cleon, exerted in those ways
which were most calculated to please an Athenian audience—in boasts
of his own integrity, and accusations of all the respectable men of
rank—this formed a splendid addition to his character, which threw
into the shade all his other defects.”[77] By this man’s persuasion
that atrocious decree was passed, which condemned to death every male
of the Mityleneans, and reduced to slavery their wives and children:
a fate but just averted by the repentance of the Athenians, whose
vengeance nevertheless was gratified by the execution of a thousand
prisoners. Through his folly and presumption, the opportunity was
lost of concluding an honourable and advantageous peace, when good
fortune and the military talent of Demosthenes had thrown the Spartan
army at Sphacteria into their power. This event, which raised Cleon’s
popularity to its greatest height, has also made known his character to
all ages. His name would have been comparatively little bruited abroad
by the grave censure of Thucydides; but the satire of Aristophanes has
conferred on it a most undesirable celebrity.

Sphacteria, now called Sphagia,[78] is a small island situated in the
centre of the mouth of the bay of Pylos, well known in modern history
by the name of Navarino, which it nearly closes, leaving a narrow
passage on either side. In the year B.C. 425, in the seventh year
of the war, the Athenian fleet, under the command of Eurymedon and
Demosthenes, raised a small fort at Pylos, intending to garrison it
with Messenians, the obstinate and hereditary enemies of Lacedæmon.[79]
The fleet then sailed away, leaving only five ships and their crews,
under the command of Demosthenes. The Spartan government immediately
sent a force to attack him by land and sea; and to make the blockade
effectual, they placed a body of Lacedæmonians in the island, meaning
to close both the inlets of the harbour with their ships. But the
Athenian fleet returned in time to save their little garrison; and a
naval victory made them masters of the sea, and of the destiny of the
420 Lacedæmonians thus shut up on the uninhabited and uncultivated
island of Sphacteria.

Consternation ran high in Sparta on receiving this news, for many
persons of the first families were among the detachment thus entrapped;
and an embassy was sent to Athens to negotiate for peace. A truce was
concluded in the first instance, by which the Spartans were still
detained on the island, but were to be supplied with a regulated
allowance of food; and advantageous and honourable terms were offered,
on which a lasting pacification might be founded. But Cleon induced the
Athenians to require more than the Spartans would, or perhaps could,
consent to or fulfil. In consequence, hostilities were renewed, and the
capture of the Spartans became an object of primary importance. The
island was rocky and woody, and it was thought inexpedient to reduce
them by force; a strict blockade was therefore drawn round the island
to starve them into submission. But during the truce they probably
had husbanded the provision allowed them; and a scanty supply was
introduced by expert swimmers, who dragged after them skins filled
with poppy–seed mixed with honey, or bruised linseed, or by boats,
which ran for the island on the seaward side in stormy nights, when it
was difficult to maintain the blockade: and the Athenians began to be
alarmed lest, in the difficulty and uncertainty of a winter blockade,
they might lose their prey. The sequel may be best related from
Thucydides, and in the following graphic passage of Plutarch, which
supplies some curious notices of Cleon:—

“When the people saw that this siege drew out in length, and that their
camp suffered grievous wants and necessities, then they fell out with
Cleon, and he again burdened Nicias, saying, that through his fear he
would let the besieged Spartans escape, and that if he had been captain
they should not have held out so long. Thereupon the Athenians said
aloud to Cleon, ‘And why dost not thou go thither then to take them?’
Moreover Nicias selfe also rising up, openly gave him his authority to
take this Pylos, and bade him levy as many soldiers as he would to go
thither, and not to bragg with such impudent words, where there was no
danger, but to do some notable service to the commonwealth. Cleon at
the first shrunk back, being amazed withal, little thinking they would
have taken him so suddenly at his word: but in the end, perceiving the
people urged him to it, and that Nicias also was importunate with him,
ambition so inflamed him, that he not only took the charge upon him,
but in a bravery said, that within twenty days after his departure he
would either put all the Spartans to the sword, or bring them prisoners
to Athens. The Athenians hearing Cleon say so, had more lust to laugh
than to believe that he spake; for it was their manner ever to laugh
at his anger and folly. For it is reported of him, that the people on
a time being solemnly assembled in council early in the morning, to
hear what Cleon would say, and having tarried long for him, at the
length he came with a garland on his head, and prayed the assembly to
dismiss the court till the next morning: for (quoth he) I shall not be
at leisure to–day, because I have sacrificed, and do feast also certain
strangers, my friends, that are come to see me. So the people burst
out in a laughing, and brake up the assembly.... But herein Nicias
did great harm to the commonwealth, suffering Cleon in that sort to
grow to credit and estimation. For after that victory Cleon grew to
so haughty a mind and pride of himself, that he was not to be dealt
withal; whereupon fell out the occasion of the great miseries that
happened to the city of Athens, by which Nicias himself was not the
smallest sufferer. For Cleon, among other things, took away the modesty
and reverence used before in public orations to the people: he of all
men was the first that cried out in his orations, that clapped his hand
on his thigh, threw open his gowne, and flung up and down the pulpit
as he spoke. Of which example afterwards followed all licentiousness
and contempt of honesty, the which all the orators and counsellors fell
into that dealt in matters of state and commonwealth, and was in the
end the overthrow of all together.”[80]

“Nicias seeing the Athenians to be in a kind of tumult against Cleon,
for that when he thought it so easy a matter, he did not presently put
it in practice, and seeing also he had upbraided him, willed him to
take what strength he would, that they could give him, and undertake
it. Cleon, supposing at first that he gave him this leave but in
words, was ready to accept it; but when he knew he would give him the
authority in good earnest, then he shrunk back, and said, that not he,
but Nicias, was general: being now indeed afraid, and hoping that he
durst not have given over the office to him. But then Nicias again bade
him do it, and gave over his command to him, for so much as concerned
Pylos, and called the Athenians to witness it. They (as is the fashion
of the multitude), the more Cleon declined the voyage, and went back
from his word, pressed Nicias so much the more to resign his power to
him, and cried out upon Cleon to go. Insomuch, as not knowing how
to disengage himself of his word, he undertook the voyage, and stood
forth, saying, that he feared not the Lacedæmonians, and that he would
not carry any man with him out of the city, but only the Lemnians and
Imbrians that were then present, and those targeteers that were come to
them from Œnus, and 400 archers out of other places, and with these,
he said, added to the soldiers that were at Pylos already, he would,
within twenty days, either fetch away the Lacedæmonians alive, or kill
them upon the place.

“This vain speech moved amongst the Athenians some laughter, and was
heard with great content of the wiser sort. For of two benefits, the
one must needs fall out; either to be rid of Cleon (which was their
greatest hope), or if they were deceived in that, then to get those
Lacedæmonians into their hands.”[81]

Cleon sailed accordingly; but in the interim a fire had consumed the
woods on the island, and Demosthenes, an able and successful general,
was already preparing to attack the Lacedæmonians. Cleon was prudent
enough to leave the direction of the assault in his hands. After an
obstinate resistance, the Lacedæmonian force at last surrendered, being
reduced in number to 292, of whom 120 were Spartans; and within the
time prescribed Cleon returned in triumph to Athens with his prisoners.
Thucydides says, that no event throughout the war created so much
astonishment in Greece as this; it being the general opinion that the
Lacedæmonians would not yield up their arms for famine, or for any
other extremity, but rather die with them, fighting as they best could.

Since this chapter was written, we have seen, in a work the scanty sale
of which says little for the general diffusion of a taste for sound
scholarship in England, an ingenious parallel between the remarkable
transaction above narrated, and a passage in English history. The
work in question, the ‘Philological Museum,’ is likely not to be in
the hands of a large proportion of our readers; and instead of merely
referring to it, we shall proceed to transcribe a portion of the
article in question.

“Mr. Mitford, in his elaborate narrative of the Peloponnesian war, has
drawn a comparison between the military operations of Brasidas in the
Athenian dependencies lying towards Thrace, and those of General Wolfe,
the hero of Quebec, in Canada. The points of resemblance are very
remarkable; but, as he observes, the differences are also obvious. The
parallel is, however, sufficiently close to awaken that interest which
all men naturally feel in marking the identity of the human character,
under similar circumstances, in ages and countries far removed from
each other. Such indications of a common nature connect one generation
with another, and bring home to the mind a more lively conception of
the past. The parallel about to be drawn fetches one of its subjects
from the same period of Grecian history, so fertile in remarkable
men and striking incidents. If, in Mr. Mitford’s case, the points of
difference be thought to outweigh those of resemblance, it may perhaps
be said, that in the following comparison the preponderance is exactly
reversed. It is needless to give a second account of what we have fully
described, the transactions at Sphacteria, and the singular arrangement
between Cleon and Nicias.” After a short notice of these events, the
author continues: “The people applaud Cleon’s bold proposal, and insist
on his going to redeem his word, whether he would or not. He goes,
and is completely successful, bringing the captives to Athens within
the specified twenty days. The applause of the citizens exceeded all
moderation, with which party spirit had perhaps something to do. Cleon
was esteemed a first–rate general, and accordingly sent out to match
the incomparable Brasidas.

“The temper of the English public, at the period to which we are about
to refer, is well evinced by the uncommon popularity of Glover’s
ballad, entitled Admiral Hosier’s Ghost, which was a political squib.
Hosier had been sent out to protect the West Indian trade against
the Spaniards, who were a terror to our merchantmen in those seas.
Their principal station was Porto Bello; off which accordingly Hosier
cruised. But he had instructions not to make aggressions on the
enemy; and he remained inactive at sea, insulted and despised by the
Spaniards, till his crews became diseased, and he at last died of a
broken heart. He was a brave sailor, but his orders kept him inactive.
This state of things, so disgraceful to our naval power, continued
till 1739; when Admiral Vernon, who was a fierce and not ineloquent
assailant in debate, and the delight of his party in the House of
Commons from his blunt impudence and harassing hostility to Ministers,
came prominently before the public. He was esteemed a pretty good
officer; but his boisterous manner in the house was his principal
recommendation. In a debate on the Spanish depredations, which still
continued unrepressed, he chanced to affirm that Porto Bello might be
easily taken, if the officers did their duty; and led on by the ardour
of debate, he even pledged himself to capture the place, with only
six ships of war, if they would put him in command. The opposition
re–echoed his proposal. Vernon was called by anticipation a Drake and
a Raleigh; and his popularity no bounds. The minister, Sir R. Walpole,
glad to appease the popular clamour, and to get rid for a time of
Vernon’s busy opposition in the Commons; and hoping perhaps, like
Nicias, that by the failure of his boast he would disgrace himself and
his party, or else clear the seas of the Spaniards; closed with the
offer so lightly made, and actually sent him out with a fleet to the
West Indies. Vernon sailed, and was as good as his word. He speedily
took Porto Bello, and demolished all the fortifications. Both houses
joined in an address; Vernon rose to the highest pitch of popularity;
and the ‘nation in general (observes the historian) was wonderfully
elated by an exploit, which was magnified much above its merit.’ A
Sacheverel or a Vernon are quite sufficient pillars for a party to rear
a triumphal arch upon.

“The extraordinary performance of an extravagant boast, under
circumstances unexpectedly favourable, is not more observable in both
cases, than the speedy exposure of the inability of both commanders,
when subsequently put to the test. The hero of Sphacteria at the head
of a brave army in Thrace, with which he did not know what to do[82]
next, like a chess–player who does not see his next move, is absolutely
ludicrous. The conduct of the conqueror of Porto Bello, when intrusted
with a powerful fleet on a larger field of action, is equally decisive
of his real merits. He failed most miserably as admiral on the West
India station; thus showing that a _coup de main_, whether in politics
or war, though it often succeed most signally, is no safe evidence of
general ability.”[83]

Fortified as to our facts by the authority of history, we may proceed,
after this digression, to develop the chief object of this chapter,
which is to give a sketch of one of the most remarkable productions
of Greek literature, the ‘Knights’ of Aristophanes, and to exhibit
the Aristophanic Cleon, who, even after this preface, will surprise
those who are unacquainted with him. We shall not be at a loss to
find a parallel for him in our own history. To Cleon and his politics
Aristophanes was violently opposed. Much undeserved obloquy has been
thrown in times past upon this poet: it is now pretty generally
acknowledged that the heaviest charges against him are undeserved:
that he saw clearly what were the true interests of his country, and
feared not to tell his turbulent countrymen their faults to their face.
The medicine indeed required to be disguised to render it palatable,
and we must regret that the vehicle employed was such as to render
it disgusting to modern delicacy: but the fault of this lay partly
in the state of society in which the poet lived; the courage, the
clear–sightedness, and the brilliant talent are his own peculiar glory.

The Grecian comedy is a delicate and difficult subject to touch
upon: for to those who are unacquainted with the original, abstracts
and translations present little more than the lifeless form in its
somewhat startling extravagance. Of the wit, the greatest part must
evaporate, and the remainder requires, in order to be relished, some
familiarity with the manners to which it refers. The Grecian drama had
its origin in religion. In the worship of Dionysius, or Bacchus, one
of the earliest of the Grecian deities, it was usual to introduce two
sorts of poetry; the one lofty and panegyrical, the other ludicrous
and satirical. As these rude attempts acquired extent and polish, they
separated in character more and more widely: until the former acquired
the exalted and highly reverential cast which we see in the tragedies
of Æschylus; while the latter retained its original features, more
pleasing to a deity who is mythologically represented as inspiring
and partaking the most fantastic rites of his followers, and as being
offended by nothing except sobriety or gravity. Extravagance and
indecency therefore became a religious duty, and one that the Athenians
fulfilled with pious fervour. The drama was a matter of public
interest; plays were performed, not daily, but upon the festivals of
Bacchus, in the early spring,[84] in theatres of vast extent, with all
the magnificence and effect which anxious care and unsparing expense
could produce; judges were appointed by the public to decide upon the
merits of the pieces represented, and the prize of victory was sought
with an eagerness totally disproportioned, according to modern notions,
to the object in view.

In co–operation with the author, certain persons, called Choragi,
were appointed by law, at whose expense the Chorus was provided, and
carefully instructed in the parts which they were to perform. Upon
the taste and liberality of the Choragus the success of the author
mainly depended; and if successful, he consecrated to Bacchus a tripod
inscribed with his own name, that of the author, and of the magistrate
who gave his name to the year. The modern drama possesses nothing which
resembles the Chorus. We have already noticed the religious songs
from which theatrical entertainments were derived. The first step to
their improvement was the introduction of some mythological narration
by another person to relieve the singer; the second, the conversion of
this narrative into dialogue, by the introduction of a second actor.
For some time the original Bacchic song maintained its ground in the
intervals of recitation; but at length the lyrical part was made to
bear upon the rest of the performance, and as a taste for splendour
was developed, the number of singers was increased from one to three,
fifteen, or even a greater number.[85] In the advanced state of the
art the Chorus bore marks of its original constitution, being still
regarded as a single actor, and mingling in the dialogue by means
of its Coryphæus, or leader. In tragedy it was composed of old men,
maidens, or any class of persons who were interested in the catastrophe
of the piece: the comic poets took a wider range, and availed
themselves of the boldest personifications which they thought likely to
produce effect. Thus in one play of Aristophanes there is a Chorus of
Clouds, in another of Birds, in another of Frogs, in another of Wasps,
which were all so habited as to bear some vague resemblance to the
things they personated, in a manner which such as recollect a pantomime
of no very old date, called Harlequin and the Queen Bee, will be at no
loss to comprehend. The introductory scenes of our pantomimes often
seem to imitate these freaks of Grecian comedy; as for instance, in
Harlequin Gulliver, where the inhabitants of the dogstar, as described
by another eminent traveller, Baron Munchausen, came in to sing; also
a chorus of men with their heads under their shoulders. And indeed the
latter scenes of pantomime, by retrenching the practical jokes, and
by the introduction of dialogue, might be made to bear considerable
resemblance to Grecian comedy. Grimaldi’s parody of the dagger–scene
in Macbeth, although principally aimed at a particular actor, was
a capital parallel to the pitiless pelting of wit carried on by the
comedians of Athens against the tragedians, and against each other.

No history of the gradual formation of comedy has come down to us, but
in the time of Aristophanes we find her possessed of most extraordinary
privileges, and availing herself of them to the extremity of licence.
To laugh was the grand object of the audience, and any thing was
tolerated which led to this conclusion. The slang of the port and
the market, the pleadings of the law courts, the peculiar language
of handicrafts, were all carefully studied and profusely introduced,
in combination with the grossest buffoonery and indecency, and the
most unsparing personal abuse. In a town like Athens, the population
of which, though large, was crowded within a narrow space and almost
living in the open air, a joke directed against the peculiarities,
corporeal or moral, of any person of any sort of notoriety, was pretty
sure to be understood, and if understood, quite sure to be relished.
Masks were always worn by the actors, and if a living character was
brought on the stage the mask was a portrait. Unlucky poets, public
defaulters, peculators, and notorious profligates, formed the stock
in trade common to all comedians; and a more exceptionable source
of amusement was found in the unrestrained indulgence of private
malevolence. Even the sacred persons of the gods were fair game; and
Bacchus, the patron of the festival, was made to minister to the
amusement of his riotous worshippers as the earliest Captain Bohadil
upon record.[86] Such are the features of the elder Grecian comedy,
confirmed by, and indeed mainly derived from the works of Aristophanes,
the only comedian of whom a perfect specimen remains.[87]

After this exposition the reader may be surprised at the respectful
terms in which we have above spoken of him. But it is pretty certain
that he saw clearly the true interests of his country; and there is
good ground for thinking that four at least of the eleven plays now
extant were written with the express view of improving its policy,
or, strange as it may appear, of correcting its morals; while through
them all the national faults of the Athenians are lashed with an
unsparing and somewhat dangerous severity. To argue this question
would transport us far from our subject, from which indeed we have
already wandered wide, and far beyond our limits: and is the less
necessary because it has already been fully argued in works of easy
access (Mitchell, Prelim. Discourse; Schlegel, Lectures on History of
Literature, Observer). On the literary merits of Aristophanes all are
agreed. For power and variety of versification, he stands unrivalled;
for command of the noble language in which he wrote, he is perhaps
unmatched, except by Plato. His wit it would be superfluous to praise;
unfortunately it is too often exercised on subjects which endure not an
English dress. Nothing perhaps approaches so nearly to the usual style
of his dialogue as the less refined parts of Shakspere’s comedies, but
the latter want that political design which, pervading the Grecian,
inclines us to forget the means in the end, and are in other respects
scarcely equal to the comparison. But amidst all this ribaldry he
often breaks out in a vein of pure and exalted poetry, sufficient to
show that he was capable of excelling in the most elegant or dignified
departments of the art, had the temper of his countrymen been such as
to profit by or allow a hearing to serious admonition.

One of his most celebrated comedies, ‘The Knights,’ is directed
expressly to destroy the popularity of Cleon. The danger incurred by
the author is evident from an anecdote related by himself, that no
maskmaker could be induced to furnish a likeness of the demagogue.[88]
And as no actor would perform the part, the poet himself made his first
appearance on the stage in it, his face rubbed with vermilion, or the
lees of wine, to imitate Cleon’s complexion, and serve in some degree
for a disguise. The plot, if we may call it such, is mainly founded
on the transactions at Pylos, already related, and the characters are
selected accordingly.

Nicias, Demosthenes, and Cleon figure as slaves of Demus, literally
“the people,” who represents the Athenian as John Bull does the English
nation. The only other character is an itinerant sausage–seller.
The chorus is composed of knights or horsemen, the richer class of
citizens, who were obliged to keep a horse and be prepared for the
cavalry service. Demosthenes and Nicias appear in the first scene, and
complain bitterly of a certain Paphlagonian; such is the country which
the poet has assigned to Cleon, whom their master has lately brought
home, partly, according to the Scholiast (Knights, verse 2), for the
sake of an untranslateable pun, partly because the Paphlagonians had
the reputation of making the worst–conditioned slaves of all who came
to the Athenian market. After some quibbling they agree to submit their
case to the spectators, and Demosthenes states it as follows:[89]—

  With reverence to your worships, ’tis our fate
  To have a testy, cross–grained, bilious, sour
  Old fellow for our master; one much given
  To a bean diet;[90] somewhat hard of hearing:
  Demus his name, sirs, of the parish Pnyx[91] here.
  Some three weeks back or so, this lord of ours
  Brought back a scoundrel slave from Paphlagonia,
  Fresh from the tan–yard, with as foul a mouth
  As ever yet paid tribute to the gallows.
  This tanner[92] Paphlagonian (for the fellow
  Wanted not penetration) bowed and scraped,
  And fawned, and wagged his ears and tail dog–fashion,
  And thus soon slipped into the old man’s graces.
  Occasional douceurs of leather parings,
  With speeches to this tune, made all his own:
  “Good sir, the court is up—you’ve judged one cause,
  ‘Tis time to take the bath; allow me, sir—
  This cake is excellent—pray sup this broth—
  You love an obolus, pray take these three—
  Honour me, sir, with your commands for supper.”
  Sad times meanwhile for us!—With prying looks
  Round comes my man of hides, and if he finds us
  Cooking a little something for our master,
  Incontinently lays his paw upon it,
  And modestly, in his own name, presents it.
  It was but t’other day, these hands had mixed
  A Spartan pudding for him,—there, at Pylos,
  Slily and craftily the knave stole on me,
  Ravished the feast, and to my master bore it.
  Then none but he, forsooth, must wait at table:
  (We dare not come in sight) anon the knave
  Chaunts out his oracles, and when he sees
  The old man plunged in mysteries to the ears,
  And scared from his few senses, marks the time,
  And enters on his tricks. False accusations
  Now come in troops, and at their heels the whip.
  Meanwhile the rascal shuffles in among us,
  And begs of one, browbeats another, cheats
  A third, and frightens all. “My honest friends,
  These cords cut deep, you’ll find it—I say nothing—
  Judge you between your purses and your backs;
  I could perhaps—“ We take the gentle hint,
  And give him all; if not, the old man’s foot
  Plays such a tune upon our hinder parts—
  Wherefore (to Nicias) befits it that we think what course
  To take, or where to look for help.

  _Mitchell_, p. 161–4.

The remedy however baffles their ingenuity, till Demosthenes, through
the inspiration of the wine–flask, sends his comrade to steal from
Cleon, who is asleep within, a certain book of oracles which he hoards
with especial care. They are happily secured and handed over to
Demosthenes, whose activity is all along contrasted with the indecision
of Nicias. After repeated application for more wine to clear his
understanding, he at last condescends to enlighten his companion’s

  _Dem._ (_reading._) So, so, thou varlet of a Paphlagonian!
  ‘Twas this bred such distrust in thee, and taught
  To hoard these prophecies.

  _Nic._                     Say you?

  _Dem._                              I say
  Here is a prophecy, which tells the time
  And manner of this fellow’s death.

  _Nic._                             Out with it.

  _Dem._ (_reading._) The words are clear enough, says my oracle,
  There shall arise within our state a lint–seller,[93]
  And to his hands the state shall be committed.

  _Nic._ One seller note we:—good, proceed, what follows?

  _Dem._ (_reading._) Him shall a sheep–seller succeed.[94]

  _Nic._                                            A brace
  Of sellers, good.—What shall befall this worthy?

  _Dem._ (_reading._) ‘Tis fixed that he bear sway till one arise
  More wicked than himself—that moment seals him.
  Then comes the Paphlagonian—the hide–seller—
  The man of claws, whose voice outroars Cycloborus.[95]

  _Nic._ The man of sheep then falls beneath the lord
  Of hides!

  _Dem._ Even so; thus runs the oracle.

  _Nic._ Another and another still succeeds,
  And all are sellers! sure the race must be

  _Dem._ One yet is left whose craft may stir
  Your wonder.

  _Nic._       What his name?

  _Dem._                      Wou’dst learn?

  _Nic._                                     Aye marry.

  _Dem._ I give it to thee then: the man that ruins
  The Paphlagonian is—a sausage–seller.

  _Mitchell_, p. 170–2.

A person exercising this lofty vocation is now seen approaching and
is eagerly hailed, as sent at this moment by the especial favour
of the gods. Their fated deliverer, however, is a modest man, and
cannot easily be led to believe the high destiny that awaits him. I
am a sausage–seller, he says; how should I become a man? Demosthenes
assures him that the qualities belonging to his profession—impudence
and cheating—are precisely those to which his greatness is to be owing:
but still failing to overcome his scruples, he is led to suspect the
sausage–seller of the unpardonable fault of having some taint of
gentility in his extraction. Satisfied on this point, he proceeds
to expound the oracles. The incipient statesman yields to their
predictions, and readily receives instructions for his public life.
“The oracles indeed do flatter me; but I wonder how I shall be able to
take charge of the people.” The answer is addressed to his professional

  _Dem._ Nought easier: model you upon your trade.
  Deal with the people as with sausages—
  Twist, implicate, embroil; nothing will hurt
  So you but make your court to Demus, cheating
  And soothing him with terms of kitchen science;
  All other public talents are your own:
  Your voice is strong, your liver white, and you are
  O’ the market—say, could Diffidence ask more
  To claim the reins of state?

  _Mitchell_, p. 180.

Cleon now comes on the stage, with the usual cry, “The commonwealth is
in danger,” and is immediately followed by the Chorus, who attack him
in an indignant burst, which defies translation. A long scene of abuse
and recrimination follows for near three hundred lines, in the course
of which every art and trade is made to contribute to the contest of
abuse, till Cleon at length accuses his rival of having received ten
talents as a bribe. “What then,” he replies, “will you take one of them
to hold your tongue?” “That he will, and gladly,” replies the Chorus:
“see, the wind is going down already.” The satire was the keener,
because Cleon had recently been fined five talents on a conviction for
bribery.[96] At length, being somewhat worsted, he leaves the stage,
with the threat of denouncing to the council “the nightly meetings in
the city, and conspiracies with the Medes and Bœotians,” in which his
tormentors are engaged. The sausage–seller follows to countermine him,
and the stage is left clear for the Parabasis, or customary address
of the Chorus to the audience. This was generally unconnected with
the play, and served as an opportunity for the author to deliver his
sentiments upon all things and all people. It was chiefly satirical,
but in Aristophanes is usually intermixed with passages of a highly
poetical cast, which strike the more from being introduced by a change
in the metre. We cannot shorten or garble it, and the passage is too
long, and would be too unintelligible, to be given entire.[97] At
the close of it, the sausage–seller returns, to acquaint his anxious
friends with his success.

  _Saus._ Straight as he went from hence, I clapt all sail
  And followed close behind. Within I found him
  Launching his bolts, and thunder–driving words,
  Denouncing all the knights as traitors, vile
  Conspirators—jags, crags, and masses huge
  Of stone were nothing to the monstrous words
  His foaming mouth heaved up. All this to hear
  Did the grave council seriously incline;
  They love a tale of scandal in their hearts,
  And his had been as quick in birth as golden–herb:
  Mustard was in their faces, and their brows
  With frowns were furrowed up. I saw the storm,
  Marked how his words had sunk upon them, taking
  Their very senses prisoners:—and oh!
  In knavery’s name thought I,—by all the fools,
  And scrubs, and rogues, and scoundrels in the town—
  By that same market, where my early youth
  Received its first instruction, let me gather
  True courage now: be oil upon my tongue,
  And shameless impudence direct my speech.
  Just as these thoughts passed over me, I heard
  A sound of thunder pealing on my right.[98]
  I marked the omen—grateful, kissed the ground,
  And pushing briskly through the lattice–work,
  Raised my voice to its highest pitch, and thus
  Began upon them: “Messieurs of the Senate,
  I bring good news, and hope your favour for it.
  Anchovies, such as since this war began,
  Ne’er crossed my eyes for cheapness, do this day
  Adorn our markets.”—At the words, a calm
  Came over every face, and all was hushed.
  A crown[99] was voted me upon the spot.
  Then I (the thought was of the moment’s birth)
  Making a mighty secret of it, bade them
  Put pans and pots in instant requisition,
  And then—one obol loads you with anchovies.
  Then rose the clap of hands, and every face
  Gaped into mine, in idiot vacancy.
  My Paphlagonian, seeing by what words
  The council best were pleased, thus uttered him:
  “Sirs, Gentlemen, ‘tis my good will and pleasure
  That for this kindly news, we sacrifice[100]
  One hundred oxen to our patron goddess.”
  Straight the tide turned, each head within the senate
  Nodded assent, and warm good will to Cleon.
  What! shall a little bull–flesh gain the day,
  Thought I within me: then aloud, and shooting
  Beyond his mark: I double, sirs, this vote;
  Nay, more, sirs, should to–morrow’s sun see sprats
  One hundred to the penny sold, I move
  That we make offering of a thousand goats[101]
  Unto Diana. Every head was raised,
  And all turned eyes on me. This was a blow
  He ne’er recovered: straight he fell to words
  Of idle import, and the officers
  Were now upon him. All meantime was uproar
  In th’ assembly—nought talked of but anchovies—
  How fared our statesman? he with suppliant tones
  Begged a few moments’ pause; Rest ye, sirs, rest ye
  Awhile—I have a tale will pay the hearing—
  A herald brings from Sparta terms of peace,
  And craves to utter them before you. “Peace!”
  Cried all (their voices one), “is this a time
  To talk of peace?—out, dotard! What, the rogues
  Have heard the price anchovies sell for! Peace!
  Who cares for peace now? let the war go on;
  And, chairman, break the assembly up.” ‘Twas done—
  On every side, one moment clears the rails!
  I the mean time steal privately away
  And buy me all the leeks and coriander
  In the market: these I straight make largess of,
  And gratis give, as sauce to dress their fish.
  Who may recount the praises infinite,
  And groom–like courtesies this bounty gained me!
  In short, you see a man, that for one pennyworth
  Of coriander vile, has purchased him
  An entire senate: not a man among them
  But is at my behest, and does me reverence.

  _Mitchell_, p. 217, 221.

So soon as the Chorus has expressed its high satisfaction, Cleon
enters, and the war of words is renewed with equal spirit, till he
calls upon Demus to appear, and see what ill treatment he suffers on
his account. Demus hears the candidates for his favour, and resolves
to call an assembly to decide on their claims; but he insists that
it shall be held in his proper seat, the Pnyx, to the dismay of the
sausage–seller, who exclaims that he is ruined; since Demus, though
a clever fellow anywhere else, is a gaping ninny when he gets on one
of those stone benches.[102] However, there is no help for it; the
scene changes to the Pnyx, and the sausage–seller makes a favourable
impression by presenting to Demus a cushion to keep him from the bare
stone, with a most pathetic reference to his exploits at Salamis;[103]
a subject in reference to which the Athenians would swallow any
amount of flattery. Having gained the ear of the court, he exposes
the mischievous tendency of Cleon’s warlike politics, all the gain of
which was his own, while the evil and inconvenience were the portion
of Demus. This produces an effect which all the protestations of Cleon
cannot remove. “You that profess such devotion,” continues his enemy,
“did you ever, out of all the hides you sell, give him so much as a
pair of shoes?” “Not he, indeed,” replies Demus. A pair is immediately
presented, and the provident donor receives the grateful assurance,
that of all men living he is the best friend to the people, the city,
“and to my toes.” This specimen will probably be sufficient: the
result is altogether favourable to the sausage–seller, who is put
in possession of Cleon’s signet of office. The latter still has a
resource: he appeals to his favourite oracles; but even here he meets
with his match. They both quit the stage, and return laden.

  _Demus._                      What may you bear?

  _Cleon._ Predictions, oracles.

  _Demus._                       What, all!

  _Cleon._                                  Now you
  Admire, and yet a chest filled to the brim
  Is left behind.

  _Saus._         I have a garret stored
  With them, and eke two dwelling–chambers whole.

  _Demus._ And who has worded these?

  _Cleon._                           Mine come from Bacis.[104]

  _Demus_ (_to Saus._) And yours?

  _Saus._                         From Glanis, sir, his elder brother.

  _Demus._ Now mould them for my ears.

  _Cleon._                             It shall be done, sir.

       *       *       *       *       *

  (_Reads._) In Athens the sacred, a cry’s heard for help,
      A woman’s in labour—a lion her whelp.

For warfare he’s born, and will fight by the great, With the ants, and
the gnats, and the vermin of state. On gratitude rests it this wall to
environ With a wall of stout wood, and a turret of iron.

  _Demus._ Dost reach him? (_to Saus._)

  _Saus._                               Sir, not I.

  _Cleon._                                          And yet the god
  Speaks clear. I am the lion, and I claim

  _Demus._    Good; his words sure stand with reason.
  Who else may plead a lion’s teeth and claws![105]

  _Saus._ Aye, but he sinks the iron wall and wood,
  Where Phœbus wills that you hold guard of him;
  And thus he falsifies the exposition.

  _Demus._ And how do you expound it?

  _Saus._                             By the wood
  And iron wall, I understand the pillory:
  The oracle enjoins he takes his place there.

  _Demus._ And I subscribe me to its pleasure.

  _Cleon._                                     Nay,
  Not so, the envious crows are croaking round me.

       *       *       *       *       *

  But another prediction awaits my lord’s ear,
  ‘Tis Phœbus that warns—“of Cyllene beware.”

  _Demus._ Cyllene,[106] Cyllene, how this understand? (_to Saus._)

  _Saus._ Cyllene is lameness, and means a lame hand,
  To Cleon’s apply it: as with bruise or with maim
  Still ‘tis bent with—your honour, drop gift in the same.

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Cleon._ I have seen me a vision: I’ve dreamed me adream;
  Its author was Pallas, and Demus its theme;
  The cup arytœna[107] blazed broad in her hand,
  And plenty and riches fell wide o’er the land.

  _Saus._ I too have my visions and dreams of the night:
  Our lady[108] and owl stood confest to my sight;
  From the cup aryballus choice blessings she threw.

  (_To Cleon._) On him fell tan pickle, and nectar on you.
                (_to Demus._)

Here ends the contest of oracles; and Demus, after expresssing his
opinion that there never was a wiser man than Glanis, commits himself
to the guidance and instruction of the sausage–seller. He is induced to
pause, however, by the offers which Cleon makes, of supplying his table
with provisions, and finally comes to the resolution of “giving the
reins of the Pnyx” to which soever of the two candidates shall offer
the most acceptable bribes. They quit the stage, each endeavouring to
get the advantage in a false start; and the Chorus comes forward with
an address to Demus.

  _Chorus._ Honour, power, and high estate,
              Demus, mighty lord, hast thou;
            To thy sceptre small and great
              In obeisance lowly bow!

        Yet you’re easy to his hand, whoever cringes;
            Every fool you gape upon,
            Every speech your ear hath won,
            While your wits move off and on
                                            Their hinges.

  _Demus_ (_surlily_). Hinges in their teeth, who deem
              That Demus is an easy fool;
            If he yawn, and if he dream,
              If he tipple, ’tis by rule.
        ’Tis his way to keep in pay a knave to ease him;
            Him he keeps for guide and gull,
            But when once the sponge is full,
            To himself the knave he’ll pull,
                                             And squeeze him.[109]

  _Mitchell_, p. 250, 262.

They return laden with all sorts of eatables. “The sausage–seller
has the advantage of his rival for some time in his presents, till
Cleon awakens his fears by talking of a dish of hare, which he has
exclusively to present. His rival, disconcerted at first, has recourse
to a stratagem. ‘Some ambassadors come this way, _and their purses seem
well filled_.’ ‘Where are they?’ exclaims Cleon eagerly, and turns
about. The hare–flesh was immediately in the hands of his rival, who
presents the boasted dainty in his own name to Demus, and casts the old
affair of Pylos in the disappointed Cleon’s teeth.[110]

“While the sausage–seller piously refers the suggestion of this little
theft to Minerva, and modestly takes the execution only to himself,
Cleon resents the surprise very warmly. ‘I had all the danger of
catching the hare,’ says he. ‘I had all the trouble of dressing it,’
says his rival. ‘Fools,’ says Demus, ‘I care not who caught it, nor who
dressed it; all I regard is the hand which serves it up to table.’ The
sausage–seller proposes a new test of affection. ‘Let our chests be
searched; it will then be proved who is the better man towards Demus
and his stomach.’ This is accordingly done. That of the new candidate
for power is found empty. ‘He had given his dear little grandfather
every thing;’ and the person so benefited signifies his approbation.
‘This chest is well disposed towards Demus.’ In Cleon’s is found
abundance of all good things; and a tempting cheese–cake particularly
excites Demus’s surprise. ‘The rogue,’ says this representative of the
sovereign multitude, ‘to conceal such a prodigious cheese–cake as this,
and to cut me off with a mere morsel of it.’ Cleon in vain pleads, that
he stole it for the good of his country. He is ordered to lay down his
chaplet,[111] and invest his antagonist with it. Nay, says he, still
struggling for the retention of office.”

