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Title: Europe in the Middle Ages
Author: Plunket, Ierne Lifford
Language: English
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  M.A. OXON.




  London Edinburgh Glasgow Copenhagen
  New York Toronto Melbourne Cape Town
  Bombay Calcutta Madras Shanghai

  Publisher to the University

  Printed in England


The history of Mediaeval Europe is so vast a subject that the
attempt to deal with it in a small compass must entail either severe
compression or what may appear at first sight reckless omission.

The path of compression has been trodden many times, as in J. H.
Robinson’s _Introduction to the History of Western Europe_, or in
such series as the ‘Periods of European History’ published by Messrs.
Rivingtons for students, or text-books of European History published by
the Clarendon Press and Messrs. Methuen.

To the authors of all these I should like to express my indebtedness
both for facts and perspective, as to Mr. H. W. Davis for his admirable
summary of the mediaeval outlook in the Home University Library series;
but in spite of so many authorities covering the same ground, I venture
to claim for the present book a pioneer path of ‘omission’; it may be
reckless but yet, I believe, justifiable.

It has been my object not so much to supply students with facts as to
make Mediaeval Europe live, for the many who, knowing nothing of her
history, would like to know a little, in the lives of her principal
heroes and villains, as well as in the tendencies of her classes, and
in the beliefs and prejudices of her thinkers. This task I have found
even more difficult than I had expected, for limits of space have
insisted on the omission of many events and names I would have wished
to include. These I have sacrificed to the hope of creating reality and
arousing interest, and if I have in any way succeeded I should like
to pay my thanks first of all to Mr. Henry Osborn Taylor for his two
volumes of _The Mediaeval Mind_ that have been my chief inspiration,
and then to the many authors whose names and books I give elsewhere,
and whose researches have enabled me to tell my tale.

            IERNE L. PLUNKET.


      I. The Greatness of Rome                                         1

     II. The Decline of Rome                                           9

    III. The Dawn of Christianity                                     21

     IV. Constantine the Great                                        27

      V. The Invasions of the Barbarians                              37

     VI. The Rise of the Franks                                       54

    VII. Mahomet                                                      66

   VIII. Charlemagne                                                  79

     IX. The Invasions of the Northmen                               101

      X. Feudalism and Monasticism                                   117

     XI. The Investiture Question                                    130

    XII. The Early Crusades                                          143

   XIII. The Making of France                                        159

    XIV. Empire and Papacy                                           176

     XV. Learning and Ecclesiastical Organization in the Middle
              Ages                                                   196

    XVI. The Faith of the Middle Ages                                207

   XVII. France under Two Strong Kings                               223

  XVIII. The Hundred Years’ War                                      236

    XIX. Spain in the Middle Ages                                    259

     XX. Central and Northern Europe in the Later Middle Ages        276

    XXI. Italy in the Later Middle Ages                              297

   XXII. Part I: The Fall of the Greek Empire                        327
         Part II: Voyage and Discovery                               337

  XXIII. The Renaissance                                             346

         Some Authorities on Mediaeval History                       365

         Chronological Summary, 476-1494                             368

         Mediaeval Genealogies                                       375

         Index                                                       385


  The Roman Empire in the Time of Constantine the Great               28

  The Empire of Charlemagne                                           80

  France in the Reign of Henry II                                    161

  The Treaty of Bretigni                                             246

  France in 1429                                                     254

  The Spanish Kingdoms, 1263-1492                                    260

  North-East Europe in the Middle Ages                               287

  Italy in the Later Middle Ages                                     298

  The Near East in the Middle Ages                                   328



‘_Ave, Roma Immortalis!_’, ‘_Hail, Immortal Rome!_’ This cry, breaking
from the lips of a race that had carried the imperial eagles from the
northern shores of Europe to Asia and Africa, was no mere patriotic
catchword. It was the expression of a belief that, though humanity must
die and personal ambitions fade away, yet Rome herself was eternal and
unconquerable, and what was wrought in her name would outlast the ages.

In the modern world it is sometimes necessary to remind people of
their citizenship, but the Roman never forgot the greatness of his
inheritance. When St. Paul, bound with thongs and condemned to be
scourged, declared, ‘I am Roman born,’ the Captain of the Guard, who
had only gained his citizenship by paying a large sum of money, was
afraid of the prisoner on whom he had laid hands without a trial.

To be a Roman, however apparently poor and defenceless, was to walk the
earth protected by a shield that none might set aside save at great
peril. Not to be a Roman, however rich and of high standing, was to
pass in Roman eyes as a ‘barbarian’, a creature of altogether inferior
quality and repute.

‘Be it thine, O Roman,’ says Virgil, the greatest of Latin poets, ‘to
govern the nations with thy imperial rule’: and such indeed was felt by
Romans to be the destiny of their race.

Stretching on the west through Spain and Gaul to the Atlantic, that
vast ‘Sea of Darkness’ beyond which according to popular belief the
earth dropped suddenly into nothingness, the outposts of the Empire in
the east looked across the plains of Mesopotamia towards Persia and the
kingdoms of central Asia. Babylon ‘the Wondrous’, Syria, and Palestine
with its turbulent Jewish population, Egypt, the Kingdom of the
Pharaohs long ere Romulus the City-builder slew his brother, Carthage,
the Queen of Mediterranean commerce, all were now Roman provinces,
their lustre dimmed by a glory greater than they had ever known.

[Sidenote: Roman Trade Routes]

The Mediterranean, once the battle-ground of rival Powers, had become
an imperial lake, the high road of the grain ships that sailed
perpetually from Spain and Egypt to feed the central market of the
world; for Rome, like England to-day, was quite unable to satisfy
her population from home cornfields. The fleets that brought the
necessaries of life convoyed also shiploads of oriental luxuries,
silks, jewels, and perfumes, transported from Ceylon and India in
trading-sloops to the shores of the Red Sea, and thence by caravans of
camels to the port of Alexandria.

Other trade routes than the Mediterranean were the vast network of
roads that, like the threads of a spider’s web, kept every part of
the Empire, however remote, in touch with the centre from which their
common fate was spun. At intervals of six miles were ‘post-houses’,
provided each with forty or more horses, that imperial messengers,
speeding to or from the capital with important news, might dismount
and mount again at the different stages, hastening on their way with
undiminished speed.

How firm and well made were their roads we know to-day, when, after
the lapse of nearly nineteen centuries of traffic, we use and praise
them still. They hold in their strong foundations one secret of
their maker’s greatness, that the Roman brought to his handiwork the
thoroughness inspired by a vision not merely of something that should
last a few years or even his lifetime, but that should endure like the
city he believed eternal.

It was the boast of Augustus, 27 B.C.-A.D. 14, the first of the Roman
Emperors, that he had found his capital built of brick and had left it
marble; and his tradition as an architect passed to his successors.
There are few parts of what was once the Roman Empire that possess no
trace to-day of massive aqueduct or Forum, of public baths or stately
colonnades. In Rome itself, the Colosseum, the scene of many a martyr’s
death and gladiator’s struggle; elsewhere, as at Nîmes in southern
France, a provincial amphitheatre; the aqueduct of Segovia in Spain,
the baths in England that have made and named a town; the walls that
mark the outposts of empire--all are the witnesses of a genius that
dared to plan greatly, nor spared expense or labour in carrying out its

Those who have visited the Border Country between England and Scotland
know the Emperor Hadrian’s wall, twenty feet high by seven feet broad,
constructed to keep out the fierce Picts and Scots from this the most
northern of his possessions. Those of the enemy that scaled the top
would find themselves faced by a ditch and further wall, bristling with
spears; while the legions flashed their summons for reinforcements from
guardhouse to guardhouse along the seventy miles of massive barrier.
All that human labour could do had made the position impregnable.

A scheme of fortifications was also attempted in central Europe along
the lines of the Rhine and Danube. These rivers provided the third of
the imperial trade routes, and it is well to remember them in this
connexion, for their importance as highways lasted right through Roman
and mediaeval into modern times. Railways have altered the face of
Europe: they have cut through her waste places and turned them into
thriving centres of industry: they have looped up her mines and ports
and tunnelled her mountains: there is hardly a corner of any land where
they have not penetrated; and the change they have made is so vast that
it is often difficult to imagine the world before their invention.
In Roman times, in neighbourhoods where the sea was remote and road
traffic slow and inconvenient, there only remained the earliest of
all means of transport, the rivers. The Rhine and Danube, one flowing
north-west, the other south-east, both neither too swift nor too
sluggish for navigation, were the natural main high roads of central
Europe: they were also an obvious barrier between the Empire and
barbarian tribes.

To connect the Rhine and Danube at their sources by a massive wall,
to establish forts with strong garrisons at every point where these
rivers could be easily forded, such were the precautions by which wise
Emperors planned to shut in Rome’s civilization, and to keep out all
who would lay violent hands upon it.

The Emperor Augustus left a warning to his successors that they should
be content with these natural boundaries, lest in pushing forward to
increase their territory they should in reality weaken their position.
It is easy to agree with his views centuries afterwards, when we know
that the defences of the Empire, pushed ever forward, snapped at the
finish like an elastic band; but the average Roman of imperial days
believed his nation equal to any strain.

It was a boast of the army that ‘Roman banners never retreat’. If then
a tribe of barbarians were to succeed in fording the Danube and in
surprising some outpost fort, the legions sent to punish them would
clamour not merely to exact vengeance and return home, but to conquer
and add the territory to the Empire. In the case of swamps or forest
land the clamour might be checked; but where there was pasturage or
good agricultural soil, it would be almost irresistible. Emigrants from
crowded Italy would demand leave to form a colony, traders would hasten
in their footsteps, and soon another responsibility of land and lives,
perhaps with no natural protection of river, sea, or mountains, would
be added to Rome’s burden of government. Such was the fertile province
of Dacia, north of the Danube, a notable gain in territory, but yet a
future source of weakness.

[Sidenote: Government of the Roman Empire]

At the head of the Empire stood the Emperor, ‘Caesar Augustus’, the
commander-in-chief of the army, the supreme authority in the state, the
fountain of justice, a god before whose altar every loyal Roman must
burn incense and bow the knee in reverence.

It was a great change from the old days, when Rome was a republic, and
her Senate, or council of leading citizens, had been responsible to
the rest of the people for their good or bad government. The historian
Tacitus, looking back from imperial days with a sigh of regret, says
that in that happy age man could speak what was in his mind without
fear of his neighbours, and draws the contrast with his own time when
the Emperor’s spies wormed their way into house and tavern, paid to
betray those about them to prison or death for some chance word or
incautious action. Yet Rome by her conquests had brought on herself the
tyranny of the Empire.

It is comparatively easy to rule a small city well, where fraud and
self-seeking can be quickly detected; but when Rome began to extend
her boundaries and to employ more people in the work of government,
unscrupulous politicians appeared. These built up private fortunes
during their term of office: they became senators, and the Senate
ceased to represent the will of the people and began to govern in the
interests of a small group of wealthy men. Members of their families
became governors of provinces, first in Italy, and then as conquests
continued, across the mountains in Gaul and Spain, and beyond the seas
in Egypt and Asia Minor. Except in name, senators and governors ceased
to be simple citizens and lived as princes, with officials and servants
ready to carry out their slightest wish.

Perhaps it may seem odd that the Roman people, once so fond of liberty
that they had driven into exile the kings who oppressed them, should
afterwards let themselves be bullied or neglected by a hundred petty
tyrants; but in truth the people had changed even more than the class
of ‘patricians’ to whom they found themselves in bondage.

No longer pure Roman or Latin, but through conquest and intermarriage
of every race from the stalwart Teuton to the supple Oriental or
swarthy Egyptian, few amongst the men and women crowding the streets of
Rome remembered or reverenced the traditions of her early days. Rome
stood for military glory, luxury, culture, at her best for even-handed
justice, but no longer for an ideal of liberty. If national pride
was satisfied, and adequate food and amusement provided, the Roman
populace was content to be ruled from above and to hail rival senators
as masters, according to the extent of their promises and success. A
failure to fulfil such promises, resulting in a lost campaign or a
dearth of corn, would throw the military tyrant of the moment from his
pedestal, but only to set up another in his place.

It was an easy transition from the rule of a corrupt Senate to that of
an autocrat. ‘Better one tyrant than many’ was the attitude of mind of
the average citizen towards Octavius Caesar, when under the title of
Augustus he gathered to himself the supreme command over army and state
and so became the first of the Emperors. Had he been a tactless man and
shouted his triumph to the Seven Hills he would probably have fallen a
victim to an assassin’s knife; but he skilfully disguised his authority
and posed as being only the first magistrate of the state.

Under his guiding hand the Senate was reformed, and its outward dignity
rather increased than shorn. Augustus could issue his own ‘edicts’ or
commands independently of the Senate’s consent; but he more frequently
preferred to lay his measures before it, and to let them reach the
public as a senatorial decree. In this he ran no risk, for the
senators, impressive figures in the eyes of the ordinary citizen, were
really puppets of his creation. At any minute he could cast them away.

His fellow magistrates were equally at his mercy, for in his hands
alone rested the supreme military command, the _imperium_, from which
the title of _imperator_, or ‘emperor’, was derived. At first he
accepted the office only for ten years, but at the end of that time,
resigning it to a submissive Senate, he received it again amid shouts
of popular joy. The tyranny of Augustus had proved a blessing.

Instead of corps of troops raised here and there in different
provinces by governors at war with one another, and thus divided in
their allegiance, there had begun to develop a disciplined army,
whose ‘legions’ were enrolled, paid, and dismissed in the name of the
all-powerful Caesar, and who therefore obeyed his commands rather than
those of their immediate captains.

The same system of centring all authority in one absolute ruler was
followed in the civil government. Governors of provinces, once petty
rulers, became merely servants of the state. Caesar sent them from
Rome: he appointed the officials under them: he paid them their
salaries: and to him they must give an account of their stewardship.
‘If thou let this man go thou art not Caesar’s friend.’ Such was the
threat that induced Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judea in the reign of
Tiberius, to condemn to death a man he knew to be innocent of crime.

This is but one of many stories that show the dread of the Emperor’s
name in Rome’s far-distant provinces. Governors, military commanders,
judges, tax-collectors, all the vast army of officials who bore the
responsibility of government on their shoulders, had an ultimate appeal
from their decisions to Caesar, and were exalted by his smile or
trembled at his frown.

It is not a modern notion of good government, this complete power
vested in one man, but Rome nearly two thousand years ago was content
that a master should rule her, so long as he would guarantee prosperity
and peace at home. This under the early Caesars was at least secured.

Two fleets patrolled the Mediterranean, but their vigilance was not
needed, save for an occasional brush with pirates. Naught but storms
disturbed her waters. The legions on the frontiers, whether in Syria or
Egypt, or along the Rhine and Danube, kept the barbarians at bay until
Romans ceased to think of war as a trade to which every man might one
day be called. It was a profession left to the few, the ‘many’ content
to pay the taxes required by the state and to devote themselves to a
civilian’s life.

To one would fall the management of a large estate, another would stand
for election to a government office, a third would become a lawyer or a
judge. Others would keep shops or taverns or work as hired labourers,
while below these again would be the class of slaves, whether prisoners
of war sold in the market-place or citizens deprived of their freedom
for crime or debt.

In Rome itself was a large population, living in uncomfortable
lodging-houses very like the slum tenements of a modern city. Some of
the inhabitants would be engaged in casual labour, some idle; but when
the Empire was at its zenith lavish gifts of corn from the government
stood between this otherwise destitute population and starvation. It
crowded the streets to see Caesar pass, threw flowers on his chariot,
and hailed him as Emperor and God, and in return he bestowed on it
food and amusements.

The huge amphitheatres of Rome and her provinces were built to satisfy
the public desire for pageantry and sport; and, because life was held
cheap, and for all his boasted civilization the Roman was often a
savage at heart, he would spend his holidays watching the despised sect
of Christians thrown to the lions, or hired gladiators fall in mortal
struggle. ‘We, about to die, salute thee.’ With these words the victims
of an emperor’s lust of bloodshed bent the knee before the imperial
throne, and at Caesar’s nod passed to slay or be slain. The emperor’s
sceptre did not bring mercy, but order, justice, and prosperity above
the ordinary standard of the age.



The years of Rome’s greatness seemed to her sons an age of gold, but
even at the height of her prosperity there were traces of the evils
that brought about her downfall. An autocracy, that is, the rule of one
man, might be a perfect form of government were the autocrat not a man
but a god, thus combining superhuman goodness and understanding with
absolute power. Unfortunately, Roman emperors were representatives of
human nature in all its phases. Some, like Augustus, were great rulers;
others, though good men, incompetent in the management of public
affairs; whilst not a few led evil lives and regarded their office as a
means of gratifying their own desires.

The Emperor Nero (54-68), for instance, was cruel and profligate,
guilty of the murder of his half-brother, mother, and wife, and also of
the deaths of numberless senators and citizens whose wealth he coveted.
Because he was an absolute ruler his corrupt officials were able to
bribe and oppress his subjects as they wished until he was fortunately
assassinated. He was the last of his line, the famous House of Julius
to which Augustus had belonged, and the period that followed his death
was known as ‘the year of the four Emperors’, because during that time
no less than four rivals claimed and struggled for the coveted honour.

Nominally, the right of election lay with the Senate, but the final
champion, Vespasian (69-79), was not even a Roman nor an aristocrat,
but a soldier from the provinces. He had climbed the ladder of fame by
sheer endurance and his power of managing others, and his accession was
a triumph not for the Senate but the legions who had supported him and
who now learned their power. Henceforward it would be the soldier with
his naked sword who could make and unmake emperors, and especially the
Praetorian Guard whose right it was to maintain order in Rome.

The gradual recognition of this idea had a disastrous effect on the
government of the Empire. Too often the successful general of a
campaign on the frontier would remember Vespasian and become obsessed
with the thought that he also might be a Caesar. Led by ambition he
would hold out to his legions hopes of the rewards they would receive
were he crowned in Rome, and some sort of bargain would be struck,
lowering the tone of the army by corrupting its loyalty and making its
soldiers insolent and grasping.

The Senate attempted to deal with this difficulty of the succession by
passing a law that every Emperor should, during his lifetime, name his
successor, and that the latter should at once be hailed as Caesar, take
a secondary share in the government, and have his effigy printed on
coins. In this way he would become known to the whole Roman world, and
when the Emperor died would at once be acknowledged in his place. Thus
the Romans hoped to establish the theory that England expresses to-day
in the phrase ‘The King never dies’.

Though to a certain extent successful in their efforts to avoid
civil war, they failed to arrest other evils that were undermining
the prosperity of the government. One of these was the imperial
expenditure. It was only natural that the Emperor should assume a
magnificence and liberality in excess of his wealthiest subjects,
but in addition he found it necessary to buy the allegiance of the
Praetorian Guard and to keep the Roman populace satisfied in its
demands for free corn and expensive amusements.

The standard of luxury had grown, and Romans no longer admired, except
in books, the simple life of their forefathers. Instead the fashionable
ideal was that of the East they had enslaved, and the Emperor was
gradually shut off from the mass of his subjects by a host of court
officials who thronged his antechambers and exacted heavy bribes for
admission. In this unhealthy atmosphere suspicion and plots grew apace
like weeds, and money dripped through the imperial fingers as through
a sieve, now into the pockets of one favourite, now of another.

‘I have lost a day,’ was said by the Emperor Titus (A.D. 79-81),
whenever twenty-four hours had passed without his having made some
valuable present to those about him. His courtiers were ready to fall
on their knees and hail him for his liberality as ‘Darling of the human
race’; but he only reigned for two years. Had he lived to exhaust his
treasury it is probable that the greedy throng would have passed a
different verdict.

Extravagance is as catching as the plague, and the Roman aristocracy
did not fail to copy the imperial example. Just as the Emperor was
surrounded by a court, so every noble of importance had his following
of ‘clients’ who would wait submissively on his doorstep in the morning
and attend him when he walked abroad to the Forum or the Public Baths.
Some would be idle gentlemen, the penniless younger sons of noble
houses, others professional poets ready to write flattering verses
to order, others again famous gladiators whose long death-roll of
victims had made them as popular in Rome as a champion tennis-player
or footballer in England to-day. All were united in the one hope of
gaining something from their patron, perhaps a gift of money, or his
influence to secure them a coveted office, at the least an invitation
to a banquet or feast.

[Sidenote: The Roman Villa]

The class of senators to which most of these aristocrats belonged had
grown steadily richer as the years of empire increased, building up
immense landed properties something like the feudal estates of a later
date. These ‘villas’, as they were called, were miniature kingdoms
over which their owners had secured absolute power. Their affairs were
administered by an agent, probably a favoured slave who had gained his
freedom, assisted by a small army of officials. The principal subjects
of the landlord would be the small proprietors of farms who paid a rent
or did various services in return for their houses, while below these
again would be a larger number of actual slaves, employed as household
servants, bakers, shoe-makers, shepherds, &c.

The most striking thing about the Roman ‘villa’ was that it was
absolutely self-contained. All that was needed for the life of its
inhabitants, whether food or clothing, could be grown and manufactured
on the estate. The crimes that were committed there would be judged by
the master or his agent, and from the former’s decision there would
be little hope of appeal. Where the proprietor was harsh or selfish,
miserable indeed was the condition of those condemned to live on his

The income of the average senator in the fourth century A.D. was
about £60,000, a very large sum when money was not as plentiful as
it is to-day. Aurelius Symmachus, a young senator typical of this
time, possessed no less than fifteen country seats, besides large
estates in different parts of Italy and three town houses in Rome or
her suburbs. It was his object to become Praetor of Rome, one of the
highest offices in the city; and in order to gain popularity he and
his father organized public games that cost them some £90,000. Lions
and crocodiles were fetched from Africa, dogs from Scotland, a special
breed of horses from Spain; while captured warriors were brought from
Germany, whom he destined to fight with one another in the arena.

The life of this young senator, according to his letters, was
controlled by purely selfish considerations. He did not want the
praetorship in order to be of use to the Empire, but merely that the
Empire might crown his career with a coveted honour. The same narrow
outlook and lack of public spirit was common to the majority of the
other men and women of his class, and so great was their blindness that
they could not even see that they were undermining Rome’s power, far
less avail to save her.

More fatal even than the corruption of the aristocracy was the decline
of the middle classes, usually called the backbone of a nation’s
greatness. ‘The name of Roman citizen,’ says a native of Marseilles in
the fifth century, ‘formerly so highly valued and even bought with a
great price, is now ... shunned, nay it is regarded with abomination.’

[Sidenote: Taxation under the Roman Empire]

This change from the days of St. Paul may be traced back long before
the time when Symmachus wasted his patrimony in bringing crocodiles
from Africa and horses from Spain. Its cause was the gradual but
constant increase of taxation required to fill the imperial treasury,
and the unequal scale according to which such taxation was levied.

Rome’s main source of revenue was an impost on land, and ought by
rights to have been exacted from the senatorial class that owned the
majority of the large estates. Unfortunately, it was left to the local
municipal councils, the _curias_, to collect this tax, and if it
fell short of the amount required from the locality by the imperial
treasury, the _curiales_, or class compelled as a duty to attend the
councils, were held responsible for the deficit.

Here was a problem for Roman citizens of medium wealth, members of
their _curia_ by birth, quite unable to divest themselves of this more
than doubtful honour, and conscious that their sons at eighteen must
also accept the dignity and put their shoulders to the burden. It was
one thing to assess the chief landlords of the neighbourhood at a
sum that matched their revenues, it was another to obtain the money
from them. In England to-day the man who refuses to pay his taxes is
punished; in imperial Rome it was the tax-collector.

Possessed of money and influence, it was not hard for a senator to
outwit mere _curiales_, either by obtaining an exemption from the
Emperor, or by bribing the occasional inspectors sent by the central
government to condone his refusal to pay. The imperial court set an
example of corruption, and those who could imitate this example did so.

The _curiales_, faced by ruin, sought relief in various ways. Those
with most wealth tried to raise themselves to senatorial rank: others,
unable to achieve this, yet conscious that they must obtain the money
required at all costs, demanded the heaviest taxes from those who could
not resist them, so that the phrase spread abroad, ‘So many _curiales_
just so many robbers.’

Less important members of the middle classes, unable to pay their share
of taxation or to force others to do so instead, tried in every way to
divest themselves of an honour grown intolerable, and the legislation
of the later Empire shows their efforts to escape out of the net in
which the government tried to hold them enmeshed. Some sought the
protection of the nearest landowners, and joined the dependants of
their ‘villas’: others, though forbidden by law, entered the army:
while others again sold themselves into slavery, since a master’s
self-interest would at least secure them food and clothing.

More desperate and adventurous spirits saw in brigandage a means both
of livelihood and of revenge. Joining themselves to bands of criminals
and escaped slaves, they infested the high roads, waylaid and robbed
travellers, and carried off their spoils to mountain fastnesses. Thus,
through fraud or violence, the ranks of the _curiales_ diminished, and
taxation fell with still heavier pressure on those who remained to
support its burdens.

This evil state of affairs was intensified by the widespread system of
slavery that, besides its bad influence on the character of both master
and slave, had other economic defects. When forced labour and free work
side by side, the former will nearly always drive the latter out of the
market, because it can be provided more cheaply. A master need not pay
his slaves wages; he can make them work as many hours as he chooses,
and lodge and feed them just as he pleases. From his point of view it
is more convenient to employ men who cannot leave his service however
much they dislike the work and conditions. For these reasons business
and trade tended to fall into the hands of wealthy slave-owners who
could undersell the employers of free labour, and as the number of
slaves increased the number of free workmen grew less.

In Rome, and the large towns also, free labourers who remained
were corrupted like men and women of a higher rank by the general
extravagance and love of pleasure. They did not agitate so much for a
reform of taxation or the abolition of slavery, but for larger supplies
of free corn and more frequent public games and spectacles.

An extravagant court, a corrupt government, slavery, class selfishness,
these were some of the principal causes of Rome’s decline; but in
recording them it must be remembered that the taint was only gradual,
like some corroding acid eating away good metal. Not all _curiales_,
in spite of popular assertions, were robbers, not every taxpayer on
the verge of starvation, not every dependant of a ‘villa’ cowed and
miserable. In many houses masters would free or help their slaves,
slaves be found ready to die for their masters. The canker lay in the
indifference of individual Roman citizens to evils that did not touch
them personally, in the refusal to cure with radical reform even those
that did, in the foolish confidence of the majority in the glory of the
past as a safeguard for the present. ‘Faith in Rome killed all faith in
a wider future for humanity.’

This lack of vision has ruined many an empire and kingdom, and Rome
only half-opened her eyes even when the despised barbarians who were to
expose her weakness were already knocking at the imperial gates.

       *       *       *       *       *

‘Barbarian’, we have noticed, was the epithet used by the Roman of the
early Empire to describe and condemn the person not fortunate enough to
share his citizenship.

At this time the most formidable of the barbarians were the German
tribes who inhabited large stretches of forest and mountain land to the
north of the Danube and east of the Rhine--a tall, powerfully built
race for the most part with ruddy hair and fierce blue eyes, whose
business was warfare, and the occupation of their leisure hours the
chase or gambling.

[Sidenote: Tacitus’ ‘Germania’]

In his book, the _Germania_, Tacitus, a famous Roman historian of the
first century, describes these Teutons, and besides drawing attention
to their primitive customs and lack of culture, he made copy of their
simplicity to lash the vices of his own countrymen.

The Germans, he said, did not live in walled towns but in straggling
villages standing amid fields. These were either shared as common
pasturage or tilled in allotments, parcelled out annually amongst the
inhabitants. A number of villages would form a _pagus_ or canton, a
number of _pagi_ a _civitas_ or state. At the head of the state was
more usually a king, but sometimes only a number of important chiefs,
or dukes, who would be treated with the utmost reverence.

It was their place to preside over the small councils that dealt with
the less important affairs of the state, and to lay before the larger
meeting of the tribe measures that seemed to require public discussion.
Lying round their camp fire in the moonlight the younger men would
listen to the advice of the more experienced and clash their weapons as
a sign of approval when some suggestion pleased them.

At the councils were chosen the _principes_, or magistrates, whose
duty it was to administer justice in the various cantons and villages.
Tribal law was very primitive in comparison with the Roman code that
required highly trained lawyers to interpret it. Had a man betrayed
his fellow villagers to their enemies, let him be hung from the
nearest tree that all might learn the fitting reward of treachery.
Had he turned coward and fled from the battle, let him be buried in
a morass out of sight beneath a hurdle, that such shame should be
quickly forgotten. Had he in a rage or by accident slain or injured a
neighbour, let him pay a fine in compensation, half to his victim’s
nearest relations, half to the state. If the decision did not satisfy
those concerned, the family of the injured person could itself exact
vengeance, but since it would probably meet with opposition in so
doing, more bloodshed would almost certainly result, and a feud, like
the later Corsican _vendetta_, be handed down from generation to

Such a state of unrest had no horror for the German tribesman. From his
earliest days he looked forward to the moment when, receiving from his
kinsmen the gift of a shield and sword, he might leave boyhood behind
him and assume a man’s responsibilities and dangers. With his comrades
he would at once hasten to offer his services to some great leader of
his tribe, and as a member of the latter’s _comitatus_, or following,
go joyfully out to battle.

Like the Spartan of old he went with the cry ringing in his ears, ‘With
your shield or on your shield!’

‘It is a disgrace’, says Tacitus, ‘for the chief to be surpassed in
battle ... and it is an infamy and a reproach for life to have survived
the chief and returned from the field.’

This statement explains the reckless daring with which the scattered
groups of Germans would fling themselves time after time against
the disciplined Roman phalanxes. The women shared the hardihood of
the race, bringing and receiving as wedding-gifts not ornaments or
beautiful clothes but a warrior’s horse, a lance, or sword.

‘Lest a woman should think herself to stand apart from aspirations
after noble deeds and from the perils of war, she is reminded by the
ceremony that inaugurates marriage that she is her husband’s partner
in toil and danger, destined to suffer and die with him alike both in
peace and war.’

Chaste, industrious, devoted to the interests of husband and children,
yet so patriotic that, watching the battle, she would urge them rather
to perish than retreat, the barbarian woman struck Tacitus as a living
reproach to the many faithless, idle, pleasure-seeking wives and
mothers of Rome in his own day. The German tribes might be uncouth,
their armies without discipline, even their nobles ignorant of culture,
but they were brave, hospitable, and loyal. Above all they held a
distinction between right and wrong: they did not ‘laugh at vice’.

It is probable that in the days of Tacitus his views were received
throughout the Roman Empire with an amused shrug of the shoulders, for
to many the Germans were merely good fighters, whose giant build added
considerably to the glory of a triumphal procession, when they walked
sullenly in their shackles behind the Victor’s car. With the passing of
the years into centuries, however, intercourse changed this attitude,
and much of the contempt on one side and hatred on the other vanished.

Germans captured in childhood were brought up in Roman households and
grew invaluable to their masters: numbers were freed and remained as
citizens in the land of their captivity. The tribes along the borders
became more civilized: they exchanged raw produce or furs in the
nearest Roman markets for luxuries and comforts, and as their hatred of
Rome disappeared admiration took its place. Something of the greatness
of the Empire touched their imagination: they realized for the first
time the possibilities of peace under an ordered government; and whole
tribes offered their allegiance to a power that knew not only how to
conquer but to rule.

Emperors, nothing loath, gathered these new forces under their
standards as auxiliaries or allies (_foederati_), and Franks from
Flanders, at the imperial bidding, drove back fellow barbarians from
the left bank of the Rhine; while fair-haired Alemanni and Saxons fell
in Caesar’s service on the plains of Mesopotamia or on the arid sands
of Africa. From auxiliary forces to the ranks of the regular army was
an easy stage, the more so as the Roman legions were every year in
greater need of recruits as the boundaries of the Empire spread.

It is at first sight surprising to find that the military profession
was unpopular when we recall that it rested in the hands of the legions
to make or dispossess their rulers; but such opportunities of acquiring
bribes and plunder did not often fall to the lot of the ordinary
soldier, while the disadvantages of his career were many.

A very small proportion of the army was kept in the large towns of the
south, save in Rome that had its own Praetorian Guards: the majority
of the legions defended the Rhine and Danube frontiers, or still
worse were quartered in cold and foggy Britain, shut up in fortress
outposts like York or Chester. English regiments to-day think little of
service in far-distant countries like Egypt or India, indeed men are
often glad to have the experience of seeing other lands; but the Roman
soldier as he said farewell to his Italian village knew in his heart
that it had practically passed out of his life. The shortest period of
military service was sixteen years, the longest twenty-five; and when
we remember that, owing to the slow and difficult means of transport,
leave was impossible we see the Roman legionary was little more than
the serf of his government, bound to spend all the best years of his
life defending less warlike countrymen.

Moving with his family from outpost to outpost, the memories of his
old home would grow blurred, and the legion to which he belonged would
occupy the chief place in his thoughts. As he grew older his sons,
bred in the atmosphere of war, would enlist in their turn, and so the
military profession would tend to become a caste, handed down from
father to son.

The soldier could have little sympathy with fellow citizens whose
interests he did not share, but would despise them because they did not
know how to use arms. The civilians, on their side, would think the
soldier rough and ignorant, and forget how much they were dependent
on his protection for their trade and pleasure. Instead of trying to
bridge this gulf, the government, in their terror of losing taxpayers,
widened it by refusing to let _curiales_ enlist. At the same time they
filled up the gaps in the legions with corps of Franks, Germans, or
Goths; because they were good fighting material, and others of their
tribe had proved brave and loyal.

In the same way, when land in Italy fell out of cultivation, the
Emperor would send numbers of barbarians as _coloni_ or settlers to
till the fields and build themselves homes. At first they might be
looked on with suspicion by their neighbours, but gradually they would
intermarry and their sons adopt Roman habits, until in time their
descendants would sit in municipal councils, and even rise to become
Praetors or Consuls.

[Sidenote: Barbarian Invasions]

When it is said that the Roman Empire fell because of the inroads of
barbarians, the impression sometimes left on people’s minds is that
hordes of uncivilized tribes, filled with contempt for Rome’s luxury
and corruption, suddenly swept across the Alps in the fifth century,
laying waste the whole of North Italy. This is far from the truth.
The peaceful invasion of the Empire by barbarians, whether as slaves,
traders, soldiers, or colonists, was a continuous movement from early
imperial days. There is no doubt that, as it increased, it weakened
the Roman power of resistance to the actually hostile raids along the
frontiers that began in the second and third centuries and culminated
in the collapse of the imperial government in the West in the fifth.
An army partly composed of half-civilized barbarian troops could not
prove so trustworthy as the well-disciplined and seasoned Romans of
an earlier age; for the foreign element was liable in some gust of
passion to join forces with those of its own blood against its oath of

As to the main cause of the raids, it was rather love of Rome’s wealth
than a sturdy contempt of luxury that led these barbarians to assault
the dreaded legions. Had it been mere love of fighting, the Alemanni
would as soon have slain their Saxon neighbours as the imperial troops;
but nowhere save in Spain, or southern Gaul, or on the plains of Italy
could they hope to find opulent cities or herds of cattle. Plunder was
their earliest rallying cry; but in the third century the pressure of
other tribes on their flank forced them to redouble in self-defence
efforts begun for very different reasons.

This movement of the barbarians has been called ‘the Wandering of
the Nations’. Gradually but surely, like a stream released from some
mountain cavern, Goths from the North and Huns and Vandals from the
East descended in irresistible numbers on southern Germany, driving the
tribes who were already in possession there up against the barriers,
first of the Danube and then of the Alps and Rhine.

Italy and Gaul ceased to be merely a paradise for looters, but were
sought by barbarians, who had learned something of Rome’s civilization,
as a refuge from other barbarians who trod women and children
underfoot, leaving a track wherever their cruel hordes passed red with
blood and fire. With their coming, Europe passed from the brightness of
Rome into the ‘Dark Ages’.



When Augustus became Emperor of Rome, Jesus Christ was not yet born.
With the exception of the Jews, who believed in the one Almighty
‘Jehovah’, most of the races within the boundaries of the Empire
worshipped a number of gods; and these, according to popular tales,
were no better than the men and women who burned incense at their
altars, but differed from them only in being immortal, and because they
could yield to their passions and desires with greater success.

The Roman god ‘Juppiter’, who was the same as the Greek ‘Zeus’, was
often described as ‘King of gods and men’; but far from proving
himself an impartial judge and ruler, the legends in which he appears
show him cruel, faithless, and revengeful. ‘Juno’, the Greek ‘Hera’,
‘Queen of Heaven’, was jealous and implacable in her wrath, as the
‘much-enduring’ hero, Ulysses, found when time after time her spite
drove him from his homeward course from Troy. ‘Mercury’, the messenger
of the gods, was merely a cunning thief.

Most of the thoughtful Greeks and Romans, it is true, came to regard
the old mythology as a series of tales invented by their primitive
ancestors to explain mysterious facts of nature like fire, thunder,
earthquakes. Because, however, this form of worship had played so great
a part in national history, patriotism dictated that it should not be
forgotten entirely; and therefore emperors were raised to the number of
the gods; and citizens of Rome, whether they believed in their hearts
or no, continued to burn incense before the altars of Juppiter, Juno,
or Augustus in token of their loyalty to the Empire.

The human race has found it almost impossible to believe in nothing,
for man is always seeking theories to explain his higher nature and
why it is he recognizes so early the difference between right and
wrong. Far back in the third and fourth centuries before Christ, Greek
philosophers had discussed the problem of the human soul, and some of
them had laid down rules for leading the best life possible.

Epicurus taught that since our present life is the only one, man must
make it his object to gain the greatest amount of pleasure that he
can. Of course this doctrine gave an opening to people who wished to
live only for themselves; but Epicurus himself had been simple, almost
ascetic in his habits, and had clearly stated that although pleasure
was his object, yet ‘we can not live pleasantly without living wisely,
nobly, and righteously’. The self-indulgent man will defeat his own
ends by ruining his health and character until he closes his days not
in pleasure but in misery.

Another Greek philosopher was Zeno, whose followers were called
‘Stoics’ from the _stoa_ or porch of the house in Athens in which
he taught his first disciples. Zeno believed that man’s fortune was
settled by destiny, and that he could only find true happiness by
hardening himself until he grew indifferent to his fate. Death, pain,
loss of friends, defeated ambitions, all these the Stoic must face
without yielding to fear, grief, or passion. Brutus, the leader of the
conspirators who slew Julius Caesar, was a Stoic, and Shakespeare in
his tragedy shows the self-control that Brutus exerted when he learned
that his wife Portia whom he loved had killed herself.

The teaching of Epicurus and Zeno did something during the Roman Empire
to provide ideals after which men could strive, but neither could hold
out hopes of a happiness without end or blemish. The ‘Hades’ of the old
mythology was no heaven but a world of shades beyond the river Styx,
gloomy alike for good and bad. At the gates stood the three-headed
monster Cerberus, ready to prevent souls from escaping once more to
light and sunshine.

Paganism was thus a sad religion for all who thought of the future:
and this is one of the reasons why the tidings of Christianity were
received so joyfully. When St. Paul went to Athens he found an altar
set up to ‘the unknown God’, showing that men and women were out of
sympathy with their old beliefs and seeking an answer to their doubts
and questions. He tried to tell the Greeks that the Christ he preached
was the God they sought; but those who heard him ridiculed the idea
that a Jewish peasant who had suffered the shameful death of the cross
could possibly be divine.

[Sidenote: Early Christianity]

The earliest followers of Christianity were not as a rule cultured
people like the Athenians, but those who were poor and ignorant. To
them Christ’s message was one of brotherhood and love overriding
all differences between classes and nations. Yet it did not merely
attract because it promised immortality and happiness; it also set up
a definite standard of right and wrong. The Jewish religion had laid
down the Ten Commandments as the rule of life, but the Jews had never
tried to persuade other nations to obey them--rather they had jealously
guarded their beliefs from the Gentiles. The Christians on the other
hand had received the direct command ‘to go into all the world and
preach the Gospel to every creature’; and even the slave, when he felt
within himself the certainty of his new faith, would be sure to talk
about it to others in his household. In time the strange story would
reach the ears of his master and mistress, and they would begin to
wonder if what this fellow believed so earnestly could possibly be true.

In a brutal age, when the world was largely ruled by physical force,
Christianity made a special appeal to women and to the higher type
of men who hated violence. One argument in its favour amongst the
observant was the life led by the early Christians--their gentleness,
their meekness, and their constancy. It is one thing to suffer an
insult through cowardice, quite another to bear it patiently and
yet be brave enough to face torture and death rather than surrender
convictions. Christian martyrs taught the world that their faith had
nothing in it mean or spiritless.

Perhaps it may seem strange that men and women whose conduct was so
quiet and inoffensive should meet with persecution at all. Christ
had told His disciples to ‘render unto Caesar the things that are
Caesar’s’, and the strength of Christianity lay not in rebellion to the
civil government but in submission. This is true, yet the Christian who
paid his taxes and took care to avoid breaking the laws of his province
would find it hard all the same to live at peace with pagan fellow
citizens. Like the Jew he could not pretend to worship gods whom he
considered idols: he could not offer incense at the altars of Juppiter
and Augustus: he could not go to a pagan feast and pour out a libation
of wine to some deity, nor hang laurel branches sacred to the nymph
Daphne over his door on occasions of public rejoicing.

Such neglect of ordinary customs made him an object of suspicion and
dislike amongst neighbours who did not share his faith. A hint was
given here and there by mischief makers, and confirmed with nods and
whisperings, that his quietness was only a cloak for evil practices
in secret; and this grew into a rumour throughout the Empire that the
murder of newborn babies was part of the Christian rites.

Had the Christians proved more pliant the imperial government
might have cleared their name from such imputations and given them
protection, but it also distrusted their refusal to share in public
worship. Lax themselves, the emperors were ready to permit the god of
the Jews or Christians a place amongst their own deities; and they
could not understand the attitude of mind that objected to a like
toleration of Juppiter or Juno. The commandment ‘Thou shalt have none
other gods but me’ found no place in their faith, and they therefore
accused the Christians and Jews of want of patriotism, and used them as
scapegoats for the popular fury when occasion required.

In the reign of Nero a tremendous fire broke out in Rome that reduced
more than half the city to ruins. The Emperor, who was already
unpopular because of his cruelty and extravagance, fearing that he
would be held responsible for the calamity, declared hastily that he
had evidence that the fire was planned by Christians; and so the first
serious persecution of the new faith began.

[Sidenote: Persecution of the Christians]

Here is part of an account given by Tacitus, whose history of the
German tribes we have already noticed:

‘He, Nero, inflicted the most exquisite tortures on those men who under
the vulgar appellation of Christians were already branded with deserved
infamy.... They died in torments, and their torments were embittered
by insult and derision. Some were nailed on crosses; others sewn up
in the skins of wild beasts and exposed to the fury of dogs; others
again, smeared over with combustible materials, were used as torches to
illuminate the darkness of the night. The gardens of Nero were destined
for this melancholy spectacle, which was accompanied with a horse race
and honoured with the presence of the Emperor.’

Tacitus was himself a pagan and hostile to the Christians, yet
he admits that this cruelty aroused sympathy. Nevertheless the
persecutions continued under different emperors, some of them, unlike
Nero, wise rulers and good men.

‘These people’, wrote the Spanish Emperor Trajan (98-117), referring to
the Christians, ‘should not be searched for, but if they are informed
against and convicted they should be punished.’

Marcus Aurelius (161-180) declared that those who acknowledged that
they were Christians should be beaten to death; and during his reign
men and women were tortured and killed on account of their faith in
every part of the Empire. The test required by the magistrates was
nearly always the same, that the accused must offer wine and incense
before the statue of the Emperor and revile the name of Christ.

The motive that inspired these later emperors was not Nero’s innate
love of cruelty or desire of finding a scapegoat, but genuine fear of a
sect that grew steadily in numbers and wealth, and that threatened to
interfere with the ordinary worship of the temples, so bound up with
the national life.

In the reign of Trajan the Governor of Bithynia wrote to the Emperor
complaining that on account of the spread of Christian teaching little
money was now spent in buying sacrificial beasts. ‘Nor’, he added,
‘are cities alone permeated by the contagion of this superstition, but
villages and country parts as well.’

Emperors and magistrates were at first confident that, if only they
were severe enough in their punishments, the new religion could be
crushed out of existence. Instead it was the imperial government that
collapsed while Christianity conquered Europe.

Very early in the history of Christianity the Apostles had found it
necessary to introduce some form of government into the Church; and
later, as the faith spread from country to country, there arose in each
province men who from their goodness, influence, or learning, were
chosen by their fellow Christians to control the religious affairs of
the neighbourhood. These were called ‘Episcopi’, or bishops, from the
Latin word _Episcopus_, ‘an overseer’. Tradition claims that Peter was
the first bishop of the Church in Rome, and that during the reign of
Nero he was crucified for loyalty to the Christ he had formerly denied.

To help the bishops a number of ‘presbyters’ or ‘priests’ were
appointed, and below these again ‘deacons’ who should undertake
the less responsible work. The first deacons had been employed in
distributing the alms of the wealthier members of the congregation
amongst the poor; and though in early days the sums received were not
large, yet as men of every rank accepted Christianity regardless of
scorn or danger and made offerings of their goods, the revenues of the
Church began to grow. The bishops also became persons of importance in
the world around them.

In time emperors and magistrates whose predecessors had believed in
persecution came to recognize that it was not an advantage to the
government, even a danger, and instead they began to consult and honour
the men who were so much trusted by their fellow citizens. At last, in
the fourth century, there succeeded to the throne an emperor who looked
on Christianity not with hatred or dread, but with friendly eyes as
a more valuable ally than the paganism of his fathers. This was the
Emperor Constantine the Great.



Constantine the Great was born at a time when the Empire was divided
up between different emperors. His father, Constantius Chlorus, ruled
over Spain, Gaul, and Britain; and when he died at York in A.D. 306,
Constantine his eldest son succeeded to the government of these
provinces. The new Emperor, who was thirty-two years old, had been bred
in the school of war. He was handsome, brave, and capable, and knew
how to make himself popular with the legions under his command without
losing his dignity or letting them become undisciplined.

When he had reigned a few years he quarrelled with his brother-in-law
Maxentius who was Emperor at Rome, and determined to cross the Alps and
drive him from his throne. The task was difficult; for the Roman army,
consisting of picked Praetorian Guards, and regiments of Sicilians,
Moors, and Carthaginians, was quite four times as large as the invading
forces. Yet Constantine, once he had made his decision, did not
hesitate. He knew his rival had little military experience, and that
the corruption and luxury of the Roman court had not increased either
his energy or valour.

It is said also that Constantine believed that the God of the
Christians was on his side, for as he prepared for a battle on the
plains of Italy against vastly superior forces, he saw before him in
the sky a shining cross and underneath the words ‘By this conquer!’ At
once he gave orders that his legions should place on their shields the
sign of the cross, and with this same sign as his banner he advanced
to the attack. It was completely successful, the Roman army fled in
confusion, Maxentius was slain, and Constantine entered the capital
almost unopposed. The arch in Rome that bears his name celebrates this

Constantine was now Emperor of the whole of Western Europe, and some
years later, after a furious struggle with Licinius the Emperor of the
East, he succeeded in uniting all the provinces of the Empire under his

[Illustration: The ROMAN EMPIRE

in the time of Constantine the Great]

This was a joyful day for Christians, for though Constantine was not
actually baptized until just before his death, yet, throughout his
reign, he showed his sympathy with the Christian religion and did all
in his power to help those who professed it. He used his influence
to prevent gladiatorial shows, abolished the horrible punishment of
crucifixion, and made it easier than ever before for slaves to free
themselves. When he could, he avoided pagan rites, though as Emperor he
still retained the office of _Pontifex Maximus_, or ‘High Priest’, and
attended services in the temples.

His mother, the Empress Helena, to whom he was devoted, was a
Christian; and one of the old legends describes her pilgrimage to the
Holy Land, and how she found and brought back with her some wood from
the cross on which Christ had been crucified.

[Sidenote: Growth of Christianity]

Soon after Constantine conquered Rome he published the famous ‘Edict
of Milan’ that allowed liberty of worship to all inhabitants of the
Empire, whether pagans, Jews, or Christians. The latter were no longer
to be treated as criminals but as citizens with full civil rights,
while the places of worship and lands that had been taken from them
were to be restored.

Later, as Constantine’s interest in the Christians deepened, he
departed from this impartial attitude and showed them special favours,
confiscating some of the treasures of the temples and giving them to
the Church, as well as handing over to it sums of money out of the
public revenues. He also tried to free the clergy from taxation, and
allowed bishops to interfere with the civil law courts.

Many of these measures were unwise. For one thing, Christianity when it
was persecuted or placed on a level with other religions only attracted
those who really believed in Christ’s teaching. When it received
material advantages, on the other hand, the ambitious at once saw a way
to royal favour and their own success by professing the new beliefs. A
false element was thus introduced into the Church.

For another thing, few even of the sincere Christians could be trusted
not to abuse their privileges. The fourth century did not understand
toleration; and those who had suffered persecution were quite ready
as a rule to use compulsion in their turn towards men and women who
disagreed with them, whether pagans or those of their own faith. Quite
early in its history the Church was torn by disputes, since much of its
teaching had been handed down by ‘tradition’, or word of mouth, and
this led to disagreement as to what Christ had really said or meant by
many of his words. At length the Church decided that it would gather
the principal doctrines of the ‘Catholic’ or ‘universal’ faith into a
form of belief that men could learn and recite. Thus the ‘Apostles’
Creed’ came into existence.

In spite of this definition of the faith controversy continued. At the
beginning of the fourth century a dispute as to the exact relationship
of God the Father to God the Son in the doctrine of the Trinity broke
out between Arius, a presbyter of the Church in Egypt, and the Bishop
of Alexandria, the latter declaring that Arius had denied the divinity
of Christ. Partisans defended either side, and the quarrel grew so
embittered that an appeal was made to the Emperor to give his decision.

Constantine was reluctant to interfere. ‘They demand my judgement,’
he said, ‘who myself expect the judgement of Christ. What audacity of
madness!’ When he found, however, that some steps must be taken if
there was to be any order in the Church at all, he summoned a Council
to meet at Nicea and consider the question, and thither came bishops
and clergy from all parts of the Christian world. The meetings were
prolonged and stormy; but the eloquence of a young Egyptian deacon
called Athanasius decided the case against Arius; and the latter,
refusing to submit to the decrees of the Council, was proclaimed a
heretic, or outlaw. The orthodox Catholics, that is, the majority of
bishops who were present, then drew up a new creed to express their
exact views, and this took its name from the Council, and was called
the ‘Nicene Creed’. In a revised form it is still recited in all the
Catholic churches of Christendom.

Arius, though defeated at the Council, succeeded in winning the Emperor
over to his views, and Constantine tried to persuade the Catholics
to receive him back into the Church. When this suggestion met with
refusal the Emperor, who now believed that he had a right to settle
ecclesiastical matters, was so angry that he tried to install Arius in
one of the churches of his new city of Constantinople by force of arms.
The orthodox bishop promptly closed and barred the gates, and riots
ensued that were only ended by the death of Arius himself.

The schism, however, continued, and it may be claimed that its
bitterness had a considerable influence in deciding the future of
Europe by raising barriers between races that might otherwise have
become friends. Arianism, like orthodox Catholicism, was full of the
missionary spirit, and from its priests the half-civilized tribes of
Goths and Vandals learned the new faith. A Gothic bishop was present
at the Council of Nicea, while another, Ulfilas, who had studied Latin,
Greek, and Hebrew at Constantinople, afterwards translated a great part
of the Bible into his own tongue. This is the first-known missionary
Bible; and, though the original has disappeared, a copy made about a
century later is in a museum at Upsala, written in Gothic characters in
silver and gold on purple vellum.

The Goths regarded their Bible with deep awe, and carried it with them
on their wanderings, consulting it before they went into battle. Like
the Vandals, who had also been converted by the Arians, they considered
themselves true Christians; but the orthodox Catholics disliked them as
heretics almost more than the pagans.

[Sidenote: Early Monasticism]

Constantine himself imbibed the spirit of fanaticism; and when he
became the champion of Arius, persecuted Athanasius, who had been made
Bishop of Alexandria, and compelled him to go into exile. Athanasius
went to Rome, where it is said that he was at first ridiculed because
he was accompanied by two Egyptian monks in hoods and cowls. Western
Europe had heard little as yet of monasticism, though the Eastern
Church had adopted it for some time.

To the early Christians with their high ideals the world around them
seemed a wicked place, in which it was difficult for them to lead a
Christ-like life. They thought that by withdrawing from an atmosphere
of brutality and material pleasure, and by giving themselves up to
fasting and prayer, they would be able more easily to fix their minds
on God and so fit themselves for Heaven. Sometimes they would go to
desert places and live as hermits in caves, perhaps without talking to
a living person for months or even years. Others who could not face
such loneliness would join a community of monks, dwelling together
under special rules of discipline. At fixed hours of the day and night
they would recite the services of the Church, and in between whiles
they would work or pray and study the Scriptures.