_Cleon._ I have an oracle: it came from Phœbus, And tells to whom Fate
wills I yield the mastery.

_Saus._ Declare the name; my life upon’t, the god Refers to me.

_Cleon._ Presumptuous! you! low scoundrel! To the proof;—where were you
schooled, and who the teacher That first imbued your infant mind with

_Saus._ The kitchen and the scullery gave me breeding; And teachers I
had none, save blows and cuffs.

_Cleon._ My mind misgives me. But pass we on; say further, what the
wrestling–master Instructed you?

_Saus._ To steal; to look the injured Full in the face, and then
forswear the theft.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Cleon._ One only hope remains. Resolve me, practised you Within the
market–place, or at the gates?[112]

_Saus._ Nay, at the gates, among the men who deal In salted fish.

_Cleon._ All is accomplished: It is the will of heaven:—bear me within.
Farewell! a long farewell to all my greatness! Adieu, fair chaplet!
‘gainst my will I quit thee, And give thy matchless sweets to other
hands! There may be knaves more fortunate than I, But never shall the
world see thief more rascally.[113]

_Saus._ (_devoutly._) Thine be triumph, Jove Ellanian![114]

  p. 269–73.

The Chorus now enters upon an address, first in praise of the
equestrian order, and then proceeding to satirize individuals by name.
Meanwhile Demus is undergoing a thorough purgation under the hands
of the sausage–seller. He reappears “in his former splendour of the
days of Miltiades and Aristides,” delivers a recantation of his former
principles, and concludes the piece by confirming the appointment of
the sausage–seller to Cleon’s place, and investing Cleon solemnly with
the tray, and other implements of the sausage–seller.

To those who are disappointed in the specimen here given of the wit
and humour of Aristophanes, we have only to suggest in defence of
our author, that a large proportion of the most remarkable passages
have been omitted, on account of the impossibility of rendering them
intelligible, even by a prolix commentary, to those who cannot read the
original; and that our description of the ‘Knights’ is but a set of
fragments from a translation, which professes its inability to render
its original as a whole. And we may quote, as much more applicable
to this short attempt than to the work to which it is prefixed, the
singularly happy and modest motto of Mr. Mitchell’s translation,
applicable as it must be to all translations, but especially to those
of Aristophanes.

  Among the rest, he culled me out a root;
  The leaf was darkish, and had prickles on it;
  And in another country, as he said,
  Bore a bright golden flower, _but not in this soil_.


In the Parabasis to the Clouds, performed two years after the Knights,
the poet refers with pride to his attack on Cleon at his highest; but
though he returns to the charge once and again, he makes no mention
of any fine imposed upon him; which is in itself almost a sufficient
refutation of the story mentioned in a previous note. The play was
so relished as to gain the first prize, but there is not a jot of
evidence to show that Cleon’s popularity was overclouded by it. Happily
his reign only lasted for two years after it. His success at Pylus
flattered him into a belief in his talents for war, and he took the
command of the army in Thrace, opposed to Brasidas, the best Spartan
general of his day. His incapacity lost the Athenians a battle, but the
generals on both sides where slain; and the death of their greatest
nuisance at home, and their worst enemy abroad, was an ample recompense
for the injury incurred by his rashness. “When both Cleon and Brasidas
were slain, the which on either side were most opposite to the peace:
the one for that he had good success and honour in the war; the other,
because in quiet times his evil actions would the more appear, and
his calumniations be the less believed,”[115] peace, though of brief
duration, was almost immediately concluded.

That Cleon should have succeeded to the influence of Pericles may
well surprise the reader. But a very slight inequality will turn the
course of a rapid current to the undermining of its own banks; and in
like manner, when men’s minds are deeply moved, things in quiet times
contemptible may acquire influence and importance commensurate with
the force of that which they are enabled, by no intrinsic qualities,
to control. By no other considerations can we explain—to justify it
is impossible—the extravagance of terror and fury into which England
was once goaded by a man, who for knavery and impudence may match the
Athenian demagogue, and who, for some time, bore equal sway over the
minds of his countrymen, Titus Oates, the discoverer, and probably
the inventor of the Popish Plot. Some excuse is to be found in the
political circumstances of the times; in the belief that the King
adhered secretly to the Romish faith, as the Duke of York openly
professed it; and especially in the known fact that the sovereign
of Britain was pensioned by France, that he might dispense with
parliaments, and the more easily establish himself on an absolute
throne. The high character of many who promoted the inquiry is a
sufficient warrant that they were actuated by no unworthy motives.
But the revolting narrative of murders committed under form of law by
perjured witnesses and corrupt judges, will remain for ever a blot
in our history; a warning against adding gall to bitterness; against
aggravating political dissension by religious discord.

The first information of the plot was given by one Dr. Tongue,
in August, 1678; but the King, who was by no means deficient in
penetration, pronounced it to be a forgery, and it might have slept
for ever, had not the Duke of York, whose confessor was implicated,
judged an inquiry necessary to clear himself from all suspicion. Tongue
professed to have his information from Oates, and having brought the
principal actor on the stage, took no further part in the action of
the piece. On Michaelmas–eve Oates was examined before the council,
and deposed to the existence of a most extensive conspiracy among the
Jesuits to murder the King. He indicated Coleman, formerly secretary
to the Duke of York, and at that time to the Duchess, as being
acquainted with all the schemes under consideration. The effect of
this announcement is thus described by a most amiable and unprejudiced

“October 1, 1678. The parliament and the whole nation were alarmed
about a conspiracy of some eminent Papists, for the destruction of
the King, and introduction of Popery, discovered by one Oates and
Dr. Tongue, which last I knew. I went to see and converse with him
at Whitehall, with Mr. Oates, one that was lately an apostate to the
church of Rome, and now returned again with this discovery. He seemed
to be a bold man, and, in my thoughts, furiously indiscreet; but every
body believed what he said, and it quite changed the genius and motions
of the parliament, growing now corrupt, and interested with long
sitting and court practices: but with all this, Popery would not go
down. This discovery turned them all as one man against it, and nothing
was done but to find out the depth of this. Gates was encouraged, and
every thing he affirmed taken for gospel. The truth is, the Roman
Catholics were exceedingly bold and busy everywhere, since the Duke
forbore to go any longer to the chapel.”[116]

Coleman had notice of his danger, and secreted a part, but not the
whole, of his papers. The remainder were seized, and clearly proved
that he had maintained a correspondence with the confessor of Louis
XIV., the object of which was the reconversion of England. Besides
appearing before the council, Gates made oath to the truth of his
Narrative, which he published before Sir Edmundbury Godfrey, a zealous
Protestant, and active justice of peace, and yet one that lived
on good terms both with Non–conformists and Papists. Very shortly
afterwards Godfrey was murdered. He was found in a ditch, with his
own sword sticking in his body, which had not been plundered; and
marks of strangling were thought to be visible about his neck, and
some contusions on his breast. It has ever been a mystery by whom this
crime was perpetrated; it was of course charged on the Papists, and
retorted by them on the contrivers and assertors of the plot. But the
support given to Gates’s story by this event, conjointly with Coleman’s
papers, threw the whole country into a ferment. Vast crowds flocked to
behold the corpse; the funeral excited equal interest, and the wish of
its conductors to inflame the people is visible in some extraordinary
precautions said to have been taken against a danger which no man could
have apprehended seriously. The following account is taken from a
contemporary of high tory principles, and animated by a most especial
hatred of Gates.


 This medal appears to have been struck in ridicule of the notion that
 Godfrey had murdered himself; he is represented as walking with the
 halter about his neck, apparently towards Primrose Hill, seen in the
 distance with its double head. The legend, “Ergo pares sumus,”—Therefore
 we are alike,—intimates that those, and those only, who can believe the
 well–known story of St. Denys, could believe the Papistical account that
 Godfrey had killed himself.]

“The next and last act of this tragedy was the funeral of this poor
gentleman; and if it had been possible the rout could have been more
formidable than at the exposition of him, it must now have appeared.
For as about other party concerns, so here the time and place of the
assemblation was generally notified, as also what learned divine was to
preach the sermon. The crowd was prodigious, both at the procession and
in and about the church; and so heated, that any thing called Papist
had gone to pieces in an instant. The Catholics all kept close in their
houses and lodgings, thinking it a good composition to be safe there;
so far were they from acting violently at that time. But there was all
this time upheld among the common people an artificial fright, so as
almost every one fancied a Popish knife just at his throat. And at the
sermon, besides the preacher, two other thumping divines stood upright
in the pulpit, one on each side of him, to guard him from being killed
while he was preaching, by the Papists. I did not see this spectacle,
but was credibly told by some that affirmed they did see it; and though
I have often mentioned it, as now, with precaution, yet I never met
with any that contradicted it. A most portentous spectacle sure! Three
parsons in one pulpit! Enough of itself, on a less occasion, to strike
a terror into the audience.”[117]

This might perhaps be considered as party spleen: but the testimony of
Calamy, one of the most learned and amiable dissenting clergymen of his
day, and a believer in much, though not in all the details of the plot,
to the extravagancies committed, is unexceptionable.

“Though I was at that time but young (he was about nine years of age),
yet can I not forget how much I was affected with seeing several that
were condemned for this plot, go to be executed at Tyburn, and at the
pageantry of the mock processions on the 17th of November.[118] Roger
L’Estrange (who used to be called Oliver’s Fiddler), formerly in danger
of being hanged for a spy, and about this time the admired buffoon of
high–church, called them ‘hobby–horsing processions.’

“In one of them, in the midst of vast crowds of spectators, who made
great acclamations and showed abundance of satisfaction, there were
carried in pageants upon men’s shoulders through the chief streets of
the city, the effigies of the Pope, with the representation of the
devil behind him, whispering in his ear, and wonderfully soothing and
caressing him (though he afterwards deserted him, and left him to shift
for himself, before he was committed to the flames), together with the
likeness of the dead body of Sir Edmundbury Godfrey, carried before him
by one that rode on horseback, designed to remind the people of his
execrable murder. And a great number of dignitaries in their copes,
with crosses; monks, friars, and Jesuits; Popish bishops in their
mitres, with all their trinkets and appurtenances. Such things as
these very discernibly heightened and inflamed the general aversion of
the nation from Popery; but it is to be feared, on the other hand, they
put some people, by way of revulsion, upon such desperate expedients as
brought us even within an ace of ruin.”[119]

A few days after these events the parliament met. “All Oates’s evidence
was now so well believed, that it was not safe for any man to seem to
doubt of any part of it. He thought he had the nation in his hands,
and was swelled up to the highest pitch of vanity and insolence. And
now he made a new edition of his discovery before the bar of the House
of Commons.”[120] He now said that the Pope, having declared himself
entitled to the possession of England, in virtue of the heresy of
prince and people, had delegated the supreme power to the order of
Jesuits, and that in consequence commissions had been issued by the
general of that order, to various noblemen and gentlemen, investing
them with all the great offices of the state. He swore that Coleman,
and Sir George Wakeman, the Queen’s physician, were in the plot, and
that for 15,000_l._ the latter had engaged to poison the King. Success
emboldened him to soar still higher; and after declaring to the House
of Lords, that he had named all the persons of rank involved in the
plot, he had the effrontery to accuse the Queen of being concerned in
it, under circumstances the most improbable: besides that the charge
was discountenanced by the whole tenour of her life.

“It was plain, that postnate to the narrative of Oates, there was a
design formed for cutting off the Queen by a false accusation, and
thereupon this evidence was given, and Bedloe, another evidence for
the plot, chimed in. It seems the not venturing so high in Oates’s
narrative was thought to be an error to be retrieved by additional
swearing. It was not a cabal of ordinary authority could encourage
Oates to come to the bar of the House of Commons, and say, ‘Aye, Taitus
Oates, accause Catherine Quean of England of haigh traison.’ Upon which
the King immediately confined him, and it might have been worse, if
some people had not taken his part, who were considerable enough to
give umbrage that it would be more prudent to set him at liberty again,
which was done accordingly. The King was pleased to say, ‘They think I
have a mind to a new wife; but for all that I will not see an innocent
woman abused.’ This passage ought to be remembered to the honour of the
King’s justice: certainly if his Majesty had given way, the Queen had
been very ill used.”[121]

Oates’s exaltation was a tempting bait, and other witnesses of infamous
character began to appear. In November Coleman was tried, convicted,
and executed on the joint evidence of Oates and Bedloe. There was
sufficient disagreement between the statements made by the former upon
the trial and before the council, to cause them to be received with
much suspicion; but Chief Justice Scroggs, after manifesting throughout
a most scandalous bias against the prisoner, charged the jury in a
style of which this is a specimen: “The things the prisoner is accused
of are of two sorts: the one is to subvert the Protestant religion,
and to introduce Popery; the other was to destroy and kill the king.
The evidence likewise was of two sorts; the one by letters of his own
handwriting, and the other by witnesses _viva voce_. The former he
seems to confess, the other totally to deny.... You are to examine
what these letters import in themselves, and what consequences are
naturally to be deduced from them. That which is plainly intended is to
bring in the Roman Catholic, and subvert the Protestant religion. That
which is by consequence intended, is the killing the king, as being
the most likely means to introduce that which as it is apparent from
his letters, was designed to be brought in.”[122] It would be a waste
of words to point out the monstrous wickedness of this inference. The
nature of the letters has been already described; that they contained
schemes hostile to the constitution there is no doubt, though not,
it should seem, such as bore out a charge of treason, least of all
against the life of the king. And it is worthy of observation, that
after dwelling at length upon the letters, Scroggs says not one word
concerning the evidence of the witnesses. Justice Jones worthily
seconded his principal: “You must find the prisoner guilty, or bring in
two persons perjured.”

The next act of the tragedy was the trial of Ireland, Fenwick, and
Whitebread, three Jesuits; and Grove and Pickering, two servants in the
queen’s chapel. Oates and Dugdale swore that the priests had conspired
the death of the king, and at their instigation the latter had agreed
to shoot him, which they attempted three several times; but that on
one occasion the flint of their pistol was loose; on another there
was no priming; and on the third no powder in the barrel: with other
circumstances equally childish and improbable. Scroggs acknowledged
that the case had broken down against Whitebread and Fenwick, and in
defiance of all principles of justice, remanded them that further
evidence might be procured.[123] The other three were condemned and
executed. Whitebread, Fenwick, and three other Jesuits, afterwards
underwent the same fate.

In July Wakeman and others were tried. “Scroggs summed up very
favourably for the prisoners; far contrary to his former practice. The
truth is, that this was looked upon as the Queen’s trial, as well as
Wakeman’s. The prisoners were acquitted, and now the witnesses saw they
were blasted; and they were enraged on it, which they vented with much
spite against Scroggs.”[124]

“July 18, 1679. I went early to the Old Bailey sessions–house, to
the famous trial of Sir G. Wakeman, one of the Queen’s physicians,
and three Benedictine monks: the first (who I take to be a worthy
gentleman, abhorring such a fact) for intending to poison the King: the
others as accomplices to carry on the plot to subvert the government
and introduce Popery. The bench was crowded with the judges, the lord
mayor, justices, and innumerable spectators. The chief accusers,
Dr. Oates (as he called himself), and one Bedloe, a man of inferior
note. Their testimonies were not so pregnant, and I fear, much of
it upon hearsay; but swearing positively to some particulars which
drew suspicion upon their truth, nor did circumstances so agree as
to give either the bench or the jury so entire satisfaction as was
expected. After therefore a long and tedious trial of nine hours, the
jury brought them in not guilty, to the extraordinary triumph of the
Papists, and[125] without sufficient disadvantage and reflections on
the witnesses, especially Oates and Bedloe. This was a happy day for
the lords in the Tower, who, expecting their trial, had this day gone
against the prisoners at the bar, would all have been in the utmost
hazard. For my part I look upon Oates as a vain insolent man, puffed up
with the favour of the Commons for having discovered something really
true, more especially as detecting the dangerous intrigue of Coleman,
proved out of his own letters, and of a general design which the
Jesuitical party of the Papists ever had, and still have, to ruin the
church of England; but that he was trusted with those great secrets he
pretended, or had any solid ground for what he accused divers noblemen
of, I have many reasons to induce my contrary belief.”

This, the first acquittal, was indeed equivalent to a sentence of
perjury against the witnesses; whose credit began to be shaken by the
contradictions in their evidence, discoverable by any who would calmly
look for them; and by the constancy with which all the condemned met
death, disclaiming to the last the justice of their sentence. Several
trials followed with various success. Soon after the meeting of the
Parliament in 1678, Lord Stafford, with four other Popish lords, had
been committed to the Tower upon Oates’s depositions. The parliament
was dissolved in January, 1679. Another was called in March, and the
question of the Popish lords proceeded in; but this also was dissolved
in May, without the accused being brought to trial, and they remained
in confinement till a third parliament was called in October, 1680,
soon after which it was resolved, “That the House will proceed with
the prosecution of the lords in the Tower, and forthwith begin with
William, Viscount Stafford.” Oates, Dugdale, and Turbervile, two more
witnesses of the same class, gave evidence upon which he was condemned.
Stafford was an aged man, and of little estimation; yet he defended
himself, prisoners not being then allowed benefit of counsel, with
dignity and constancy, through a long trial of six days. He urged with
much force the infamy of Oates.

“Dec. 6, 1680. One thing my lord said, as to Oates, which I confess did
exceedingly affect me; that a person who during his depositions should
so vauntingly brag, that though he went over to the church of Rome,
yet he never was a Papist, nor of their religion, all the time that he
seemed to apostatize from the Protestant, but only as a spy; though
he confessed he took their sacraments, worshipped their images, went
through all their oaths, and discipline of their proselytes, swearing
secrecy and to be faithful, but with intent to come over again and
betray them; that such a hypocrite, that had so deeply prevaricated as
even to turn idolater (for so we of the church of England term it),
attesting God so solemnly that he was entirely theirs, and devoted to
their interests, and consequently (as he pretended) trusted; I say that
the witness of such a profligate wretch should be admitted against the
life of a peer, this my lord looked upon as a monstrous thing, and such
as must needs redound to the dishonour of our religion and nation. And
verily I am of his lordship’s opinion: such a man’s testimony should
not be taken against the life of a dog. But the merit of something
material which he discovered against Coleman, put him in such esteem
with the parliament, that now I fancy he stuck at nothing, and thought
every body was to take what he said for gospel. The consideration of
this in some other circumstances began to stagger me: particularly how
it was possible that one who went among the Papists on such a design,
and pretended to be intrusted with so many letters and commissions
from the Pope and the party, nay and delivered them to so many great
persons, should not reserve one of them to show, nor so much as one
copy of any commission, which he who had such dexterity in opening
letters might certainly have done, to the undeniable conviction of
those that he accused: but as I said he gained credit on Coleman;
but as to others whom he so madly flew upon, I am little inclined to
believe his testimony, he being so slight a person, so passionate,
ill–bred, and of such impudent behaviour; nor is it likely that such
piercing politicians as the Jesuits should trust him with so high and
so dangerous secrets.”[126]

Burnet gives his own words: “I asked him, what were the arguments which
prevailed on him to change his religion, and go over to the church of
Rome. He upon that stood up, and laid his hands on his breast and said,
‘God and his holy angels knew that he had never changed, but that he
had gone among them on purpose to betray them.’ This gave me such a
character of him, that I could have no regard to anything he either
said or swore after that.”[127]

Stafford died with dignity and calmness, such as to make a deep
impression on the spectators. Their behaviour was decent, and even
compassionate, and a general belief in his dying protestations of
innocence was expressed. He was the last victim, strictly speaking, of
this impudent and atrocious forgery, upon which fourteen other men had
been previously executed. Many Romish priests also were condemned, and,
in part at least, suffered death upon a statute of Elizabeth, making it
treason for such to be found within the realm.

It is not from any resemblance in the circumstances of the times, nor
from similarity of character, though indeed that is considerable,
that Cleon and Oates have been grouped together, so much as to show
that cruelty and credulity are equally the growth of ancient and
modern times, and that there have always been periods when it has been
easy for men, contemptible in rank, talent, and character, so they
be possessed of a certain low cunning and a plenitude of impudence,
to govern the public mind by availing themselves of its prejudices.
Diminish these prejudices in the smallest degree, in the same degree
is the liability to this degrading and mischievous bondage reduced. A
startling warning may be drawn from the comparison of the two periods.
Had England resembled in circumstances, and form of government, the
tyrant–democracy of Athens, there is strong reason to thing that
the fearful enormities committed by that profligate city against
her dependents might have been equalled in the extirmination of the
obnoxious sect; as we know that the accusation of non–conformity, and
the charge of conspiring to establish a tyranny,[128] formed equally
ready handles of insult and oppression. Happily the balanced and
complicated form of the constitution, and the impossibility of moving
with one accord a great nation, delivered our ancestors from this
extremity of guilt. May the hazard which they incurred serve as a
beacon, to warn men against suffering themselves to be hoodwinked and
goaded by their fears into forgetfulness alike of reason and charity.

It may be some consolation to any whose patriotism is shocked by
the ready belief of Oates’s narrative, to know that the proverbial
credulity of the English was fully equalled by the gullibility of
the acute and polished Athenians.[129] Gross as was the imposture,
it was yet not without some foundation in truth; and in the then
alarming crisis of public affairs, we may imagine how it was that eager
politicians greedily swallowed a story adapted to their prepossessions,
although candid and dispassionate observers, like Evelyn, saw
immediately how little of it was entitled to credit. Yet even Evelyn
was partly a believer, as also Dryden, whose party prejudices certainly
did not lead him to side with the whigs.

                    That plot, the nation’s curse,
  Bad in itself, but represented worse;
  Raised in extremes, and in extremes decried;
  With oaths affirmed, with dying vows denied;
  Not weighed and winnowed by the multitude,
  But swallowed in the mass, unchewed and crude.
  Some truth there was, but dashed and brewed with lies
  To please the fools and puzzle all the wise.
  Succeeding times did equal folly call,
  Believing nothing, or believing all.

  _Absalom and Achitophel, part I._

The following passages will probably amuse the reader, and convey a
good idea of the character of Oates himself:—

“Titus Oates was the son of an anabaptist teacher, who afterwards
conformed and got into orders, and took a benefice as this his son
did. He was proud and ill–natured, haughty but ignorant. He had been
complained of for some very indecent expressions concerning the
mysteries of the Christian religion. He was once presented for perjury.
But he got to be chaplain in one of the king’s ships, from which he was
dismissed upon charges of gross profligacy.... He seemed inclined to be
instructed in the Popish religion. One Hutchinson, a Jesuit, had that
work put upon him.... He told me that Oates and the Jesuits were always
on ill terms. They did not allow Oates above nine–pence a day, of which
he complained much; and Hutchinson relieved him often. They wished they
could be well rid of him, and sent him beyond sea, being in very ill
terms with him. This made Hutchinson conclude that they had not at that
time trusted Oates with their secrets; Oates was kept for some time at
St. Omers, and was thence sent through France into Spain, and was now
returned to England. He had been long acquainted with Tongue, and made
his first discovery to him.”[130]

“Oates was a low man, of an ill cut, very short neck, and his visage
and features were most particular. His mouth was the centre of his
face, and a compass there would sweep his nose, forehead, and chin
within the perimeter. In a word, he was a most consummate cheat,
blasphemer, vicious, perjured, impudent, and saucy foul–mouthed wretch;
and were it not for the truth of history and the great emotions in the
public which he was the cause of, not fit (so little deserving) to be

“Oates would never say all that he knew, for that was not consistent
with the uncertainty of events. For he could not foresee what sort of
evidence there might be occasion for, nor whom (it might be thought
fit) to accuse. All which matters were kept in reserve to be launched
or not, as occasion, like fair weather, invited, or flaws discouraged.
And having once said, there was all he knew (if he had been so
overseen), it had ended the plot, and then there could have been no
further suspense or expectation, as was afterwards continually kept on
foot, in hopes that at length the bottom of the plot would come up. In
the mean time the faction could calumniate any person, as the Duke,
the Queen, and even the good King himself, as being in the plot, much
more any one that was loyal in the ministry and magistracy, and so keep
all in one. And all the while it went about in whispers, that strange
things would appear, if they could but once come to the bottom of the
plot, and each one’s evil imagination was to inform what that was, as
will fully appear afterwards. When Oates was examined in the House of
Commons, and was asked if he knew of any further designs against his
Majesty, &c., instead of answering that question, he told a tale of a
fox and a goose, that the fox, to see if the ice would bear him and his
goose, first carried over a stone as heavy as the goose. And neither
then nor ever after, during his whole life, would he be brought to say
he had told all that he knew.”[132]

“Oates was now (the author is speaking of a time soon after his first
examination before parliament) in his trine exaltation; his plot in
full force, efficacy, and virtue: he walked about with his guards
(assigned) for fear of the Papists murdering him. He had lodgings in
Whitehall, and 1200_l._ per annum pension. And no wonder, after he had
the impudence to cry to the House of Lords in plain terms, that if they
would not help him he must help himself. He put on an episcopal garb
(except his lawn sleeves), silk gown and cassock, great hat, satin
hatband and rose, and was called, or most blasphemously called himself,
‘the Saviour of the nation.’ Whoever he pointed at was taken up and
committed, so that many people got out of his way, as from a blast,
and glad that they could prove their last two years’ conversation. The
very breath of him was pestilential, and if it brought not imprisonment
or death over such on whom it fell, it surely poisoned reputation, and
left good Protestants arrant Papists; and, something worse than that,
in danger of being put in the plot as traitors.”[133]

“He threatened me indeed with a parliament, but that is a course
of speech he has got. If the prisoners but ask a new comer for his
garnish, the master of the prison shall be told of a parliament. A
bishop shall not suspend a minister for refusing to officiate according
to the canon, but he is presently threatened with a parliament. If
the university shall not think fit to allow Mr. Oates his degree, the
lawn sleeves are to be ruffled next parliament. I was walking awhile
since only over the outer court at Whitehall innocently about my
business, and because I did not cap him over the square, as the boys do
fellows at Cambridge, ‘Squire L’Estrange,’ says he, ‘we shall have a
parliament,’ twirling his hat about between his finger and thumb, with
a look and action not to be expressed.”[134]

The credit of the plot and of its author declined together. In 1681,
Oates appeared as a witness in defence of one Colledge, better known as
the “Protestant joiner,” a busy man and a zealot against Popery, who
was accused of treason upon no better grounds than had served his own
party for the destruction of so many Papists. The court was eager for
revenge, and by no means scrupulous concerning the means of obtaining
it; the witnesses, who had supported the plot, were indifferent which
way they perjured themselves, so long as perjury was profitable, and
swore against Colledge as readily as against the Jesuits. Oates,
therefore, who adhered to his old friends, be this one thing recorded
to his credit, was brought into collision with his former associates,
and a scene of abuse passed between him and them in open court which
is too long for quotation, but will satisfy any person of the infamy
of at least one, probably of both parties. (State Trials, vol. viii.
p. 628.) Towards the end of Charles’s reign, when the discontinuance
of parliaments threw all power into the hands of the court, and the
infamous Jefferies was a ready minister of oppression; Oates was
prosecuted by the Duke of York for libel, and damages assessed at
100,000_l._ This was but the beginning of his misfortunes. In 1688,
soon after the accession of James, he was convicted of perjury upon two
indictments: the one charging him with having sworn that he was at a
consultation of Jesuits in London, when he was really at St. Omers; the
other, with having deposed to Ireland’s presence in London at a time
when he was gone into Staffordshire. The sentence passed upon him was
most savage and illegal, and moreover executed with such severity as to
produce the belief that he was not meant to survive it. It is in itself
a curiosity, and as such, as well as for the instruction of any who do
not duly appreciate the blessings of an incorrupt judicature: though
long, it shall be given entire.

_Justice Wilkins._ “I hope I have not been thought a man of ill–nature,
and I confess nothing has been so great a regret to me in my place and
station as to give judgment and pronounce the sentence of law against
my fellow–subjects, my fellow–creatures—but as to you, Mr. Oates, I
cannot say my fellow–christian. Yet in this case when I consider your
offence, and the dismal effects that have followed upon it, I cannot
say I have any remorse in giving judgment upon you. And therefore
having told you my thoughts shortly about your crime, and how readily I
pronounce your sentence, I shall now declare the judgment of the court
upon you: and it is this:—

“First, the court does order for a fine, that you pay 1000 marks upon
each indictment.

“Secondly, that you be stripped of all your canonical habits.

“Thirdly, the court doth award, that you do stand upon the pillory, and
in the pillory here before Westminster Hall gate, upon Monday next, for
an hour’s time, between the hours of ten and twelve, with a paper over
your head (which you must first walk with round about to all the courts
in Westminster Hall) declaring your crime. And that is upon the first

“Fourthly (on the second indictment), upon Tuesday you shall stand
upon and in the pillory at the Royal Exchange, in London, for the
space of an hour, between, the hours of twelve and two, with the same

“You shall upon the next Wednesday be whipped from Aldgate to Newgate.

“Upon Friday you shall be whipped from Newgate to Tyburn by the hands
of the common hangman.

“But Mr. Oates, we cannot but remember there were several particular
times you swore false about, and therefore, as annual commemorations,
that it may be known, to all people as long as you live, we have taken
special care of you for an annual punishment.

“Upon the 24th of April, every year, as long as you live, you are to
stand upon the pillory, and in the pillory at Tyburn, just opposite to
the gallows, for the space of an hour, between the hours of ten and

“You are to stand upon and in the pillory here, at Westminster Hall
gate, every 9th of August, in every year, so long as you live. And that
it may be known what we mean by it, it is to remember what he swore
about Mr. Ireland’s being in town between the 8th and 12th of August.

“You are to stand upon and in the pillory at Charing Cross, upon the
10th of August, every year during your life, for an hour, between ten
and twelve.

“The like over against the Temple gate upon the 11th.

“And upon the 2nd of September (which is another notorious time, which
you cannot but be remembered of) you are to stand upon and in the
pillory, for the space of one hour, between twelve and two, at the
Royal Exchange; all this you are to do every year during your life, and
to be committed close prisoner as long as you live.

“This I pronounce to be the judgment of the court upon you for your
offences. And I must tell you plainly that if it had been in my power
to have carried it further, I should not have been unwilling to have
given sentence of death upon you, for I am sure you deserve it.”[135]

Burnet says, “But now the sitting of the parliament of England came
on. And as a preparative to it, Oates was convicted of perjury upon
the evidence of the witnesses from St. Omers, who had been brought
over before to discredit his testimony. Now juries were so prepared
as to believe more easily than formerly. So he was condemned to have
his priestly habit taken from him, to be a prisoner for life, to be
set in the pillory in all the public places through the city, and ever
after that set in the pillory four times a–year, and to be whipped
by the common hangman from Aldgate to Newgate one day, and the next
from Newgate to Tyburn, which was executed with so much rigour that
his back appeared to be all over flead. This was thought too little
if he were guilty, and too much if he were innocent; and was illegal
in all the parts of it. For as the secular court, could not order
the ecclesiastical habit to be taken from him, so to condemn a man
to perpetual imprisonment was not in the power of the court. And the
extreme rigour of such whipping was without a precedent. Yet he, who
was an original in all things, bore this with a constancy that amazed
all those who saw it. So that this treatment did rather raise his
reputation than sink it.”[136]

So soon as the heat of the plot was over, Charles reduced his pension
one–half, and ultimately deprived him of it altogether. After the
Revolution he was pardoned, “redintegrated at court, and admitted to a
pension of 400_l._ per annum, at which he was very wroth, for Charles
gave him 600_l._, ‘and sure,’ he said, ‘William will give me more.’ He
sought by Act of Parliament to have his judgment for perjury reversed,
but he could never obtain a swearing capacity again. The Earl of
Danby (then Leeds) knew the danger of that, and would indeed have his
sentence reversed, that is, having been whipped from Newgate to Tyburn,
would fain have had him whipped back from Tyburn to Newgate. The power
of swearing is formidable to great and small, and his lordship was
within an ace of being put in the plot for Godfrey’s murder.”[137]
Here ends his public life; he died in 1705, having once more changed
his religion, and entered into the communion of the Baptists. To the
last many persons adhered to him, and considered him a martyr to the
Protestant cause. In conclusion, we subjoin his character, as drawn
by Calamy, whose temper and opinions alike free his testimony from

“Dr. Oates was a man of invincible courage and resolution, and endured
what would have killed a great many others. He occasioned a strange
turn in the nation, after a general lethargy, that had been of some
years’ continuance. By awakening us out of sleep he was an instrument
in the hand of God for our preservation. Yet after all, he was but a
sorry foul–mouthed wretch, as I can testify from what I once heard from
him in company.


 Medal of Oates. The reverse represents the pretended scheme to shoot
 Charles II. walking in St. James’s Park. Legend: The Popish Plott
 discovered by mee, T. Oates, D.D.]

“I have been informed at Westminster that Dr. Oates was a frequent
auditor of my predecessor, Mr. Alsop, and moved for leave to come
to the Lord’s table with his society, but that an honest man of the
congregation upon that occasion spoke freely against him, as one so
irregular in his life as to be very unfit for church communion. The
doctor afterwards meeting Mr. Alsop, told him that man had sadly
abused him, and upon that account he vehemently complained as one that
was injuriously dealt with. Mr. Alsop cried out, ‘Prove him a liar,
doctor! prove him a liar!’ which it would have been well for him if
he could have done. But he really bore an indifferent character at
Westminster, and notwithstanding all the service he had done, there
were so many things concurring to lessen his credit, as makes it very
hard to distinguish between what was true and what was false in his
depositions. For which reason I must own that I am the less surprised,
that the parliament after the Revolution should leave him under a
brand, and incapacitate him for being a witness for the future.”[138]

We may conclude the chapter with a short reference to that most
remarkable transaction, the mutilation of the Hermæ, which occurred
B.C. 415, just before the Sicilian expedition, and in its consequences
bears a striking analogy to the passage in history which we have just
related. The Hermæ were square pillars, surmounted by a head of the
god, Hermes, or Mercury, which, in compliance with an ancient custom,
were placed at the entrances of temples and houses. Most of these
throughout Athens were defaced in the course of one night. A great
sensation was excited in the city; for the circumstance was held to be
of evil omen to the important enterprise just about to be commenced,
and moreover to indicate the existence of a plot to overthrow the
democracy. Alcibiades was accused among others, but no evidence could
be obtained to bring home the offence to any one: the excitement passed
off for a time, and he was ordered with the army to Sicily. But men’s
minds were unsettled, and agitated by terrors of they knew not what,
aggravated by designing persons for party ends. “From the affair of
the Mercuries, a plot was inferred for the establishment of oligarchy
or tyranny, and the irritation was cherished by continual discourses
of what Athens had suffered through the Pisistratidæ. On the slightest
suspicion, on the most discreditable evidence, men, the most respected,
were imprisoned; alarm increased with the number of accusations, and
each found readier credit than the last. At length Andocides, one of
the imprisoned, seeing no other hope of escape, and hoping by the
sacrifice of a few to save the rest, and to tranquillize the city,
confessed the crime, and accused some others, whether truly or falsely
is not known. The people received the information with joy; and setting
free the informer, and those whom he had cleared, tried and executed
the others. The proof was very inadequate, and the condemnation most
unjust; but the panic was in great measure abated.”[139]

In this jealous temper, Alcibiades, though not included in the
accusation, was summoned home from Sicily. He fled to Sparta, and by
his powerful talents contributed very principally to produce those
reverses which subsequently overtook the Athenians. The account of this
remarkable transaction is given in Thucydides, vi. c. 27, 60, and most
completely in the speech of Andocides de Mysteriis, which is contained
in Bekker’s collection of the Greek orators.


 Athenian expedition against Sicily—Siege of Syracuse—Retreat and
 destruction of the army—Retreat of Ney in Russia—Retreat of Sir John
 Hawkwood in Italy.

We now come to the Sicilian expedition, and request the reader’s
patience if we dwell longer than usual on the closing scene of an
undertaking, described by its historian as “the greatest that happened
in this war, or at all, that we have heard of, among the Grecians,
being to the victors most glorious, and most calamitous to the
vanquished.”[140] The total destruction of the army of Athens struck a
deadly blow at her greatness, though she struggled most energetically
to retrieve her loss, and, through the want of able leaders at Sparta,
nearly succeeded. But the scale was turned against her, and from this
time forwards she fought an uphill battle.

In the seventeenth year of the war, B.C. 415, the Athenians, at the
suggestion of Alcibiades, resolved to send a very powerful armament
to Sicily, nominally to protect the little republic of Egesta against
Selinus and Syracuse, but really to re–establish the Ionian interest
in the island. We may observe that Sicily was colonized partly by
Ionian, partly by Dorian Greeks, and that the former naturally favoured
the Athenians, the latter the Lacedæmonians, as the heads of their
respective races. At present the Dorian race, at the head of which
stood Syracuse, was by far the more powerful: and alarm was felt, or
at least pretended, that unless checked by a powerful diversion at
home, they might get all Sicily into their hands, and then unite with
their Peloponnesian kinsmen to pull down that object of universal
jealousy, the Athenian empire. Moved therefore by the entreaties of the
Egestans, by these political arguments, and most of all by the desire
of conquest, the Athenians “resolved to go again to Sicily, and if they
could, wholly to subdue it, being for the most part ignorant both of
the greatness of the island and of the multitude of people, as well
Greeks as Barbarians, that inhabited the same, and that they undertook
a war, not much less than the war against the Peloponnesians.”[141]

Nicias, of whose cautious and unenterprising temper we have before
spoken, saw and remonstrated against the impolicy of hazarding the
flower of the state in a distant and dangerous warfare, while many of
its revolted subjects remained unsubdued: but his warning was unheeded,
and he was required, in conjunction with Alcibiades and Lamachus,
to assume the command of this expedition, which he so entirely
disapproved. Nicias, a man of courage in the field, was too timid to
struggle against the popular will: he submitted, but still endeavoured
to damp the eagerness of his countrymen, by exaggerating the force
requisite to ensure success. A hundred triremes, he said, with 5000
heavy armed infantry, and archers and slingers in proportion, were
the least they could send. Here he rather overshot himself; the force
demanded was immediately voted, and no further pretext for dissuasion
or denial remained. The armament, including the crews of the triremes,
is estimated by Mitford to have contained at least 30,000 men.

Never was an enterprise undertaken with better will. Those who were
engaged in it vied with each other in the splendour of their armour and
equipment, and far from finding any difficulty to complete the levy,
the whole of the citizens would willingly have gone in a body; “the old
men, upon hope to subdue the place they went to, or that at least so
great a power could not miscarry; and the young men, upon desire to see
a foreign country, and to gaze, making little doubt but to return with
safety. As for the common sort, and the soldiers, they made account to
gain by it not only their wages for the time, but also so to amplify
the state in power as that their stipend should endure for ever. So
that, through the vehement desire thereunto of the most, they also that
liked it not, for fear, if they held up their hands against it, to be
thought evil affected to the state, were content to let it pass.”[142]

“The summer being now half spent, they put to sea for Sicily. The
Athenians themselves, and as many of their confederates as were at
Athens upon the day appointed, betimes in the morning came down into
Peiræus, and went aboard to take sea. With them came down in a manner
the whole multitude of the city, as well inhabitants as strangers: the
inhabitants, to follow after such as belonged unto them, some their
friends, some their kinsmen, and some their children: filled both
with hope and lamentations; hope of conquering what they went for,
and lamentation as being in doubt whether ever they should see each
other any more, considering what a way they were to go from their own

“And now when they were to leave one another to danger, they
apprehended the greatness of the same more than they had done before,
when they decreed the expedition. Nevertheless their present strength,
by the abundance of every thing before their eyes prepared for the
journey, gave them heart again in beholding it. But the strangers
and other multitude came only to see the show, as of a worthy and
incredible design. For this preparation, being the first Grecian power
that ever went out of Greece from one only city, was the most sumptuous
and the most glorious of all that ever had been set forth before it, to
that day.

“For the shipping, it was elaborate with a great deal of cost, both of
the captains[143] of galleys, and of the city. For the state allowed
a drachma[144] a day to every mariner, and gave of unequipped galleys
sixty swift ships of war and forty transports for the conveyance of
soldiers. And the captains of galleys both put into them the most able
servants,[145] and besides the wages of the state, unto the [uppermost
bank of oars, called the] Thranitæ,[146] and to the servants, gave
somewhat of their own; and bestowed great cost otherwise every one upon
his own galley, both in the badges[147] and other rigging, each one
striving to the utmost to have his galley, both in some ornament, and
also in swiftness, to exceed the rest.

“And for the land forces, they were levied with exceeding great
choice, and every man endeavoured to excel his fellow in the bravery
of his arms and utensils that belonged to his person. Insomuch as
amongst themselves it begat quarrel about whose office should be the
most bravely filled, but amongst other Grecians a conceit that it was
an ostentation rather of their power and riches, than a preparation
against an enemy. For if a man enter into account of the expense, as
well of the public as of private men that went the voyage; namely, of
the public, what was spent already in the business, and what was to be
given to the commanders to carry with them; and of private men, what
every one had bestowed and had still to bestow upon his person, and
every captain on his galley; and beside what every one was likely, over
and above his allowance from the state, to expend on provision for so
long a warfare; and what men carried with them on trading speculations,
both soldiers and merchants, he will find the whole sum carried out of
the city to amount to a great many talents. And the armament was no
less noised for the strange boldness of the attempt, and gloriousness
of the show, than for its superiority over those against whom it was to
go, for the length of the voyage, and for that it was undertaken with
so vast future hopes, in respect of their present power.

“After they were all aboard, and all things laid in that they meant to
carry with them, silence was commanded by the trumpet; and after the
wine had been carried about to the whole army, and all, as well the
generals as the soldiers, had poured libations out of gold and silver
cups, they made their prayers, such as by the law were appointed for
before their taking sea; not in every galley apart, but all together,
the herald pronouncing them: and the company from the shore, both of
the city and whosoever else wished them well, prayed with them. And
when they had sung the Pæan, and ended the health, they put forth to

For the actions and fortunes of the expedition, we must refer the
reader to the History of Greece, contenting ourselves with such a mere
outline as may render the termination of it, with which alone we are
concerned, intelligible. Alcibiades was recalled almost immediately,
in consequence of the jealousy excited by the mutilation of the Hermæ;
Lamachus was killed in battle, and thus Nicias was left in the sole
charge of an enterprise of which he disapproved and despaired. The
first campaign was wasted in inactivity. In the second, siege was laid
to Syracuse, a city of large extent and great natural strength; and
all promised fairly for success until Gylippus, a Spartan of the royal
blood, arrived with 700 Lacedæmonians, broke through the besiegers’
lines, and threw himself into the city. This reinforcement, and the
skill and enterprise of the Spartan general, turned the fortune of
the siege, which from thenceforth is a series of disasters. In the
following winter, Nicias, weary of his command and broken in health,
sent home to represent the unpromising situation of affairs, and to
request leave to resign; but he received in answer an injunction to
remain, with the assurance that powerful succours should be sent out.
Accordingly, early in the spring, Demosthenes, the victor at Pylos, was
despatched with a strong reinforcement, consisting of seventy–three
triremes and about 5000 heavy–armed infantry. That able general made
one powerful attempt to change the fortune of the siege, and on its
failure recommended an immediate retreat. But Nicias, who was brave
enough in the field, but very deficient in moral courage, dared not to
return unauthorized by the people. He retained his station, therefore,
though hopeless of success, except from the exertions of some
malcontent Syracusans with whom he maintained correspondence. Meanwhile
the army was wasting under sickness, arising from the low and marshy
ground on which it was encamped: and the Syracusans eagerly prosecuted
their success, and at last cut off from the besiegers the possibility
of retreating by sea, by utterly defeating the Athenian fleet. To act
any longer on the offensive was out of the question; the only hope of
safety was instantly to break up the siege and march into the interior,
where the army, yet powerful, might find among the friendly Sicels,
a native race who still occupied the interior of the island, a safe
and plentiful retreat until assistance could be sent them, or further
measures concerted.

“It was a lamentable departure, not only for one point of their
condition, that they marched away with the loss of their whole fleet,
and that instead of their great hopes, they had endangered both
themselves and the state, but also for the dolorous objects which were
presented both to the eye and mind of every of them in particular in
the leaving of their camp. For the dead lying unburied, when any one
saw his friend on the ground, it struck him at once both with fear and
grief. But the living that were sick or wounded, both grieved them
more than the dead, and were more miserable. For with entreaties and
lamentations they put them to a stand, pleading to be taken along by
whomsoever they saw of their followers or familiars, and hanging on the
necks of their comrades, and following as far as they were able. And if
the strength of any person failed him, it was not with few entreaties
or little lamentation that he was there left. Insomuch as the whole
army, filled with tears, and irresolute, could hardly get away, though
the place were hostile, and they had suffered already, and feared to
suffer in the future more than with tears could be expressed, but hung
down their heads and generally blamed themselves. For they seemed
nothing else but even the people of some great city expunged by siege,
and making their escape. For the whole number that marched were no
less one with another than 40,000 men. Of which not only the ordinary
sort carried every one what he thought he should have occasion to use,
but also the heavy infantry and horsemen, contrary to their custom,
carried their victuals under their arms, partly for want, and partly
for distrust of their servants,[149] who from time to time ran over to
the enemy; but at this time went the greatest number: and yet what they
carried was not enough to serve the turn. For not a jot more provision
was left remaining in the camp. Moreover the sufferings of others, and
that equal division of misery, which is some alleviation in that we
suffer with many, were not now thought to contain even thus much of
relief. And the rather, because they considered from what splendour
and glory which they enjoyed before, into how low an estate they were
now fallen: for never had so great a reverse befallen a Grecian army.
For whereas they came with purpose to enslave others, they departed in
greater fear of being made slaves themselves; and instead of prayers
and hymns of victory, with which they put to sea, they abandoned their
undertaking with sounds of very different signification; and whereas
they came out seamen, they departed landmen, and relied not upon their
naval forces, but upon their men of arms. Nevertheless, in respect of
the great danger yet hanging over them, these present miseries seemed
all but tolerable.

“Nicias perceiving the army to be dejected, and the great change that
was in it, came up to the ranks, and encouraged and comforted them, as
far as for the present means he was able. And as he went from part to
part, he exalted his voice more and more, both as being earnest in his
exhortation, and because also he desired that the benefit of his words
might reach as far might be.

“‘Athenians and confederates, we must hope still even in our present
estate. Men have been saved ere now from greater dangers than these
are. Nor ought you too much to accuse yourselves, either for your
losses past, or the undeserved miseries we are now in. Even I myself
that have the advantage of none of you in strength of body (for you
see under what sickness I now labour), nor am thought inferior to any
of you for prosperity past, either in respect of my own private person
or otherwise, am nevertheless now in as much danger as the meanest of
you. And yet I have worshipped the gods frequently, according to the
law, and lived justly and unblamably towards men. For which cause, my
hope is still confident of the future; though these calamities, as
being not according to the measure of our desert, do indeed make me
fear. But they may perhaps cease. For both the enemies have already had
sufficient fortune, and the gods, if any of them have been displeased
with our voyage, have already sufficiently punished us. Others have
invaded their neighbours as well as we; and as their offence, which
proceeded of human infirmity, so their punishment also hath been
tolerable. And we have reason now both to hope for more favour from
the gods (for our case deserveth their pity rather than their hatred),
and also not to despair of ourselves, seeing how good and how many men
of arms you are, marching together in order of battle. Make account
of this, that wheresoever you please to sit down, there presently of
yourselves you are a city, such as not any other city in Sicily can
easily sustain if you assault, or remove if you be once seated. Now for
your march, that it may be safe and orderly, look to it yourselves,
making no other account any of you, but what place soever he shall be
forced to fight in, the same if he win it will be his country and his
walls. March you must with diligence, both night and day alike, for our
victual is short; and if we can but reach some amicable territory of
the Siculi (for these are still firm to us for fear of the Syracusans),
then you may think yourselves secure. And notice has been sent to them
with directions to meet us, and to bring us forth some supplies of
victual. In sum, soldiers, let me tell you, it is necessary that you
be valiant; for there is no place near where, being cowards, you can
possibly be saved. Whereas, if you escape through the enemies at this
time, you may every one see again whatsoever anywhere he most desires,
and the Athenians may re–erect the great power of their city, how low
soever fallen. For the men, not the walls nor the empty galleys, are
the city.’

“Nicias, as he used this hortative, went withal about the army, and
restored order wherever he saw it straggling, or the ranks broken.
Demosthenes having spoken to the same or like purpose, did as much to
those soldiers under him; and they marched forward, those with Nicias
in a square battalion, and then those with Demosthenes in the rear.
And the men of arms received those that carried the baggage, and the
other multitude, within them. And when they were come to the ford of
the river Anapus, they there found certain of the Syracusans and their
confederates embattled against them on the bank, but these they put to
flight, and having won the passage, marched forward. But the Syracusan
horsemen pressed still upon them, and their light–armed plied them
with their darts in the flank. This day they marched forty furlongs,
and lodged that night at the foot of a certain hill. The next day, as
soon as it was light, they marched forwards, about twenty furlongs,
and descending into a certain champagne ground, encamped there with
intent both to get victual at the houses (for the place was inhabited),
and to carry water with them thence; for before them, in the way they
were to pass for many furlongs together, there was little to be had.
But the Syracusans in the mean time got before them, and cut off their
passage with a wall. This was at a steep hill, on either side whereof
was the channel of a torrent with steep and rocky banks, and it is
called Acræum Lepas.[150] The next day the Athenians went on. And the
horsemen and darters of the Syracusans and their confederates, being a
great number of both, pressed them so with their horses and darts, that
the Athenians after long fight, were compelled to retire again into the
same camp; but now with less victual than before, because the horsemen
would suffer them no more to straggle abroad.

“In the morning betimes they dislodged, and put themselves on their
march again, and forced their way to the hill which the enemy had
fortified, where they found before them the Syracusan foot embattled
in great depth above the fortification, for the place itself was but
narrow. The Athenians coming up, assaulted the wall, but the shot of
the enemy, who were many, and the steepness of the hill (for they could
easily cast home from above), making them unable to take it, they
retired again and rested. There happened withal some claps of thunder
and a shower of rain, as usually falleth out at this time of the year,
being now near autumn, which further disheartened the Athenians, who
thought that also this did tend to their destruction. Whilst they lay
still, Gylippus and the Syracusans sent part of their army to raise a
wall at their backs in the way they had come, but this the Athenians
hindered by sending against them part of theirs. After this the
Athenians retiring with their whole army into a more champagne ground,
lodged there that night, and the next day went forward again. And the
Syracusans, with their darts from every part round about, wounded many
of them; and when the Athenians charged they retired, and when they
retired the Syracusans charged; and that especially upon the hindmost,
that by putting to flight a few, they might terrify the whole army.
And for a good while the Athenians in this manner withstood them; and
afterwards being gotten five or six furlongs forward, they rested in
the plain; and the Syracusans went from them to their own camp.

“This night it was concluded by Nicias and Demosthenes, seeing
the miserable estate of their army, and the want already of all
necessaries, and that many of their men in many assaults of the enemy
were wounded, to leave as many fires lighted as they could, and
lead away the army,—not the road they purposed before, but toward
the sea, which was the contrary way to that which the Syracusans
guarded. Now this whole journey of the army lay not towards Catana,
but towards the other side of Sicily, Camarina and Gela, and the
cities, as well Grecian as Barbarian, that way. When they had made
many fires accordingly, they marched in the night, and (as usually
it falleth out in all armies, and most of all in the greatest, to be
subject to affright and terror, especially marching by night, and in
hostile ground, and the enemy near) were in confusion. The army of
Nicias leading the way, kept together and got far before; but that of
Demosthenes, which was the greater half, was both severed from the
rest, and marched more disorderly. Nevertheless, by the morning betimes
they got to the sea side, and entering into the Helorine way, they went
on towards the river Cacyparis, to the end when they came thither to
march upwards along the river side, through the heart of the country.
For they hoped that this way the Siculi, to whom they had sent, would
meet them. When they came to the river, here also they found a certain
guard of the Syracusans stopping their passage with a wall and with
piles. When they had quickly forced this guard they passed the river,
and again marched on to another river called Erineus, for that was the
way which the guides directed them.[151]

“In the mean time the Syracusans and their confederates, as soon as
day appeared, and that they knew the Athenians were gone, most of them
accusing Gylippus, as if he had let them go with his consent, followed
them with speed the same way, which they easily understood they were
gone, and about dinner–time overtook them. When they were come up to
those with Demosthenes, who were the hindmost, and had marched more
slowly and disorderly than the other part had done, as having been put
into disorder in the night, they fell upon them and fought. And the
Syracusan horsemen hemmed them in, and forced them up into a narrow
compass, the more easily now, because they were divided from the rest.
Now the army of Nicias was gone by this time one hundred[152] and fifty
furlongs further on. For he led away the faster, because he thought not
that their safety consisted in staying and fighting voluntarily, but
rather in a speedy retreat, and then only fighting when they could not
choose. But Demosthenes was both in greater and in more continual toil,
in respect that he marched in the rear, and consequently was pressed
by the enemy. And seeing the Syracusans pursuing him, he went not on,
but put his men in order to fight, till by his stay he was encompassed
and reduced, he and the Athenians with him, into great disorder. For
being shut up within a place enclosed round with a wall, through which
there was a road from side to side, and in it a considerable number of
olive–trees, they were charged from all sides at once with the enemies’
shot. For the Syracusans assaulted them in this kind, and not in
close battle, upon very good reason. For to hazard battle against men
desperate was not so much for theirs, as for the Athenians’ advantage.
And besides, their success being now manifest, they spared themselves
that they should not waste men, and thought by this kind of fight, to
subdue and take them alive.

“Whereupon after they had plied the Athenians and their confederates
all day long from every side with shot, and saw that with their
wounds and other annoyance, they were already tired, Gylippus and the
Syracusans and their confederates first made proclamation that if any
of the islanders would come over to them, they should be at liberty;
and the men of some few cities went over. And by and by they made
agreement with all the rest that were with Demosthenes, ‘that they
should deliver up their arms, and none of them be put to death, neither
violently nor by bonds, nor by want of the necessaries of life.’ And
they all yielded, to the number of 6000 men, and the silver they had
they laid it all down, casting it into the hollow of targets, and
filled with the same four targets. And these men they carried presently
into the city.

“Nicias and those that were with him attained the same day to the river
Erineus, which passing, he caused his army to sit down upon a certain
ground, more elevated than the rest; where the Syracusans the next
day overtook and told him, that those with Demosthenes had yielded
themselves, and willed him to do the like. But he, not believing it,
took truce for a horseman to inquire the truth. Upon return of the
horseman, and word that they had yielded, he sent a herald to Gylippus
and the Syracusans, saying that he was content to compound on the
part of the Athenians, to repay whatsoever money the Syracusans had
laid out, so that his army might be suffered to depart; and that
till payment of the money were made, he would deliver them hostages,
Athenians, every hostage rated at a talent. But Gylippus and the
Syracusans refusing the condition, charged them, and having hemmed them
in, plied them with shot, as they had done the other army, from every
side, till evening. This part also of the army, was pinched with the
want both of victual and other necessaries. Nevertheless, waiting for
the quiet of the night, they were about to march; but no sooner took
they their arms up, than the Syracusans perceiving it gave the alarm.
Whereupon the Athenians finding themselves discovered, sat down again,
all but 300, who, breaking by force through the guards, marched as far
as they could that night.

“And Nicias when it was day led his army forward, the Syracusans and
their confederates still pressing them in the same manner, shooting
and darting at them from every side. The Athenians hasted to get the
river Asinarus, not only because they were urged on every side by the
assault of the many horsemen, and other multitude, and thought to be
more at ease when they were over the river, but out of weariness also
and desire to drink. When they were come unto the river, they rushed
in without any order, every man striving who should first get over.
But the pressing of the enemy made the passage now more difficult; for
being forced to take the river in heaps, they fell upon and trampled
one another under their feet: and falling amongst the spears and
utensils of the army, some perished presently, and others, catching
hold of one another, were carried away together down the stream. And
not only the Syracusans standing along the farther bank, being a steep
one, killed the Athenians with their shot from above, as they were many
of them greedily drinking, and troubling one another in the hollow of
the river, but the Peloponnesians came also down and slew them with
their swords, and those especially that were in the river.[153] And
very soon the water was corrupted; nevertheless they drunk it, foul as
it was with blood and mire, and many also fought for it.

“In the end, when many dead lay heaped in the river, and the army was
utterly defeated, part at the river, and part (if any got away) by the
horsemen, Nicias yielded himself unto Gylippus (having more confidence
in him than in the Syracusans), ‘to be for his own person at the
discretion of him and the Lacedæmonians, and no further slaughter to
be made of the soldiers.’ Gylippus from thenceforth commanded to take
prisoners. So the residue, except such as they secreted[154] (which
were many), they carried alive into the city. They sent also to pursue
the 300, which had broken out from the camp in the night, and took
them. That which was left together of this army to the public was not
much; but they that were conveyed away by stealth were very many: and
all Sicily was filled with them, because they were not taken as those
with Demosthenes were, upon terms of capitulation. Besides, a great
part of these were slain; for the slaughter at this time was exceeding
great, none greater in all the Sicilian war. They were also not a few
that died in those other assaults in their march. Nevertheless many
also escaped, some then presently, and some by running away after
servitude, the rendezvous of whom was Catana.[155]

“The Syracusans and their confederates being come together, returned
with their prisoners, all they could get, and with the spoil, into
the city. As for all the other prisoners of the Athenians and their
confederates, they put themselves into the quarries, as the safest
custody. But Nicias and Demosthenes they killed against Gylippus’s
will. For Gylippus thought the victory would be very honourable, if,
over and above all his other success, he could carry home both the
generals of the enemy of Lacedæmon. And it fell out that the one of
them, Demosthenes, was their greatest enemy, for the things he had
done in the island,[156] and at Pylus; and the other, upon the same
occasion, their greatest friend. For Nicias had earnestly laboured
to have those prisoners which were taken in the island to be set at
liberty, by persuading the Athenians to the peace. For which cause the
Lacedæmonians were inclined to love him; and it was principally in
confidence of that that he surrendered himself to Gylippus. But certain
Syracusans (as it is reported), some of them for fear (because they
had been tampering with him), lest being examined upon this matter,
he should disclose something to disturb their present enjoyment; and
others (especially the Corinthians) fearing he might get away by
corruption of one or other (being wealthy), and work them some mischief
afresh, having persuaded their confederates to the same, killed him.
For these, or for causes near unto these, was he put to death; being
the man that, of all the Grecians of my time, had least deserved to
be brought to so great a degree of misery, on account of his regular
observance and respect towards the gods.

“As for those in the quarries, the Syracusans handled them at first but
ungently; for in this hollow place, first the sun and suffocating air
(being without roof), annoyed them one way; and on the other side, the
nights coming upon that heat, autumnal and cold, put them (by reason of
the alteration) into strange diseases. Especially because for want of
room they did all things in one and the same place, and the carcases of
such as died of their wounds, or vicissitudes of weather, or the like,
lay there in heaps. Also the smell was intolerable, besides that they
were afflicted with hunger and thirst. For for eight months together
they allowed them no more but to every man a cotyle[157] of water by
the day, and two cotyles of corn: and whatsoever misery is probable
that men in such a place may suffer, they suffered. Some seventy days
they lived thus thronged. Afterwards retaining the Athenians, and such
Sicilians and Italians as were of the army with them, they sold the
rest. How many were taken in all, it is hard to say exactly; but they
were seven thousand[158] at the fewest. And this, in my opinion, was
the greatest action that happened in all this war, or at all, that we
have heard of among the Grecians, being to the victors most glorious,
and most calamitous to the vanquished. For being wholly overcome in
every kind, and receiving small loss in nothing, their army and fleet,
and all that ever they had, perished (as they used to say) with an
universal destruction. Few of many returned home. And thus passed the
business concerning Sicily.”

A pleasing anecdote, related by Plutarch, relieves in part the fate of
these unhappy men. Many Athenians, who fell into the hands of private
masters, found the means of procuring kinder treatment by recitations
of the masterpieces of literature, with which the minds even of the
poorest Athenians were usually stored; especially the tragedies of
Euripides, the favourite dramatic poet of the Sicilian Greeks. Many are
said to have visited him on their return to Attica, to own themselves
indebted to him for liberty, granted as a recompense for communicating
what they recollected of his works. This is strong testimony to the
scarcity of manuscripts, and the consequent value of knowledge to its
possessor. The same cause enabled these captive Athenians to purchase
freedom, and the philosophers and sophists to reap such golden harvests
from their lectures; literature was entirely dependent upon oral

Forty thousand men, of whom a large proportion were veteran soldiers
of the second military power in Greece, ought to have made a better
defence. But they were dispirited, and commanded by a general unequal
to the emergency. Nicias possessed many admirable qualities; respect
for the gods, honesty, personal courage, and dignity of character when
not confronted with an Athenian assembly; and they shone perhaps
more brightly in the concluding than in any other scene of his life;
but his courage was of the passive rather than the active sort, and
he did not possess the power of rapid observation and decision which
mark the accomplished general, and are most especially required to
extricate an army from a false position. So far from pursuing the
plan laid down in his speech, the first day’s retreat did not exceed
five miles, the next was less than three; and when, after eight days
of marching and fighting, the Athenian army surrendered, it was not
twenty miles distant from Syracuse. Want of promptitude in the first
instance suffered the Syracusans to pre–occupy the passes. How far the
obstacles which Nicias had then to surmount may justify his tardiness
it is difficult to say. Superior numbers and discipline in the hands of
an able general might have done much to counterbalance the advantage of
position. The Athenians were placed in difficult circumstances; yet not
so difficult as the 10,000 in Persia, or many others who have yet lived
to laugh at their enemy.

It is not fair to estimate the character of this expedition by its
results, for no foresight could have anticipated that Athens, the
mistress of the sea, would be so completely foiled on her own element,
as that even the power of return should be denied to her defeated army.
But without judging things by their events, a method which renders
criticism of the past comparatively easy, there are ample grounds to
prove the impolicy of entering upon such a scheme of conquest at such
a time. The Athenians were already engaged in a war fully commensurate
with their strength, and which their utmost exertions had been unable
to bring to a happy close. Their wealth and power were derived
chiefly from colonies and subject cities, of which several were in
open revolt, and all more or less disaffected. Eubœa itself, the most
important, and from its situation the most easily controlled, of these
dependencies, was so discontented, that to prevent its defection was
the first care of the administration, as soon as news arrived of the
Sicilian defeat. It was under these circumstances that they undertook
a war, characterized by Thucydides as not much less than that against
the Peloponnesians,[159] and having for its object the conquest[160]
of an island about nine times as large as Attica, and inhabited not
by a rude or effeminate population, but by rich and powerful cities
of their own countrymen. The enterprise, hazardous in itself, was
rendered more so by the length of the voyage, according to the methods
of navigation then in use, which prevented succour being sent, or
remedy applied to any sudden reverse; and on this hazardous service,
at this critical time, a body of troops was sent, not too large for
its object, but far larger than the state could afford to lose. That
their destruction was believed to be a deathblow is evident from
Thucydides. “Everything from every place grieved them, and fear and
astonishment, the greatest that ever they were in, beset them round.
For they were not only grieved for the loss, which both every man
in particular and the whole city sustained, of so many men–at–arms,
horsemen and serviceable men, the like whereof they saw was not left:
but seeing they had neither galleys enough in their haven, nor money
in their treasury, nor able seamen[161] in their galleys, were even
desperate at that present of their safety, and thought the enemy
out of Sicily would come forthwith with their fleet into Piræus
(especially after vanquishing of so great a navy), and that the enemy
here would surely now, with double preparation in every kind, press
them to the utmost both by sea and land, and be aided therein by their
revolting confederates.”[162] Thanks to their own activity and to the
supineness of their enemy, this loss did not immediately prove fatal;
but the result of the war would probably have been very different,
had the lives and treasure wasted in Sicily been devoted for their
country in some better chosen cause.

“Nick, young Nick, the deacon used to say to me (his name was Nicol
as well as mine; sae folk ca’d us in their daffin’, young Nick and
auld Nick), Nick, said he, never put your arm out further than you can
easily draw it back again.” Baillie Jarvie’s maxim is as applicable to
political affairs as to commercial and good in both. He whose fortune
is already desperate may stake all on one cast; for the prosperous and
powerful to do so is madness. Had Napoleon’s ambition not blinded him
to this simple rule of caution, he might have died on the imperial
throne: he stretched his arm too far when he marched to Moscow. No
two persons could be more unlike than Napoleon and Nicias: and it is
worth observing that tempers diametrically opposite led these two
generals into the same error. Both tempted their fortune after the
hour of success was past, and, when active measures could no longer be
pursued, remained in idleness, from mere want of resolution to confess
a failure by their actions; Nicias, for want of moral courage to face
an unreasonable master, whose mortification was not likely to be
anywise lessened by being reminded that the defeated general had always
disapproved of his commission; Napoleon, from his sensitive pride,
which clung to any pretence, however thin, which could conceal from
himself, if not from others, that the victor of a hundred battles was
at length foiled. The celebrated campaign of 1812 bears indeed a nearer
resemblance to the Sicilian than to the Scythian war, and on that
account might better have been reserved for this place. But there is
one portion of it still unnoticed, which displays in their perfection
those military qualities, the want of which proved fatal to Nicias and
the Athenian army.

We allude to the remarkable skill, courage, and good fortune with
which Marshal Ney extricated himself from circumstances apparently as
hopeless as any that men could be placed in. It has already been stated
that the French army on quitting Smolensk was distributed into four
divisions, which marched on different days.[163] Ney commanded the
last. The Russian army lay in strength between that city and Oreza, but
their opposition was undecided, and the three first divisions forced
their way past, though with severe loss. When he had only the rear
guard to deal with, Kutusoff came to a resolution which if adopted
in the first instance might have ended at once the campaign and the
reign of Napoleon, and took post across the road, so as to bar all
passage, except such as should be cut through the centre of his army.
On the second afternoon after he left Smolensk, Ney came in view of
the Russians. They consisted of 80,000 men, with a powerful artillery.
The two armies were posted on opposite sides of a deep ravine, which
at this point intersected the plain. Kutusoff sent an officer to
summon Ney to surrender, stating the amount of his force, and offering
permission to send one of his officers to verify his representations
by inspection. While the envoy was still speaking, forty guns opened
their fire upon the French. Ney exclaimed in anger, “A marshal never
surrenders; neither do men treat under fire. You are my prisoner.” The
artillery redoubled their thunder; the hills, before cold and silent,
resembled volcanoes in eruption, and then, said the French soldiers,
enthusiastic in praise of their favourite leader, this man of fire
seemed to feel in his true element.

His whole force consisted of only 5000 men and six guns. Opposed were
80,000, well armed and well fed, and strong in cavalry and artillery.
The French vanguard of 1500 men passed along the road into the ravine,
and dashed gallantly up the opposite side; but the front line of the
Russians met them at the top, and at once shattered their feeble
column. Ney rallied them, and caused them to be formed in reserve,
while he led on in person the main body of 3000 men. He made no
speeches; he advanced at their head, which is worth all the oratorical
flourishes in the world. Meanwhile 400 Illyrians had been detached
to take the enemy in flank. The impetuosity of his charge broke and
scattered the first opposing line, and without stop or hesitation he
advanced upon the second; but ere they reached it, a tempest of cannon
and musket–balls whistled through the column: it staggered, broke, and

Convinced that it was impossible to force his way, he returned to his
former position on the other side of the ravine, drew up what remained
of his troops, and awaited the attack. Russian inactivity (we cannot
call it caution) saved him, as it had saved those who went before. A
single corps might have forced Ney’s position against the weak body
who now defended it; but the enemy contented himself with maintaining
a murderous cannonade, to which the six guns feebly replied. Still the
soldiers, though falling thickly, remained constant at their posts,
deriving comfort and confidence from the tranquillity of their chief.

At nightfall Ney gave orders to retreat towards Smolensk. All who heard
it were struck with amazement. The Emperor, and their comrades, and
France, lay in front: he proposed to turn back into a country which
they had too much reason to detest and fly. Even the aide–de–camp to
whom the command was issued stood as if he could hardly believe his
ears, until it was repeated in a brief and decided tone. They marched
backwards for an hour, and then stopped; and the Marshal, who had
remained in the rear, rejoined them. Their situation may be thus summed
up. Between them and the Emperor lay an army, which they had tried
in vain to force. Guides they had none: on the left the country was
open, but there was little chance of turning unobserved the flank of
an enemy furnished with a numerous and active cavalry; besides that
the time consumed in such an operation would have left little hope of
ever rejoining the main body of the French. On the right the liberty of
movement was curtailed by the Dnieper, which flowed in that direction;
its precise situation and the possibility of crossing it being unknown.
Ney’s plan was already conceived. He descended into a ravine, and
caused the snow to be cleared away until the course of a rivulet was
exposed. “This,” he said, “must be one of the feeders of the Dnieper.
It will conduct us to the river, and on the further bank of that river
lies our safety.” They followed it as their guide, and about eight
o’clock in the evening arrived upon the bank of the Dnieper. Their
joy was complete on seeing the river frozen over. Above and below it
was still open, but just at the spot where they reached it a sharp
bend in its course had stopped the floating ice, which the frost
had connected into a continuous though a slight bridge. An officer
volunteered to try its strength. He reached the opposite bank, and
returned. “It would bear the men,” he said, “and some few horses. But
a thaw was commencing, and there was no time to be lost.” The fatigue
and difficulty of a nocturnal march had scattered the troops, as well
as the disorganized band of stragglers which attended on them; and Ney,
though pressed to cross at once, resolved to give three hours’ time for
rallying. This interval of repose, even at so critical a moment, he
spent, wrapped in his cloak, in deep and placid sleep upon the river

Towards midnight they began to pass. Those who first tried the ice
warned their companions that it bent under them, and sunk so low that
they were up to their knees in water. The deep, threatening sound of
cracks was heard on all sides, and those who still remained on the bank
hesitated to trust themselves to so frail a support. Ney ordered them
to pass one by one. Much precaution was necessary, for large chasms
had opened, doubly concealed by the darkness of night, and by the
general covering of water. Men hesitated, but they were driven on by
the impatient cries of those who remained on the bank, still ignorant
of the dangers of the passage, and goaded by the constant fear of the
enemy’s approach.

The carriages and cannon attendant on the army were of necessity left
behind, and those of the wounded who were unable to make their way
across. The chief of the hospital department tried the experiment of
sending some waggon–loads of sick and wounded men across the ice. A
scream of agony was heard when they had reached the middle of the
stream, succeeded by a deep silence. The ice had given way, and all
perished except one officer, severely wounded, who supported himself
upon a sheet of ice, and, crawling from one piece to another, reached
the bank.

Ney had now placed the river between himself and the Russian army by a
stroke of promptitude and courage rarely equalled. But his situation
was far from enviable. He was in a desert of forests, without roads and
without guides, two days’ march from Orcza, where he expected to meet
Napoleon. As the troops advanced, the foremost men observed a beaten
way; but there was little comfort to be derived from this, for they
distinguished the marks of artillery and horses proceeding in the same
direction as themselves. Ney as usual took the lion’s counsel, and
followed those menacing tracks to a village, which he surrounded and
assaulted, in which there were 100 cossacks, who were roused from their
sleep only to find themselves prisoners. Here the French found comforts
of which they had known little since their departure from Moscow; food,
clothes, comfortable quarters, and rest. What a blessed relief to men
who within the last twelve hours had been hopeless of escape from death
in battle, and then exposed to scarce less imminent danger of perishing
in a half–frozen river!

From hence it was two days’ march to Orcza, where Ney arrived on
November 20, his followers being reduced to 1500 men. He had baulked
the Russian regular troops; but he found Platoff and his cossacks
upon the right bank of the Dnieper, and suffered severely from their
marauding warfare. Napoleon had given him up for lost; when he heard
that he had rejoined the army he leaped for joy, as he exclaimed, “Then
I have saved my eagles! I have 200,000,000 in the Tuileries: I would
have given them all rather than lose such a man!”[164]

An anecdote of similar resolution and readiness, curious on account
of the nature of the danger to be avoided, is told by the Florentine
historians of the fourteenth century. At that time Italian warfare was
chiefly carried on by hired soldiers, men usually of profligate lives
and broken fortunes, unfitted by the licence of a camp for peaceful
industry, or driven to forsake it by the insecurity of property in
those calamitous times, when he who sowed the seed had no assurance
that he should reap the harvest. The long wars between France and
England under Edward III. swelled the numbers of these men to a fearful
extent; and the reader who will consult Froissart concerning the state
of France at this period, will there find a fearful picture of the
misrule and misery produced by men of this description, who, when there
was no regular war to occupy their swords, formed themselves into
troops, took possession by force or fraud of some castle or stronghold,
and lived by levying contributions on the peasantry, and plundering
all persons who came in their way. Such spirits readily flocked round
the banner of any soldier of repute who offered a price for their
services; nor were men of birth and reputation wanting to lead them
into the foreign market, who readily overlooked the character of their
followers in consideration of the wealth and consequence to be derived
from their support. Among the most distinguished, and also the most
honourable of this class, was an Englishman, named Sir John Hawkwood,
long practised in the Italian wars, and at the time we speak of, in the
service of Florence. In the year 1391, that city being at war with the
Duke of Milan, planned a double invasion of his dominions. The Count
d’Armagnac, a French nobleman of high military renown, was hired to
invade Milan from the west, while on the east Hawkwood advanced from
Vicenza, through Verona and Brescia. The two armies were intended to
unite and lay siege to Milan; but the scheme was deranged by the defeat
and total destruction of the Count d’Armagnac, and Hawkwood, who,
before he heard that news, had advanced within fifteen miles of the
city, on a sudden found himself in imminent danger.