Many of the austerities they practised sound to us absurd, for it is
hard to feel in sympathy with a Simon Stylites who spent the best days
of his manhood crouched on a high pillar at the mercy of sun, wind,
and rain, until his limbs stiffened and withered away. Yet the hermits
and monks were an arresting witness to Christianity in an age that had
not fully realized what Christ’s teaching meant. ‘He that will serve
me let him take up his cross and follow me.’ This ideal of sacrifice
was brought home for the first time to hundreds of thoughtless men
and women when they saw some one whom they knew give up his worldly
prospects and the joy of a home and children in order to lead a life of
perpetual discomfort until death should come to him as a blessing not
a curse. The majority of the leading clergy in the early Church, the
‘Fathers of the Church’, as they are usually called, were monks.

[Sidenote: The Fathers of the Church]

Two of them, St. Gregory and St. Basil, studied together at the
University of Athens in the fourth century. St. Basil founded a
community of monks in Asia Minor, where his reputation for holiness
soon drew together a large number of disciples. He did not try to
win them by fair words or the promise of ease and comfort, for his
monks were allowed little to eat and spent their days in prayer and
manual labour of the hardest kind. The Arians, who hated St. Basil
as an orthodox Catholic, once threatened that they would confiscate
his belongings, torture him, and put him to death. ‘My sole wealth is
a ragged cloak and some books,’ replied the hermit calmly. ‘My days
on earth are but a pilgrimage, and my body is so feeble that it will
expire at the first torment. Death will be a relief.’ It came when
he was only fifty, but not at the hands of his enemies, for he died
exhausted by the penances and privations of his customary life. He left
many letters and theological works that throw light on the religious
questions of his day.

St. Gregory had lived for a time with St. Basil and his monks in Asia
Minor but was not strong enough to submit to the same harsh discipline.
Indeed he declared that but for the kindness of St. Basil’s mother he
would have died of starvation. Afterwards he returned home and was
ordained a priest. He was a gentler type of man than St. Basil, a poet
of no little merit and an eloquent preacher.

Yet another of the Catholic ‘Fathers of the Church’ was St. Ambrose,
Bishop of Milan. He was elected to this see against his own will by
the people of the town, who respected him because he was strong and
fearless. St. Ambrose did not hesitate to use the wealth of the Church,
even melting down some of the altar-vessels, to ransom Christians who
had been carried away captive during one of the barbarian invasions.
‘The Church,’ he declared, ‘possesses gold and silver not to hoard, but
to spend on the welfare and happiness of men.’

The impetuosity and vigour that made him a born leader he also employed
to express his intolerance of those who disagreed with him. When
some Christians in Milan burned a Jewish synagogue and the Emperor
Theodosius ordered them to rebuild it, St. Ambrose advised them not to
do so. ‘I myself,’ he said, ‘would have burned the synagogue.... What
has been done is but a trifling retaliation for acts of plunder and
destruction committed by Jews and heretics against the Catholics.’ This
was not the spirit of the Founder of Christianity: it was too often the
spirit of the mediaeval Church.

A man of even greater influence than St. Ambrose of Milan was St.
Jerome, a monk of the fifth century, who is chiefly remembered to-day
because of his Latin translation of the Bible, ‘the Vulgate’ as it is
called, that is still the recognized edition of the Roman Catholic

St. Jerome was born in Italy, but in his extreme asceticism he followed
the practices of the Eastern rather than the Western Church. As a youth
he had led a wild life, but, suddenly repenting, he disappeared to live
as a hermit in the desert, starving and mortifying himself. So strongly
did he believe that this was the only road to Heaven that when he went
to Rome he preached continually in favour of celibacy, urging men and
women not to marry, as if marriage had been a sin. He was afraid that
if they became happy and contented in their home life they would forget

Many of the leading families, and especially their women, came under
St. Jerome’s influence, but such exaggerated views could never be
really popular and, instead of being chosen Bishop of Rome as he had
expected, he was forced, by the many enemies he had aroused, to leave
the town, and returned once more to the desert. Of his sincerity there
can be little doubt, but his outlook on life was warped because, like
so many good and earnest contemporary Christians, he believed that
human nature and this earth were entirely bad and that only by the
suppression of any enjoyment in them could the soul obtain salvation.

Several centuries were to pass before St. Francis of Assisi taught his
fellow men the beauty and value of what is human.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Foundation of Constantinople]

Constantinople (the _Polis_ or city of Constantine) had been a Greek
colony under the name of Byzantium long before Rome existed. Built on
the headland of the Golden Horn, its walls were lapped by an inland sea
whose depth and smoothness made a splendid harbour from the rougher
waters of the Mediterranean. Almost impregnable in its fortifications,
it frowned on Asia across the narrow straits of the Hellespont and
completely commanded the entrance to the Black Sea, with its rich
ports, markets then as now for the corn and grain of southern Russia.

Constantine, when he decided that Byzantium should be his capital,
was well aware of these advantages. He had been born in the Balkans,
had spent a great part of his life as a soldier in Asia, had assumed
the imperial crown in Britain, and ruled Gaul for his first kingdom.
This medley of experience left little place in his heart for Italy,
and the name of Rome had no power to stir his blood. Rome to him was
a corrupt town in one of the outlying limbs of his Empire: it had no
harbour nor special military value on land, while the Alps were a
barrier preventing news from passing quickly to and fro. Byzantium, on
the other hand, near the mouth of the Danube, was easy of access and
yet could be rendered almost impregnable to his foes. It had the great
military advantage also of serving as an admirable head-quarters for
keeping watch over the northern frontier and an outlook towards the

The walls of the original town could not embrace the Emperor’s
ambitions, and he himself, wand in hand, designed the boundaries. His
court, following him, gasped with dismay. ‘It is enough,’ they urged;
‘no imperial city was ever so great before.’ ‘I shall go on,’ replied
Constantine, ‘until he, the invisible guide who marches before me,
thinks fit to stop.’

Not until the seven hills outside Byzantium were enclosed within
his circuit was the Emperor satisfied; and then the great work of
building began, and the white marble of Forum and Baths, of Palaces
and Colonnades, arose to adorn the Constantinople that has ever since
this time played so large a part in the history of Europe. In the new
market-place, just beyond the original walls, was placed the ‘Golden
Milestone’, a marble column within a small temple, bearing the proud
inscription that here was the ‘central point of the world’. Inside were
statues of Constantine and Queen Helena his mother, while Rome herself
and the cities of Greece were robbed of their masterpieces of sculpture
to embellish the buildings of the new capital.

In May A.D. 330 Constantinople was solemnly consecrated, and the
Empire kept high festival in honour of an event that few of the
revellers recognized would alter the whole course of her destiny. The
new capital, through her splendid strategic position, was to preserve
the imperial throne with one short lapse for more than a thousand
years, but this advantage was obtained at the expense of Rome, and the
complete severance of the interests of the Empire in the East and West.

The Romans had never loved the Greeks, even when they most admired
their art and subtle intellect, and now in the fourth century this
persistent distrust was intensified when Greece usurped the glory that
had been her conqueror’s. In the absence of an Emperor and of the many
high officials who had gone to swell the triumph of his new court,
Rome set up another idol. The symbols of material glory might vanish,
but the Christian faith had supplied men with fresh ideals through the
teaching of the Apostles and their representatives, the Bishops.

Roman bishops claimed that the gift of grace they received at their
consecration had been passed down to them by the successive laying-on
of hands from St. Peter himself. ‘Thou art Peter, and on this rock I
will build my Church ... and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall
be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall
be loosed in heaven.’ These words of Christ seemed to grant to his
apostle complete authority over the souls of men; and Christians at
Rome began to ask if the power of St. Peter to ‘bind and loose’ had not
been handed down to his successors? If so _Il Papa_, that is, ‘their
father’, the Pope, was undoubtedly the first bishop in Christendom, for
on no other apostle had Christ bestowed a like authority.

It must not be imagined that this reasoning came like a flash of
inspiration or was willingly received by all Christians. Many
generations of Popes, from the days of St. Peter onwards, were regarded
merely as Bishops of Rome, that is, as ‘overseers’ of the Church in
the chief city of the Empire. They were loved and esteemed by their
flock not on account of special divine authority but because they
stood neither for self-interest nor for faction, but for principles of
justice, mercy, and brotherhood.

Had a Roman been robbed by a fellow citizen, were there a plague or
famine, was the city threatened by enemies without her walls, it was
to her bishop Rome turned, demanding help and protection. Afterwards
it was only natural that the one power that could and did afford these
things when Emperors and Senators were far away should in time take the
Emperor’s place, and that the Pope should appear to Rome, and gradually
as we shall see to Western Europe, God’s very viceroy on earth.

To the Church in Greece, Egypt, and Asia Minor he never assumed this
halo of glory. Byzantium, the great Constantinople, was the pivot
on which the eastern world turned, and the Bishop of Rome with his
tradition of St. Peter made no authoritative appeal. Thus far back in
the fourth century the cleft had already opened between the Churches of
the East and West that was to widen into a veritable chasm.

Constantine ‘the Great’ died in 337, and if greatness be measured by
achievement he well deserves his title. Where men of higher genius
and originality had failed he had succeeded, beating down with calm
perseverance every object that threatened his ambitions, until at
last the Christian ruler of a united empire, feared and respected by
subjects and enemies alike, he passed to his rest.



Instead of endeavouring to maintain a united empire, Constantine in
his will divided up his dominions between three sons and two nephews.
Before thirty years were over, however, a series of murders and civil
wars had exterminated his family; and two brothers, Valentian and
Valens, men of humble birth but capable soldiers, were elected as joint
emperors. Valens ruled at Constantinople, his brother at Milan; and it
was during this reign that the Empire received one of the worst blows
that had ever befallen her.

We have already mentioned the Goths, a race of barbarians
half-civilized by Roman influence and converted to Christianity by
followers of Arius. One of their tribes, the Visigoths, had settled
in large numbers in the country to the north of the Danube. On the
whole their relations with the Empire were friendly, and it was
hardly their fault that the peace was finally broken, but rather of
a strange Tartar race the Huns, that, massing in the plains of Asia,
had suddenly swept over Europe. Here is a description given of the
Huns by a Gothic writer: ‘Men with faces that can scarcely be called
faces, rather shapeless black collops of flesh with tiny points instead
of eyes: little in stature but lithe and active, skilful in riding,
broad-shouldered, hiding under a barely human form the ferocity of a
wild beast.’

Tradition says that these monsters, mounted on their shaggy ponies,
rode women and children under foot and feasted on human flesh. Whether
this be true or no, their name became a terror to the civilized world,
and after a few encounters with them the Visigoths crowded on the edge
of the Danube and implored the Emperor to allow them to shelter behind
the line of Roman forts.

Valens, to whom the petition was made, hesitated. There was obvious
danger to his dominions in this sudden influx of a whole tribe; but on
the other hand fear might madden the Visigoths into trying to cross
even if he refused, and if so could he withstand them?

‘All the multitude that had escaped from the murderous savagery of the
Huns,’ says a writer of the day, ‘no less than 200,000 fighting men
besides women and old men and children, were there on the river bank,
stretching out their hands with loud lamentations ... and promising
that they would ever faithfully adhere to the imperial alliance, if
only the boon was granted them.’

Reluctantly Valens yielded; and soon the province of Dacia was crowded
with refugees; but here the real trouble began. Food must be found
for this multitude, and it was evident that the local crops would not
suffice. In vain the Emperor commanded that corn should be imported:
the greed of officials who were responsible for carrying out this order
led them to hold up large consignments, and to sell what little they
allowed to pass at wholly extortionate rates. Their unwelcome guests,
half-starved and fleeced of the small savings they had been able to
bring with them, complained, plotted, and broke at last into open

This treatment of the Visigoths in Dacia is one of the worst pages
in the history of the Roman Empire, but it brought its own speedy
punishment. The suspicion and hatred engendered by misery spread like a
flame, and the barbarian forces were joined by deserters of their own
race from the imperial legions and by runaway slaves until they had
grown into a formidable army. Valens, forced to take steps to preserve
his throne, met them on the battle-field of Adrianople, but only to
suffer crushing defeat. He himself was slain, and some 40,000 of those
who had served under his banner.

[Sidenote: The Emperor Theodosius]

Never before had the imperial eagles met with such a reverse at
barbarian hands, and the Visigoths after the first moment of triumph
were almost alarmed at the extent of their own success. Before the
frowning walls of Constantinople their courage faltered, and without
attempting a siege they retreated northwards into Thrace. Gladly they
came to terms with Theodosius, Valens’s successor, who, not content
with regranting them the lands to the south of the Danube that they so
much desired, increased his army by taking whole regiments of their
best warriors into his pay.

‘Lover of peace and of the Goths’ is the character with which
Theodosius has passed down to posterity, and during his reign the
Visigoths and other northern tribes received continual marks of his

One of the Gothic kings, the old chief Athanaric, went to visit him at
Constantinople, and was overwhelmed by the magnificence and luxury he
saw around him. ‘Now do I at last behold,’ he exclaimed, ‘what I have
often heard but deemed incredible.... Doubtless the Emperor is a God on
earth, and he who raises a hand against him is guilty of his own blood.’

The alliance between Goth and Greek served its purpose at the moment,
for by the aid of his new troops Theodosius was able to defeat the
rival Emperor of Rome and to conquer Italy. When he died he left
Constantinople and the East to his eldest son Arcadius, a youth of
eighteen, and Rome and the West to the younger, Honorius, who was only
eleven. True to his belief in barbarian ability, Theodosius selected
a Vandal chief, Stilicho, to whom he had given his niece in marriage,
that he might act as the boy’s adviser and command the imperial forces.

Under a wise regent a nation may wait in patience for their child ruler
to mature. Unfortunately, Honorius, as he grew up, belied any promise
of manliness he had ever shown, languidly refusing to continue his
boyish sports of riding or archery, and taking no interest save in
some cocks and hens that it was his daily pleasure to feed himself. He
had no affection or reverence for Rome, and finally settled in Ravenna
on the Adriatic as the safest fortress in his dominions. From here he
consented to sign the orders that dispatched the legions to protect his
frontiers, or issued haughty manifestoes to his enemies.

So long as Stilicho lived such feebleness passed comparatively
unnoticed; for the Vandal, a man of giant build and strength, possessed
to the full the tireless energy and daring that the dangers of the time

Theodosius had made the Visigoths his friends; but on his death they
began to chafe at the restrictions laid upon them by the imperial
alliance. Arcadius was nearly as poor a creature as his younger
brother, ‘so inactive that he seldom spoke and always looked as though
he were about to fall asleep.’ The barbarians bore him no hatred, but
on the other hand he could scarcely inspire their affection or fear,
and so they chose a king of their own, Alaric, one of their most famous
generals, and from this moment they began to think of fresh conquests
and pillage.

[Sidenote: Visigothic Invasion]

The suggestion of sacking Constantinople was put on one side. Those
massive walls against their background of sea would make it a difficult
task; besides, the Visigoths argued, were there not other towns equally
rich and more vulnerable? With an exultant shout that answered this
question they set out on their march first towards Illyricum on the
eastern coast of the Adriatic, and then to the fertile plains of Italy.

Alaric and Stilicho were well matched as generals, and for years,
through arduous campaigns of battles and sieges, the Vandal kept the
Goth at bay. When at last death forced him to resign the challenge, it
was no enemy’s sword but the weapon of treachery that robbed Rome of
her best defender.

Honorius, lacking in gratitude as in other virtues, had been ill
pleased at the success of his armies; for wily courtiers, hoping to
plant their fortunes amid another’s ruin, told him that Stilicho
intended to secure the imperial throne for himself and that in order to
do so he would think little of murdering his royal master. Suspicion
made the timid Emperor writhe with terror through sleepless nights. It
seemed to him that he would never know peace of mind again until he had
rid himself of his formidable commander-in-chief; and so by his orders
Stilicho was put to death and Italy lay at the mercy of Alaric and his

Sweeping across the Alps, the Visigoths paused at last before the gates
of Rome. ‘We are many in number and prepared to fight,’ boldly began
the ambassadors sent out from the city. ‘Thick grass is easier to mow
than thin,’ replied Alaric.

Dropping their lofty tone, the ambassadors demanded the price of peace,
and on the answer, ‘Your gold and silver, your treasures, all that you
have,’ they exclaimed in horror, ‘What then do you leave us?’ ‘Your
souls,’ was the mocking rejoinder.

After much argument the Visigoths consented to be bought off and
retreated northwards, but it was only to return in the summer of the
year 410, when Rome after a feeble resistance opened her gates. Her
enemies poured in triumph through the streets; but Alaric was no Hun
loving slaughter for its own sake, and ordered his troops to respect
human life and to spare the churches and the gold and silver vessels
that rested on their altars.

He spent only a few days in sacking the city and then marched
southwards, intending to invade Africa. While his army was embarking,
however, he fell ill and died, and so great was his loss that all
thought of the campaign was surrendered. Alaric was mourned by his
people as a national hero, and, unable to bear the thought that his
enemies might one day desecrate his tomb, they dammed up a river in the
neighbourhood, and dug a grave for their general deep in its bed. When
they had laid his body there, they released the stream into its old
course, and so left their hero safe from insult beneath the waters.

The sack of Rome that moved the civilized world profoundly made little
impression upon the young Emperor. He had named one of his favourite
hens after the capital; and when a messenger, haggard with the news he
had brought, fell on his knees, gasping, ‘Sire, Rome has perished,’
Honorius only frowned, and replied, ‘Impossible! I fed her myself this

St. Jerome, in his hermit’s cell at Bethlehem, was stupefied at the
fate of the ‘Eternal City’. ‘The world crumbles,’ he said. ‘There is
no created work that rust or age does not consume: but Rome! Who could
have believed that, raised by her victories above the universe, she
would one day fall?’

Why had Rome fallen? This was the question on everybody’s lips. We
know to-day that the process of her corruption had been working for
centuries; but men and women rarely see what is going on around them,
and some began to murmur that the old gods of Olympus were angry
because their religion had been forsaken. It was affirmed that Christ
would save the world, but what had He done to save Rome?

Christianity was not long in finding a champion to defend her cause--an
African monk, Augustine, to mediaeval minds the greatest of all the
‘Fathers of the Church’. Augustine was the son of a pagan father and a
Christian mother and grew up a wild and undisciplined boy. After some
years at the University of Carthage, spent in casual study and habitual
dissipation, he determined to go to Rome, and from there passed to
Milan, where he went out of curiosity to listen to the preaching of
St. Ambrose. It was obvious that he would either hate or be strongly
influenced by this fiery old man; and in truth Augustine, who secretly
repented of the way he had wasted his life, was in a ripe mood to
receive the message that he had refused to hear from the lips of Monica
his mother. Soon he was converted and baptized, and later he was made
Bishop of Hippo, a place not far from Carthage.

It is difficult to give a picture of Augustine in a few words. Like St.
Ambrose and others of the early ‘Fathers’ he was quite intolerant of
heresy and believed that ordinary human love and the simplest pleasures
of the world were snares set by the devil to catch the unwary; but
against these unbalanced views, largely the product of the age in which
he lived, must be set his burning enthusiasm for God, and the services
that he rendered to Christianity.

A modern writer says of him, ‘As the supreme man of his time he summed
up the past as it still lived, remoulded it, added to it from himself,
and gave it a new unity and form wherein it was to live on.... The
great heart, the great mind, the mind led by the heart’s inspiration,
the heart guided by the mind--this is Augustine.’

Superior in intellect to other men of his day, his whole being filled
with the love of God and fired by the desire to make the world share
his worship, he preached, worked, and wrote only to this end. In his
_Confessions_ he describes his youth and repentance; but his most
famous work is his _Civitas Dei_.

Here was the answer to those who declared that Rome had fallen because
she neglected her pagan deities. Rome, he maintained, was not and never
could be eternal; for the one eternal kingdom was the _Civitas Dei_, or
‘City of God’, towards whose reign of triumph the human race had been
tending since earliest times. Before her glory the kingdoms of this
world, and all the culture and civilization of which men boasted, must
fade away. Thus God had destined; and St. Augustine exerted all his
eloquence and powers of reasoning to prove from history the magnitude
and sureness of the divine purpose.

[Sidenote: Vandal Invasion]

The author of the _Civitas Dei_ was to have his faith severely tested,
for he died amid scenes of desolation and horror that held out no hope
of happiness for man on earth. Rome stood at the mercy of barbarians,
and Christian Africa was also fast falling under their yoke. These
new invaders, the Vandals, were also a German tribe, who, as soon as
Stilicho withdrew legions from the Rhine to defend Italy from the
Visigoths, broke over the weakened frontier into Gaul, and from there
crossed the Pyrenees and marched southwards.

Spain had been one of the richest of Rome’s provinces, and besides her
minerals and corn had provided the Empire with not a few rulers as
well as famous authors and poets. In her commercial prosperity she had
grown, like her neighbours, corrupt and unwarlike, so that the Vandals
met with little resistance and plundered and pillaged at their will.
Instead of settling down amid their conquests they were driven by the
promise of further loot and the pressure of other barbarian tribes
following hard on their heels to cross the narrow Strait of Gibraltar
and to pursue their way due east along the African coast. In Spain
they have left the memory of their presence in the name of one of her
fairest provinces, Andalusia.

The chief of the Vandals at this time was Genseric, who not only
conquered all the coast-line of North Africa, but also built a fleet
that became the terror of the Mediterranean. Like the Goths the Vandals
were Christians, but they held the views of Arius and there could be
little hope that they would tolerate the orthodox Catholics. Though
hardly as inhuman and ruthless as their opponents would have had
the world believe, they pillaged and laid waste as they passed; and
posterity has since applied the word _vandal_ to the man who wilfully

The name ‘Hun’ is of even more sinister repute. In the first half of
the fifth century the Huns in their triumphant march across Europe were
led by their king, Attila, ‘the Scourge of God’, whose boast it was
that never grass grew again where his horse’s hoofs had once trod. So
short and squat as to be almost deformed, flat-nosed, with a swarthy
skin and deep-set eyes, that he would roll hideously when angered, the
King loved to inspire terror not only amongst his enemies but in the
chieftains under his command. Pity, gentleness, civilization, such
words were either unknown or abhorrent to him; and in the towns whose
walls were stormed by his troops, old men, women, priests, and children
fell alike victims to his sword.

It was his ambition that the name of ‘Attila’ should become a terror
to the whole earth, but the extent to which he succeeded in realizing
this aim brought a serious check to his arms; for when he reached the
boundaries of Gaul, he found that fear had gathered into a single
hostile force of formidable size races that had warred for centuries
amongst themselves. Here were not only ‘Provincials’, descendants of
the Romanized inhabitants of Gaul, but Goths, Franks, Burgundians, and
other tribes who, like the Vandals, had forced the passage of the Rhine
as soon as the imperial garrisons were weakened or withdrawn. They had
little in common save hatred of the Hun, a passion so strong that in a
desperate battle on the plain of Chalons they hurled back the Tartar
hordes for ever from the lands of Western Europe.

Shaken by his defeat, but sullen and vindictive, Attila turned his
thoughts to Italy; and he and his warriors swept across the passes of
the Alps and descended on the fertile country lying to the north-west
of the Adriatic. The Italians made but a feeble resistance, and the
palaces, baths, and amphitheatres of once wealthy towns vanished in
smoking ruins.

One important work of construction Attila unconsciously assisted, for
the inhabitants of Aquileia, seeking a refuge from their cruel foe,
fled to the coast, and there amid the desolate lagoons they and their
descendants built for themselves in the course of centuries a new city,
Venice, the future ‘Queen of the Adriatic’. Aquileia had been a city of
repute, but it can be safely guessed that she would never have attained
the world-wide glory that Venice, safe behind her barrier of marshes
and with every incentive to naval enterprise, was to establish in the
Middle Ages.

From the Adriatic provinces Attila passed to Rome, but refrained from
sacking the city. It is said that he was uneasy because the armies
of Gaul that had defeated him at Chalons still hung on his rear,
threatening to cut off his retreat across the Alps. At any rate,
he consented to make terms negotiated by the Pope on behalf of the
citizens of Rome. Contemporary accounts declare that the Hun was awed
by the sight of Leo I in his priestly robes and by the fearlessness of
his bearing, and certainly for his mediation he well deserved the title
of ‘Great’ that the people in their gratitude bestowed on him.

Attila, when he left Rome, turned northwards, but died quite shortly
after some drunken orgy. The kingdom of massacre and fire that he had
built on the terror of his name fell rapidly to pieces, and only the
remembrance of that terror remained; while Huns merged themselves in
the armies of other tribes or fought together in petty rivalry.

[Sidenote: Vandal Sack of Rome]

Rome had been taken by Alaric the Visigoth and spared by Attila, but
her trials were not yet at an end. Genseric, the Vandal king, who had
established himself at Carthage, was only awaiting his opportunity to
plunder a city that was still a world-famous treasure house. His fleet,
that had cut off Italy entirely from the cornfields of Egypt, blockaded
the mouth of the Tiber, and the Romans, weakened by famine and the
warfare of the past few years, quickly sued for peace.

Once more Pope Leo went as mediator to the camp of his enemies; but
the Arian Vandal, unlike the pagan Hun, was adamant. He was willing
to forgo a general massacre but nothing further, and for a fortnight
the city was ruthlessly pillaged. Then Genseric sailed away, carrying
with him thousands of prisoners besides all the treasures of money and
art on which he could lay hands. Nearly four hundred years before, the
Emperor Titus, when he sacked Jerusalem, brought to Rome the golden
altar and candlesticks of the Jewish Temple, and now Rome in her turn
was despoiled of these trophies of her former victories.

It was little wonder if the Western emperors, who had systematically
failed to save their capital, became discredited at last among their
own troops, and Rome, that had begun life according to tradition under
a ‘Romulus’, was to end her Empire under another, a handsome boy,
nicknamed in derision of his helplessness ‘Augustulus’, or ‘little

The pretext of his deposition was his refusal to grant Italian lands
to the German troops who formed the main part of the imperial army, on
which their captain, Odoacer, compelled him to abdicate. So low had
the imperial dignity sunk in public estimation that Odoacer, instead
of claiming the once-coveted honour, sent the diadem and purple robe
to the Emperor at Constantinople. ‘We disclaim the necessity or even
the wish’, wrote Augustulus, ‘of continuing any longer the imperial
succession in Italy.... The majesty of a sole monarch is sufficient to
pervade and protect at the same time both East and West.’

The writer, so fortunate in his insignificance that no one wished
to assassinate him, spent the rest of his days in a castle by the
Mediterranean, supported by a revenue from the state; while Odoacer,
with the title of ‘Patrician’, ruled the land with statesmanlike
moderation for fourteen years.

[Sidenote: Ostrogothic Invasion]

Two more waves of invasion were yet to break across the Alps and
hinder all attempts at restoration and unity. The first was that
of the ‘Ostrogoths’, or ‘Eastern’ Goths, a tribe of the same race
as the Visigoths that, meeting the first onslaught of the Huns in
their advance from Asia, had only just on the death of Attila freed
themselves from this terrible yoke. They sought now an independent
kingdom, and under the leadership of their prince, Theodoric, chafed
on the boundaries of the Eastern Empire, with which they had formed an

Theodoric had been educated in Constantinople, and though brave and
warlike did not share the reckless love of battle that animated his
followers. He realized, however, that he must lead the Ostrogoths
to a new land of plenty or incur their hatred and suspicion, so he
appealed to the Emperor Zeno for leave to go to Italy as his general
and depose Odoacer. ‘Direct me with the soldiers of my nation,’ he
wrote, ‘to march against the tyrant. If I fall you will be relieved
from an expensive and troublesome friend; if, with divine permission, I
succeed, I shall govern in your name and to your glory.’

Zeno had not been sufficiently powerful to prevent Odoacer from taking
the title of ‘Patrician’, but he had never liked the ‘barbarian
upstart’ who had dared to depose an emperor. He had also begun to dread
the presence of the restless Ostrogoths so close to Constantinople, and
warmly appreciated Theodoric’s arguments in favour of their exodus.
If the two barbarian kings destroyed one another, it would be all the
better for the Empire, and so with the imperial blessing Theodoric
started on his great adventure.

He took with him not only his warriors but the women and children
of his tribe and all their possessions; and after several battles
succeeded in defeating and slaying his opponent. Rome, that looked upon
him as the Emperor’s representative, joyfully opened her gates, but
Theodoric preferred to make Ravenna his capital, and here he settled
and planted an orchard with his own hands.

It was his hope that he might win the trust and affection of his
new subjects, and, though he ruled exactly as he liked, he remained
outwardly submissive to the Emperor, writing him humble letters and
marking the coinage with the imperial stamp. He frequently consulted
the Senate at Rome that, though it had long ago lost any real power,
had never ceased to take a nominal share in the government; and when
he gave a third of the Italian lands to his own countrymen he allowed
Roman officials to make the division.

Theodoric also maintained the laws and customs of Italy and forced
the Ostrogoths to respect them too; but his army remained a national
bodyguard, and in spite of his efforts at conciliation the two peoples
did not mingle. Between them stood the barrier of religious bitterness,
for the Ostrogoths were Arians, and, though their ruler was very
tolerant in his attitude, the Catholics were always suspicious of his

On one occasion there had been a riot against the Jews and several
synagogues had been burned. Theodoric ordered a collection of money to
be made amongst the orthodox Catholics who were responsible, that the
buildings might be restored. This command was disobeyed, and when the
ring-leaders of the strike were whipped through the streets, popular
anger against the Gothic king grew to white heat. He himself changed in
character as he became older and showed himself morose and tyrannical.
Towards the end of his reign he put to death Boethius, a Roman senator,
who had been one of his favourite advisers, but who had dared to defend
openly a man whom he himself had condemned.

Boethius was not only a fearless champion of his friends--he was a
great scholar who had kept alight the torch of classical learning amid
the darkness and horror of invasion. Besides translating some of the
works of Aristotle he wrote treatises on logic, arithmetic, geometry,
and astronomy, and made an able defence of the Nicene Creed against
Arian attacks. The last and most famous of his works, that for ten
centuries men have remembered and loved, was his _Consolations of
Philosophy_, written when death in a most horrible form was already
drawing close. Tortured by a cord drawn closely round his forehead,
and then beaten with clubs, the philosopher escaped from a life where
fortune had dealt with him cruelly. His master survived him by two
years, repenting on his death-bed in an agony of remorse the brutal
sentence he had meted out.

It is scarcely fair to judge Theodoric by the tyranny of his last
days. It is better to recall the glory of his prime, and how ‘in
the Western part of the Empire there was no people who refused him
homage’. Allied by family ties with the Burgundians, the Visigoths,
the Vandals, and the Franks, he was undoubtedly the greatest of all
the barbarians of his age. Had his successors shown a little of his
statesmanlike qualities, Ostrogoth and Italian, in spite of their
religious differences, might have united to form a single nation, but
unfortunately, before twenty years had passed, the kingdom he had
founded was destined to disappear.

Theodoric was succeeded by his grandson, a boy who lived only a
few years, and then by a worthless nephew, without either royal or
statesmanlike qualities. In contrast to this weak dynasty, there ruled
at Constantinople an Emperor who possessed in the highest degree the
ability and steadfastness of purpose that the times required.

[Sidenote: The Emperor Justinian]

Justinian was only a peasant by birth, but he had been well educated
and took a keen interest not only in questions of law and finance that
concerned the government but in theology, music, and architecture.
In his manner to his subjects he was friendly though dignified, but
there was something unsympathetic in his nature that prevented him
from becoming popular. His courtiers regarded his industry with awe,
but some professed to believe that he could not spend so many midnight
hours at work unless he were an evil spirit not requiring sleep. One
writer says that ‘no one ever remembered him young’: yet this serious
prince married for love a beautiful actress, Theodora, and dared, in
the face of general indignation, to make her his empress. An historian
of the time says of Theodora, ‘it were impossible for mere man to
describe her comeliness in words or imitate it in art’; yet she was
no doll, but took a very definite share in the government, extorting
admiration by her dignity even from those who had pretended to despise

Justinian’s chief passion was for building, and he spent a great part
of his revenue in erecting bridges, baths, forts, and palaces. Most
famous of all the architecture of his time was Saint Sophia, ‘the
Church of the Holy Wisdom’, that after Constantinople passed into the
hands of the Turks became a mosque.

It is not, however, for Saint Sophia that Justinian is chiefly
remembered but for the _Corpus Juris Civilis_, literally ‘the body of
Civil Law’, that he published in order that his subjects might know
what the Roman law really was. The _Corpus Juris Civilis_ consisted
of three parts--the ‘Code’, a collection of decrees made by various
emperors; next the ‘Digest’, the decisions of eminent lawyers; and
thirdly the ‘Institutes’, an explanation of the principles of Roman
law. ‘After thirteen centuries,’ says a modern writer, ‘it stands
unsurpassed as a treasury of legal knowledge;’ and all through the
Middle Ages men were to look to it for inspiration. Thus it was on the
_Corpus Juris Civilis_ that ecclesiastical lawyers based the Canon law
that gave to the Pope an emperor’s power over the Church.

Justinian worked for the progress of the world when he codified Roman
law. It was unfortunate that military ambition led him to exhaust his
treasury and overtax his subjects, in order that he might establish his
rule over the whole of Europe like Theodosius and Constantine. Besides
carrying on an almost continuous war with the King of Persia, he sent
an army and fleet under an able general, Belisarius, to fight against
the Vandals in North Africa; and so successful was this campaign that
Justinian became master of the whole coast-line, and even of a part of
southern Spain. This gave him command of the Mediterranean, and he at
once determined to overthrow the feeble descendants of Theodoric, and
to restore the imperial dominion over Italy in deed, not as it had been
from the time of Odoacer merely in name.

The task was not easy, for the Italians, as we have noticed, did not
love the Greeks, while the Goths fought bravely for independence. At
length, in the year 555, after nineteen campaigns, Narses, an Armenian
who was at the head of Justinian’s forces, succeeded in crushing the
Barbarians and established his rule at Ravenna, from which city, under
the title of _Exarch_, he controlled the whole peninsula.

[Sidenote: Lombard Invasion]

Narses’ triumph had been in a great measure due to a German tribe, ‘The
Lombards’, whose hosts he had enrolled under the imperial banner. These
Lombards, _Longobardi_ or ‘Long Beards’ as the name originally stood,
had migrated from the banks of the Elbe to the basin of the Danube, and
there, looking about them for a warlike outlet for their energies, were
quite as willing to invade Italy at Justinian’s command as to go on any
other campaign that promised to be profitable.

Narses, as soon as he was assured of success, paid them liberally for
their services and sent them back to their own people; but the Lombards
had learned to love the sunny climate and the vines growing out of
doors, and were soon discontented with their bleaker homeland. They
waited therefore until Narses, whom they knew and feared, was dead; and
then, under the leadership of Alboin, their king, crossed over the Alps
and invaded North Italy. They did not come in such tremendous strength
as the Ostrogoths in the past, nor were the imperial troops powerless
to stand against them: indeed, the two forces were so balanced that,
while the Lombards succeeded in establishing themselves in the province
of Lombardy, to which they gave their name, with Pavia as its capital,
the representatives of the Emperor still held the coast-line on both
sides, also Ravenna, Naples, Rome, and other principal towns.

This Lombard inroad, the last of the great Barbarian invasions of
Italy, was by far the most important in its effects. For one thing, two
hundred years were to pass before the power of the new settlers was
seriously shaken; and therefore, even the fact that they were pagans
and imposed their own laws ruthlessly on the Italians could not keep
the races from gradually intermingling. In time the higher civilization
conquered, and the fair-haired Teutons learned to worship the Christian
God, forgot their own tongue, and adopted the customs and habits they
saw around them. The Italians, on their part, in the course of their
struggles with the Lombards became trained in the art of war they had
almost forgotten. By the eighth century the fusion was complete.

Another very interesting and important result of the Lombard invasion
was that the prolonged duel between Barbarians and Greeks prevented
the development of any common form of government. There might in time
emerge an Italian race, but there could be no Italian nation so long as
towns and provinces were dominated by rulers whose policy and ambitions
were utterly opposed. The _Exarch_ of Ravenna claimed, in the name of
the Emperor at Constantinople, to collect taxes from and administer
the whole peninsula, but in practice he often ruled merely the strip
of land round his city cut off from other Greek officials by Lombard
dukes. He would be able to communicate by sea with the important towns
on or near the coast, such as Naples, but so irregularly that their
governments would tend to grow every year more independent of his
control. In Rome, for instance, there was not only the Senate with its
traditions of government, but the Pope, who even more than the Senate
had become the protector and adviser of his fellow citizens.

[Sidenote: Pope Gregory ‘the Great’]

We have seen how Leo ‘the Great’ persuaded Attila the Hun to withdraw
when his armies threatened the very gates of Rome, while later he went
on a like though unavailing mission to Genseric the Vandal. It was acts
like these that won recognition for the Papacy amongst other rulers;
and more than any of the Popes before him, Gregory ‘the Great’, who
ascended the chair of Peter in A.D. 590, built up the foundations of
this authority.

A Roman of position and wealth, Gregory had become in middle age a poor
monk, giving all his money to the poor and disciplining himself by
fasting and penance. He is remembered best in England to-day for the
interest he showed in the fair-haired Angles in the Roman slave-market.
‘They have Angels’ faces, they should be fellow-heirs of the Angels in
Heaven.’ His comment he followed up by a petition that he might sail
as a missionary to the northern island from which these slaves came;
and, when instead he was sent on an embassy to Constantinople, he did
not forget England in the years that passed, but after he became Pope,
chose St. Augustine to go and convert the heathen King of Kent. In this
way southern England was christianized and brought into touch with the
life of Western Europe.

‘A great Pope,’ it has been said, ‘is always a missionary Pope.’
Gregory had the true missionary’s enthusiasm, and his writings, all
of them theological, bear the stamp of St. Augustine of Hippo’s
ardent spirit enforced with a faith absolutely assured and unbending.
Besides being instrumental in converting England, Gregory during his
pontificate saw the Arian Church in Spain reconciled to the Catholic,
while he succeeded in winning the Lombard king to Christianity and

It was little wonder that the people of Rome, who had been at war with
these invaders for long years, looked up to the peace-maker not only
as their spiritual father but also as a temporal ruler. Had he not fed
them when they were starving, declaring that it was thus the Church
should use her wealth? Had he not raised soldiers to guard the walls
and sent out envoys to plead the city’s cause against her enemies?
There was no such practical help to be obtained from the Exarchs of
Ravenna, talk as they might about the glories of Constantinople.
Thus Romans argued, and Gregory, who knew the real weakness of
Constantinople, was able to disregard the imperial viceroys when he
chose, a policy of independence followed by his successors.

Since the Lombard kingdom had split up into a number of duchies each
with its own capital, Italy, in the early Middle Ages, tended to become
a group of city states, each jealous of its neighbours and ambitious
only for local interests. This provincial influence was so strong that
it has lasted into modern times. An Englishman or a Frenchman will
claim his country before thinking of the particular part from which he
comes, but it is more natural for an Italian to say first ‘I am Roman,’
or ‘Neapolitan,’ or ‘Florentine,’ as the case may be. It is only by
remembering this difference that Italian history can be read aright.

_Supplementary Dates. For Chronological Summary, see pp. 368-73._

  The Emperors Valentian and Valens       364
  Battle of Adrianople                    378
  The Emperor Theodosius                  379-95
  Vandal Invasion of Africa               441
  Battle of Chalons                       451
  Huns invade Italy                       452
  Pope Leo I ‘the Great’                  440



The historian Tacitus, whose description of the German tribes we have
already quoted, had told the people of Gaul that, unless these same
Germans were kept at bay by the Roman armies on the Rhine frontier,
they would ‘exchange the solitude of their woods and morasses for the
wealth and fertility of Gaul’. ‘The fall of Rome,’ he added, ‘would be
fatal to the provinces, and you would be buried in the ruins of that
mighty fabric.’

This prophetic warning proved only too true when Vandal and Visigoth,
Burgundian, Hun, and Frank forced the passage of the Rhine, and swept
in irresistible masses across vineyards and cornfields, setting fire
to those towns and fortresses that dared to offer resistance. The
Vandal migration was but a meteor flash on the road to Spain and North
Africa; while on the battle-field of Chalons the Huns were beaten back
and carried their campaign of bloodshed to Italy: but the other three
tribes succeeded in establishing formidable kingdoms in Gaul during the
fifth and sixth centuries.

At the head of the Visigoths rode Athaulf, brother-in-law of Alaric,
unanimously chosen king by the tribe on the death of that mighty
warrior.[1] Instead of continuing the campaign in South Italy, Athaulf
had made peace with the Emperor Honorius and married his sister, thus
gaining a semi-royal position in the eyes of Roman citizens.

‘I once aspired,’ he said frankly, ‘to obliterate the name of Rome
and to erect on its ruins the dominion of the Goths, but ... I was
gradually convinced that laws are essentially necessary to maintain
and regulate a well-constituted state.... From that moment, I proposed
to myself a different object of glory and ambition; and it is now
my sincere wish that the gratitude of future ages should acknowledge
the merits of a stranger, who employed the sword of the Goths, not
to subvert, but to restore and maintain the prosperity of the Roman

Fortified by such sentiments and the benediction of the Emperor, who
was glad to free Italy from his brother-in-law’s presence, Athaulf
succeeded, after a short struggle, in establishing a Visigothic kingdom
in southern Gaul, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Bay of
Biscay. This, under his successors, was enlarged until it embraced the
whole of the province of Aquitania, with Toulouse as its capital, as
well as both slopes of the Pyrenees.

The Burgundians, another German tribe, had, in the meanwhile, built up
a middle kingdom along the banks of the Rhone. Years of intercourse
with the Romans had done much to civilize both their manners and
thoughts, and they were quite prepared to respect the laws and customs
that they found in Gaul so long as they met with no serious opposition
to their rule. The fact that both Burgundians and Visigoths were Arians
raised, however, a fatal barrier between conquerors and conquered, and
did more than anything else to determine that ultimate dominion over
the whole of Gaul should be the prize of neither of these races, but
of a third Teutonic tribe, the Salian Franks, whom good fortune placed
beyond the influence of heresy.

[Sidenote: The Franks]

The Franks were a tall, fair-haired, loose-limbed people, who, emerging
from Germany, had settled for a time in the country we now call
Belgium. Like their ancestors, they worshipped Woden and other heathen
gods of the Teutons, while in their Salic law we see much to recall the
German customs described by Tacitus five centuries before.

The king was no longer elected by his people, for his office had become
hereditary in the House of Meroveus, one of the heroes of the race. No
woman, even of the Merovingian line, might succeed to the throne, nor
prince whose hair had been shorn, since with the Franks flowing locks
were a sign of royalty. Yet, in spite of the king’s new position, the
old spirit of equality had not entirely disappeared. The assembly
of freemen, still held once a year, had degenerated into a military
review: but the warriors thus collected could demand that the coming
campaign should meet with their approval. When a battle was over and
victory obtained, the lion’s share of the booty did not fall to the
king, but the whole was divided by lot.

A great part of the Salic law was really a tariff of violent acts,
with the fine that those who had committed them must pay, so much for
shooting a poisoned arrow, even if it missed its mark; so much for
wounding another in the head, or for cutting off his nose, or his great
toe, or, worst of all, for damaging his second finger, so that he could
no longer draw the bowstring.

The underlying principle of this code was different from that of
the Roman law, which set up a certain standard of right, inflicting
penalties on those who fell short of it. Thus the Roman citizen who
murdered or maimed his neighbour would be punished because he had dared
to do what the state condemned as a crime. The Frank, in a similar
case, would be fined by the judges of his tribe, and the money paid as
compensation to the person, or the relations of the person, whom he had
wronged: the idea being, not to appease the anger of the state, but to
remove the resentment of the injured party.

For this purpose each Frank had his _wergeld_, literally his
‘worth-gold’ or the sum of money at which, according to his rank, his
life was valued, beginning with the nobles of the king’s palace and
descending in a scale to the lowest freeman. When the Franks left
Belgium and advanced, conquering, into northern Gaul, they also fixed
_wergelds_ for their Roman subjects; but rated them at only half the
value of their own race. The _wergeld_ of a Frankish freeman was two
hundred gold pieces, of a Roman only one hundred.

By the beginning of the sixth century, when the Franks were well
established in Gaul, the management of their important tribal affairs
had passed entirely into the hands of the nobles surrounding the king.
These bore such titles as _Major Domus_ or ‘Mayor of the Palace’, at
first only a steward, but later the chief minister of the crown; the
‘Seneschal’ or head of the royal household; the ‘Marshal’ or Master of
the Stables; the ‘Chamberlain’ or chief servant of the bedchamber.

[Sidenote: Clovis, King of the Franks]

The most famous of the Merovingian kings, as the descendants of
Merovius were called, was Clovis, who established the Frankish capital
at Paris. He and his tribe, though pagans, were on friendly terms with
the Roman inhabitants of northern Gaul, and especially with some of the
Catholic clergy. When Clovis sacked the town of Soissons he tried to
save the church plate, and especially a vase of great beauty that he
knew St. Remi, Bishop of Reims, highly valued. ‘Let it be put amongst
my booty,’ he said to his soldiers, intending to give it to the bishop
later; but one of them answered him insolently, ‘Only that is thine
which falls to thy share by lot,’ and with his axe he shivered the vase
into a thousand pieces.

Clovis concealed his fury at the moment, but he did not forget, and a
year afterwards, when he was reviewing his troops, he noticed the same
man who had opposed his will. Stepping forward, he tore the fellow’s
weapons from his grasp and threw them on the ground, saying, ‘No arms
are worse cared for than thine!’ The soldier stooped to pick them up,
and Clovis, raising his battle-axe high in the air, brought it down on
the bent head before him with the comment, ‘Thus didst thou to the vase
at Soissons!’

Clovis married a Christian princess, Clotilda, a niece of the
Burgundian king, and, at her request, he allowed their eldest child
to be baptized, but for a long time he refused to become a Christian
himself. One day, however, when in the midst of a battle in which his
warriors were so hard pressed that they had almost taken to flight, he
cried aloud--‘Jesus Christ, thou whom Clotilda doth call the Son of the
Living God ... I now devoutly beseech thy aid, and I promise if thou
dost give me victory over these my enemies ... that I will believe in
thee and be baptized in thy name, for I have called on my own gods and
they have failed to help me.’

Shortly afterwards the tide of battle turned, the Franks rallied, and
Clovis obtained a complete victory. Remembering his promise, he went to
Reims, and there he and three thousand of his warriors were received
into the Catholic Church. ‘Bow thy head low,’ said St. Remi who
baptized the King, ‘henceforth adore that which thou hast burned and
burn that which thou didst formerly adore.’

When he became a Catholic, Clovis had no idea that he had altered the
whole future of his race, for to him it seemed merely that he had
fulfilled the bargain he had made with the Christian God. He did not
change his ways, but pursued his ambitions as before, now by treachery
and now by force. It was his determination to make himself supreme
ruler over all the Franks, and in the case of another branch, the
Ripuarians, he began by secretly persuading their heir to the kingly
title, the young prince Chloderic, to kill his father and seize the
royal coffers.

Chloderic, fired by the idea of becoming powerful, did so and wrote
exultingly to Clovis, ‘My father is dead and his wealth is mine. Let
some of thy men come hither, and that of his treasure which pleaseth
them I will send thee.’

Ambassadors from the Salians duly arrived, and Chloderic led them
secretly apart and showed them his money, running his hand through the
pieces of gold that lay on the surface of the coffer. The men begged
him to thrust his arm in deep that they might judge how great his
wealth really was, and as he bent to do so, one of them struck him a
mortal wound from behind. Then they fled. Thus by treachery died both
father and son; but Clovis unblushingly denied to the Ripuarian Franks
that he had been in any way responsible.

‘Chloderic murdered his father, and he hath been assassinated by I know
not whom. I am no partner in such deeds, for it is against the law
to take the life of relations. Nevertheless, since it has happened,
I offer you this advice, that you should put yourselves under my

The Ripuarian Franks were without a leader, and like all barbarians
they worshipped success; so, believing that Clovis would surely lead
them to victory, they raised him on their shields and hailed him as

‘Each day God struck down the enemies of Clovis under his hand,’ says
Bishop Gregory of Tours, describing these events, ‘and enlarged his
kingdom, because he went with an upright heart before the Lord and did
the things that were pleasing in His sight.’ It is startling to find
a bishop pass such a verdict on a career of treachery and murder, the
more that Gregory of Tours was no cringing court-flatterer but a priest
with a high sense of duty who dared, when he believed it right, to
oppose some of the later Frankish kings even at the risk of his life.
Yet it must be remembered that a sense of honour was not understood by
barbarians, except in a very crude form. They believed it was clever
to outwit their neighbours, while to murder them was so ordinary as
to excite little or no comment, save the infliction of a _wergeld_ if
the crime could be brought home. Centuries of the civilizing influence
of Christianity were needed before the men and women of these fierce
tribes could accept the Christian principles of truth, justice, and
mercy in anything like their real spirit.

The Romans in Gaul had almost given up expecting anything but brutality
from their invaders if they aroused their enmity, and therefore
welcomed even the smallest sign of grace. Thus the protection that
Clovis afforded to the Catholic Church, after her years of persecution,
blinded their eyes to many of his vices.

When Clovis had made himself master of the greater part of northern
Gaul, he determined to strike a blow at the Visigoths in the south.
‘It pains me,’ he said to his followers, ‘to see Arians in a part of
Gaul. Let us march against these heretics with God’s aid and gain their
country for ourselves.’

Probably he was sincere in his dislike of heresy, but it was a politic
attitude to adopt, for it meant that wherever he and his warriors
marched they would find help against the Burgundians and Visigoths
amongst the orthodox Roman population. It seemed to the latter that
Clovis brought with him something of the glory of the vanished Roman
Empire, kept alive by the Catholic Church and now revived through her
in this her latest champion.

In a fierce battle near Poitiers, Clovis defeated the Visigoths and
drove them out of Aquitaine, leaving them merely narrow strips of
territory along the Mediterranean seaboard and on either slope of the
Pyrenees. He also fought against the Burgundians and, though he was not
so successful, reduced them temporarily to submission. When he died, at
the age of forty-five, he was master of three-quarters of Gaul, and had
stamped the name of his race for ever on the land he had invaded.

His work of conquest was continued by his successors and reached its
zenith in the time of King Dagobert, who lived at the beginning of
the seventh century. Dagobert has been called ‘the French Solomon’,
because, like the Jewish king, he was world-famed for his wisdom
and riches. Not content with maintaining his power over Gaul to the
west of the Rhine, he fought against the Saxon and Frisian tribes in
Germany and forced them to pay tribute. At last his Empire stretched
from the Atlantic to the mountains of Bohemia; the Duke of Brittany,
who had hitherto remained independent of the Franks, came to offer
his allegiance, while the Emperor of Constantinople sought a Frankish

A chronicler of the day, speaking of Dagobert, says, ‘He was a prince
terrible in his wrath towards traitors and rebels. He held the royal
sceptre firmly in his grasp, and like a lion he sprang upon those who
would foment discord.’

Another account describes his journeys through his kingdom, and how he
administered justice with an even hand, not altogether to the joy of
tyrannical landowners. ‘His judgements struck terror into the hearts of
the bishops and of the great men, but it overwhelmed the poor with joy.’

In the troublous years that were to come his reign stood out in
people’s minds as an age of prosperity, but already, before the death
of the king, this prosperity had begun to wane. Luxury sapped the
vigour of a once-powerful mind and body, and the authority that ‘the
French Solomon’ relaxed in his later years through self-indulgence was
never regained by his successors.

With the contemptuous title ‘The Sluggard Kings’ the last rulers of the
Merovingian line have passed down to posterity. Few were endowed with
any ability or even ambition to govern, the majority died before they
had reached manhood looking already like senile old men; and the power
that should have been theirs passed into the hands of the Mayors of the
Palace who administered their demesnes. On state occasions, indeed,
they were still shown to their subjects, as they jolted to the place
of assembly in a rough cart drawn by oxen; but the ceremony over, they
returned to their royal villas and insignificance. ‘Nothing was left to
the king save the name of king, the flowing locks, the long beard. He
sat on his throne and played at government, gave audiences to envoys,
and dismissed them with the answers with which he had been schooled.’