On looking at a map, the reader will observe that all the country
between the Alps and Po is intersected by numerous rivers; which, like
those of Holland, for the most part flow at a higher level than the
neighbouring plains, and are kept within their course by lofty dikes.
Hawkwood had crossed the Adige, Mincio, and Oglio; and consequently
when Jacopo del Verme, the Milanese general, marched against him at
the head of a superior force elated with victory, his situation became
very uncomfortable. To give battle was hazardous, for a defeat with
three large rivers in his rear would have been utter destruction; and
it was scarcely less dangerous to attempt to cross them, without having
first gained some advantages, and struck terror into the enemy. In this
dilemma he remained quiet for a time, retained his soldiers strictly
within the camp, without regarding the insults and provocations of the
enemy, until this apparent timidity led them into an imprudent bravado,
which gave him an opportunity of attacking to advantage and routing
them with considerable slaughter.

He judged rightly that this blow would keep his adversary quiet for a
little while, and immediately broke up his camp and crossed the Oglio
without hindrance; the enemy following, but being too late, or too
much cowed to molest him. He passed the Mincio also, and was then in a
plain, enclosed by the dikes of the Po, Mincio, and Adige, and lying
below the level of those rivers. The last was still to be crossed; and
it presented greater difficulties than the Oglio and Mincio, both on
account of the greater volume and velocity of its stream, and because
the enemy had pre–occupied and fortified its dikes. Hawkwood was
encamped on a small eminence in the plain,—we may suppose rather at a
loss how to prosecute his retreat,—when suddenly the whole of the low
country was flooded. They had cut the dikes of the Adige, in hope of
drowning or starving the invader into submission. The inundation gained
ground every hour, and threatened the camp itself. As far as the eye
could reach all was water. Provisions began to fail; and Del Verme,
who with his troops shut up the only road to escape, sent Hawkwood
the enigmatical present of a fox in a cage. The Englishman received
the gift, and requested the messenger to carry back word that the fox
seemed nothing dismayed, and probably knew very well by what door he
should get out of his cage.

“It is generally confessed,” says Poggio, “that no other captain,
except Hawkwood, whose sayings and doings deserve to be commemorated
among the subtleties of ancient generals and orators, could have
overcome the difficulties and dangers in which the Florentine army
was now involved.” It is not every one assuredly that would have
nerve to adopt the measure which he adopted. In the middle of the
night he abandoned his camp, trusting himself and his army boldly to
the inundated plain, and shaped his course parallel to the dikes of
the Adige. He advanced all the next day, and part of the succeeding
night, through water up to the horses’ bellies; his progress delayed by
the deep mud, and by numerous trenches which intersected the fields;
and which, beneath the universal covering of water, could no longer
be distinguished from the solid ground. In this manner he traversed
all the valley of Verona; at length, opposite to Castel Baldo, he
crossed the dry bed of the Adige, there exhausted of its waters, and
found repose and refreshment for his exhausted army within the Paduan
frontier. The weaker horses, and a large part of the infantry, perished
in this march by suffocation, fatigue, and cold; some saved themselves
by clinging to the horses’ tails. But the bulk of the army was saved,
and Jacopo del Verme took care not to tempt the waters by engaging in
so hazardous a pursuit.[165]


[Illustration: Prow of an ancient vessel found at Genoa.]

 Sketch of the interval which elapsed between the defeat in Sicily and
 the battle of Arginusæ—Battle of Arginusæ—Prosecution and death of the
 Athenian generals—Massacre of the De Witts—End of the Peloponnesian war.

The catastrophe of the Sicilian army was heard at Athens with
consternation. In that army, besides light–armed troops and slaves,
10,000 citizens were lost, the flower of the republic and its allied,
or rather dependent, states; and the private sorrow from which few
houses were exempt, was increased by the alarming perplexity how such
another force could be raised from the exhausted population, or such
a fleet rebuilt from the exhausted treasury of the state. It was
generally believed through Greece that the war would soon come to an
end; and if Sparta had been prepared to follow up with energy the blow
struck in Sicily, Athens probably would have fallen. But though the
project of wresting the dominion of the sea from her seemed no longer
visionary, as it had seemed earlier in the war, in which case, deprived
both of her territories at home and of her commerce and allies abroad,
she must have yielded, the Lacedæmonians at this critical juncture
possessed no fleet, and the autumn and winter, which they spent in
collecting one, were diligently employed by the Athenians in measures
suited to the present emergency. Thus at the close of the nineteenth
year of the war, each party, says Thucydides, seemed as it were
preparing for the beginning of a war. But at this time a third party
appeared in the contest. The King of Persia had discovered that to
supply the Greeks with the means of mutual destruction was much better
policy than uniting them against himself by measures of open hostility;
and Athens, from its restless spirit, as well as from the recollection
of former injuries, was the object of especial dislike and fear to that
monarchy. From henceforward the want of a public revenue, which had
more than anything cramped the exertions of Sparta, was obviated from
the inexhaustible riches of Persia.

The seven years which elapsed between the defeat in Sicily and the
battle of Arginusæ, are perhaps the busiest and most curious portion
of the war. Scarce two years passed before the hope of supplanting
the Lacedæmonians in the favour of Tissaphernes, satrap of Lydia,
and diverting to themselves the wealth which was animating their
enemies, induced the once proud people of Athens to divest themselves
of the sovereignty and establish an oligarchical government. After
a short existence of four months this government was overthrown and
a new one established, in which the supreme power was vested in an
assembly of 5000 citizens, of which all persons entitled to serve in
the heavy–armed infantry were constituted members. “And now for the
first time in my remembrance,” says Thucydides, “the Athenians appear
to have possessed a government of unusual excellence; for there was a
moderate intermixture of the few and the many. And this, after so many
misfortunes past, first made the city again to raise its head.”[166]
Alcibiades, who had been a main promoter of this counter–revolution,
was now recalled, and under his able guidance a series of victories
ensued which bade fair to raise the commonwealth to its former
splendour. In the twenty–fourth year of the war, and the sixth from
his banishment, he led home his victorious troops, and was received
with extraordinary favour, being appointed commander–in–chief, with
greater powers than had ever been intrusted to such an officer. But the
Athenians had not yet learnt steadiness. Within less than a year he was
dismissed, in consequence of an unimportant defeat sustained by one
of his subordinates, who, during his absence from the fleet, against
express orders, had ventured a battle; and command was given to a board
of ten generals, with Conon at their head.

In the twenty–fifth year of the war, as Conon was passing Lesbos with a
fleet of seventy triremes, the Spartan general, Callicratidas, obtained
an opportunity of attacking him with far superior forces, compelled
him to run for the harbour of Mitylene, took thirty of his ships, and
formed the siege of that town by land and sea. When this unpleasant
news reached Athens, every nerve was strained to effect their general’s
deliverance. In thirty days, 110 triremes were equipped and manned,
though 20,000 men are calculated to have been required for the purpose.
All persons of military age, both slaves and freemen, were pressed into
the service; many knights even, who were legally exempted from this
service, went on board. The fleet was increased by forty ships or more
from different allies, and then sailed for Mitylene to deliver Conon.

When Callicratidas heard that the Athenian fleet was at Samos, he left
fifty ships, commanded by Eteonicus, to maintain the siege, and put to
sea himself with 120. The Athenians spent that night at Arginusæ, a
cluster of islands between the southern promontory of Lesbos and the
main land. In the morning both parties put to sea: eight of the ten
Athenian generals were on board the fleet.


Xenophon tells us that the superiority in sailing, or rather rowing,
which had enabled the Athenians at the commencement of the war to gain
such distinguished successes under the command of Phormion and others,
was now reversed: and that from the greater swiftness of their ships,
the Lacedæmonians were more likely to profit by the rapid evolutions,
in which the naval science of that time was shown; especially that
called the diecplus, which seems to have consisted in dashing through
the enemy’s line, avoiding the direct shock of his beak, but sweeping
away his oars if possible by an oblique attack. To guard against
this danger the Athenians adopted the following disposition of their
fleet: in either wing were four squadrons, each of fifteen ships, and
each commanded by one of the generals, eight of whom were on board
the fleet, drawn up in a double line. The left of the centre was held
by ten Samian ships; then came ten Athenian ships, each containing a
military officer of rank, called taxiarch, which seems to correspond
in grade most closely to the rank of colonel; next to them, each in
his own ship, three navarchs or admirals, two of whom, Thrasybulus and
Theramenes, are names well known in the history of the time, and the
few allied ships, which were not elsewhere stationed. All these were in
single line. We have here a good illustration of the close connection
between the military and naval service, and may infer that officers
of distinction in the one were not expected to serve in inferior
situations in the other. The distribution of the fleet will be more
readily understood from the annexed diagram.

The Lacedæmonian fleet was formed in a single line.

Hermon of Megara, the pilot, or master rather of Callicratidas’s
ship, observed that the Athenians were much the most numerous, and
said that it would be well to retreat. Callicratidas answered, that
Sparta would not be worse inhabited if he were dead, but it was
shameful to run away. The battle lasted long; but when Callicratidas,
who led the Spartan right wing, was thrown overboard by the shock of
his own trireme against another, and the Athenian right wing gained
the advantage over their opponents, the Spartan fleet betook itself
to flight, with the loss of seventy ships or upwards. The victors
returned to their station at Arginusæ, their number diminished only by
twenty–five ships, but nearly all the crews of these had perished.

A double duty now claimed their attention: the one to save those of
their countrymen who still clung to life upon the floating wreck,
the other to relieve Conon and complete the destruction of the
Peloponnesian fleet by surprising the squadron left to maintain the
siege of Mitylene. We can detect no error in the course adopted, which
was to leave forty–six ships to collect the wreck, and sail direct
for Mitylene with the others. For some unexplained reason, however,
none of the eight generals remained to superintend the former service,
which was intrusted to Theramenes and Thrasybulus. But a violent
storm came on, and confined both divisions of the fleet at Arginusæ;
while Eteonicus, to whom a light vessel had conveyed the news of his
commander’s defeat, seized the interval for escape thus granted to him
with much readiness. Fearful of attack from Conon, now nearly equal
to him in naval force, if he manifested the necessity of retreat,
he bade the vessel which conveyed the news put back to sea without
communicating it to any but himself, and then return crowned and decked
with the symbols of victory, and shouting that Callicratidas had gotten
the victory of the Athenians. He then offered the usual thanks–offering
for good news, and that very night broke up the siege and departed. The
Athenians seem to have been deficient in activity, for their first
information of this was derived from the arrival of Conon at Arginusæ,
as they were preparing to leave it. They then sailed to Chios, whither
the Peloponnesians had repaired; and having done nothing, returned to
their usual station at Samos.

How it happened that so powerful a fleet, under able commanders, not
only did, but apparently attempted nothing, in prosecution of so signal
a success, is left entirely unexplained; and we might almost suspect
from the meagre statement of facts, without explanation or comment,
that Xenophon knew more of the matter than for some reason or other
he chose to tell. The Athenians, he continues, displaced their ten
generals, excepting Conon: but the cause of their dissatisfaction
is not stated. Six of the eight who had been in the battle returned
home at once. On their return, Erasinides was immediately accused by
Archidemus, who was at that time the popular leader, of embezzling
public property and of misconduct in his command. He was committed
to prison. Subsequently the other five were also committed to answer
to the people for their conduct; and at the first assembly several
persons, with Theramenes at their head, came forward to assert that the
generals ought to be brought to trial for not saving their shipwrecked
countrymen. The accused made a short answer (for they were not allowed
to speak at length, as they had a right to do), stating all that had
passed; how they had resolved themselves to follow up their advantage,
leaving Theramenes and Thrasybulus, men of military rank and confessed
ability, to perform the other service. “These, if any,” they said, “are
the persons to blame; yet though they accuse us, we will not bring a
false charge against them, of neglecting what the violence of the storm
rendered it impossible to do.”[167] And these statements they brought
forward witnesses to prove.

This short defence made a considerable impression, and many persons
offered to become sureties for the accused. But the evening had now
closed in, and it was said to be too dark to distinguish the show of
hands. The matter was therefore adjourned to the next assembly, and it
was voted that in the mean time the council should determine in what
manner the generals should be tried,—a precaution which shows that
they were not meant to have fair play, since the form of trial was as
distinctly settled in Athens as in England; but it gave the accused
full opportunity for making his defence, and therefore did not suit
the purpose of the prosecutors. In the mean time came on the festival
called Apaturia, at which members of the same family and the same tribe
met in social intercourse; and Theramenes took advantage of the kindly
feelings excited upon the occasion to raise a prejudice against his
intended victims, by sending about the city men dressed in black with
their heads shaven, in the character of relations of those who had been
lost at Arginusæ.

At the next general assembly Callixenus explained the scheme of trial
recommended by the council. “The people,” he said, “had already heard
the charge and the answer to it (an answer, be it remembered, which
had been limited to a few words), and might therefore proceed at once
to vote. Two vases therefore would be set apart to each tribe, and
those who thought the generals culpable for not saving the wrecked
crews, would cast their ball into the one, those who did not think them
culpable into the other. If the majority were of the former opinion,
the punishment would be death and confiscation of property.” At this
period a man came forward with a story that he had saved his own life
on a flour–barrel, and that his dying comrades charged him, if he
himself escaped, to tell the Athenians that the generals had abandoned
those citizens who had so well served their country. Euryptolemus,
a name which occurs in history only on this occasion, made a stand
in favour of the accused, and threatened to prosecute Callixenus for
submitting an illegal proposition to the assembly, and a part concurred
with him; but the majority cried, that it was a fine thing if anyone
should say that the people might not do as it liked: and Lyciscus
proposed, that all who interfered with the proceedings of the assembly
should be included in the same vote with the generals. Euryptolemus
therefore was compelled to let things take their course. Still the
presidents of the assembly refused to propose an illegal question; but
they were frightened and overborne by clamour, except the celebrated
Socrates, who steadily refused to act contrary to law. Euryptolemus
made another attempt to procure the generals leave to plead their own
cause, by moving an amendment to the proposition of Callixenus: but he
failed; the scheme of the council was agreed to, and by a majority of
votes sentence of death was passed upon the eight generals present at
Arginusæ. Those six who had been unlucky enough to return to Athens
were forthwith executed.

Not long after, Xenophon adds, the Athenians repented of what they
had done, and voted that those who had deceived the people should
be prosecuted, and find sureties for their appearance. Other civil
contests arose, which gave them an opportunity of escape. Callixenus,
at a later period, returned to Athens; lived for a time the object of
hate to all, and died of hunger in a time of famine.[168]

The Germans, by the report of Tacitus, held solemn and deep
drinking–bouts for the consideration of all important business, upon
the old maxim that in wine there is no deceit; but they took care to
reconsider their decision the next morning. Some court of temperate
review would have preserved the Athenians from many heinous crimes,
into which they were led by a temper unusually excitable, and when
ruled by prejudice and passion, less fitted to judge wisely and
equitably than the phlegmatic temper of the Germans, even under the
influence of strong drink. With Theramenes and the accusers this was
plainly a party measure, undertaken in total recklessness of right or
wrong. In these corrupt motives the people could have no share; on the
contrary, they seem to have been acted on at first by a right feeling
of indignation at the alleged abandonment of meritorious citizens.
Their fault lay in the readiness with which they discarded gratitude
to entertain suspicion; in the blind fury with which, overleaping all
law in jealously asserting the people’s omnipotence, they followed a
mere impulse, a delusion, which the least exercise of judicial calmness
would have dispelled. It is true that, when the reign of passion was
over, and they returned to their senses, they rendered such amends
for their precipitance as were then in their power. But such tardy
repentance could neither repair nor expiate the wrong committed; and
Athenian repentance generally came too late. Prompt in action, both
from temper and from the forms of the state, which required no revision
of a decree of the people, no assent from any concurring authority,
performance followed close upon resolve. Of the many cruel edicts,
repented or unrepented, uttered by the Athenian people, the revocation
of the decree against the Mitylenæans, by which all male citizens were
condemned to death, is the only one where repentance came in time. It
seems a fitting judgment that the signal victory of Arginusæ was the
last gained during the war; and that in the next year it was followed
by the still more signal defeat at Ægospotami, which laid Athens
prostrate at the feet of her haughty rival.

Not strictly analogous to the prosecution of the generals, but a still
more memorable example of the cruelty and ingratitude to which party
spirit can rouse even a phlegmatic people like the Dutch, the very
antipodes of the Athenians in temper, is the murder of the brothers De
Witt. Both illustrious, though not equally so, to the elder Holland
owes deeper obligations than to any other of her citizens, except those
great captains who burst the Spanish yoke. These obligations, and De
Witt’s high qualities, are best described by a writer qualified to do
justice to the subject by the affection of a friend, as well as the
penetration of a statesman—Sir William Temple.

“The chief direction of the affairs of Holland had, for eighteen years,
been constantly in the hands of their Pensionary De Witt, a minister
of the greatest authority and sufficiency, the greatest application and
industry, ever known in their state. In the course of his ministry,
he and his party had reduced not only all the civil charges of the
government in this province, but in a manner all the military commands
of the army, out of the hands of persons affectionate to the Prince
of Orange, into those esteemed more sure and fast to the interests of
their more popular state. And all this had been attended for so long
a course of years with the perpetual success of their affairs, by the
growth of their trade, power, and riches at home, and the consideration
of their neighbours abroad; yet the general humour of kindness in the
people to their own form of government under the Princes of Orange,
grew up with the age and virtues of the young Prince, so as to raise
the prospect of some unavoidable revolutions among them, for several
years before it arrived. And we have seen it grow to that height in
this present year, upon the Prince’s coming to the two–and–twentieth
year of his age (the time assigned him by their constitution for
entering upon the public charges of their milice), that though it had
found them in peace, it must have occasioned some violent sedition in
their state; but meeting with the conjuncture of a foreign invasion,
it broke out into so furious a rage of the people, and such general
tumults through the whole country, as ended in the blood of their
chief ministers; in the displacing all that were suspected to be of
their party throughout the government; in the full restitution of the
Prince’s authority to the highest point any of his ancestors had ever
enjoyed; but withal in such a distraction of their councils and their
actions, as made way for the easy successes of the French invasion; for
the loss of almost five of their provinces in two months’ time, and for
the general presages of utter ruin to their state.”[169]

At the early age of twenty–eight, the firmness and talents displayed
by John de Witt in public life had raised him to the chief magistracy
of the United Provinces, at a difficult period, when they were engaged
in war with England, then under the vigorous direction of Cromwell.
That honourable station De Witt held for twenty years, during which
that severe war between England and Holland broke out, which was
terminated, much to the glory of the latter country, by the expedition
up the Medway, and the burning of the English fleet at Sheerness. Of
this bold attempt he was himself the adviser. Republican by birth (for
his father had been imprisoned in consequence of his steady opposition
to the house of Orange), the whole bent of his policy was to frustrate
the attempts of the Orange party, who wished to reinstate the young
Prince, afterwards William III. of England, in the power and dignities
possessed of old times by his family; and as the interests of William
were espoused by Charles II. of England, De Witt was induced to seek a
counterpoise by cultivating the friendship of France. In consequence
of this predilection the war of 1665 broke out, which, after a series
of severely contested battles, was terminated by the expedition above

De Witt’s steady resistance to the elevation of the house of Orange
of course procured for him the sincere hatred of the Orange party,
who were powerful enough, at different periods, to embarrass his
government; still for fifteen years he held his high office of Grand
Pensionary of Holland, and at the end of that time was re–elected
for a further term of five years. But in the last year, in 1672, the
French and English united to declare war against Holland; a powerful
army invaded the United Provinces, and William, upon whom the chief
military command was conferred, was utterly unable to make head
against them. A loud outcry was now raised against all who had ever
shown any disposition to support French politics, and De Witt, above
all others, became the object of popular hatred. One night he was
attacked and severely wounded by a party of assassins, a danger to
which the simplicity of his habits, well befitting the chief magistrate
of a republic, gave free access. For “his habit was grave, plain, and
popular; his table what only served turn for his family, or a friend;
his train was only one man, who performed all the menial service of
his house at home, and upon his visits of ceremony, putting on a plain
livery cloak, attended his coach abroad; for upon other occasions he
was seen usually in the streets on foot and alone, like the commonest
burgher of the town. Nor was this manner of life affected, but was the
general fashion and mode among all the magistrates of the state.”[170]

While De Witt was kept at home by his wounds, the people of Holland
demanded universally the repeal of the perpetual edict, as it was
called, by which the Prince of Orange was for ever excluded from the
stadtholdership of that province; and it was accordingly repealed.
Cornelius De Witt, the brother of John, a man distinguished both in the
naval and civil service of his country, was with difficulty induced
to sign the revocation of the edict. When told that an armed crowd
surrounded his house, threatening his life, if he did not consent to
the repeal, “So many bullets,” he said, “passed over my head in the
late engagement, that I have no fear left, and I would rather wait
for another than sign this paper.” Shortly after, this brave and
manly soldier was charged with being concerned in a plot to murder
the Prince of Orange. The informer and only witness, Tichelaer, was a
person of infamous character; yet on such evidence as this Cornelius
De Witt was thrown into prison at the Hague, and cruelly tortured to
extort confession of a plot, the very existence of which, without such
a forced confession, could not be established. He bore the trial with
unshaken constancy, protesting that if they cut him to pieces, they
should not make him confess a thing which he had never even thought
of. It is said that under the hands of the executioner he repeated the
celebrated lines of Horace—

  Justum et tenacem propositi virum
  Non civium ardor prava jubentium,
    Non vultus instantis tyranni,
        Mente quatit solida, &c.

Finding it impossible to extort a confession, the court before which
he was tried proceeded to pass sentence to the following effect:
“The Court of Holland, having examined the documents presented to it
by the public prosecutor, the examinations and cross–examinations
of the prisoner, and his defence, and having examined all that can
throw light on this matter, declares the prisoner stripped of all his
offices and dignities, banishes him from the provinces of Holland and
West Friesland, without leave ever to return on pain of a severer
punishment, and orders him to pay the costs of the prosecution.”[171]

From the technical form in which this document is given in the
original, and the signatures appended to it, it appears to be a literal
copy of the sentence as delivered by the court. We may observe,
therefore, that neither the nature of the charge against De Witt, nor
the extent to which it was proved against him, are specified. This is
strong evidence of an intent to oppress him to the utmost. Where all
is honest, men do not seek to hide the grounds of their decrees. The
sentence is every way unjustifiable: if De Witt was guilty, he deserved
death, and there can be no doubt but that, could a conviction have been
procured, the extreme punishment would have been inflicted; if not,
he was entitled to a free acquittal. To inflict infamy and banishment
for a suspected crime, even granting too charitable a supposition,
that suspicion was entertained, was to graft the worst prerogative of
tyranny upon republican institutions. Yet unjustifiable as the sentence
was, its leniency gave great offence to the people, who were devoted at
this period to the house of Orange, and possessed with a full belief of
Cornelius De Witt’s guilt.

[Illustration: Obverse of medal struck to commemorate the massacre of
the De Witts.]

John De Witt meanwhile had recovered from his wounds, and finding
that in the then state of public feeling, his continuance at the head
of affairs was alike undesirable for himself and unpleasing to the
country, he resigned his office. When his brother was sentenced to
exile, he went himself to receive him on his delivery from prison,
and probably to do him more honour and testify his own sense of the
malice of the charge, and the unworthiness of the treatment which he
had received, repaired to the Hague in his coach and four, a state
which, as we have said, he was not used to affect. This bravado, though
natural, was against the advice of his friends, and not consistent with
the usual temper of the man; and it proved even more unfortunate than
ill judged. The people, collected by the unusual spectacle, began to
murmur at the presumption of one suspected traitor coming in state to
insult the laws, and triumph in the escape of a traitor brother from a
deserved death. De Witt went to the prison to receive his brother, and
convey him to his own house; but Cornelius, with his customary high
spirit, replied, that having suffered so much, being innocent, he would
not leave the prison like a culprit, but rather remain and appeal from
the sentence. John De Witt endeavoured to shake his resolution, but
without effect.

[Illustration: Reverse of the same medal.—Bodies on the scaffold.]

Meanwhile Tichelaer the informer, at the instigation, as we are led
to believe, of some more powerful persons whose names are studiously
concealed, was busily employed in stirring up the populace to riot.
Apprehending some disturbance, the states of Holland and West
Friesland, which at the time were sitting at the Hague, requested the
Prince of Orange to repair thither with a military force. Meanwhile the
tumult spread from the lowest people to the burghers, and a furious
mob collected round the gates of the prison in which the brothers were
still remaining. The military force which had been sent for did not
arrive, and that which was in the city was drawn off by the orders of
some unnamed person. Actuated by fear, or some worse motive, the gaoler
opened the gates, a few of the ringleaders burst in, the brothers were
dragged with violence from their chamber, and brutally massacred as
soon as they reached the street. We abstain from giving the details
of the murder, still more from relating the unequalled atrocities
which were perpetrated upon the corpses. But they were dragged to the
gibbet, mutilated, and publicly suspended naked by the feet with the
heads downward; and the mangled limbs of these upright and patriotic
men were offered for sale, and bought at prices of fifteen, twenty, and
thirty sols.

According to one story, the gaoler induced John De Witt to visit his
brother by a false message, and being in the prison he was not allowed
to quit it. A similar message was sent to their father, but being
absent from home he escaped the snare. The gaoler, it is said, acted
under the orders of a “person of such quality, that he was obliged
to obey.” In this account, as well as in that which we have above
followed, there is an evident wish to throw the blame of the murder
on the Prince of Orange, or at least on the leaders of his party. It
is asserted, however, that he never spoke of it without the greatest
horror. Charges of such magnitude should not be lightly made; nor
is there any evidence to fix guilt upon that distinguished monarch.
But that there was culpable neglect, if not wilful connivance, seems
certain; and the proceedings of the court which sentenced Cornelius,
show that the agents of government were nowise squeamish, whatever
was the conduct of their chief. Nor did William’s subsequent conduct
betray much concern either for the interests of justice or of his
own reputation; for though the states of Holland voted the murder
“detestable in their eyes, and the eyes of all the world,” and
requested the stadtholder to take proper measures to avenge it, none of
the murderers were ever brought to justice. The flimsy pretext for this
neglect was, that it would be dangerous to inquire into a deed in which
the principal burghers of the Hague were concerned.[172]

After De Witt’s death all his papers were submitted to the most
rigorous examination in hope of discovering something which should
confirm the popular notion of his being traitorously in league with
France. One of the persons appointed to perform this service being
asked what had been found in De Witt’s papers, replied, “What could we
have found?—nothing but probity.”[173]

We cannot better conclude than with the reflections of the greatest
of modern orators upon this event. “The catastrophe of De Witt—the
wisest, best, and most truly patriotic minister that ever appeared
upon the public stage, as it was an act of the most crying injustice
and ingratitude, so likewise it is the most completely disencouraging
example that history affords to the lovers of liberty. If Aristides
was banished, he was also recalled. If Dion was repaid for his service
to the Syracusans by ingratitude, that ingratitude was more than once
repented of. If Sidney and Russell died upon the scaffold, they had not
the cruel mortification of falling by the hands of the people; ample
justice was done to their memory, and the very sound of their names is
still animating to every Englishman attached to their glorious cause.
But with De Witt fell also his cause and his party; and although a name
so respected by all who revere virtue and wisdom when employed in their
noblest sphere—the political service of the public, yet I do not know
that even to this day any public honours have been paid by them to his

The conclusion and the result of the Peloponnesian war may here be
given in a very few words. The battle of Arginusæ was fought B.C.
406, in the autumn. It seemed to restore the sovereignty of the sea
to Athens, and to replace her in that commanding position which had
been lost in consequence of the unfortunate expedition to Sicily.
So severely was the defeat felt at Sparta, that the Lacedæmonians
again made overtures for peace, which were rejected through the
instrumentality of Cleophon, a popular leader of the day,[175] as
formerly similar overtures had been rejected by the influence of
Cleon. But the government of Athens, though elated by success, does not
appear to have been such as to render a continuance of it probable, as
far as we can judge from the scanty records which exist of this period.
The rapid and violent changes which had taken place, and such acts as
the execution of the generals who commanded at Arginusæ, were of a
nature to destroy all concord and all feeling of confidence; and the
administration again resorted to the inefficient course of appointing
a board of generals to command the fleet. Of the six who composed it,
Conon alone is known to us, except in reference to this transaction.
The Lacedæmonian fleet in the Asiatic seas was now under the able
guidance of Lysander; and by his good management, and in consequence of
the culpable negligence of the Athenian generals, the Athenian fleet of
180 triremes was surprised while lying in the Hellespont at Ægospotami,
and captured, with the sole exception of nine ships belonging to the
division of Conon, who escaped in consequence of being more on his
guard. “After this Lysander, calling a meeting of the confederates,
proposed for their consideration the question, what was to be done
with the prisoners. Then many accusations were brought against the
Athenians, both for what they had already done amiss, and for what
they had decreed to do if they got the victory—that they would cut off
the right hand of every man taken alive; and that, having captured two
triremes, one of Corinth and one of Andros, they had thrown overboard
the crews of them. And it was Philocles (one of the Athenian generals)
who put to death these men. And many other things were said, and it was
resolved to put to death as many of the prisoners as were Athenians,
except Adeimantus (another of the generals), who in the assembly had
alone opposed the vote for cutting off the hands. And he, indeed, was
accused by some of having betrayed the fleet. And Lysander, having
first questioned Philocles how that man ought to be treated who had
thrown overboard the Corinthians and Andrians, thus being the first to
ill–use Greeks against national law, slew him.”[176]

The number of those who thus perished, according to Plutarch,[177]
was 3000—a wholesale destruction, in cold blood, from which the mind
revolts. It admits of no palliation from the alleged pretext of the
violation of international law; for it is hard to say which party
commenced that system of military execution which forms the especial
stigma of this portion of Greek history, and it is at least certain
that in this stage of the contest neither belligerent could have
a right to upbraid the other with aggravating the evils of war by
unnecessary cruelty. The defeat of Ægospotami was conclusive. Conon,
not daring to appear in Athens after the example of Arginusæ, and aware
probably that further resistance was hopeless, bent his course to
Cyprus, despatching the sacred ship Paralus to carry news of the defeat
to Athens. It arrived by night, and the calamity being announced, “the
wailing passed from Peiræus to the city, along the long walls, from
one person to another; so that in this night no one slept, not only
through grief for the dead, but far more because the living expected
to meet the same treatment as they had given to the Melians—a colony
of Lacedæmon, after having besieged and taken their city, and to the
citizens of Histiœa, and Scione, and Torone, and Ægina, and to many
other of the Greeks. And the next day a meeting was held at which it
was resolved to block up all the harbours save one, and to put the
walls into good condition, and set guards, and to prepare the city in
all respects for a siege.”[178]

These were the efforts of despair. Certain of success, since there
was now no enemy to raise the siege, or to effect a diversion, the
Lacedæmonians blockaded Athens by land and sea, and in a few months the
spirit of the people was so subdued by famine that they surrendered on
humiliating terms, shortly after the expiration of the twenty–seventh
year of the war. The walls of the city were destroyed; her ships of
war, with the exception of twelve, were given up; it was covenanted
to follow the guidance of Lacedæmon as subordinate allies; and, under
the superintendence of the Lacedæmonian army the democracy, the pride
of the Athenians, was exchanged for the short–lived form of government
known in Greek history by the name of the Tyranny of the Thirty.
This state of subjection did not last long, but the history of the
circumstances under which it was shaken off belongs not to our present


[Illustration: Bust of Socrates.]

 History and character of Socrates—Account of his death—Prosecution
 of John Huss and Jerome of Prague—Attempt to re–establish prelacy in
 Scotland—Brown—Guthrie—Reformation in England—Account of Rowland Taylor.

By strictly adhering to our intention of bringing down Greek history
to the close of the Peloponnesian war, we should exclude from
this volume an event which in all ages has commanded an unusual
sympathy—the execution of the philosopher Socrates on the false charge
of blaspheming the recognised divinities, and corrupting the young
citizens of his country. But as the life and actions of this remarkable
man belong almost entirely to the period included in this volume,
though his death did not occur until the year B.C. 399, five years
after the capture of Athens, it seems proper to give some account of
him here.

Socrates was the son of Sophroniscus, a sculptor, and himself gained
a livelihood by working at his father’s profession. But he devoted
himself at an early age to the study of philosophy, and by the extreme
simplicity and frugality of his habits was enabled to give up a very
large portion of his time to that pursuit. In youth he diligently
sought instruction, as far as his means permitted, from the best
teachers of those branches of education which were in repute. How soon
he gained notoriety as a public teacher himself, is not determined: but
he must have been known before the ‘Clouds’ of Aristophanes, in which
he is a leading character, was acted, B.C. 423. His conduct, however,
was very different from that of the professed teachers for pay, who, at
the time of which we speak, were numerous, and if successful, wealthy
and influential. He gave no regular lectures in stated periods and
places, he required no money from those who attended upon him, and
indeed accepted no reward, either from those who heard him in public
or those with whom he familiarly associated: private instruction,
as a paid teacher, he refused to give, though his conversation was
habitually directed to the objects of his public teaching. According to
Xenophon,[179] he was always in public; in the morning he was found in
frequented walks, or in the _gymnasia_ or places of public exercise; he
visited the agora, whenever it was likely to be fullest; he was seen
in the evening, where–ever he was likely to meet with the greatest
number of persons. Instead of saying that he gave no regular lectures,
it would be more correct to say that he never lectured at all: his
usual course was to entrap the person upon whom he chose to exercise
his dialectic powers, into a conversation, in its outset probably
of the most commonplace and unalarming description; and then, by a
series of skilfully contrived questions, to lead him, if a pretender
to knowledge, to expose his presumption, and ignorance of what he
professed to know; or he would take a person confessedly ignorant of
the things to be discussed, and lead him step by step in a succession
of questions, until he obtained out of the respondent’s mouth the
result at which he, the interrogator, wished to arrive.

It would be out of place to enter here upon the discussion of the
abstruse question, how far and in what respects Socrates ought to be
considered as the founder of a new school of philosophy.[180] Indeed to
ascertain exactly what he did teach, is not now possible. Our knowledge
of him is derived almost exclusively from two of his pupils, Plato
and Xenophon; for all his instructions were oral; he wrote nothing.
Now the memoirs (Memorabilia) of Xenophon exhibit “not the whole
character of Socrates, but only that part of it which belonged to the
sphere of the affections and of social life, and which bore upon the
charges brought against him.”[181] In respect of the more extensive
and abstruse writings of Plato, it is to be said, that though we may
be satisfied that his Socrates, as a whole, is a faithful portrait,
yet it is hardly possible to determine exactly what belongs to the
master, and what has been deduced from, and engrafted on the doctrines
of the master by the scholar. For what Plato teaches, he teaches under
the name of Socrates: he advances nothing as his own, and on his own
authority.[182] It is easy however, and sufficient for our present
purpose, to state the grounds upon which Socrates has commanded the
undying love and admiration, not of the learned only, but of all
good men. There is a well–known passage of Cicero, which says, “that
Socrates first drew down philosophy from heaven, and settled it in
cities, and even introduced it into our homes, and made it inquire of
life, and morals, and good and bad things.”[183] It is to be understood
from this, not that Socrates was the first moral teacher, but that
whereas earlier philosophers had directed their attention chiefly to
physical and theological questions of the most unfathomable kind, such
as the nature, form, and essence of divinity, the nature of matter,
the origin and constitution of the universe, &c.; his instructions, on
the contrary, were chiefly directed towards explaining the duties of
life, and the principles on which the conduct of men in their social
relations ought to be regulated. Nor is it impossible that Cicero’s
phrase may have been suggested, in some degree, by the novel style
of language and illustration which Socrates used, of which we shall
presently speak more at length. To physical studies, Socrates, like
his predecessors, had once been deeply addicted. Failing to arrive at
any certain conclusions, he ceased to apply himself to such pursuits,
and bent his own and his pupils’ attention to questions more nearly
connected with our social and moral duties; holding, probably, not that
these abstruse inquiries were pernicious, or unworthy the attention
of a philosopher, but that they ought to be postponed until the
understanding was enlightened upon things bearing directly upon the
duties and business of life.[184] Against those who doubted or denied
the existence of a God, he maintained most ably that existence, and
the incorporeal and immortal nature of the soul. In his disputes with
the sophists[185] and sceptics, he availed himself of a readiness
and dexterity in argument superior to their own; and drawing them by
an artful series of questions into inconsistencies and absurdities,
exposed at once their arrogance and the falseness of their views.
He stated and enforced a system of morality and religion purer and
loftier than that of the Pythagoreans (the purest sect of antecedent
philosophers); but unlike them, he was accessible to all, clear in
all his statements, as far as possible, and ready to explain what was
not understood. Ever earnest in recommending temperance, benevolence,
piety, justice, and showing that man’s happiness and dignity are
determined by his mind and not his fortunes, by virtue and wisdom, not
by wealth and rank, his own life was the best example of his precepts.
His honesty as a public functionary, we have seen tested in the
prosecution of the Athenian generals after the battle of Arginusæ: his
private conduct was no less exemplary. Barefooted and poorly clad, he
associated with the rich and gay as with the needy, in the same spirit
of cheerful goodwill: his advice and instructions were given to all
without fee or reward, for his spirit was rigidly independent, and if
he possessed little, he wanted less.

Such is a sketch of Socrates, as he is commonly drawn in history,
and known to those who are not read in the Greek language. We have
endeavoured not to exaggerate his merits; nor must it be attributed
to a desire to detract from them, if we proceed to describe the
social Socrates in a light which may surprise, and probably startle,
many.[186] The portrait of the philosopher is, indeed, too generally
known to permit them to ascribe to him that elevated cast of
countenance which we associate in our minds with a character such as
that just drawn: but they have most likely regarded him as sedate,
dignified, and decorous in his manners and conduct. The picture, as
we have it from his contemporaries, does not exactly accord with
such a notion. A full conviction that what is good is in its nature
unalterable, and therefore cannot consist in anything perishable, had
led him to esteem what are commonly thought the advantages of life,
such as health, riches, pleasure, power, unfit to be the chief objects
of our desires, or motives of our actions; and he showed this in his
own person by an extreme neglect of the usual luxuries, and even
comforts of life. And he was fortunate, inasmuch as his self–denying
principles were backed by a robust constitution; so that he was
enabled, when serving as a soldier at the siege of Potidæa, to bear an
unusual severity of cold with an indifference which his fellow–soldiers
attributed to the desire of displaying his own hardihood at their
expense. He went barefoot, even in winter; he used the same clothing,
winter and summer; he eschewed the favourite Athenian luxury of
unguents, and seldom indulged in that other favourite luxury, the bath.

The same eccentricity displayed itself in other parts of his conduct.
While serving in the camp before Potidæa, he is said to have stood
motionless for a day, from sunrise to sunrise, engaged in meditation.
The peculiarity of his personal appearance[187] was well qualified
to attract notice, and set off his singular habits: and some of his
habits seem better suited to his personal appearance than to his real
character; for in his conversation (as it is reported by Plato), he
assumed a licence which has given birth to imputations against him,
at variance with the purity of morals which he inculcated, and which
the concurrent testimony of his followers and biographers asserts
that he practised. His favourite associates were the young, among
whom he was most likely to gain converts to his own opinions, and
accordingly he mixed without scruple in their festivities, and even in
their intemperance; though wine was never seen to affect him, and that
not from abstinence in his potations. The banquet of Plato, in which
Socrates, Alcibiades, Aristophanes, and others are the speakers, ends
with a description of the festivities being broken up late at night,
by the irruption of a party of drunken revellers, “after which things
were no longer carried on regularly, but everybody was compelled to
drink a great quantity of wine. On this (said Aristodemus, the relater)
several of the party went away, but he himself fell asleep, and slept
very abundantly, for the nights were then long. But on awaking towards
daybreak, the cocks then crowing, he saw that the other guests were
either gone or asleep, and that Agathon, Socrates, and Aristophanes
were the only persons awake, and were drinking to the right hand out
of a great bowl. Now Socrates was lecturing them: and the rest of his
discourse, Aristodemus said he did not remember, for being asleep, he
had not been present at the beginning. But the sum of it was, that
Socrates compelled them to confess that it was the province of the
same man to know how to compose comedy and tragedy, and that he who
was by art a tragic poet was a comic poet also. And having been forced
to assent to these things, and that without very clearly understanding
them, Aristodemus said they fell asleep; and first Aristophanes went to
sleep, and then, as the day broke, Agathon. And Socrates, having sent
them to sleep, got up and departed; and going to the Lyceum, washed
himself, as at other times, and spent the whole day there, and so in
the evening went home to rest.”[188]

This is not exactly the sort of scene in which the great teacher of
moral philosophy would be expected to figure; but according to the
best notions we can form it is a characteristic one, whether drawn
literally from the life, or freely coloured by Plato, who, it may be
safely concluded, would not have invented such manners for a master
whom he loved and venerated. This freedom of speech and life, combined
with his personal peculiarities and uncouth and eccentric habits,
led Alcibiades to compare him to the Sileni, in the workshops of
statuaries, rude figures which, on being opened, showed that they
contained inside precious images of the gods.[189] Such a man lay open
to a large share of ridicule, and in the earlier part of his vocation
as a public instructor, a plentiful share of ridicule was bestowed on
him by Aristophanes in his celebrated comedy of the Clouds. At the
same time he was not a person to be rashly attacked; and those who were
most hostile to him, and to whom he was most hostile, especially the
sophists, were for the most part roughly handled, when they ventured
to engage with him in a contest of wits. Few of his followers seem
to have been really attached to him; but those, to their honour and
his, remained faithful and attached both to his person and memory
in no common degree. But many frequented his society for a time
with eagerness, to enjoy his subtlety of discourse, to be amused by
the eminent discomfiture which he usually inflicted on those who
ventured publicly to oppose him, and to profit by the novel style of
reasoning introduced by him, which, if a powerful instrument of truth
when used honestly, was not less adapted, when used skilfully and
unscrupulously, to throw all the notions of a commonplace understanding
into inextricable confusion. It was probably the latter motive which
induced many men eminent in after–life to rank themselves, as we are
told, among his pupils; especially three who are recorded to have
frequented his society, Alcibiades, Theramenes, and Critias; for we
can hardly suppose, from their known characters, that these men, none
of them of fair political fame, however attracted by the talents, and
studious to derive intellectual benefit from the society of Socrates,
were in any degree influenced by the true philosophy which, under
this singular coat of eccentricity, he sought to recommend. And as
Socrates does not seem to have been beloved _in general_, even by
those who sought his company, so among the citizens at large he
obtained none of that gratitude which a life devoted without reward
to the public service should seem likely to inspire, except that
those who volunteer their services notoriously get small thanks for
their pains; especially when those services are directed to enlighten
ignorance, or remove prejudice. Nor were his habits calculated to
conciliate favour. His self–denial and frugality of life seemed like
a tacit reproach to the idle and luxurious, numerous everywhere, and
more than commonly numerous at Athens. Again, the dedication of his
life to gratuitous teaching, as he conducted it, was one of the most
unpopular things about him. If he had given lectures at stated periods
to those who chose to hear him, he might have been endured, but his
life seems to have been a never–ending lecture, which is wearisome
to all people. Even at the banquet he would interrupt the song and
dance, the favourite amusements of the Athenians,[190] in favour of
the argumentative conversations which he loved above all things: and
whether at the banquet or elsewhere, stranger or acquaintance, every
person who came across him was liable to be made subject to his moral
dissecting knife, in a way which few would very patiently submit to.
“You seem to me, O Lysimachus,” says Nicias, in Plato’s Laches, “not
to be aware that whosoever may be closely connected with Socrates in
argument, as if by birth, and may be attracted to him in disputation,
is compelled, though the conversation may begin concerning something
quite different, not to leave off, being led round and round by him in
discourse, before he falls into giving an account of himself, both how
he now lives, and how he has lived in past time; and that when he is
thus engaged, Socrates will not let him go before he has scrutinized
all these things well and fairly. Now I am used to him, and know that I
must go through all this at his hands; and that I shall do so on this
occasion. For I rejoice, O Lysimachus, in the company of this man,
and think it no bad thing to be reminded of what we have done, or are
doing, amiss.”[191]

Not less remarkable than his appearance, and well suited to it, was
the language in which these familiar inquiries of Socrates were
usually clothed. Constant intercourse with all classes, high and low,
had given him a store of familiar illustrations, often more forcible
than elegant, derived from the habits and experience of artificers,
whose peculiar terms of art he loved to introduce in a style which
must have contrasted oddly with the pompous language of the sophists.
Alcibiades thus characterizes his style in the banquet of Plato: “A
man so unlike all others as Socrates, both for himself and for his
manner of conversation, one could hardly find by inquiry, either of
those now living nor of old times; unless one were to liken him, as
I have said, to no man indeed, but to the Silenuses and Satyrs, both
him and his speech. And, in truth, I omitted this in what I said
before, that his speech is very like to the figures of Silenus when
opened. For if a person should wish to hear the speeches of Socrates,
they would appear at first quite ridiculous; in such terms and words
are they clothed outwardly, as if it were in the hide of a saucy
satyr. For he talks of asses and their burdens, and of braziers, and
leather–cutters, and tanners, and always seems to say the same things
through the same medium; so that an unwise or unexperienced man would
laugh at his words. But he who sees them open, and gets at their
inside, will find, first, that they alone, of all discourses, have
meaning within them; then that they are most divine, and contain most
images of virtue in themselves; and reach to the greatest extent, or
rather to everything, which he who wishes to be good and honourable
ought to regard.”[192] Now the bulk of those who came into contact
with Socrates were unwise or inexperienced; therefore they laughed at
him, as Alcibiades said they would; but it is quite as probable that a
large portion, especially of those who were entrapped into the sort of
cross–examination above described, became angry, or, to use a familiar
expression, were bored. We may fairly conjecture that Socrates had
the reputation of being the greatest bore of his day;[193] and this
in the laughter–loving town of Athens, would have been quite enough
to neutralize all notion of gratitude for his persevering attempts
to teach his countrymen that they knew little or nothing, instead of
everything, as they flattered themselves, or at least everything worth

Against this man, after he had continued in this singular mode of life
at least twenty–four years (for the date of the Clouds informs us that
he had obtained some notoriety before the year B.C. 423, in which that
comedy was acted), a criminal accusation was brought, B.C. 399, to the
following effect:—“Socrates does amiss, not recognizing the gods which
the state recognizes, and introducing other new divine natures, and he
does amiss in that he corrupts the young.” The originator of the charge
was an obscure person named Melitus, (Schleiermacher reads Meletus,) a
poet, and a bad one; but he was joined by Lycon, an orator,[194] and
Anytus, a man of wealth and consideration in Athens. The cause of that
enmity which led to this prosecution is nowhere clearly explained.
Mr. Mitford and Mr. Mitchell, who both entertain a sort of horror for
democracy, attribute his condemnation to his known dislike of that form
of government. With this statement, as a matter of belief, we have
no ground of quarrel; if stated as a matter of fact, we know of no
direct authority to support it.[195] In the apology of Plato, Socrates
says, that his three accusers attacked him, “Melitus being my enemy
on account of the poets, but Anytus on account of the artificers and
politicians, and Lycon on account of the orators.”[196] This passage
would rather suggest the notion of private enmity, which is in some
degree confirmed by another passage in the apology of Xenophon, where
Socrates refers the dislike of Anytus, to a comment made on his style
of bringing up his son.[197] The causes of hatred ascribed to Melitus
and Lycon must be explained,—the one by Socrates’ avowed contempt for
the fictions of poets; the other to his equally avowed abhorrence of
that system of instruction practised by the sophists; of which one,
and that the most popular branch, was the teaching oratory as an art,
by which any person could be enabled to speak on any subject, however
ignorant concerning the real merits of it. This desire to remove
Socrates existing, whatever its origin, it could not be gratified
without finding some plausible ground to go upon. Nothing could be
objected to his actions; as a soldier he had distinguished himself for
bravery; as a public officer he had shown inflexible integrity, when
the infamous vote was passed for putting to death the generals who won
the battle of Arginusæ;[198] and on another occasion, as a citizen,
he had refused, when ordered to apprehend Leon of Salamis,[199] at
the hazard of life, to perform an act contrary to the laws. The real
or alleged character of his philosophy and teaching then was the
only handle against him. Of this, we have already said enough in the
beginning of this chapter to show that it was difficult to find just
ground of complaint against it. But to invent false charges is never
difficult; and those which came readiest to hand were the same, to a
certain extent, as Aristophanes, in ignorance or wantonness, had long
before brought against him. “What,” he says in the Apology, “do my
accusers say? It is this, ‘Socrates acts wickedly, and with criminal
curiosity investigates things under the earth, and in the heavens. He
also makes the worse to be the better argument, and he teaches these
things to others.’ Such is the accusation; for things of this kind you
also have yourselves seen in the comedy of Aristophanes: for there
one Socrates is carried about, who affirms that he walks upon the air,
and idly asserts many other trifles of this nature; of which things
however I neither know much nor little.”[200] If we are to take this
literally, it involves the charge of not believing in any gods at
all, for such is the character of Socrates as given in the Clouds; a
charge the falsity of which is amply proved both by Xenophon and Plato
in their respective apologies. The charge of introducing new deities
refers to the dæmon, or divine nature, by which Socrates professed to
be guided in his conduct from a child, and which manifested itself by
an internal voice, which never suggested anything, but very frequently
warned him from that which he was about to do. False, however, as the
charge against him was in all respects, Socrates appears to have felt
that his condemnation was certain, and to have taken no pains either
to avert it or to escape. The orator Lysias is said to have composed
a laboured speech which he offered to the philosopher to be used as
his defence, but he declined it. His trial came on before the court of
Heliæa, the most numerous tribunal in Athens, in which a body of judges
sat, fluctuating in number, but usually consisting of several hundreds,
chosen by lot from among the body of the citizens. It was not therefore
to a bench of judges such as we are used to see them, bred to the law,
and presumed at least to be dispassionate and unprejudiced, but to a
popular assembly, that he had to plead. Nevertheless, he abstained
studiously from every means of working on the passions, even to the
usual method of supplication and moving pity by the introduction of his
weeping family. Such appeals he thought unbecoming his own character,
or the gravity of a court of justice, in which the question of the
guilt or innocence of a prisoner ought alone to be regarded. Judgment,
as he expected, was pronounced against him, though only by a majority
of three. By the Athenian law, the guilt of an accused person being
affirmed by the judges, a second question arose concerning the amount
of his punishment. The accuser, in his charge, stated the penalty which
he proposed to inflict; the prisoner had the privilege of speaking in
mitigation of judgment, and naming that which he considered adequate to
the offence. Socrates, at this stage of his trial, still preserved the
same high tone.[201] If, he said, I am to estimate my own punishment,
it must be according to my merits; and as these are great, I deserve
that reward which is suited to a poor man who has been your benefactor,
namely, a public maintenance in the Prytaneium.[202] Death, he said,
he did not fear, not knowing whether it were a change for the better
or the worse. Imprisonment and exile he esteemed worse than death, and
being persuaded of his own innocence, he would never be party to a
sentence of evil on himself. To a fine, if he had money to pay it, he
had no objection, since the loss of the money would leave him no worse
off than before; and he was able to pay a _mina_ of silver (about 4_l._
English), he would assess his punishment at that sum: or rather, at
thirty minæ, as Plato and three other of his disciples expressed a wish
to become his sureties to that amount.

This was not a line of conduct likely to excite pity, and sentence of
death was passed by a larger majority than before. He again addressed
a short speech to his judges, in which he tells them, that for the
sake of cutting off a little from his life, already verging on the
grave, they had incurred and brought on the city a lasting reproach,
and that he might have escaped, if he would have condescended to use
supplications and lamentations. Of his mode of defence, however, he
repented not, seeing that he had rather die, having so spoken, than
live by the use of unworthy methods; and that to escape death was far
less difficult than to avoid baseness. He concluded by an address to
the judges, who had voted for his acquittal, stating the grounds of
his hopes that death would be a change for the better; the first of
which is, that the dæmon had never opposed or checked his intended line
of conduct during the whole of these proceedings, nor in his speeches
had it ever stopped him from saying anything that he meant to say,
as it was used often to do in conversation: from which he inferred,
that his invisible guide had approved of all that he did, and that
therefore a good thing was about to happen to him. Death, he said, was
either insensibility, or a migration of the soul: in the former case,
as compared with life, he esteemed it a change for the better; in the
latter, if the general belief was true, what greater good could there
be than to meet and enjoy the society of the great men of antiquity?
Urging, therefore, these just judges to look confidently towards death,
and to believe that to a good man, dead or alive, no real harm can
happen; he concludes, “It is time that we should depart, I to die, you
to live; but which of us to the better thing, is known to the Divinity

Death usually followed close upon condemnation: but the death of
Socrates was delayed by an Athenian usage of great antiquity, said to
have been instituted in commemoration of the deliverance of Attica by
Theseus from the tyranny of Minos. Every year the sacred ship in which
Theseus had sailed to Crete, was despatched with offerings to the
sacred island of Delos; and in the interim between its departure and
return no criminals were ever put to death. Socrates was condemned the
evening before its departure, and consequently he was respited until
its return—a period of thirty days. During this time his friends had
access to him; and the dialogues of Plato, entitled Criton and Phædon,
purport to be the substance of conversations held by him towards the
close of this time. If he had been willing to escape, the gaoler was
bribed and the means of escape prepared; but this was a breach of the
laws which he refused to countenance, and he still thought, as he had
said in his speech, exile to be worse than death. On the last day of
his life, when his friends were admitted at sunrise, they found him
with his wife and one child. These where soon dismissed, lest their
lamentations should disturb his last interview with his friends and
pupils: and he commenced a conversation which speedily turned on the
immortality of the soul, the arguments for which, as they could best
be developed by one of the acutest of human intellects, without the
assistance of revelation, are summed up in that celebrated dialogue,
the Phædon, which professes to relate all the events of this last day
of the philosopher’s life. It concludes as follows:—

“When he had thus spoken, ‘Be it so, Socrates,’ said Criton; ‘but
what orders do you leave to these who are present, or to myself,
either respecting your children, or anything else, in the execution of
which we should most gratify you?’ ‘What I always do say, Criton (he
replied), nothing new: that if you pay due attention to yourselves,
do what you will, you will always do what is acceptable to myself, to
my family, and to your ownselves, though you should not now promise
me anything. But if you neglect yourselves, and are unwilling to
live following the track, as it were, of what I have said both now
and heretofore, you will do nothing the more, though you should now
promise many things, and that with earnestness.’ ‘We shall take care
therefore,’ said Criton, ‘so to act. But how would you be buried?’
‘Just as you please (said he), if you can but catch me, and I do
not elude your pursuit.’ And at the same time gently laughing, and
addressing himselfto us, ‘I cannot persuade Criton,’ he said, ‘my
friends, that I am that Socrates who now disputes with you, and
methodizes every part of the discourse; but he thinks that I am he whom
he will shortly behold dead, and asks how I ought to be buried. But all
that long discourse which some time since I addressed to you, in which
I asserted that after I had drunk the poison I should no longer remain
with you, but should depart to certain felicities of the blessed, this
I seem to have declared to him in vain, though it was undertaken to
console both you and myself. Be surety, therefore, for me to Criton, to
the reverse of that, for which he became surety for me to the judges;
for he was my bail that I should remain; but be you my bail that I
shall not remain when I die, but shall depart hence, that Criton may
bear it the more easily, and may not be afflicted when he sees my
body burnt or buried as if I were suffering some dreadful misfortune;
and that he may not say at my interment, that Socrates is laid out,
or carried out, or is buried. For be well assured of this, my friend
Criton, that when we speak amiss, we are not only blameable as to our
expressions, but likewise do some evil to our souls. But it is fit to
be of good heart, and to say that my body will be buried, and to bury
it in such manner as may be most pleasing to yourself, and as you may
esteem it most agreeable to our laws.’”

When he had thus spoken, he arose, and went into another room, that
he might wash himself, and Criton followed him: but he ordered us to
wait for him. We waited therefore accordingly, discoursing over, and
reviewing among ourselves what had been said; and sometimes speaking
about his death, how great a calamity it would be to us; and sincerely
thinking that we, like those who are deprived of their fathers, should
pass the rest of our life in the condition of orphans. But when he had
washed himself, his sons were brought to him (for he had two little
ones, and one older), and the women belonging to his family likewise
came in to him: but when he had spoken to them before Criton, and had
left them such injunctions as he thought proper, he ordered the boys
and women to depart, and he himself returned to us. And it was now
near the setting of the sun; for he had been away in the inner room
for a long time. But when he came in from bathing he sat down, and did
not speak much afterwards: for then the servant of the Eleven[203]
came in, and standing near him, “I do not perceive that in you,
Socrates,” said he, “which I have taken notice of in others; I mean
that they are angry with me, and curse me, when, being compelled by the
magistrates. I announce to them that they must drink the poison. But,
on the contrary, I have found you to the present time to be the most
generous, mild, and best of all the men that ever came into this place;
and therefore I am well convinced that you are not angry with me, but
with the authors of your present condition, for you know who they are.
Now, therefore (for you know what I came to tell you), farewell; and
endeavour to bear this necessity as easily as possible.” And at the
same time, bursting into tears, and turning himself away, he departed.
But Socrates, looking after him, said, “And thou, too, farewell;
and we shall take care to act as you advise.” And at the same time,
turning to us, “How courteous,” he said, “is the behaviour of that man!
During the whole time of my abode here, he has visited me, and often
conversed with me, and proved himself to be the best of men; and now
how generously he weeps on my account! But let us obey him, Criton, and
let some one bring the poison, if it is bruised; and if not, let the
man whose business it is, bruise it.” “But, Socrates,” said Criton,
“I think that the sun still hangs over the mountains, and is not set
yet. And at the same time I have known others who have drunk the poison
very late, after it was announced to them; who have supped and drunk
abundantly. Therefore, do not be in such haste, for there is yet time
enough.” Socrates replied, “Such men, Criton, act fitly in the manner
which you have described, for they think to derive some advantage by so
doing; and I also with propriety shall not act in this manner. For I do
not think I shall gain anything by drinking it later, except becoming
ridiculous to myself through desiring to live, and being sparing of
life, when nothing of it any longer remains. Go, therefore,” said he,
“be persuaded, and comply with my request.”

Then Criton hearing this, gave a sign to the boy that stood near him;
and the boy departing, and having stayed for some time, came back with
the person that was to administer the poison, who brought it pounded in
a cup. And Socrates, looking at the man, said, “Well, my friend (for
you are knowing in these matters), what is to be done?” “Nothing (he
said) but, after you have drunk it, to walk about, until a heaviness
takes place in your legs, and then to lie down: this is the manner in
which you have to act.” And at the same time he extended the cup to
Socrates. And Socrates taking it—and indeed, Echecrates—with great
cheerfulness, neither trembling, nor suffering any change for the
worse in his colour or countenance, but as he was used to do, looking
up sternly[204] at the man. “What say you,” he said, “as to making a
libation from this potion? may I do it or not?” “We only bruise as
much, Socrates,” he said, “as we think sufficient for the purpose.” “I
understand you,” he said; “but it is both lawful and proper to pray
to the gods that my departure from hence thither may be prosperous:
which I entreat them to grant may be the case.” And so saying, he
stopped, and drank the poison very readily and pleasantly. And thus
far indeed the greater part of us were tolerably well able to refrain
from weeping: but when we saw him drinking, and that he had drunk
it, we could no longer restrain our tears. And from me indeed, in
spite of my efforts, they flowed, and not drop by drop;[205] so that
wrapping myself in my mantle, I bewailed myself, not indeed for his
misfortune, but for my own, considering what a companion I should be
deprived of. But Criton, who was not able to restrain his tears, was
compelled to rise before me. And Apollodorus, who during the whole time
prior to this had not ceased from weeping, then wept aloud with great
bitterness, so that he infected all who were present except Socrates.
But Socrates, upon seeing this, exclaimed, “What are you doing, you
strange men! In truth, I principally sent away the women lest they
should produce a disturbance of this kind; for I have heard that it is
proper to die among well–omened sounds.[206] Be quiet, therefore, and
maintain your fortitude.” And when we heard this, we were ashamed, and
restrained our tears. But he, when he found during his walking about
that his legs became heavy, and had told us so, laid himself down on
his back. For the man had told him to do so. And at the same time he
who gave him the poison, touching him at intervals, examined his feet
and legs. And then pressing very hard on his foot, he asked him if
he felt it. But Socrates answered that he did not. And after this he
pressed his thighs, and thus, going upwards, he showed us that he was
cold and stiff. And Socrates also touched himself, and said that when
the poison reached his heart he should then depart. But now the lower
part of his body was almost cold; when uncovering himself (for he was
covered), he said (and these were his last words), “Criton, we owe a
cock to Æsculapius. Discharge this debt therefore for me, and do not
neglect it.” “It shall be done,” said Criton; “but consider whether
you have any other commands.” To this inquiry of Criton he made no
reply; but shortly after moved himself, and the man uncovered him. And
Socrates fixed his eyes; which, when Criton perceived, he closed his
mouth and eyes. “This, Echecrates, was the end of our companion; a man,
as it appears to me, the best of those whom we were acquainted with at
that time, and besides this, the most prudent and just.”[207]


Such is the narration which Cicero professed himself unable to read
without tears. Its celebrity and beauty will, we hope, be received as
a sufficient excuse for giving this version of a passage which, as a
whole, is little known in an English dress; for we must confess, that
while history, both ancient and modern, abounds in events analogous in
the nature of their interest to the death of Socrates, we find none
which, strictly speaking, can be regarded as parallels to it. This
arises in part from our hardly knowing whether to refer his prosecution
and condemnation to private hatred; or to the enmity of the sophists,
and the powerful party which supported them; or to the genuine zeal of
religious bigotry; or to a political fear that the doctrines taught
by Socrates were calculated to breed up a set of men in too little
respect for the democracy. All these causes have been assigned; and
whatever the motive which influenced his accusers, all may have had
their influence on the judges who condemned him, as well as that
unworthy pride which is expressly mentioned by Xenophon[208] as having
prevented the acquittal of his master. Whether therefore we seek our
instances among civil or religious persecutions, we shall scarcely find
anything strictly analogous to the death of Socrates; and as we have
said, it is here introduced more for the beauty of the narrative than
for the sake of comparison. To that beauty, and to the talents of the
historian, Socrates and his resignation owe no small share of their
extraordinary celebrity. It is well remarked by Mitford, that though
“the magnanimity of Socrates surely deserves admiration, yet it is not
that in which he has most outshone other men. The circumstances of Lord
Russell’s fate were far more trying. Socrates, as we may reasonably
suppose, would have borne Lord Russell’s trial: but with Bishop Burnet
for his eulogist, instead of Plato and Xenophon, he would not have had
his present splendid fame.”[209]

The power of meeting an inevitable death with firmness and composure,
is so far from being uncommon, that our interest in examples of it
might be supposed to be deadened by their frequent occurrence. It is to
be found, the outward show of it at least, in all stations, from the
martyr for religion or patriotism, down to the humble and profligate
sufferer who forfeits his life as a convicted felon. The fancied gaiety
of Captain Macheath is as true to nature as the cheerfulness of Sir
Thomas More; and the iron resolution of the murderer Thurtell enabled
him to face death as composedly as Charles I. or Algernon Sidney.
Still we do read with eagerness and admiration of More’s cheerful
jocularity on the scaffold, of the holy resignation of Latimer, and the
high–souled, yet tender and womanly deportment of Lady Jane Grey. The
subject seems to possess an interest not easily exhausted. Historians
therefore have seldom thought the last hours of great men unworthy
of notice: and the constancy and dying professions of those who have
laid down their lives for their political or religious opinions,
have always been eagerly treasured up by friends and followers, as
evidences both of the sincerity and truth of their belief. Yet such
evidence is doubtful even in respect of the former, and null in respect
of the latter; for there never perhaps was a cause important enough
to challenge persecution, which did not find persons ready to suffer
martyrdom for its sake.

In selecting the examples which occupy the rest of this chapter,
it has been endeavoured to take such as, relating to important and
spirit–stirring seasons, are yet likely not to be familiar in their
details to all our readers. We do not profess that they will bear a
close comparison with the prosecution of Socrates; on the contrary, we
may here again express our belief that nothing can be found analogous
either to the character or the history of that extraordinary man.
Nor shall we attempt to make out a resemblance where no real one
exists. The design of this work will be sufficiently fulfilled, if the
following passages of history shall appear interesting: the lessons
which they convey cannot be otherwise than profitable. The first and
third refer to persecutions purely religious in their character; the
second refers to what, under the appearance of a religious persecution,
was in fact quite as much a plot against civil liberty.

The first embraces a short sketch of the history and death of two
among the most eminent of the early Reformers, John Huss, and Jerome
of Prague. John Huss, or rather John of Hussinetz (for he derived his
name, according to a common usage of that time, from the place of his
birth), was a Bohemian priest, educated at the University of Prague.
His talents, and the simplicity and severity of his life, raised
him through subordinate stations to the high office of Rector of the
University. By some means, the nature of which is not quite clear, the
opinions and works of our venerable Wiclif, the first translator of
the Bible into the English tongue, were conveyed into Bohemia towards
the close of the fourteenth century. They struck deep root in that
soil: a circumstance to be attributed in no small degree to the effect
produced by Wiclif’s character and doctrines upon the mind of Huss;
who conceived so deep a veneration for his preceptor, that in his
sermons to the people in the chapel of Bethlehem (a chapel endowed by a
pious citizen of Prague, to enable two preachers to address the lower
orders in the Bohemian tongue), he is said often to have addressed his
earnest vows to Heaven, that “whensoever he should be removed from
this life, he might be admitted to the same regions where the soul of
Wiclif resided; since he doubted not that he was a good and holy man,
and worthy of a habitation in heaven.”[210] Already eminent for his
philosophical attainments, Huss had obtained another kind of celebrity,
so early as the year 1405, by these sermons, in which he inveighed
powerfully against the extortions and corruptions by which the papal
hierarchy had disfigured the purity of Christian faith. He continued to
preach, unchecked, till the year 1409, when the Archbishop of Prague
commenced open war on the new doctrines, by ordering all members of
the university who possessed Wiclif’s writings to bring them in,
that those which were found to be heretical might be publicly burnt.
Two hundred volumes are said to have been thus destroyed. Huss, and
other members of the university, appealed to the Pope; but, as might
have been expected, their cause took an unfavourable turn, and the
Archbishop was empowered to suppress the doctrines of Wiclif within his
diocese. Huss, however, with his friend, pupil, and fellow–sufferer,
Jerome of Prague, master of theology in the university, continued to
preach: and the people followed them, in spite of the combination and
determined opposition of the clergy in general. Huss was in consequence
summoned to appear at Rome. He refused to place himself in the power
of the Pope, but sent three deputies to plead his cause. The deputies
were insulted and maltreated, and he himself was declared guilty of
contumacy, and excommunicated. Against this censure he published a
formal protest, in which, after reciting authorities to justify the
step which he was taking, narrating his excommunication, and explaining
the injustice and informality of the proceedings under which he was
condemned, he concludes, “It is therefore manifest that, none of these
conditions being fulfilled in my case, I am acquitted before God of
the crime of contumacy, and am unbound by a pretended and frivolous
excommunication. I, John Huss, present this appeal to Jesus Christ, my
master and just judge, who knows and protects the just cause of every

He continued accordingly to preach at Prague till early in the year
1413, when the Archbishop interposed, and Huss retired, apparently to
the place of his birth. But he continued to write, and his doctrines
were readily received by the Bohemians, though zealously opposed
by the great body of the clergy. On the meeting of the Council of
Constance, in 1414, Huss was called before it, to declare and to
defend his opinions. He had disobeyed the summons of the Pope, but he
recognised the authority of the church in its general council, and
obeyed its call with alacrity. It seems to have been his earnest desire
to explain the grounds of his faith, and to confess his error, if he
could be convinced of error, in those points wherein he differed from
the received doctrines of the church. With this view, before he went
to Constance, he appeared before a synod of the clergy held at Prague,
with the express view of declaring and supporting his peculiar tenets:
and when permission to do so was refused, he affixed placards in places
of public resort, in which he expressed his intention of appearing at
Constance, and invited all who had any complaint to make against him to
appear in support of it.[212]

The charges against Huss may be reduced to two heads (unless indeed
they should rather be considered as one): that he was a follower of
Wiclif, and that he was infected with the “leprosy of the Vaudois.”
The opinions contained under the latter charge are thus enumerated
(with the exception of a few particulars), from Æneas Sylvius,[213]
by Mr. Waddington; it being premised that, of those thus imputed to
him, Huss expressly disavowed many. “The most important of them were
these:—that the Pope is on a level with other bishops; that all priests
are equal, except in regard to personal merit; that souls, on quitting
their bodies, are immediately condemned to eternal punishment, or
exalted to everlasting happiness; that the fire of purgatory has no
existence; that prayers for the dead are a vain device, the invention
of sacerdotal avarice; that the images of God and the saints should
be destroyed; that the orders of mendicants were invented by evil
spirits; that the clergy ought to be poor, subsisting on eleemosynary
contributions; that it is free to all men to preach the word of God;
that any one guilty of mortal sin is thereby disqualified for any
dignity, secular or ecclesiastical; that confirmation and extreme
unction are not among the holy rites of the church; that auricular
confession is unprofitable, since confession to God is sufficient for
pardon; that the use of cemeteries is without reasonable foundation,
and inculcated for the sake of profit; that the world itself is the
temple of the omnipotent God, and that those only derogate from his
majesty who build churches, monasteries, or oratories; that the
sacerdotal vestments, the ornaments of the altars, the cups and
other sacred utensils, are of no more than vulgar estimation; that
the suffrages of the saints who reign with Christ in heaven are
unprofitable and vainly invoked; that there is no holiday excepting
Sunday; that the festivals of the saints should by no means be
observed; and that the fasts established by the church are equally
destitute of divine authority.” Of these doctrines, whether truly or
falsely imputed to Huss, many were of a nature to excite the anger of a
corrupt and avaricious priesthood; and he is said to have added another
still more calculated to prejudice the minds of his judges against him:
he maintained that tithes were strictly eleemosynary, and that it was
free for the owner of the land to withhold or pay them according to the
measure of his charity. He also maintained the right of the laity to
participate in the sacramental cup. It appears from a short treatise,
written in the year 1413, and exposed to public view at the chapel of
Bethlehem, entitled ‘Six Errors,’ that he denied to the priesthood the
power of granting remission of punishment and absolution from sin;
that he condemned the doctrine, that obedience is due to a superior
in all things; that he maintained that an unjust excommunication was
not binding on the person against whom it was levelled; and that he
condemned as heretical the simoniacal offences against canon law, of
which he accused a large portion of the clergy. He also in his sermons
condemned as useless prayers for the souls of the dead, though it
appears in the same sermon that he believed in purgatory; and rebuked
the avarice of the priests, by whom the practice of exacting large
presents, as the price of ransoming souls from purgatory by their
masses, had been invented.[214]

The readiness of Huss to face the Council is not to be ascribed to
ignorance of the risk which he was about to incur. He addressed a
letter to one of his friends, with a request indorsed, that it might
not be opened, except in case of his death: it contained a species of
confession. He also wrote an exhortation to his Bohemian congregation,
in which he urges them to remain constant in the doctrine which he
had faithfully preached to them; expresses his belief, that he should
meet with more enemies at the council than Christ had at Jerusalem;
prays for health and strength to maintain the truth to the last,
resolved to suffer any extremes, rather than betray the Gospel from
any cowardice; requests the prayers of his friends in his behalf; and
speaks very doubtfully of his return, expressing his willingness to
die in God’s cause.[215] Yet if good faith were necessarily inherent
in high rank, he had no reason to fear. The Emperor Sigismond gave
him a safe conduct, pledging himself, and enjoining his subjects, to
facilitate and secure the safe passage of Huss to and fro: and Pope
John XXIII. professed, “though John Huss should murder my own brother,
I would use the whole of my power to preserve him from every injury,
during all the time of his residence at Constance.” He arrived in that
city in November, 1414. But the first proceedings of the Council showed
that anything rather than an impartial hearing was intended. Huss was
committed to close custody, and denied the privilege of being heard by
an advocate, though he lay sick in prison; on the ground that the canon
law allowed no one to undertake the defence of persons suspected of
heresy. Meanwhile, he was harassed with private interrogatories, and
denied a public audience before the assembled Council. This right he
demanded with urgency; and the interference of the Emperor Sigismond,
who seems to have felt in this instance what was due to one who was
placed under his protection, procured it for him. Early in June, 1415,
the Council was convened, to hear the charges against him, and his
defence. The first charge was read, and he began to reply: but when
he appealed to Scripture, as the authority on which his doctrines
were founded, his voice was overwhelmed with clamour. He ceased: but
when he again attempted to speak, the clamour was renewed; and the
assembly adjourned in confusion to June 7, on which day the Emperor
was requested to preside in person. His presence secured more decency
of proceeding. The charges brought against Huss were based chiefly
on his supposed adherence to the doctrines of Wiclif (concerning the
truth of which it was needless to dispute, since they had already
been condemned by the Council, May 4, 1415), and on his opinion as
to the administration of the Eucharist. The arguments which he was
permitted to adduce were received, as before, with shouts of derision,
and the assembly adjourned to the following day. It happened, and the
coincidence was calculated to make a deep impression on the minds of
those who inclined to his doctrines, that on that day an eclipse of
the sun took place, which was total at Prague, and nearly total at

His audience was renewed on the following day. Of the opinions imputed
to him, he rejected some, and admitted others; and those which he
did admit, he defended temperately and reasonably. The hearing being
closed, he was required by the Council to retract his errors. It
does not appear that any distinction was made between those which he
admitted and those which he denied: the Council assumed, that he held
certain opinions, and he was called to recant them in the gross, or to
seal his adherence to them by martyrdom. His reply bears testimony to
the purity of his motives and to the humility of his temper. “As to
the opinions imputed to me, which I have never held, those I cannot
retract; as to those which I do indeed profess, I am ready to retract
them, when I shall be better instructed by the Council.” The Emperor,
who had taken an active part in persuading him to save himself by
submission,[216] now avowed his opinion, that “among the errors of
Huss, which had been in part proved, and in part confessed, there
was not one which did not deserve the penal flames;” and “that the
temporal sword ought instantly to be drawn, for the chastisement of
his disciples, to the end that the branches of the tree might perish,
together with its root.” The Council was not slow to inflict the
penalty thus recommended. Huss was remanded to prison: his constancy
was severely tried by a month’s imprisonment, in which every means of
persuasion and solicitation were used to induce him to retract, and
live. But he continued calm and resolved, in a strain of mind equally
removed from pride and stubbornness, and from laxity and indifference,
replying to those who urged him to abjure his belief, that “he was
prepared to afford an example in himself of that enduring patience
which he had so frequently preached to others, and which he relied on
the grace of God to grant him.” He retained this temper to the end;
and in this he may serve as a pattern or a rebuke to many persons,
who, though zealous for the truth, have shown in the character of
martyrs as much of bigotry and intolerance as their persecutors; and
this temper was shown nowhere more beautifully than in one of his last
trials, “if indeed (we quote from Mr. Waddington) we can so designate
the upright counsel of a faithful and virtuous friend, for such was
the circumstance which completed and crowned the history of his
imprisonment; and it should be everywhere recorded, for the honour of
human nature. A Bohemian nobleman, named John of Chlum, had attended
Huss, whose disciple he was, through all his perils and persecutions,
and had exerted throughout the whole affair every method that he could
learn or devise to save him. At length, when every hope was lost,
and he was about to separate from the martyr for the last time, he
addressed him in these terms: ‘My dear master, I am unlettered, and
consequently unfit to counsel one so enlightened as you. Nevertheless,
if you are secretly conscious of any one of those errors which have
been publicly imputed to you, I do entreat you not to feel any shame
in retracting it; but if, on the contrary, you are convinced of your
innocence, I am so far from advising you to say anything against your
conscience, that I exhort you rather to endure every form of torture,
than to renounce anything which you hold to be true.’ John Huss replied
with tears, that God was his witness, how ready he had ever been, and
still was, to retract on oath, and with his whole heart, from the
moment he should be convicted of any error, by _evidence from the Holy
Scripture_.”[217] He confirmed this assertion in a letter, written on
the eve of his execution, to the Senate of Prague, warning them that he
had retracted and abjured nothing, but was ready to abjure and express
his detestation of every proposition extracted from his books which
could be proved contrary to Scripture.