[Sidenote: The Carolingians]

It was a situation that could only last so long as the name ‘Meroveus’
retained its spell over the Franks; but the day came when the spell
was broken, and a race of stronger fibre, the Carolingians, usurped
the royal title. The heads of this family had for generations held
the office of ‘Mayor of the Palace’ in the part of Gaul between the
Meuse and the Lower Rhine, then called Austrasia. It was their duty to
administer the royal demesnes in this large district, that is, to see
that the laws were obeyed, to superintend the cultivation of the soil,
and to collect a share of the various harvests as a revenue for the

This was more important work than it may sound to modern ears; for in
the early Middle Ages the majority of people, unlike men and women
to-day, lived in the country. Ever since the decay of the Roman Empire,
when the making of roads was neglected and the imperial grain-fleets
disappeared from the Mediterranean, the problem of carrying merchandise
and food from one part of Europe to another had grown steadily more
acute. As commerce and industry languished, towns ceased to be centres
of population and became merely strongholds where the neighbourhood
could find refuge when attacked by its enemies. People preferred to
spend their ordinary life in villages in the midst of fields, where
they could grow corn and barley, or keep their own sheep and oxen, and
if the crops failed or their beasts were smitten by disease a whole
province might suffer starvation.

The Mayor of the Palace must guard the royal demesnes, as far as
possible, from the ravages of weather, wolves, or lawless men, for
the King of the Franks, as much as any of his subjects, depended on
the harvests and herds for his prosperity rather than on commerce or
manufactures. By the end of the seventh century the Mayors of Austrasia
had ceased to interest themselves merely in local affairs and had begun
to extend their authority over the whole of France. Nominally, they
acted in the name of the Merovingian kings, but once when the throne
fell vacant they did not trouble to fill it for two years. The Franks
made no protest: it was to their mayors, not to their kings, that they
now turned whether in search of good government or daring national

The Carolingian Charles ‘Martel’, Charles ‘the Hammer’, was a warrior
calculated to arouse their profound admiration. ‘He was a Herculean
warrior,’ says an old chronicle, ‘an ever-victorious prince ... who
triumphed gloriously over other princes, and kings, and peoples, and
barbarous nations: in so much that, from the Slavs to the Frisians and
even to the Spaniards and Saracens, there were none who rose up against
him that escaped from his hand, without prostrating themselves in the
dust before his empire.’

It was Charles Martel who saved France from falling under the yoke of
the Saracens, a race of Arabian warriors who, crossing from Africa at
the Strait of Gibraltar, subdued in one short campaign three-quarters
of Spain. Describing the first great victory over the Gothic King
Rodrigo at Guadalete, the Governor of Africa wrote to his master the
Caliph, ‘O Commander of the Faithful, these are no common conquests;
they are like the meeting of the nations on the Day of Judgement.’

Puffed up with the glory they had gained, the Saracens, who were
followers of the Prophet Mahomet, believed that they had only to
advance for Christian armies to run away; and over the Pyrenees they
swept in large bands, seizing first one stronghold on the Mediterranean
coast and then another. Before this invasion Charles Martel had been
engaged in a quarrel with the Duke of Aquitaine, but now they hastily
made friends and on the field of Poitiers joined their forces to stem
the Saracen tide. So terrible was the battle, we are told, that over
three hundred thousand Saracens fell before the Frankish warriors
‘inflexible as a block of ice’. The number is almost certainly an
exaggeration, and so also is the claim that the victors, by forcing
the remnant of the Mahometan army to retreat towards the Pyrenees in
hasty flight, saved Europe for Christianity. Even had the decision
of the battle been reversed, the Moors would have found the task of
holding Spain in the years to come quite sufficient to absorb all
their energies. Indeed, their attacks on Gaul were, from the first,
more in the nature of gigantic raids than of invasions with a view
to settlement, though at the time their ferocity made them seem of
world-wide importance.

Thus it was only natural that the Mayor of the Palace, to whom the
victory was mainly due, became the hero of Christendom. The Pope, who
was at that time trying to defend Rome from the King of the Lombards,
sent to implore his aid; but Charles knew that his forces had been
weakened by their struggle with the Saracens and dared not undertake so
big a campaign.

[Sidenote: Pepin, King of the Franks]

Some years later his son, Pepin ‘the Short’ (751-68), who had succeeded
him, received the suggestion with a different answer. Pepin, as his
nickname shows, was short in stature, but he was powerfully built
and so strong that with a single blow of his axe he once cut off the
head of a lion. Energetic and shrewd, he saw a way of turning the
Pope’s need of support against the Lombards to his own advantage. He
therefore sent Frankish ambassadors to Rome to inquire whether it was
not shameful for a land to be governed by kings who had no authority.
The Pope, who was anxious to please Pepin, replied discreetly, ‘He who
possesses the authority should doubtless possess the title also.’

This was exactly what the Mayor of the Palace had expected and wished,
and the rest of the story may be told in the words of the old Frankish
annals for the year 751: ‘In this year Pepin was named king of the
Franks with the sanction of the Popes, and in the city of Soissons he
was anointed with the holy oil ... and was raised to the throne after
the custom of the Franks. But Childeric, who had the name of king, was
shorn of his locks and sent into a monastery.’

The last of the Merovingians had vanished into the oblivion of a
cloister, and Pepin the Carolingian was ruler of France. With the
Pope’s blessing he had achieved his ambition, and fortune soon enabled
him to repay his debt, mainly, as it happened, at another’s expense.

In the last chapter we described the effect of the Lombard invasion
of Italy, and how that Teutonic race sank its roots deep in the heart
of the peninsula, leaving a Greek fringe along the coasts that still
considered itself part of the Eastern Empire. Rome in theory belonged
to this fringe, but in reality the Popes hated the imperial authority
almost as much as the aggressions of Lombard king and dukes, and
struggled to free themselves from its yoke.

When Pepin, his own ambition satisfied, turned his attention to the
Pope’s affairs, the Lombards had just succeeded in over-running the
Exarchate of Ravenna, the seat of the imperial government in Italy.
Collecting an army, the King of the Franks crossed the Alps without
encountering any opposition, marched on Pavia, the Lombard capital, and
struck such terror into his enemies that, almost without fighting, they
agreed to the terms that he dictated.

Legally, he should have at once commanded the restoration of the
Exarchate to the Empire, but there was no particular reason why Pepin
should gratify Constantinople, while he had a very strong inclination
to please Rome. He therefore told the Lombards to give the Exarchate
to Stephen II, who was Pope at that time, and this they faithfully
promised to do; but, as he turned homewards, they began instead to
oppress the country round Rome, preventing food from entering the city
and pillaging churches.

[Sidenote: The Temporal Power of the Papacy]

Pepin was very angry when he heard the news. Once more he descended on
Italy, and this time the Lombards were compelled to keep their word,
and the Papacy received the first of its temporal possessions, ratified
by a formal treaty that declared the exact extent of the territory and
the Papal rights over it. This was an important event in mediaeval
history, for it meant that henceforward the Pope, who claimed to be the
spiritual head of Christendom, would be also an Italian prince with
recognized lands and revenues, and therefore with private ambitions
concerning these. It would be his instinct to distrust any other ruler
in the peninsula who might become powerful enough to deprive him of
these lands; while he would always be faced, when in difficulties, by
the temptation to use his spiritual power to further purely worldly
ends. On the way in which Popes dealt with this problem of their
temporal and spiritual power, much of the future history of Europe was
to depend.

Pepin, in spite of his shrewdness, had no idea of the troubles he had
sown by his donation. Well pleased with the generosity he had found so
easy, with the title of ‘Patrician’ bestowed on him by the Pope, and
perhaps still more by the spoils that he and his Franks had collected
in Lombardy, he left Italy, and was soon engaged in other campaigns
nearer home against the Saracens and rebellious German tribes. In these
he continued until his death in 768.



Christianity, first preached by humble fishermen in Palestine, had
become the foundation of life in mediaeval Europe. Some three hundred
years after Constantine the Great had made this possible another
religion, ‘Islam’, destined to be the rival of Christianity, was also
born in the East, in Arabia, a narrow strip of territory lying between
the Red Sea and miles of uninhabitable desert.

On the sea-coast of Arabia were some harbours, inland a few fertile
oases, where towns of low, white stone houses and mud hovels had
sprung into being; but from the very nature of the soil and climate
the Arabs were not drawn to manufacture goods or grow corn. Instead
they preferred a wanderer’s life, to tend the herds of horses or sheep
that ranged the peninsula in search of water and pasturage, or if more
adventurous to guard the caravans of camels that carried the silks and
spices of India to Mediterranean seaports. These caravans had their
regular routes, and every merchant a band of armed men to protect
his goods and drive off robbers along the way. Only in the ‘Sacred
Months’, the time of the sowing of seeds in the spring and at the
autumn harvest, were such convoys of goods safe from attack; for then,
and then only, every Arab believed, according to the traditions of his
forefathers, that peace was a duty, and that a curse would fall on him
who dared to break it.

The Arab, like all Orientals, was superstitious. He worshipped ‘Allah’,
the all supreme God, but he accepted also a variety of other gods,
heavenly bodies, spirits and devils, stones and idols. One of the most
famous Arabian sanctuaries was a temple at Mecca called the ‘Ka’bah’,
where a black stone had been built into the wall that pilgrims would
come from long distances to kiss and worship. Amongst the youths of
the town who saw this ceremony and himself took part in the religious
processions was an orphan lad, Mahomet (576-632), brought up in the
house of his uncle, Abu Talib.

[Sidenote: The Young Mahomet]

Mahomet was handsome and strong: he had looked after sheep on the edge
of the desert, taken part in tribal fights, and from the age of twelve
wandered with caravans as far as the sea-coast. What distinguished him
from his companions was not his education, nor any special skill as a
warrior, but his quickness of observation, his tenacious memory, and
his gift for bending others to his will. Unable to read, he could only
gain knowledge by word of mouth, and wherever he went, amongst the
colonies of the Jews who were the chief manufacturers in the towns, or
lying beside the camp fires of the caravans at night, he would keep
his ears open and store up in his mind all the tales that he heard. In
this way he learned of the Jewish religion and a garbled version of
Christianity. Soon he knew the stories of Joseph and of Abraham and
some of the sayings of Christ, and the more he thought over them the
more he grew to hate the idol worship of the Arabs round him.

When he was twenty-five Mahomet married a rich widow, Khadijah, whose
caravan he had successfully steered across the desert; and in this way
he became a man of independent means, possessing camels and horses of
his own. Khadijah was some years older than Mahomet, but she was a very
good wife to him, and brought him not only a fortune but a trust and
belief in his mission that he was to need sorely in the coming years.
To her he confided his hatred of idol-worship, and also to Abu Bakr,
the wealthy son of a cloth merchant of Mecca, who had fallen under his
influence. Mahomet declared that God, and later the Angel Gabriel, had
appeared to him in visions and had given him messages condemning the
superstitions of the Arabs.

‘There is but one God, Allah ... and Mahomet is His Prophet.’

This was the chief message, received at first with contempt but
destined to be carried triumphant in the centuries to come right to the
Pyrenees and the gates of Vienna.

The visions, or trances, during which Mahomet received his messages,
afterwards collected in the sacred book, the Koran, are thought by
many to have been epileptic fits. His face would turn livid and he
would cover himself with a blanket, emerging at last exhausted to
deliver some command or exhortation. Later it would seem that he could
produce this state of insensibility at will and without much effort,
whenever questions were asked, indeed, in answering which he required
divine guidance. Much of the teaching in the Koran was based, like
Judaism or Christianity, on far higher ideals than the fetish worship
of the Arabs: it emphasized such things as the duty of almsgiving,
the discipline that comes of fasting, the necessity of personal
cleanliness, while it forbade the use of wine, declaring drunkenness a

With regard to the position of women the Koran could show nothing of
the chivalry that was to develop in Christendom through the respect
felt by Christians for the mother of Christ and for the many women
martyrs and saints who suffered during the early persecutions. Moslems
were allowed by the Koran to have four wives (Mahomet permitted himself
ten), and these might be divorced at their husband’s pleasure without
any corresponding right on their part. On the other hand the power
of holding property before denied was now secured to women, and the
murder of female children that had been a practice in the peninsula was
sternly abolished.

As the years passed more and more ‘Surahs’, or chapters, were added to
the Koran, but at first the Prophet’s messages were few and appealed
only to the poor and humble. When the Meccans, told by Abu Bakr that
Mahomet was a prophet, came to demand a miracle as proof, he declared
that there could be no greater miracle than the words he uttered; but
this to the prosperous merchants seemed merely crazy nonsense. When he
went farther, and, acting on what he declared was Allah’s revelation,
destroyed some of the local idols, contempt changed to anger; for the
inhabitants argued that if ‘Ka’bah’ ceased to be a sanctuary their
trade with the pilgrims who usually came to Mecca would cease.

For more than eight years, while the Prophet maintained his unpopular
mission, his poorer followers were stoned and beaten, and he himself
shunned. Perhaps it seems odd that in such a barbarous community he
was not killed; but though Arabia possessed no government in any
modern sense, yet a system of tribal law existed that went far towards
preventing promiscuous murder. Each man of any importance belonged to
a tribe that he was bound to support with his sword, and that in turn
was responsible for his life. If he were slain the tribe would exact
vengeance or demand ‘blood money’ from the murderer. Now the head of
Mahomet’s tribe was Abu Talib, his uncle, and, though the old man
refused to accept his nephew as a prophet, he would not allow him to be

In spite of persecution the number of believers in Mahomet’s doctrines
grew, and when some of those who had been driven out of the city
took refuge with the Christian King of Abyssinia and were treated by
him with greater kindness than the pagan Arabs, the Meccans at home
became so much alarmed that they adopted a new policy of aggression.
Henceforward both Mahomet and his followers, the hated ‘Moslems’, or
‘heathen’ as they were nicknamed in the Syriac tongue, were to be
outlaws, and no one might trade with them or give them food.

In an undisciplined community like an Arabian town such an order
would not be strictly kept, and for three years Mahomet was able to
defy the ban, but every day his position grew more precarious and the
sufferings of his followers from hunger and poverty increased. During
this time too both Khadijah and Abu Talib died, and the Prophet, almost
overwhelmed with his misfortunes, was only kept from doubting his
mission by the faith and loyalty of those who would not desert him.

Weary of trying to convert Mecca he sent messengers through Arabia to
find if there were any tribe that would welcome a prophet, and at last
he received an invitation to go to Yathrib. This was a larger town than
Mecca, farther to the north, and was populated mainly by Jewish tribes
who hated the Arabian idol-worshippers and welcomed the idea of a
teacher whose views were based largely on Jewish traditions.

[Sidenote: The Hijrah]

In 622, therefore, Mahomet and his followers fled secretly from Mecca
to Yathrib, later called Medinah or ‘the city of the Prophet’; and
this date of the ‘Hijrah’ or ‘Flight’, when the new religion broke
definitely with old Arab traditions, was taken as the first year of the
Moslem calendar, just as Christians reckon their time from the birth of
Christ. Here in Medinah was built the first mosque, or temple of the
new faith, a faith christened by its believers Islam, a word meaning
‘surrender’, for in surrender to Allah and to the will of his Prophet
lay the way of salvation to the Moslem Garden of Paradise.

So beautiful to the Arab mind were the very material luxuries and
pleasures with which Mahomet entranced the imagination of believers
that in later years his soldiers would fling themselves recklessly
against their enemies’ spears in order to gain Paradise the quicker.
The alternative for the unbeliever was Hell, the everlasting fires of
the Old Testament that so terrified the minds of mediaeval Christians;
and between Paradise and Hell there was no middle way.

The Jews in Medinah were, like Mahomet, worshippers of one God, but
they soon showed that they were not prepared to accept this wandering
Arab as Jehovah’s final revelation to man. They demanded miracles,
sneered at the Koran, which they declared was a parody of their own
Scriptures, and took advantage of the poverty of the refugees to drive
hard bargains with them. At length it became obvious that the Moslems
must find some means of livelihood or else Medinah, like Mecca, must be
left for more friendly soil.

Pressed by circumstances Mahomet evolved a policy that was destined to
overthrow the tribal system of government in Arabia. Mention has been
made already of the caravans of camels that journeyed regularly from
south to north of the peninsula, bearing merchandise. Many of these
caravans were owned by wealthy Meccans, whose chief trade route passed
quite close by the town of Medinah, and they were protected and guarded
by members of the tribe of Abu Talib and of other families whose
relations were serving with the Prophet.

At first, when Mahomet commanded that these caravans should be attacked
and looted, his followers looked aghast, for the sacredness of
tribes from attack by kinsmen was a tradition they had inherited for
generations. Their Prophet at once proved to them by a message from
Allah that a new relationship had been formed stronger than the ties
of blood, namely, the bond of faith, and that to the believer the
unbeliever, whether father or son, was accursed. In the same way, when
the first marauding expeditions were unsuccessful because the caravans
attacked were too well guarded, Mahomet explained away the ‘Sacred
Months’ and chose in future that very time for his warriors to descend
upon unsuspecting merchants.

[Sidenote: Battle of Badr]

The Meccans, outraged by what they somewhat naturally considered
treachery, soon dispatched some thousand men, determined to make an
end of the Prophet and his followers; and at Badr, not very far from
the coast on the trade route between the two towns, this large force
encountered three hundred Moslems commanded by Mahomet. It is difficult
to gain a clear impression of the battle, for romance and legend have
rendered real details obscure; but, either by superior generalship,
the valour and discipline of the Moslems as compared to the conduct of
their forces, or, as was later stated, through the agency of angels
sent by Allah from Heaven, the vastly more numerous Meccan force was
utterly put to rout.

Moslems refer to the battle of Badr as ‘the Day of Deliverance’, for
though, not long afterwards, they in their turn were defeated by the
Meccans, yet never again were they to become mere discredited refugees.
Success pays, and, with the victory of Badr as a tangible miracle
to satisfy would-be converts, Mahomet soon gained a large army of
warriors, whom his personality moulded into obedience to his will.

The Jews who had mocked him had soon cause to repent, for Mahomet,
remembering their jibes and the petty persecution to which they had
subjected his followers, adopted a definitely hostile attitude towards
them. Taking advantage of the reluctance with which these Jews had
shared in the defence of Medinah and in the throwing-up of earthworks
to protect it, when the Meccans came to besiege it in the year 5 of
the new calendar, Mahomet as soon as the siege was raised obtained his
revenge. Those Jews of the city who still refused to recognize him as
a Prophet were slaughtered, their wives and children sold into slavery.
The teaching and ritual of the Koran also, once carefully based on the
Scriptures of Israel, began to cast off this influence, and where of
old Mahomet had commanded his followers to look towards Jerusalem in
their prayers, he now bade them kneel with their faces towards Mecca.

In this command may be seen his new policy of conciliation towards
his native town; for Mahomet recognized that in the city of Mecca
lay the key to the peninsula, and he was determined to establish his
power there, if not by force then by diplomacy. After some years of
negotiation he persuaded those who had driven him into exile not so
much of the truth of his teaching as of the certainty that his presence
would bring more pilgrims than ever before to visit the shrine of

In A.D. 630 he entered Mecca in triumph, and the worship of Islam was
established in the heart of Arabia. As a concession to the Meccans,
divine revelation announced that the sacred black stone built into the
temple wall had been hallowed by Abraham, and was therefore worthy of

Instead of a general scheme of revenge only two of Mahomet’s enemies
were put to death; and it is well to remember that, judged by the
standards of his age and race, the Prophet was no lover of cruelty.
In his teaching he condemned the use of torture, and throughout his
life he was nearly always ready to treat with his foes rather than
slay them. Those amongst his enemies who refused him recognition as
a Prophet while willing to acknowledge him as a ruler were usually
allowed to live in peace on the payment of a yearly ransom divided
amongst the believers; but in cases where he had met with an obstinate
refusal or persistent treachery, as from the Jews of Medinah, Mahomet
would put whole tribes to the sword.

In 632 the Prophet of Islam died, leaving a group of Arabian tribes
bound far more securely together by the faith he had taught them than
they could have been by the succession of any royal house. ‘Though
Mahomet is dead, yet is Mahomet’s God not dead.’

While Mahomet was still an exile at Medinah it is evident that he
already contemplated the idea of gaining the world for Islam. ‘Let
there be in you a nation summoning unto good,’ says the Koran, and in
token of this mission the Prophet, in the years following his Arabian
victories, sent letters to foreign rulers to announce his ambition.
Here is one to the chief of the Copts, a Christian race living in Egypt:

  ‘In the name of Allah ... the Merciful.

  ‘From the Apostle of Allah to ..., Chief of the Copts. Peace be
  upon him who follows the guidance. Next I summon thee with the
  appeal to Islam: become a Moslem and thou shalt be safe. God shall
  give thee thy reward twofold. But if thou decline then on thee is
  the guilt of the Copts. O ye people of the Book come unto an equal
  arrangement between us and you that we should serve none save God,
  associating nothing with Him, and not taking one another for Lords
  besides God,--and if ye decline, then bear witness that we are

[Sidenote: The Kingdom of Persia]

Similar letters were sent to Chosroes, King of Persia, and to
Heraclius, the Christian Emperor at Constantinople. The former tore
the letter in pieces contemptuously, for at that time his kingdom
extended over the greater part of Asia; Jerusalem, once the pride of
the Eastern Empire, had fallen into his grasp; while his armies were
besieging Constantinople itself. A letter that he himself penned to
the Christian Emperor shows his overweening pride, and the depths into
which Byzantium had fallen in the public regard:

  ‘Chosroes, Greatest of Gods, and Master of the whole earth, to
  Heraclius, his vile and insensate slave. Why do you still refuse to
  submit to our rule and call yourself a king? Have I not destroyed
  the Greeks? You say that you trust in your God. Why has he not
  delivered out of my hand Caesarea, Jerusalem, Alexandria? and shall
  I not also destroy Constantinople? But I will pardon your faults if
  you will submit to me, and come hither with your wife and children,
  and I will give you lands, vineyards, and olive groves, and look
  upon you with a kindly aspect. Do not deceive yourself with vain
  hope in that Christ, who was not even able to save himself from the
  Jews, who killed him by nailing him to a cross. Even if you take
  refuge in the depths of the sea I shall stretch out my hand and
  take you, so that you shall see me whether you will or no.’

Christendom was fortunate in Heraclius. Instead of contemplating
either despair or surrender, he called upon the Church to summon all
Christians to his aid, and by means of the gold and silver plate
presented to him as a war loan by the bishops and clergy, and in
command of a large army of volunteers, he beat back the Persians from
the very gates of his capital. Not content with a policy of defence, he
next invaded Asia, and at the battle of Nineveh utterly destroyed the
hosts of Chosroes. The fallen King, deposed by his subjects, was forced
to take refuge in the mountains, and later was thrown into a dungeon
where he died of cold and starvation.

Had the reign of Heraclius ended at this date, it would be remembered
as a glorious era in the history of Constantinople; but unfortunately
for his fame another foe was to make more lasting inroads on his
Empire, already weakened by the Persian occupation.

When the Emperor (610-41), like Chosroes, received Mahomet’s letter,
he is said to have read it with polite interest. It seemed to him that
this fanatic Arab, who hated the Jews as much as the Christians did,
might turn his successful sword not only against them but against the
Persians. In this surmise Heraclius was right, for under Abu Bakr, now
Caliph, or ‘successor’, of Mahomet, since the Prophet had left no son,
the Moslems invaded Persia.

Unfortunately for Heraclius, they were equally bent on an aggressive
campaign against the Christian Empire. ‘There is but one God, Allah!’
With this test, by which they could distinguish friend from foe, the
Arab hosts burst through the gate of Syria, and at Yermuk encountered
the imperial army sent by Heraclius to oppose them. The Greeks fought
so stubbornly that at first it seemed that their disciplined valour
must win. ‘Is not Paradise before you?... Are not Hell and Satan
behind?’ cried the Arab leader to his fanatical hordes, and in
response to his words they rallied, broke the opposing lines by the
sudden ferocity of their charge, and finally drove the imperial troops
in headlong flight.

[Sidenote: Mahometan Victories]

After the battle of Yermuk Syria fell and Palestine was invaded. In
637 Jerusalem became a Moslem town, with a mosque standing where once
had been the famous temple of Solomon. Mahomet had declared Jerusalem
a sanctuary only second in glory to Mecca; and his followers with a
toleration strange in that age left under Christian guardianship the
Tomb of the Holy Sepulchre and other sacred sites.

After Syria, Palestine; after Palestine, Egypt and the north African
coast-line. The dying Heraclius heard nothing but the bitter news of
disaster, and after his death the quarrels of his descendants increased
the feebleness of Christian resistance. A spirit of unity might have
carried the Moslem banners to the limits of the Eastern Empire, but
in 656 the Caliph Othman was murdered, and the civil war that ensued
enabled the Christian Emperor, Constans II, to negotiate peace. He
had lost Tripoli, Syria, Egypt, and the greater part of Armenia to
his foes, who had also succeeded in establishing a naval base in the
Mediterranean that threatened the islands of Greece herself. In the
north his borders were overrun by Bulgar and Slav tribes, while in
Italy the Lombards maintained a perpetual struggle against his viceroy,
the Exarch of Ravenna.

Constans himself spent six years in Italy, the greater part in
campaigns against the Lombards. He even visited Rome, but earned hatred
there as elsewhere by his ruthless pillage of the West for the benefit
of the East. Thus the Pantheon was stripped of its golden tiles to
enrich Constantinople, and the churches of South Italy robbed of their
plate to pay for his wars. At last a conspiracy was formed against him,
and while enjoying the baths at Syracuse one of his servants struck him
on the head with a marble soap-box and fractured his skull. Constans
had been a brave and resolute Emperor of considerable military ability.
His son, Constantine ‘Pogonatus’, or ‘the bearded’, inherited his gifts
and drove back the Mahometans from Constantinople with so great a loss
of men and prestige that the Caliph promised to pay a large sum of
money as tribute every year in return for peace.

Constantine ‘Pogonatus’ died when a comparatively young man and was
succeeded by his son, Justinian II, a lad of seventeen, arrogant,
cruel, and restless. Without any reason save ambition he picked a
quarrel with the Moslem Caliph, marched a large army across his Eastern
border, and, when he met with defeat, proceeded in his rage to execute
his generals and soldiers, declaring that they had failed him. At home,
in Constantinople, his ministers tortured the inhabitants in order to
exact money for his treasury and filled the imperial dungeons with
senators and men of rank suspected of disloyalty.

Such a state of affairs could not last; and the Emperor, who treated
his friends as badly as his foes, was captured by one of his own
generals, and, after having his nose cruelly slit, was exiled to the
Crimea. Mutilation was supposed to be a final bar to the right of
wearing the imperial crown; but Justinian II was the type of man to be
ignored only when dead. After some years of brooding over his wrongs he
fled from the Crimea and took refuge with the King of the Bulgars.

On his sea-journey a terrific storm arose that threatened to overwhelm
both him and his crew. ‘My Lord,’ exclaimed one of his attendants, ‘I
pray you make a vow to God that if He spare you, you also will spare
your enemies.’ ‘May God sink this vessel here and now,’ retorted his
master, ‘if I spare a single one of them that falls into my hands,’
and the words were an ill omen for his reign, that began once more in
705 when, with the aid of Bulgar troops and of treachery within the
capital, Justinian II established himself once more in Constantinople.

During six years the Empire suffered his tyranny anew; and those who
had previously helped to dethrone him were hunted down, tortured, and
put to death. Like Nero of old he burned alive his political enemies,
or he would order the nobles of his court who had offended him to be
sewn up in sacks and thrown into the sea. At last another rebellion
brought a final end to his reign, and that of the house of Heraclius,
for both he and his young son were murdered, and the Eastern Empire
given up to anarchy.

[Sidenote: Leo the Isaurian]

The man who did most to save Constantinople from the next Mahometan
invasion was one of the military governors of the Empire called Leo the
Isaurian. Conscious of his own ability he took advantage of his first
successes to seize the imperial crown; and then, having heard that the
Mahometan fleet was moored off the shores of Asia Minor, he secretly
sent a squadron of his own vessels that set the enemy’s ships on fire.
In the panic that ensued more than half the Arabian ships were sunk.
About the same time a Mahometan land force was also defeated by the
King of the Bulgars, who had allied himself with the Emperor on account
of their mutual dread of an Eastern invasion. The result of these
combined Christian victories was that the Caliph Moslemah, whose main
forces were encamped beneath the walls of Constantinople, grew alarmed
lest he should be cut off from support and provisions. He therefore
raised the siege, embarked his army in what remained of his fleet, and
retreated to his own kingdom, leaving the Christian capital free from
acute danger from the East for another three hundred years.

Elsewhere the Mahometans pursued their triumphant progress with little
check. After the fall of Carthage in 697 North Africa lay almost
undefended before them; and the half-savage tribes such as the Berbers,
who lived on the borders of the desert, welcomed the new faith with its
mission of conversion by the sword and prospects of plunder.

It was the Berbers who at the invitation, according to tradition, of
a treacherous Spanish Governor, Count Julian, crossed the Strait of
Gibraltar and descended on the plains of Andalusia.

Spain, when the power of the Roman Empire snapped, had been invaded
first by Vandals and then by Visigoths. The Vandals, as we have
seen,[2] passed on to Africa, while the Visigoths, like the Lombards
in Italy, became converted to Christianity, and, falling under the
influence of the civilization and luxury they saw around them,
gradually adapted their government, laws, and way of life to the system
and ideals of those whom they had conquered. Thus their famous _Lex
Visigothorum_, or ‘Law of the Visigoths’, was in reality the Roman code
remodelled to suit the German settlers.

In this new land the descendants of the once warlike Teutons acquired
an indifference to the arts of war, and when their King Rodrigo
had been killed at the disastrous battle of Guadelete and his army
overthrown, they made little further resistance to the Saracen hordes
except in the far northern mountains of the Asturias. From France we
have seen[3] the Mahometans were beaten back by Charles Martel, and
here, established in Spain and on the borders of the Eastern Empire,
we must leave their fortunes for the time. If Mahomet’s life is short
and can be quickly told the story of how his followers attempted to
establish their rule over Christendom is nothing else than the history
of the foreign policy of Europe during mediaeval times.



Just before his death Pepin the Short had divided his lands between his
two sons, Charles, who was about twenty-six, and Carloman, a youth some
years younger. As they had no affection for each other, this division
did not work well. Carloman gave little promise of statesmanlike
qualities: he was peevish and jealous, and easily persuaded by the
nobles who surrounded him that his elder brother was a rival who
intended to rob him of his possessions, it might be of his life. There
seems to have been no ground for this suspicion; but nevertheless he
spent his days in trying to hinder whatever schemes Charles proposed;
and when he died, three years later, there was a general breath of

Enumerating the blessings that Heaven had bestowed on Charlemagne, a
monk, writing to the King about this time, completed his list with the
candid statement: ‘the fifth and not least that God has removed your
brother from this earthly kingdom’.

Charlemagne was exactly the kind of person to seize the fancy of the
early Middle Ages. Tall and well built, with an eagle nose and eyes
that flashed like a lion when he was angry so that none dared to
meet their gaze, he excelled all his court in strength, energy, and
skill. He could straighten out with his fingers four horseshoes locked
together, lift a warrior fully equipped for battle to the level of his
shoulder, and fell a horse and its rider with a single blow.

It was his delight to keep up old national customs and to wear the
Frankish dress with its linen tunic, cross-gartered leggings, and long
mantle reaching to the feet. ‘What is the use of these rags?’ he once
inquired contemptuously of his courtiers, pointing to their short
cloaks--‘Will they cover me in bed, or shield me from the wind and rain
when I ride abroad?’

[Illustration: The EMPIRE of CHARLEMAGNE]

This criticism was characteristic of the King. Intent on a multitude
of schemes for the extension or improvement of his lands, and so eager
to realize them that he would start on fresh ones when still heavily
encumbered with the old, he was yet, for all his enthusiasm, no vague
dreamer but a level-headed man looking questions in the face and
demanding a practical answer.

[Sidenote: The Chanson de Roland]

By the irony of fate it is the least practical and important task
he undertook that has made his name world-famous; for the story of
Charlemagne and his Paladins, told in that greatest of mediaeval
epics, the _Chanson de Roland_, exceeds to-day in popularity even the
exploits of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. This much is
history--that Charlemagne, invited secretly by some discontented Emirs
to invade Spain and attack the Caliph of Cordova, crossed the Pyrenees,
and, after reducing several towns successfully, was forced to retreat.
On his way back across the mountains his rearguard was cut off by
Gascon mountaineers, and slaughtered almost to a man; while he and the
rest of his army escaped with difficulty.

On this meagre and rather inglorious foundation poets of the eleventh
century based a cycle of romance. Charlemagne is the central figure,
but round him are grouped numerous ‘Paladins’, or famous knights,
including the inseparable friends Oliver and Roland, Warden of the
Breton Marches. After numerous deeds of glory in the land of Spain,
the King, it was said, was forced by treachery to turn back towards
the French mountains, and had already passed the summits, when Roland,
in charge of the rearguard, found himself entrapped in the Pass of
Roncesvalles by a large force of Gascons. His horn was slung at his
side but he disdained to summon help from those in the van, and drawing
his good sword ‘Durenda’ laid about him valiantly.

The Gascons fell back, dismayed by the vigorous resistance of the
French; but thirty thousand Saracens came to their aid, and the odds
were now overwhelming. Oliver lay dead, and, covered with wounds,
Roland fell to the ground also, but first of all he broke ‘Durenda’
in half that none save he might use this peerless blade. Putting his
horn to his lips, with his dying breath he sounded a blast that was
heard by Charlemagne in his camp more than eight miles away. ‘Surely
that is the horn of Roland?’ cried the King uneasily, but treacherous
courtiers explained away the sound; and it was not till a breathless
messenger came with the news of the reverse that he hastened towards
the scene of battle. There in the pass, stretched on the ground amid
the heaped-up bodies of their enemies, he found his Paladins--Roland
with his arms spread in the form of a cross, his broken sword beside
him: and seeing him the King fell on his knees weeping. ‘Oh, right arm
of thy Sovereign’s body, Honour of the Franks, Sword of Justice.... Why
did I leave thee here to perish? How can I behold thee dead and not
die with thee?’ At last, restraining his grief, Charlemagne gathered
his forces together; and the very sun, we are told, stood still to
watch his terrible vengeance on Gascons and Saracens for the slaughter
of Christians at Roncesvalles.

The _Chanson de Roland_ is one of the masterpieces of French
literature. It is not history, but in its fiction lies a substantial
germ of truth. Charlemagne in the early ninth century was what poets
described him more than two hundred years later--the central figure
in Christendom, the recognized champion of the Cross whether against
Mahometans or pagans. ‘Through your prosperity’, wrote Alcuin, an
Anglo-Saxon monk and scholar who lived at his court, ‘Christendom is
preserved, the Catholic Faith defended, the law of justice made known
to all men.’

[Sidenote: Invasion of Lombardy]

When the Popes sought help against the Lombards, it was to Charlemagne
as to his father Pepin that they naturally turned. Charlemagne had
hoped at the beginning of his reign to maintain a friendship with King
Didier of Lombardy and had even married his daughter, an alliance that
roused the Pope of that date to demand in somewhat violent language:
‘Do you not know that all the children of the Lombards are lepers, that
the race is outcast from the family of nations? For these there is
neither part nor lot in the Heavenly Kingdom. May they broil with the
devil and his angels in everlasting fire!’

Charlemagne went his own way, in spite of papal denunciations; but
he soon tired of his bride, who was plain and feeble in health, and
divorced her that he might marry a beautiful German princess. This was,
of course, a direct insult to King Didier, who henceforth regarded the
Frankish king as his enemy; and Rome took care that the gulf once made
between the sovereigns should not be bridged.

In papal eyes the Lombards had really become accursed. It is true that
they had been since the days of Gregory the Great orthodox Catholics,
that their churches were some of the most beautiful in Italy, their
monasteries the most famous for learning, and Pavia, their capital,
a centre for students and men of letters. Their sin did not lie in
heretical views, but in the position of their kingdom that now included
not only modern Lombardy in the north, but also the Duchy of Spoletum
in South Italy. Between stretched the papal dominions like a broad
wall from Ravenna to the Western Mediterranean; and on either side
the Lombards chafed, trying to annex a piece of land here or a city
there, while the Popes watched them, lynx-eyed, eager on their part
to dispossess such dangerous neighbours, but unable to do so without
assistance from beyond the Alps.

Soon after the death of his younger brother Charlemagne was persuaded
to take up the papal cause and invade Italy. At Geneva, where he held
the ‘Mayfield’ or annual military review of his troops, he laid the
object of his campaign before them, and was answered by their shouts of

It was a formidable host, for the Franks expected every man who owned
land in their dominions to appear at these gatherings prepared for
war. The rich would be mounted, protected by mail shirts and iron
headpieces, and armed with sword and dagger; the poor would come on
foot, some with bows and arrows, others with lance and shield, and the
humblest of all with merely scythes or wooden clubs. Tenants on the
royal demesnes must bring with them all the free men on their estates;
and while it was possible to obtain exemption the fine demanded was so
heavy that few could pay it.

When the army set out in battle array, it was accompanied by numerous
baggage-carts, lumbering wagons covered with leather awnings, that
contained enough food for three months as well as extra clothes and
weapons. It was the general hope that on the return journey the wagons
would be filled to overflowing with the spoils of the conquered enemy.

The Lombards had ceased, with the growth of luxury and comfortable town
life, to be warriors like the Franks; and Charlemagne met with almost
as little resistance as Pepin in past campaigns. After a vain attempt
to hold the Western passes of the Alps, Didier and his army fled to
Pavia, where they fortified themselves, leaving the rest of the country
at the mercy of the invaders.

Frankish chroniclers in later years drew a realistic picture of Didier,
crouched in one of the high towers of the city, awaiting in trembling
suspense the coming of the ‘terrible Charles’. Beside him stood
Otger, a Frankish duke, who had been a follower of the dead Carloman
and was therefore hostile to his elder brother. ‘Is Charles in that
great host?’ demanded the King continually, as first the long line of
baggage-wagons came winding across the plain, and then an army of the
‘common-folk’, and after them the bishops with their train of abbots
and clerks. Every time his companion answered him, ‘No! not yet!’

  ‘Then Didier hated the light of day. He stammered and sobbed and
  said, “Let us go down and hide in the earth from so terrible a
  foe.” And Otger too was afraid; well he knew the might and the
  wrath of the peerless Charles; in his better days he had often
  been at court. And he said, “When you see the plain bristle with a
  harvest of spears, and rivers of black steel come pouring in upon
  your city walls, then you may look for the coming of Charles.”
  While he yet spoke a black cloud arose in the West and the glorious
  daylight was turned to darkness. The Emperor came on; a dawn
  of spears darker than night rose on the beleaguered city. King
  Charles, that man of iron, appeared; iron his helmet, iron his
  armguards, iron the corselet on his breast and shoulders. His left
  hand grasped an iron lance ... iron the spirit, iron the hue of
  his war steed. Before, behind, and at his side rode men arrayed in
  the same guise. Iron filled the plain and open spaces, iron points
  flashed back the sunlight. “There is the man whom you would see,”
  said Otger to the king; and so saying he swooned away, like one

In spite of this picture of Carolingian might, it took the Franks six
months to reduce Pavia; and then Didier, at last surrendering, was
sent to a monastery, while Charlemagne proclaimed himself king of the
newly acquired territories. During the siege, leaving capable generals
to conduct it, he himself had gone to Rome, where he was received with
feasting and joy. Crowds of citizens came out to the gates to welcome
him, carrying palms and olive-branches, and hailed him as ‘Patrician’
and ‘Defender of the Church’. Dismounting from his horse he passed on
foot through the streets of Rome to the cathedral; and there, in the
manner of the ordinary pilgrim, climbed the steps on his knees, until
the Pope awaiting him at the top, raised and embraced him. From the
choir arose the exultant shout, ‘Blessed is he that cometh in the name
of the Lord.’

A few days later, once more standing in St. Peter’s, Charlemagne
affixed his seal to the donation Pepin had given to the Church. The
document was entered amongst the papal archives; but it has long since
disappeared, and with it exact information as to the territories

[Sidenote: Donation of Constantine]

About this time the papal court produced another document, the
so-called ‘Donation of Constantine’, in which the first of the
Christian emperors apparently granted to the Popes the western half of
the Roman Empire. Centuries later this was proved to be a forgery, but
for a long while people accepted it as genuine, and the power of the
Popes was greatly increased. We do not know how much Charles believed
in papal supremacy in temporal matters; but throughout his reign his
attitude to the Pope over Italian affairs was rather that of master
to servant than the reverse. It was only when spiritual questions
were under discussion that he was prepared to yield as if to a higher

When he had reduced Pavia Charlemagne left Lombardy to be ruled by one
of his sons and returned to France; but it was not very long before
he was called back to Italy, as fresh trouble had arisen there. The
cause was the unpopularity of Pope Leo III in Rome and the surrounding
country, where turbulent nobles rebelled as often as they could against
the papal government. One day, as Leo was riding through the city at
the head of a religious procession, a band of armed men rushed out from
a side street, separated him from his attendants, dragged him from his
horse, and beat him mercilessly, leaving him half dead. It was even
said that they put out his eyes and cut off his tongue, but that these
were later restored by a miracle.

Leo, at any rate, whole though shaken, succeeded in reaching
Charlemagne’s presence, and the King was faced by the problem of going
to Rome to restore order. Had it been merely a matter of exacting
vengeance, he would have found little difficulty with his army of
stalwart Franks behind him; but Leo’s enemies were not slow in bringing
forward accusations against their victim that they claimed justified
their assault. Charlemagne was thus in an awkward position, for he was
too honest a ruler to refuse to hear both sides, and his respect for
the papal office could not blind him to the possibility of evil in the
acts of the person who held it, especially in the case of an ambitious
statesman like Leo III.

He felt that it was his duty to sift the matter to the bottom; and yet
by what law could the King of France or even of Italy put Christ’s
vice-regent upon his trial and cross-examine him?

One way of dealing with this problem would have been to seek judgement
at Constantinople as the seat of Empire, a final ‘appeal unto Caesar’
such as St. Paul had made in classical times: but, ever since Pepin
the Short had given the Exarchate of Ravenna to the Pope instead of
restoring it to Byzantine Emperors, relations with the East, never
cordial, had grown more strained. Now they were at breaking point. The
late Emperor, a mere boy, had been thrown into a dungeon and blinded
by his mother, the Empress Irene, in order that she might usurp his
throne; and the Western Empire recoiled from the idea of accepting such
a woman as arbiter of their destinies.

Thus Charlemagne, forced to act on his own responsibility, examined the
evidence laid before him and declared Leo innocent of the crimes of
which he had been accused. In one sense it was a complete triumph for
the Pope; but Leo was a clear-sighted statesman and knew that the power
to which he had been restored rested on a weak foundation. The very
fact that he had been compelled to appeal for justice to a temporal
sovereign lowered the office that he held in the eyes of the world;
and he possessed no guarantee that, once the Franks had left Rome, his
enemies would not again attack him. Without a recognized champion,
always ready to enforce her will, the Papacy remained at the mercy of
those who chose to oppose or hinder her.

In the dramatic scene that took place in St. Peter’s Cathedral on
Christmas Day, A.D. 800, Leo found a way out of his difficulties.
Arrayed in gorgeous vestments, he said Mass before the High Altar, lit
by a thousand candles hanging at the arched entrance to the chancel. In
the half-gloom beyond knelt Charlemagne and his sons; and at the end
of the service Leo, approaching them with a golden crown in his hands,
placed it upon the King’s head. Instantly the congregation burst into
the cry with which Roman emperors of old had been acclaimed at their
accession. ‘To Charles Augustus, crowned of God, the great and pacific
Emperor, long life and victory!’ ‘From that time’, says a Frankish
chronicle, commenting on this scene, ‘there was no more a Roman Empire
at Constantinople.’

[Sidenote: Foundation of Western Empire]

Leo had found his champion, and in anointing and crowning him had
emphasized the dignity of his own office. He had also pleased the
citizens of Rome, who rejoiced to have an Emperor again after the
lapse of more than three centuries. Charlemagne alone was doubtful
of the greatness that had been thrust upon him and accepted it with
reluctance. He had troubles enough near home without embroiling himself
with Constantinople; but as it turned out the Eastern Empire was too
busy deposing the Empress Irene to object actively to its rejection in
the West; and Irene’s successors agreed to acknowledge the imperial
rank of their rival in return for the cession of certain coveted lands
on the Eastern Adriatic.

Other sovereigns hastened to pay their respects to the new Emperor,
and Charlemagne received several embassies in search of alliance from
Haroun al-Raschid, the Caliph of Bagdad. Haroun al-Raschid ruled over
a mighty empire stretching from Persia to Egypt, and thence along the
North African coast to the Strait of Gibraltar. On one occasion he sent
Charlemagne a present of a wonderful water-clock that, as it struck the
hour of twelve, opened as many windows, through which armed horsemen
rode forth and back again. Far more exciting in Western eyes was the
unhappy elephant that for nine years remained the glory of the imperial
court at Aachen. Its death, when they were about to lead it forth on an
expedition against the northern tribes of Germany, is noted sadly in
the national annals.

Rulers less fortunate than Haroun al-Raschid sought not so much the
friendship of the Western Emperor as his protection, and through
his influence exiled kings of Wessex and Northumberland were able to
recover their thrones. Most significant tribute of all to the honour
in which Charlemagne’s name was held was the petition of the Patriarch
of Jerusalem that he would come and rescue Christ’s city from the
infidel. The message was accompanied by a banner and the keys of the
Holy Sepulchre; but Charlemagne, though deeply moved by such a call to
the defence of Christendom, knew that the campaign was beyond his power
and put it from him. Were there not infidels to be subdued within the
boundaries of his own Empire, fierce Saxon tribes that year after year
made mock both of the sovereignty of the Franks and their religion?

The Saxons lived amongst the ranges of low hills between the Rhine and
the Elbe. By the end of the eighth century, when other Teutonic races
such as the Franks and the Bavarians had yielded to the civilizing
influence of Christianity, they still cherished their old beliefs
in the gods of nature and offered sacrifices to spirits dwelling in
groves and fountains. The chief object of their worship was a huge tree
trunk that they kept hidden in the heart of a forest, their priests
declaring that the whole Heavens rested upon it. This _Irminsul_, or
‘All-supporting pillar’, was the bond between one group of Saxons and
another that led them to rally round their chiefs when any foreign army
appeared on their soil; though, if at peace with the rest of the world,
they would fight amongst themselves for sheer love of battle.

[Sidenote: St. Boniface]

A part of the Saxon race had settled in the island of Britain, when the
Roman authority weakened at the break-up of the Empire; and amongst
the descendants of these settlers were some Christian priests who
determined to carry the Gospel to the heathen tribes of Germany, men
and women of their own race but still living in spiritual darkness. The
most famous of these missionaries was St. Winifrith, or St. Boniface
according to the Latin version of his name that means, ‘He who brings

About the time that Charles Martel was Duke of the Franks Boniface
arrived in Germany and began to travel from one part of the country to
another, explaining the Gospel of Christ, and persuading those whom he
converted to build churches and monasteries. When he went to Rome to
give an account of his work the Pope made him a bishop and sent him to
preach in the Duchy of Bavaria. Later, as his influence increased and
he gathered disciples round him, he was able to found not only parish
churches but bishoprics with a central archbishopric at Mainz; thus,
long before Germany became a nation she possessed a Church with an
organized government that belonged not to one but to all her provinces.

Only in the north and far east of Germany heathenism still held sway;
and St. Boniface, after he had gone at the Pope’s wish to help the
Franks reform their Church, determined to make one last effort to
complete his missionary work in the land he had chosen as his own. He
was now sixty-five, but nothing daunted by the hardships and dangers of
the task before him he set off with a few disciples to Friesland and
began to preach to the wild pagan tribes who lived there. Before he
could gain a hearing, however, he was attacked, and, refusing to defend
himself, was put to death.

Thus passed away ‘the Apostle of Germany’ and with him much of the
kindliness of his message. Christianity was to come indeed to these
northern tribes, but through violence and the sword rather than by
the influence of a gentle life. Charlemagne had a sincere love of the
Catholic Faith, whose champion he believed himself; but he considered
that only folly and obstinacy could blind men’s eyes to the truth of
Christianity, and he was determined to enforce its doctrines by the
sword if necessary.

The Saxons, on the other hand, though if they were beaten in battle
they might yield for a time and might promise to pay tribute to
the Franks and build churches, remained heathens at heart. When an
opportunity occurred, and they learned that the greater part of the
Frankish army was in Italy or on the Spanish border, they would sally
forth across their boundaries and drive out or kill the missionaries.
Charlemagne knew that he could have no peace within his Empire until he
had subdued the Saxons; but the task he had set himself was harder than
he had imagined, and it was thirty-eight years before he could claim
that he had succeeded.

[Sidenote: Conquest of Saxon Tribes]

‘The final conquest of the Saxons’, says Eginhard, a scholar who
lived at Charlemagne’s court and wrote his life, ‘would have been
accomplished sooner but for their treachery. It is hard to tell how
often they broke faith, surrendering to the King and accepting his
terms, and then breaking out into wild rebellion once more.’ Eginhard
continues that Charlemagne’s method was never to allow a revolt to
remain unpunished but to set out at once with an army and exact
vengeance. On one of these campaigns he succeeded in reaching the
forest where the sacred trunk _Irminsul_ was kept and set fire to it
and destroyed it; but the Saxons, though disheartened for the moment,
soon rallied under the banner of a famous chief called Witikind. We
know little of the latter except his undaunted courage that made him
refuse for many years to submit to a foe so much stronger that he must
obviously gain the final victory.

Charlemagne, exasperated by repeated opposition, used every means to
forward his aim. Sometimes he would bribe separate chieftains to betray
their side; but often he would employ methods of deliberate cruelty
in order to strike terror into his foes. Four thousand five hundred
Saxons who had started a rebellion were once cut off and captured by
the Franks. They pleaded that Witikind, who had escaped into Denmark,
had prompted them to act against their better judgement. ‘If Witikind
is not here you must pay the penalty in his stead,’ returned the King
relentlessly, and the whole number were put to the sword.

At different times he transplanted hundreds of Saxon households into
the heart of France, and in the place of ‘this great multitude’, as the
chronicle describes them, he established Frankish garrisons. He also
sent missionaries to build churches in the conquered territories and
compelled the inhabitants to become Christians.

Often the bishops and priests thus sent would have to fly before a
sudden raid of heathen Saxons hiding in the neighbouring forests and
marshes; and, lacking the courage of St. Boniface, a few would hesitate
to return when the danger was suppressed. ‘What ought I to do?’ cried
one of the most timid, appealing to Charlemagne. ‘In Christ’s name go
back to thy diocese,’ was the stern answer.

While the King expected the same obedience and devotion from church
officials as from the captains in his army, he took care that they
should not lack his support in the work he had set them to do.

  ‘If any man among the Saxons, being not yet baptized, shall hide
  himself and refuse to come to baptism, let him die the death.’

  ‘If any man despise the Lenten fast for contempt of Christianity,
  let him die the death.’

  ‘Let all men, whether nobles, free, or serfs, give to the Churches
  and the priests the tenth part of their substance and labour.’

These ‘capitularies’, or laws, show that Charlemagne was still half
a barbarian at heart and matched pagan savagery with a severity more
ruthless because it was more calculating. In the end Witikind himself,
in spite of his courage, was forced to surrender and accept baptism,
and gradually the whole of Saxony fell under the Frankish yoke.

The Duchy of Bavaria, that had been Christian for many years, did not
offer nearly so stubborn a resistance; and after he had reduced both it
and Saxony to submission, Charlemagne was ruler not merely in name but
in reality of an Empire that included France, the modern Holland and
Belgium, Germany, and the greater part of Italy. Some of the conquests
he had made were to fall away, but Germany that had suffered most at
his hands emerged in the end the greatest achievement of his foreign

      He swept away the black deceitful night
      And taught our race to know the only light,

wrote a Saxon monk of the ninth century, showing that already some of
the bitterness had vanished. ‘In a few generations’, says a modern
writer, ‘the Saxons were conspicuous for their loyalty to the Faith.’

No story of Charlemagne would be true to life that omitted his harsh
dealings with his Saxon foe; and yet it would be equally unfair to
paint him only as a warrior, mercilessly exterminating all who
opposed him in barbaric fashion. Far more than a conqueror he was an
empire-builder to whom war was not an end in itself, as to his Frankish
forefathers, but a means towards the safeguarding of his realm.

The forts and outworks that he planted along his boundaries, the
churches that he built in the midst of hostile territory, belonged
indeed to his policy of inspiring terror and awe: but Charlemagne had
also other designs only in part of a military nature. Roads and bridges
that should make a network of communication across the Empire, acting
like channels of civilization in assisting transport and encouraging
trade and intercourse: royal palaces that should become centres of
justice for the surrounding country: monasteries that should shed the
light of knowledge and of faith: all these formed part of his dream of
a Roman Empire brought back to her old stately life and power.