Thus passed the month between his trial and his execution, not in
struggles to avoid, but in preparation to meet his fate. “God,” he
said, “in his wisdom, has reasons for thus prolonging my life.” On the
15th of July, he was brought before the Council for the last time.
He listened on his knees while his sentence was read; and though
it was endeavoured to prevent him from speaking, he asserted from
time to time the falsehood of some of the charges brought against
him. That of obstinacy, for instance, he repelled hardily. “This,”
he said, “I deny boldly. I always have, and do still desire to be
better instructed by Scripture; and assert, that I am so zealous for
the truth, that if by one word I could overthrow the errors of all
heretics, there is no peril which I would not face for that end.”
Against the condemnation of his books he protested, because hitherto
no errors had been shown to exist in them, and because, being chiefly
written in Bohemian, or translated into languages understood by few
of the members, the Council could not read, nor understand, nor, by
consequence, legitimately condemn them. At the close of the sentence,
he called God to witness his innocence, and offered a prayer that his
judges and accusers might find pardon. Nothing then remained but to
proceed to his degradation; and it may not be irrelevant to give a
short account of the forms used in this ceremony, childish as they may
appear. Certain bishops, appointed to perform this office, caused Huss
to be robed in his full sacerdotal vestments, and a cup to be placed in
his hand, as if he were going to perform mass. As they put upon him a
long white robe, named the _aube_, he said, “Our Saviour was clothed,
in mockery, in a white robe, when sent by Herod before Pilate:” and he
made similar reflections as the other ensigns of the sacred functions
were successively put upon him. Being thus dressed, the bishops again
exhorted him to recant; but turning to the people, he declared in a
loud voice, that he never would offend and seduce the faithful by
a declaration so full of hypocrisy and impiety, and thus publicly
protested his innocence. Then the bishops took from him the chalice,
reciting the words, “O cursed Judas, who having forsaken the counsel of
peace, hast entered into that of the Jews, we take away this cup, &c.,”
according to the common formula for degrading a priest. On this, Huss
said aloud, that through the mercy of God, he hoped that day to drink
of that cup in his kingdom. The bishops then took away his sacerdotal
garments, one after the other, pronouncing some malediction at the
removal of each. When they came to obliterate the tonsure, the mark
of priesthood, a ludicrous question arose, whether scissors or razors
should be used; and after a warm debate, it was decided in favour of
the former. His hair was closely cropped, a pyramidal paper cap, an ell
high, painted with figures of devils, and inscribed “Heresiarch,” was
put on his head; and thus attired, the prelates charitably consigned
his soul to the infernal devils.[218] Divested thus of the sacred
character of priesthood, he was delivered over to the secular power,
represented by the Emperor, under whose safe–conduct he had repaired
to Constance, and who had yet openly given his voice for causing the
heretic to expiate his errors by the torments of fire. The Emperor
charged the Elector Palatine with the duty of seeing the penalties
of the law inflicted: and it is said, that a succeeding elector, the
descendant in the fourth generation of the person thus employed, who
was a favourer of the Reformation, and dying childless, witnessed the
extinction of his line, was wont to attribute that misfortune to the
anger of Heaven, punishing in the fourth generation the bigoted and
cruel eagerness with which his ancestor had executed the unholy task
intrusted to him on this occasion.

Huss was immediately conducted to the stake, and suffered his agonizing
death with unshaken firmness. It is told by an old writer of his life,
that the people said, hearing the fervency of his address to God, “We
do not know what this man has done before; but now, we hear him offer
up excellent prayers.” His ashes were carefully collected and cast
into the Rhine, lest they should serve to keep up the affection of his
friends: but the precaution was vain, for we are told[219] that the
very earth of the spot on which he was burnt was collected as a sacred
relic, and carried into Bohemia by his disciples.

Before the fate of Huss was determined, the Council had wreaked a
tardy vengeance on his forerunner and preceptor Wiclif, whose body was
ordered “to be taken from the ground, and thrown far away from the
burial of any church.” After the lapse of thirteen years, the empty
insult was most effectually executed, by disinterring and burning the
reformer’s body, and casting the ashes into a neighbouring brook. The
often quoted words of Fuller on this occasion may be equally well
applied to the good man whose history has just been related:—“The brook
did convey his ashes into Avon; Avon into Severn; Severn into the
narrow seas; they into the main ocean. And thus the ashes of Wiclif are
the emblem of his doctrine, which now is dispersed all the world over.”

Jerome of Prague has been already mentioned as the most distinguished
among Huss’s followers, and his coadjutor in preaching. He also was
summoned to Constance in the spring of 1415, before Huss had suffered
martyrdom; and it was probably in consequence of witnessing his
companion’s sufferings that he was induced to retract, to condemn in
the strongest terms, as blasphemous and seditious, the tenets which
in his heart he still continued to hold, and to profess his entire
adherence to all the doctrines of the Roman church. Fortunately he
was not left to endure through life the reproaches of conscience;
for the continued enmity and mistaken persecution of his adversaries
conferred a benefit on him which they were far from intending. He was
still retained in confinement, and harassed with fresh charges, though
his retractation had been ample and complete: for there were many who
thought that hostility to the hierarchy could not be expiated except by
blood. At last he obtained a public audience before the Council, on the
23rd of May, 1416; when he recalled his former recantation, confessing
that it had been dictated only by the fear of a painful death. There
is a close coincidence between the history of Jerome, and that of the
father of our English church, Cranmer, who suffered a similar death
in the following century. Both swerved through the influence of fear
from the path of duty: both were punished for their weakness by being
treacherously deprived of that temporal advantage which was the price
of their apostacy; and, being recalled by that mistaken malice to their
duty, both redeemed their virtue, and have obtained eternal honour
in exchange for a short and shameful breathing–time on earth. Poggio
the Florentine, who was a witness of the whole course of Jerome’s
trial, has left a long and interesting account of it in a letter to
Leonardo Aretino, from which it appears that his sympathy had been
strongly excited by the constancy of the sufferer. Though connected
with the highest dignitaries of the church, he writes in such a strain
of admiration, that his friend thought it necessary to warn him of the
danger which he might incur by speaking of a condemned heretic in such
terms. The letter will be found entirely translated in Mr. Shepherd’s
Life of Poggio Bracciolini, from which the following description of
Jerome’s final sufferings is extracted:—“No stoic ever suffered death
with such constancy of mind; when he arrived at the place of execution
he stripped himself of his garments, and knelt down before the stake,
to which he was soon after tied with ropes and a chain. Then great
pieces of wood, intermixed with straw, where piled as high as his
breast. When fire was set to the pile, he began to sing a hymn, which
was scarcely interrupted by the smoke and flame. I must not omit a
striking circumstance, which shows the firmness of his mind. When the
executioner was going to apply the fire behind him, in order that he
might not see it, he said, Come this way, and kindle it in my sight;
for if I had been afraid of it, I should never have come to this
place. Thus perished a man in every respect exemplary, except in the
erroneousness of his faith. I was a witness of his end, and observed
every particular of its process. He may have been heretical in his
notions, and obstinate in persevering in them: but he certainly died
like a philosopher. I have rehearsed a long story; as I wish to employ
my leisure in relating a transaction which far surpasses the events of
ancient history. For neither did Mutius suffer his hand to be burnt
so patiently as Jerome endured the burning of his whole body; nor did
Socrates drink the hemlock as cheerfully as Jerome submitted to the

If it were really hoped to purge the dross of heresy from Bohemia by
this fiery ordeal, the result is another lesson to prove the inutility
of combating opinion by violence. The nobility considered the breach of
the Emperor’s safe–conduct as an insult to the kingdom of Bohemia: the
commons, prepared for rebellion against the spiritual dominion of Rome,
and inflamed by the fate of their loved and venerated teachers, broke
into acts of violence. Fresh measures of provocation on each side soon
led to extremities; a crusade was proclaimed against Bohemia by Pope
Martin V., and headed by the Emperor Sigismond; and the quarrel was
thus fairly committed to the arbitration of the sword. Enthusiasm made
up for the apparent inequality of force: the insurgents assumed the
name of Taborites, named the mountain on which they pitched their tents
Tabor, and stigmatized their neighbours by the names of the idolatrous
nations from whom the Israelites won the Holy Land. They often defeated
the armies of the church, and maintained their ground so firmly, that
in 1433 the Council of Basle endeavoured to invite their leaders to
a conference. This attempt at pacification failed; but it taught the
Catholics how to avail themselves of the religious differences which
distracted these enthusiastic men: and in 1436, the church and the
Emperor gained the final ascendency, more by civil discord than by
the sword. But in the fifteenth century, a numerous party in Bohemia
preserved the faith for which Huss and Jerome had suffered, and their
fathers had fought; and received with joy the ampler reformation
preached by Luther.

The second subject which we have proposed to notice belongs to a period
of much interest in British history, that of the fruitless attempt
of Charles II. to re–impose episcopacy upon the Scottish nation. Few
spectacles are more elevating and more improving than the patient
endurance of evil for conscience’ sake even in an individual; and it
is still more impressive, where a multitude are actuated by common
feelings and a common principle. Such was the case with the persecuted
body of the Scottish Presbyterian recusants; and if there be any to
whom the questions, whether a written ritual or extemporaneous prayer
should be used, whether the Episcopal or Presbyterian form of church
government should prevail, appear insufficient grounds of dispute
to justify a civil war, it is to be remembered that in this case the
aggression was entirely on the side of the government; that Charles
II. had more than once taken the Covenant, the mere refusal to abjure
which was now thought worthy of death; that the rebels, if that name
be applicable to them, sought nothing more than liberty to serve God
after their own consciences; and further, that the arbitrary violence
which would have annulled the established church of Scotland, to
substitute another which the bulk of the nation hated, was only one
of that series of mistaken and criminal measures which led to the
expulsion of the House of Stuart from the throne. Upwards of three
hundred ministers were driven from their livings in one day, to derive
a scanty maintenance from their poor but zealous hearers: but these men
neither offered resistance, nor preached rebellion, until they were
debarred from performing their pastoral office. And even when they
and their followers did take arms, it was originally in self–defence,
to protect meetings for the peaceable purpose of divine worship, held
in the wildest recesses of the trackless hills, from the fury of a
most licentious soldiery, which even that strict concealment could
not mitigate or elude. That the better cause was disgraced by some
extravagances and crimes, and that it gave rise in some to a morose and
gloomy spirit of fanaticism, will not surprise any who have considered
the effect of persecution, which, the very converse of mercy, is twice
cursed in its operation, a curse on him who inflicts, as on him who
suffers. Driven to assemble in moss and mountain, girt with their
swords, and prepared to defend life and faith by the strong hand, it
is no wonder if these men turned in preference to the warlike pages of
the sacred records, and in tone, and conduct, and phraseology imitated
the martial leaders and reformers of Judæa, rather than the milder
teachers of the religion which it was their boast to hold fast in its
utmost purity. Continually occupied by the thought of death, engaged
in a constant struggle to subdue their natural fears and affections
into the resolution to serve the Lord after what they deemed the only
true faith, and to abide in him to the uttermost, it is no wonder
that Cameron, Cargill, Peden, and other zealous preachers, whose rude
and stern eloquence roused the Scottish peasant to the indurance of
martyrdom, in many instances lost sight of reason in enthusiasm, and
in some, themselves or their followers, committed acts which rendered
them justly amenable to legal punishment.[220] It forms, however,
no part of our subject to enter into a defence of their conduct or
doctrine. The lofty spirit of resignation in which they met their fate
is the only point in their history which admits of comparison with
the subject–matter of this chapter: and in this respect, the Athenian
philosopher had no advantage over the humblest of these unlettered
peasants. The stories of their resignation, nay of their exultation
in the hour of trial, have been preserved by tradition; and their
scattered graves in the wild moorlands of Southern Scotland are still
regarded with veneration and affection. May it be long before a feeling
dies away, so well calculated to keep alive a hatred of oppression, and
a strong sense of the importance of religion!

There is extant a singular and affecting account of the death of
one of these sufferers, written by Alexander Peden, an enthusiastic
preacher of the Cameronian sect, which is rendered more striking by
the rudeness of the narrative, and the minute circumstantiality of the
details. This is one of the passages which we propose to take from this
portion of our history; the other consists of some extracts relative to
the sufferings and death of one of the most accomplished and discreet,
as well as most pious, of the ministers who suffered during the
persecution under the two last kings of the Stuart family. The former
of these two, by name John Brown, was a small farmer and carrier,
resident at Priesthill, in the parish of Muirkirk, an upland district
on the borders of Ayrshire and Lanarkshire; “a man” says Wodrow, “of
shining piety, who had great measures of solid digested knowledge and
experience, and a singular talent of a most plain and affecting way of
communicating his knowledge to others.” This man was orderly, sedate,
and discreet, and nowise obnoxious to the ruling party, except as a
conscientious and inflexible seceder from the Episcopalian worship
attempted to be imposed. Our tale is taken from a publication entitled
the ‘Life of Mr. Alexander Peden,’ published about the year 1720.[221]

“In the beginning of May, 1685, he (Mr. Alexander Peden) came to the
house of John Brown and Marion Weir, whom he married before he went to
Ireland, where he staid all night, and in the morning, when he took
farewell, he came out of the door, saying to himself, ‘Poor woman, a
fearful morning,’ twice over; ‘A dark misty morning.’ The next morning,
between five and six hours, the said John Brown having performed the
worship of God in his family, was going with a spade in his hand to
make ready some peat ground: the mist being very dark, he knew not
until cruel and bloody Claverhouse compassed him with three troops of
horse, brought him to his house, and then examined him; who, though
he was a man of a stammering speech, yet answered him distinctly and
solidly; which made Claverhouse to examine those whom he had taken to
be his guide through the muirs, if ever they heard him preach. They
answered, No, no; he was never a preacher. He said, ‘If he has not
preached, mickle has he prayed in his time.’ He said to John, ‘Go to
your prayers, for you shall immediately die.’ When he was praying,
Claverhouse interrupted him three times: one time that he stopt him,
he was pleading that the Lord would spare a remnant, and not make a
full end in the day of his anger. Claverhouse said, ‘I gave you time
to pray, and ye are begun to preach:’ he turned about upon his knees
and said, ‘Sir, you know neither the nature of preaching or praying,
that calls this preaching.’ Then continued without confusion; when
ended, Claverhouse said, ‘Take good–night of your wife and children.’
His wife standing by with her child in her arms that she had brought
forth to him, and another child of his first wife’s, he came to her,
and said, ‘Now Marion, the day is come, that I told you would come
when I first spake to you of marrying me.’ She said, ‘Indeed, John, I
can willingly part with you.’ ‘Then,’ he said, ‘this is all I desire,
I have no more to do but to die.’ He kissed his wife and bairns, and
wished purchased and promised blessings to be multiplied upon them, and
his blessing. Claverhouse ordered six soldiers to shoot him:[222] the
most part of the bullets came upon his head, which scattered his brains
on the ground. Claverhouse said to his wife, ‘What thinkest thou of thy
husband now, woman?’ She said, ‘I thought ever much of him, and now
as much as ever.’ He said, ‘It were justice to lay thee beside him.’
She said, ‘If ye were permitted, I doubt not but that your crueltie
would go that length; but how will ye make answer for this morning’s
work?’ He said, ‘To man I can be answerable; and for God, I will take
him in my own hand.’ Claverhouse mounted his horse, and marched, and
left her with the corpse of her dead husband lying there; she set the
bairn upon the ground, and gathered his brains, and tied up his head,
and straighted his body, and covered him in her plaid, and sat down
and wept over him. It being a very desolate place, where never verdure
grew, and far from neighbours, it was some time before any friends came
to her; the first that came was a very fit hand, that old singular
Christian woman in the Cummerhead, named Elizabeth Menzies, three miles
distant, who had been tried with the violent death of her husband at
Pentland, afterwards of two worthy sons, Thomas Weir, who was killed
at Drumclog, and David Steel, who was suddenly shot afterwards when
taken. The said Marion Weir sitting upon her husband’s grave, told me,
that before that, she could see no blood but what she was in danger
to faint; and yet she was helped to be a witness to all this, without
either fainting or confusion, except when the shots were let off, her
eyes dazzled. His corpse was buried at the end of his house, where he
was slain, with this inscription on his grave–stone:—

  In earth’s cold bed, the dusty part here lies
  Of one who did the earth as dust despise!
  Here in this place, from earth he took departure;—
  Now he has got the garland of the martyr.

This murder was committed between six and seven in the morning: Mr.
Peden was about ten or eleven miles distant, having been in the fields
all night; he came to the house between seven and eight, and desired to
call in the family, that he might pray amongst them. When praying, he
said, ‘Lord, when wilt thou avenge Brown’s blood? Oh! let Brown’s blood
be precious in thy sight! and hasten the day when thou wilt avenge it,
with Cameron’s, Cargill’s, and many others of our martyrs’ names; and
oh! for that day, when the Lord would avenge all their bloods.’

“When ended, John Muirhead inquired what he meant by Brown’s blood?
He said twice over, ‘What do I mean? Claverhouse has been at the
Priesthill this morning, and has cruelly murdered John Brown: his
corpse was lying at the end of his house, and his poor wife sitting
weeping by his corpse, and not a soul to speak a word comfortably to

It is not to be supposed that this atrocity was single or singular
in its nature, or that it and others rest upon doubtful testimony.
“No historical facts,” says Mr. Fox, “are better ascertained than
the account of these instances of cruelty which are to be found in
Wodrow.” And the extent to which they were carried may be appreciated
from the number of military executions or murders recorded by that
author,[223] in the two first months only of the year in which the
above tragedy was enacted. Neither must it be supposed that these were
the unwarranted excesses of a brutal soldiery: the Privy Council, the
chief executive power of Scotland, clearly pointed out the line of
conduct to be pursued in its instructions;[224] and in its dealings
with the prisoners brought before it, showed equally clearly that the
exceeding of their orders in severity would not be harshly construed.
There are few who do not recollect the scene in ‘Old Mortality,’
in which the preacher Macbriar is examined before the Council: and
the fiction does go one step beyond the reality, as detailed in the
authentic pages of Wodrow. Those who did not perish by shot or sword,
had often reason to wish that their sufferings had been ended by the
summary method of military execution. Torture was pitilessly used to
extract confession; and branding, banishment, and hanging, were largely
employed, not only against the violent spirits whom persecution had
driven to assume arms, but against those who offered none but passive
resistance. And this severity was the cause, not the consequence,
of the more violent sects rising in arms: it was the result of a
premeditated scheme to oppress, if not to root out, Presbyterianism,
as tending to keep alive a spirit of independence, civil as well as
religious. With this intention, the ministers and other prominent
persons were first attacked under form of law: it was not until
their firmness proved to be inexpugnable, that the act of assembling
for worship was itself proscribed. Even so early as 1661, Mr. James
Guthrie, one of the most eminent ministers of the Scottish church,
a man of moderation and discretion, as well as zeal, learning, and
piety, was singled out as a victim. Hume’s account of this transaction
is a good specimen of the spirit in which he treats of this period of
history. “It was deemed political to hold over men’s heads for some
time the terror of punishment, till they should have made the requisite
compliances with the new government. Though neither the king’s temper
nor plan of administration led him to severity, some examples, after
such a bloody and triumphant rebellion, seemed necessary; and the
Marquis of Argyle and one Guthrie were pitched upon as the victims....
Guthrie was a seditious preacher, and had personally affronted the
king: his punishment gave surprise to nobody.” On this passage, we have
to observe, that Guthrie was not a person unknown or insignificant,
to be spoken of thus contemptuously (_one Guthrie_); and in denial
the latter statements, to quote the following extract from Wodrow,
whose testimony we do not hesitate to prefer to that of Hume, neither
quoting their authority. “The king himself was so sensible of his
(Guthrie’s) good services to him and his interest when at the lowest,
and of the severity of this sentence, that when he got notice of it,
he asked with some warmth, ‘And what have you done with Mr. Patrick
Gillespie?’ It was answered that Mr. Gillespie had so many friends in
the house, his life could not be taken. ‘Well,’ said the king, ‘if I
had known you would have spared Mr. Gillespie, I would have spared
Mr. Guthrie.’[225] And indeed there was reason for it, as to one
who had been so firm and zealous a supporter of his Majesties title
and interest, and had suffered so much for his continued opposition
to, and disowning of the English usurpation.” And far from being an
insignificant person, whose death might be passed over as a matter of
no account, the greatest pains were taken to induce him to save his
life by[226] making concessions, with the value of which, as coming
from him, the court party were well acquainted. But his offence and
the reason for pursuing him to death are not obscurely hinted at in
the first sentence of our extract from Hume: he had stood up against
invasion of the rights of the Presbyterian kirk, which the king, in
swearing to the Covenant, had bound himself to uphold; and therefore
he was made an example, “to hold over men’s heads the terror of
punishment, till they should have made the requisite compliances with
the new government.” The charge against him was treason and sedition,
founded principally on the language of a petition adopted by a meeting
of ministers, August 23, 1660, of which he was one, and on two
publications, the ‘Western Remonstrance,’ and ‘Causes of God’s Wrath,’
in the sentiments of both of which he expressed his concurrence on his
trial: and in his last speech he acknowledged himself the author of the
latter. From one of his speeches before the parliament, we extract the
following passage, which is worth the attention of those who think that
opinions are to be stifled by violence.

“My lord, my conscience I cannot submit, but this old crazy body, and
mortal flesh I do submit, to do with it whatsoever you will, whether by
death, or banishment, or imprisonment, or anything else; only I beseech
you to ponder well what profit there is in my blood: it is not the
extinguishing of me or many others that will extinguish the Covenant
and work of reformation since the year 1638. My blood, bondage, or
banishment will contribute more for the propagation of those things
than my life or liberty could do, though I should live many years.”[227]

His death, however, was resolved on; and in spite of the vigour of his
defence, and the laxness of the charges against him, on which no lawyer
since the Revolution would have dared to build a charge of constructive
treason, he was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged; which sentence
was carried into effect June 1, 1661. He commenced his dying speech in
these words:—

“Men and brethren, I fear many of you are come hither to gaze, rather
than to be edified by the carriage and last words of a dying man; but
if any have an ear to hear, as I hope some of this great confluence
have, I desire your audience to a few words. I am come hither to lay
down this earthly tabernacle and mortal flesh of mine, and, I bless
God, through his grace, I do it willingly, and not by constraint. I
say, I suffer willingly: if I had been so minded, I might have made a
division, and not been a prisoner; but being conscious to myself of
nothing worthy of death or bonds, I could not stain my innocency with
the suspicion of guiltiness, by my withdrawing; neither have I wanted
opportunities and advantages to escape since I was prisoner,—not by the
fault of my keepers, God knoweth, but otherwise; but neither for this
had I light or liberty, lest I should reflect upon the Lord’s name, and
offend the generation of the righteous: and if some men have not been
mistaken, or dealt deceitfully in telling me so, I might have avoided
not only the severity of the sentence, but also had much favour and
countenance in complying with the courses of the times. But I durst not
redeem my life with the loss of my integrity, God knoweth I durst not;
and that since I was prisoner, he hath so holden me by the hand, that
he never suffered me to bring it in debate in my inward thoughts, much
less to propose or hearken to any overture of that kind. I did judge
it better to suffer than to sin; and therefore I am come hither to lay
down my life this day.”

He proceeded to justify his own loyalty, and the conduct for which
he was condemned, as in no way treasonable or seditious, but a
conscientious upholding of the rights and privileges of the church: and
bearing testimony to the sacredness of the Covenant, and to his own
adherence to it, and to the doctrine and discipline of the Presbyterian
church, he concluded in an exalted strain of piety and thankfulness,
and met his death, according to the testimony of Burnet, above quoted,
with the utmost tranquillity.

“It was very confidently asserted at this time, that some weeks
after Mr. Guthrie’s head had been set up on the Netherbow Port in
Edinburgh, the commissioner’s coach coming down that way, several drops
of blood fell from the head upon the coach, which all their art and
diligence could not wipe off. I have it very confidently affirmed,
that physicians were called, and inquired if any natural cause could
be assigned for the blood dropping so long after the head was put up,
and especially for it not washing out of the leather; and they could
give none. This odd incident beginning to be talked of, and all other
methods being tried, at length the leather was removed, and a new
cover put on: this was much sooner done than the wiping off the guilt
of this great and good man’s blood from the shedders of it, and this
poor nation. The above report I shall say no more of; it was generally
spoken of at the time, and is yet firmly believed by many: at this
distance I cannot fully vouch it as certain; perhaps it may be thought
too miraculous for the age we are now in: but this I will affirm, that
Mr. Guthrie’s blood was of so crying a nature, that even Sir George
Mackenzie was sensible that all his rhetoric, though he was a great
master in that sort, had not been sufficient to drown it, for which
cause he very wisely passed it over in silence.”[228]

This is rather a remarkable instance of a common superstition. The
reader who will consult the original authorities, will be struck by
the elevated tone of joyful anticipation with which the sufferers of
this period almost uniformly met death. See the accounts of King,
Mackail, Renwick, and many others. Compare these deaths with those
of Socrates or Cato, and we have the best exemplification of the
practical difference between Christianity and Heathenism, even in its
purest forms. “The Heathen looked on death without fear, the Christian

The English reader will naturally look in a chapter devoted to the
subjects by which this is occupied, for some account of the persecution
of the reformed church of his own country in the reign of Mary. This
is a period very different in character from that persecution of
the Scottish Presbyterians, which we have just described, but not
inferior in interest. Their stubborn opposition for conscience’ sake
is well contrasted by the mild submission of the English reformers
for conscience’ sake also; as the ascetic lives, and in many cases
the stern and gloomy tenets of the former are contrasted with the
innocent and decent cheerfulness, and more attractive doctrines
encouraged, practised, and preached, by the latter. These differences
may be explained by various causes, arising from a difference of
national character and natural circumstances. The Scotch have always
been a people not lightly moved, but stern in temper, and stubborn
in endurance when roused into action: and their wild country and
defensible fastnesses rendered it easy, in the first instance, to
withdraw from vexatious interference, in the second, when pursued, to
oppose violence successfully. And besides, the resolute resistance of
the Cameronians and others was the fruit of a spirit of independence
of long growth, fostered by long contests with the crown, both in
England and Scotland; and the civil wars had effectually broken
down the notion, that it was forbidden to take up arms, even for
conscience’ sake, against the powers that be. That their conduct, if
not always judicious, was in its main principles worthy of honour and
admiration, we have already stated to be our opinion: but we are not on
that account less ready to admire the calm submission of the English
reformers, coupled with their resolute upholding of the truth. The
Scottish zealots had studied the Old Testament till they had imbibed
rather too much of the Jewish temper: the conduct of the fathers of our
church was full of the very spirit of Christianity. The latter were not
more distinguished than the former for uprightness of life, devotion to
the truth, as they received it, or readiness to seal their adherence
to it by death. But they had the advantage in depth of learning, in a
more temperate gravity of conduct, and soundness of judgment: and it
is on these accounts, as well as by reason of the more eminent station
which they filled in the eyes of the world, that they have always been
reverenced as shining lights; while the persecuted sects of Scotland
were long regarded by those who were but generally acquainted with that
period of our history, either with hatred or contempt in proportion
as the cruel extravagances of a few, or the so–called moroseness, and
puritanical precision of the many, made most impression.

The stories of Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, and others high in
rank, are familiarly known even to children, in whose limited
circle of historical reading the horrors of this period have been
suffered to hold too prominent a place. Less known to fame, yet not
inferior to any, it should seem, in the qualities of the heart and
the understanding, was he whose memorable death we have selected for
narration; and in whose rustic simplicity of deportment, and somewhat
coarse jocularity, and grotesque contour of person (a circumstance
which is to be inferred from various parts of the narrative), we trace
a resemblance, slight, and unimportant, yet not uninteresting, to the
Athenian philosopher, as well as in his care, retained to the last,
for the feelings and welfare of his friends, and his resolute refusal
to compromise the goodness of his cause by flight.

“Of Rowland Taylor (says Bishop Heber) neither the name nor the
misfortunes are obscure. He was distinguished among the divines of the
Reformation for his abilities, his learning, and piety; and he suffered
death at the stake on Aldham Common, near Hadleigh, in the third year
of Queen Mary, amid the blessings and lamentations of his parishioners,
and with a courageous and kindly cheerfulness which has scarcely its
parallel, even in those days of religious heroism.”

“There is nothing indeed more beautiful, in the whole beautiful Book
of Martyrs, than the account which Fox has given of Rowland Taylor,
whether in the discharge of his duty as a parish priest, or in the
more arduous moments when he was called on to bear his cross in the
cause of religion. His warmth of heart, his simplicity of manners,
the total absence of the false stimulants of enthusiasm or pride, and
the abundant overflow of better and holier feelings, are delineated,
no less than his courage in death, and the buoyant cheerfulness with
which he encountered it, with a spirit only inferior to the eloquence
and dignity of the Phædon. Something, indeed, must be allowed for the
manners of the age, before we can be reconciled to the coarse vigour
of his pleasantry, his jocose menace to Bonner, and his jests with the
Sheriff on his own stature and corpulency. But nothing can be more
delightfully told than his refusal to fly from the Lord Chancellor’s
officers; his dignified yet modest determination to await death in the
discharge of his duty; and his affectionate and courageous parting with
his wife and children. His recollection, when led to the stake, of
‘the blind man and woman,’ his pensioners, is of the same delightful
character; nor has Plato anything more touching than the lamentation of
his parishioners over his dishonoured head and long white beard, and
his own meek rebuke to the wretch who drew blood from that venerable
countenance. Let not my readers blame me for this digression. They
will have cause to thank me, if it induces them to refer to a history
which few men have ever read without its making them ‘sadder and

Rowland Taylor, “a right perfect divine,” and parish priest, according
to the manners of the time, was chaplain to Archbishop Cranmer; but
on being appointed rector of Hadleigh, a small town in Suffolk, he
quitted his patron’s family, to devote himself entirely to the care of
his living; and by his diligent study, and preaching, and attention
to the temporal as well as spiritual welfare of his people, he both
recommended the doctrines which he taught, and acquired the esteem and
love of his parishioners in an uncommon degree. Such was his occupation
and character during the reign of Edward VI.: on the accession of Mary,
he was one of the first to suffer for his adherence to the church and
to the laws, in consequence of his resistance to the attempts made
to reinstate Popish priests and Popish ceremonies in the parochial
churches. In this scheme to reconcile England to the Pope, the
renegade Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and the brutal and ferocious
Bonner, Bishop of London, who figure prominently in the following
narrative, were the most zealous actors. The length and prolix style
of the original forbids us to extract the entire story from the Book
of Martyrs; but we shall adhere to it as closely as we can, as well
for the sake of giving (according to the principle laid down in our
introduction) a specimen of the style of that remarkable work, as for
the characteristic touches and intrinsic beauty of a great part of
the narration. It begins with an account of Taylor’s character and
parochial labours up to the death of Edward VI., and the subsequent
attempts of his sister and successor Mary, to restore, by violence, the
supremacy of the Roman Catholic religion.

“In the beginning of this rage of Antichrist (1553), a certain petie
gentleman, after the sort of a lawyer, called Foster, a bitter
persecutor in those days, with one John Clerk, of Hadley, conspired
to bring in the Pope and his maumetrie[231] again into Hadley Church.
To this purpose they builded up with all haste possible the altar,
intending to bring in their masse againe, about the Palme Sunday. But
this their device took none effect; for in the night the altar was
beaten down; wherefore they built it up againe the second time, and
laid diligent watch, lest any should againe break it down.

“On the day following came Foster and John Clerk, bringing with them
their Popish sacrificer, who brought with him all his implements and
garments to play his Popish pageant, whom they and their men guarded
with swords and bucklers, lest any man should disturbe him in his
missall sacrifice.

“When Dr. Taylor, who (according to his custome) sat at his booke
studying the word of God, heard the bels ring, hee arose, and went into
the church, supposing something had been there to be done, according
to his pastorall office: and coming to the church, he found the church
doores shut, and fast barred, saving the chancel doore, which was only
latched, where he entering, and comming into the chancell, saw a Popish
sacrificer in his robes, with a broad new shaven crown, ready to begin
his Popish sacrifice, beset about with drawn swords and bucklers, lest
any man should approach to disturbe him.

“Then said Dr. Taylor, ‘Thou divell, who made thee so bold to enter
into this church of Christ, to prophane and defile it with this
abominable idolatry?’ With that start up Foster, and, with an ireful
and furious countenance, said to Dr. Taylor, ‘Thou traitor, what doest
thou here, to let and disturb the Queene’s proceedings?’ Dr. Taylor
answered, ‘I am no traitor, but I am the shepherd that God, my Lord
Christ, hath appointed to feed this his flock; wherefore I have good
authority to bee here, and I command thee, thou Popish wolf, in the
name of God, to avoid hence, and not to presume here with such Popish
idolatry to poison Christ’s flock.’”

Taylor being violently put out of the church, the mass was continued.
But he was a man to be feared for his integrity, courage, and ability,
and therefore to be destroyed: and in those times, the transaction
which we have just related furnished means of proceeding against him
under colour of law. In a few days, upon complaint of Clerk and Foster,
he was cited to appear before Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and Lord
Chancellor. “When his friends heard this, they earnestly counselled him
to depart and flye; alledging and declaring unto him, that he could
neither be indifferently heard to speak his conscience and mind, nor
yet look for justice or favour at the said Chancellor’s hands, who, as
it was well knowne, was most fierce and cruell; but must needs (if he
went up to him) wait for imprisonment and cruell death at his hands.”

“Then said Dr. Taylor to his friends, ‘Dear friends, I most heartily
thank you that you have so tender a care over mee; and although I
know that there is neither justice nor truth to be looked for at my
adversaries’ hands, but rather imprisonment and cruell death, yet I
know my cause to be so good and righteous, and the truth so strong on
my side, that I will, by God’s grace, go and appear before them, and to
their beards resist their false doings.’”

In this mind, though strongly urged to fly, he continued, and took his
journey to London on horseback, with a trusty servant named John Hull,
who on the way “laboured to counsel and perswade him very earnestly to
fly, and not to come to the Bishop; and proffered himselfe to go with
him to save him, and in all perils to venture his life for him and with
him. But in no wise would Dr. Taylor consent or agree thereunto. Thus
they came up to London, and shortly after, Taylor presented himself
before the Bishop of Winchester.”

The account of this conference is amusing as well as interesting, but
it is both too long and too theological to extract. Taylor, however,
according to the reporter, had altogether the best of it, except in
the conclusion, which was effected by what Fox, in his marginal note,
quaintly calls “Winchester’s strong argument, Carry him to prison.”
He remained in the King’s Bench about a year and three–quarters, “in
the which time the Papists got certain old tyrannous lawes, which were
put down by King Henry VIII. and by King Edward, to be revived again
by Parliament, so that now they might, _ex officio_, cite whom they
would upon their own suspicion, and charge him with what articles
they lusted, and, except they in all things agreed to their purpose,
burne them. When these laws were once established, they sent for Dr.
Taylor, with certain other prisoners, which were againe convened before
the Chancellor, and other Commissioners, about the 22d of January,
1555. The purport and effect of which talke between them, because it
is sufficiently described by himselfe in his owne letter, written
to a friend of his, I have annexed the said letter here under, as
followeth[232].... After that Dr. Taylor thus, with great spirit and
courage, had answered for himselfe, and stoutly rebuked his adversaries
for breaking their oath made before to King Henry, and to King Edward
his sonne, and for betraying the realme into the power of the Roman
Bishop; they, perceiving that in no case could he be stirred to their
wills and purpose, committed him thereupon to prison againe, where he
endured till the last of January.”

On that day he was again brought before Winchester and other bishops,
and condemned to death. Being a priest, however, he was to be degraded
before he was delivered to the civil power, and Bonner was appointed to
perform that office. “Well,” quoth the Bishop, “I am come to degrade
you; wherefore put on these vestures.”[233] “No,” quoth Dr. Taylor, “I
will not.” “Wilt thou not?” said the Bishop. “I shall make thee, ere I
go.” Quoth Dr. Taylor, “You shall not, by the grace of God.” Then he
charged him upon his obedience to do it; but he would not do it for him.

“So he willed another to put them on his backe; and when he was
thoroughly furnished therewith, he set his hands to his side, walking
up and down, and said, ‘How say you, my Lord, am I not a goodly foole?
How say you, my Masters? If I were in Cheape, should I not have boyes
enow to laugh at these apish toyes and toying trumpery?’ So the Bishop
scraped his fingers, thumbes, and the crowne of his head, and did the
rest of such like divellish observances.

“At the last, when he should have given Dr. Taylor a stroke on the
breast with his crosier–staffe, the Bishop’s Chaplain said, ‘My Lord,
strike him not, for he will sure strike againe.’ ‘Yea, by St. Peter,
will I,’ quoth Dr. Taylor, ‘the cause is Christ’s, and I were no good
Christian if I would not fight in my Master’s quarrell.’ So the Bishop
laid his curse on him, but struck him not.... And when hee came up, he
told Master Bradford (for then both lay in one chamber) that he had
made the Bishop of London afraid: ‘for,’ saith he laughingly, ‘his
Chaplain gave him counsell not to strike me with his crosier–staffe,
for that I would strike againe; and, by my troth,’ said he, rubbing his
hands, ‘I made him believe I would doe so indeed.’”

After this ceremony he was delivered to the secular power. His last
interview with his family is thus simply told. “Now when the Sheriffe
and his company came against St. Botolph church (in Aldgate), Elizabeth
cried, saying, ‘O my deare Father! Mother, Mother, here is my father
led away.’ Then cried his wife, ‘Rowland, Rowland, where art thou?’ for
it was a verie darke morning, that the one could not see the other. Dr.
Taylor answered, ‘Deare wife, I am here,’ and staid. The Sheriffe’s
men would have led him forth, but the Sheriffe said, ‘Stay a little,
maisters, I praie you, and let him speake to his wife;’ and so they

“Then came she to him; and he tooke his daughter Mary in his armes, and
he, his wife, and Elizabeth, kneeled down and said the Lord’s Praier:
at which sight the Sheriffe wept apace, and so did divers other of the
company. After they had praied, he rose up and kissed his wife, and
shooke her by the hand, and said, ‘Farewell, my deare wife, bee of good
comfort, for I am quiet in my conscience. God shall stir up a father
for my children.’ And then he kissed his daughter Mary, and said, ‘God
blesse thee, and make thee his servant:’ and kissing Elizabeth, hee
said, ‘God blesse thee, I praie you all stand strong and stedfast unto
Christ and his worde, and keep you from idolatry.’ Then said his wife,
‘God be with thee, dear Rowland. I will with God’s grace meet thee at

“And so he was led forth to the Woolsack.... And at his comming out,
John Hull before spoken of stood at the railes with Dr. Taylor’s sonne.
When Dr. Taylor saw them, he called them, saying, ‘Come hither, my
sonne Thomas;’ and John Hull lifted up the child, and set him on the
horse before his father. Then lifted he up his eyes toward heaven, and
praied for his sonne, laide his hatte on the child’s head, and blessed
him, and so delivered the child to John Hull, whom he tooke by the
hand, and said, ‘Farewell, John Hull, the faithfullest servant that
ever man had.’ And so they rode forth: the Sheriffe of Essex, with
foure yeomen of the guard, and the Sheriffe’s men leading him.”

He was thus conducted to Hadley, in the neighbourhood of which was
appointed the place of his execution, at Aldham Moor. The even and
cheerful tenour of his mind is evinced in many points of our past
narrative, and confirmed by witnesses. “They that were present, and
familiarly conversant with this Dr. Taylor, reported of him that they
never did see in him any feare of death; but especially and above all
the rest, which besides him suffered at the same time, always shewed
himselfe merry and cheerful in time of his imprisonment, as well before
his condemnation as after: he kept one countenance and like behaviour.
Whereunto he was rather confirmed by the company and presence of Mr.
John Bradford, who then was in prison and chamber with him. The same
morning, when he was called up by the Sheriffe to go to his burning,
he cast his armes about a balk which was in the chamber between Mr.
Bradford’s bed and his; and there hanging by the hands, said to Mr.
Bradford, ‘O, Mr. Bradford,’ said he, ‘what a notable sway should I
give if I were hanged,’ meaning for that he was a corpulent and big
man.” His unusual stature seems to have been a favourite subject for
jesting with him; for we find a very elaborate piece of quizzing on the
same subject, approximating in character to that species of wit which
is sometimes denominated _trotting_. It runs thus:—

“At Chelmsford, the Sheriff of Essex, being about to deliver up his
prisoner to the Sheriff of Suffolk, sought, as they sat at supper, to
induce him to recant. After using the common topics, he concludes,
‘Ye should do much better to revoke your opinions, and return to the
Catholike church of Rome: if ye will, doubt ye not but ye shall find
favour at the Queene’s hands. This councell I give you, good Mr.
Doctor, of a good heart, and good will toward you; and thereupon I
drink to you. In like manner said all the Yeomen of the Guard. Upon
that condition, Mr. Doctor, we will all drink to you.’

“When they had all drunk to him, and the cup was come to him, he
stayed a little, as one studying what answer he might give. At the last
thus he answered, and said, ‘Master Sheriffe, and my masters all, I
heartily thank you for your good will; I have hearkened to your words,
and marked well your counsels; and, to be plain with you, I do perceive
that I have been deceived myself, and am likely to deceive a great many
of Hadley of their expectation.’ With that word they all rejoiced.
‘Yea, good Master Doctor,’ quoth the Sheriffe, ‘God’s blessing on your
heart, hold you there still. It is the comfortablest word that we heard
you speak yet. What, should ye cast yourself away in vaine: play a wise
man’s part, and I dare warrant it, ye shall finde favour.’ Thus they
rejoiced very much at the word, and were very merry.

“At the last, ‘Good Master Doctor,’ quoth the Sheriffe, ‘what meane ye
by this, that ye said ye think ye have been deceived yourselfe, and
think ye shall deceive many one in Hadley?’ ‘Would ye know my meaning
plainly?’ quoth he. ‘Yea,’ quoth the Sheriffe, ‘good Master Doctor,
tell it us plainly.’

“‘Then,’ said Dr. Taylor, ‘I will tell you how I have been deceived,
and, as I think, I shall deceive a great many more: I am, as you see,
a man that has a very great carkasse, which I thought should have been
buried in Hadley church–yard, if I had died in my bed, as I well hoped
I should have done; but herein I see I was deceived: and there are a
great number of wormes in Hadley church–yard, which should have had
jolly feeding on this carrion; which they have looked for many a day.
But now I know we be deceived, both I and they; for this carkasse must
be burnt to ashes, and so shall they lose their bait and feeding, that
they looked to have had of it.’

“When the Sheriffe and his company heard him say so, they were amazed,
and looked one on another, marvelling at the man’s constant minde,
that thus without all feare made a jest of the cruell torment, and
death now at hand prepared for him. Thus was their expectation clean
disappointed. And in this appeareth what was his meditation in his
chiefest wealth and prosperity, namely, that he should shortly die,
and feed wormes in his grave; which meditation, if all our Bishops and
spirituall men had used, they had not, for a little worldly glory,
forsaken the word of God and truth which they in King Edward’s days
had preached and set forth, nor yet to maintain the Bishop of Rome’s
authority, have committed to the fire so many as they did.”

“At Lavenham, a small town near Bury, where the cavalcade remained two
days, the attempts to induce him to recant were renewed by the Sheriffe
and gentlemen of the county, of whom there was a great concourse,
with the promise even of promotion to a bishopric. On the 8th of
February he was brought out to complete his earthly journey. The same
spirit animated him to the end. On the way, being alighted from his
horse, ‘he lept, and fet a friske or twaine,’ as men commonly do in
dauncing. ‘Why, Master Doctor,’ quoth the Sheriffe, ‘how do you now?’
He answered, ‘Well, God be praised, good Master Sheriffe, never better;
for now I know I am almost at home. I lack not past two stiles to go
over, and I am even at my father’s house; but Master Sheriffe,’ said
he, ‘shall we not go thorow Hadley?’ ‘Yes,’ quoth the Sheriffe, ‘you
shall go thorow Hadley.’ ‘Then,’ said he, ‘O good Lord, I thank thee, I
shall yet once again ere I die, see my flock, whom thou, Lord, knowest
I have most heartily loved, and truely taught.’

“This wish being gratified, his last hours were soothed by the accents
which of all must have been most grateful, the prayers and blessings
of the poor, to whom he had been as a father in the relieving of their
corporeal wants. The street of Hadley was lined with those who invoked
succour and strength for him, mingled with exclamations of woe at the
grievous loss which had befallen themselves. Nor in his own extremity
did he forget the humblest and most needy of those who had been objects
of his care: but stopping by the alms–houses he cast out of a glove to
the inmates of them such money as remained of what charitable persons
had given for his support in prison (his benefices being sequestrated):
and missing two of them, he asked, ‘Is the blind man and blind woman
that dwelt here alive?’ He was answered, ‘Yea, they are there within.’
Then threw he glove and all in at the window, and so rode forth. Thus
this good father and provider for the poore took his leave of those for
whom all his life he had a singular care and studie.

“At the last, coming to Aldham Common, the place assigned where
he should suffer, and seeing a great multitude of people gathered
together, he asked, ‘What place is this; and what meaneth it that
so much people are gathered hither?’ It was answered, ‘It is Aldham
Common, the place where you must suffer; and the people are come to
looke upon you.’ ‘Then,’ said he, ‘thanked be God, I am even at home;
and so light from his horse, and with both his hands rent the hood from
his head.

“Now was his head notted evil favourably, and clipped much like as a
man would clip a foole’s head, which cost the good Bishop Bonner had
bestowed upon him when he degraded him. But when the people saw his
reverend and ancient face with a long white beard, they burst out with
weeping teares, and cried saying, ‘God save thee, good Doctor Taylor!’
with such other like godly wishes. Then would he have spoken to the
people, but the yeomen of the guard were so busie about him, that as
soon as he opened his mouth, one or other thrust a tippestaff into his
mouth, and would in nowise permit him to speak.

“As they were piling the faggots, one Warwick cruelly cast a faggot at
him, which light on his head and broke his face, that the bloud ran
down his visage. Then said Dr. Taylor, ‘O friend, I have harme enough;
what needed that?’”

Here we take leave of him; for it is needless again to enter into the
revolting details of the barbarous method of execution especially
prescribed for errors in matters of faith. The affection borne towards
him was beautifully manifested in a poor woman, who knelt at the stake
to join in his prayers, and could not be driven away by threats or
fear. His last moments were like his life, tranquil, fearless, and

Here, for the present at all events, we close this work. We have now
traced the Grecian nation from the outset of authentic history to the
period of its utmost greatness in arms, arts, and letters: and in doing
so, according to the plan laid down in our introduction, we hope to
have accumulated a mass of historical anecdotes, which, independent
of their intrinsic beauty or interest, may possess a further value,
as tending to throw some light one on another. Like the close of
the Persian war, the close of the Peloponnesian war is a remarkable
epoch: the former marks the beginning of the greatness, the latter the
beginning of the decline of Greece. From thenceforward the history of
Greece becomes more complicated, and our authorities less satisfactory;
inasmuch as, at the close of Xenophon’s Hellenics, we lose that series
of admirable contemporary writers who have hitherto guided us; and
the late compilers, such as Diodorus and Plutarch, make no adequate
amends for the loss. The study, therefore, of the succeeding portion
of history becomes less agreeable and more difficult: at the same time
there is no want of remarkable incidents; for if the annals of Athens
and Sparta become less important, the rise of Thebes to its short–lived
power, the sudden growth of Thessaly under Jason of Pheræ, of Macedonia
under Philip, and, above all, the renovation of the old Grecian spirit
in the Achæan league, would supply abundance to fill another volume,
which should bring down the history of Greece to its final absorption
into the Roman empire.


  Arginusæ, battle of, 198–205.

  Aristophanes, Knights of, 134–147.

  Athenians, expedition against Sicily, 171–190

  Brown, execution of John, 261–263.

  Circumvallation, lines of, 6, 7, 31.

  Cleon, 121, 122, 134–148.

  Comedy, Greek, account of, 129–134.

  Constantinople, factions of circus, 103–112.

  Corcyrean sedition, 78–96.

  Guthrie, James, execution of, 265–270.

  Hawkwood, retreat of Sir J., 194–197

  Hermæ, mutilation of, 169, 170.

  Huss, John, 244–254.

  Jacquerie, 98–101.

  Jerome of Prague, 255–257.

  Jerusalem, siege of, 32–36.

  Knights of Aristophanes, 134–147.

  Magdeburg, siege of, 50–62.

  Massacre of September 1792, 112–120.

  Ney, retreat from Moscow, 190–194.

  Nika sedition, 111.

  Peloponnesian war, end of, 214–217.

  Numantia, siege of, 19–22.

  Oates, Titus, 160–168.

  Ostend, siege of, 39–50.

  Persecutions, civil and religious, 244–283.

  Platæa, siege of, 5–19.

  Popish plot, 149–160.

  Portobello, taken by Vernon, 127–129.

  Prelacy, attempted to be restored in Scotland, 257–270.

  Presbyterians, persecution of, ibid.

  Reformation in England, 270–283.

  Réole, La, siege of, 37.

  Retreat of Athenians from Syracuse, 178–189;

  Rome, civil wars of, compared with seditions in Greece, 95–97.

  September, 1792, massacre of, 112–120.

  Sicilian expedition, 171–190.

  Siege of Platæa, 5–19;

  Socrates, history, character, and death of, 218–243.

  Sphacteria, capture of Spartans at, 126.

  Syracuse, besieged by Marcellus, 28–31;
    — by Athenians, 177.

  Taylor, Rowland, burnt for heresy, 272–283.

  Tyre, siege of, 25–28.

  Witts, De, massacre of, 205–214.

  Zaragoza, siege of, 63–77.


  Alp Arslan, vol. i. page 93.

  Antony, retreat of, from Parthia, i. 211–213.

  Arginusæ, battle of, iii. 198–205.

  Aristides, ii. 131, 132, 139, 140, 143.

  Aristogiton, i. 169–174.

  Aristomenes, i. 40–54.

  Aristophanes, Knights of, iii. 134–147.

  Armada, Spanish, ii. 112–126.

  Athenians, expedition against Sicily, iii. 171–190

  Athens, plague of, ii. 166, 169–177.

  Bajazet, imprisoned by Tamerlane, i. 86.

  ——, his treatment of French prisoners, i, 88–92.

  Brooke, death of Lord, i. 134.

  Brown, execution of John, iii. 261–263.

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

  Caligula, i. 134–143.

  Cambyses, i. 120–131.

  Cid, Chronicle of, ii. 25–28.

  Cimon, policy of, ii. 143–146.

  Circumvallation, lines of, iii. 6, 7, 31.

  Cleomenes, i. 132, 133.

  Cleon, iii. 121, 122, 134–148.

  Comedy, Greek, account of, iii. 129–134.

  Constantinople, factions of circus, iii. 103–112.

  ———plague of, ii. 178–183.

  Corcyrean sedition, iii. 78–96.

  Crassus, retreat and death of, i. 198–211.

  Crœsus, i. 77–80, 156.

  Cylon, insurrection of, i. 154.

  Darius, invasion of Scythia by, i. 190–198.

  Drageschan, battle of, ii. 74.

  Education, Athenians, ii. 152–157.

  England, state of, under first Norman kings, i. 23–27.

  Fatalism, i. 156–161.

  Florence, plague of, ii. 184–197.

  Greek history, mythic period of, i. 11–13, 21–23.

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

  Guthrie, James, execution of, iii. 265–270.

  Harmodius, i. 169–174.

  Hawkwood, retreat of Sir J., iii. 194–197

  Hereward le Wake, i. 54–58.

  Hermæ, mutilation of, iii. 169, 170.

  Hipparchus and Hippias, i. 168–174.

  Huss, John, iii. 244–254.

  Jacquerie, iii. 98–101.

  Jaques, St., battle of, ii. 64–69.

  Jerome of Prague, iii. 255–257.

  Jerusalem, siege of, iii. 32–36.

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

  Julian, Emperor, invasion of Parthia, and death, i. 213–223.

  Knights of Aristophanes, iii. 134–147.

  London, plague of, ii. 218–23.

  Magdeburg, siege of, iii. 50–62.

  Marathon, battle of, ii. 13–16.

  Massacre of September, 1792, iii. 112–120.

  Medici, Cosmo de’, i. 175–180.

  ———Piero, i. 181.

  ———Lorenzo and Julian, i. 181–189.

  Messenians, early history of, i. 40–54.

  Milan, plague of, ii. 98–214.

  Miltiades, ii. 127–130.

  Morgarten, battle of, ii. 43–52.

  Napoleon, retreat from Moscow i. 224–237.

  Ney, ditto, iii. 190–194.

  Nika sedition, iii. 111.

  Numantia, siege of, iii. 19–22.

  Oates, Titus, iii. 160–168.

  Ostend, siege of, iii. 39–50.

  Paul, Emperor, i. 143–152.

  Pazzi, conspiracy of, i. 183–189.

  Pedro, Don, King of Castile, i. 31–36.

  Peloponnesian war, origin of, ii. 158–163.

  ———end of, iii. 214–217.

  Pericles, policy of, ii. 147–152.

  Persecutions, civil and religious, iii. 244–283.

  Pisistratus, i. 163–168.

  Plague, historians who have described it, ii. 164–166;
    ——principal recorded, 166–169;
    ——of Athens, 169–177;
    ——of Constantinople, 177–183;
    ——of Florence, 184–198;
    ——of Milan, 198–214;
    ——medical treatment and state of science 214–218;
    ——of London, 218–231.

  Platæa, siege of, iii. 5–19.

  Popish plot, iii. 149–160.

  Portobello, taken by Vernon, iii. 127–129.

  Power, effects of absolute, i. 114–119.

  Prelacy, attempted to be restored in Scotland, iii. 257–270.

  Presbyterians, persecution of, ibid.

  Prisoners of war, treatment of, i. 77–113.

  Reading, Aloys, ii. 48.

  Reedman, Sir Matthew, anecdote from Froissart, i. 100–102.

  Reformation in England, iii. 270–283.

  Réole, La, siege of, iii. 37.

  Retreat of Darius from Scythia, i. 196–198;
    ——Antony from Parthia, 211–213;
    ——Julian in Assyria, 213–223;
    ——Napoleon from Moscow, 225–237;
    ——Athenians from Syracuse, iii. 178–189;
    ——Ney in Russia, 190, 194;
    ——Hawkwood in Lombardy, 194–197.

  Rome, civil wars of, compared with seditions in Greece, iii. 95–97.

  Roncesvalles, battle of, i. 74–85.

  Salamis, battle of, ii. 86–103.

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

  Sempach, battle of, ii. 49–54; Law of, 68.

  September, 1792, massacre of, iii. 112–120.

  Sicilian expedition, iii. 171–190.

  Siege of La Valette, ii. 69–72;
    ——of Leyden, ii. 103–112;
    ——of Platæa, iii. 5–19;
    ——methods of the ancients, their rudeness and little improvement,
      until the use of gunpowder, 22–27, 29–32;
    ——Introduction of cannon, 38, 39;
    ——Siege of Numantia, 19–22;
    ——of Tyre, 25–28;
    ——Syracuse, by Marcellus, 28–31;
    ——by Athenians, 177;
    ——of Jerusalem, 32–36;
    ——of La Réole, 37;
    ——of Ostend, 39–50;
    ——of Magdeburg, 50–62;
    ——of Zaragoza, 63–77.

  Sobieski, John, King of Poland, ii. 30–41.

  Socrates, history, character, and death of, iii. 218–243.

  Sophists, ii. 153–157.

  Sphacteria, capture of Spartans at, iii. 126.

  Syracuse, besieged by Marcellus, iii. 28–31;
    ——by Athenians, 177.

  Taylor, Rowland, burnt for heresy, iii. 272–283.

  Themistocles, character and policy of, ii. 133–140.

  Thermopylæ, battle of, ii. 55–64

  Tours, battle of, ii. 23–25.

  Triumphs, Roman, i. 82–86.

  Trojan War, i. 36–39.

  Tyre, siege of, iii. 25–28.

  Valerian, treatment by Sapor, i. 85, 86.

  Valette, La, siege of, ii. 69–72.

  Vienne, siege by Turks, and battle, ii. 30–41.

  Wallace, i. 58–76.

  Witts, De, massacre of, iii. 205–214.

  Xerxes, invasion of Greece by, ii. 5–22, 55–64.

  Zaragoza, siege of, iii. 63–77.

                               THE END.

           London: WILLIAM CLOWES and SONS, Stamford–street.


[1] Vol. i. p. 51.

[2] Herod. i. 190.

[3] See the siege of Alesia, vii. 72, or the circumvallation of Pompey
at Dyrrachium, by Cæsar’s army, Bell. Civ. iii. 42. The lines of
Torres Vedras, drawn by the British in the Peninsular war, may however
compete, for their extent and the labour bestowed on them, with any of
these ancient works.

[4] After the battle of Platæa, the Athenians and Lacedæmonians
contending for the _aristeia_, or prize for having behaved best in the
battle, that honour, by the mediation of the Corinthians, was conferred
on the Platæans, whose signal zeal throughout the Persian war was
admitted, on all hands, to deserve such a distinction. At the same
time a yearly sacrifice was appointed to be held at Platæa in honour
of the slain; and a sort of sacred character was conferred both on the
Platæans and their territory, with the privileges here enumerated.

[5] Dr. Arnold observes that this is a good instance of that feature of
Greek polytheism by which the gods were known and honoured as standing
in particular relations to mankind, not as the general moral governors
of the world. Three classes of gods were here invoked, each as having a
special point of honour involved in the observation of the oaths here
mentioned: those whose names were pledged to the observance of it, and
who would be personally affronted by its violation; the ancestral gods
_θεοὶ πατρῷοι_ of the Lacedæmonians, who would take it ill that the act
of their descendant, Pausanias, should be disregarded, or the tombs of
the Lacedæmonians at Platæa neglected or profaned; and the local gods
_θεοὶ ἐγχώριοι_, to whom the territory was as a home, and who must
expect to be denied their worship, if their country should be occupied
by strangers, who would bring their own gods along with them.

[6] Such a _natural_ fire, therefore, may have been still greater.

[7] That is, when the star begins to rise before the sun, and so first
becomes visible in the morning. This in the case of Arcturus occurred
about the middle of September.

[8] Thucyd. ii. 71, 78.

[9] There is no mention of these three hundred where the author
relateth the laying of siege; but it must be understood.

[10] Thucyd. iii. 21–24.

[11] Thucyd. iii. 52, 68.

[12] The end of Numantia is rather differently related by Appian,
who says, that after being reduced to such extremity as to eat human
flesh, they surrendered at discretion, and were sold as slaves; Scipio
retaining fifty of them to grace his triumph. The desperate resolution
of the Saguntines, also a Spanish people, confirms the probability of
Florus’s version. Pressed by Hannibal, the elders of the city collected
the most valuable property, both public and private, into a pile, which
they consumed by fire, and for the most part threw themselves into the
flames. The other male inhabitants slew their wives and children, set
fire to their houses, and perished in them, or else fighting to the

[13] Florus, ii. c. 18.

[14] Arrian, ii. 19.

[15] Mr. Rooke, the English translator of Arrian, observes, that “the
number here must needs be erroneous, though all the copies which I
have seen have it the same.” The height certainly is startling, but it
is hazardous to conclude that it must be wrong. Not to rely over–much
on the walls of Babylon, which, according to the father of history,
were about 350 feet high, the battering towers described by Vitruvius,
185 feet in height, were evidently meant to cope with fortifications
as gigantic in height as those here described. And after all, the
city being built on an abrupt rock, which might perhaps be faced with
masonry, if we suppose the whole height from the sea to the battlements
to be meant, there is nothing improbable in the statement. The total
height of the fortifications of Malta from the sea, we believe, is not
much less.

[16] _δεόντως ἠρμοσμένη πρὸς ἔνια τῶν πραγμάτων μέγά τι χρῆμα φαίνεται
καὶ θαυμάσιον_.

[17] Bell. Gall., vii. 72.

[18] Fairfax’s Tasso, xviii. 43–5.

[19] William of Tyre.

[20] La Réole, a town in Gascony.

[21] Boiled leather, “cuir boulu.”

[22] Pavisses were large shields or defences made of plank, &c., which
archers and others bore before them, or fixed in the earth, that they
might shoot, mine, &c., in partial cover from the shot of the garrison.

[23] Lord Berners’ Froissart, vol. i. cap. 109.

[24] One of these old guns, of remarkable size, made of bars of
hammered iron hooped together, is to be seen in Edinburgh Castle, and
is called Mons Meg.

[25] See the medal at the head of this chapter.

[26] Bentivoglio, Hist. of Wars in Flanders, translated by Henry, Earl
of Monmouth, 1698.

[27] Lotichius, Rerum Germanicarum, lib. xxxvii. p. 1.

[28] Harte’s Life of Gustavus Adolphus.

[29] Legend of Montrose, chap. ii.

[30] Harte’s Life of Gustavus Adolphus.


  Venit summa dies, et inevitable fatum,
  —— —— fuit Ilium, et ingens
  Gloria _Parthenopes_.

Parthenopes, substituted by the quoter for the original word Teucrorum,
has the same meaning as Magdeburg, the maiden city.

[32] Southey, Hist. Peninsular War, chap. ix.

[33] Napier’s History of the Peninsular War, book v. chap. 2.

[34] Attempts made by the French to force their way into the centre of
the city from January 29th to February 2d.

[35] Napier, Hist. of Peninsular War, book v. chap. 3.

[36] _Προξένοι_. The want of public houses of entertainment for
travellers was necessarily supplied by private hospitality. He
whose fortune it was to entertain to–day, of course expected to be
entertained in return when he visited the country of his guest; and
thus were formed hereditary connexions of hospitality, held no less
sacred than the ties of blood. By a natural extension of the practice,
cities formed similar connexions with foreign citizens, who received
their ambassadors, and advocated as far as in them lay both the public
interests of the community, and the private interests of those of its
citizens who required such help. These men were named Proxeni; the
bond of mutual obligation was publicly recorded, and entitled them
to receive as guests the same hospitality and protection which they
afforded as hosts. Etheloproxeni, below translated voluntary hosts,
assumed the same duties, but voluntarily; without the connexion being
publicly acknowledged, and consequently without being entitled to that
public return which the Proxenus claimed as his right.

[37] “Probably vine sticks, round which the vines were trained. To
understand the account given in the text, we must suppose that the
individuals whom Pithias prosecuted were the tenants of the sacred
ground from which the sticks were cut, and possibly had inherited the
possession of it from their ancestors, so that they regarded it from
long use as their own property: just as the Roman aristocracy thought
themselves aggrieved when an Agrarian law called on them to resign the
possession of the national lands which they had for so many generations
appropriated to themselves without any lawful title. As hereditary
tenants of the sacred ground, the Corcyrean nobles had probably been
always in the habit of treating it as their own: so that when suddenly
charged with sacrilege, in abusing their legal rights as tenants, by
cutting down the trees, which belonged not to them, but to the god, the
owner of the land, they, like the Roman nobility, had no legal defence
to make, and could only maintain their encroachments by violence.”
This is Dr. Arnold’s explanation. The Roman aristocracy, however, had
a lawful title to the possession, though not to the full property,
of the lands in question. See Penny Cyclopædia, art. Agrarian Law. A
lease of certain public lands in Attica is preserved in the British
Museum (Elgin Marbles, No. 261), in which the devastation of wood is
especially forbidden. See Boeckh, Public Economy of Athens, English
translation, vol. ii. p. 15. The prosecution and amount of fine were,
however, evidently dictated by party spirit and revenge.

[38] Dr. Arnold supposes the silver stater, or tetradrachm, to be
meant, which is worth, in our coin, between three shillings and three
shillings and sixpence; the tetradrachms vary considerably in weight.
The golden stater, which was worth twenty drachms, ought therefore to
be worth from fifteen shillings to seventeen shillings and sixpence;
but a specimen in the British Museum weighs 132–3/5 grains, which is
about 9½ grains more than a sovereign. Silver therefore seems to have
borne a higher value in relation to gold in Attica than it does in

[39] Arrows, darts, stones, and the like missile weapons.

[40] That came with Nicostratus.

[41] The Greeks had rather singular notions as to the sanctity of
temples. To kill a person within the sacred precincts, or to drag him
away violently, was held sacrilegious; but to wall a suppliant up, and
thus preventing his escape to starve him to death, seems to have been
considered venial, since this mode of proceeding was adopted, in a
former instance, against the king of Sparta, Pausanias. In the latter
case, however, the Delphic oracle pronounced the act a pollution, and
ordered that amends should be made for it to the goddess whose temple
was thus desecrated. See Thucyd. i. 134.

[42] _τοῖς ὀλίγοις_ not few in number, but the leaders of the
oligarchical party.

[43] _Μετάβολαι τῶν ξυντυχιῶν_, changes of the state of things.

[44] Hobbes seems to consider these _ἐταιρίαι_ as associations of
traders or artizans, such as our corporate companies were in their
origin; which is clearly wrong. They would seem to have been more like
the clubs of the French Revolution, formed for the advocacy of certain
opinions, or to promote the safety, and increase the influence of the
several members, by enabling them to act in concert.

[45] By oath.

[46] _Φιλονεικία_, properly that spite which reigneth in two
adversaries whilst they contend, or eagerness in striving. “That is to
say, superadded to the definite motives which lead men to embark in
political contests; they contract, when once embarked in them, a party
spirit wholly distinct from the objects of their party, and which is
sometimes transmitted to their descendants, even when no notions of
the original cause of quarrel are preserved. Such was the case with
the factions of the Circus at Constantinople, and with those deadly
feuds which have prevailed from time to time among the lower classes in
Ireland. In the outrages committed some years ago by the parties called
Caravats and Shanavests, neither the persons who were executed for
these outrages, nor any one else, could tell what was the dispute. It
was notorious who were Caravats and who were Shanavests, and this was

[47] The eighty–fourth chapter of the third book (which is contained
in this paragraph) has recently been pronounced spurious by several
distinguished critics. See the question discussed by Dr. Arnold, vol.
i. p. 608.

[48] Thucyd. iii. 70, 85.

[49] B.C. 425.

[50] _Φορμηδὸν_, signifieth properly, after the manner that mats or
hurdles are platted.

[51] Istone.

[52] Thucyd., iv. 46, 48.

[53] See vol. i. chap. v. p. 154.

[54] Arnold’s Thucydides, App. i. p. 633.

[55] For what little is known or supposed, see Muller’s History of the
Doric Race, book iii. ch. ix. § 5; English Translation, vol. ii.: the
best book of reference for all political information relative to the
Dorian states.

[56] _ἐτύγχανον δὲ καὶ δυνάμει αὐτῶν οἱ πλείους πρῶτοι ὔντες τῆς
πόλεως_, I. 55.

[57] _οἰ ἔχοντες τὰ πράγματα_, III. 72. _οἱ ὀλίγοι_, III. 74.

[58] Cade’s speech to Lord Say, Henry VI. part ii. vol. iv. p. 7.
The last sentence alludes to the law which gave to persons capitally
convicted the benefit of clergy, that is, their lives were spared if
they could read; it being presumed that none but clergy could do so.

[59] Holinshed, vol. ii. p. 746.

[60] Frenzy. The adjective wood, or wode, is of common occurrence in
the Scottish language.

[61] Lord Berners’ Froissart, vol. i. chap. 182, 183.

[62] Ibid., vol. i. chap. 381.

[63] Decline and Fall, chap. xl.

[64] See ‘Ueber die Parteien der Rennbahn, vornehmlich im
Byzantinischen Kaiserthum, von F. Wilken, in von Raumer’s Historisches

[65] Gibbon, chap. xl.

[66] Procopius, Persic., vol. i. chap. 24.

[67] _ἐς ἀφατόν τι εὔρους διεχέχυτο χρῆμα_.

[68] Procopius, Anecdota, chap. vii.

[69] _εἰς τὰ τζαγγαρία εὐρίσκεται_. Calopodius is meant. This name
in Greek means a _last_; _τζαγγάρης_, a shoemaker; _τζαγγαρία_,
shoemakers’ offices. Not. in Theoph.

[70] _όταν εἰς βορδόνην καθέδρωμαι_, or _βουδρώνην_. _βορδων_ is an
ass: the derivative seems only to occur here. Justinian appears to be
meant, who was called the ass, from his habit of moving his ears. See
the anecdotes, chap. 8. _νωθεῖ ὔνῳ ἐμφερὴς μάλιστα, συχνά οἰ σειομένων
τῶν ὤτον_

[71] The father of Justinian.