A canal joining the Rhine and Danube and thus making a continuous
waterway between East and West was planned and even begun, but had to
wait till modern times for its completion. Charlemagne possessed the
vision and enterprise that did not quail before big undertakings, but
he lacked the money and labour necessary for carrying them out. Unlike
the Roman Emperors of classic times he had no treasury on whose taxes
he could draw; but depended, save for certain rents, on the revenues
of his private estates that were usually paid ‘in kind’, that is to
say, not in coin but at the rate of so many head of cattle, or of so
much milk, corn, or barley, according to the means of the tenant. Of
these supplies he kept a careful account even to the number of hens on
the royal farms and the quantity of eggs that they laid. Yet at their
greatest extent revenues ‘in kind’ could do little more than satisfy
the daily needs of the palace.

The chief debt that the Frankish nation owed to the state was not
financial but military, the obligation of service in the field laid on
every freeman. As the Empire increased in size this became so irksome
that the system was somewhat modified. In future men who possessed less
than a certain quantity of land might join together and pay one or two
of their number, according to the size of their joint properties, to
represent them in the army abroad, while the rest remained at home to
see to the cultivation of the crops.

[Sidenote: Court of Charlemagne]

Charlemagne was very anxious to raise a body of labourers from each
district to assist in his building schemes, but this suggestion
awoke a storm of indignation. Landowners maintained that they were
only required by law to repair the roads and bridges in their own
neighbourhood, not to put their tenants at the disposal of the Emperor
that he might send them at his whim from Aquitaine to Bavaria, or from
Austria to Lombardy; and in face of this opposition many of his designs
ceased abruptly from lack of labour. A royal palace and cathedral,
adorned with columns and mosaics from Ravenna, were, however, completed
at Aachen; and here Charlemagne established his principal residence and
gathered his court round him.

The life of this ‘new Rome’, as he loved to call it, was simple in
the extreme; for the Emperor, like a true Frank, hated unnecessary
ostentation and ceremony. When the chief nobles and officials assembled
twice a year in the spring and autumn to debate on public matters,
he would receive them in person, thanking them for the gifts they
had brought him, and walking up and down amongst them to jest with
one and ask questions of another with an informality that would have
scandalized the court at Constantinople.

In this easy intercourse between sovereign and subject lay the secret
of Charlemagne’s personal magnetism. To warriors and churchmen as to
officials and the ordinary freemen of his demesnes he was not some
far-removed authority, who could be approached only through a maze of
court intrigue, but a man like themselves with virtues and failings
they could understand.

If his temper was hasty and terrible when roused, it would soon melt
away into a genial humour that appreciated to the full the rough
practical jokes in which the age delighted. The chronicles tell us
with much satisfaction how Charlemagne once persuaded a Jew to offer
a ‘vainglorious bishop ever fond of vanities’ a painted mouse that he
pretended he had brought back straight from Judea. The bishop at first
declined to give more than £3 for such a treasure; but, deceived
by the Jew’s prompt refusal to part with it for so paltry a sum,
consented at length to hand over a bushel of silver in exchange. The
Emperor, hearing this, gathered the rest of the bishops at his court
together--‘See what one of you has paid for a mouse!’ he exclaimed
gleefully; and we may be sure that the story did not stop at the royal
presence but spread throughout the country, where haughty ecclesiastics
were looked on with little favour.

We are told also that Charlemagne loved to bombard the people he met,
from the Pope downwards, with difficult questions; but it was not
merely a malicious desire to bring them to confusion that prompted his
inquiries. Alert himself, and keenly interested in whatever business he
had in hand, he despised slipshod or inefficient knowledge. He expected
a bishop to be an authority on theology, an official to be an expert on
methods of government, a scholar to be well grounded in the ordinary
sciences of his day.

Hard work was the surest road to his favour, and he spared neither
himself nor those who entered his service. Even at night he would
place writing materials beneath his pillow that if he woke or thought
of anything it might be noted down. On one occasion he visited the
palace school that he had founded, and discovered that while the boys
of humble birth were making the most of their opportunities, the sons
of the nobles, despising book-learning, had frittered away their time.
Commending those who had done well, the Emperor turned to the others
with an angry frown. ‘Relying on your birth and wealth,’ he exclaimed,
‘and caring nothing for our commands and your own improvement, you
have neglected the study of letters and have indulged yourselves in
pleasures and idleness.... By the King of Heaven I care little for your
noble birth.... Know this, unless straightway you make up for your
former negligence by earnest study, you need never expect any favour
from the hand of Charles.’

[Sidenote: Government of Charlemagne]

It was with the wealthy nobles and landowners that Charlemagne fought
some of his hardest battles, though no sword was drawn or open war
declared. Not only were most of the high offices at court in their
hands, but it was from their ranks that the counts, and later the
viscounts, were chosen who ruled over the districts into which the
Empire was divided and subdivided.

The count received a third of the gifts and rents from his province
that would have otherwise been paid to the King; and these, if he were
unscrupulous, he could increase at the expense of those he governed.
He presided in the local law-courts and was responsible for the
administration of justice, the exaction of fines, and for the building
of roads and bridges. He was in fact a petty king, and would often
tyrannize over the people and neglect the royal interests to forward
his selfish ambitions.

The Merovingians had tried to limit the authority of the counts and
other provincial officials by occasionally sending private agents of
their own to inquire into the state of the provinces and to reform
the abuses that they found. Charlemagne adopted this practice as a
regular system; and at the annual assemblies he appointed _Missi_, or
‘messengers’, who should make a tour of inspection in the district to
which they had been sent at least four times in the year and afterwards
report on their progress to the Emperor. Wherever they went the count
or viscount must yield up his authority to them for the time being,
allowing them to sit in his court and hear all the grievances and
complaints that the men and women of the district cared to bring
forward. If the _Missi_ insisted on certain reforms the count must
carry them out and also make atonement for any charges proved against

Here are some of the evils that the men of Istria, a province on the
Eastern Adriatic, suffered at the hands of their lord, ‘Johannes’, and
that the inquiries of the royal _Missi_ at length brought to light.
Johannes had sold the people on his estates as serfs to his sons and
daughters: he had forced them to build houses for his family and to go
voyages on his business across the sea to Venice and Ravenna: he had
seized the common land and used it as his own, bringing in Slavs from
across the border to till it for his private use: he had robbed his
tenants of their horses and their money on the plea of the Emperor’s
service and had given them nothing in exchange. ‘If the Emperor will
help us,’ they cried, ‘we may be saved, but if not we had better die
than live.’

From this account we can see that Charlemagne appeared to the mass
of his subjects as their champion against the tyranny of the nobles,
and in this sense his government may be called popular; but the old
‘popular’ assemblies of the Franks at which the laws were made had
ceased by this reign to be anything but aristocratic gatherings
summoned to approve of the measures laid before them.

The Emperor’s ‘capitularies’ would be based on the advice he had
received from his most trusted _Missi_; and when they had been
discussed by the principal nobles, they would be read to the general
assembly and ratified by a formal acceptance that meant nothing,
because it rarely or never was changed into a refusal.

Besides introducing new legislation in the form of royal edicts or
capitularies, Charlemagne commanded that a collection should be made
of all the old tribal laws, such as the Salic Law of the Franks, and
of the chief codes that had been handed down by tradition, or word of
mouth, for generations; and this compilation was revised and brought
up to date. It was a very useful and necessary piece of work, yet
Charlemagne for all his industry does not deserve to be ranked as a
great lawgiver like Justinian. The very earnestness of his desire to
secure immediate justice made his capitularies hasty and inadequate. He
would not wait to trace some evil to its root and then try to eradicate
it, but would pass a number of laws on the matter, only touching the
surface of what was wrong and creating confusion by the multiplicity of
instructions and the contradictions they contained.

Sometimes the _Missi_ themselves were not a success, but would take
bribes from the rich landowners on their tour of inspection, and this
would mean more government machinery and fresh laws to bring them under
the royal control in their turn. If it was difficult to make wise laws,
it was even harder in that rough age to carry them out; for the nobles
found it to their interest to defy or at least hinder an authority that
struck at their power; while the mass of the people were too ignorant
to bear responsibility, and few save those educated in the palace
schools could become trustworthy ‘counts’ or royal agents.

Dimly, however, the nation understood that the Emperor held some high
ideal of government planned for their prosperity, ‘No one cried out
to him’, says the chronicle, ‘but straightway he should have good
justice’: and in every church throughout France those who had not been
called to follow him to battle prayed for his safety and that God would
subdue the barbarians before his triumphant arms.

To Charlemagne there was a higher vision than that of mere victory in
battle, a vision born of his favourite book, the _Civitas Dei_, wherein
St. Augustine had described the perfect Emperor, holding his sceptre as
a gift God had given and might take away, and conquering his enemies
that he might lead them to a greater knowledge and prosperity.

[Sidenote: Charlemagne and the Church]

Charlemagne believed that to him had been entrusted the guardianship of
the Catholic Church, not only from the heathen without its pale, but
from false doctrine and evil living within. To the Pope, as Christ’s
vice-regent, he bore himself humbly, as on the day when he had climbed
St. Peter’s steps on his knees, but to the Pope as a man dealing with
other men he spoke as a lord to his vassal, tendering his views and
expecting compliance, in return for which he guaranteed the support of
his sword.

‘May the ruler of the Church be rightly ruled by thee, O King, and
may’st thou be ruled by the right hand of the Almighty!’ In this prayer
Alcuin probably expressed the Emperor’s opinion of his own position.
Leo III, on the other hand, preferred to talk of his champion as a
faithful son of the mother Church of Rome; thereby implying that the
Emperor should pay a son’s duty of obedience: but he himself was never
in a strong enough position to enforce this point of view, and the
clash of Empire and Papacy was left for a later age.

Within his own dominions Charlemagne, like the Frankish kings before
him, reigned supreme over the Church, appointing whom he would
as bishops, and using them often as _Missi_ to assist him in his
government. Yet the Church remained an ‘estate’ apart from the rest
of the nation, supported by the revenues of the large sees belonging
to the different bishoprics and by the _tithe_, or tenth part of a
layman’s income. When churchmen attended the annual assembly they were
allowed to deliberate apart from the nobles and freemen: when a bishop
excommunicated some heretic or sinner, the Emperor’s court was bound
to enforce the sentence. Thus the privileges and rights were many; but
Charlemagne determined that the men who enjoyed them must also fulfil
the obligations that they carried with them.

In earlier years Charles Martel and St. Boniface had struggled hard to
raise the character of the Frankish Church, and Charlemagne continued
their task with his usual energy, insisting on frequent inspections of
the monasteries and convents and on the maintenance of a stricter rule
of life within their walls.

The ordinary parish clergy were also brought under more vigilant
supervision. In accordance with the laws of the Roman Church they were
not allowed to marry, nor might they take part in any worldly business,
enter a tavern, carry arms, or go hunting or hawking. Above all they
were encouraged to educate themselves that they might be able to teach
their parishioners and set a good example.

‘Good works are better than knowledge’, wrote Charlemagne to his
bishops and abbots in a letter of advice, ‘but without knowledge good
works are impossible.’ In accordance with this view he commanded that
a school should be established in every diocese, in order that the
boys of the neighbourhood might receive a grounding in the ordinary
education of their day. His own court became a centre of learning; for
he himself was keenly interested in all branches of knowledge, from a
close study of the Scriptures to mathematics or tales of distant lands.
Histories he liked to have read out to him at meals. Eginhard, his
biographer, tells us that he never learned to write, but that he was
proficient in Latin and could understand Greek.

It was his desire to emulate Augustus, the first of the Roman Emperors,
and gather round him the most literary men of Europe, and he eagerly
welcomed foreign scholars and took them into his service. Chief
amongst these adopted sons of the Empire was Alcuin the Northumbrian, a
‘wanderer on the face of the earth’ as he called himself, whom Danish
invasions had driven from his native land.

Alcuin settled at the Frankish court, organized the ‘palace school’ of
which we have already made mention, and himself wrote the primers from
which the boys were taught. His influence soon extended beyond this
sphere, and he became the Emperor’s chief adviser, inspiring his master
with high ideals, while he himself was stirred by the other’s vivid
personality to share his passion for hard work.

[Sidenote: Character of Charlemagne]

It is this almost volcanic energy that gives the force and charm to
Charlemagne’s many-sided character. We think of him first, it may be,
as the warrior, the hero of romance, or else as a statesman planning
his Empire of the West. At another time we see in him the guardian of
his people, the king who ‘wills that justice should be done’, but we
recall a story such as that of the painted mouse, and instantly his
simple, almost schoolboy, side becomes apparent. The ‘Great Charles’
was no saint but a Frank of the rough type of soldiers he led to
battle, capable of cruelty as of kindness, hot-tempered, a lover of
sport, strong perhaps where his ideals were at stake, but weak towards
women, and an over-indulgent father, who let the intrigues of his
daughters bring scandal on his court. Yet another contrast to this
homely figure is the scholar and theologian, the friend of Alcuin, who
believed that without knowledge good works were impossible.

Many famous characters in history have equalled or surpassed
Charlemagne as general, statesman, or legislator--there have been
better scholars and more refined princes--but few or none have followed
such divers aims and achieved by the sheer force of their personality
such memorable results. Painters and chroniclers love to depict him in
old age still majestic; and in truth up till nearly the end of his long
reign he kept the fire and vigour of his youth, swimming like a boy in
the baths of Aachen, or hunting the wild boar upon the hills, drawing
up capitularies, or dictating advice to his bishops, doing, in fact,
whatever came to hand with an intensity that would have exhausted any
one less healthy and self-reliant.

Fortunately for Charlemagne he had the sturdy constitution of his race,
and when at last he died an old man in 814 people believed that he did
not share the common fate of humanity. Nearly two hundred years later,
it was said, when the funeral vault was opened, he was found seated in
his chair of state, firm of flesh as in life, with his crown on his
snowy hair, and his sword clasped in his hand.

‘Our Lord gave this boon to Charlemagne that men should speak of him
as long as the world endureth.’ It is a boast that as centuries pass,
sweeping away the memory of lesser heroes, time still justifies.

_Supplementary Dates. For Chronological Summary, see pp. 368-73._

  Charlemagne, King of the Franks         768-800
  Charlemagne, Emperor of the West        800-14
  Battle of Roncesvalles                  778
  Invasion of Lombardy                    773
  Haroun al-Raschid                  died 809
  St. Boniface                            715



At the death of Charlemagne the Empire that he had built up stretched
from Denmark to the Pyrenees and the Duchy of Spoletum south of Rome,
from the Atlantic on the West to the Baltic, Bohemia, and the Dalmatian
coast. It had been a brave attempt to realize the old Roman ideal of
all civilized Europe gathered under one ruler; but he himself was well
aware that the foundations he had laid were weak, his own personality
that must vanish the mortar holding them together. Without his genius
and the terror of his name his possessions were only too likely to fall
away; and therefore, instead of attempting to leave a united Empire, he
nominated one son to be emperor in name, but made a rough division of
his territory between three. Only the death of two just before his own
defeated his aims and united the inheritance under the survivor, Louis.

The new Emperor was like his father in build, but without his
wideness of outlook. His natural geniality was sometimes marred by
uncontrollable fits of suspicion and cruelty, as in the case of his
nephew, Bernard, King of Italy, whom he believed to be secretly
conspiring to bring about his overthrow. Louis ordered the young man
to appear at his court, and when Bernard hesitated, fearing treachery,
his uncle sent him a special promise of safety by the Empress, whom
he trusted. Reluctantly Bernard at last obeyed the summons, whereupon
he was seized, thrust into a dungeon, and his eyes put out so cruelly
that he died. Shortly afterwards the Empress died also, and Louis who
had loved her believed that God was punishing him for his broken word.
Overcome by remorse he became so devout in his religious observances
that his subjects called him ‘Louis the Pious’.

Louis, like his father, was ever ready to listen to the petitions of
those who were oppressed and to pass laws for their security. For the
first sixteen years of his reign the Carolingian dominions, put to
no test, appeared unshaken, and then of a sudden, just as if a cloud
were blotting out the sunlight, prosperity and peace were lost in the
horrors of civil war.

Louis the Pious had three sons by his first wife, and following
Charlemagne’s example he named the eldest, Lothar, as his successor in
the Empire, while he divided his lands between the other two. It was
only when he married again and another son, Charles, was born to him
that trouble began. This fourth son was the old Emperor’s favourite,
and Louis would gladly have left him a large kingdom; but such a gift
he could only make now at the expense of the elder brothers, who hated
the young boy as an interloper, and were determined that he should
receive nothing to which they could lay a claim.

When Charles was six years old Louis insisted that the country now
called Switzerland and part of modern Germany (Suabia) should be
recognized as his inheritance; and on hearing this all three elder
brothers, who had been secretly making disloyal plots, broke into open

The history of the next ten years is an ignominious chronicle of
the Emperor’s weakness. Twice were he and his Empress imprisoned
and insulted; and on each occasion, when the quarrels of his sons
amongst themselves led to his release, he was induced to grant a weak
forgiveness that led to further rebellion.

When Louis died in 840, the seeds of dissension were widely scattered;
and those of his House who came after him openly showed that they
cared for nothing save personal ambition. Lothar, the eldest, was
proclaimed Emperor, and obtained as his share of the dominions a large
middle kingdom stretching from the mouth of the Rhine to Italy, and
including the two capitals of Aachen and Rome. To the East, in what is
now Germany, reigned his brother Louis, to the West, in France, Charles
‘the Bald’, the hated younger brother who had succeeded at the last in
obtaining a substantial inheritance.

[Sidenote: Oath of Strasbourg]

This division is interesting because it shows two of the nationalities
of Europe already emerging from the imperial melting-pot. When the
brothers Louis and Charles met at Strasbourg in 842 to confirm an
alliance they had formed against Lothar, Charles and his followers took
the oath in German, Louis and his nobles in the Romance tongue of which
modern French is the descendant. This they did that the armies on both
sides might clearly understand how their leaders had bound themselves,
and the Oath of Strasbourg remains to-day as evidence of this new
growth of nationality that had already acquired distinct national

The Partition of Verdun, signed shortly afterwards by all three
brothers, acknowledged the division of the Empire into three parts,
France on the West, Germany in the East, and between them the debatable
kingdom of Lotharingia, that, dwindled during the Middle Ages and
modern times into the province of Lorraine, has remained always a
source of war and trouble.

It would be wearisome to trace in detail the history of the years that
followed the Partition of Verdun. One historian has described it as ‘a
dizzy and unintelligible spectacle of monotonous confusion, a scene of
unrestrained treachery, of insatiable and blind rapacity. No son is
obedient or loyal to his father, no brother can trust his brother, no
uncle spares his nephew.... There were rapid alterations in fortune,
rapid changing of sides, there was universal distrust and universal
reliance on falsehood or crime.’

In 881 Charles ‘the Fat’, son of Louis the German, of Strasbourg Oath
fame, succeeded, owing to the deaths of his rival cousins and uncles,
in uniting for a few years all the dominions of Charlemagne under his
sceptre; but, weak and unhealthy, he was not the man to control so
great possessions, and very shortly he was deposed and died in prison
on an island in Lake Constance. With him faded away the last reflection
of the Carolingian glory that had once dazzled the world. In France the
descendants of Charles ‘the Bald’ carried on a precarious existence for
several generations, despised and threatened by their own nobles, as
the later Merovingians had been, and utterly unable to defend their
land from the hostile invasions of Northmen, that, beginning in the
eighth century, seemed likely during the ninth and tenth centuries to
paralyse the civilization and trade of Europe as the inroads of Goths,
Huns, and Vandals had broken up the Roman Empire.

The long ships of the Northmen had been seen off the French coasts even
in the days of Charlemagne, and one of the chroniclers records how the
wise king seeing them exclaimed, ‘These vessels bear no merchandise but
cruel foes,’ and then continued, with prophetic grief, ‘Know ye why
I weep? Truly I fear not that these will injure me; but I am deeply
grieved that in my lifetime they should be so near a landing on these
shores, and I am overwhelmed with sorrow as I look forward and see what
evils they will bring upon my offspring and their people.’

The Northmen, we can guess from their name, came from the wild, often
snow-bound, coasts of Scandinavia and Denmark. Few weaklings could
survive in such a climate; and the race was tall, well built, and
hardy, made up of men and women who despised the fireside and loved to
feel the fresh sea-wind beating against their faces. Life to them was
a perpetual struggle, but a struggle they had glorified into an ideal,
until they had ceased to dread either its discomforts or dangers.

Here is a description of the three classes, thrall, churl, and noble,
into which these tribes of Northmen, or ‘Vikings’, were divided.

  ‘Thrall was swarthy of skin, his hands wrinkled, his knuckles bent,
  his fingers thick, his face ugly, his back broad, his heels long.
  He began to put forth his strength binding bast, making loads,
  and bearing home faggots the weary day long. His children busied
  themselves with building fences, dunging ploughland, tending swine,
  herding goats, and digging peat.... Carl, or Churl, was red and
  ruddy, with rolling eyes, and took to breaking oxen, building
  ploughs, timbering houses, and making carts. Earl, the noble, had
  yellow hair, his cheeks were rosy, his eyes were keen as a young
  serpent’s. His occupation was shaping the shield, bending the bow,
  hurling the javelin, shaking the lance, riding horses, throwing
  dice, fencing and swimming. He began to wake war, to redden the
  field, and to fell the doomed.’

‘To wake war.’ This was the object of the Viking’s existence. His gods,
‘Odin’ and ‘Thor’, were battle heroes who struck one another in the
flash of lightning and with the rumble of thunder as they moved their
shields. Not for the man who lived long and comfortably and died at
last in his bed were either the glory of this world or the joys of
the next. The Scandinavian ‘Valhalla’ was no such ‘paradise’ as the
faithful Moslems conceived, where, in sunlit gardens gay with fruit
and flowers, he should rest from his labours, attended by ‘houris’, or
maidens of celestial beauty. The Viking asked for no rest, only for
unfailing strength and a foe to kill. In the halls of his paradise
reigned perpetual battle all the day long, and, in the evening, feasts
where the warrior, miraculously cured of his wounds, could boast of his
prowess and rise again on the morrow to fresh deeds of heroic slaughter.

[Sidenote: Northmen Raids]

In their dragon-ships, the huge prows fashioned into the heads of
fierce animals or monsters, the Viking ‘Earls’, weary of dicing and
throwing the javelin at home, or exiled by their kings for some
misdeeds, would sweep in fleets across the North Sea, some to explore
Iceland and the far-off shores of Greenland and North America,
some to burn the monasteries along the Irish coast, others to raid
North Germany, France, or England. At first their only object was
plunder, for unlike the Huns they did not despise the luxuries of
civilization--only those who allowed its influence to make them ‘soft’.
At a later date, when they met with little resistance, they began to
build homes, and thus the east coast of England became settled with
Danish colonies.

‘In this year’, says the _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, writing under the
date 855, ‘the heathen men for the first time remained over winter in

[Sidenote: Alfred the Great]

During the fifty years that followed it seemed as if the invaders might
sweep away the Anglo-Saxons as completely as the ancestors of these
Anglo-Saxons had exterminated the original British inhabitants and
their Roman conquerors. That they failed was largely due to one of the
most famous of English kings, Alfred ‘the Great’, a prince of the royal
house of Wessex. Wessex was a province lying mainly to the south of
the River Thames, and at Wantage in Berkshire in the year 849 Alfred
was born, cradled in an atmosphere of war and danger. From boyhood he
fought by the side of his brothers in a long campaign of which the
very victories could not hold at bay the restless Danes. When Alfred
succeeded to the throne he secured a temporary peace and began to build
a fleet and reform his army; but in a few years his enemies broke
across his boundaries once more, and he himself, overwhelmed by their
numbers, was forced to take refuge in the marshes of Somerset. Here at
Athelney he built a fort and, collecting round him the English warriors
of the neighbouring counties, organized so strong a resistance that at
last he inflicted a decisive defeat upon the Danish army. King Guthrum,
his enemy, sued for peace and at the Treaty of Wedmore consented to
become a Christian and to recognize Alfred as King of Wessex, while he
himself retained the Danelaw to the north of the Thames.

This was the beginning of a new England, for from this time Alfred and
his descendants, having secured the freedom of Wessex, set themselves
to win back bit by bit the territory held by the Danes. First of all
under Edward ‘the Elder’, Alfred’s son, the middle kingdom of Mercia
was won back, and the Danes beyond its border agreed to recognize the
King of Wessex as their overlord, while later other Wessex rulers
overran Northumbria and the South of Scotland, so that by the middle of
the tenth century it could be said that ‘England from the Forth to the
Channel was under one ruler’.

The winning back of the Danelaw had not been merely a matter of hewing
down Northmen, nor did Alfred earn his title of ‘the Great’ because
he could wield a sword bravely and lead other men who could do the
same. He was a successful general because in an age of wild fighting
he recognized the value of discipline and training. In order to obtain
the type of men he required he increased the number of ‘Thegns’, that
is, of nobles whose duty it was to serve the King as horsemen, while
he reorganized the ‘fyrd’ or local militia. Henceforth, instead of a
large army of peasants, who must be sent to their homes every autumn
to reap the harvest, he arranged for the maintenance of a small force
that he could keep in the field as long as required. Its arms were to
be supplied by fellow villagers released from the obligation to serve
themselves on this condition.

Alfred, besides remodelling his army, set up fortresses along his
borders, and constructed a fleet; and, because he believed that no
great nation can be built on war alone, he made wise laws and appointed
judges, like Charlemagne’s _Missi_, to see that they were carried out.
He also founded schools and tried, by translating books himself and
inviting scholars to his court, to teach the men around him the glories
and interests of peace. Amongst the books that he chose to set before
his people in the Anglo-Saxon tongue was one called _Pastoral Care_, by
the Pope Gregory who had wished to go to England as a missionary, and
_The Consolations of Philosophy_, written by Boethius in prison.[4]

‘I have desired,’ said Alfred the Great, summing up his ideal of life,
‘to leave to the men who come after me my memory in good works’; and
English people to-day, descendants of both Anglo-Saxons and their
Danish foes, remember with pride and affection this ‘Wise King’,
this ‘Truth-teller’, this ‘England’s darling’, as he was called in
his own day, who like Charlemagne believed in patriotism, justice,
and knowledge. For three-quarters of a century after Alfred’s death
his descendants kept alive something at any rate of this spirit of
greatness, but in 978 there succeeded to the crown a boy of ten
called Ethelred, who as he grew up earned for himself the nickname of
‘rede-less’ or ‘man without advice’.

It is only fair before condemning Ethelred’s conduct to point out the
heavy difficulties with which he was faced; both the renewed Danish
attacks on his shores, and also the jealousies and feuds of his own
nobles, the Earls, or ‘Ealdormen’, who had carved out large estates for
themselves that they ruled as petty kings. Even a statesman like Alfred
would have needed all his strength and tact to unite these powerful
subjects under one banner in order to lead them against the invaders.
Ethelred proved himself weak and without any power of leadership. The
policy for which he has been chiefly remembered is his levy of a tax
called ‘Danegeld’, or Danish gold, the sums of money that he raised
from his reluctant subjects to pay the Danes to go away. As a wiser man
would have realized, this really meant that he paid them to return in
still larger numbers in order to obtain more money. At last, alarmed at
the result of this policy, he did something still more short-sighted
and less defensible: he ordered a general massacre of all the Danes in
the kingdom.

The Massacre of St. Brice’s Day, as this drastic measure is usually
called, brought on England a bitter revenge at the hands of the angry
Vikings. One well-armed force after another landed on the coasts,
combining in an attack on the Anglo-Saxon King that drove him from the
country to seek refuge in France. Very shortly afterwards he died, and
Cnut, one of the Danish leaders, forced the country to accept him as
her ruler.

This accession of a Danish foe might have been expected to undo all
the work of Alfred and his sons, but fortunately for England Cnut was
no reckless Viking with his heart set on war for war’s sake. On the
contrary, he was by nature a statesman who planned the foundation of
a northern Empire with England as its central point. He maintained a
bodyguard of Danish ‘Hus carls’ supported by a tax levied on his new
subjects in order to ensure his personal safety and the fulfilment of
his orders, but otherwise he showed himself an Englishman in every way
he could. In especial he made large gifts to monasteries and convents,
bestowed favour and lands on English nobles, and accepted the laws and
customs of the country whose throne he had usurped. King of Denmark,
and conqueror of England and Norway, he was anxious to ally his Empire
with the nations of the Continent. With this in view he went on a
pilgrimage to Rome to win the sympathy of the Pope and took a great
deal of trouble to arrange foreign alliances. He himself married
Emma, widow of Ethelred ‘the Rede-less’, and a sister of the Duke of
Normandy, thus pleasing the English and bringing himself into touch
with France.

The mention of Normandy brings us to a second invasion of Northmen,
for the Normans, like Cnut himself, were of Scandinavian origin.
When some of the Vikings during the ninth century had sailed up the
Humber and the Thames in the search of plunder and homes, others, as
Charlemagne, according to the chronicler, had foreseen, preferred the
harbours of the Seine, the Somme, and the Loire. In their methods they
showed the same reckless daring and brutality as the early invaders of
England, leaving where they passed smoking ruins of towns and churches.

Charles ‘the Bald’ and the feeble remnant of the Carolingian line who
succeeded him were quite unable to deal with this terror, and it was
only the creation of a Duchy of Paris, whose forces were commanded by a
fighting hero, Odo Capet, that saved the future capital of France.

‘History repeats itself,’ it is sometimes said; and certainly the fate
that the Carolingian ‘Mayors of the Palace’ had meted out to their
Merovingian kings their own descendants were destined to receive again
in full measure.

In 987 died Louis ‘the Good-for-nothing’, the last of the Carolingian
kings, leaving as heir to the throne an uncle, Charles, Duke of
Lorraine. In his short reign Louis had shown himself feeble and
profligate; and the nobles of northern France, weary of a royal House
that like Ethelred of England preferred bribing the goodwill of
invaders to fighting them, readily agreed to set Charles on one side
and to take in his place Hugh Capet, Duke of Paris, descendant of the
famous Odo.

‘Our crown goes not by inheritance,’ exclaimed the Archbishop of Reims,
when sanctioning the usurper’s claims, ‘but by wisdom and noble blood.’

[Sidenote: The House of Capet]

The unfortunate Duke of Lorraine, captured after a vain attempt to
gain his inheritance, perished in prison, and with him disappeared the
Carolingians. The House of Capet, built on their ruin, survived in the
direct line until the fourteenth century, and then in a younger branch,
the Valois, until France in modern times was declared a republic.

Under the Capets France became not merely a collection of tribes and
races as under the Merovingians, nor a section of a European Empire as
under the House of Charlemagne, but a nation as we see her to-day, with
separate interests and customs to distinguish her from other nations.
This process of fusion was slow, and King Hugh and his immediate
successors appeared in their own day more as powerful rulers of the
small district in which they lived than as overlords of France. When
they marched abroad at the head of a large army, achieving victories,
outlying provinces hastily recognized them as suzerains, or overlords,
but when they turned their backs and went home, the commands they had
issued would be ignored and defied.

Amongst the most formidable neighbours of these rulers of Paris were
the Dukes of Normandy, descendants of a certain Viking chief, Rollo
‘the Ganger’, so called because on account of his size he could find
no horse capable of bearing him and must therefore ‘gang afoot’. This
Rollo established himself at Rouen, and because Charles ‘the Simple’,
one of the later Carolingians,[5] was unable to defeat him in battle
he gave him instead the lands which he had won, and created him Duke,
hoping that like a poacher turned gamekeeper he might prove as valuable
a subject as he had been a troublesome foe. In return Rollo promised
to become a Christian and to acknowledge Charles as his overlord. One
of the old chronicles says that when Rollo was asked to ratify this
allegiance by kissing his toe, the Viking replied indignantly, ‘Not
so, by God!’ and that a Dane who consented to do so in his place was
so rough that he tumbled Charles from his throne amid the jeers of his

This is probably only a tale, for in reality Rollo married a daughter
of Charles and settled down in his capital at Rouen as the model ruler
of a semi-civilized state, supporting the Church, and administering
such law and order that it was said when he left a massive bracelet
hanging on a tree and forgot he had done so, that the ornament remained
for three years without any one daring to steal it.

[Sidenote: William the Conqueror]

The rulers of the new Duchy were nearly all strong men, hard fighters,
shrewd-headed, and ambitious; but the greatest of the line was
undoubtedly William, an illegitimate son of Duke Robert ‘the Devil’.
William’s ambition was of the restless type of his Scandinavian
forefathers, and his duchy in northern France seemed to him too small
to match his hopes. When he noted that England was ruled by Edward ‘the
Confessor’, a feeble son of Ethelred ‘the Rede-less’, who had gained
the throne on the death of Cnut’s two sons, he determined shrewdly that
his conquests should lie in this direction. Many things favoured his
cause, not the least that Edward the Confessor himself, who had been
brought up in Normandy and who had no direct heirs, was quite willing
to acknowledge William as his successor.

The national hero of England at the time Edward died, and who promptly
proclaimed himself king, was Harold the Saxon, a member of the powerful
family of Godwin that had for years controlled and owned the greater
part of the land in the south.

Unfortunately for Harold the north and midlands were mainly governed by
the House of Morkere and their friends, who hated the family of Godwin
as dangerous rivals far more than they dreaded a Norman invasion.
Thus any help that they or their tenants proffered was so slow in its
rendering and so niggardly in its amount that it proved of very little

In addition to jealousies at home, Harold, at the moment that he heard
William, Duke of Normandy, had indeed landed on the south coast, was
far off in Yorkshire, where he had just succeeded in repelling an
invasion of Danes at the battle of Stamford Bridge. At once he started
southwards, but as he marched his army melted away, some of the men
to enjoy the spoils taken from the Danes, others to attend to their

The deserters could claim that they were following the advice of the
Father of Christendom, since Pope Gregory VII had given William a
banner that he had blessed and had denounced Harold as a perjurer.

One of the reasons for Gregory’s anger with the Saxons was that Harold
had dared to appoint as Archbishop of Canterbury a bishop of whom he
did not approve, while further the crafty William had persuaded him
that Harold, who as a young man had been wrecked upon the Norman coast,
had sworn on the bones of some holy saint that he would never seize the
crown of England. He had been a prisoner in William’s power and only
on this condition had he been set free to return to his native land.

The exact truth of events so long ago is hard to reach; but Harold,
at any rate, fought under a cloud of suspicion and neglect, and
not all his reckless daring, nor the devotion of his brothers and
friends, could save his fortunes when on the field of Senlac, standing
beneath his dragon-banner, he met the shock of the disciplined Norman
forces. Chroniclers relate that the human wall of Saxon archers and
foot-soldiers remained unshaken on the hill-side until William, setting
a snare, turned in pretended flight. The ruse was successful; for
as the Saxons, cheering triumphantly, descended from their position
in pursuit, the invaders faced round and charged their disordered
ranks. Only Harold and the men of his bodyguard remained firm under
the onslaught, until at the last an arrow fired in the air struck the
Saxon King in the eye as he looked up, so that he fell down dead. All
resistance was now at an end and William, Duke of Normandy, was left
master of the field and ruler of England.

      Here rose the dragon-banner of our realm:
      Here fought, here fell, our Norman-slandered king.
      O garden blossoming out of English blood!
      O strange hate-healer Time! We stroll and stare
      Where might made right eight hundred years ago.

These lines of Tennyson on ‘Battle Abbey’ recall the fact that just
as the Danes and Saxons were fused into one race, so would the Norman
invaders mingle with their descendants, until to after-generations
William as well as Harold should appear a national hero.

[Sidenote: Domesday Book]

In his own day ‘the Conqueror’ struck terror into the heart of the
conquered. In 1069, when the North of England, too late to help Harold,
rose in revolt, he laid waste a desert by sword and fire from the
Humber to the Tees. When the Norman barons and English earls challenged
his rule he threw them alike into dungeons. What seemed to the Saxon
mind even more wonderful and horrible than his cruelty was the record
of all the wealth of his kingdom that he caused to be compiled.
This ‘Domesday Book’ contained a close account not only of the great
estates, lay and ecclesiastical, but of every small hamlet, and even of
the number of live stock on each farm.

‘So very narrowly did he cause the survey to be made,’ says the
_Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, ‘that there was not a single hide nor a rood
of land, nor (it is shameful to relate that which he thought no shame
to do) was there an ox, or a cow, or a pig, passed by that was not set
down in the account.’

William, it can be seen, was thorough in his methods, both in war and
peace, and through this very thoroughness he won the respect if not
the affection of his new subjects. Ever since the death of Cnut the
Dane, England had suffered either from actual civil war or from a weak
ruler who allowed his nobles to quarrel and oppress the rest of the
nation. As a result of the Norman Conquest the bulk of the population
found that they had gained one tyrant instead of many; and how they
appreciated the change is shown by the way, all through Norman times,
the middle and lower classes would help their foreign king against his
turbulent baronage.

This is what a monk, an Anglo-Saxon, and therefore by race an enemy of
the Conqueror, wrote about him in his chronicle:

  ‘If any would know what manner of man King William was ... then
  will we describe him as we have known him.... This King William
  ... was a very wise and a great man, and more honoured and more
  powerful than any of his predecessors. He was mild to those good
  men who loved God, but severe beyond measure to those who withstood
  his will.... So also he was a very stern and wrathful man, so that
  none durst do anything against his will, and he kept in prison
  those Earls who acted against his pleasure. He removed bishops from
  their sees ... and at length he spared not his own brother Odo.

  ‘Amongst other things the good order that William established must
  not be forgotten; it was such that any man who was himself aught
  might travel over the kingdom with a bosom full of gold unmolested,
  and no man durst kill another, however great the injury he might
  have received from him.’

A few lines farther on the chronicler, having mentioned the peace that
William gave, sadly relates the tyranny that was the price he extorted
in exchange:

  ‘Truly there was much trouble in these times and very great
  distress; he caused castles to be built and oppressed the poor....
  He was given to avarice and greedily loved gain. He made large
  forests for the deer, and enacted laws therewith, so that whoever
  killed a hart or a hind should be blinded ..., he loved the tall
  stags as if he were their father. He also appointed concerning the
  hares that they should go free. The rich complained and the poor
  murmured, but he was so sturdy that he recked nought of them; they
  must will all that the king willed if they would live.... Alas that
  any man should so exalt himself.... May Almighty God show mercy to
  his soul!’

The monk wrote after September 1087, when the Conqueror lay dead. Not
in any Viking glory of battle against a national foe had he passed to
his fathers, but in sordid struggle with his eldest son Robert who,
aided by the French king, had rebelled against him. His crown was at
once seized by his second son William Rufus, and with him the line of
Norman kings was firmly established on the English throne.

The adventurous spirit of the Northmen had led them from Denmark and
Scandinavia to the coasts of England and France; and from France
their descendants, driven by the same roving instincts, had crossed
the Channel in search of fresh conquests. Other Normans in the
eleventh century sailed south instead of north. Their talk was of a
pilgrimage to Rome, perhaps to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem; but
when they found that the beautiful island of Sicily had been taken by
the Moslems, and that South Italy was divided up amongst a number of
princes too jealous of one another to unite against any invaders either
Christian or pagan, their thoughts turned quite naturally to conquest.

[Sidenote: Norman Conquests in Italy]

An Italian of this time describes the Normans as ‘cunning and
revengeful’, and adds: ‘In their eager search for wealth and dominion
they despise whatever they possess and hope whatever they desire.’ Such
an impression was to be gained by bitter experience; but not knowing
it, Maniaces, the Greek governor of that part of South Italy that
still maintained its allegiance to the Eastern Empire, invited these
Northern warriors in the eleventh century to help him win back Sicily
from the Saracens. They agreed, attacked in force, gained the greater
part of the island, but then quarrelled with Maniaces over the spoils.
Outraged by what they considered his miserly conduct, they invaded the
province of Apulia, made themselves master of it, and established their
capital at Melfi.

The head of the new Norman state was a certain William de Hauteville,
who with several of his brothers had been leaders in the Italian

‘No member of the House of Hauteville ever saw a neighbour’s lands
without wanting them for himself.’ So says a biographer of that
family; and if this was their ideal it was certainly shared by William
and his numerous brothers. Since other people’s possessions were
not surrendered without a struggle, even in the Middle Ages, it was
fortunate for them that they had the genius to win and hold what they

Pope Leo IX, like his predecessors in the See of Peter ever since
Charlemagne had confirmed their right to the lands of the Exarch of
Ravenna,[6] looked uneasily on invaders of Italy, and he therefore
attempted to form a league with both the Emperors of the East and West
that should ruin these presumptuous usurpers. The league came into
being, but the Pope’s allies failed him, and at the battle of Civitate
he was defeated and all but taken prisoner.

Here was a chance for Norman diplomacy, or, as Italians would have
called it, ‘cunning’, and the conquerors promptly declared that it
had been with the utmost reluctance that they had made war on the
Father of Christendom, and begged his forgiveness. His absolution was
obtained, and a few years later, through the mediation of Hildebrand,
then Archdeacon of Rome and later as Pope Gregory VII, one of the
leading statesmen of Europe, a compact was arranged by which the
Normans recognized Pope Nicholas II as their overlord, while he, on his
part, acknowledged their right to keep their conquests. Both parties
to this bargain were pleased: the Pope because he had gained a vassal
state however unruly, the Normans since they felt that they no longer
reigned on sufferance, but had a legal status in the eyes of Europe.
Neither had any idea of the mine of trouble they were laying for future

The fortunes of the House of Hauteville, thus established, mounted
steadily. William died and was succeeded by a younger brother, Robert,
nicknamed ‘Guiscard’ or ‘the Wise’. During his reign he forced both the
Greek governor and the independent princes who held the rest of South
Italy to surrender their possessions, while he even carried his war
against the Eastern Empire to Greece itself. Only his death put an end
to this daring campaign.

Robert Guiscard, as master of South Italy, had been created Duke of
Apulia; his nephew, Roger II, Count of Sicily, who inherited his
statecraft and strength, induced the Pope to magnify both mainland and
island into a joint kingdom, and thereafter reigned as King of Naples.
‘He was a lover of justice’, says a chronicler of his day, ‘and a most
severe avenger of crime. He hated lying ... and never promised what
he did not mean to perform. He never persecuted his private enemies,
and in war endeavoured on all occasions to gain his point without
shedding blood. Justice and peace were universally observed through his

Roger II of Naples was evidently a finer and more civilized character
than William of England; but in both lay that Norman capacity for
establishing and maintaining order that at first seems so strange an
inheritance from wild Norse ancestors. Clear-sighted, iron-nerved,
an adventurer with an instinct for business, the Norman of the Early
Middle Ages was just the leaven that Europe required to raise her out
of the indolent depression of the ‘Dark Ages’ that followed the fall of

_Supplementary Dates. For Chronological Summary, see pp. 368-73._

  The Emperor Lothar                      840-55
  Massacre of St. Brice’s Day            1002
  William, Duke of Normandy              1035-87
  William, King of England               1066-87
  Edward the Confessor                   1042-66
  Domesday Book                          1086
  Pope Leo IX                            1048-54
  Battle of Civitate                     1053
  Pope Nicholas II                       1058-61
  Robert, Duke of Apulia                 1060-85
  Roger II, King of Naples               1130




Wherever in the course of history men have gathered together they have
gradually evolved some form of association that would ensure mutual
interests. It might be merely the tribal bond of the Arabians, by
which a man’s relations were responsible for his acts and avenged his
wrongs; it might be a council of village elders such as the Russian
‘Mir’, making laws for the younger men and women; it might be a group
of German chiefs legislating on moonlit nights, according to the
description of Tacitus, by their camp fires.

In contrast to primitive associations stands the elaborate government
of Rome under Augustus and his successors; the despotic Emperor,
his numberless officials, the senators with their huge estates,
the struggling _curiales_, the army of legions carrying out the
imperial commands from Scotland to the Euphrates. When Rome fell, her
government, like a house whose foundations have collapsed, fell also.
Barbarian conquerors, established in Italy and the Roman provinces,
took what they liked of the laws that they found, added to them their
own customs, and out of the blend evolved new codes of legislation. Yet
legislation, without some method of ensuring its execution, could not
save nations from invasion nor the merchant or peasant from becoming
the victim of robberies and petty crimes.

Mediaeval centuries are sometimes called the Age of Feudalism, because
during this time feudalism was the method gradually adopted for dealing
with the problems of public life amongst all classes in nearly all the
nations of Europe. There are two chief things to be remembered about
feudalism--first that it was no sudden invention but a growth out of
old ideas both Roman and barbarian, and next that it was intimately
connected in men’s minds with the thought of land. This was natural,
for after all, land or its products are as necessary to the life of
every individual as air and water, and therefore the cultivation of the
soil and the distribution of its fruits are the first problems with
which governments are faced.

Feudalism assumed that all the land belonging to a nation belonged in
the first place to that nation’s king. Because he could not govern or
cultivate it all himself he would parcel it out in ‘fiefs’ amongst the
chief nobles at his court, promising them his protection, and asking
in return that they should do him some specified service. This system
recalls the ‘villa’ of Roman days with its senator, granting protection
to his tenants from robbery and excessive taxation, and employing them
to plough and sow, to reap his crops, and build his houses and bridges.

In the Middle Ages the service of the chief tenants was nearly always
military: to appear when summoned by the king with so many horsemen
and so many archers fully armed. In order to provide this force the
tenant would be driven in his turn to grant out parts of his lands to
other tenants, who would come when he called them with horsemen and
arms that they had collected in a similar way. This process was called
‘sub-infeudation’. Society thus took the form of a pyramid with the
king at the apex, immediately below him his tenants-in-chief, and below
them in graded ranks or layers the other tenants.

This brings us to the base of the pyramid, the people who could not
fight themselves, having neither horses nor weapons, and who certainly
could not lend any other soldiers to their lord’s banner. Were they to
receive no land?

In the Roman ‘villa’ the bottom strata was the slave, the chattel with
no rights even over his own body. Under the system of feudalism the
base of the pyramid was made up of ‘serfs’, men originally free, with
a customary right to the land on which they lived, who had lost their
freedom under feudal law and had become bound to the land, _ascripti
glebae_, in such a way that if the land were sub-let or sold they would
pass over to the new owner like the trees or the grass. In return for
their land, though they might not serve their master with spear or bow,
they would work in his fields, build his bridges and castles, mend his
roads, and guard his cattle.

From top to bottom of this pyramid of feudal society ran the binding
mortar of ‘tenure’ and ‘service’; but these were not the only links
which kept feudal society together. When a tenant did ‘homage’ for his
land, and ‘with head uncovered, with belt ungirt, his sword removed’,
placed his hands between those of his lord, and took an oath, after
the manner of the thegns of Wessex to their king, ‘to love what he
loved and shun what he shunned both on sea and on land’, there entered
into this relationship the finer bond of loyalty due from a vassal to
his overlord. It was the descendant of the old Teutonic idea of the
_comitatus_ described by Tacitus,[7] the chief destined to lead and
guide, his bodyguard pledged to follow him to death if necessary.

Put shortly, then, feudalism may be described as a system of society
based upon the holding of land--a system, that is, in which a man’s
legal status and social rank were in the main determined by the
conditions on which he held (i.e. possessed) his land. Such a system,
to return to our example of the pyramid, grew not only from the apex,
by the sovereign granting lands, as the King of France did to Rollo
‘the Ganger’, but from the middle and base as well.

One of the chief feudal powers in mediaeval times was the Church, for
though abbots and bishops were not supposed to fight themselves, yet
they would often have numbers of lay military tenants to bring to the
help of the king or their overlord. Some of these tenants were men
whom they had provided with estates, but others were landowners who
had voluntarily surrendered their rights over their land in return
for the protection of a local monastery or bishopric, and thus become
its tenants. A large part of the Church land was, however, held, not
by military or lay tenure, but in return for spiritual services, or
free alms as it was called, i.e. prayers for the soul of the donor.
Perhaps a landowner wished to make a pious gift on his death-bed, or
had committed a crime and believed that a surrender of his property
to the Church would placate God. For some such reason, at any rate,
he made over his land, or part of it, to the Church, which in this
way accumulated great estates and endowments, free from the usual
liabilities of lay tenure. All over Europe other men, and even whole
villages and towns, were taking the same steps, seeking protection
direct from the king, or a great lord, or an abbot or bishop, offering
in return rent, services, or tolls on their merchandise.

Feudalism at its best stood for the protection of the weak in an age
when armies and a police force as we understand the terms did not
exist. Even when the system fell below this standard, and it often fell
badly, there still remained in its appeal to loyalty an ideal above and
beyond the ordinary outlook of the day, a seed of nobler feeling that
with the growth of civilization and under the influence of the Church
blossomed into the flower of chivalry.

      I made them lay their hands in mine and swear
      To reverence the King as if he were
      Their conscience, and their conscience as their King:
      To break the heathen and uphold the Christ,
      To ride abroad redressing human wrongs,
      To speak no slander; no! nor listen to it,
      To honour his own word as if his God’s,
      To live sweet lives in purest chastity.

Such are the vows that Tennyson puts in the mouth of Arthur’s knights,
who with Charlemagne and his Paladins were the heroes of mediaeval
romance and dreams. King Henry the Fowler, who ruled Germany in the
early part of the tenth century, instituted the Order of Knighthood,
forming a bodyguard from the younger brothers and sons of his chief
barons. Before they received the sword-tap on the shoulder that
confirmed their new rank, these candidates for knighthood took four
vows: first to speak the truth, next to serve faithfully both King and
Church, thirdly never to harm a woman, and lastly never to turn their
back on a foe.

Probably many of these half-barbarian young swashbucklers broke their
vows freely; but some would remember and obey; and so amid the general
roughness and cruelty of the age, there would be established a small
leaven of gentleness and pity left to expand its influence through the
coming generations. It is because of this ideal of chivalry, often
eclipsed and even travestied by those who claimed to be its brightest
mirrors, but never quite lost to Europe, that strong nations have been
found ready to defend the rights of the weak, and men have laid down
their lives to avenge the oppression of women and children.

Of the evil side of feudalism much more could be written than of the
good. The system, on its military side, was intended to provide the
king with an army; but if one of his tenants-in-chief chose to rebel
against him, the vassals who held their lands from this tenant were
much more likely to keep faith with the lord to whom they had paid
immediate homage than with their sovereign. Thus often the only force
on which a king could rely were the vassals of the royal domain.

Again, feudalism, by its policy of making tenants-in-chief responsible
for law and order on their estates, had set up a number of petty
rulers with almost absolute power. Peasants were tried for their
offences in their lord’s court by his bailiff or agent, and by his
will they suffered death or paid their fines. Except in the case of a
Charlemagne, strong enough to send out _Missi_[8] and to support them
when they overrode local decisions, the lord’s justice or injustice
would seem a real thing to his tenants and serfs, the king’s law
something shadowy and far away.

As Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror had been quite as powerful
as his overlord the King of France. When he came to England he was
determined that none of the barons to whom he had granted estates
should ever be his equal in this way. He therefore summoned all
landowning men in England to a council at Salisbury in 1086, and made
them take an oath of allegiance to himself before all other lords.
Because he was a strong man he kept his barons true to their oath or
punished them, but during the reign of his grandson Stephen, who
disputed the English throne with his cousin Matilda and therefore tried
to buy the support of the military class by gifts and concessions, the
vices of feudalism ran almost unchecked.

  ‘They had done homage to him and sworn oaths,’ says the Anglo-Saxon
  chronicler, ‘but they no faith kept ... for every rich man built
  his castles and defended them against him, and they filled the land
  with castles.... Then they took these whom they suspected to have
  any goods by night and by day, seizing both men and women, and
  they put them in prison for their gold and silver, and tortured
  them with pains unspeakable.... I cannot and I may not tell of all
  the wounds and of all the tortures that they inflicted upon the
  wretched men of this land; and this state of things lasted the
  nineteen years that Stephen was king and ever grew worse and worse.’

Stephen was a weak ruler struggling with a civil war; so that it might
be argued that no system of government could have worked well under
such auspices; but if we turn to the normal life of the peasant folk
on the estates of the monastery of Mont St. Michael in the thirteenth
century, we shall see that the humble tenants at the base of the feudal
pyramid paid dearly enough for the protection of their overlords.

  ‘In June the peasants must cut and pile the hay and carry it to the
  manor-house ... in August they must reap and carry in the Convent
  grain, their own grain lies exposed to wind and rain.... On the
  Nativity of the Virgin the villein owes the pork due, one pig in
  eight ... at Xmas the fowl fine and good ... on Palm Sunday the
  sheep due ... at Easter he must plough, sow, and harrow. When there
  is building the tenant must bring stone and serve the masons ... he
  must also haul the convent wood for two deniers a day. If he sells
  his land he owes his lord a thirteenth of its value, if he marries
  his daughter outside the lord’s demense he pays a fine,--he must
  grind his grain at the lord’s mill and bake his bread at the lord’s
  oven, where the customary charges never satisfy the servants.’

Certainly the peasant of the Middle Ages can have had little time
to lament even his own misery. Perhaps to keep his hovel from fire
and pillage and his family from starvation was all to which he often

‘War’, it has been said, ‘was the law of the feudal world’, and all
over Europe the moat-girt castles of powerful barons, and walled towns
and villages sprang up as a witness to the turbulent state of society
during these centuries. To some natures this atmosphere of violence of
course appealed.

      I, Sirs, am for war,
      Peace giveth me pain,
      No other creed will hold me again.
      On Monday, on Tuesday,--whenever you will,
      Day, week, month, or year, are the same to me still.

So sang a Provençal baron of the twelfth century, and we find an echo
of his spirit in Spain as late as the fifteenth, when a certain noble,
sighing for the joys and spoils of civil war, remarked, ‘I would there
were many kings in Castile for then I should be one of them.’

[Sidenote: The Truce of God]

The Church, endeavouring to cope with the spirit of anarchy, succeeded
in establishing on different occasions a ‘Truce of God’, somewhat
resembling the ‘Sacred Months’ devised by the Arabs for a like purpose.
From Wednesday to Monday, and during certain seasons of the year, such
as Advent or Lent, war was completely forbidden under ecclesiastical
censure, while at no time were priests, labourers, women, or children
to be molested.

The defect of such reforms lay in the absence of machinery to enforce
them; and feudalism, the system by which in practice the few lived at
the expense of the many, continued to flourish until foreign adventure,
such as the Crusades, absorbed some of its chief supporters, and
civilization and humanity succeeded in building up new foundations of
society to take its place. It would seem as if the lessons of good
government had to be learned in a hard school, generally through bitter
experience on the part of the governed.


If the study of feudalism is necessary to a knowledge of the material
life of the Middle Ages, its spirit is equally a closed book without
an understanding of monasticism. What induced men and women, not just
a few devout souls, but thousands of ordinary people of all nations
and classes from the prince to the serf to forsake the world for the
cloister; and, far from regretting this sacrifice, to maintain with
obvious sincerity that they had chosen the better part? If we would
realize the mediaeval mind we must find an answer to this question.

Turning to the earliest days of monasticism, when the ‘Fathers of the
Church’ sought hermits’ cells, we recall the shrinking of finer natures
from the brutality and lust of pagan society; the intense conviction
that the way to draw nearer God was to shut out the world; the desire
of a Simon Stylites to make the thoughtless mind by the sight of his
self-inflicted penance think for a moment at any rate of a future
Heaven and Hell.

Motives such as these continued to inspire the enthusiastic Christian
throughout the Dark Ages following the fall of Rome; but, as Europe
became outwardly converted to the Catholic Faith, it was not paganism
from which the monk fled, but the mockery of his own beliefs that he
found in the lives of so-called Christians. The corruption of imperial
courts, even those of a Constantine or Charlemagne, the cunning cruelty
of a baptized Clovis, the ruthless selfishness of a feudal baron or
Norman adventurer fighting in the name of Christ: all these were hard
to reconcile with a gospel of poverty, gentleness, and brotherhood.

Even the light of pure ideals once held aloft by the Church had begun
to burn dim; for men are usually tolerant of evils to which they are
accustomed, and the priest who had grown up amid barbarian invasions
was inclined to look on the coarseness and violence that they bred as
a natural side of life. As a rule he continued to maintain a slightly
higher standard of conduct than his parishioners, but sometimes he fell
to their level or below.

The great danger to the Church, however, was, as always in her history,
not the hardships that she encountered but the prosperity. The bishops,
‘overseers’ responsible for the discipline and well-being of their
dioceses, became in the Middle Ages, by reason of their very power and
influence, too often the servants of earthly rulers rather than of
God. Far better educated and disciplined than the laymen, experienced
in diocesan affairs, without ties of wife and family, since the Church
law forbade the clergy to marry, they were selected by kings for
responsible office in the state. Usually they proved the wisdom of
his choice through their gifts of administration and loyalty, but the
effect on the Church of adding political to ecclesiastical power proved
disastrous in the end.

Their great landed wealth made the bishops feudal barons, while
bishoprics in their turn came to be regarded as offices at the disposal
of the king; a bad king would parcel them out amongst his favourites or
sell them to the highest bidders, heedless of their moral character.
Thus crept into the Church the sin of ‘simony’ or ‘traffic in holy
things’ so strongly condemned by the first Apostles, and, following
hard on the heels of simony, the worldliness born of the temptations of
wealth and power. The bishop who was numbered amongst a feudal baronage
and entertained a lax nobility at his palace was little likely to be
shocked at priests convicted of ignorance or immorality, or to spend
his time in trying to reform their habits.

It was, then, not only in horror of the world, but in reproach of the
Church herself that the monk turned to the idea of separation from man
and communion with God. In the earliest days of monasticism each hermit
followed his special theory of prayer and self-discipline; he would
gather round him small communities of disciples, and these would remain
or go away to form other communities as they chose, a lack of system
that often resulted in unhealthy fanaticism or useless idleness.

[Sidenote: St. Benedict]

In the sixth century an Italian monk, Benedict of Nursia (480-543),
compiled a set of regulations for his followers, which, under the
name of ‘the rule of Benedict’, became the standard Code of monastic
life for all Western Christendom. Benedict demanded of his monks a
‘novitiate’ of twelve months during which they could test their call to
a life of continual sacrifice. At the end of this time, if the novice
still continued resolute in his intention and was approved by the
monastic authorities, he was accepted into the brotherhood by taking
the perpetual vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity, the three
conditions of life most hostile to the lust of possession, turbulence,
and sensuality that dominated the Middle Ages. To these vows were added
the obligation of manual labour--seven hours work a day in addition to
the recitation of prayers enjoined on the community.

The faithful Benedictine at least could never be accused of idleness,
and to the civilizing influence of the ‘regulars’, as the monks were
called because they obeyed a rule (_regula_), in contrast to the
‘secular’ priests who lived in the world, Europe owed an immense debt
of gratitude.

Sometimes it is said contemptuously that the monks of the Middle Ages
chose beautiful sites on which to found luxurious homes. Certainly they
selected as a rule the neighbourhood of rivers and lakes, water being
a prime necessity of life, and in such neighbourhoods raised chapels
and monasteries that have become the architectural wonder of the world.
Yet many of these wonders began in a circle of wooden huts built on a
reclaimed marsh, and it was the labour of the followers of St. Benedict
that replaced wood by stone and swamps by gardens and farms.

Where the barbarian or feudal anarchist burned and destroyed, the
monk of the Middle Ages brought back the barren soil to pasturage or
tillage; and just as he weeded, sowed, and planted as part of his
obligation to God, so from the produce of his labours he provided for
the destitute at his gate, or in his cloister schools supplied the
ignorant with the rudiments of knowledge and culture. The monasteries
were centres of mediaeval life, not, like the castles, of death. In
his quiet cell the monk chronicler became an historian; the copyist
reproduced with careful affection decaying manuscripts; the illuminator
made careful pictures of his day; the chemist concocted strange healing
medicines, or in his crucibles developed wondrous colours.

‘Good is it for us to dwell here, where man lives more purely, falls
more rarely, rises more quickly, treads more cautiously, rests more
securely, is absolved more easily, and rewarded more plenteously.’ This
is the saying of St. Bernard, one of the later monastic reformers;
and his ideal was the general conception of the best life possible as
understood in the Middle Ages. To the monasteries flocked the devout
seeking a home of prayer; but also the student or artist unable to
follow his bent in the turbulent world, and the man who despised or
feared the atmosphere of war. Even the feudal baron would pause in
his quarrels to make some pious gift to abbey or priory, a tribute
to a faith he admired but was too weak to practise. Sometimes he
came in later life, a penitent who, toiling like his serf, sought in
the cloister the salvation of his soul. ‘In the monasteries,’ says a
mediaeval German, ‘one saw Counts cooking in the kitchen and Margraves
leading their pigs out to feed.’

Monasticism, with its belief in brotherhood, was a leveller of class
distinctions; but, like the rest of the Church, it found in the popular
enthusiasm it aroused the path of temptation. Men, we have seen,
entered the cloister for other reasons than pure devotion to God;
and the rule of Benedict proving too strict they yielded secretly to
sins that perhaps were not checked or reproved because abbots in time
ceased to be saints and became, like the bishops, feudal landlords with
worldly interests. In this way vice and laziness were allowed to spread
and cling like bindweed.

Throughout the Middle Ages there were times of corruption and failure
amongst the monastic Orders, followed by waves of sweeping reform and
earnest endeavour, when once again the Cross was raised as an emblem of
sacrifice and drew the more spiritual of men unto it.

[Sidenote: Foundation of Cluni]

In 910 the monastery of Cluni was founded in Burgundy, and, freed from
the jurisdiction of local bishops by being placed under the direct
control of the Pope, was able to establish a reformed Benedictine
Order. Its abbot was recognized not only as the superior of the
monastery at Cluni but also of ‘daughter’ houses that sprang up all
over Europe subject to his discipline and rule.

Other monastic Orders founded shortly after this date were those of the
Carthusians and Cistercians.

In their desire to combat worldliness the early Carthusians, or monks
of the monastery of Chartreux, carried on unceasing war against the
pleasures of the world. Strict fasting for eight months in the year;
one meal a day eaten in silence and alone; no conversation with other
brethren save at a weekly meeting; this was the background to a life of
toil and prayer.

The monastery of Citeaux in southern France, from which the Cistercians
take their name, was another attempt to live in the world but not of
it. ‘The White Monks’, so called from the colour of their woollen
frocks, sought solitudes in which to build their houses. Their churches
and monasteries remain among the glories of architecture; but through
fear of riches they refused to place in them crosses of gold and silver
or to allow their priests to wear embroidered vestments. No Cistercian
might recite the service of the Mass for money or be paid for the cure
of souls. With his hands he must work for his meagre fare, remembering
always to give God thanks for the complete self-renunciation to which
he was pledged by his Order.

[Sidenote: St. Bernard of Clairvaux]

Chief amongst the Cistercian saints is Bernard (1090-1153), a
Burgundian noble, who in 1115 founded a daughter monastery of his Order
at Clairvaux, and as its head became one of the leaders of mediaeval
thought. When he was only twenty he had appeared before the Abbot of
Citeaux with a band of companions, relations and friends whom his
eloquence had persuaded to enter the monastery with him. Throughout his
life this power over others and his fearlessness in making use of this
influence were his most vivid characteristics. ‘His speech’, wrote some
one who knew him, ‘was suited to his audience ... to country-folk he
spoke as though born and bred in the country, and so to other classes
as though he had been always occupied with their business. He adapted
himself to all, desiring to gain all for Christ.’

In these last words lie his mission and the secret of his success.
Never was his eloquence exerted for himself, and so men who wished
to criticize were overborne by his single-minded sincerity. Severe
to his own shortcomings, gentle and humble to his brethren, ready to
accept reproof or to undertake the meanest task, Bernard was fierce and
implacable to the man or the conditions that seemed to him to stand in
the way of God’s will.

  ‘I grieve over thee, my son Geoffrey,’ he wrote to a young monk who
  had fled the austerities of Clairvaux.... ‘How could you, who were
  called by God, follow the Devil, recalling thee?... Turn back, I
  say, before the abyss swallows thee ... before bound hand and foot
  thou art cast into outer darkness ... shut in with the darkness of

To the ruler of France he sent a letter of reproof ending with the
words: ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God
even for thee, O King!’ and his audacity, instead of working his ruin,
brought the leading clergy and statesmen of Europe to the cells of
Clairvaux as if to some oracle’s temple, to learn the will of God.

From his cell St. Bernard preached the Second Crusade, reformed abuses
in the Church, deposed an Anti-Pope, and denounced heretics. In his
distrust of human reason, trying to free itself from some of the
dogmatic assertions of early Christian thought, he represented the
narrow outlook of his age: but in his love of God and through God of
humanity he typifies the spiritual charm that like a thread of gold
runs through all the dross of hardness and treachery in the mediaeval

  ‘Do not grieve,’ he wrote to the parents of a novice ... ‘he goes
  to God but you do not lose him ... rather through him you gain many
  sons, for all of us who belong to Clairvaux have taken him to be a
  brother and you to be our parents.’

To St. Bernard self-renunciation meant self-realization, the laying
down of a life to find it again purified and enriched; and this was the
ideal of monasticism, often misunderstood and discredited by its weaker
followers, like all ideals, but yet the glory of its saints.



We have said that in ‘the Oath of Strasbourg’[9] it was possible to
distinguish the infant nations of France and Germany. This is true--yet
Germany, though distinct from her neighbours, was to remain all through
the Middle Ages rather an agglomeration of states than a nation as we
understand the word to-day.

One reason for the absence of any common policy and ambitions was that
Charlemagne, though he had conquered the Saxons and other Germanic
tribes, had never succeeded in welding them into one people. Under
his successors the different races easily slipped back into regarding
themselves rather as Saxons, Franconians, or Bavarians than as Germans:
indeed the Bohemians relapsed into heathendom and became once more
altogether uncivilized.

This instinct for separation was aided by the feudal system, since
rebel tenants-in-chiefs could count on provincial feeling to support
them against the king their overlord. It is hardly surprising, then, if
the struggle that broke out in Germany as elsewhere in Europe between
rulers and their feudal baronage was decided there in favour of the

Perhaps if some strong king could have given his undivided attention
to the problem he might have succeeded, like William I of England,
in making himself real master of all Germany; but unfortunately the
rulers of the German kingdom were never free from foreign wars. Just as
the Norsemen had descended on the coasts of France, so Danes, Slavs,
and Hungarians were a constant menace to the civilization of Germany;
hordes of these barbarians breaking over the frontiers every year, and
even pillaging districts as far west as the Rhine.

German kings, in consequence of this external menace, had to rely
for the defence of their frontiers upon the military power of their
great vassals. They were even forced to create large estates called
‘Marks’ (march-lands) upon their northern and eastern borders to act
as national bulwarks. Over these ruled ‘Margraves’ (‘grafs’ or Counts
of the Mark) with a large measure of independence. Modern Prussia was
once the Mark of Brandenburg, a war state created against the Slav;
Austria the Mark placed in the east between Bavaria and the Hungarians;
Schleswig the Mark established to hold back the Danes.

Yet another cause told for disruption: the fact that when the
Carolingian line came to an end in Germany early in the tenth century
the practice sprang up of electing kings from among the chief princes
and dukes. Though this plan worked well if the electors made an honest
choice, yet it gave the feudal baronage a weapon, on the other hand, if
they wished to strike a bargain with a would-be ruler or to appoint a
weakling whose authority they could undermine.

[Sidenote: Henry ‘the Fowler’]

The first of the elected kings of Germany was Conrad of Franconia,
during whose reign the feudal system took strong root, and who ruled
rather through his barons than in opposition to their wishes. On his
death-bed he showed his honest desire for the welfare of Germany. ‘I
know,’ he declared, ‘that no man is worthier to sit on my throne than
my enemy Henry of Saxony.... When I am dead, take him the crown and the
sacred lance, the golden armlet, the sword, and the purple mantle of
the old kings.’ The princes, who followed his advice, found their new
ruler out hawking on the mountain side, and under the nickname Henry
‘the Fowler’ he became their king and one of Germany’s national heroes.

In his untiring struggle against invaders Henry I recalls the
Anglo-Saxon Alfred ‘the Great’, and like Alfred he was at first forced
to fly before his enemies. To the disgust of the great dukes he bought
a nine years’ peace from the Hungarians by paying tribute; but when
the enemy went away he at once began to build castles or ‘burgs’, and
filled them with soldiers under the command of ‘burgraves’. These
castles were placed all along the frontiers, and gradually villages
and towns gathered round them for safety.

In the tenth year the Hungarians came as usual to ask for the tribute
money, but Henry ordered a dead dog to be thrown at their messenger’s

‘In future this is all your master will get from us,’ he exclaimed, and
the answer, as he expected, provoked an immediate invasion. Instead
of being able to lay waste the countryside as of old, however, the
Hungarians now found ‘burgs’ well fortified and provisioned that they
could neither take nor leave with safety in their rear. When at last
they met Henry in pitched battle, they broke and fled before his
onslaught, declaring that the golden banner of St. Michael, carried at
the head of his troops, had by some wizardry contrived their ruin.

Besides repulsing invaders, Henry the Fowler imposed his will to
a considerable extent over his rebellious baronage. In another
chapter[10] we have noticed how he instituted ‘the order of
knighthood’ as a way of harnessing to his service the restless energy
of the younger sons of the nobles: he also tried to strengthen the
middle classes as a counterpoise to the baronage by encouraging the
construction of walled towns for the protection of merchants, while
he would hold his councils rather in towns than in the woods like
his predecessors, in order to attract people to settle there. Many
of the Marks owe their origin to Henry’s policy of strengthening the
border provinces; and in this and in his determination to subdue the
Hungarians he found an able successor in his son Otto I.

[Sidenote: Otto ‘the Great’]

Otto’s reign might from one aspect be called a history of wars. First
there were foreign wars--the subjugation of Denmark, whose king became
a German vassal; the reconquest and conversion of Bohemia; and also a
series of campaigns against the Hungarians, resulting at last in 955 in
a victory at Augsburg so complete that never again the hated invaders
dared to cross the border save in marauding bands.

But besides fighting against foreign neighbours Otto had a continual
struggle at home in order to reassert the authority of the crown over
the great duchies such as Lotharingia and Bavaria. When he was able to
do so he would replace the most turbulent of the dukes by members of
his own family, or he would make gifts of large estates to bishops,
hoping in this way to provide himself with loyal tenants-in-chief. In
this, however, he was not successful, for he found the feudal bishops
amongst his worst enemies; so that he turned at last for help to the
new type of Churchman, bred by the Cluniac reform movement--men of
learning and culture, monks in their religious observances, statesmen
in their outlook. These were at one with him in his desire for a united
Germany and a purer Church; but Otto was faced by a great problem when
he wished to reform and control his bishops. How far were the German
clergy under his jurisdiction? How far did they owe obedience only to
Rome, as they claimed if he tried to exert his authority over them?

Charlemagne had been able to deal easily with such difficulties, for
the Pope had been his ally, almost it might be said his vassal, and so
they could have but one mind on Church matters. By the time of Otto the
Great, however, German kings had long ceased to be emperors, and the
imperial title, bandied about from one Italian prince to another, had
become tarnished in the world’s eyes. Was it worth while, then, for a
German king to regain this title in order to gain control over the See
of St. Peter?

Students of history, able to test mediaeval policy by its ultimate
results, will answer ‘No’, seeing that German kings would have done
well to resist the will-of-the-wisp lure of the crowns of Lombardy and
Rome; but to Otto the question of interference in Italy bore a very
different aspect. Too great to be dazzled by the title of Emperor, too
busy to invade Italy merely for the sake of forcing the Pope to become
his ally, Otto found himself faced by the necessity of choosing whether
he would make himself lord of the lands on the other side of the Alps
or see one of his most powerful subjects, the Duke of Bavaria, do so

The occasion of this choice was the murder of Count Lothair of
Provence, one of the claimants to the throne of Italy. Lothair’s
widow, Adelaide, a Burgundian princess, appealed to Germany to avenge
her wrongs--a piece of knight-errantry with such prospects of profit
that several of the German princes and notably the Duke of Bavaria,
whose lands lay just to the north of the Alps, were only too willing
to undertake it. In 951 Otto the Great, anticipating their ambitions,
crossed the Alps with an army, rescued Adelaide from her husband’s
murderer, married her himself, and was crowned King of Italy at Pavia.

Recalled to Germany by foreign invasions, he appeared again in Italy
ten years later, and in February 962 was crowned Emperor by the Pope
at Rome. His successors, dropping the title ‘King of Germany’, claimed
henceforth to be ‘Kings of the Romans’ on their election and, after
their coronation by the Pope, ‘Holy Roman Emperors’--temporal overlords
of Christendom, as the Popes claimed to be spiritual viceroys.

This coronation of Otto the Great was a turning-point in the history
of Germany, though at the time it caused little stir. To Otto himself
it was merely the culminating success of his career, enabling him to
undertake without interference the reform of the German Church that he
had planned, and also to issue a charter that, while confirming the
Popes in their temporal possessions, insisted that they should take an
oath of allegiance to the Emperor before their consecration. By this
measure the Papacy became in the eyes of Europe merely the chief see
in the Emperor’s dominions; and under Otto’s immediate successors this
supremacy was not seriously disputed by the Popes themselves. In some
cases they were German nominees, ready to acknowledge the sceptre that
secured their election; but, even where this was not the case, there
was a general feeling that Rome had less to fear from the tyranny of
Emperors beyond the Alps than from the encroachments of the petty lords
of Italy.

The Dukes of Spoletum, Counts of Tuscany, and Barons of the Roman
Campagna had no respect at all for the head of Christendom except as
a pawn in their political moves. One of the most unscrupulous and
dissolute families in the vicinity of Rome, the Crescentii, who claimed
the title of Patrician, once granted by Eastern Emperors to Italian
viceroys, secured the Papacy for three successive members of their
house. Under the last of these, Benedict IX, a boy of twelve at the
time of his election, vice and tyranny walked through the streets of
Rome rampant and unashamed. The young Pope, described by a contemporary
as ‘a captain of thieves and brigands’, did not scruple to crown his
sins by selling his holy office in a moment of danger to another of his
family. As his excesses had already led the people of Rome to set up an
Anti-Pope, and as he himself withdrew his abdication very shortly, the
disgraceful state of affairs culminated in three Popes, each denouncing
one another, and each arming his followers for battle in the streets.

[Sidenote: Synod of Sutri]

The interference of the Emperor Henry III (a member of the Salian
House of Saxony) was welcomed on all sides, and at the Synod of Sutri
the rival Popes were all deposed and a German bishop, chosen by the
Emperor, elected in their place.

Henry III has been described by a modern historian as ‘the strongest
Prince that Europe had seen since Charlemagne’. Not only did he
succeed in subduing the unruly Bohemians and Hungarians, but he also
built Germany into the temporary semblance of a nation, mastering
her baronage and purifying her Church. His influence over Italy was
wholly for her good; but by the irony of fate his cousin Bruno, whom
he nominated to the See of St. Peter under the name of Leo IX, was
destined to lay the foundations of a Papacy independent of German

Bruno himself insisted that he should be elected legally by the clergy
and people of Rome and, though of royal blood, he entered the city
barefoot as a penitent. Unlike the haughty Roman nobles to whom the
title ‘Pope’ had merely seemed an extra means of obtaining worldly
honour and pleasure, he remained after his consecration gentle and
accessible to his inferiors, and devoted his whole time to the work of
reform. At his first council he strongly condemned the sin of simony,
and he insisted on the celibacy of the clergy as the only way to free
them from worldly distractions and ambitions.

In order that his message might not seem intended for Italy alone, he
made long journeys through Germany and France. Everywhere he went he
preached the purified ideal of the Church upheld by the monks of Cluni;
but side by side with this he and his successors set another vision
that they strove to realize, the predominance of the Papacy in Italy as
a temporal power.

It was Leo IX who, dreading the Norman settlements in southern Italy
as a menace to the states of the Church, formed a league against the
invaders, but after his defeat at their hands, followed shortly by his
death, his successors, as we have seen, wisely concluded a peace that
left them feudal overlords of Apulia and Calabria.[11] Realizing that
to dominate the affairs of the peninsula they must remain at home,
future Popes sent ambassadors called ‘Legates’ to express and explain
their will in foreign countries; while in 1059, in a further effort
towards independence, Pope Nicholas II revolutionized the method of
papal elections. Popes, it was decreed, were no longer to be chosen
by the voice of the people and clergy of Rome generally, but only by
the ‘Cardinals’, that is, the principal bishops of the city sitting in
secret conclave. This body, the College of Cardinals, was to be free of
imperial interference.

[Sidenote: Pope Gregory VII]

Behind Pope Nicholas, in this daring policy of independence, stood one
of the most powerful figures of his age, Hildebrand, Archdeacon of
Rome. The son of a village carpenter, small, ill formed, insignificant
in appearance, he possessed the shrewd, practical mind and indomitable
will of the born ruler of men. It is said that in boyhood his
companions found him tracing with the chips and shavings of his
father’s workshop the words, ‘I shall reign from sea to sea’, yet he
began his career by deliberately accepting exile with the best of the
Popes deposed by the Council of Sutri; and it was Leo IX, who, hearing
of his genius, found him and brought him back to Rome.

Gradually not only successive Popes but the city itself grew to lean
upon his strength, and when in 1073 the Holy See was left vacant, a
general cry arose from the populace: ‘Hildebrand is Pope.... It is the
will of St. Peter!’

Taking the name of Gregory VII, Hildebrand reluctantly, if we are to
believe his own account, accepted the headship of the Church. Perhaps,
knowing how different was his ideal of the office from its reality,
he momentarily trembled at the task he had set himself; but once
enthroned there was no weakness in his manner to the world.

In his ears the words of Christ, ‘Thou art Peter, and on this rock I
will build my Church’, could never be reconciled with vassalage to
any temporal ruler. To St. Peter and his successors, not to emperors
or kings, had been given the power to bind or loose, and Gregory’s
interpretation of this text did not even admit of two co-equal powers
ruling Christendom by their alliance. ‘Human pride has created the
power of kings,’ he declared, ‘God’s mercy has created the power of
bishops ... the Pope is master of Emperors and is rendered holy by the
merits of his predecessor St. Peter. The Roman Church has never erred
and Holy Scripture proves that it never can err. To resist it is to
resist God.’

Such a point of view, if put to any practical test, was sure to
encounter firm if not violent opposition. Thus, when Gregory demanded
from William of Normandy the oath of fealty alleged to have been
promised by the latter to Alexander II in return for the Papal blessing
upon the conquest of England, the Conqueror replied by sending rich
gifts in token of his gratitude for papal support, but supplemented
them with a message as uncompromising as the Pope’s ideal: ‘I have
not sworn, nor will I swear fealty, which was never sworn by any of
my predecessors to yours.’ William thereupon proceeded to dispose of
benefices and bishoprics in his new kingdom as he chose, and even
went so far as to forbid the recognition of any new Pope within his
dominions without his leave, or the publication of papal letters and
decrees that had not received his sanction.

Perhaps if England had been nearer to Italy, or if William had misused
his authority instead of reforming the English Church, Gregory VII
might have taken up the gauntlet of defiance thus thrown at his feet.
Instead he remained on friendly terms with William; and it was in the
Empire, not in England, that the struggle between Church and State

The Emperor Henry III, who had summoned the Synod of Sutri, had been
a great ruler, great enough even to have effected a satisfactory
compromise with Hildebrand, but, though before he died he succeeded
in securing his crown for his son Henry, a boy of six, he could not
bequeath him strength of character or statesmanship. Thus from his
death, in 1056, the fortunes of his House and Empire slowly waned.

It is difficult to estimate the natural gifts of the new ruler of
Germany, for an unhappy upbringing warped his outlook and affections.
Left at first under the guardianship of his mother, the Empress Agnes,
the young Henry IV was enticed at the age of eleven on board a ship
belonging to Anno, the ambitious Archbishop of Cologne. While he was
still admiring her wonders the ship set sail up the Rhine, and though
the boy plunged overboard in an effort to escape his kidnappers he was
rescued and brought back. For the next four years he remained first the
pupil of Archbishop Anno, who punished him for the slightest fault with
harsh cruelty and deprived him of all companionship of his own age, and
then of Adalbert, Archbishop of Bremen, who indulged his every whim and

At length, at the age of fifteen, handsome and kingly in appearance,
but utterly uncontrolled and dissolute in his way of life, Henry
was declared of age to govern for himself, and straightway began to
alienate his barons and people. He had been married against his wish
to the plain daughter of one of his Margraves, and expressed his
indignation by ill-treating and neglecting her, to the wrath of her
powerful relations: he also built castles on the hill-tops in Saxony,
from which his troops oppressed the countryside: but the sin for which
he was destined to be called to account was his flagrant misuse of his
power over the German Church.

At first, when reproved by the Pope for selling bishoprics and
benefices, Henry was apologetic in his letters; but he had no real
intention of amending his ways and soon began to chafe openly at Roman
criticism and threats. At last acrimonious disputes came to a head in
what is called the ‘Investiture Question’, and because it is a problem
that affected the whole relations of Church and State in the eleventh
century it is important to understand what it exactly meant to Europe.

Investiture was the ceremony by which a temporal ruler, such as a
king, transferred to a newly chosen Church official, such as a bishop,
the lands and rights belonging to his office. The king would present
the bishop with a ring and crozier and the bishop in return would
place his hands between those of the king and do him homage like a lay

The Roman See declared that it was not fitting for hands sacred to the
service of God at His altar to be placed in submission between those
that a temporal ruler had stained with the blood of war. Behind this
figure of speech lay the real reason, the implication that if the ring
and crozier were to be taken as symbols of lands and offices, bishops
would tend to regard these temporal possessions as the chief things
in their lives, and the oath of homage they gave in exchange as more
important than their vow to do God’s service.

Gregory VII believed that he could not reform the Church unless he
could detach its officials from dependence on lay rulers who could
bribe or intimidate them; and in the age in which he lived he could
show that for every William of Normandy ready to ‘invest’ good
churchmen there were a hundred kings or petty rulers who only cared
about good tenants, that is, landlords who would supply them faithfully
with soldiers and weapons.

As a counter argument temporal rulers maintained that churchmen who
accepted lands and offices were lay tenants in this respect, whatever
Popes might choose to call them. The king who lost the power of
investing his bishops lost control over wealthy and important subjects,
and since he would also lose the right to refuse investiture he might
find his principal bishoprics in the hands of disloyal rebels or of
foreigners about whom he knew nothing.

The whole question was complicated, largely because there was so much
truth on both sides; Gregory, however, forced the issue, and early in
1075, in a Synod held at Rome, put forth the famous decree by which
lay investiture was henceforth sternly forbidden. Henry IV, on the
other hand, spoiled his case by his wild disregard of justice. In the
same year he appointed a new archbishop to the important See of Milan
and invested him without consulting Gregory VII at all; he further
proceeded to appoint two unknown foreigners to Italian bishoprics.
Angry at the letter of remonstrance which these acts aroused he called
a church council at Worms in the following year, and there induced the
majority of German bishops very reluctantly to declare Gregory deposed.

‘Henry, King not by usurpation but by God’s grace, to Hildebrand,
henceforth no Pope but false monk....’ Thus began his next letter to
the Roman pontiff, to which Hildebrand replied by excommunicating his

  ‘Blessed Peter ... as thy representative I have received from God
  the power to bind and loose in Heaven and on earth. For the honour
  and security of thy Church, in the name of God Almighty, I prohibit
  Henry the King, son of Henry the Emperor, ... from ruling Germany
  and Italy. I release all Christians from the oaths of fealty they
  may have taken to him, and I order that no one shall obey him.’

This decree provided occasion for all German nobles whom Henry IV had
alienated to gather under the banner of the papal legate, and for the
oppressed Saxon countryside to renew the serious revolt which had
broken out two years before. Even the German bishops grew frightened of
the part they had played in deposing Gregory, so that the once-powerful
ruler found himself looked upon as an outlaw with scarcely a real
friend, save the wife he had ill-treated, and no hope save submission.
In the winter of 1066, as an old story tells, when the mountains were
frozen hard with snow and ice, he and his wife and one attendant
crossed the Alps on sledges, and sought the Pope in his castle of
Canossa, built amidst the highest ridges of the Apennines.

Gregory coldly refused him audience. The King, he intimated, might
declare that he was repentant, he had done so often in the past, but
words were not deeds. Putting aside his royal robes and clad in a
penitent’s woollen tunic, Henry to show his sincerity remained barefoot
for three days like a beggar, in the castle yard. Then only on the
entreaty of some Italian friends was he admitted to the presence of the
Pope, who at his cry of ‘Holy Father, spare me!’ raised him up and gave
him formal forgiveness.

The scene at Canossa is so dramatic in its display of Hildebrand’s
triumph and the Emperor’s humiliation that it has lived in the world’s
memory: yet it was no closing act in their struggle, but merely an
episode that passed and left little mark. Henry IV, as soon as he could
win himself a following in Germany and Italy, returned to the practice
of lay investiture, and Gregory VII, who had never believed in his
sincerity, continued to denounce him and plan the coronation of rival

Imperial ambitions at last reached their height, for Henry IV
succeeded in inducing German and Italian bishops to depose Gregory
once more and even appoint an Anti-Pope, in whose name imperial armies
ravaged Lombardy, forced their way as far south as Rome, and besieged
Hildebrand in the castle of St. Angelo. From this predicament he was
rescued by the Normans of South Italy under Robert Guiscard; but these
ruthless vassals of the Church massacred and looted the Holy City
directly they had scaled the walls, and when they turned homewards,
carrying Gregory VII with them, they left half Rome in ruins.

Gregory VII died not long afterwards, homeless and deposed, but
with unshaken confidence in the righteousness of his cause. ‘I have
loved justice and hated iniquity,’ he said, during his last illness,
‘therefore I die in exile.’ ‘In exile thou couldst not die,’ replied
a bishop standing at his bedside. ‘Vicar of Christ and His Apostles,
thou hast received the nations for thine inheritance and the uttermost
parts of the earth for thy possession.’ Future history was to show that
Hildebrand in defeat had achieved more than his rival in victory.

Henry IV outlived his enemy by twenty-one years, but they were bitter
with disillusionment. Harassed by Gregory VII’s successors who
continued to advocate papal supremacy, faced by one rebellion after
another in Germany and Italy, Henry IV yielded at last to weariness and
old age, when he found his sons had become leaders of the forces most
hostile to him. Even in his submission to their demands he found no
peace, for he was thrust into prison, compelled to abdicate, and left
to die miserably of starvation and neglect.

In the reign of his son, Henry V, a compromise on the ‘Investiture
Question’ was arranged between Church and Empire. By the Concordat
of Worms it was agreed first that rulers should renounce their claim
to invest bishops and abbots with the ring and crozier. These were
to be given by representatives of the Church to candidates chosen
and approved by them; but the second point of importance was that
this ceremony must take place in the presence of the king or his
representative, to whom the new bishop or abbot would at once do homage
for his lands and offices.

Almost a similar settlement had been arrived at between Church and
State in England some fifteen years earlier, arising out of the refusal
of Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, to do homage to Henry I, the
Conqueror’s son. In this case there was no clash of bitterness and
dislike, for the old archbishop was perfectly loyal to the king at
heart, though prepared to go to the stake on a matter of conscience, as
this question had become to earnest churchmen. His master, on his side,
respected Anselm’s saintly character and only wished to safeguard his
royal rights over all his subjects.

Compromise was therefore a matter of rejoicing on both sides, and
with the decisions of the Council at Worms investiture ceased to be a
vital problem. Its importance lies in the fact that it was one of the
first battles between Church and State and, though a compromise, yet
a formal victory for the Church. The dependence of the Papacy on the
imperial government that Europe had considered natural in the days of
Charlemagne, or of Otto the Great, was a thing of the past, for the
acknowledgement of ecclesiastical freedom from lay supremacy, one of
the main issues for which Hildebrand had struggled, schemed, and died,
had been won by his successors following in his steps.

_Supplementary Dates. For Chronological Summary, see pp. 368-73._

  Pope Benedict IX                       1033-48
  Pope Leo IX                            1048-54
  Pope Nicholas II                       1058-61



The imperial standards of Constantinople were designed with a
two-headed eagle typifying Constantine’s rule over the kingdoms of
East and West. Towards the end of the eleventh century this emblem had
become more symbolic of the Emperor’s anxious outlook upon hostile
neighbours. With Asia Minor practically lost by the establishment of a
Mahometan dynasty at Nicea within one hundred miles of the Christian
capital, with the Bulgarians at the gates of Adrianople, and the
Normans and the Popes in possession of his Greek patrimony in Italy,
Alexius Commenus, when he ascended the throne of the Caesars, found
himself master of an attenuated Empire, consisting mainly of strips of
Grecian seaboard.

Yet in spite of her shorn territories Constantinople remained the
greatest city in Europe, not merely in her magnificent site and
architecture, nor even in her commerce, but in the hold she preserved
over the imagination of men.

Athanaric the Goth had exclaimed that the ruler of Constantinople
must be a god: eleventh-century Europe accepted him as mortal, but
still crowned the lord of so great a city with a halo of awe. It was
Constantinople that had won the Russians, the Bulgars, and the Slavs
from heathenism to Christianity, not to the Catholicism of Western
Europe but the Greek interpretation of the Christian faith called
by its believers the ‘orthodox’. It was Constantinople whose gold
coin, ‘the byzant’, was recognized as the medium of exchange between
merchants of all nations. It was Constantinople again, her wealth, her
palaces, her glory of pomp and government, that drew Russian, Norse,
and Slav adventurers to serve as mercenaries in the Emperor’s army,
just as auxiliaries had clamoured of old to join the Roman eagles.
Amongst the ‘Varangar’ bodyguard, responsible for the safety of the
Emperor’s person, were to be found at one time many followers of Harold
the Saxon, who, escaping from a conquered England, gladly entered the
service of a new master to whom the name ‘Norman’ was also anathema.

Alexius Commenus was in character like his Empire--a shrinkage from the
dimensions of former days. There was nothing of the practical genius
of a Constantine in his unscrupulous ability to mould small things
to his advantage; nothing of the heroic Charlemagne in his eminently
calculating courage. Yet his daughter, Anna Commena, who wrote a
history of his reign, regarded him as a model of imperial virtues;
and his court, that had ceased to distinguish pomp from greatness and
elaborate ceremonial from glory, echoed this fiction. It was this
mixture of pretension and weakness, of skill and cunning, of nerve and
treachery, so typical of the later Eastern Emperors, that made the
nations of Western Europe, while they admired Byzantium, yet use the
word ‘Byzantine’ as a term of mingled contempt and dislike.

The Emperor, on his part, had no reason to love his Western neighbours.
The Popes had robbed him of the Exarchate of Ravenna: they had set up
a Headship of the Church in Rome deaf to the claims of Constantinople.
When in the eighth century the Emperor Leo, the Isaurian,[12] earned
the nickname of ‘Iconoclast’, or ‘Image-breaker’, by a campaign of
destruction amongst devotional pictures and images that he denounced as
idolatrous, Rome definitely refused to accept this ruling on behalf of
Western Christendom.

This was the beginning of the actual schism between the Eastern and
Western Churches that had been always alien in their outlook. In the
ninth century the breach widened, for Pope Nicholas I supported a
Patriarch, or Bishop of the Eastern Church, deposed by the Emperor and
excommunicated his rival and successor, while subsequent disputes were
rendered irreconcilable in the middle of the eleventh century when the
Patriarch of Constantinople closed the Latin churches and convents in
his diocese and publicly declared the views of Rome heretical.

Besides the Pope at Rome the Eastern Empire possessed other foes in
Italy. Chief of these were the Normans, who, not content with acquiring
Naples, had, under the leadership of Robert Guiscard and his son
Bohemund, captured the famous port of Durazzo on the Adriatic and
invaded Macedonia. From this province they were only evicted by Alexius
Commenus after wearying campaigns of guerrilla warfare to which his
military ability was better suited than to pitched battles or shock

[Sidenote: The Venetian Republic]

More subtly dangerous than either Pope or Normans was the commercial
rivalry of the merchant cities of the Mediterranean, Pisa, Genoa,
and Venice. It was Venice who from behind her barrier of islands had
watched Attila the Hun lead away his armies in impotent rage.[13] It
was Venice again who of the North Italian states successfully resisted
the feudal domination of Western Emperors and kept her own form of
republican government inviolate of external control. It was the young
Venice, the ‘Queen of the Adriatic’ as her sons and daughters proudly
called her, that could alone in her commercial splendour and arrogance
compare with the dying glory of Constantinople.

Alexius Commenus in his struggles against Robert Guiscard had been
compelled to call twice upon Venice for the assistance of her fleet;
but he paid dearly for this alliance in the trading privileges he was
forced to grant in Eastern waters. Wherever in the Orient Venetian
merchants landed to exchange goods they were quick to establish a
political footing; and the world mart on the Adriatic, into which
poured the silks and dyes, the sugar and spices of Asia, built up under
the rule of its ‘Doges’, or Dukes, a national as well as a commercial

In 1095 necessity spurred Alexius Commenus to appeal not merely to
Venice for succour but to Pope Urban II and all the leading princes of
Western Europe.

‘From Jerusalem to the Aegean,’ he wrote, ‘the Turkish hordes
have mastered all: their galleys, sweeping the Black Sea and the
Mediterranean, threaten the imperial city itself, which, if fall it
must, had better fall into the hands of Latins than of Pagans.’

These Turks, or ‘Tartars’, to whom he referred, were the cause of
the Eastern Empire’s sudden danger. Descendants of a Mongol race in
central Asia, of which the Huns were also an offshoot, they turned
their faces westward some centuries later than the ancestors of Attila,
fired by the same love of battle and bloodshed and the same contempt
for civilization. To them the wonderful Arabian kingdom, moulded by
successive Caliphs of Bagdad out of Eastern art, luxury, and mysticism,
held no charm save loot. Conquered Greece had endowed Rome with its
culture, but the inheritance of Haroun al-Raschid bequeathed to its
conquerors only the fighting creed of Islam.

Mahometans in faith, the Turkish armies, more dangerous than ever
because more fanatical, swept over Persia, Syria, Palestine, and Asia
Minor, subjugating Arabs and Christians until they came almost to the
straits of the Bosporus. Here it was that they forced Alexius Commenus
to realize his imminent danger and to turn to his enemies in Europe for
the protection of his tottering Empire.

The Latins, or Christians of the West, to whom he appealed, had reasons
enough of their own for answering him with ready promises of men and
money. From the early days of the Church it had been the custom of
pious folk, or of sinners anxious to expiate some crime, to set out in
small companies to visit the Holy Places in Jerusalem where tradition
held that Christ had preached, prayed, and suffered, that there they
might give praise to God and seek His pardon. These ‘pilgrimages’, with
their mixture of good comradeship, danger, and discomfort, had become
very dear to the popular mind, and, if not encouraged by the Mahometan
Arabs, had been at least tolerated. ‘Hospitals’, or sanctuaries, were
built for the refreshment of weary or sick travellers, and pilgrims on
the payment of a toll could wander practically where they chose.

On the advent of the Turks all was changed: the Holy Places became
more and more difficult to visit, Christians were stoned and beaten,
mulcted of their last pennies in extortionate tolls, and left to die of
hunger or flung into dungeons for ransom.

[Sidenote: The First Crusade]

Tradition says that a certain French hermit called Peter, who visited
Jerusalem during the worst days of Turkish rule, went one night to the
Holy Sepulchre weeping at the horrors he had seen, and as he knelt in
prayer, it seemed to him that Christ himself stood before him and bade
him ‘rouse the Faithful to the cleansing of the Holy Places’. With this
mission in mind he at once left the Holy Land and sought Pope Urban II,
who had already received the letter of Alexius Commenus and now, fired
by the hermit’s enthusiasm, willingly promised his support.

Whether Urban was persuaded by Peter or no is a matter of doubt, but he
at any rate summoned a council to Clermont in 1095, and there in moving
words besought the chivalry of Europe to set aside its private feuds
and either recover the Holy Places or die before the city where Christ
had given his life for the world. It is likely that he spoke from mixed
motives. A true inheritor of the theories of Gregory VII, he could not
but recognize in the prospect of a religious war, where the armies of
Europe would fight under the papal banner and at the papal will, the
exaltation of the Roman See. Was there not also the hope of bringing
the Greek Church into submission to the Roman as the outcome of an
alliance with the Greek Empire? Might not many turbulent feudal princes
be persuaded to journey to the East, who by happy chance would return
no more to trouble Europe?

Such calculations could Urban’s ambitions weave, but with them were
entwined unworldly visions that lent him a force and eloquence that no
calculations could have supplied. Wherever he spoke the surging crowd
would rush forward with the shout _Deus vult_, ‘It is the will of God,’
and this became the battle-cry of the crusaders.

  ‘The whole world,’ says a contemporary, ‘desired to go to the tomb
  of our Lord at Jerusalem.... First of all went the meaner people,
  then the men of middle rank, and lastly very many kings, counts,
  marquesses, and bishops, and, a thing that never happened before,
  many women turned their steps in the same direction.’

The order is significant and shows that the appeal of Urban and of
Peter the Hermit had touched first the heart of the masses to whom the
rich man’s temptation to hesitate and think of the morrow were of no
account. Corn had been dear in France before the Council of Clermont
owing to bad harvests; but the speculators who had bought up the grain
to sell at a high price to those who later must eat or die found it
left on their hands after the council was over. The men and women of
France were selling not buying, regardless of possible famine, that
they might find money to fulfil their burning desire to go to the Holy
Land and there win the Holy Sepulchre and gain pardon for their sins as
Pope and hermit had promised them.

The ordinary crusading route passed through the Catholic kingdom of
Hungary to Bulgaria and thence to Constantinople, where the various
companies of armed pilgrims had agreed to meet. It was with the
entry into Bulgaria, whose ‘orthodox’[14] king was secretly hostile
to the pilgrims, that trouble began. Food and drink were grudged
by the suspicious natives even to those willing to pay their way;
whereupon the utterly undisciplined forces could not be prevented from
retaliating on this inhospitality by fire and pillage. A species of
warfare ensued in which Latin stragglers were cut off and murdered by
mountain robbers, while the many ‘undesirables’, who had joined the
crusaders more in hope of loot and adventure than of pardon, brought an
evil reputation on their comrades by their greed and the brutality they
exhibited towards the peasants.

Reason enough was here to account for the pathetic failure of the
advance-guard of crusaders, the poor, the fanatic, the disreputable,
drawn together in no settled organization and with no leaders of
military repute.

Alexius Commenus, who had demanded an army, not a rabble, dealt
characteristically with the problem by shipping these first crusaders
in haste and unsupported to Asia Minor. There he left them to fall a
prey to the Turks, disease, and their own inadequacy, so that few ever
saw the coasts of their native lands again.

If the First Crusade began in tragedy it ended in triumph, through the
arrival in Constantinople of a second force from the West, this time of
disciplined troops under the chief military leaders of Europe. Alexius
Commenus had good cause to remember the prowess of his old enemy,
Bohemund, son of Robert Guiscard, who rode at the head of his Sicilian
Normans, while other names of repute were Godfrey de Bouillon, Duke of
Lorraine, and Robert, the eldest son of William the Conqueror, with
Archbishop Odo of Bayeux, his uncle.

  ‘Some of the crusaders’, wrote Anna Commena, ‘were guileless men
  and women, marching in all simplicity to worship at the tomb
  of Christ; but there were others of a more wicked kind, to wit
  Bohemund and the like: such men had but one object--to obtain
  possession of the imperial city.’

These suspicions, perhaps well founded, were natural to the daughter
of the untrustworthy Alexius Commenus, who trusted nobody. Hating to
entertain at his court so many well-armed and often insolent strangers,
yet fearing in his heart to aid their advance lest they should set up
a rival kingdom to his own, the Emperor, having cajoled the leaders
into promises of homage for any conquests they might make, at length
transported them and their followers across the Hellespont.

The Christian campaign began with the capture of Nicea in 1097,
followed by a victorious progress through Asia Minor. For nearly a
year the crusaders besieged and then were in their turn besieged in
Antioch, enduring tortures of hunger, thirst, and disease. When courage
flagged and hope seemed nearly dead, it was the supposed discovery,
by one of the chaplains, of the lance that had pierced Christ’s side
as he hung upon the Cross that kept the Christians from surrender.
With this famous relic borne in their midst by the papal legate, the
crusaders flung the gates of Antioch wide and issued forth in a charge
so irresistible in its certainty of victory that the Turks broke and
fled. The defeat became a rout, and Antioch remained as a Christian
principality under Bohemund, when the crusaders marched southwards
along the coast route towards Jerusalem.

They came in sight of this, the goal of their ambitions, on 7th June,
1099, not garbed as knights and soldiers but barefooted as humble
pilgrims, kneeling in an ecstasy of awe upon the Mount of Olives. This
mood of prayer passed rapidly into one of fierce determination, and on
15th June Godfrey de Bouillon and his Lorrainers forced a breach in
the massive walls, and, hacking their way with sword and spear through
the streets, met their fellow crusaders triumphantly entering from
another side. The scene that followed, while in keeping with mediaeval
savagery, has left a shameful stain upon the Christianity it professed
to represent. Turks, Arabs, and Jews, old men and women, children
and babies, thousands of a defenceless population, were deliberately
butchered as a sacrifice to the Christ who, dying, preached
forgiveness. The crusaders rode their horses up to the knees in the
blood of that human shambles. ‘There might no prayers nor crying of
mercy prevail,’ says an eyewitness. ‘Such a slaughter of pagan folk had
never been seen nor heard of. None knew their number, save God alone.’

Their mission accomplished, the majority of crusaders turned their
faces homewards, but before they went they elected Godfrey de Bouillon
to be the first ruler of the new Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, with
Antioch and Edessa in the north as dependent principalities.

Godfrey reigned for almost a year, bearing the title ‘Guardian of the
Holy Grave’, since he refused to be crowned master of a city where
Christ had worn a wreath of thorns. His protest is typical of the
genuine humility and love of God that mingled so strangely in his veins
with pride and cruelty. When he died he left a reputation for courage
and justice that wove around his memory romance and legends like the
tales of Charlemagne.

[Sidenote: The Military Orders]

His immediate successors were a brother and nephew, and it is in the
reign of the latter that we first hear mention of the Military Orders,
so famous in the crusading annals of the Middle Ages. These were the
‘Hospitallers’ or ‘Knights of St. John’, inheritors of the rents
and property belonging to the old ‘Hospital’ founded for pilgrims in
Jerusalem, and the ‘Templars’, so called from their residence near the
sight of Solomon’s Temple.

Both Orders were bound like the monks by the vows of poverty,
obedience, and chastity; but the work demanded of them, instead of
labour in the fields, was perpetual war against the infidel. ‘When the
Templars are summoned to arms,’ said a thirteenth-century writer, ‘they
inquire not of the number but of the position of their foe. They are
lions in war, lambs in the house: to the enemies of Christ fierce and
implacable, but to Christians kind and gracious.’

Yet a third Order, that of the Teutonic Knights, was founded in the
twelfth century, arising like that of the Knights of St. John out
of a hospital, but one that had been built by German merchants for
crusaders of their own race. At the end of the thirteenth century the
Order removed to the southern Baltic, and on these cold inhospitable
shores embarked on a crusade against the heathen Lithuanians. It is of
interest to students of modern history to note that in the sixteenth
century the last Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights became converted
to the doctrines of Luther, suppressed his Order, and absorbed the
estates into an hereditary fief, the Duchy of Brandenburg. On the
‘Mark’[15] and Duchy of Brandenburg, both founded with entirely
military objects, was the future kingdom of Prussia built.

The Latin kingdom of Jerusalem (1099-1187) survived for more than
three-quarters of a century. That it had been established with such
comparative ease was due not only to the fighting quality of the
crusaders, but also to the feuds that divided Turkish rulers of the
House of Seljuk. The Turks far outnumbered the Christians, and whenever
the Caliphs of Bagdad and Cairo should sink their rivalries, or one
Moslem ruler in the East gain supremacy over all others, the days of
the small Latin kingdom in Palestine would be numbered. In the meantime
the Latins maintained their position with varying fortune, now with the
aid of fresh recruits from Europe and Genoese and Venetian sailors,
capturing coast towns, now losing land-outposts there were insufficient
garrisons to protect.

It was the loss of Edessa that roused Europe to its Second Crusade,
this time through the eloquence of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who
persuaded not only Louis VII of France and his wife, Queen Eleanor,
but also the at first reluctant Emperor Conrad III, to bind the Cross
on their arms and go to the succour of Christendom. ‘The Christian who
slays the unbeliever in the Holy War is sure of his reward, more sure
if he is slain.’

The pictures of the glories of martyrdom and of earthly conquests
painted by the famous monk were so vivid that on one occasion he was
forced to tear up his own robes to provide sufficient crosses for the
eager multitude, but the triumph to which he called so great a part
of the populations of France and Germany proved the beckoning hand of
death and failure.

Both the King and Emperor reached Palestine--Louis VII even visited
Jerusalem--but when they sailed homewards they had accomplished nothing
of any lasting value. Edessa remained under Mahometan rule and the
Christians had been forced to abandon the siege of Damascus that they
had intended as a prelude to a victorious campaign. What was worse was
that Louis and Conrad had left the chivalry of their armies in a track
of whitening bones where they had retreated, victims not merely of
Turkish prowess and numbers but of Christian feuds, Greek treachery,
the failure of food supplies, and disease.

The Byzantine Empire owed to the first crusaders large tracts of
territory recovered from the Turks in Asia Minor; but, angered by
broken promises of homage on the part of Latin rulers, the Greeks
repaid this debt in the Second Crusade by acting as spies and secret
allies of the Mahometans. On occasions they were even to be found
fighting openly side by side with the Turks, yet more merciless than
these pagans in their brutal refusal to give food and drink to the
stragglers of the Latin armies whom they had so basely betrayed.