[72] Theophanes, p. 154, 6, ed. Par. 1655. This last taunt seems rather
misplaced in the mouth of the greens, who had murdered 3000 of their
enemies in the theatre. It is not always easy to trace the connexion
and meaning of the dialogue. This arises partly from the nature of
the language, which very often is hardly grammatical, partly from
its abruptness and frequent allusions to circumstances unexplained
elsewhere. It is also to be found with several various readings in the
notes to the Anecdotes of Procopius, vol. ii. p. 134, ed. Par. 1663.

[73] _τὸν Καίσαρα προτερῆσαι τῶν ᾰλλων οὐ δέον_. Procop., Pers. iii. xi.

[74] Dulaure, ‘Evénemens de la Révolution Française,’ vol. ii. p. 192.

[75] We have not seen his book itself, but there are extracts from it
in Dulaure, and among them a very curious account of his examination
before the tribunal, vol. ii. p. 198.

[76] Scott, Life of Napoleon, vol. ii. p. 47. The authorities for this
account are Mignet, Hist. de la Révolution Française; Montgaillard,
Hist. de France; and Dulaure, as above quoted.

[77] Mitchell’s Aristophanes, vol. i. p. 139.

[78] With respect to the exact locality of Sphacteria, see the memoir
at the end of the second volume of Arnold’s Thucydides.

[79] See vol. i. chap. 2.

[80] North’s Plutarch—Nicias. This reference of all the evils which
befell Athens to the indecorous behaviour of one speaker is rather

[81] Thucycd., iv. 28.

[82] Thucyd. v. 7.

[83] Philological Museum, vol. ii. p. 706.

[84] Mus. Crit. vol. ii. p. 75, _seq._

[85] Mus. Crit., vol. ii. p. 207.

[86] See the Frogs.

[87] Comedy is divided by the Grecian critics into three branches; the
old, the middle, and the new. Of the two latter we know little, since
the works of Aristophanes, the only perfect comedies extant, belong,
with one exception, to the first. It would be foreign to our purpose to
enter here into a description of them; but it may be generally stated
that they were of a milder character; the licence of personality was
gradually retrenched, and with it, the political importance of the
stage. The lines of distinction cannot be drawn with much precision,
but the former of them seems to commence early in the fourth century
B.C., the latter in the reign of Alexander, which began B.C. 336. The
total loss of the new comedy, and especially of Menander, is perhaps
the greatest that classic literature has sustained. It appears from
the remaining fragments to have been of a highly polished and moral
cast. But a good idea of its general form and tendency may be derived
from Plautus and Terence, of whose plays several are little more than
translations from it.

[88] Knights, line 231, ed. Bekk., see the Scholia. It was usual for
authors to perform a part in their own comedies. Aristophanes had not
hitherto complied with this custom.

[89] The following extracts are from Mr. Mitchell’s translation; to
whom apology is due for occasional omissions, where the allusions
would have required a large body of notes to render them generally
intelligible, without being necessary to the general effect of the
passage, and a few slight alterations.

[90] The Athenian judges used beans in giving their votes. Each
received three obols, about five–pence, for his fee, and in one of
the courts the common number of judges was from two to five hundred
or more. The poorer classes made a livelihood in this way, and hence
there sprung an extraordinary love of litigation, which Aristophanes is
continually satirizing. The ‘Wasps’ is expressly directed against it.

[91] Pnyx, the place of general assembly. It was filled with stone
seats, to which reference will be made hereafter.

[92] Cleon’s father was a tanner, and the poet is continually twitting
him with his dirty trade.

[93] Eucrates.

[94] Lysicles.

[95] A mountain torrent of Attica.

[96] It has been generally said that Cleon lost his popularity and
incurred this fine in consequence of the representation of the Knights;
but there is no authority for the former supposition, and the latter is
disproved by the mention of this fine in the opening of the Acharnians,
acted the year before, in the sixth year of the Peloponnesian war. The
prosecution was conducted by the Knights; which probably led to the

[97] In the original it occupies altogether more than 100 lines in a
play of 1400.

[98] Thunder from the right hand was an omen of good fortune. See the
original, ver. 639.

[99] A crown or chaplet was the usual reward of such persons as brought
good news.

[100] A sacrifice and a public feast were synonymous, for only a small
portion of the victims were offered to the gods.

[101] “The sausage–seller in Aristophanes promises to offer a
thousand goats to Artemis Agrotera (outbidding in jest the offering
of thanks for the battle of Marathon), whenever a hundred trichides,
a small kind of fish, were sold for an obolus, which was therefore an
impossibility.” Boeckh, Public Economy of Athens.

[102] The seats in the Pnyx.

[103] _κᾷτα καθίζου μαλακῶς ἵνα μὴ τρίβῃς τἠ ν ἐν Σαλαμίνι_, v. 783.
That the respected member on which the chief stress of the battle of
Salamis had fallen, might be exempt in future from all common friction.

[104] Bacis was an ancient Bœotian seer of high reputation, who
prophesied the Persian invasion among other things: see Herod, viii.
77. The name and existence of Glanis, like the oracles to be produced,
is a ready fiction of the sausage–seller.

[105] We are not answerable for the fidelity of Mr. Mitchell’s
translation of this, or of some other lines. The corresponding line in
the original is indeed hardly susceptible of translation.

[106] A city of Arcadia. A word of similar sound means “lame.”

[107] The Grecians indulged their luxury in the article of
drinking–vessels in an extravagant degree, and every sort of cup had
its peculiar appellation. There is no allusion contained in the names
introduced here.

[108] Pallas, the tutelary deity of Athens.

[109] _Ros._ Take you me for a sponge, my lord?

_Hamlet._ Aye, sir, that soaks up the king’s countenance, his rewards,
his authorities. But such officers do the king best service in the end.
He keeps them, like an ape, in the corner of his jaw; first mouthed,
to be last swallowed. When he needs what you have gleaned, it is but
squeezing, and then, sponge, you shall be dry again.—_Hamlet_, iv. 2.

Mr. Mitchell’s translation is plainly modelled on this passage; and is
more like that than the original. Vespasian is said to have promoted
the most rapacious collectors to the highest offices, whom he was
commonly said to use as _sponges_, that he might squeeze them out when
they had sucked up enough.—_Sueton._ c. 16.

[110] Where he had served Demosthenes the same trick, see p. 232–3.

[111] Cleon had received a chaplet in full assembly from the people.

[112] The lowest tradesmen only took their stand at the gates of the
town: every answer is made to show the utter baseness of Cleon’s rival,
and thus to place himself in the most ignominious light.

[113] Parodied from Euripides’ description of the dying Alcestis taking
leave of her bridal bed, v. 181.

[114] Jupiter, the protector of Greece.

[115] Thucyd. v. 16.

[116] Evelyn’s Memoirs.

[117] Roger North, Examen, p. 204.

[118] Queen Elizabeth’s birth–day. These processions were in 1679 and

[119] Life of Edmund Calamy, vol. i. p. 84.

[120] Burnet, Hist. of his own Times, p. 430. Oates had before only
deposed to a plot among the Jesuits to murder the king.

[121] North’s Examen, p. 186. Oates, in addition to his personal
peculiarities, which are described in a passage presently to be quoted,
was remarkable for a drawling way of speech, which is caricatured
above, “I, Titus Oates,” &c.

[122] Howell’s State Trials, vol. vii. p. 56.

[123] State Trials, vol. vii. p. 120.

[124] Burnet, p. 468.

[125] So in the original. The sense seems to require “not
without.”—Evelyn’s Memoirs.

[126] Evelyn’s Memoirs.

[127] Hist. of his own Times, p. 428.

[128] The readiness of the Athenians to listen to unfounded and
malicious accusations has been noticed in the Knights, and is a
favourite subject of ridicule and reproach throughout Aristophanes. The
following passage of the Wasps is worth notice:—

  Be the fault great or small, this cuckoo song
  Of tyranny rings ever in our ears;
  These fifty years it slept, but now the cry
  Is bandied even at Billingsgate, as stale
  As mackerel in July. Suppose a turbot
  Should suit your palate, straight the sprat–seller
  Next stall exclaims, “Why, this is tyranny!
  No tastes aristocratical in Athens!”

  Or if you buy anchovies, and demand,
  Gratis, a leek for sauce, some herb–woman,
  Squinting, growls out, “So you’re for tyranny,
  Dost think the state will furnish you with garnish?”

  Ver. 488.

[129] See Aristophanes, every where, more particularly in the Knights.
Demus demands from Cleon his ring of office:—

                      Why, how now, rogue?
  This is no ring of mine—it tallies not
  With my device, or much my eyes deceive me.

  _Saus._ Allow me, sir,—what might be your impression?

  _Dem._ A roasted thrium,(1) with thick fat enclosed.

  _Saus._ (_looking at the ring_) I see no thrium.

  _Dem._                                      What the impression, then?

  _Saus._ A wide–mouthed gull, seated upon a rock,
  In act to make a speech.

  _Mitchell_, p. 245. See also ver. 1260. (Ed. Bekk).

(1) In case the reader should have any curiosity about Athenian
cookery, the following is the recipe for a thrium. Take a certain
quantity of rice, fine flour or grain, boil it till enough done, then
pour off the water, and mix it with soft cheese and a few eggs: roll
the mixture in fig–leaves, tie it in a cloth, and stew it for some time
in gravy. Then remove the cloth, pour over it a plate of fresh boiling
honey, and let it stew till it becomes yellow, observing to turn it
continually. Serve it up with the honey poured over it. Another recipe
gives brains and cheese, mixed up with a rich and highly–esteemed
fish–pickle, as the ingredients.

[130] Burnet, p. 424–5.

[131] North, Examen, p. 225.

[132] North, Examen. p. 176.

[133] Ib. p. 204.

[134] L’Estrange, Dialogue between Zekiel and Ephraim.

[135] State Trials, vol. x. p. 1316.

[136] Hist. of his own Times, p. 627. In Narcissus Luttrell’s MS. Brief
Narration, &c., it is said, under date August 11, 1688, “Titus Oates
stood in the pillory at Charing Cross, according to annual custom.”
State Trials, vol. x. p. 1317.

[137] North, Examen, p. 225.

[138] Life of Calamy, p. 120.

[139] Greece, p. 74.

[140] Thucyd. vii. 87.

[141] Thucyd. vi. 1.

[142] Thucyd. vi. 24.

[143] _τριήραριαρχοι_ The heavy expense of equipping ships of war was
thrown chiefly upon individuals of wealth. Sometimes, as here, the
state provided ships, and the trierarch only the equipment; at others
the trierarch was obliged to build the vessels. The subject is too
intricate to be treated in a note; the curious reader will find it
fully handled in Wolff’s Prolegomena to the Oration against Leptines.
See also a short notice in Dr. Arnold’s note, vi. 31.

[144] About nine–pence halfpenny.

[145] _ὑπηρεσίας_. Petty officers, as the pilot, boatswain, &c. See
Arnold’s notes on the passage.

[146] _Θρανίται_. There being three banks of oars one above another,
the uppermost were called Thranitæ, the middlemost Zeugitæ, and the
lowest Thalamitæ, whereof the thranitæ managed the longest oar, and
therefore in respect of their greater labour might deserve a greater

[147] _Σημεῖα_. The images which being set on the fore–part of the
galley did give it the name for the most part.

[148] Thucyd. vi. 30. 32.

[149] Grecian citizens on service were always attended by slaves, as
we have often had occasion to observe, who served as light infantry.
The Athenians, however, also employed regular light–armed mercenaries,
archers, and slingers from Crete and elsewhere.

[150] The rock of the citadel. So in Cumberland and Westmoreland there
a score of Castle Crags.

[151] Supposing that the enemy had already occupied the valley of the
Cacyparis; and hoping to reach the interior by turning up this valley.

[152] Goeller and Arnold read fifty stadia only.

[153] “The Syracusan heavy–armed infantry seems to have been of a very
inferior description, and never to have encountered the Athenians with
effect, except when supported by their cavalry. So the disciplined
troops of Peloponnesus under Gylippus alone, ventured to close with the
enemy, while the Syracusans confined themselves to harassing them from
a distance with their missiles.”—_Arnold._

[154] That is, such as the captors concealed, to make slaves of them
for their own private advantage.

[155] A minute account of the transactions of the siege, of the
geography of the neighbourhood of Syracuse, and the portion of country
traversed by the Athenians, will be found at the end of the third
volume of Arnold’s Thucydides.

[156] Sphacteria.

[157] A small measure about half a pint.

[158] Free men, that is.

[159] Thucyd., vi. 1.

[160] “And though it were thus great, yet the Athenians longed very
much to send an army against it out of a desire to bring it all unto
subjection (which was the true motive), but as having withal this fair
pretext of aiding their kinsmen and new confederates.”—vi. 6.

[161] _ὑπερεσίας_.—See above.

[162] Thucyd., viii. 1.

[163] See vol. i. p. 229.

[164] Ségur, Gourgaud, Napoleon in Russia.

[165] Sismondi, Hist. Rep. Ital. Poggio Bracciolini, Hist. Florent.

[166] Thucyd. viii. 97.

[167] Xenophon, Hellenica, lib. i. c. 7.

[168] Xenoph. Hellen., lib. i. cap. 6, 7.

[169] Temple, ‘Essay on the Origin and Nature of Government.’

[170] Temple, ‘Observations on the United Provinces,’ ch. ii.

[171] ‘Histoire de la Vie et de la Mort des deux illustres Frères,
Corneille et Jean de Witt.’ Liv. ii. c. 11.

[172] ‘Histoire de la Vie et de la Mort des deux illustres Frères,
Corneille et Jean de Witt.’

[173] ‘General Biography.’

[174] Fox, ‘History of James II.,’ p. 29.

[175] Clinton, ‘Fast. Hellen.’ For a notice of this worthy, see the
Frogs of Aristophanes, v. 677, ed. Bekker.

[176] _ἀπέσφαξεν_—slew him with his own hand, it should seem; a
pleasant office for the commander–in–chief of a civilized nation.
Xenoph. Hellen. ii. c. 1.

[177] Life of Lysander.

[178] Xen. Hellen. ii. c. 2.

[179] Memorabilia, book i. chap. 1, p. 10.

[180] Those readers who wish to inquire into it will find a learned
and able paper on this subject by Schleiermacher, in the Berlin
Transactions, translated in the Philological Museum, vol. ii. No. 6,
“On the worth of Socrates as a philosopher.”

[181] Ibid., p. 544.

[182] The earliest extant notice of this curious question is contained
in the recently discovered Republic of Cicero, edited by Maii, lib. i.
c. 10. As this treatise is not contained in the general editions of the
philosopher we shall translate it:—“You have heard, Tubero, that after
the death of Socrates, Plato, to acquire knowledge, travelled first to
Egypt, then to Sicily and Italy, that he might learn the discoveries of
Pythagoras; and that he had much intercourse with Archytas of Tarentum
and Timæus the Locrian, and got possession of the Commentaries of
Philolaus; and that, as the name of Pythagoras was then in much credit
in those parts, he devoted himself to men of the Pythagorean school and
to those studies. Therefore since he loved Socrates singly, and wished
to refer everything to him, he blended the Socratic humour and subtlety
of language with the obscurity of Pythagoras and that air of gravity
given by so many kinds of learning.”

[183] Tusc. Quæst. v. 4.

[184] Schleiermacher, as above. The rest of this paragraph is taken,
with some trivial alterations, from the History of Greece.

[185] For an account of this class of men, see vol. ii. pp. 153–157.

[186] Mr. Cumberland, in the ‘Observer,’ has made a violent attack on
the moral character of Socrates. Mr. Mitchell has taken a more moderate
and candid tone in the ‘Preliminary Discourse’ to his translation
of Aristophanes. We have to acknowledge ourselves indebted to his
extensive acquaintance with the Socratic writings, for references to
several valuable and characteristic passages.

[187] This is described by Xenophon in his Banquet, in a passage which
we must regard as his genuine recollection of a similar pleasantry on
the part of Socrates. Had it been found in Plato, this might have been
doubtful; but it is not Xenophon’s habit to introduce his master in
this ludicrous manner. At a drinking party in the house of Callias,
Socrates is introduced contesting the point of beauty with Critobulus.
To prove his own superiority, he asks, “whether beauty resides in man
only, or in other things?”

_Critobulus._ I think, by Jupiter, that it exists in a horse also,
and an ox, and many inanimate things: as, for instance, I know of a
handsome shield, or sword, or spear.

_Socrates._ And how is it possible that these things, being all unlike
each other, should all be handsome?

_Critob._ If things are well fitted for the purposes for which we have
them, or are well constituted by nature for useful ends, even these
things are handsome.(a)

_Socr._ Do you know, then, for what you want eyes?

_Critob._ Plainly, to see.

_Socr._ On this ground, then, my eyes would be handsomer than yours.

_Critob._ How so?

_Socr._ Because yours see straight forward only; but mine, which
project, can see to the side also.

_Critob._ You say, then, that a crab is the best eyed of animals?

_Socr._ By all means: since it has eyes the best constituted for that
which is the purpose of eyes.

_Critob._ Granted. But of our noses, which is the handsomest, mine or

_Socr._ I indeed think mine the handsomest, if the gods, in truth, made
noses for us to smell with: for your nostrils point downwards to the
ground, while mine are spread open, so as to collect smells from all

_Critob._ But how can a pug nose be handsomer than a straight one?

_Socr._ Because it constitutes no barrier, but lets the eyes look
straight where they choose; but a high nose, as if out of insolence,
sets a wall between the eyes.

_Critob._ For the mouth, I give up: for if mouths were made to bite
with, you can take a much bigger mouthful than I.

_Socr._ And do you consider it no proof that I am handsomer than you
that the Naiads, who are goddesses, have for children Sileni, who are
more like me than you?

_Critob._ I have nothing to say in reply: but let the votes be taken,
that I may know as soon as possible what penalty I incur.

Verdict for Critobulus.

(a) There is a sort of ambiguity in the Greek word _καλὸς_, which is
applicable to any sort of excellence, whether beauty of form or aptness
to a purpose; so that neither handsome, nor any English single word
which occurs to us, exactly expresses its whole meaning. Familiarly,
indeed, we do use the term beautiful much in the same way; and speak of
a beautiful woman, and a beautiful cricket–bat, without meaning that
there is any more similarity between them, either of form or purpose,
than Critobulus, when he applies the term _καλὸς_ equally to a man, an
ox, or a shield.

[188] Convivium: end.

[189] Convivium, § xxxix., part ii., vol. ii., p. 452, ed. Bekker.

[190] Xen. Conviv., c. 3. So in the Protagoras of Plato, part i., chap.
92, vol. ii., p. 221, ed. Bekker. “Such meetings as these, when they
occupy men such as most of us here profess to be, require no stranger’s
voice, and no poets, whom it is impossible to question about the
meaning of what they relate ... but such men seek the company of each
other for their own sakes, giving and making trial of each other in
their conversation.”

[191] Plat. Laches, § 14, part i., vol. i., p. 270, ed., Bekker.

[192] Convivium, § 44, part ii., vol. ii., p. 465, ed., Bekker.

[193] It would seem to be, in reference to this sort of feeling, that
Plato puts these words into the mouth of Socrates, after sentence
passed on him near the end of the Apology: “For now you have done this,
thinking that you should be liberated from the necessity of giving an
account of your life;” a necessity which, to take Socrates’ own account
of his conduct, they may have been very glad to be liberated from. “For
if you should put me to death, you will not easily find such another
(though the comparison is ridiculous) whom Divinity has united to
this city as to a generous and great horse; but sluggish through his
magnitude, and requiring to be excited by some fly. In like manner,
Divinity appears to have united me, being somewhat like this (_i. e._,
the fly) to the city, that I might not cease exciting, persuading,
and reproving each of you, and everywhere settling on you all day
long.”—Apol. ed., Bekk., part i., vol ii., chap. 18, p. 118. Nobody,
however, ever heard that the horse was grateful to the fly. Again,
“As to what I before observed, that there is great enmity towards me
amongst the vulgar, you may be well assured that it is true. And this
it is which will condemn me, if I should be condemned—the hatred of the
multitude, and not Melitus or Anytus.”—Part i., vol. ii., chap. 16, p.
112, ed., Bekk.

[194] Solon appointed a set of officers, ten in number, who were called
_ῥέτορες_, speakers, to argue and explain to the people the merits
of public questions, for a certain fee. Their qualifications were to
be made the subject of a very close inquiry, according to his laws.
Whether in later times the appellation was confined to these recognized
speakers, or whether all who were ready to speak and plead causes,
as Lysias, Isocrates, &c., were so called, the author has not been
able to ascertain to his satisfaction; but he believes the latter to
be the case, which is not incompatible with the term still retaining
its special meaning, as the title of an officer. Demosthenes calls
himself a _ῥέτωρ_ (De Cor. 301). In later times they acquired much more
importance. Demosthenes was a sort of prime minister. In his time, he
says, the orators and generals ran in couples; one to plan and defend,
the other to perform (_ῥέτωρ ἡγεμὼν, καὶ στρατηγὸς ὡπὸ τούτῳ_, De Rep.
Ord., 173). In earlier times, on the contrary, all the leaders in
Athens were men of action, Themistocles, Cimon, Pericles, &c., down
to Nicias and Alcibiades, though most of them cultivated eloquence at
the same time. Even Cleon thought it necessary to pretend to military

[195] The passage of Ælian (iii., 17), quoted both by Mitford and
Mitchell, as giving the true solution of the cause of Socrates’ death,
contains no solution at all of that problem: it merely tells us, what
we knew on better authority, that Socrates did not like democracy.
Xenophon, Mem. i., c. 2, does more to support this opinion; for he
states distinctly that the avowed dislike of Socrates to the practice
of choosing magistrates by lot, the bad character of his pupils
Alcibiades and Critias, and his alleged perversion of passages in
the poets, to teach his pupils “to be evil–doers and supporters of
tyrannies,” were topics insisted on by his accusers in the speech for
the prosecution. Nor is it improbable that such topics had their weight
with many in the multitude of judges who composed the court, a body too
numerous to discriminate and weigh evidence.

[196] Apol., c. x., part i., vol. ii., p. 103, ed., Bekker.

[197] “Seeing Anytus pass by, he said, ‘In truth this man is
self–important, as if he would have done some great and noble action,
in having procured my death, because I said that it was not expedient
that he should educate his son about hides, seeing that he himself was
held in the highest esteem by the commonwealth.’”—Apol. Xen., § 29. In
the Menon of Plato, Anytus is represented as taking great offence with
Socrates, for showing that neither Aristides nor Pericles, nor other
great statesmen, had been able to educate their sons so as to impart
to them their own great abilities (he omits to mention Miltiades,
who had a son more eminent than himself, Cimon): a ground of offence
which seems odd enough, unless we suppose Anytus to have felt that
Socrates was talking at him all the time. Anytus concludes his share
in the dialogue with a caution to the philosopher against his freedom
of speech, and a hint that in all places it is readier to do harm
than good to a man, and of all places, most especially in Athens. ‘No
wonder,’ Socrates replies, ‘that Anytus is angry, since he thinks
that I am abusing men, of whom he esteems himself to be one’ (Ed.,
Bekker, part ii., vol. i., p. 378, § 34). These men are the _πολιτικὸι_
(see § 42;) so that Anytus was both _πολιτικὸς_, and (as being a
leather–dealer) _δημιουργὸς_; the two terms used in the passage quoted
from the Apology, and in both capacities it would seem that Socrates
had offended him. One of the commentators on Plato (Forster, Apol. as
above) tells us that the tradesmen of Athens thought that Socrates
corrupted the youth of Athens, because he disapproved of educating
young men, as Anytus is said to have brought up his son solely to
the lucrative crafts of their fathers, and because he led them into
the idle habit of thinking and talking. It may be observed that the
character of Anytus did not stand quite clear; since, according to
Diodorus, having been sent with a fleet to relieve Pylos, and having
failed to do so, as he alleged, from the badness of the weather, he
was accused of treachery, “and, being in great danger, bought himself
off, being the first of the Athenians, as it appears, who ever bribed a
court of justice” (Diod., xiii. 64).

[198] See p. 203, ante.

[199] Mitford, chap. xxxi. 2.

[200] Plat. Apol., § 3, part i., vol. ii. p. 93, ed. Bekker.

[201] The Apology of Plato, though commonly printed without any
division, consists of three parts: Socrates’ defence of himself; his
second speech, as to the amount of punishment, which begins at § 25
(part i., vol. ii., p. 128, ed. Bekker); and his address to the judges
after sentence of death was passed, which begins at § 29 (part i., vol.
ii., p. 133).

[202] This public maintenance (_σιτεῖσθαι ἐν πρυτανείῳ_) was esteemed
one of the highest honours that the state could confer.

[203] Athenian magistrates, who had the charge of executing criminals.

[204] _ταυρηδὸν ὑποβλέψας_, looking up like a bull.

[205] That is, profusely.

[206] The Greeks thought it of much consequence that any momentous
business should be undertaken under favourable omens. Sounds of
lamentation were ill–omened; even the direct mention of death was
avoided when a periphrasis would serve. The tragic poets abound in
instances of this sort of _euphemism_.

[207] Taylor’s translation of Plato. Some slight alterations have been
made where the translator seemed to have gone unnecessarily far from
the language of the original.

[208] “Socrates, though it was the common practice for criminals at the
bar to address the passions, and to flatter and entreat their judges,
and by such means often to obtain acquittals, would, on no account,
do any of those things which, contrary to law, were continually done
in the courts; but though he might readily have gained his acquittal
from his judges if he had done such things even in a moderate degree,
chose rather to die, abiding by the laws, than to live by transgressing
them.”—(Xen. Mem., c. iv., p. 4.)

[209] Hist. of Greece, chap. xxii., § 3.

[210] Hist. of Church, p. 587.

[211] L’Enfant. Hist. de Concile de Constance, liv. 1.

[212] He caused this document to be published at Nuremberg: “Master
John Huss goes to Constance, there to declare the faith which he has
always held, holds now, and, by God’s grace, will hold unto death.
As he has given public notice throughout the kingdom of Bohemia that
he was willing before his departure to give account of his faith at
a general synod of the Archbishopric of Prague, to answer all the
objections which could be made to it, so he notifies in this imperial
city of Nuremberg, that if any one has any error or heresy to object to
him, such person has only to repair to the Council of Constance, since
it is there that he is ready to give account of his faith” (L’Enfant.
liv. i. p. 39).

[213] Hist. Bohemica, c. xxxv.

[214] L’Enfant, liv. i. pp. 36, 37.

[215] L’Enfant, liv. i. p. 40.

[216] Sigismond is said to have blushed when Huss fixed his eyes on
him; as he declared to the Council that he had come willingly under
the pledged protection of the Emperor there present. Charles V., when
pressed to arrest Luther at the Diet of Worms, is said, in allusion to
this circumstance, to have used the following expression; “I do not
mean to blush with my predecessor Sigismond.” The conduct of the two
emperors towards Huss and Luther is well contrasted throughout; and
Charles was not a less zealous Catholic than his predecessor.

[217] Hist. of Church, p. 594.

[218] Animam tuam devovemus infernis diabolis. Æn. Sylv.

[219] Æneas Sylvius, Hist. Bohemica, c. xxxvi.

[220] The murder of Archbishop Sharpe is the most celebrated and
remarkable of these instances of perverted enthusiasm, mistaken
applications of the Old Testament, and determination to see a _special_
Providence in passing events. Burley, Rathillet, and their associates,
when they met on the Magus Muir, had no thought of harming Sharpe:
but when his coach passed that way, they concluded that the Lord had
delivered him into their hands; and therefore they killed him. For the
effect of the persecution, see Fox’s Hist. of James II. “This system
of government, and especially the rigour with which those concerned
in the late insurrections, the excommunication of the king, or the
other outrages complained of, were pursued and hunted, sometimes
by blood–hounds, sometimes by soldiers almost equally savage, and
afterwards shot like wild beasts, drove some of those sectaries who
were styled Cameronians, and other proscribed persons, to measures of
absolute desperation. They made a declaration, which they caused to
be affixed to different churches, importing that they would use the
law of retaliation, and ‘_we will_,’ said they, ‘_punish as enemies to
God, and to the Covenant, such persons as shall make it their work to
imbrue their hands in our blood; and chiefly, if they shall continue
obstinately and with habitual malice to proceed against us_:’ with
more to the like effect. Upon such an occasion, the interference of
government became necessary. The government did indeed interfere, and
by a vote of council ordered, that whoever owned, or refused to disown,
the declaration on oath, should be put to death, in the presence
of two witnesses, though unarmed when taken. The execution of this
massacre, in the twelve counties which were principally concerned,
was committed to the military, and exceeded, if possible, the order
itself. The disowning the declaration was required to be made in a
particular form prescribed. Women obstinate in their fanaticism, lest
female blood should be a stain upon the swords of soldiers engaged in
this honourable employment, were drowned. The habitations, as well of
those who had fled to save themselves, as of those who suffered, were
burnt and destroyed. Such members of the families of the delinquents
as were above twelve years old, were imprisoned for the purpose of
being afterwards transported. The brutality of the soldiers was such
as might be expected from an army let loose from all restraint, and
employed to execute the royal justice, as it was called, upon wretches.
Graham, who has been mentioned before, and who, under the title of
Lord Dundee (a title which was probably conferred on him by James for
these or similar services), was afterwards esteemed such a hero among
the Jacobite party, particularly distinguished himself. Of six unarmed
fugitives whom he seized, he caused four to be shot in his presence,
nor did the remaining two experience any other mercy from him than a
delay of their doom; and at another time, having intercepted the flight
of one of these victims, he had him shown to his family, and then
murdered in the arms of his wife. The example of persons of such high
rank, and who must be presumed to have had an education in some degree
corresponding to their station, could not fail of operating upon men of
a lower order in society. The carnage became every day more general,
and more indiscriminate; and the murder of peasants at their houses, or
while employed in their usual work in the fields, by the soldiers, was
not only not reproved or punished, but deemed a meritorious service by
their superiors.” Chap. ii. p. 128–30.

[221] The following passage, with other interesting particulars
relative to these times, is to be found in Scott’s ‘Minstrelsy of the
Scottish Border.’ It is hardly necessary to refer to ‘Old Mortality,’
as a most vivid and affecting picture of this interesting period of our
history, though coloured by the author’s prejudices in favour of the
dominant party.

[222] Wodrow says that the soldiers hesitated, or refused to fire, and
that Claverhouse shot Brown with his own hands.

[223] We give an abstract, to show both the number and nature of the
crimes which were punished with death.

Jan. 23. Six persons shot, surprised in prayer, in the parish of
Monigaff, Galloway.

Jan. 31. One person shot, taken in hiding, in Durisdeer, Nithsdale.

Jan. 31. Four shot, for refusing the oath of abjuration. Straiton,

Feb. 19. Four shot and two hanged, taken in hiding. Orr, Galloway.

Feb. 21. Five killed at Kirkonnel.

Feb. 28. One killed at Barr, in Carrick.

Ten others killed in the above month, at different times, dates
uncertain, facts certain. And so on, through the year, but especially
the first half. All these, it will be observed, are military executions
solely, not men slain in fighting, nor men condemned by the civil
power. Wodrow, book iii. chap. 9. § 6.

[224] Instructions to General–Lieutenant Drummond for marching to the
southern and western shires. Edinb. April 21, 1685.

“1mo. You are to employ all his majesties standing forces, in the
southern and western shires, or so many of them as you shall find
expedient, for pursuing, suppressing, and utterly destroying all such
fugitive rebels as resist, and disturb the peace and quiet of his
majesties government: and you are to cause immediately shoot such of
them to death, as you immediately find in arms.

“2do. You shall give order to apprehend all persons suspect for
harbourers, or resetters of rebels, and fugitive vagabonds: and punish
such as you find guilty, according to law.”

He is farther warranted to take free quarters, for all persons under
his command (not being of his majesty’s forces), in all places where
rebels, and fugitives, and vagabonds are suspected of being reset,
harboured, or connived at.

There is something at once ludicrous and revolting in the following
complaint, and the remedy applied to the grievance. It is a good
specimen of the way in which the Council exercised their inquisitorial

“July 14. The magistrates of Glasgow present a petition to the council,
showing that their tolbooth is pestered with many silly old women, who
are a great charge to the town. The council order them to be whipped
and burnt on the cheek severely, who are guilty of reset and converse;
and such as are guilty of ill principles, that they be whipped and all
dismissed.” Wodrow, Hist. of Sufferings of Church of Scotland, vol.
iii. chap. ix. § 3.

Reset and converse are the harbouring and intercourse with proscribed
persons: _guilty of ill principles_ is a phrase of convenient latitude;
but must be understood to signify affection to the kirk and covenant.

[225] Wodrow, book i., chap. 2, § 4.

[226] Burnet says, “he gave no advantage to those that wished to have
saved him, by the least step towards any submission, but much to the
contrary. I saw him suffer. He was so far from showing any fear, that
he rather expressed a contempt of death. He spoke an hour on the ladder
with the composedness of one that was delivering a sermon, rather than
his last words. He justified all that had been done, and exhorted all
people to adhere to the Covenant, which he magnified highly.” Burnet,
Hist. of his own Times.

[227] Wodrow, book i. chap. 2.

[228] Wodrow, book i. chap. 2.

[229] Last Days of Pompeii.

[230] Heber’s ‘Life of Bishop Taylor,’ the worthy descendant of this
excellent man.

[231] By a singular specimen of ignorance, our ancestors, who held the
Mahometans in pious abomination, chose to consider that sect, which
holds images in abomination, as idolaters. Hence the word mawmet, or
maumet, and maumetry, are continually used in our early writers for
idol, and idolatry. “Unleful worschipping of mawmetis.”—Wiclif, 1
Pet. iv. 3. “When the Byshop Amphiarax sodeynly fell down into hell,”
according to Lydgate, Story of Thebes, it was the

                      “Mede of ydolatrie,
  Of rightes olde, and false mammentrye.”—_Caxton’s edition._

[232] The principal question argued in this letter is the marriage of
priests. The following extract, which is of Taylor’s own writing, gives
a good notion of the way in which such examinations might be carried

“Then my Lord Chancellor said, ‘Diddest thou never read the book that I
set forth of the sacrament?’ I answered, ‘That I had read it.’ Then hee
said, ‘How likest thou that book?’ With that one of the Councell (whose
name I know not),(a) said, ‘My Lord, that is a good question, for I
am sure that book stoppeth all their mouths.’ Then said I, ‘My Lord,
I think many things be farre wide of the truth of God’s word in that

“Then my Lord said, ‘Thou art a very varlet.’ To that I answered, ‘That
is as bad as Racha, or Fatue.’(b) Then my Lord said, ‘thou art an
ignorant beetlebrow.’

“To that I answered, ‘I have read over and over again the Holy
Scriptures, and St. Augustine’s works through, and Cyprian, Eusebius,
Origene, Gregory Nazianzene, with divers other books, through once;
therefore I thank God I am not utterly ignorant. Besides these, my
Lord, I professed the Civill Laws, as your Lordship did, and I have
read over the Canon Law also.’

“Then my Lord said, ‘With a corrupt judgment thou readest all things.
Touching my profession, it is divinity, in which I have written diverse
bookes.’ ‘Then,’ said I, ‘my Lord, ye did write one booke, _De vera
obedientia_: I would ye had been constant in that; for indeed ye did
never declare a good conscience, that I heard of, but in that one

“Then my Lord said, ‘Tut, tut, tut, I wrote against Bucer in Priests’
marriages; but such bookes please not such wretches as thou art, which
hast been married many yeares.’

“To that I answered, ‘I am married indeed, and I have had nine children
in holy matrimony, I thank God: and this I am sure of, that your
proceedings now at present in this realme, against priests’ marriages,
is the maintenance of the doctrine of divells, against naturall law,
civill law, canon law, generall councells, canons of the Apostles,
ancient Doctors, and God’s lawes.’

“Then my Lord Chancellor said, ‘Thou falsifiest the generall councell:
for there is express mention in the said decree, that priests should be
divorced from their wives, which be married.’

“‘Then,’ said I, ‘if those words be there, as you say, then am I
content to lose this great head of mine. Let the book be fetched.’”

    (a) “His right name might bee Sir John Clawbacke.”—Fox’s marginal

    (b) Taylor had once before twitted the Bishop with his turn for
        calling hard names.

[233] The garments of a Roman Catholic priest, which were to be put on
that he might be stripped of them, and thus symbolically deprived of
his pastoral office. The scraping mentioned below was performed on the
parts which were anointed in the Roman ritual of ordination.

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