The widows and orphans of France and Germany, when their rulers
returned reft both of glory and men-at-arms, reviled St. Bernard as a
false prophet; but though he responded sternly that the guilt lay not
with God but in the worldliness of those who had taken the Cross, he
was sorely troubled at the shattering of his own hopes.

  ‘The Sons of God’, he wrote wearily, ‘have been overthrown in the
  desert, slain with the sword, or destroyed by famine. We promised
  good things and behold disorder. The judgements of the Lord are
  righteous, but this one is an abyss so deep that I must call him
  blessed who is not scandalized therein.’

[Sidenote: Fall of Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem]

For some years after the Second Crusade Western Europe turned a deaf
ear to entreaties for help from Palestine, and the Latin kingdom
of Jerusalem continued to decline steadily not only in territory
but in its way of life. The ennervating climate, the temptations
to an unhealthy luxury that forgot Christian ideals, the almost
unavoidable intermarriage of the races of East and West: all these
sapped the vitality and efficiency of the crusading settlers; while
the establishment of a feudal government at Jerusalem resulted in the
usual quarrels amongst tenants-in-chief and their sub-tenants. In these
feuds the Hospitallers and Templars joined with an avaricious rivalry
unworthy of their creed of self-denial.

By 1183 Guy de Lusignan, who had succeeded in seizing the crown of
Jerusalem by craft on the failure of the royal line, could only
count on the lukewarm support of the majority of Latin barons. Thus
handicapped he found himself suddenly confronted by a union of the
Turks of Egypt and Syria under Saladin, Caliph of Cairo, a leader so
capable and popular that the downfall of divided enemies was inevitable.

At Hattin, near the Lake of Tiberias, on a rocky, waterless spot, the
Christians and Mahometans met for a decisive battle in the summer of
1187. The Latins, hemmed in by superior numbers, and tortured by the
heat and thirst, fought desperately beneath the relic of the True Cross
that they had borne with them as an incitement to their courage; but
the odds were too great, and King Guy himself was forced to surrender
when the defeat of his army had turned into a rout.

In the autumn of the same year Jerusalem, after less than a month’s
siege, opened her gates to the victor. Very different was the entry
of Saladin to that of the first crusaders; for instead of a general
massacre the Christian population was put to ransom, the Sultan and his
brother as an ‘acceptable alms to Allah’ freeing hundreds of the poorer
classes for whom enough money could not be provided.

[Sidenote: The Third Crusade]

Europe received the news that the Holy Sepulchre had returned to the
custody of the infidel with a shame and indignation that was expressed
in the Third Crusade. This time, however, no straggling bands of
enthusiasts were encouraged; and though the expedition was approved by
the Pope, neither he nor any famous churchman, such as Peter the Hermit
or St. Bernard of Clairvaux, were responsible for the majority of

The Third Crusade was in character a military campaign of three great
nations: of the Germans under the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, or the
‘Red Beard’; of the French under Philip II; and of the English under
Richard the ‘Lion-Heart’. Other princes famous enough in their lands
for wealth and prowess sailed also; and had there been union in that
great host Saladin might well have trembled for his Empire. He was
saved by the utter lack of cohesion and petty jealousies of his enemies
as well as by his statecraft and military skill.

While English and French rulers still haggled over the terms of an
alliance that would allow them to leave their lands with an easy
mind, Frederick Barbarossa, the last to take the Cross, set out from
Germany, rapidly crossed Hungary and Bulgaria, reduced the Greek
Emperor to hostile inactivity by threats and military display, and
began a victorious campaign through Asia Minor. Here fate intervened to
help the Mahometans, for while fording a river in Cilicia the Emperor
was swept from his horse by the current and drowned. So passed away
Frederick the ‘Red Beard’, and with him what his strong personality
had made an army. Some of the Teutons returned home, while those who
remained degenerated into a rabble, easy victims for their enemies’
spears and arrows.

In the meantime Richard of England (1189-99) and Philip of France had
clasped the hand of friendship, and, having levied the Saladin Tithe,
a tax of one-tenth of the possessions of all their subjects, in order
to pay their expenses, set sail eastwards from Marseilles. Both were
young and eager for military glory; but the French king could plot and
wait to achieve the ultimate success he desired while in Richard the
statesman was wholly sunk in the soldier of fortune.

To mediaeval chroniclers there was something dazzling in the
Lion-Heart’s physical strength, and in the sheer daring with which he
would force success out of apparently inevitable failure, or realize
some dangerous enterprise.

  ‘Though fortune wreaks her spleen on whomsoever she pleases, yet
  was he not drowned for all her adverse waves.’

  ‘The Lord of Ages gave him such generosity of soul and endued him
  with such virtues that he seemed rather to belong to earlier times
  than these.’

  ‘To record his deeds would cramp the writer’s finger joints and
  stun the hearer’s mind.’

Such are a few of the many flattering descriptions the obvious
sincerity of which paints the English king as he seemed to the men who
fought beside him.

A clever strategist, a born leader in battle, fearless himself, and
with a restless energy that inspired him when sick to be carried on
cushions in order to direct the fire of his stone-slingers, Richard
turned his golden qualities of generalship to dust by his utter lack
of diplomacy and tact. Of gifts such as these, that are one-half of
kingship, he was not so much ignorant as heedless. He ‘willed’ to do
things like his great ancestor, the Conqueror, but his sole weapon was
his right hand, not the subtlety of his brain.

  ‘The King of England had gallows erected outside his camp to hang
  thieves and robbers on ... deeming it no matter of what country
  the criminals were, he considered every man as his own and left no
  wrong unavenged.’

This typical high-handed action, no doubt splendid in theory as a
method of discouraging the crimes that had helped to ruin previous
campaigns, was, when put into practice, sufficient alone to account for
the hatred Richard inspired amongst rulers whose subjects he thus chose
to judge and execute at will. The King of France, we are told, ‘winked
at the wrongs his men inflicted and received,’ but he gained friends,
while Richard’s progress was a series of embittered feuds, accepted
light-heartedly without any thought of his own future interests or of
those of the crusade.

Open rupture with Philip II of France was brought about almost before
they had left the French coasts through Richard’s repudiation of his
ally’s sister, to whom he had been bethrothed, since the English king
was now determined on a match with Berengaria, the daughter of the King
of Navarre.

In South Italy he acquired his next enemies in both claimants then
disputing the crown of Sicily, but before he sailed away he had
battered one of the rivals, the Norman, Tancred, into an outwardly
submissive ally after a battle in the streets of Messina. The other
rival, Henry, son of Frederick Barbarossa, and afterwards the Emperor
Henry VI, remained his enemy, storing up a grudge against him in the
hopes of a suitable opportunity for displaying it.

From Cyprus Richard, pursuing military glory, drove its Greek ruler
because he had dared to imprison some shipwrecked Englishmen; and thus,
adding an island to his dominions and the Eastern Emperor to his list
of foes, arrived at last in Palestine, in the summer of 1191, just in
time to join Philip II in the siege of Acre.

‘The two kings and peoples did less together than they would have done
separately, and each set but light store by the other.’ So the tale
runs in the contemporary chronicle; and when Acre at last surrendered
the feuds between the English and French had grown so irreconcilable
that Philip II, who had fallen sick, sulkily declared that he had
fulfilled his crusading vow and departed homewards. Not long afterwards
went Leopold, Archduke of Austria, nursing cold rage against Richard
in his heart because of an insult to his banner, that, planted on an
earthwork beside the arms of England, had been contemptuously flung
into the ditch below.

The Lion-Heart was now master of the enterprise in Palestine, a terror
to the Turks, who would use his name to frighten their unruly children
into submission; but though he remained fourteen months, the jealousies
and rivalries of his camp, with which he was not the man to contend,
kept him dallying on the coast route to Jerusalem, unable to proceed by
open warfare or to get the better of the wily Saladin in diplomacy.

News came that Philip II and the Emperor Henry VI were plotting with
his brother John for his ruin at home, and Richard, weary at heart and
sick in health, agreed to a three years and eight months’ truce that
left the Christians in the possession of the seaports of Jaffa and
Tyre, with the coastal territory between them, and gave pilgrims leave
to visit Jerusalem untaxed. He himself refused with tears in his eyes
even to gaze from a distant height on the city he could not conquer;
but, vowing he would return, he set sail for the West in the autumn of
1192, and with his departure the Third Crusade ended.

There were to be many other crusades, but none that expressed in the
same way as these first three expeditions the united aspirations of
Western Europe for the recovery of the land of the Holy Sepulchre.
National jealousies had ruined the chances of the Third Crusade, and
with every year the spirit of nationality was to grow in strength and
make common action less possible for Europe.

There is another reason also for the changing character of the
Crusades, namely, the loss of the religious enthusiasm in which they
had their origin. Men and women had believed that the cross on their
arms could turn sinners into saints, break down battlements, and
destroy infidels, as if by miracle. When they found that human passions
flourished as easily in Palestine as at home and that the way of
salvation was, as ever, the path of hard labour and constant effort,
they were disillusioned, and eager multitudes no longer clamoured to go
to the East. The Crusades did not stop suddenly, but degenerated with a
few exceptions into mere political enterprises, patronized now by one
nation, now by another: the armies recruited by mere love of adventure,
lust of battle, or the desire for plunder.

If Western Christendom had gained no other blessing by them, the early
Crusades at least freed the nations at a critical moment from a large
proportion of the unruly baronage that had been a danger to commerce
and good government. England paid heavily in gold for the Third
Crusade; but the money supplied by merchants and towns was well spent
in securing from the Lion-Heart privileges and charters that laid the
foundations of municipal liberty.

In France the results of the Second Crusade had been for the moment
devastating. Whole villages marched away, cities and castles stood
empty, and in some provinces it was said ‘scarce one man remained to
seven women’. In the orgy of selling that marked this exodus lands
and possessions rapidly changed hands, the smaller fiefs tending to
be absorbed by the larger fiefs and many of these in their turn by
the crown. Aided also by other causes, the King of France with his
increased demesnes and revenues came to assume a predominant position
in the national life.

Perhaps the chief effect of the Crusades on Europe generally was the
stimulus of new influences. Men and women, if they live in a rut and
feed their brains continually on the same ideas, grow prejudiced. It
is good for them to travel and come in contact with opposite views
of life and different manners and customs, however much it may annoy
them at the time. The Crusades provided this kind of stimulus not only
to the commerce of Mediterranean ports but in the world of thought,
literature, and art. The necessity of transport for large armies
improved shipbuilding; the cunning of Turkish foes the ingenuity
of Christian armourers and engineers; the influence of Byzantine
architecture and mosaics the splendour of Venice in stone and colour.

Western Europe continued to hate the East; but she could not live
without her silks, spices, and perfumes, nor forget to dream of the
fabulous wonders of Cathay. Thus the age of the Crusades will be seen
at last to merge its failures in the successes of an age of discovery,
that were to lay bare a new West and another road to the Orient.



Amongst those who took the Cross during the Second Crusade had
been Louis VII of France and his wife, Queen Eleanor. They were an
ill-matched pair, the King of mediocre ability, weak, peace-loving, and
pious; Eleanor, like all the House of Aquitaine, to which she belonged,
imperious, fierce-willed, and without scruples where she loved or
hated. Restless excitement had prompted her journey to Palestine; and
Louis was impelled by the scandal to which her conduct there gave rise,
and also by his annoyance that they had no son, to divorce her soon
after they returned home.

The foolishness of this step from a political point of view can be
gauged by studying a map of France in the middle of the twelfth
century, and remembering that, though king of the whole country in
name, Louis as feudal overlord could depend on little but the revenues
and forces to be raised from his own estates. These lay in a small
block round Paris, while away to the north, east, and south were the
provinces of tenants-in-chief three or four times as extensive in area
as those of the royal House of Capet. By marrying Eleanor, Countess of
Poitou and Duchess of Aquitaine, Louis had become direct ruler of the
middle and south-west of France as well as of his own crown demesnes,
but when he divorced his wife he at once forfeited her possessions.

[Sidenote: Henry II of England]

Worse from his point of view was to follow; for Eleanor made immediate
use of her freedom to marry Henry, Count of Anjou, a man fourteen years
her junior, but the most important tenant-in-chief of the King of
France and therefore, if he chose, not unlikely to prove that king’s
most dangerous enemy. This Henry, besides being Count of Anjou, Maine,
and Touraine, was also Duke of Normandy and King of England, for he was
a grandson of Henry I, and had in 1154 succeeded the feeble Stephen,
of the anarchy of whose reign we gave a slight description in another

Before dealing with the results of Henry’s marriage with the heiress
of Aquitaine it is well to note his work as King of England, for this
was destined to be the greatest and most lasting of all the many tasks
he undertook. In character Henry was the exact opposite of Stephen.
Where the other had wavered he pressed forward, utterly determined to
be master of his own land. One by one he besieged the rebel barons, and
levelled with the ground the castles they had built in order to torture
and oppress their neighbours. He also took from them the crown lands
which Stephen had recklessly given away in the effort to buy popularity
and support. When he found that many of these nobles had usurped the
chief offices of state he replaced them as quickly as he could by men
of humble rank and of his own choosing. In this way he appointed a
Londoner, Thomas Becket, whom he had first created Chancellor, to be
Archbishop of Canterbury; but the impetuous choice proved one of his
few mistakes.

Henry was so self-confident himself that he was apt to underrate the
abilities of those with whom life brought him in contact and to believe
that every other will must necessarily bow to his own. It is certain
that he found it difficult to pause and listen to reason, for his
restless energy was ever spurring him on to fresh ambitions, and he
could not bear to waste time, as he thought, in listening to criticisms
on what he had already decided. Chroniclers describe how he would
fidget impatiently or draw pictures during Mass, commending the priest
who read fastest, while he would devote odd moments of his day to
patching his old clothes for want of something more interesting to do.

[Illustration: FRANCE

in the reign of HENRY II]

Henry II was so able that haste in his case did not mean that his work
was slipshod. He had plenty of foresight, and did not content himself
with destroying those of his subjects who were unruly. He knew that he
must win the support of the English people if he hoped to build up
his estates in France, and this, though destined to bear no lasting
fruit, was ever his chief ambition. Henry II was one of the greatest of
English kings, but he had been brought up in France and remained more
of an Angevin than an Englishman at heart.

Instead of driving his barons into sulky isolation Henry summoned
them frequently to his _Magnum Concilium_, or ‘Great Council’, and
asked their advice. When they objected to serving with their followers
in France as often as he wished, he arranged a compromise that was
greatly to his advantage. This was the institution of ‘Scutage’, or
‘Shield-money’, a tax paid by the barons in order to escape military
service abroad. With the funds that ‘scutage’ supplied Henry could
hire mercenary troops, while the feudal barons lost a military

Besides consulting his ‘Great Council’, destined to develop into our
national parliament, Henry strengthened the _Curia Regis_, or ‘King’s
Court’, that his grandfather, Henry I, had established to deal with
questions of justice and finance. The barons in the time of Stephen had
tried to make their own feudal courts entirely independent of royal
authority; but Henry, besides establishing a central Court of Justice
to which any subject who thought himself wronged might appeal for a new
trial, greatly improved and extended the system of ‘Itinerant Justices’
whose circuits through the country to hold ‘Pleas of the Crown’ had
been instituted by Henry I.

This interference he found was resented not only by the feudal courts
but also by the Sheriffs of the County Courts, the Norman form of the
old ‘shire-moots’, a popular institution of Anglo-Saxon times. Of late
years the latter courts had more and more fallen under the domination
of neighbouring landowners, and in order to free them Henry held an
‘Inquest’ into the doings of the Sheriffs, and deposed many of the
great nobles who had usurped these offices, replacing them by men of
lesser rank who would look to him for favour and advice.

Other sovereigns in Europe adopted somewhat similar means of exalting
royal authority; but England was fortunate in possessing such popular
institutions as the ‘moots’ or ‘meetings’ of the shire and ‘hundred’,
through which Henry could establish his justice, instead of merely
through crown officials who would have no personal interest in local

By the Assize of Clarendon it was decreed that twelve men from each
hundred and four from each township should decide in criminal cases who
amongst the accused were sufficiently implicated to be justly sentenced
by the royal judges. Local representatives also were employed on other
occasions during Henry’s reign in assisting his judges in assessing
taxes and in deciding how many weapons and of what sort the ordinary
freeman might fittingly carry to the safety of his neighbours and of
himself. In civil cases, as when the ownership of land or personal
property was in dispute, twelve ‘lawful men’ of the neighbourhood,
or in certain cases twelve Knights of the Shire, were to be elected
to help the Sheriff arrive at a just decision. In this system of
‘recognition’, as it was called, lay the germ of our modern jury.

It is probable that the knights and representatives of the hundreds
and townships grumbled continually at the trouble and expense to
which the King’s legislation put them; for neither they nor Henry II
himself would realize that they were receiving a splendid education in
the A B C of self-government that must be the foundation of any true
democracy. Yet a few generations later, when Henry’s weak grandson and
namesake Henry III misruled England, the Knights of the Shire were
already accepted as men of public experience, and their representatives
summoned to a parliament to defend the liberties of England.

Henry II used popular institutions and crown officials as levers
against the independence of his baronage, but the chief struggle of his
reign in England was not with the barons so much as with the Church.
Thomas Becket as Chancellor had been Henry’s right hand in attacking
feudal privileges: he had warned his master that as a leading Churchman
his love might turn to hate, his help to opposition. The King refused
to believe him, thrust the burden of the archbishopric of Canterbury
on his unwilling shoulders, and then found to his surprise and rage
that he had secured the election of a very Hildebrand, who held so high
a conception of the dignity of the Church that it clashed with royal
demands at every turn.

[Sidenote: The Becket Controversy]

One of the chief subjects of dispute was the claim of the Church to
reserve for her jurisdiction all cases that affected ‘clerks’, that is,
not only priests, but men employed in the service of the Church, such
as acolytes or choristers. The King insisted that clerks convicted in
ecclesiastical courts of serious crimes should be handed over to the
royal courts for secular punishment. His argument was that if a clerk
had committed a murder the ecclesiastical judge was not allowed by
Canon law to deliver a death-sentence, and so could do no more than
‘unfrock’ the guilty man and fine or imprison him. Thus a clerk could
live to commit two murders where a layman would by command of the royal
judges be hung at the first offence.

Becket, on his side, would not swerve from his opinion that it was
sacrilege for royal officials to lay hands on a priest or clerk whether
‘criminous’ or not; and when Henry embodied his suggestions of royal
supremacy in a decree called the Constitutions of Clarendon, the
Archbishop publicly refused to sign his agreement to them. Threats
and insults were heaped upon him by angry courtiers, and one of his
attendants, terrified by the scene, exclaimed, ‘Oh, my master, this
is a fearful day!’ ‘The Day of Judgement will be yet more fearful,’
answered the undaunted Becket, and in the face of his fearlessness no
one at the moment dared to lay hands on him.

Shortly afterwards Becket fled abroad, hoping to win the support of
Rome, but the Pope to whom he appealed did not wish to quarrel with
the King of England, and used his influence to patch up an agreement
that was far too vague to have any binding strength. Thomas Becket
returned to Canterbury, but exile had not modified his opinions, and
he had hardly landed before he once more appeared in open opposition
to Henry’s wishes, excommunicating those bishops who had dared to act
during his absence without his leave.

The rest of the story is well known--the ungovernable rage of the
Angevin king at an obstinacy as great as his own, his rash cry, ‘Is my
house so full of fools and dastards that none will avenge me on this
upstart clerk?’ and then his remorse on learning of the four knights
who had taken him at his word and murdered the Archbishop as he knelt,
still undaunted, on the altar steps of Canterbury Cathedral.

So great was the horror and indignation of Europe, even of those who
were devoted to Henry’s cause, that the King was driven to strip and
scourge himself before the tomb of Thomas the Martyr, as a public act
of penance, and all question of the supremacy of the state over the
Church was for the time dropped.

One of the many pilgrims who in the next few years visited the shrine
of St. Thomas of Canterbury in the hope of a miracle was Louis VII of
France, and the miracle that he so earnestly desired was the recovery
of his son and heir, Philip Augustus, from a fever that threatened his
life. With many misgivings the old king crossed the Channel to the land
of a ruler with whom he had been at almost constant war since Eleanor
of Aquitaine’s remarriage; but his faith in the vision of the Martyr
that had prompted his journey was rewarded. Henry received him with
‘great rejoicing and honour’ after the manner of a loyal vassal, and
when the French king returned home he found his son convalescent.

The sequel to this journey, however, was the sudden paralysis and
lingering death of Louis himself, and the coronation of the boy prince
in whom France was to find so great a ruler. When the bells of Paris
had rung out the joyous tidings of his birth one hot August evening
fourteen years before, a young British student had put his head out
of his lodging window and demanded the news. ‘A boy,’ answered the
citizens, ‘has been given to us this night who by God’s grace shall
be the hammer of your king, and who beyond a doubt shall diminish the
power and lands of him and his subjects.’ One-half of the reign of
Philip Augustus, _le Dieu-donné_, or ‘God-given’, was the fulfilment of
this prophecy.

At first sight it would seem as though Henry II of England entered the
lists against his overlord the Champion of France with overwhelming
odds in his favour. Ruler of a territory stretching from Scotland, his
dependency, to the Pyrenees, he added to his lands and wealth the brain
of a statesman and the experience of long years of war and intrigue.
What could a mere boy, fenced round even in his capital of Paris by
turbulent barons, hope to achieve against such strength?

Yet the weapons of destruction lay ready to his hand, in the very
household of the Angevin ruler himself. Legend records that the blood
of some Demon ancestress ran in the veins of the Dukes of Aquitaine,
endowing them with a ferocity and falseness strange even to mediaeval
minds; and the sons whom Eleanor bore to her second husband were true
to this bad strain if to nothing else. ‘Dost thou not know’, wrote
one of them to his father who had reproached him for plotting against
his authority, ‘that it is our proper nature that none of us should
love the other, but that ever brother should strive with brother and
son against father? I would not that thou shouldst deprive us of our
hereditary right and seek to rob us of our nature.’

Louis VII, in order to weaken Henry II, had encouraged this spirit of
treachery, and even provided a refuge for Becket during his exile: his
policy was continued by Philip Augustus, who kept open house at Paris
for the rebellious family of his tenant-in-chief whenever misfortune
drove them to fly before their father’s wrath or ambition brought them
to hatch some new conspiracy.

Could Henry have once established the same firm grip he had obtained
in England over his French possessions, he might have triumphed in
the struggle with both sons and overlord; but in Poitou and Aquitaine
he was merely regarded as Eleanor’s consort, and the people looked to
his heirs as rulers, especially to Richard his mother’s favourite. Yet
never had they suffered a reign of greater licence and oppression than
under the reckless and selfish Lion-Heart.

After much secret plotting and open rebellion, Henry succeeded in
imprisoning Eleanor, who had encouraged her sons to defy their father,
but with Richard supported by Philip Augustus and the strength of
southern France he was forced to come to terms towards the end of his
reign. Though only fifty-six, he was already failing in health, and the
news that his own province of Maine was fast falling to his enemies had
broken his courage. Cursing the son who had betrayed him, he sullenly
renewed the oath of homage he owed to Philip, and promised to Richard
the wealth and independence he had demanded. The compact signed he rode
away, heavy with fever, to his castle of Chinon, and there, indifferent
to life, sank into a state of stupor. News was brought him that his
youngest son John, for whom he had carved out a principality in
Ireland, had been a secret member of the League that had just brought
him to his knees. ‘Is it true,’ he asked, roused for the minute, ‘that
John, my heart ... has deserted me?’ Reading the answer in the downcast
faces of his attendants, he turned his face to the wall. ‘Now let
things go as they will ... I care no more for myself or the world.’
Thus the old king died.

[Sidenote: Richard I of England]

In 1189 Richard the False succeeded his father, and by his prowess
in Palestine became Richard ‘Cœur-de-Lion’. How he quarrelled with
Philip II we have seen in the last chapter, and that Philip, after the
siege of Acre, returned home in disgust at the other’s overbearing

Philip Augustus does not cut the same heroic figure on the battle-field
as his rival: indeed there was no match in Europe for the ‘Devil of
Aquitaine’, who knew not the word fear, and the glamour of whose feats
of arms has outlasted seven centuries. It is in kingship that Philip
stands pre-eminent in his own age, ready to do battle at the right
moment, but still more ready to serve France by patient statecraft.
While Richard remained in Palestine, Philip plotted with the
ever-treacherous John for their mutual advantage at the absent king’s
expense; but their enmity remained secret until the joyful news arrived
that the royal crusader had been captured in disguise on his way home
by the very Leopold of Austria whose banner he had once contemptuously
cast into a ditch.

Now the Duke of Austria’s overlord was the Emperor Henry VI, whose
claims to Sicily Richard had often derided; and the Lion-Heart, passing
from the dungeon of the vassal to that of the overlord, did not escape
until his subjects had paid a huge ransom and he himself had promised
to hold England as a fief of the Empire. ‘Beware, the Devil is loose’,
wrote Philip to John, when he heard that their united efforts to bribe
Henry VI into keeping his prisoner permanently had failed.

The next few years saw a prolonged struggle between the French armies
that had invaded Normandy and the forces of Richard, who, burning for
revenge, proved as terrible a rival to Philip in the north of France as
he had been in the East; and the duel continued until a poisoned arrow
pierced the Lion-Heart’s shoulder, causing his death. ‘God visited the
land of France,’ wrote a chronicler, ‘for King Richard was no more.’

From this moment Philip Augustus began to realize his most cherished
ambitions, slowly at first, but, thanks to the ‘worst of the English
kings’, with ever-increasing rapidity. John, who had succeeded Richard,
was neither statesman nor soldier. To meaningless outbursts of Angevin
rage he added the treachery and cruelty of the House of Aquitaine and a
sluggish disregard of dignity and ordinary decency peculiarly his own.
Soon all his subjects were banded together against him in fear, hatred,
and scorn: the Church, on whose privileges he trampled; the barons,
whose wives and daughters were unsafe at his court, and whose lands he
ravaged and confiscated; the people, whom his mercenaries tortured and
oppressed. How he quarrelled with the Chapter of Canterbury over its
choice of an archbishop, defied Pope Innocent III, and then, brought
to his knees by an interdict, did homage to the Holy See for his
possessions; these things, and the signing of Magna Charta, the English
Charter of Popular Liberties, at Runymede, are tales well known in
English history.

What is important to emphasize here in a European history is the
contrast of the unpopularity that John had gained for himself amongst
all classes of his own subjects at the very moment that Philip Augustus
seemed, in French eyes, to be indeed their ‘God-given’ king.

[Sidenote: French Conquest of Normandy]

While John feasted at Rouen messengers brought word that Philip was
conquering Normandy. ‘Let him alone! Some day I will win back all
he has taken.’ So answered the sluggard, but when he at last raised
his standard it was already too late. The English barons would have
followed ‘Cœur-de-Lion’ on the road to Paris: they were reluctant to
take sword out of scabbard for John: the very Angevins and Normans were
beginning to realize that they had more in common with their French
conquerors than with any king across the Channel. Aquitaine, it is
true, looked sourly on Philip’s progress, but the reason was not that
she loved England, but that she feared the domination of Paris, and
made it a systematic part of her policy for years to support the ruler
who lived farthest away, and would therefore be likely to interfere the
least in her internal affairs.

In 1214 John made his most formidable effort, dispatching an army to
Flanders to unite with that of the powerful Flemish Count Ferrand,
one of Philip’s tenants-in-chief, and with the Emperor Otto IV, in a
combined attack on the northern French frontier. At Bouvines the armies
met, Philip Augustus, in command of his forces, riding with a joyful
face ‘no less than if he had been bidden to a wedding’.

The battle, when it opened, found him wherever the fight was hottest,
wielding his sword, encouraging, rallying, until by nightfall he
remained victor of the field, with the Count of Flanders and many
another of his chief enemies, including the English commander,
prisoners at his mercy.

Philip carried Count Ferrand behind him in chains on his triumphal
march to Paris, while all the churches along the way rang their bells,
and the crowds poured forth to cheer their king and sing _Te Deums_.

‘The Battle of Bouvines was perhaps the most important engagement ever
fought on French soil.’ So wrote a modern historian before the war of

In the days of Louis VII the Kings of France had stood dwarfed amid
Dukes of Normandy and Aquitaine and Counts of Flanders and Anjou.
Now the son of Louis had defeated an emperor, thrown one rebellious
tenant-in-chief into a dungeon, and from another, the Angevin John,
gained as the reward of his victory all the long-coveted provinces
north of the Loire. Even the crown treasury, once so poor, was replete
for the time with the revenues of the confiscated Norman and Angevin
estates of English barons, who had been forbidden by their sovereign to
do homage any more to a French overlord.

Philip Augustus had shown himself Philip ‘the Conqueror’; but he was
something far greater--a king who, like Henry II of England, could
build as well as destroy. During his reign the menace of the old feudal
baronage was swept away, and the government received its permanent
stamp as a servant of the monarchy.

In his dealing with the French Church Philip followed the traditions
of Pepin the Short and Charlemagne, yet gratifying as were his
numerous gifts to monasteries and convents, they were dovetailed into
a scheme of combining the liberal patron with the firm master. That
good relations between the king and clergy resulted was largely due to
Philip’s policy of replacing bishops belonging to powerful families
by men of humble origin accustomed to subservience. Also he would
usually support the lesser clergy in their frequent quarrels with their
ecclesiastical superiors, thus weakening the leaders while he won the
affection of the rank and file.

[Sidenote: Innocent III and France]

Like John he came into collision with the iron will of Pope Innocent
III, but on a purely moral question, his refusal to live with
the Danish princess Ingeborg, to whom he had taken a violent and
unaccountable dislike on his wedding-day. The bride was a girl of
eighteen; she could speak no French, her husband’s bishops were afraid
to uphold her cause whatever their secret opinions, but in appealing to
the Pope for help she gained an unyielding champion.

In other chapters we shall see Innocent III as a politician and a
persecutor of heretics: here he stands as the moral leader of Europe;
and no estimate of his character and work would be fair that neglected
this aspect. It was to Innocent’s political advantage to please the
French king, whose help he needed to chastise the English John and to
support a crusade against an outburst of heresy in Languedoc. Moreover,
he had no armies to compel a king who accused his wife of witchcraft to
recognize her as queen. Yet Innocent believed that Philip was in the
wrong; and when the French king persuaded his bishops to divorce him
and then promptly married again, papal letters proceeded to denounce
the divorce as a farce and the new marriage as illegal.

‘Recall your lawful wife,’ wrote Innocent, ‘and then we will hear all
that you can righteously urge. If you do not do this no power shall
move us to right or left until justice be done.’ This letter was
followed by threats of excommunication, and after some months by an
interdict that reduced Philip to a promise of submission in return
for a full inquiry into his case. The promise so grudgingly given
remained but a promise, and it was not until 1213, nearly twenty years
since he had so cruelly repudiated Ingeborg, that, driven by continual
papal pressure and the critical state of his fortunes, Philip openly
acknowledged the Danish princess as his wife and queen.

We have seen something of Philip’s dealings with his greater
tenants-in-chief; but such achievements as the conquest of Normandy
and Anjou and the victory of Bouvines were but the fruits of years of
diplomacy, during which the royal power had permeated the land, like
ether the atmosphere, almost unnoticed. In lending a sympathetic ear to
the complaints of Richard and his brothers against their father, Philip
was merely carrying out the policy we have noticed in his treatment of
the Church.

‘He never began a new campaign without forming alliances that might
support him at each step’, says Philip’s modern biographer; and these
allies were often the sub-tenants of large feudal estates to whom
in the days of peace he had given his support against the claims of
their feudal overlords. Sometimes he had merely used his influence as
a mediator, at others he had granted privileges to the tenants, or
else he had called the case in dispute before his own royal court for
judgement. By one means or another, at any rate, he had made the lesser
tenants feel that he was their friend, so that when he went out to
battle they would flock eagerly to his banner, sometimes in defiance of
their overlord.

One danger to the crown lay, not in the actual feudal baronage, but
in the _prévôts_, officials appointed by the king with power to exact
taxes, administer the laws, and judge offenders in his name in the
provinces. When the monarchy was weak these _prévôts_, from lack of
control, developed into petty tyrants, and it was fortunate for Philip
that their encroachments were resented by both nobles and clergy,
so that a system of reform that reduced them again to a subordinate
position was everywhere welcomed.

Gradually a link was established between local administration and
the king’s council, namely, officials called in the north of France
_baillis_, in the south _sénéchals_, whose duty was to keep a watch
over the _prévôt_ and to depose or report him if necessary. The
_prévôt_ was still to collect the royal revenues as of old, but the
_bailli_ would take care that he did not cheat the king, and would
forward the money that he received to the central government: he would
also hold assizes and from time to time visit Paris, where he would
give an account of local conditions and how he had dealt with them.

In these reforms, as in those of Henry II of England, a process that
was gradually changing the face of Europe can be seen at work, first
the crumbling of feudal machinery too clumsy to keep pace with the
needs and demands of dawning civilization, and next its replacement by
an official class, educated in the intricacies of finance, justice, and
administration, and dependent not on the baronage but on the monarchy
for its inspiration and success.

The chief nobles of France in early mediaeval times had regarded such
titles as ‘Mayor of the Palace’, ‘Seneschal’, ‘Chamberlain’, ‘Butler’,
&c., as bestowing both hereditary glory and also political power. With
the passing of years some of the titles vanished, while under Philip
Augustus and his grandson Louis IX those that remained passed to ‘new’
men of humbler rank, who bore them merely while they retained the
office, or else, shorn of any political power, continued as honours
of the court and ballroom. In effect the royal household, once a kind
of general servant ‘doing a bit of everything inadequately’ as in the
days of Charlemagne, had now developed into two distinct bodies, each
with their separate sphere of work: the great nobles surrounding their
sovereign with the dignity and ceremonial in which the Middle Ages
rejoiced, the trained officials advising him and carrying out his will.

[Sidenote: French Communes]

In his attitude to the large towns, except on his own crown lands where
like other landowners he hesitated to encourage independence, Philip
II showed himself sympathetic to the attempts of citizens to throw
off the yoke of neighbouring barons, bishops, and abbots. Many of the
towns had formed ‘communes’, that is, corporations something like a
modern trade union, but these, though destined to play a large part
in French history, were as yet only in their infancy. They had their
origin sometimes in a revolutionary outburst against oppression, but
often in a real effort on the part of leading townsmen to organize the
civil life on profitable lines by means of ‘guilds’, or associations
of merchants and traders with special privileges and laws. Some of
the privileges at which these city corporations aimed were the right
to collect their own taxes, to hold their own law-courts for deciding
purely local disputes, and to protect their trade against fraud,
tyranny, and competition from outside. It all sounds natural enough to
modern ears, but it awoke profound indignation in a French writer of
the twelfth century.

  ‘The word “commune”, he says, ‘is new and detestable, for this is
  what it implies; that those who owe taxes shall pay the rent that
  is due to their lord but once in the year only, and if they commit
  a crime against him they shall find pardon when they have made
  amends according to a fixed tariff of justice.’

Except within his own demesnes Phillip II readily granted charters
confirming the ‘communes’ in their coveted rights, and he also founded
‘new’ towns under royal protection, offering there upon certain
conditions a refuge to escaped serfs able to pay the necessary taxes.

[Sidenote: Achievements of Philip II]

In Paris itself his reign marks a new era, when, instead of a town
famed according to a chronicler of the day chiefly for its pestiferous
smells, there were laid the foundations of one of the most luxurious
cities of Europe. The cleansing and paving of the filthy streets, the
building of fortifications, of markets, and of churches, and above
all of that glory of Gothic architecture, Nôtre Dame de la Victoire,
founded to celebrate the triumph of Bouvines: such were some of the
works planned or undertaken in the capital during this reign. Over the
young University of Paris the King also stretched out a protecting
hand, defending the students from the hostility of the townsfolk by
the command that they should be admitted to the privileges enjoyed by
priests. For this practical sympathy he and his successors were well
repaid in the growth of an educated public opinion ready to exalt its
patron the crown by tongue and pen.

Philip Augustus died in July 1223. Great among the many great figures
of his day, French chroniclers have yet left no distinct impression of
his personality. It would almost seem as if the will, the foresight,
and the patience that have won him fame in the eyes of posterity, built
up a baffling barrier between his character and those who actually saw
him. Men recognized him as a king to be admired and feared, ‘august’
in his conquests, terrible in his wrath if any dared cross his will,
but his reserve, his indifference to court gaiety, his rigid attitude
of dislike to those who used oaths or blasphemy, they found wholly
unsympathetic and strange. Of the great work he had done for France
they were too close to judge fairly, and would have understood him
better had he been rash and heedless of design like the Lion-Heart.
For a real appreciation of Philip Augustus we must turn to his modern

  ‘He had found France a small realm hedged in by mighty rivals. When
  he began his reign but a very small portion of the French-speaking
  people owned his sway. As suzerain his power was derided. Even as
  immediate lord he was defied and set at nought. But when he died
  the whole face of France was changed. The King of the Franks was
  undisputedly the king of by far the greater part of the land, and
  the internal strength of his government had advanced as rapidly
  and as securely as the external power.’

Such was the change in France itself, but we can estimate also to-day,
what no contemporary of Philip Augustus could have realized, the effect
of that change on Europe, when France from a collection of feudal fiefs
stood forth at last a nation in the modern sense, ready to take her
place as a leader amongst her more backward neighbours.

_Supplementary Dates. For Chronological Summary, see pp. 368-73._

  Louis VII of France                    1137-47
  Henry II of England                    1154-89
  Philip II of France                    1180-1223
  John, King of England                  1199-1216
  Battle of Bouvines                     1214



When the Emperor Henry IV crossed the ice-bound Alps on his journey
of submission to Canossa he was accompanied by a faithful knight,
Frederick of Buren, whom he later rewarded for his loyalty with the
hand of his daughter and the title Duke of Suabia. Frederick’s son was
elected Emperor as Conrad III,[17] the first of the imperial line of
Hohenstaufen that was destined to carry on through several generations
the war between Empire and Papacy.

The Hohenstaufen received their name from a hill on which stood one
of Frederick of Buren’s strongest castles, but they were also called
‘Waiblingen’ after a town in their possession; while the House of
Bavaria, their chief rivals, was called ‘Welf’ after an early ancestor.
The feud of the Waiblingen and the Welfs that convulsed Germany had
no less devastating an effect upon Italy, always exposed to influence
from beyond the Alps, and the names of the rivals, corrupted on Italian
tongues into ‘Ghibellines’ and ‘Guelfs’, became party cries throughout
the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

[Sidenote: The Italian Communes]

In our last chapter we spoke of French ‘communes’, municipalities that
rebelled against their overlords, setting up a government of their own:
the same process of emancipation was at work in North Italy only that
it was able to act with greater rapidity and success for a time on
account of the national tendency towards separation and the vigour of
town life.

‘In France’, says a thirteenth-century Italian, in surprise, ‘only the
townspeople dwell in towns: the knights and noble ladies stay ... on
their own demesnes.’ Certainly the contrast with his native Lombardy
was strong. There each city lived like a fortified kingdom on its
hill-top, or in the midst of wide plains, cut off from its neighbours
by suspicion, by jealousy, by competition. In the narrow streets
noble and knight jostled shoulders perforce with merchants, students,
mountebanks, and beggars. The limits of space dictated that many things
in life must be shared in common, whether religious processions or
plagues, and if street fighting flourished in consequence so also did
class intimacy and a sharpening of wits as well as of swords. Thus
the towns of North Italy, like flowers in a hot-house, bore fruits of
civilization in advance of the world outside, whether in commerce,
painting, or the art of self-government; and visitors from beyond the
Alps stared astonished at merchants’ luxurious palaces that made the
castles of their own princes seem mere barbarian strongholds.

Yet this profitable independence was not won without struggles so
fierce and continuous that they finally endangered the political
freedom in whose interests they had originally been waged. At first the
struggle was with barbarian invaders; and here, as in the case of Rome
and the Popes, it was often the local bishops who, when emperors at
Constantinople ceased to govern except in name, fostered the young life
of the city states and educated their citizens in a rough knowledge of
war and statecraft.

With the dawn of feudalism bishops degenerated into tyrants, and
municipalities began to elect consuls and advisory councils and under
their leadership to rebel against their former benefactors, and to
establish governments independent of their control.

The next danger was from within: cities are swayed more easily than
nations, and too often the ‘communes’ of Lombardy became the prey of
private factions or of more powerful city neighbours. Class warred
against class and city against city; and out of their struggles
arose leagues and counter-leagues, bewildering to follow like the
ever-changing colours of a kaleidoscope.

Into this atmosphere of turmoil the quarrel between Popes and Holy
Roman Emperors, begun by Henry IV and Hildebrand and carried on by
the Hohenstaufen and the inheritors of Hildebrand’s ideals, entered
from the ‘communes’ point of view like a heaven-sent opportunity
for establishing their independence. In the words of a tenth-century
bishop: ‘The Italians always wish to have two masters that they may
keep one in check by the other.’

The cities that followed the Hohenstaufen were labelled ‘Ghibelline’,
those that upheld the Pope ‘Guelf’; and at first, and indeed throughout
the contest where cruelty and treachery were concerned, there was
little to choose between the rivals. Later, however, the fierce
imperialism of Frederick I was to give to the warfare of his opponents,
the Guelfs, a patriotic aspect.

Frederick I, the ‘Barbarossa’ of the Third Crusade, was a Hohenstaufen
on his father’s side, a Welf on his mother’s; and it had been the
hope of those who elected him Emperor that ‘like a corner-stone he
would bind the two together ... that thus with God’s blessing he
might end their ancient quarrel’. At first it appeared this hope
might be realized, for the new Emperor made a friend of his cousin
Henry the Lion who, as Duke of Bavaria and Saxony, was heir of the
Welf ambitions. Frederick also, by his firm and business-like rule,
established what the chroniclers called such ‘unwonted peace’ that ‘men
seemed changed, the world a different one, the very Heaven milder and

Unfortunately Frederick, who has been aptly described as an
‘imperialist Hildebrand’, regarded the peace of Germany merely as a
stepping-stone to wider ambitions. Justinian, who had ruled Europe from
Constantinople, was his model, and with the help of lawyers from the
University of Bologna, whom he handsomely rewarded for their services,
he revived all the old imperial claims over North Italy that men had
forgotten or allowed to slip into disuse. The ‘communes’ found that
rights and privileges for which their ancestors had fought and died
were trampled under foot by an imperial official, the _podestà_, sent
as supreme governor to each of the more important towns: taxes were
imposed and exacted to the uttermost coin by his iron hand: complaint
or rebellion were punished by torture and death.

‘Death for freedom is the next best thing to freedom,’ cried the men of
Crema, flaming into wild revolt, while Milan shut her gates against
her _podestà_ in an obstinate three years’ siege. Deliverance was not
yet, and Frederick and his vast army of Germans desolated the plains:
Crema was burned, her starving population turned adrift: the glory of
Milan was reduced to a stone quarry: Pope Alexander III who, feeling
his own independence threatened by imperial demands, had supported the
movement for liberty, was driven from Rome and forced to seek refuge
in France. Everywhere the Ghibellines triumphed, and it was in these
black days in Italy that the Guelfs ceased for a time to be a faction
and became patriots, while the Pope stood before the world the would-be
saviour of his land from a foreign yoke.

Amid the smouldering ruins of Milan the Lombard League sprang into
life: town after town, weary of German oppression and insolence,
offered their allegiance: even Venice, usually selfish in the safe
isolation of her lagoons, proffered ships and money. Milan was rebuilt,
and a new city, called after the patriot Pope ‘Alessandria’, was
founded on a strategic site. _Alessandria degla paglia_, ‘Alessandria
of the straw’, Barbarossa nicknamed it contemptuously, threatening to
burn it like a heap of weeds; but the new walls withstood his best
engines, and plague and the damp cold of winter devastated his armies
encamped around them.

The political horizon was not, indeed, so fair for the Emperor as in
the early days of his reign. Germany seethed with plots in her master’s
absence, and Frederick had good reason to suspect that Henry the Lion
was their chief author, the more that he had sulkily refused to share
in this last Italian campaign. Worst of all was the news that Alexander
III, having negotiated alliances with the Kings of France and England,
had returned to Italy and was busy stirring up any possible seeds of
revolt against Frederick, whom he had excommunicated.

[Sidenote: Battle of Legnano]

In the year 1176, at Legnano, fifteen miles from Milan, the armies
of the League and Empire met in decisive battle, Barbarossa nothing
doubting of his success against mere armed citizens; but the spirit of
the men of Crema survived in the ‘Company of Death’, a bodyguard of
Milanese knights sworn to protect their _carroccio_, or sacred cart,
or else to fall beside it. Upon the _carroccio_ was raised a figure of
Christ with arms outstretched, beneath his feet an altar, while from a
lofty pole hung the banner of St. Ambrose, patron saint of Milan.

When the battle opened the first terrific onslaught of German cavalry
broke the Milanese lines; but the Company of Death, reckless in their
resolve, rallied the waverers and turned defence into attack. In the
ensuing struggle the Emperor was unhorsed, and, as the rumour spread
through the ranks that he had been killed, the Germans broke, and their
retreat became a wild, unreasoning rout that bore their commander back
on its tide, unable to stem the current, scarcely able to save himself.

Such was the battle of Legnano, worthy to be remembered not as an
isolated twelfth-century victory of one set of forces against another,
but as one of the first very definite advances in the great campaign
for liberty that is still the battle of the world. At Venice in the
following year the Hohenstaufen acknowledged his defeat and was
reconciled to the Church; while by the ‘Perpetual Peace of Constance’
signed in 1183 he granted to the communes of North Italy ‘all the royal
rights (regalia) which they had ever had or at the moment enjoyed’.

Such rights--coinage, the election of officials and judges, the power
to raise and control armies, to impose and exact taxes--are the pillars
on which democracy must support her house of freedom. Yet since
‘freedom’ to the mediaeval mind too often implied the right to oppress
some one else or maintain a state of anarchy, too much stress must not
be laid on the immediate gains. North Italy in the coming centuries was
to fall again under foreign rule, her ‘communes’ to abuse and betray
the rights for which the Company of Death had risked their lives: yet,
in spite of this taint of ignorance and treachery, the victory of
Legnano had won for Europe something infinitely precious, the knowledge
that tyrants could be overthrown by the popular will and feudal armies
discomfited by citizen levies.

[Sidenote: Henry ‘the Lion’]

Barbarossa returned to Germany to vent his rage on Henry the Lion,
to whose refusal to accompany him to Italy he considered his defeat
largely due. Strong in the support of the Church, to which he was now
reconciled, he summoned his cousin to appear before an imperial Diet
and make answer to the charge of having confiscated ecclesiastical
lands and revenues for his own use. Henry merely replied to this
mandate by setting fire to Church property in Saxony, and in his
absence the ban of outlawry was passed against him by the Diet. Here
again was the old ‘Waiblingen’ and ‘Welf’ feud bursting into flame,
like a fire that has been but half-suppressed, and cousinship went to
the wall. Henry the Welf was a son-in-law of Henry II of England and
had made allies of Philip Augustus and the King of Denmark: his Duchy
of Bavaria in the south and of Saxony in the north covered a third of
German territory: he had been winning military laurels in a struggle
against the Slavs, while Frederick had been losing Lombardy. Thus he
pitted himself against the Emperor, unmindful that even in Germany the
hands of the political clock were moving forward and feudalism slowly
giving up its dominion.

To the dawning sense of German nationality Barbarossa was something
more than first among his barons, he was a king supported by the
Church, and Bavarians and Saxons came reluctantly to the rebel banner;
while, as the campaign developed, the other princes saw their fellow
vassal beaten and despoiled of his lands and driven into exile without
raising a finger to help him.

Frederick allowed Henry the Lion to keep his Brunswick estates, but
Saxony and Bavaria he divided up amongst minor vassals, in order to
avoid the risk of another powerful rival. Master of Germany not merely
in name but in power, he and his successors could have built up a
strong monarchy, as Philip II and the House of Capet were to do in
France, had not the siren voice of Italy called them to wreck on her
shifting policies.

Hitherto we have spoken chiefly of North Italy; but Frederick I bound
Germany to her southern neighbours by fresh ties when he married his
eldest son Henry in 1187 to Constance, heiress of the Norman kingdom of
Naples and Sicily. By this alliance he hoped to establish a permanent
Hohenstaufen counterpoise in the south to the alliance of the Pope
and the Guelf towns in the north. Triumphant over the wrathful but
helpless Roman See, he felt himself an emperor indeed, and having
crowned his son Henry as ‘Caesar’, in imitation of classic times, he
rode away to the Third Crusade, still lusting after adventure and glory.

The news of his death in Asia Minor[18] swept Germany with sadness and
pride. Like all his house, he had been cruel and hard; but vices like
these seemed to weigh little to the mediaeval mind against the peace
and prosperity enjoyed under his rule. Legends grew about his name,
and the peasants whispered that he had not died but slept beneath the
sandstone rocks, and would awake again when his people were in danger
to be their leader and protector.

Henry VI, who succeeded Frederick in the Empire, succeeded also to
his dreams and the pitfalls that they inspired. One of his earliest
struggles had been the finally successful attempt to secure Sicily
against the claims of Count Tancred, an illegitimate grandson of the
last ruler. Great were the sufferings of the unhappy Sicilians who
had adopted the Norman’s cause; for Henry, having bribed or coerced
the Pope and North Italy into a temporary alliance, exacted a bitter
vengeance. Tancred’s youthful son, blinded and mutilated, was sent with
his mother to an Alpine prison to end his days, while in the dungeons
of Palermo and Apulia torture and starvation brought to his followers
death as a blessed relief from pain.

Queen Constance, who had been powerless to check these atrocities,
turned against her husband in loathing: the Pope excommunicated their
author; but Henry VI laughed contemptuously at both. It was his
threefold ambition: first, to make the imperial crown not elective but
hereditary in the House of Hohenstaufen; next, to tempt the German
princes into accepting this proposition by the incorporation of Naples
and Sicily as a province of the Empire; and thirdly, to rule all his
dominions from his southern kingdom, with the Pope at Rome, as in the
days of Otto the Great, the chief bishop in his empire.

Strong-willed, persistent, resourceful, with the imagination that sees
visions, and the practical brain of a man of business who can realize
them, Henry VI, had he lived longer, might have gained at least a
temporary recognition of his schemes; but in 1197 he died at the age
of thirty-two, leaving a son not yet three years old as the heir of
Hohenstaufen ambitions. Twelve months later died also Queen Constance,
having reversed as much as she could during her short widowhood of her
hated husband’s German policy, and having bequeathed the little King of
Naples to the guardianship of the greatest of mediaeval Popes and the
champion of the Guelfs, Innocent III.

[Sidenote: Pope Innocent III]

At the coronation of Innocent III the officiating priest had used these
words: ‘Take the tiara and know that thou art the father of princes and
kings, the ruler of the world, the Vicar on earth of our Saviour Jesus
Christ.’ To Lothario di Conti this utterance was but the confirmation
of his own beliefs, as unshakable as those of Hildebrand, as wide in
their scope as the imperialism of Frederick Barbarossa or Henry VI.
‘The Lord Jesus Christ,’ he declared, ‘has set up one ruler over all
things as His Universal Vicar, and as all things in Heaven, Earth, and
Hell bow the knee to Christ, so should all obey Christ’s Vicar that
there be one flock and one shepherd.’ Again: ‘Princes have power on
earth, priests have also power in Heaven.’

In illustration of these views he likened the Papacy to the sun, the
Empire to the lesser light of the moon, and recalled how Christ in
the Garden of Gethsemane gave to St. Peter two swords. By these, he
explained, were meant temporal and spiritual power, and emperors who
claimed to exercise the former could only do so by the gracious consent
of St. Peter’s successors, since ‘the Lord gave Peter the rule not only
of the universal Church but also the rule of the whole world’.

Gregory VII had made men wonder in the triumph of Canossa whether such
an ideal of the Papacy could ever be realized; but as if in proof he
had been hunted from Rome and died in exile. It was left to Innocent
III to exhibit the partial fulfilment, at any rate, of all that his
predecessor had dreamed. In character no saintly Bernard of Clairvaux,
but a clear-brained practical statesman, he set before himself the
vision of a kingdom of God on earth after the pattern of earthly
kingdoms; and to this end, that he sincerely believed carried with it
the blessing of God for the perfecting of mankind, he used every weapon
in his armoury.

Sometimes his ambitions failed, as when, in a real glow of enthusiasm,
he preached the Fourth Crusade--an expedition that ended in Venice,
who had promised the necessary ships, diverting the crusaders to storm
her a coveted port on the Dalmatian coast, and afterwards to sack and
burn Constantinople in the mingled interests of commerce and pillage.
His anger at the news that the remonstrances of his legates had been
ignored could hardly at first be extinguished. Not thus had been his
plan of winning Eastern Christendom to the Catholic Faith and of
destroying the infidel; for the Latin Empire of Constantinople, set
up by the victorious crusaders, was obviously too weak to maintain
for long its tyranny over hostile Greeks, or to serve as an effective
barrier against the Turks. Statesmanship, however, prompted him to reap
what immediate harvest he could from the blunders of his faithless
sons; and he accepted the submission of the Church in Constantinople as
a debt long owing to the Holy See.

The Fourth Crusade, in spite of the extension of Rome’s ecclesiastical
influence, must be reckoned as one of Innocent’s failures. In the
West, on the other hand, the atmosphere created by his personality
and statecraft made the name of ‘The Lord Innocent’ one of weight and
fear to his enemies, of rejoicing to his friends. When upholding Queen
Ingeborg he had stood as a moral force, bending Philip Augustus to his
will by his convinced determination; and this same tenacity of belief
and purpose, added to the purity of his personal life and the charm of
his manner, won him the affection of the Roman populace, usually so
hostile to its Vicars.

Mediaeval popes were, as a rule, respected less in Italy than beyond
the Alps, and least of all in their own capital, where too many
spiritual gifts had been seen debased for material ends, and papal acts
were often at variance with pious professions. During the pontificate
of Innocent III, however, we find the ‘Prefect’, the imperial
representative at Rome, accept investiture at his hands, the ‘Senator’,
chief magistrate of the municipality, do him homage; and through this
double influence his control became paramount over the city government.

In Naples and Sicily he was able to continue the policy of Constance,
drive out rebellious German barons, struggle against the Saracens
in Sicily, and develop the education of his ward, the young King of
Naples, as the spiritual son who should one day do battle for his
ideals. ‘God has not spared the rod,’ he wrote to Frederick II. ‘He
has taken away your father and mother: yet he has given you a worthier
father, His Vicar; and a better mother, the Church.’

In Lombardy, where the Guelfs naturally turned to him as their
champion, the papal way was comparatively smooth, for the cruelty of
Barbarossa and his son Henry VI had aroused hatred and suspicion on all
sides. Thus Innocent found himself more nearly the master of Italy than
any Pope before his time, and from Italy his patronage and alliances
extended like a web all over Europe.

Philip Augustus of France, trying to ignore and defy him, found
in the end the anger he aroused worth placating: John of England
changed his petulant defiance into submission and an oath of homage:
Portugal accepted him as her suzerain: rival kings of Hungary sought
his arbitration: even distant Armenia sent ambassadors to ask his
protection. His most impressive triumph, however, was secured in his
dealings with the Empire.

Henry VI had wished, we have seen, to make the imperial crown
hereditary; but no German prince would have been willing to accept
the child he left as heir to his troubled fortunes. The choice of the
electors therefore wavered between another Hohenstaufen, Philip of
Suabia, brother of the late Emperor, and the Welf Otto, son of Henry
the Lion. The votes were divided, and each claimant afterwards declared
himself the legally elected emperor, one with the title Philip II, the
other with that of Otto IV.

For ten long years Germany was devastated by their civil wars. Otto,
as the Guelf representative, gained the support of Innocent the Great,
to whom the claimants at one time appealed for arbitration; but Philip
refused to submit to this judgement in favour of his rival, believing
that he himself had behind him the majority of the German princes and
of the official class.

  ‘Inasmuch,’ declared Innocent, ‘as our dearest son in Christ, Otto,
  is industrious, prudent, discreet, strong and constant, himself
  devoted to the Church ... we by the authority of St. Peter receive
  him as King and will in due course bestow on him the imperial

Here was papal triumph! Rome no longer patronized but patron, with
Otto on his knees, gratefully promising submission and homage with
every kind of ecclesiastical privilege, to complete the picture.
Yet circumstances change traditions as well as people, and when the
death of Philip of Suabia left him master of Germany, the Guelf Otto
found his old ideals impracticable: he became a Ghibelline in policy,
announced his imperial rights over Lombardy, even over some of the
towns belonging to the Pope, while he loudly announced his intention of
driving the young Hohenstaufen from Naples.

Innocent’s wrath at this _volte-face_ was unbounded. Otto, no longer
his ‘dearest son in Christ’, was now a perjurer and schismatic, whose
excommunication and deposition were the immediate duty of Rome.
Neither, however, was likely to be effective unless the Pope could
provide Italy and Germany with a rival, whose dazzling claims, backed
by papal support, would win him followers wherever he went. In this
crisis Innocent found his champion in the Hohenstaufen prince denounced
by Otto, a lad educated almost since infancy in the tenets and
ambitions of the Catholic Church.

[Sidenote: Frederick II]

Frederick, King of Naples and Sicily, was an interesting development
of hereditary tastes and the atmosphere in which he had been reared.
To the southern blood that leaped in his veins he owed perhaps his
hot passions, his sensuous appreciation of luxury and art, his almost
Saracen contempt for women save as toys to amuse his leisure hours.
From the Hohenstaufen he imbibed strength, ambition, and cruelty,
from the Norman strain on his mother’s side his reckless daring
and treachery. With the ordinary education of a prince of his day,
Frederick’s qualities and vices might have merely produced a warrior
king of rather exceptional ability; but thanks to the papal tutors
provided by Innocent, the boy’s naturally quick brain and imagination
were stirred by a course of studies far superior to what his lay
contemporaries usually enjoyed, and he emerged in manhood with a real
love of books and culture, and with an eager curiosity on such subjects
as philosophy and natural history.

In the royal charter by which he founded the University of Naples
Frederick expressed his intention that here ‘those within the Kingdom
who had hunger for knowledge might find the food for which they were
yearning’; and his court at Palermo, if from one aspect dissolute and
luxurious, was also a centre for men of wit and knowledge against whose
brains the King loved to test his own quips and theories.

When Frederick reached Rome, on Innocent’s hasty summons to unsheath
the sword of the Hohenstaufen against Otto, much of his character
was as yet a closed book even to himself. Impulsive and eager, like
any ambitious youth of seventeen called to high adventure, and with
a genuine respect for his guardian, he did not look far ahead; but
kneeling at the Pope’s feet, pledged his homage and faith before he
rode away northwards to win an empire. In Germany a considerable
following awaited him, lifelong opponents of Otto on account of his
Welf blood, and others who hated him for his churlish manners. Amongst
them Frederick scattered lavishly some money he had borrowed from the
Republic of Genoa, and this generosity, combined with his Hohenstaufen
strength and daring, increased the happy reputation that papal legates
had already established for him in many quarters.

In December 1212 he was crowned in Mainz. Civil war followed,
embittered by papal and imperial leagues, but in 1214 Otto IV was
decisively beaten at Bouvines in the struggle with Philip II of France
that we have already described,[19] and the tide which had been
previously turning against him now swept away his few friends and last
hopes. With the entry of his young rival into the Rhineland provinces
the dual Empire ceased to exist, and Frederick was crowned in Aachen,
the old capital of Charlemagne.

Innocent III had now reached the summit of his power, for his pupil
and protégé sat on the throne of Rome’s imperial rival. In the same
year he called a Council to the Lateran Palace, the fourth gathering
of its kind, to consider the two objects dearest to his heart, ‘the
deliverance of the Holy Land and the reform of the Church Universal’.
Crusading zeal, however, he could not rouse again: to cleanse and
spiritualize the life of the Church in the thirteenth century was
to prove a task beyond men of finer fibre than Innocent: but, as an
illustration of his immense influence over Europe, the Fourth Lateran
Council with its dense submissive crowds, representative of every land
and class, was a fitting end to his pontificate.

In the year 1216 Innocent III died--the most powerful of all Popes,
a striking personality whose life by kindly fate did not outlast his
glory. In estimating Innocent’s ability as a statesman there stands
one blot against his record in the clear light shed by after-events,
namely, the short-sighted policy that once again united the Kingdom of
Naples to the Empire, and laid the Papacy between the upper millstone
of Lombardy and the nether millstone of southern Italy. Excuse may
be found in Innocent’s desperate need of a champion with Otto IV
threatening his papal heritage, added to his belief in the promises of
the young Hohenstaufen to remain his faithful vassal. He also tried
to safeguard the future by making Frederick publicly declare that he
would bequeath Naples to a son who would not stand for election to the
Empire; but in trusting the word of the young Emperor he had sown a
wind from which his successors were to reap a whirlwind.

The new Emperor was just twenty years old when Innocent died. Either
to please his guardian, or moved by a momentary religious impulse, he
had taken the Cross immediately after his entry into Aachen; but the
years passed and he showed himself in no haste to fulfil the vow. Much
of his time was spent in his loved southern kingdom, where he completed
Innocent’s work of reducing to submission the Saracen population that
had remained in Sicily since the Mahometan conquest.[20] As infidels
the Papacy had regarded these Arabs with special hatred; but Frederick,
once assured that they were so weak that they would be in future
dependent on his favour, began protecting instead of persecuting them.
He also encouraged their silk industry by building them a town, Lucera,
on the Neapolitan coast, where they could pursue it undisturbed; while
he enrolled large numbers of Arab warriors in his army, and used them
to enforce his will on the feudal aristocracy, descendants of the
Norman adventurers of the eleventh century.

So successful was he in playing off one section of his subjects against
another, opposing or aiding the different classes as policy dictated,
that he soon reigned as an autocrat in Naples. Many of the nobles’
strongholds were levelled with the dust: their claim to wage private
war was forbidden on pain of death: cases were taken away from their
law-courts and those of the feudal bishops to be decided by royal
justices: towns were deprived of their freedom to elect their own
magistrates, while crown officials sent from Palermo administered the
laws, and imposed and collected taxes.

On the whole these changes were beneficial, for private privileges had
been greatly abused in Naples, and Frederick, like Philip Augustus or
the Angevin Henry II, had the instinct and ability to govern well when
he chose. Nevertheless the subjugation of ‘the Kingdom’, as Naples was
usually called in Italy, was of course received with loud outcries of
anger by Neapolitan barons and churchmen, who hastened to inform the
Holy See that their ruler loved infidels better than Christians and
kept an eastern harem at Palermo.

Honorius III, the new Pope, accepted such reports and scandals with
dismay. He had himself noted uneasily Frederick’s absorption in Italian
affairs and frequently reminded him of his crusading vow. Being gentle
and slow to commit himself to any decided step however, it was not till
the Hohenstaufen deliberately broke his promise to Innocent III, and
had his eldest son Henry crowned King of the Romans as well as King of
Naples, thus acknowledging him as his heir in both Germany and Italy,
that Honorius’s wrath flamed into a threat of excommunication. For a
time it spread no farther, since Frederick was lavish in explanations
and in promises of friendship that he had no intention of fulfilling,
while the old Pope chose to believe him rather than risk an actual
conflagration. At last, however, the patient Honorius died.

Gregory IX, the new Pope, was of the family of Innocent, and
shared to the full his views of the world-wide supremacy of the
Church. An old man of austere life and feverish energy, he regarded
Frederick as a monster of ingratitude and became almost hysterical
and quite unreasonable in his efforts to humble him. Goaded by his
constant reproaches and threats, the Emperor began to make leisurely
preparations at Brindisi for his crusade; but when he at last started,
an epidemic of fever, to which he himself fell a victim, forced him
to put back to port. Gregory, refusing to believe in this illness as
anything more than an excuse for delay, at once excommunicated him;
and then, though Frederick set sail as soon as he was well enough,
repeated the ban, giving as his reason that the Emperor had not waited
to receive his pardon for the first offence like an obedient son of the

A crusader excommunicated by the Head of Christendom first for not
fulfilling his vow and then for fulfilling it! This was a degrading
and ridiculous sight; and Frederick, now definitely hostile to Rome,
continued on his way, determined with obstinate pride that, if not for
the Catholic Faith, then for his own glory, he would carry out his
purpose. The Templars refused him support: the Christians still left
in the neighbourhood of Acre helped him half-heartedly or stood aloof,
frightened by the warnings of their priests; but Frederick achieved
more without the Pope’s aid than other crusaders had done of late
years with his blessing. By force of arms, and still more by skilful
negotiations, he obtained from the Sultan possession of Jerusalem, and
entering in triumph placed on his head the crown of the Latin kings.

His vow fulfilled, he sailed for Sicily, and the Pope, whose troops in
Frederick’s absence had been harrying ‘the Kingdom’, hastily patched
up a peace at San Germano. ‘I will remember the past no more,’ cried
Frederick, but anger burned within him at papal hostility. ‘The Emperor
has come to me with the zeal of a devoted son,’ said Gregory, but there
was no trust in his heart that corresponded to his words.

A Hohenstaufen, who had taken Jerusalem unaided, supreme in Naples,
supreme also in Germany, stretching out his imperial sceptre over
Lombardy! What Pope, who believed that the future of the Church rested
on the temporal independence of Rome, could sleep tranquilly in his bed
with such a vision?

It is not possible to describe here in any detail the renewed war
between Empire and Papacy that followed the inevitable breakdown of
the treaty of San Germano. Very bitter was the spirit in which it was
waged on both sides. Frederick, whatever his intentions, could not
forget that it was the Father of Christendom who had tried to ruin his
crusade. The remembrance did not so much shake his faith as wake in
him an exasperated sense of injustice that rendered him deaf to those
who counselled compromise. Unable to rid himself wholly of the fear of
papal censure, he yet saw clearly enough that the sin for which Popes
relentlessly pursued him was not his cruelty, nor profligacy, nor even
his toleration of Saracens, but the fact that he was King of Naples as
well as Holy Roman Emperor.

To a man of Frederick’s haughty temperament there was but one
absolution he could win for this crime, so to master Rome that he could
squeeze her judgements to his fancy like a sponge between his strong
fingers. ‘Italy is my heritage,’ he wrote to the Pope, ‘and all the
world knows it.’

In his passionate determination to obtain this heritage statesmanship
was thrown to the winds. He had planned a strong monarchy in Naples,
but in Germany he undermined the foundations of royal authority that
Barbarossa and Henry VI had begun to lay. ‘Let every Prince’, he
declared, ‘enjoy in peace, according to the improved custom of his
land, his immunities, jurisdictions, counties and hundreds, both those
which belong to him in full right, and those which have been granted
out to him in fief.’

The Italian Hohenstaufen only sought from his northern kingdom, whose
good government he thus carelessly sacrificed to feudal anarchy,
sufficient money to pay for his campaigns beyond the Alps and leisure
to pursue them. In the words of a modern historian, ‘he bartered his
German kingship for an immediate triumph over his hated foe.’

At first victory rewarded his energy and skill. His hereditary enemy,
the ‘Lombard League’, had tampered with the loyalty of his eldest
son, Henry, King of the Romans, whom he had left to rule in Germany:
but Frederick discovered the plot in time and deposed and imprisoned
the culprit. In despair at the prospect of lifelong imprisonment held
out to him, the young Henry flung himself to his death down a steep
mountain-side; and Conrad, his younger brother, a boy of eight, was
crowned in his stead.

In North Italy Frederick pursued the policy not so much of trampling
down resistance with his German levies, like his grandfather
Barbarossa, as of employing Italian nobles of the Ghibelline party,
whom he supported and financed that they might fight his battles and
make his wrath terrible in the popular hearing. Such were Eccelin de
Romano and his brother Alberigo, lords of Verona and Vicenza, whose
tyranny and cruelties seemed abnormal even in their day.

‘The Devil’s own Servant’ Eccelin is called by a contemporary, who
describes how he slaughtered in cold blood eleven thousand prisoners.

  ‘I believe, in truth, no such wicked man has been from the
  beginning of the world unto our own days: for all men trembled at
  him as a rush quivers in the water ... he who lived to-day was not
  sure of the morrow, the father would seek out and slay his son, and
  the son his father or any of his kinsfolk to please this man.’

Alberigo ‘hanged twenty-five of the greatest men of Treviso who had
in no wise offended or harmed him’; and as the prisoners struggled in
their death agonies he thrust among their feet their wives, daughters,
and sisters, whom he afterwards turned adrift half-naked to seek
protection where they might.

Revenge when this ‘Limb of Satan’ fell into the hands of his enemies
was of a brutality to match; for Alberigo and his young sons were torn
in pieces by an infuriated mob, his wife and daughters burned alive,
‘though they were noble maidens and the fairest in the world and

Passions ran too deep between Guelf and Ghibelline to distinguish
innocency, or to spare youth or sex. Cruelty, the most despicable and
infectious of vices, was the very atmosphere of the thirteenth century,
desecrating what has been described from another aspect as ‘an age of
high ideals and heroic lives’.

It is remarked with some surprise by contemporaries that Frederick II
could pardon a joke at his own expense; but on the other hand we read
of his cutting off the thumb of a notary who had misspelt his name,
and callously ordering one of his servants, by way of amusement, to
dive and dive again into the sea after a golden cup, until from sheer
exhaustion he reappeared no more.

At Cortenuova the Lombard League was decisively beaten by the imperial
forces, the _carroccio_ of Milan seized and burned. Frederick, flushed
with success, now declared that not only North but also Middle Italy
was subject to his allegiance, and replied to a new excommunication by
advancing into Romagna and besieging some of the papal towns. Gregory,
worn out by grief and fury, died as his enemy approached the gates of
Rome: and his immediate successor, unnerved by excitement, followed him
to the grave before the cardinals who had elected him could proceed to
his consecration.

Innocent IV, who now ascended the papal throne, had of old shown some
sympathy to the imperial cause; but Frederick, when he heard of his
election, is reported to have said, ‘I have lost a friend, for no Pope
can be a Ghibelline.’ With the example of Otto IV in his mind he should
have added that no Emperor could remain a Guelf.

Frederick had indeed gained an inveterate enemy, more dangerous than
Gregory IX, because more politic and discreet. From Lyons, whither
he had fled, Innocent IV maintained unflinchingly the claims he
could no longer set forth in Rome, declaring the victorious Emperor
excommunicate and deposed. ‘Has the Pope deposed me?’ asked Frederick
scornfully, when the news came. ‘Bring me my crowns that I may see what
he has taken away!’

One after another he placed on his head the seven crowns his attendants
brought him, the royal crown of Germany and imperial diadem of Rome,
the iron circlet of Lombardy, the crowns of Jerusalem, of Burgundy, of
Sardinia, and of Sicily and Naples. ‘See!’ he said, ‘Are they not all
mine still? and none shall take them from me without a struggle.’

So the hideous war between Welf and Waiblingen, between Guelf and
Ghibelline continued, and Germany and Italy were deluged with blood and
flames. ‘After the Emperor Frederick was put under the ban,’ says a
German chronicler, ‘the robbers rejoiced over the spoils. Then were the
ploughshares beaten into swords and reaping-hooks into lances. No one
went anywhere without flint and steel to set on fire whatever he could

The ebb from the high-water mark of the Emperor’s fortunes was marked
by the revolt and successful resistance of the Guelf city of Parma to
the imperial forces--a defeat Frederick might have wiped out in fresh
victory had not his own health begun to fail. In 1250 he died, still
excommunicate, snatched away to hell, according to his enemies, not
dead, according to many who from love or hate believed his personality
of more than human endurance.

Yet Frederick, whether for good or ill, had perished, and with him his
imperial ambitions. Popes might tremble at other nightmares, but the
supremacy of the Holy Roman Empire over Italy would no more haunt their
dreams for many years. Naples also, to whose conquest and government
he had devoted the best of his brain and judgement, was torn from
his heirs and presented by his papal enemy to the French House of
Anjou. Struggling against these usurpers the last of the royal line of
Hohenstaufen, Conradin, son of Conrad, a lad of fifteen, gallant and
reckless as his grandfather, was captured in battle and beheaded.

Frederick had destroyed in Germany and built on sand elsewhere; and
of all his conquests and achievements only their memory was to dazzle
after-generations. _Stupor et Gloria Mundi_ he was called by those who
knew him, and in spite of his ultimate failure and his vices he still
remains a ‘wonder of the world’, set above enemies and friends by his
personality, the glory of his courage, his audacity, and his strength
of purpose.

_Supplementary Dates. For Chronological Summary, see pp. 368-73._

  Pope Alexander III                     1159-81
  Emperor Philip II                      1197-1208
  Emperor Otto IV                        1197-1215
  Fourth Lateran Council                 1215
  The Sixth Crusade                      1228-9
  Battle of Cortenuova                   1237
  Death of Conradin                      1268



The word ‘progress’ implies to modern men and women a moving forward
towards a perfection as yet unknown, freshly imagined indeed by each
generation: to the Middle Ages it meant rather a peering back through
the mist of barbarian invasions to an idealized Christian Rome.
Inspiration lay in the past, not merely in such political conceptions
as the Holy Roman Empire, but in the domain of art and thought, where
too often tradition laid her choking grip upon originality struggling
for expression.

The painting of the early Middle Ages was stereotyped in the stiff
though beautiful models of Byzantium, that ‘Fathers of the Church’
had insisted, by means of decrees passed at Church councils, should
be considered as fitting representations of Christian subjects for
all time. Less impressive but more lifelike were the illuminations of
missals and holy books, that, in illustrating the Gospels or lives of
the Saints, reproduced the artist’s own surroundings--the noble he
could see from the window of his cell ride by with hawk or hounds, the
labourer sowing or delving, the merchant with his money-bags, the man
of fashion trailing his furred gown.

Vignettes such as these, with their neat craftsmanship of line and
colour, their almost photographic love of detail, lend a reality to
our glimpses of life in Europe from the twelfth to the fourteenth
centuries; yet great as is the debt we owe them, the real art of the
Middle Ages was not consummated with the brush but with the builder’s
tools and sculptor’s chisel.

[Sidenote: Mediaeval Architecture]

Like the painter’s, the architect’s impulse was at first almost
entirely religious, though guild-halls and universities followed on
the erection of churches and monasteries. Nourished on St. Augustine’s
belief in this life as a mere transitory journey towards the eternal
‘City of God’, mediaeval men and women saw this pilgrimage encompassed
with a vast army of devils and saints, ranged in constant battle for
the human soul. Only through faith and the kindly assistance of the
Saints could man hope to beat off the legions of hell which hung like a
pack of wolves about his footsteps, and nowhere with greater efficacy
than in the sanctuary from which human prayer arose daily to God’s

Churches and chapels in modern times have become the property of a
section of the public--that is, of those who think or believe in a
certain way; and sometimes through poverty of purse or spirit, through
bad workmanship or material, the architecture that results is shoddy
or insignificant. In the Middle Ages his parish church was the most
certain fact in every Christian’s existence, from the day he was
carried to the font for baptism until his last journey to rest beneath
its shadow. Here he would make his confessions, his vows of repentance
and amendment, and offer his worship and thanksgiving: here he would
often find a fortified refuge from violence in the street outside, a
school, a granary, a parish council-chamber.

What more natural than that mediaeval artists, their souls attune with
the hopes and fears of their age, should realize their genius best in
constructing and ornamenting buildings that were to all citizens alike
the symbol of their belief? ‘Let us build,’ said the people of Siena in
the thirteenth century, ‘such a church to the glory of God that all men
shall wonder!’

The cathedral, when completed, was but a third in size and grandeur
of the original design, for the Black Death fell upon Siena and
carried off her builders in the midst of their work; yet it remains
magnificently arresting to modern eyes, as though the faith of those
who planned and fashioned its slabs of black and white marble for
the love of God and their city had breathed into their workmanship
something of the mediaeval soul.

The same is true of ‘Nôtre Dame de la Victoire’ in Paris, founded by
Philip Augustus, of which Victor Hugo says ‘each face, each stone, is
a page of history’. It is true of nearly all mediaeval churches that
have outlived the ravages of war and fire, memorials of an age, that if
it lagged behind our own in ultimate achievement, was pre-eminent in
one art at least--ecclesiastical architecture.

Where the architect stopped the mediaeval sculptor took up his work,
at first with simple severity but later in a riot of imagination that
peopled façades, vaulted roofs, and capitals of columns with the
angels, demons, and hybrid monsters that haunted the fancy of the
day. The flying buttress, the invention of which made possible lofty
clerestories with vast expanses of window, brought to perfection
another art, the painting of glass. Here also the mediaeval artist
excelled, and the crucibles in which he mixed the colours that hold
us wrapt before the windows of Leon, Albi, and Chartres, still keep
unsolved the secret of their transparent delicacy and depth.

[Sidenote: Learning and Church Organization]

In the architecture, the sculpture, and in the stained glass of the
Middle Ages we see original genius at work, but in learning and culture
Europe was slower to throw off the giant influence of Rome. Even
under the crushing inroads of barbarian ignorance Italy had managed
to keep alive the study of classical authors and of Roman law. Latin
remained the language of the educated man or woman, the language in
which the services of the Church were recited, sermons were preached,
correspondence carried on, business transacted, and students in
universities and schools addressed by their professors.

The advantages of a common tongue can be imagined: the comparative
ease with which a pope or king could keep in touch with bishops or
subjects of a different race; the accessibility of the best books to
students of all nations, since scarcely a mediaeval author of repute
would condescend to employ his own tongue: above all perhaps the ease
with which an ambassador, a merchant, or a pilgrim could make himself
understood on a journey across Europe, instead of torturing his brain
with struggles after the right word in first one foreign dialect and
then another.

This classical form, so rigidly withholding knowledge from the grasp
of the ignorant, had also its disadvantage; for many a mediaeval
pen, that could have flown across the vellum in joyful intimacy in
its owner’s tongue, stumbled clumsily amidst Latin constructions,
leaving in the end not a spontaneous record of current events, but a
‘dry-as-dust’ catalogue, in bad imitation of some Latin stylist. The
modern world is more grateful to mediaeval culture for such lapses as
Dante’s _Divina Commedia_ than for all the heavy Latin tomes, whose
authors hoped for laurelled immortality.

For those in England and France who could not easily master Latin or
found its stately periods too cumbrous for ordinary conversation,
French, descended from the spoken Latin of the Roman soldier or
merchant in Gaul, was in the Middle Ages, as to-day, the language of
polite society. It possessed two distinct dialects, the ‘langue d’œil’
and the ‘langue d’oc’, so called because the northern Frenchman,
including the Norman, was supposed to pronounce _oui_ as _œil_, while
his southern fellow countryman pronounced it as _oc_.

England, where, ever since the Conquest of William I, French had been
the natural tongue of a semi-foreign court, owed an enormous literary
impulse to the ‘langue d’œil’ during the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries; while the ‘langue d’oc’ that gave its name to a district in
the south of France shared its poetry and romance between Provençals
and Catalans. The descendants of the former are to-day French, of the
latter Spanish: but in the eleventh century they were fellow subjects
of the Counts of Toulouse, who ruled over a district stretching from
the source of the Rhone to the Mediterranean, from the Italian Alps to
the Ebro.

[Sidenote: Mediaeval Culture]

In this semi-independent kingdom there developed a civilization and
culture of hot-house growth, precocious in its appreciation of the
less violent pleasures of life, such as love, art, music, literature,
but often corrupt in their enjoyment. The gay court of Toulouse paid
no heed to St. Augustine’s hell, whose fears haunted the rest of
Europe in its more thoughtful moments. Joyous and inconsequent, it
lived for the passing hour, and out of its atmosphere of dalliance
and culture was born a race of poet-singers. These troubadours
(_trouvers_ = discoverers) sang of love, whose silken fetters could
hold in thrall knights and fair ladies; and their golden lyrics, now
plaintive, now gay, were carried to the crowded cities of Italy and
Spain, or found schools of imitators elsewhere, as in Germany amongst
her thirteenth-century _minnesingers_ (love-singers). In the north of
France and in England appeared minstrels also, but their themes were
less of love than of battle; and audiences revelled by castle and
camp-fire in the ‘gestes’ or ‘deeds’ of Charlemagne and his Paladins,
the chivalry of Arthur and his Knights, or in stirring Border ballads
such as Chevy Chase.

[Sidenote: Mediaeval Universities]

The market-place, the camp, and the baronial hall, where were sung or
recited these often imaginary stories of the past, were the schools of
the many unlettered; just as the conversation of Arabs and Jews around
the desert fires had stimulated the imagination of the young Mahomet;
but for the few who could afford a sounder education there were the
universities--Paris, Bologna, Oxford, to name but three of the most

The word _universitas_ implied in the Middle Ages a union of men;
such a corporation as the ‘guilds’ formed by fishmongers and drapers
to protect their trade interests; and the universities had indeed
originated for a similar purpose. Cities to-day that have universities
in their midst are proud of the fact, and welcome new students; but in
early mediaeval times an influx of young men of all ages from every
part of Europe, many of them wild and unruly, some so poor that they
must beg or steal their daily bread, was at first sight a very doubtful
blessing. Street fights between nationalities who hated one another on
principle, or between bands of students and citizens, were a common
occurrence in the towns that learning honoured with her presence, and
had their usual accompaniment of broken heads, fires, and looting. But
for the _universitas_ formed by masters and students to control and
protect their members, these centres of education would probably have
been stamped out by indignant tradesmen: as it was they had to fight
for their existence.

Municipalities looked with no lenient eye upon a corporation that
seemed to them a ‘state within a state’, threatening their own right
to govern all within the city. It was not until after many generations
that they understood the meaning of the word co-operation, that is,
the possibility of assisting instead of hindering the work of the
_universitas_. Sometimes a king like Philip Augustus insisted on
toleration by granting to his students the ‘privilege of clergy’, but
as the University grew it became able to enforce its own lessons. In
the thirteenth century the Masters of Paris closed their lecture-halls
and led away their flock, in protest for what they considered unfair
treatment by the city authorities during a riot, and their absence
taught Parisians that, in spite of head-breakings, the students were an
asset, not a loss, to municipal life. Under the protection therefore of
a papal ‘bull’, they returned a few weeks later in triumph to the Latin

It was only by degrees that colleges where the students could live
were erected, or that anything resembling the elaborate organization
of a modern university was evolved. Students lodged where they could,
and ‘masters’ lived on the goodwill of those who paid their fees, and
starved if their popularity waned and with it their audience. The life
of both teacher and pupil was vague and hazardous, with a background
of poverty and crime lurking at the street corners to ruin the unwary
or foolish. Nor was the period of study a mere ‘passing sojourn’ like
some modern ‘terms’: the Bachelor of Arts at Oxford or Paris must be
a student of five years’ standing, the Master of Arts calculated on
devoting three years more to gaining his final degree, a Doctor of
Theology would be faced with eight years’ hard work at least. It might
almost be said that higher education under these circumstances became a

To Bologna, the greatest of Italian universities, went those who
wished to study Roman law at the fountain-head. This does not mean to
stir up the legal dust of a dead empire out of a student’s curiosity,
but to master a living system of law that barbarian invaders had
gradually grafted on to their own national codes. In the eleventh
century the laws of Justinian[21] were as much or more revered than
in his own day. We have seen that Frederick Barbarossa set the lawyers
of Bologna to work to justify from old legal documents the claims he
wished to establish over Lombardy; and when they had succeeded to his
satisfaction he rewarded them with gifts and knighthood, showing what
value he put on their achievement. This is a very good example of the
respect felt by mediaeval minds for the laws and title-deeds of an
earlier age, even though the tyranny that resulted led the ‘Lombard
League’ to dispute such claims.

[Sidenote: Mediaeval Papal Government]

Still more closely allied than the civil codes of Europe to the old
Roman legal texts was the ‘Canon’ law of the Church that had been
directly based upon classic models; and with the rise of Hildebrand’s
world-wide ambitions its decisions assumed a growing importance and
demanded an enormous army of trained lawyers to interpret and arrange
them. For youths of a practical and ambitious turn of mind here was a
course of study leading to a profession profitable in all ages; and
a text-book was provided for such budding lawyers in the _decretum_
of Gratian, a monk who in the twelfth century compiled a full and
authoritative text of Canon law.

The existence of the Ecclesiastical Courts, in which Canon law was
administered, we have already mentioned in discussing the quarrel of
Henry II of England and Thomas Becket.[22] Founded originally to deal
with purely ecclesiastical cases and officials, they tended in time to
draw within their competence any one over whom the Church could claim
protection and any causes that affected the rites of the Catholic
Church. It was a wide net with a very small mesh, as the Angevin Henry
II and other lay rulers of Europe found. The protection that spread
its wings over priests and clerks stretched also to crusaders, widows,
and orphans: the jurisdiction of the Church Courts claimed not merely
moral questions such as heresy, sacrilege, and perjury, but all matters
connected with probate of wills, marriage and divorce, and even libel.

Rome became a hive of ecclesiastical lawyers, with the Pope, like the
Roman emperors of old, the supreme law-giver and final court of appeal
for all Church Courts of Europe. His rule was absolute, at least in
theory, for by his power of ‘dispensation’ he could set aside, if he
considered advisable, the very Canon law his officials administered. He
could also summon to his _curia_, or papal court, any case on which he
wished to pronounce judgement, at whatever stage in its litigation in
an inferior ecclesiastical court.

Under the Pope in an ordered hierarchy, corresponding to the feudal
arrangement of lay society, came the metropolitans, who received from
his hand or from those of his legates the narrow woollen scarf, or
_pallium_, that was the symbol of their authority. Next in order came
the diocesan bishops with their ‘officials’, the archdeacons and rural
deans, each with their own court and measure of jurisdiction.

The Pope’s will went forth to Christendom in the form of letters called
‘bulls’, from the _bulla_ or heavy seal that was attached to them.
Against those who paid no heed to their contents he could hurl either
the weapon of excommunication--that is, of personal outlawry from the
Church--or else, if the offender were a king or a city, the still more
blasting ‘interdict’ that fell on ruler and ruled alike. The land that
groaned under an interdict was bereft of all spiritual comfort: no
priest might say public Mass, baptize a new-born child, perform the
marriage service, console the dying with ‘supreme unction’, or bury the
dead. The very church bells would ring no more.

It was under this pressure of spiritual starvation, when the Saints
seemed to have withdrawn their sheltering arms and the demons to have
gathered joyfully to a harvest of lost souls, that John of England
was brought by the curses of his people to turn to Rome in repentance
and submission. Yet, as in the case of most weapons, familiarity
bred contempt, and too frequent use of powers of ‘interdict’ and
‘excommunication’ was to blunt their efficacy--a Frederick II, the
oft-excommunicated, proved able to conquer Jerusalem and dominate Italy
even under the papal ban.

The Church, in her claims to world empire, demanded in truth an
obedience it was beyond her ability to enforce. She also laid herself
open to temptations to which from the nature of her temporal
ambitions she must inevitably succumb. No such elaborate and expensive
administration as emanated from her _curia_ could continue without
an inexhaustible flow of money into her treasury. Lawyers, priests,
legates, cardinals, the Pope himself, had each to be maintained in a
state befitting their office in the eyes of a world, as ready in the
thirteenth century as in the twentieth to judge by appearances and
offer its homage accordingly.

In addition to the ordinary expenses of a ruler, whose court was a
centre of religious and intellectual life for Europe, there was the
constant burden of war, first with neighbouring Italian rulers and
then with the Empire. Innocent IV triumphed over the Hohenstaufen; but
largely by dipping his hands into English money-bags, to such an extent
indeed during the reign of John’s son, Henry III, that England gained
the scoffing name of the ‘milch cow of the Papacy’.

At first, when the ecclesiastical courts had offered to criminals a
justice at once more humane and comprehensive than the rough-and-ready
tyranny of a king or feudal lord, the upholders of the rights of Canon
law were regarded as popular heroes. Later, however, with the growth of
national feeling and the development and better administration of the
civil codes, men and women began to falter in their allegiance. Canon
law was found to be both expensive and tardy, especially in the case of
‘appeals’, that is, of cases, called from some inferior court to Rome.
The key also to the judgements given at Rome was often too obviously
gold and of heavy weight.

[Sidenote: Papal Exactions]

Nor was justice alone to be bought or sold. A large part of the money
that filled the Roman treasury was derived from benefices and livings
in different countries of Europe that had by one means or another
accumulated in papal hands. The constant pressure of the wars with
emperors and Italian Ghibellines made it necessary for the Popes
to administer this patronage as profitably as possible; and so the
spiritual needs of dioceses and parishes became sacrificed to the
military calls on the Roman treasury.

Sometimes it was not a living itself for which a clerical candidate
paid heavily, but merely the promise of ‘preferment’ to the next
vacancy; or he would pledge himself in the case of nomination to send
his ‘firstfruits’, that is, his first year’s revenue, to Rome. Those
who could afford the requisite sum might be natives of the country in
which the vacant bishopric or living occurred; often they were not,
and the successful nominee, instead of going in person to exercise his
duties, would merely send an agent to collect his dues. These dues came
from many different sources, but in the case of livings principally
from the ‘tithe’, a tax for the maintenance of the Church, supposed to
represent one-tenth of every man’s income.

People usually grumble when they are continually asked for money, and
mediaeval men and women were no exception to this rule. Thus, to take
the case of England, while the wars between Emperor and Pope left
her comparatively indifferent as to the issues involved, the growing
exactions of the Roman _curia_ that touched her pockets awoke a
smouldering resentment that every now and then flared into hostility.

  ‘In these times’, wrote the chronicler, Matthew Paris, ‘the small
  fire of faith began to grow exceeding chill, so that it was well
  nigh reduced to ashes ... for now was simony practised without
  shame.... Every day illiterate persons of the lowest class,
  armed with bulls from Rome, feared not to plunder the revenues
  which our pious forefathers had assigned for the maintenance of
  the Religious, the support of the poor, and the sustaining of

At Oxford in the reign of Henry III (1216-72), the papal legate was
forced to fly from the town by indignant ‘clerks’ of the university, or
undergraduates as we should call them to-day. ‘Where is that usurer,
that simoniac, that plunderer of revenues, that thirster for money?’
they cried, as they hunted him and his retinue through the streets,
‘it is he who perverts the King and subverts the kingdom to enrich
foreigners with our spoils.’

At Lincoln Bishop Grosstete indignantly refused to invest Innocent
IV’s nephew, a boy of twelve, with the next vacant prebendary of his
cathedral. Other papal relatives were absorbing livings and bishoprics
elsewhere in Europe, for under Innocent IV began the open practice of
‘nepotism’, that is, of Popes using their revenues and their office in
order to provide for their nephews and other members of their families.

‘He laid aside all shame,’ says Matthew Paris of this Pope, ‘he
extorted larger sums of money than any before him.’ The ‘sums of money’
enabled Rome to cast down her imperial foe, but the extortion was a
dangerous expedient. Throughout the early Middle Ages the Pope had
been accepted by Western Christendom as speaking for the Church with
the voice of Christ’s authority. In his disputes with kings the latter
could never be sure of the loyalty of their people, should they call on
them to take up arms against the ‘Holy Father’.

With the growth of nations and of Rome as a temporal power a gradual
change came over the European outlook; subjects were more inclined
to obey rulers whom they knew than a distant potentate whom they did
not; they were also less ready to accept papal interference without
criticism. Thus a distinction was for the first time drawn between the
Pope and the Church.

When King Hako of Norway was offered the imperial crown on the
deposition of Frederick II by Innocent IV, he refused, saying, ‘I will
gladly fight the enemies of the Church, but I will not fight against
the foes of the Pope.’ His words were significant of a new spirit.
In the feuds of Guelfs and Ghibellines that racked the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries were laid the foundations of a movement to control
the Popes by Universal Councils in the fifteenth, and of that still
more drastic opposition to his powers in the sixteenth that we call the



A modern student, when he passes from school to a university, soon
finds that he is standing at a cross-roads: he cannot hope, like a
philosopher of the sixteenth century, to ‘take all knowledge for
his province’, but must choose which of the many signposts he will
follow--law, classics, science, economics, chemistry, medicine, to
name but a few of the more important. Mediaeval minds would have
been sorely puzzled by some of these avenues of knowledge, while the
rest they would denounce as mere sidetracks, leading by a devious
route to the main high road of theology. Science, for instance, the
patient searching after truth by building up knowledge from facts, and
accepting nothing as a fact that had not been verified by proof, was a
closed book in the thirteenth century.

Roger Bacon, an English friar, one of the first to attempt scientific
experiments, was regarded with such suspicion on account of his
researches and his sarcastic comments on the views of his day that he
was believed to be in league with the devil; and even the favour of a
pope more enlightened than most of his contemporaries could not save
him in later years from imprisonment as a suspected magician.

Men and women hate to change the ideas in which they have been brought
up; and in the thirteenth century they readily accepted as facts
such fabulous stories told by early Christian writers as that of the
phoenix who at five hundred years old casts herself into a sacred fire,
emerging renewed in health and vigour from her own ashes, or of the
pelican killing her young at birth and reviving them in three days,
or of the unicorn resisting all the wiles of the hunter but captured
easily by a pure maiden. The charm of such natural history lay to
mediaeval minds not in its legendary quaintness but in the use to
which it could be turned in pointing a moral or adorning the doctrines
of theology.

Theology was the chief course of study at Paris, just as Roman law
reigned at Bologna. It comprised a thorough mastery of the Scriptures
as expounded by ‘Fathers of the Church’, and also of what was then
known through Latin and Arabic translations of the works of the Greek
philosopher Aristotle. Although he had been a pagan, Aristotle was
almost as much revered by many mediaeval theologians as St. Jerome or
St. Augustine, and it was their life-work to try and reconcile his
views with those of Catholic Christianity.

[Sidenote: Scholasticism]

The philosophy that resulted from the study of these very different
authorities is called ‘scholasticism’, and those who gave patient years
of thought to the arguments that built up and maintained its theories
the ‘schoolmen’.

The first of the great Paris theologians was Peter Abelard, a
Breton--handsome, self-confident, ready of tongue and brain. Having
studied ‘dialectics’, that is, the system of reasoning by which the
mediaeval mind constructed its philosophy, he aroused the disgust of
his masters by drawing away their pupils, through his eloquence and
originality, as soon as he understood the subject-matter sufficiently
to lecture on his own account.

In Paris so many young men of his day crowded round his desk that
Abelard has been sometimes called the founder of the university. This
is not true, but his popularity may be said to have decided that Paris
rather than any other town should become the intellectual centre of
France. Greedily his audience listened while he endeavoured to prove by
human reason beliefs that the Church taught as a matter of faith; and,
though he had set out with the intention of defending her, it was with
the Church that he soon came into conflict.

One of his books, called _Yes and No_, contained a brief summary of
the views of early Christian Fathers on various theological questions.
Drawn into such close proximity some of these views were found to
conflict, and the Breton lecturer became an object of suspicion in
ecclesiastical quarters, especially to St. Bernard of Clairvaux,
who believed that human reason was given to man merely that he might
accept the teaching of the Church, not to raise arguments or criticisms
concerning it.

  ‘Peter Abelard’, he wrote to the Pope, ‘is trying to make void the
  merit of Christian faith when he deems himself able by human reason
  to comprehend God altogether ... the man is great in his own eyes
  ... this scrutinizer of Majesty and fabricator of heresies.’

The minds of the two men were indeed utterly opposed--types of
conflicting human thought in all ages. St. Bernard, in spite of his
frank denunciations of the sins of the Church, was docile to the voice
of her authority, and hated and feared the pride of the human intellect
as the deadliest of all sins. Abelard, by nature inquisitive and
sceptical, regarded his deft brain as a surgeon’s knife, given him to
cut away diseased or worn-out tissues from the thought of his day in
order to leave it healthier and purer.

As antagonists they were no match, for St. Bernard was infinitely the
greater man, without any of the other’s petty vanity and worldliness
to confuse the issue for which they struggled: he had behind him also
the sympathy of mediaeval minds not as yet awakened to any spirit of
inquiry, and so the Breton was driven into the retirement of a monk’s
cell and his condemned works publicly burned.

One of his pupils, Peter Lombard, adopted his master’s methods without
arousing the anger of the orthodox by any daring feats of controversy,
and produced a _Book of Sentences_ (_sententiae_ = opinions) that
became the text-book for scholasticism, just as the _Decretum_ was the
authority for students of Roman law. Without being a work of genius the
_Sentences_ cleared a pathway through the jungle of mediaeval thought
for more original minds, while the discovery in the latter half of
the twelfth century of several hitherto unknown works of Aristotle
gave added zest to the researches of the ‘Schoolmen’. Greatest of all
these ‘Schoolmen’ was Thomas Aquinas, ‘the Angelic Doctor’, as he has
sometimes been called.

Aquinas was a Neapolitan of noble family, who ran away from home as a
boy to join the Dominicans, an Order of wandering preachers of whose
foundation we shall shortly speak. Thomas was recaptured and brought
home by his elder brother, a noble at the court of Frederick II; but
neither threats nor imprisonment could persuade the young novice to
give up the life he had chosen. After a year he broke the bars of his
window, escaped from Naples, and went to Cologne and Paris, where he
studied theology, emerging from this education the greatest lecturer
and teacher of his day. In his _Summa Theologiae_, his best-known book,
he set forth his belief in man’s highest good as the chief thought
of God, using both the commentaries of the Church Fathers and the
works of Aristotle as quarries to provide the material for fashioning
his arguments. Like Abelard, he believed in the voice of reason, but
without any of the Breton’s probing scepticism. Human reason bridled by
divine grace was the guide he sought to lead his pen through the maze
of theology; and so clear and judicial were his methods, so brilliant
the intellect that shone through his writings, that Aquinas became for
later generations an authority almost equal to St. Augustine.

[Sidenote: Mediaeval Faith]

The intense preoccupation of mediaeval minds with theology and the
importance attached to ‘right belief’ are the most striking mental
characteristics of the period with which we are dealing. To-day we are
inclined to judge a man by his actions rather than by his beliefs, to
sum up a character as good or bad because its owner is generous or
selfish, kind or cruel, brave or cowardly. In the twelfth or thirteenth
centuries this would have seemed a wholly false standard. The ideal
of conduct, for one thing, maintained by monks like St. Bernard of
Clairvaux was so exalted that, to the ordinary men and women in an age
of cruelty and fierce passions, a good life seemed impossible save
for Saints. The sins and failings of the rest of the world received a
very easy pardon except from ascetics; and it was generally felt that
God in His mercy, through the intercession of the kindly Saints, would
be compassionate to human weakness so long as the sinner repented,
confessed, and clung to a belief in the teaching of the Church. This
teaching, or ‘Faith’, declared to have been given by Christ to His
Apostles, set forth in the writings of the Christian Fathers, gathered
together in the Creeds and Sacraments defined by Church Councils,
preached and expounded by the clergy and theologians, defended by the
Pope, was the torch that could alone guide man’s wavering footsteps to
the ‘City of God’.

  ‘Do you know what I shall gain,’ asked a French Count of the
  thirteenth century, ‘in that during this mortal life I have
  believed as Holy Church teaches? I shall have a crown in the
  Heavens above the angels, for the angels cannot but believe
  inasmuch as they see God face to face.’

Heresy--the refusal to accept the teaching of the Church--was the one
unpardonable sin, a moral leprosy worse in mediaeval eyes than any
human disease because it affected the soul, not the body, and the life
of the soul was everlasting. The heretic must be suppressed, converted
if possible, but if not, burned and forgotten like a diseased rag,
lest his wrong beliefs should infect others and so lose their souls
also eternally. To-day we know that neither suppression nor burnings
can ultimately extinguish that independence of thought and spirit of
inquiry that are as much the motive power of some human natures as the
acceptance of authority is of others. Tolerance, and how far it can be
extended to actions as well as beliefs, is one of the problems that
the world is still studying. The towns and provinces, where the first
battles were fought, are sown with the blood and ashes of those who
neither sought nor offered the way of compromise as a solution.

Another of Abelard’s pupils, besides the orthodox Peter Lombard, was an
Italian, Arnold of Brescia--in many ways a man of like intellect with
his master, self-centred, restless, and ambitious. When he returned
home from the University he at once took a violent part in the life of
the Brescian commune, declaring publicly that the Church should return
to the days of ‘apostolic poverty’, and urging the citizens to cast off
the yoke of their bishop. Exiled from Italy by the anger of the Pope
and clergy at his views he went again to Paris, where he taught in the
University until by the King’s command he was driven away. He next
found a refuge in Germany under the protection of a papal legate, who
had known and admired him in earlier days; but this news aroused the
furious anger of St. Bernard.

  ‘Arnold of Brescia,’ he wrote to the legate, ‘whose speech is honey
  ... whose doctrine poison, the man whom Brescia has vomited forth,
  whom Rome abhors, whom France drives into exile, whom Germany
  curses, whom Italy refuses to receive, obtains thy support. To be
  his friend is to be the foe of the Pope and God.’

The legate contrived by mediation to reconcile the heretic temporarily
with the Church; but Arnold was by nature a firebrand, and, having
settled in Rome, soon became leader in one of the many plots to make
that city a ‘Free Town’, owing allegiance only to the Emperor. Largely
through his efforts the Pope was compelled to go into exile; but later
the Romans, under the fear of an interdict that would deprive them of
the visits of pilgrims out of whom they usually made their living,
deserted him; and the republican leader was forced to fly. Captured
amongst the Italian hills, he was taken to Rome and burned, his ashes
being thrown into the Tiber lest they should be claimed as relics by
those of the populace who still loved him. His judges need not have
taken this precaution, for neither Arnold’s religious nor political
views could claim any large measure of public approval in his own day.
Elsewhere, indeed, heresy and rebellion were seething, but it was not
till the beginning of the thirteenth century that the outbreak became a
vital problem for the Papacy.

The widest area of heresy was in the provinces of Languedoc and
Provence, to whose precocious mental development we have already
referred.[23] The Counts of Toulouse no longer ruled in the thirteenth
century over any of modern Spain, but north of the Pyrenees they
were tenants-in-chief to the French king for one of the most fertile
provinces of southern France, while as Marquesses of Provence they were
vassals of the Emperor for the country beyond the Rhone.

Semi-independent of the control of either of these overlords, Count
Raymond VI presided over a court famed for its luxury and gaiety
of heart, its light morals, and unorthodox religious views. When
he received complaints from Rome that his people were deriding the
Catholic Faith and stoning his bishops and priests, he scarcely
pretended regret, for his sceptical nature was quite unshocked by
heresy, and both he and his nobles fully approved of popular insistence
on ‘apostolic poverty’, a doctrine that enabled them to appropriate
ecclesiastical lands and revenues for their own purposes.

[Sidenote: Heresy in Languedoc]

The heretical sects in Languedoc were many: perhaps the most important
those of the Albigenses and Waldensians. The former practically denied
Christianity, maintaining that good and evil were co-equal powers, and
that Christ’s death was of no avail to save mankind. The Waldensians,
or ‘Poor men of Lyons’, on the other hand, had at first tried to find
acceptance for their beliefs within the Church. Peter Waldo, their
founder, a rich merchant of Lyons, had translated some of the Gospels
from Latin into the language of the countryside, and, having given
away all his goods, he travelled from village to village, preaching,
and trying with his followers to imitate the lives of the Apostles in
simplicity and poverty.

In spite of condemnation from the Pope, who was suspicious of their
teaching, the Waldensians increased in number. They declared that the
authority of the Bible was superior to that of the Church, appointed
ministers of their own, and denied many of the principal articles of
Faith that the Church insisted were necessary to salvation.

The mediaeval Church taught that only through belief in these articles
of Faith, that is, in the Creeds and Sacraments (_sacramentum_ =
something sacred), as administered by the clergy, could man hope to be
saved. The most important of the Sacraments, of which there were seven,
was the miracle of the Mass, sometimes called ‘transubstantiation’. Its
origin was the Last Supper, when Christ before His crucifixion gave
His disciples bread and wine, saying ‘Take, eat, this is my body....’
‘Take, drink, this is my blood which was shed for you.’ The mediaeval
Church declared that every time at the service of Mass the priest
offered up ‘the Host’, or consecrated bread, Christ was sacrificed anew
for the sins of the world, and that the bread became in truth converted
into the substance of His body.

The Waldensians, and many sects that later broke away from the tenets
of the mediaeval Church, denied this miracle and also the sacred
character of the priests who could perform it. According to the Church,
her clergy at ordination received through the laying on of the bishop’s
hands some of the mysterious power that Christ had given to St. Peter,
conferring on them the power also to forgive sins. No matter if the
priest became idle or vicious, he still by virtue of his ordination
retained his sacred character, and to lay hands upon him was to incur
the wrath of God.

Even in the twelfth century, when St. Bernard travelled in Languedoc,
he had been horrified to find ‘the sacraments no longer sacred and
priests without respect’. His attempts at remonstrance were met
with stones and threats, while the establishment of an ‘episcopal
inquisition’ to inquire into and stamp out this hostility only
increased Provençal bitterness and determination.

‘I would rather be a Jew,’ was an expression of disdain in the Middle
Ages; but in Toulouse the people said, ‘I had rather be a priest,’ and
the clergy who walked abroad were forced to conceal their tonsures for
fear of assault.

‘Heresy can only be destroyed by solid instruction’ was Innocent III’s
first verdict. ‘It is by preaching the truth that we sap foundations
of error.’ He therefore sent some Cistercians to hold a mission in
Languedoc, and in their company travelled a young Spaniard, Dominic
de Guzman, burning to win souls for the Faith or suffer martyrdom.
The Cistercians rode on horses with a large train of servants and
with wagons drawn by oxen to carry their clothes and their food. This
display aroused the scornful mirth of the Albigenses and Waldensians.
‘See,’ they cried, ‘the wealthy missionaries of a God who was humble
and despised, loaded with honours!’

Everywhere were the same ridicule and contempt, and it was in this
moment of failure that Dominic the Spaniard interposed, speaking
earnestly to those who were with him of the contrast between the
heretic ministers in their lives of poverty and self-denial with
the luxury and worldliness of the local clergy, and even with the
ostentatious parade of his fellow preachers. Because he had long
practised austerities himself, wearing a hair shirt, fasting often,
and denying himself every pleasure, the young Spaniard received a
respectful hearing, and so fired the Cistercians with his enthusiasm
that they sent away their horses and baggage-wagons, and set out on
foot through the country to try and win the populace by different
methods. With them went Dominic, barefoot, exulting in this opportunity
of bearing witness in the face of danger to the Faith he held so

The attitude of the men and women of Languedoc towards the papal
mission was no longer derisive but it remained hostile, for they
also held their Faith sacred, while all the racial prejudice of the
countryside was thrown into the balance of opposition to Rome. Thus
converts were few, and angry gatherings at which stones were thrown at
the strangers many; and so matters drifted on and the mission grew more
and more discouraged.

In 1208 occurred a violent crisis, for the papal legate, having
excommunicated Count Raymond of Toulouse for appropriating certain
Church lands and refusing to restore them, was murdered, and the
Count himself implicated in the crime, seeing that, as in the case of
Henry II and Becket, it had been his angry curses that had prompted
some knights to do the deed. Innocent III at once declared the Count
deposed, and preached a crusade against him and his subjects as

Twenty years of bloodshed and cruelty followed; for under the command
of the French Count Simon de Montfort, an utterly unscrupulous and
brutal general, the orthodox legions of northern France gathered at
the papal summons to stamp out the independence of the south that they
had always hated as a rival. Languedoc, her nobles and people united,
fought hard for her religious and political freedom; but the struggle
was uneven, and she was finally forced into submission. Thirty
thousand of her sons and daughters had perished, and with them the
civilization and culture that had made the name of Provence glorious in
mediaeval Europe.

[Sidenote: The Albigensian Crusade]

The name of Dominic the Spaniard does not appear in the bloodstained
annals of the Albigensian Crusade. He had advocated very different
measures; and in 1216, pursuing his ideal, received from the Pope leave
to form an Order of ‘Preaching Brothers’, modelled on the Monastic
Orders, except that the ‘Friars’ (_Fratres_ = brothers), as these monks
were called, were commanded not to live permanently in communities
but to spend their lives travelling about from village to village,
preaching as they went. They were to beg their daily bread; and the
very Order itself was forbidden to acquire wealth, their founder hoping
by this stringent rule to prevent the worldliness that had corrupted
the other religious communities.

Dominic, or St. Dominic, for the enthusiasm of the mediaeval Church
soon canonized him, was a son of his age in his intense devotion to
the Faith; but his spiritual outlook was beyond the comprehension of
all save a few. In Innocent III may be found a more typical figure of
the early thirteenth century; and to Innocent’s standard, and not to
that of their founder, the followers of St. Dominic for the most part

Pope Innocent had advocated the driving out of error by right
teaching; but his failure by this method woke in him an exasperation
that made the obstinate heresy of Languedoc seem a moral and social
plague to be suppressed ruthlessly. Thorough in this undertaking as
in all to which he set his mind and hand, he added to the slaughter
of Simon de Montfort’s Crusade the terrible and efficient machinery
of the Inquisition, and this during the pontificate of Gregory IX was
transferred from the jurisdiction of local bishops to that of the Papal
See. The Inquisitors, empowered to discover heresy and convert the
heretic by torture and fire, were mainly Dominicans, selected for this
task on account of their theological training and the very devotion to
the Faith on which their founder had laid such stress.

The most important political fruits of the Albigensian Crusade were
gathered by Philip II of France, who had himself stood aloof from the
struggle, although permitting and encouraging his nobles to take the
Cross. By the deposition and fall of his powerful tenant-in-chief, the
Count of Toulouse, the centre and south of France, hitherto so proudly
independent, lost a formidable ally; and large tracts of Poitou and
Aquitaine fell under royal influence and were incorporated amongst the
crown lands.

This process continued under Philip’s son, Louis VIII, who himself
joined in the Crusade and marched with an army down the valley of the
Rhone, capturing Avignon, and arriving almost at the gates of Toulouse.
His sudden illness and death brought the campaign to an end; but his
widow, Blanche of Castile, acting as regent for her son the boy King
Louis IX, concluded a treaty with the new Count of Toulouse, Raymond
VII, that left that noble a chastened and submissive vassal of both
king and pope. Amongst other things he was forced to acknowledge one of
the French king’s younger brothers as his successor in the County of

[Sidenote: St. Francis of Assisi]

It is pleasant to turn from the Albigensian Crusade, one of the
blackest pictures of the Middle Ages, to its best and brightest, the
story of St. Francis of Assisi.

In 1182 there was born at Assisi, a little Umbrian village, a boy
whom his mother named John, but whom his father, a rich merchant,
who had lately travelled in France, nicknamed ‘Francis’, or ‘the
Frenchman’. St. Dominic had developed his fiery faith in an austere and
intensely religious home; but Francis shared the light-hearted sociable
intercourse of an Italian town, and in boyhood was distinguished only
from his fellows by his generosity, innate purity, and irrepressible
joy in life.

When he grew up, Francis went to fight with the forces of Assisi
against the neighbouring city of Perugia, and was taken prisoner with
some others of his fellow townsmen and thrown into a dungeon. The
grumbling and bitterness of the majority during that twelve months of
captivity were very natural; but Francis, unlike the rest, met the
general discomfort with serene good-humour, even merriment, so that
not for the last time in his career he was denounced as crazy.

On his release and return home, the merchant Bernadone wished his son
to cut some figure in the world; and when the young man dreamed of
shining armour and military glory, he provided him with all he had
asked in the way of clothes and accoutrements and sent him in the train
of a wealthy noble who was going to fight in Naples.

Half-way on his journey Francis turned back to Assisi. God, he
believed, had told him to do so--why he could not tell. He tried to
follow the frivolous life he had led before, but now the laughter of
his companions seemed to ring hollow in his ears. It was as if they
found pleasure in a shadow, while he alone was conscious that somewhere
close was a reality of joy that, if he could only discover it, would
illumine the whole world.

Then his call came; but to the comfortable citizens of Assisi it seemed
the voice of madness. The young Bernadone, it was rumoured, had been
seen in the company of lepers and entertaining beggars at his table.
Almost all the money and goods he possessed he had given away; nay,
there came a final word that he had sold his horse and left his home to
live in a cave outside the town. The people shook their heads at such
folly and sympathized with the old Bernadone at this end to his fine
ambitions for his son.

Pietro Bernadone in truth had developed such a furious anger that he
appealed to the Bishop of Assisi, entreating him either to persuade
Francis to give up his new way of life or else to compel him to
surrender the few belongings he had still left. Francis was then
summoned, and in the bishop’s presence handed back to his father his
purse and even his very clothes. Penniless he stood before Assisi who
had often ridden through the streets a rich man’s heir, and it was a
beggar’s grey robe with a white cross roughly chalked upon it that he
adopted as the uniform of his new career.

His fellow townsmen had been moved by this complete renunciation; but
mingled at first with their admiration was a half-scornful incredulity.
They could understand saints ardent in defence of the Faith against
heresy, fiery in their denunciation of all worldly pleasures, for such
belonged to the religious atmosphere of the Middle Ages; but this son
of Assisi, who raised no banner in controversy, and found an equal joy
of life in the sunshine on a hill-side, in the warmth of a fire, in the
squalor of a slum, was at first beyond their spiritual vision.

Yet Francis Bernadone belonged as truly to the mediaeval world as St.
Dominic or St. Bernard of Clairvaux. In his spirit was mingled the
self-denial of the ‘Poor Men of Lyons’ and the romance of the Provençal
singers. These troubadours sang of knights whose glory and boast were
the life-service of some incomparable lady. Francis exulted in his
servitude to ‘My Lady Poverty’, his soul aflame with a chivalry in
contrast to which the conventional devotion of poets burned dim.

In honour of ‘My Lady Poverty’ the rich merchant’s son had cast away
his father’s affection, his military ambitions, his comfortable home
and gay clothes; and because of the strength and depth of his devotion
the surrender left no bitterness, only an intense joy that found beauty
amid the rags, disease, and filth of the most sordid surroundings.

[Sidenote: The Franciscan Order]

For some time it never occurred to Francis to found an Order from
amongst the men who, irresistibly drawn by his sincerity and joy,
wished to become his followers and share his privations and work
amongst the poor and sick. When they asked him for a ‘rule of life’,
such as that possessed by the monastic foundations, he led them to the
nearest church. In the words of a chronicler:

  ‘Commencing to pray (because they were simple men and did not know
  where to find the Gospel text relating to the renouncing of the
  world), they asked the Lord devoutly that He would deign to show
  them His will at the first opening of the Book.

  ‘When they had prayed, the blessed Francis, taking in his hands the
  closed Book, kneeling before the Altar opened it, and his eye fell
  first upon the precept of the Lord, “If thou wouldst be perfect,
  sell all that thou hast and give to the poor and thou shalt have
  treasure in Heaven”: at which the blessed Francis was very glad and
  gave thanks to God.’

Thus, in dedication to the service of ‘My Lady Poverty’, the Order of
the ‘Lesser Brethren’ (Minorites), or the ‘Poor Men of Assisi’, was
founded and received permission from Innocent III to carry on its work
amongst lepers and outcasts, though it was not till 1223 that formal
sanction for an Order was received from Rome.

Three years later St. Francis died, and the Friars who had lived with
him declared that he had followed Christ so closely that in his hands
and feet were found the ‘stigmata’ or marks of the wounds his Master
had endured in the agony of crucifixion. Tales have been handed down of
his humility and gentleness, of how, in the early days of the Order, he
would go himself and beg the daily bread for his small community rather
than send his companions to encounter possible insults; of how, in an
age that set little store even by human lives, he would rescue doves in
their cages that lads carried about for sale, and set them free; and of
how, because he read something of God’s soul in every creature that had
life, he preached to the birds as well as to men.

Brotherhood to the friar of Assisi meant the union not only of all
human souls but of all creation in the praise of God, and daily he
offered thanks for the help of his brothers, the sun, the fire, and the
wind; and for his sisters, the moon and the water; and for his mother,
the earth. It was his love of nature, most strange to the thirteenth
century, that is one of the strongest bonds between St. Francis and the
men and women of to-day.

  ‘He told the brother who made the garden’, says his chronicler,
  ‘not to devote all of it to vegetables, but to have some part for
  flowering plants, which in their season produce “brother flowers”
  for love of Him who is called “Flower of the Field” and “Lily of
  the Valley”. He said, indeed, that Brother Gardener always ought to
  make a beautiful patch in some part of the garden and plant it with
  all sorts of sweet-smelling herbs, and herbs that produce beautiful
  flowers, so that in their season they may invite men, seeing them,
  to praise the Lord. For every creature cries aloud, “God made me
  for thy sake, O Man!”’

Once the true beauty of St. Francis’s life was recognized, his
followers increased rapidly and no longer had to fear insult or injury
when they begged. Crowds, indeed, collected to hear them preach and to
bring them offerings. Some Franciscans settled in France and Germany,
and others went to England during the reign of Henry III and lived amid
the slums of London, Oxford, and Norwich, wherever it seemed to them
that they could best serve ‘Lady Poverty’.

St. Francis himself before he died had been puzzled and almost alarmed
by the popularity he had never courted, and he confessed sadly that,
instead of living the lives of Saints, some of those who professed to
follow him were ‘fain to receive praise and honour by rehearsing and
preaching the works that the Saints did themselves achieve’.

He was right in his fear for the future. Rules are a dead letter
without the spirit of understanding that gives them a true obedience;
and the secret of his joyous and unassuming self-denial Francis could
only bequeath to a few. Preaching, not for the sake of helping man
and glorifying God, but in order to earn the wealth and esteem their
founder had held as dross--this was the temptation to which the ‘Grey
Brethren’ succumbed, even within the generation that had known St.
Francis himself. Avarice and self-satisfaction, following their wide
popularity, soon led the Franciscans into quarrels with the other
religious Orders and with the lecturers of the Universities and the
secular clergy. These looked upon the ‘Mendicants’ as interlopers,
trying to thieve congregations, fees, and revenues to which they had no

‘None of the Faithful’, says a contemporary Benedictine sourly,
‘believe they can be saved unless they are under the direction of
the Preachers or Minorites.’ The power of the Franciscans, as of
the Dominicans, was encouraged by the majority of Popes, who, like
Innocent III, recognized in their enthusiasm a new weapon with which to
defend Rome from accusations of worldliness and corruption. In return
for papal sympathy and support the Friars became Rome’s most ardent
champions, and in defence of a system rather than in devotion to an
ideal of life they deteriorated and accepted the ordinary religious
standard of their day.

Once more a wave of reform had swept into the mediaeval Church in a
cleansing flood, only to be lost in the ebb tide of reaction. Yet this
ultimate failure did not mean that the force of the wave was spent
in vain. St. Francis could not stem the corruption of the thirteenth
century; but his simple sincerity could reveal again to mankind an
almost-forgotten truth that the road to the love of God is the love of

‘The Benedictine Order was the retreat from the World, the Franciscan
the return to it.’ These words show that the mediaeval mind, with its
suspicion and dread of human nature, was undergoing transformation.
Already it showed a gleam of that more modern spirit that traces
something of the divine in every work of God, and therefore does not
feel distrust but sympathy and interest.

To St. Augustine the way to the _Civitas Dei_ had been a precipitous
and narrow road for each human soul, encompassed by legions of evil
in its struggle for salvation. To St. Francis it was a pathway, steep
indeed and rough, but bright with flowers, and so lit by the joy of
serving others that the pilgrim scarce realized his feet were bleeding
from the stones.

In the dungeons of Perugia the mirth of Francis Bernadone had been
called by his companions ‘craziness’, and to those whose eyes read evil
rather than good in this world his message still borders on madness.
Yet the Saint of Assisi has had his followers in all ages since his
death, distinguished not necessarily by the Grey Friar’s robe, but by
their silent spending of themselves for others and their joyous belief
in God and man.

_Supplementary Dates. For Chronological Summary, see pp. 368-73._

  Roger Bacon                            1214-92
  Peter Abelard                          1079-1142
  Thomas Aquinas                         1227-74
  Arnold of Brescia (burned)             1155
  St. Dominic                            1170-1221
  The Albigensian Crusade                1209
  Louis VIII of France                   1223-6
  St. Francis of Assisi                  1182-1226
  Foundation of Franciscan Order         1223



We have seen that Philip Augustus laid the foundations of a strong
French monarchy, but his death was followed by feudal reaction, the
nobles struggling in every way by fraud or violence to recover the
independence that they had lost.

Louis VIII, the new king, in order to checkmate their designs,
determined to divide his lands amongst his sons, all the younger
paying allegiance to the eldest, but each directly responsible for the
administration of his own province. Perhaps at the time this was the
most obvious means of ruling in the interests of the crown a kingdom
that, in its rapid absorption of Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, and Toulouse,
had outrun the central government. Yet it was in truth a short-sighted
policy for, since these ‘appanages’, or royal fiefs, were hereditary,
they ended by replacing the old feudal nobility with a new, the more
arrogant in its ambitions because it could claim kinship with the House
of Capet.

[Sidenote: Louis IX]

Louis VIII did not live long enough to put his plan into execution;
and Louis IX, a boy of twelve at the time of his accession, though
accepting later the provision made for his younger brothers in his
father’s will, was enabled, partly by the administrative ability of his
mother and guardian, Queen Blanche, partly by his own personality, to
maintain his supremacy undiminished. On one occasion his brother, the
Count of Anjou, had imprisoned a knight, in anger that the man should
have dared to appeal to the king’s court against a judicial decision
he himself had given. ‘I will have but one king in France,’ exclaimed
Louis when he heard, and ordered the knight to be released and that
both he and the count should bring their case to Paris for royal

Heavy penalties were also inflicted by Louis on any promoters of
private warfare, while the baronage was restricted in its right to
coin money. At this time eighty nobles besides the King are said to
have possessed their own mints. Louis, who knew the feudal coinage was
freely debased, forbade its circulation except in the province where it
had been minted; while his own money, which was of far higher value,
was made current everywhere. Men and women naturally prefer good coins
to bad in exchange for merchandise; and so the King hoped that the
debased money, when restricted in use, would gradually be driven out of

If Louis believed in his rights as an absolute king, he had an equally
high conception of the duties that such rights involved. ‘Make thyself
beloved by thy people,’ he said to his son, ‘for I would rather that
a Scotchman came from Scotland and governed my subjects well and
equitably than that thou shouldst govern them badly.’

Royal justice, like the coinage, must be superior to any other justice;
and so the chroniclers tell us that Louis selected as his bailiffs
and seneschals those who were ‘loyal and wise, of upright conduct and
good reputation, above all, men with clean hands’. Knowing the ease
with which even well-meaning officials could be corrupted by money and
honours, he ordered his deputies neither to receive nor give presents,
while he warned his judges always to lean rather to the side of the
poor than of the rich in a case of law until evidence revealed the

Philip Augustus had followed justice because he believed that it paid,
and his subjects had feared and respected him. His grandson, with his
keen sense of honour, shrank from injustice as something unclean; and
we are told that the people ‘loved him as men love God and the Saints’.

Like nearly all the kings of France, Louis was a devout son of the
Church, and it was under his protection that Innocent IV resided safely
at Lyons when Frederick II had driven him from Rome.[24] Nevertheless
the King’s sincere love of the Faith, that later won him canonization
as a Saint, never hindered his determination that he would be master of
all his subjects, both lay and ecclesiastical. If the clergy sinned
after the manner of laymen he was firm that they should be tried in the
lay courts; and while his contemporary, Henry III of England, remained
a feeble victim of papal encroachments, Louis boldly declared, ‘It
is unheard of that the Holy See, when it is in need, should impose
subsidies on the Church of France, and levy those contributions on
temporal goods that can only be imposed by the King.’

No storm of protest was aroused, for the Papacy in its bitter struggle
with the Empire was largely dependent on French support; while Louis’s
transparent purity of motive in maintaining his supremacy disarmed
indignation. An Italian friar, who saw him humbly sharing the meal
of some Franciscan brethren, described him as ‘more monk than king’.
This assumption was at first sight borne out by his daily life: his
simple diet and love of sombre clothes; his habit of rising from his
bed at midnight and in the early mornings to share in the services of
the Church; his hatred of oaths, lying, and idle gossip; his almost
reckless charity; the eager help he offered in nursing the sick amongst
his Paris slums and in washing the feet of the most repulsive beggars
who crowded at his gate. ‘He was frail and slender,’ says the same
Italian, ‘with an angelic expression, and dove’s eyes full of grace.’

Perhaps, if Louis had not been called to the life of a king, he might
have become a friar; but living in the world he loved his wife and
children, and would sometimes tease the former by protesting, when she
complained how poorly he dressed, that if he put on gaudy clothes to
please her she also must go in drab attire to please him.

Those of his subjects who saw Louis on the battle-field describe him as
‘the finest knight ever seen’, and recount tales of their difficulty
in restraining his hot courage, that would carry him into the fiercest
hand-to-hand conflict without any thought of personal danger. Yet this
king was a lover of peace in his heart. He wished to be friends with
all his Christian neighbours, and, well content with the lands that
already belonged to the French crown, he negotiated a treaty by which
he recognized English claims to the Duchy of Guienne. Less successful
was his effort to act as mediator between popes and emperors; but if
he could not secure peace he determined at least to remain as neutral
in the struggle as possible, refusing the imperial crown when the Pope
deposed Frederick II. Nor would he reap advantage out of the anarchy
that followed on that emperor’s death.

War between Christians was hateful to Louis because it prevented any
combined action against the Turks; for in him, as in Innocent III,
burned the old crusading spirit that had never quite died out in France.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century a French peasant lad,
Stephen, had preached a new crusade, saying that God had told him in a
vision that it was left for Christian children to succeed where their
elders had failed in recovering the Holy Sepulchre. Thousands of boys
and girls, some of them only twelve or thirteen years of age, collected
at Marseilles in eager response to this message. They expected that
a pathway would be opened to them across the sea as in the days of
Moses and the Chosen People, and when they had waited for some time
in vain for this miracle, they allowed themselves to be entrapped by
false merchants, who, though Christian in name, would allow nothing to
stand in the way of the gold that they coveted. Enticed on board ship,
disarmed, bound, and manacled, the unfortunate young crusaders were
sold in the market-places of Egypt and Syria to become the slaves of
the Moslems whom they had hoped to conquer.

When he had first heard of the Children’s Crusade, Innocent III had
exclaimed, ‘The children shame us indeed!’ and St. Louis, the inheritor
of their spirit, felt that his kingship would be shamed unless he used
his power and influence to convert and overthrow the Turk.

[Sidenote: The Seventh Crusade]

One of his subjects, who loved him, the Sieur de Joinville, has left a
graphic personal account of the expedition undertaken against Egypt.
From Cyprus, the head-quarters of the crusaders, a fleet of some one
thousand eight hundred vessels, great and small, sailed to Damietta, at
the mouth of the Nile; and Louis, seeing his ensign borne ashore, would
not be restrained, but leaped himself into the water, lance in hand,
shouting his battle-cry of ‘Mont-joie St. Denys!’

Before the impetuosity of an army inspired by this zeal the town soon
fell; but the mediaeval mind had reckoned little with difficulties of
climate, and soon the unhealthy mists that hung over the delta of the
Nile were decimating the Christian ranks with fever and dysentery,
while many of the best troops perished in unimportant skirmishes into
which daring rather than a wise judgement had led them. The advance
once checked became a retreat, the retreat a rout; and St. Louis,
refusing to desert his rear-guard, was taken prisoner by the Mahometans.

The disaster was complete, for only on the surrender of Damietta and
the payment of a huge ransom was the King released, but his patience
and chivalry redeemed his failure from all stain of ignominy. Instead
of returning to France he sailed to the Holy Land; where, though
Jerusalem had again fallen to the Turks after Frederick II’s temporary
possession of it, yet a strip of seaboard, including the port of Acre,
remained to the Christians.

Louis believed that, unless he persevered in fulfilling his vow,
crusaders of a lesser rank would lose their hope and courage, and so,
enfeebled by disease, he stayed for three years in Palestine, until
the death of his mother, Queen Blanche, whom he had left as regent in
France, compelled him to return home. Joinville relates how on this
voyage, because of the fierceness of the storm, the sailors would have
put the King ashore at Cyprus, but Louis feared a panic amongst the
terrified troops if he agreed. ‘There is none’, he said, ‘that does
not love his life as much as I love mine, and these peradventure would
never return to their own land. Therefore I like better to place my own
person ... in God’s hands than to do this harm to the many people who
are here.’

Louis reached France in safety, but, chafing at his crusading failures,
he once more took the Cross, against the advice of his barons, in 1270.
It was his aim to regain Tunis, and so to free part of North Africa at
least from Mahometan rule. To this task he brought his old religious
enthusiasm, but France was weary of crusades, and many of those who
had fought willingly in Syria and Egypt now refused to follow him,
leaving the greater part of his army to be composed of mercenaries,
tempted only by their pay.

Landing near Carthage, the crusaders soon found themselves outnumbered,
and were blockaded by their foes amid the ruins of the town. Pestilence
swept the crowded, insanitary camp, and one of the first to fall a
victim was the delicate king. ‘Lord, have pity on Thy people whom I
have led here. Send them to their homes in safety. Let them not fall
into the hands of their enemies, nor let them be forced to deny Thy
Holy Name.’

The dying words of the saint are characteristic of his love of the
Faith and of his people; and everywhere in the camp and in France, when
the news of his death reached her, there was mourning for this king
among kings who had sacrificed his life for his ideals. Yet the flame
of enthusiasm he had tried to keep alight quickly flickered out into
the darkness, and his son and successor, Philip III, made a truce with
the Sultan of Tunis that enabled him to withdraw his army and embark
for home. The only person really annoyed by this arrangement was the
English prince Edward, afterwards Edward I, who arrived on the scene
just at the time of St. Louis’s death, thirsting for a campaign and
military glory; but owing to the general indifference he was forced to
give up the idea of war in Africa and continue his journey alone to the
Holy Land.

Philip III of France has left little mark on history. He stands, with
the title of ‘the Rash’, between two kings of dominant personality--his
father, canonized as a saint before the century had closed, and his son
Philip IV, ‘the Fair’, anything but a saint in his hard, unscrupulous
dealings with the world, but yet one of the strongest rulers that
France has known.

Philip IV was only seventeen when he became king. From his nickname
‘le Bel’ it is obvious that he was handsome, but no kindly Joinville
has left a record of his personal life and character. We can only draw
our conclusions from his acts, and these show him ruthless in his
ambitions, mean, and vindictive.

In his dealings with the Papacy Philip’s conduct stands contrasted
with the usual affectionate reverence of his predecessors; but this
contrast is partly accounted for by the fact that, at the end of the
quarrel between Empire and Papacy, Rome found herself regarding France
from a very changed standpoint to the early days of that encounter.

Ever since the time of Gregory VII the Hohenstaufen emperors had loomed
like a thunder-cloud on the papal horizon, but with the execution of
Conradin, the last of the royal line,[25] this threatening atmosphere
had cleared. The Empire fell a prey to civil war during the Great
Interregnum, that is, during the seventeen years when English,
Spanish, and German princes contended without any decisive results
for the imperial crown. Count Rudolf of Habsburg, who at last emerged
triumphant, had learned at least one diplomatic lesson, that if he
wished to have a free hand in Germany he could do so best as the friend
of the Pope, not as his enemy. One of his earliest acts was to ratify a
concordat with Rome in which he resigned all those imperial claims to
the lands belonging to the Holy See that Frederick II had put forward.
He also agreed to acknowledge Count Charles of Anjou, brother of St.
Louis and the Pope’s chief ally, as Count of Provence and King of
Naples and Sicily.

Italy was thus freed from German intervention, but her cities remained
torn by the factions of Guelfs and Ghibellines; and the iron hand of
the French lay as heavily on ‘The Kingdom’ as ever the Hohenstaufen’s
despotic sceptre. The Sicilians, restless under the yoke, began to
mourn Frederick, who, whatever his sins, had been born and bred in the
south, the son of a southern princess; while these French were cruel
with the indifferent ferocity of strangers who despised those whom they

[Sidenote: The Sicilian Vespers]

Out of the sullen hatred of the multitude, stirred of a sudden to
white heat by the assault of a French soldier on a woman of Palermo,
sprang the ‘Sicilian Vespers’, the rebellion and massacre of an Easter
Monday night, when more than four thousand of the hated strangers,
men, women, and children, were put to death and their bodies flung
into an open pit. Charles of Anjou prepared a fitting revenge for
this insult to his race, a revenge that he intended to exact to the
uttermost farthing, for he had little of his brother’s sense of justice
and tender heart; but while he made his preparations a Spanish prince,
Peter III of Aragon, came to the rescue of the Sicilians with a large
fleet. A fierce war followed, but in spite of defeats, treaties that
would have sacrificed her to the interests of kings, and continuous
papal threats, Sicily clung staunch to her new ally, gaining at last
as a recognized Aragonese possession a triumphant independence of the
Angevin kingdom of Naples.

Rome, under a pope who was merely the puppet of Charles of Anjou, had
hurled anathemas at Peter III; but his successors of more independent
mind envied the Sicilians. It was of little use for Rome to throw off
Hohenstaufen chains if she must rivet in their stead those of the
French House of Anjou. This was the fear that made her look with cold
suspicion on her once well-beloved sons the kings of France, whose
relations of the blood-royal were also kings of Naples.

[Sidenote: Boniface VIII]

In 1294 Pope Boniface VIII, sometimes called ‘the last of the mediaeval
Popes’ because any hopes of realizing the world-wide ambitions of a
Hildebrand or of an Innocent III died with him, was elected to the
Chair of St. Peter. His jubilee, held at Rome in 1300 to celebrate the
new century, was of a splendour to dazzle the thousands of pilgrims
from all parts of Europe who poured their offerings into his coffers;
but its glamour was delusive.

Already he had suffered rebuffs in encounters with the kings of England
and France: for, when he published a Bull, _Clericis Laicos_, that
forbade the clergy to pay taxes any longer to a lay ruler, Edward I
at once condemned the English Church to outlawry, until from fear of
the wholesale robbery of their lands and goods his bishops consented
to a compromise that made the Bull a dead letter. Philip IV of France,
on his part, was even more violent, for he retaliated by ordering his
subjects to send no more contributions to Rome of any kind.

A wiser man than Boniface might have realized from his failures that
the growth of nationality was proving too strong for any theories of
world-government, whether papal or imperial; but, old and stubborn, he
could not set aside his Hildebrandine ideals. When one of his legates,
a Frenchman, embarked on a dispute with Philip IV, Boniface told him to
meet the King with open defiance, upon which Philip immediately ordered
the ecclesiastic’s arrest, and that his archbishop should degrade him
from his office. Boniface then fulminated threats of excommunication
and deposition, to which the French king replied by an act of open

The agent he chose to inflict this insult was a certain Nogaret,
grandson of an Albigensian heretic who had been burned at the stake,
and this man joined himself to some of the nobles of the Roman
Campagna, who had equally little reverence for the Head of Christendom.
Heavily armed, they appeared in the village of Anagni, where Boniface
VIII was staying, and demanded to see him. Outside in the street their
men-at-arms stood shouting ‘Death to the Pope!’

Boniface could hear them from his audience-chamber, but though he was
eighty-six his courage did not fail him. Clad in his full pontifical
robes, his cross in one hand, his keys of St. Peter in the other,
he received the intruders. Nogaret roughly demanded his abdication.
‘Here is my head! Here is my neck!’ he replied. ‘Betrayed like Jesus
Christ, if I must die like Him I will at least die Pope.’ At this one
of the Roman nobles struck him across the face with his mailed glove,
felling him to the ground, and would have killed him had not Nogaret
interfered. It was the Provençal’s mission to intimidate rather than to
murder, and while he argued with the Italians a hostile crowd assembled
to rescue their Vicar, and the French agents were forced to fly.

The proud old man survived the indignities he had suffered only by a
few weeks, and his successor, having dared to excommunicate those who
took part in the scene at Anagni, died also with mysterious suddenness.
No definite suspicion attached to Philip IV, but rumour whispered the
fatal word ‘poison’, and the conclave of cardinals spent ten uneasy
months in trying to find a new pope. At last a choice emerged from the
conclave, the Archbishop of Bordeaux, with the title of Clement V. He
was crowned at Lyons, and never ventured into Italy, choosing as his
residence the city of Avignon in Provence.

Here for just over seventy years, during the ‘Babylonish Captivity’
as it was usually called, a succession of popes reigned under French
influence, having exchanged the imperial yoke for one still more

Philip IV at once made use of this French Head of Christendom to
condemn the Order of Templars, which from their powerful organization
and extensive revenues he had long regarded with dislike and envy.

The crusades at an end, the Templars had outlived the object of their
foundation; while the self-denial imposed upon them and their roving,
uncloistered life, exposed them to constant temptations to which many
of the less spiritual succumbed. Thus their suppression was probably
wise; but Philip IV, a pitiless enemy, did not merely suppress, he
pursued the Knights of the Temple with vindictive cruelty. Hundreds
were thrown into dungeons, and there tortured into confessing crimes,
the committal of which they afterwards recanted in vain; while their
principal officers were burned at the stake in the market-places of
the large French towns. By papal commands the revenues of the Templars
passed into the exchequer of the Knights of St. John, who still guarded
one of the outposts of Christendom, the island of Rhodes; but the
French king took care that a substantial part of the money confiscated
in France went instead to his own treasury.

Philip was indeed in serious financial straits, for the revenues of
the royal demesnes were proving quite inadequate to meet the expenses
of a government that now extended its sway over the length and breadth
of France. Philip tried many expedients to meet the deficiency, most
of them bad. Such were the frequent debasement of the coinage and the
imposition of the _gabelle_, that is of a tax on the sale of goods.
This was justly hated because instead of encouraging commerce it
penalized industry by adding to the price of nearly every commodity put
on the market. Thus a _gabelle_ imposed on grain would mean that a man
must pay a tax on it three times over, first in the form of grain,
then of flour, and finally as bread.

Worse even than the _gabelle_ was Philip’s method of ‘farming’
the taxes, that is, of selling the right to collect them to some
speculator, who would make himself responsible to the government for
a round sum, and then squeeze what extra money he could out of the
unfortunate populace in order to repay his efforts.

[Sidenote: Government of Philip IV]

It is not, then, for any improved financial administration that the
reign of Philip IV is worthy of praise. His was no original genius,
but rather a practical ability for developing the schemes invented by
his predecessors. Like them he hated and distrusted his insubordinate
baronage; and, seeking to impose his fierce will upon them, turned
for advice and obedience to men of lesser rank, employing as the main
instrument of his government the lawyer class that Philip Augustus
and Louis IX had introduced in limited numbers amongst the feudal
office-holders at their court.

The employment of trained workers in the place of amateurs resulted in
improved administration, so it followed that under Philip IV the French
government began to take a definitely modern stamp and became divided
into separate departments for considering different kinds of work. Thus
it was the duty of the _Conseil du Roi_, or King’s Council, to give the
Sovereign advice; of the _Chambre des Comptes_, or Chamber of Finance,
to deal with financial questions; of the _Parlement_, or chief judicial
court, to sit in Paris for two months at least twice a year to hold
assizes and give judgements.

The _Parlement de Paris_ resembles the English Parliament somewhat in
name; but except for a right, later acquired, of registering royal
edicts, its work was entirely judicial, not legislative. The body in
France that most nearly corresponded to the English Parliament was the
‘States-General’, composed of representatives of the three ‘Estates’ or
classes, of clergy, nobles, and citizens. The peasants of France, who
composed the greater part of her population, were not represented at

Philip IV summoned the ‘States-General’ several times to approve his
suggestions; but, unlike the ‘Model Parliament’ called by his English
contemporary Edward I for similar reasons, it never developed into a
legislative assembly that could act as a competent check upon royal
tyranny, but existed merely as it seemed to accept responsibility
for its ruler’s laws and financial demands, whether good or bad. Its
weakness arose partly from the fact that it often sat only for a day at
a time and so had no leisure to discuss the measures laid before it,
but still more owing to the class selfishness that prevented the three
classes from combining to insist on reforms before they would vote any

This was very unfortunate for France, since on the one occasion that
the nobles and burghers actually did combine in refusing to submit to
an especially obnoxious _gabelle_ that hit both their pockets, Philip
IV was forced to yield, reluctantly enough because the loss of the
money led to his failure in a war in Flanders.

Flanders was a fief of the French crown, and because its count, his
tenant-in-chief, had dared to rebel against him, Philip had flung him
into prison and declared his lands confiscated. Then with his queen he
had ridden north to visit this territory now owning direct allegiance
to himself, in the belief that he had nothing to do but to give
orders to its inhabitants and await their immediate fulfilment. The
chroniclers tell us that the royal pair were overcome with astonishment
at the display of fine clothes and jewels made by the burghers of
Bruges to do them honour.

‘I thought that there was only one Queen in France,’ exclaimed Philip’s
consort discontentedly. ‘Here I see at least six hundred.’ The King,
always with an eye to the main chance, regarded the brilliant throng
more philosophically. They seemed to him very suitable subjects
for taxation; but the Flemings had won their wealth by a sturdy
independence of spirit both in the market-place and on the high seas:
they had been indifferent to the fate of their count, but at any time
preferred the risks of rebellion to being plucked like geese by the
King of France.

On the field of Courtrai, where Philip brought his army to punish
their insolence, the Flemish burghers taught Europe, as their Milanese
fellows had at Legnano in the twelfth century, that citizen levies
could hold their own against heavily-armed feudal troops; and though
the King’s careful generalship redeemed this defeat two years later, he
found the victory he obtained barren of fruit. Within a few weeks of
the burghers’ apparent collapse yet another citizen army had rallied to
attack the royal camp, and Philip, declaring angrily that ‘it rained
Flemings’, was driven to conclude a peace.

[Sidenote: Philip IV]

Besides hating the independence of the Flemings, Philip IV grudged
the English supremacy over the Duchy of Guienne that his grandfather
had so willingly acknowledged. To his jealous eyes it ran its wedge
like an alien dagger into the heart of his kingdom; and watching
his opportunity until Edward I was involved in wars with Wales and
Scotland, Philip crossed the borders of the Duchy, and by force or
craft obtained control of the greater number of its fortresses. There
is little doubt that had he lived he would gradually have absorbed
the whole of the southern provinces; but when only forty-six he died,
mourned by few of his subjects, and yet one of the kings who had set
his stamp with the most lasting results upon the government of France.

_Supplementary Dates. For Chronological Summary, see pp. 368-73._

  The Children’s Crusade                 1212
  Philip III of France                   1270-85
  Edward I of England                    1272-1307
  Clement V                              1305-14
  Battle of Courtrai                     1302



During fourteen years, from 1314 to 1328, three sons of Philip IV
reigned in rapid succession; but with the death of the last the main
line of the House of Capet came to an end, and the crown passed to his
nephew and namesake Philip of Valois.[26] The latter declared that his
claims were based on a clause of the old Salic Law[27] forbidding a
woman to inherit landed property, because as it happened Philip IV had
left a daughter Isabel, who had married Edward II of England, and their
son Edward III loudly protested that his right to the throne of France
was stronger than that of the Valois. The Salic Law, Edward maintained,
might prevent a woman from succeeding to the throne, but there was
nothing in this restriction to forbid the inheritance passing to her
male heirs.

[Sidenote: Causes of the Hundred Years’ War]

The question of the Salic Law is important because its different
interpretations were the immediate excuse for opening hostilities
between England and France in that long and weary struggle called
the ‘Hundred Years’ War’. There were of course other and far deeper
reasons. One of these reasons was that English kings had never
forgotten or forgiven John’s expulsion from Normandy. They wanted to
avenge this ignominious defeat and also Philip IV’s encroachments in
the Duchy of Guienne, that, united to his policy of supporting the
Scottish chieftains in their war of independence, had been a steady
source of disaster to England since the beginning of the fourteenth

Because of his failure in Scotland and the revolts of his turbulent
barons Edward II was murdered; and Edward III, taking warning from his
father’s fate, welcomed the war with France, not merely in the hope
of revenge and glory, but still more in order to find an occupation
for the hot English blood that might otherwise in the course of its
embittered feuds murder him.

He rode forth to battle, the hero of his court and of the chivalry
of England; but no less, as it happened, the champion of her middle
classes, who cheerfully put their hands in their pockets to pay for
his first campaigns. The reason of their enthusiasm for this war was
that Philip of Valois, in order to annoy his rival, had commanded his
Flemish subjects to trade no longer with the English. Now English sheep
were the best in Europe (so valuable that their export was forbidden
lest another nation should obtain the breed), and English wool was the
raw material of all others on which Flanders depended for the wealth
and prosperity gained by her looms and factories. Before this time
English kings had encouraged Flemish trade, establishing ‘Staple’
markets in certain towns under their protection, where merchants of
both countries could meet and bargain over their wares. Wishing to
retaliate on Philip VI, however, Edward III stopped the export of
wool, though at the same time he offered good terms and advantages to
any of the manufacturers of Bruges and Ghent who might care to settle
in Norfolk or on the East Coast and set up factories there as English

Such a suggestion could not satisfy the Flemish national spirit, and
in the large towns discontent with the French king grew daily. At last
one of the popular leaders, Jacob van Artevelde, ‘the Brewer of Ghent’,
began to rouse his countrymen by inflammatory speeches. ‘He showed
them’, says the chronicler, ‘that they could not live without the King
of England’; and his many commercial arguments he strengthened with
others intended to win those who might hesitate to break their oath
of allegiance, assuring them that Edward III was in truth by right of
birth King of France.

Rebellion sprang up on all sides in response; and when, in 1338, Edward
III actually embarked on the war, he had behind him not only the
English wool-farmers, but also the majority of Flemish merchants and
artisans, alike convinced that his victory would open Flemish markets
to trade across the Channel.

The Hundred Years’ War falls into two distinct periods: the first, the
contest waged by the Angevin Edward III against the House of Valois,
a struggle that lasted until 1375; the second, a similar effort begun
by the Lancastrian Kings of England in 1415 after a time of almost
suspended hostilities under Richard II. In each period there is the
same switchback course to the campaigns, as they rise towards a
high-water mark of English successes only to sink away to final French

The first of the great English victories was fittingly a naval battle,
destined to avenge long years during which French raiders had harried
the south coast, penetrated up the Solent, and even set fire to large
towns like Southampton. In June 1340, near the entrance to the port of
Sluys, some two hundred English vessels of all makes and sizes came
upon the French fleet, drawn up in four lines closely chained together
so as to form a kind of bulwark to the harbour. On the decks of the
tall ships, the turrets of which were piled with stones and other
missiles, were hundreds of Genoese archers; but the English bowmen
at this time had no match in Europe for long-distance accuracy and
steadiness, and the whistling fire of their arrows soon drove their
hired rivals into hiding and enabled the English men-at-arms to board
the vessels opposite them almost unopposed.

From this moment panic set in along the French lines, and the greater
number of ships, unable to escape because of the chains that bound them
together, were sunk at anchor, with, according to the chroniclers,
twenty-five thousand of their crews and fighting-material.

The English were now masters of the Channel, and Edward III was
enabled to transplant an army to Flanders, but no triumph in any way
corresponding to the victory of Sluys rewarded his efforts in this
field of warfare. The campaign became a tedious affair of sieges; and
the Flemings, cooling from their first sympathies, came to dislike
the English and to accuse Jacob van Artevelde of supplying Edward III
with money, merely in order to forward his personal ambitions. This
charge the Flemish leader stoutly denied, but when, hearing the people
of Ghent hooting him in the street outside his house, he stepped out
on to the balcony and tried to clear himself, the mob surged forward,
and, refusing to listen to a word, broke in through the barred doors
and murdered him. This was ill news for Edward III, but angry though he
was at the fate of his ally, he had neither sufficient men nor money to
exact vengeance. Instead he himself determined to try a new theatre of
war, for, as well as his army in Flanders, he had other forces fighting
the French in Normandy and Guienne.

[Sidenote: Battle of Creci]

Edward landed in Normandy; and at Creci, to the north of the Somme,
as he marched towards Calais, he was overtaken by Philip of Valois in
command of a very large but undisciplined force.

  ‘You must know’, says Froissart, the famous chronicler of this
  first period of the Hundred Years’ War, ‘that the French troops
  did not advance in any particular order, and that as soon as their
  King came in sight of the English his blood began to boil, and he
  cried out to his Marshals, “Order the Genoese forward and begin the
  battle in the name of God and St. Denys!”’

These Genoese were archers, who had already marched on foot so far and
at such a pace that they were exhausted; and when, against their will,
they sullenly advanced, their bows that were wet from a thunderstorm
proved slack and untrue. The sun also, that had just emerged from
behind a cloud, shone in their eyes and dazzled them. Silently the
English bowmen waited as they drew near, shouting hoarsely, and then of
a sudden poured into the weary ranks such a multitude of arrows that
‘it seemed as though it snowed’.

The Genoese, utterly disheartened, broke and fled; at which the French
king, choking with rage, cried, ‘Kill me this rabble that cumbers our
road without any reason’; but the English fire never ceased; and the
French knights and men-at-arms that came to take the place of the
Genoese and rode them underfoot fell in their turn with the shafts
piercing through the joints of their heavy armour.

Again, at Creci it was made evident to Europe that the old feudal order
of battle was passing away. Victory fell not to the knight armoured
with his horse like a slowly-moving turret, but to the clear-eyed,
leather-clad bowman, or the foot-soldier quick with his knife or
spear. The French fought gallantly at Creci, and none more fiercely
than Philip of Valois, whose horse was killed beneath him; but courage
cannot wipe out bad generalship, and when at last he consented to
retreat he left eleven princes of the blood-royal and over a thousand
of his knights stretched on the battle-field.

The defeat of Creci took from Calais any hope of French succour, and
in the following year after a prolonged siege it surrendered to the
English and became the most cherished of all their possessions across
the seas. ‘The Commons of England’, wrote Froissart, ‘love Calais more
than any town in the world, for they say that as long as they are
masters of Calais they hold the keys of France at their girdle.’

[Sidenote: The Black Death]

Death at the battle of Creci, decked in all the panoply of mediaeval
warfare, had taken its toll of the chivalry of France and England.
Now, in an open and ghastly form, indifferent alike to race or creed,
it stalked across Europe, visiting palace and castle but sweeping with
a still more ruthless scythe the slum and the hovel. Somewhere in the
far East the ‘Black Death’, as it was later called, had its origin,
and wherever it passed, moving westward, villages, nay, even towns,

More than thirteen million people are said to have perished in China,
India was almost depopulated, and at last in 1347 Europe also was
smitten. Very swift was the blow, for many victims of the plague
died in a few hours, the majority within five days; and contemporary
writers tell us of ships, that left an eastern harbour with their full
complement of crew, found drifting in the Mediterranean a few weeks
later without a living soul on board to take the helm; of towns where
the dead were so many that there was none to bury them; of villages
where the peasants fell like cattle in the fields and by the wayside

In Italy, in France, in England, there is the same record of misery
and terror. Boccaccio, the Italian writer, describes in his book,
the _Decameron_, how the wealthy nobles and maidens of Florence fled
from the plague-stricken town to a villa without the walls, there to
pass their days in telling one another tales. These tales have made
Boccaccio famous as the first great European novelist; but in reality
not many even of the wealthy could keep beyond the range of infection,
and Boccaccio himself says elsewhere ‘these who first set the example
of forsaking others languished where there was no one to take pity on

Neither courage, nor devotion, nor selfishness could avail against
the dread scourge; though like all diseases its ravages were most
virulent where small dwellings were crowded together or where dirt and
insanitary conditions prevailed. ‘They fell sick by thousands,’ says
Boccaccio of the poorer classes, ‘and having no one whatever to attend
them, most of them died.’ According to a doctor in the south of France,
‘the number of those swept away was greater than those left alive.’ In
the once thriving port of Marseilles ‘so many died that it remained
like an uninhabited place’. Another French writer, speaking of Paris,
says, ‘there was so great a mortality of people of both sexes ...
that they could hardly be buried.’ ‘There was no city, nor town, nor
hamlet,’ writes an Englishman of his own country, ‘nor even, save in
rare instances, any house, in which this plague did not carry off the
whole or the greater portion of the inhabitants.’

One immediate result of the Black Death was to put a temporary stop
to the war between England and France; for armies were reduced to a
fraction of their former strength and rival kings forgot words like
‘glory’ or ‘conquest’ in terrified contemplation of an enemy against
whom all their weapons were powerless.

Other and more lasting effects were experienced everywhere, for town
and village life was completely disorganized: magistrates, city
officials, priests, and doctors had perished in such numbers that it
was difficult to replace them: criminals plundered deserted houses
unchecked: the usually law-abiding, deprived of the guidance to which
they had been accustomed, gave themselves up to a dissolute life,
trying to drown all thoughts of the past and future in any enjoyment
they could find in the present. Work almost ceased: the looms stood
idle, the ships remained without cargoes, the fields were neither
reaped of the one harvest nor sown for the next. The peasants, when
reproached, declared that the plague had been a sign of the end of the
world and that therefore to labour was a waste of time. ‘All things
were dearer,’ says a Frenchman: ‘furniture, food, and merchandise of
all sorts doubled in price: servants would only work for higher wages.’

In the years following the Black Death the labouring classes of Europe
discovered for the first time their value. They were the necessary
foundation to the scheme of mediaeval life, the base of the feudal
pyramid; and, since they were now few in number, masters began to
compete for their services. Thus they were able to demand a better
wage for their work and improved conditions; but here the governments
of the day, that ruled in the interests of the nobles and middle
classes, stepped in, forbade wages to be raised, or villeins and serfs
to leave their homes and seek better terms in another neighbourhood.
The discontent of those held down with an iron hand, yet half awake to
the possibilities of greater freedom, seethed towards revolution; but
few mediaeval kings chose to look below the surface of national life,
and in the case of England Edward III was certainly not enough of a
statesman to do so.

In 1355 he renewed the war with France, hoping that by victories he
would be able to fill his own purse from French ransoms and pillage
as well as to drug the disordered popular mind at home with showy
triumphs. His eldest son, Edward, the Black Prince, who had gained his
spurs at Creci, landed at Bordeaux and marched through Guienne, the
English armies like the French being mainly composed of ‘companies’,
that is, of hired troops under military captains, the terror of friends
and foes alike; for with impartial ruthlessness they trampled down
corn and vineyards as they passed, pillaged towns, and burned farms and

[Sidenote: Battle of Poitiers]

Philip of Valois was dead, but his son, John ‘the Good’, had succeeded
him, and earned his title, it must be supposed, by his punctilious
regard for the laws of mediaeval chivalry. His reckless daring,
extravagance, and rash generalship made him at any rate a very bad
ruler according to modern standards. Froissart says that on the field
of Poitiers, where the two armies met, ‘King John on his part proved
himself a good knight; indeed, if the fourth of his people had behaved
as well, the day would have been his own.’

This is extremely doubtful, for the French, though far the larger
force, were outmanœuvred from the first. The Black Prince had the
gift of generalship and disposed his army so that it was hidden amid
the slopes of a thick vineyard, laying an ambush of skilled archers
behind the shelter of a hedge. As King John’s cavalry charged towards
the only gap, in order to clear a road for their main army, they were
mown down by a merciless fire at short range from the ambush; while
in the ensuing confusion English knights swept round on the French
flank and put the foot-soldiers to flight. The Black Prince’s victory
was complete, for King John and his principal nobles were surrounded
and taken prisoners after a fierce conflict in which for a long time
they refused to surrender. ‘They behaved themselves so loyally’, says
Froissart, ‘that their heirs to this day are honoured for their sake’:
and Prince Edward, waiting on his royal captive that night at dinner,
awarded him the ‘prize and garland’ of gallantry above all other

Evil days followed in France, where her king’s chivalry could not pay
his enormous ransom nor those of his distinguished fellow prisoners.
For this money merchants must sweat and save, and the peasants toil
longer hours on starvation rations; while the ‘companies’, absolved
by a truce from regular warfare, exacted their daily bread at the
sword-point when and where they chose.

Famous captains, who were really infamous brigands, took their toll of
sheep and corn and grapes; and those farmers and labourers who refused,
or could not give what they required, they flung alive on to bonfires,
while they tortured and mutilated their wives and families. Against
such wickedness there was no protection either from the government or
overlords; indeed, the latter were as cruel as the brigand chiefs,
extorting the very means of livelihood from their tenants and serfs
to pay for the distractions of a court never more extravagant and
pleasure-seeking than in this hour of national disaster.

‘Jacques Bonhomme,’ the French noble would say mockingly of the
peasant, ‘has a broad back ... he will pull out his purse fast enough
if he is beaten.’ The day came, however, when Jacques Bonhomme, grown
reckless in his misery, pulled out his knife instead, and, in the
words of Froissart, became like a ‘mad dog’. He had neither leaders
nor any hope of reform, nothing but a seething desire for revenge; and
in the ‘Jacquerie’, as the peasant rebellion of this date was called,
he inflicted on the nobles and their families all the horrors that
he himself, standing by helpless, had seen perpetrated on his own
belongings. Castles were burned, their furniture and treasures looted
and destroyed, their owners were roasted at slow fires, their wives and
daughters violated, their children tortured and massacred.

This is one of the most hideous scenes in French history, the darker
because France in her blindness learned no lesson from it. The nobles,
who soon gained the upper hand against these wild undisciplined hordes,
exacted a vengeance in proportion to the crimes committed, and fixed
the yoke of serfdom more surely than ever on the shoulders of Jacques
Bonhomme. This was the only way, in their conception, to deal with such
a mad dog; but Jacques Bonhomme was in reality an outraged human being
of flesh and blood like those who loathed and despised him; and during
centuries of tyranny his anger grew in force and bitterness until in
the Revolution of 1789 it burst forth with a violence against both
guilty and innocent that no power in France was strong enough to stem.

[Sidenote: Étienne Marcel]

The outrages of the Jacquerie unfortunately discredited real efforts at
reform that had been initiated in Paris by the leader of the middle
classes, the Provost of Merchants, Étienne Marcel. This Marcel had
demanded that the States-General should be called regularly twice a
year, that the Dauphin Charles,[28] eldest son of King John, who was
acting as regent during his father’s imprisonment, should send away his
favourites, and that instead of these fraudulent ministers a standing
council of elected representatives should be set up to advise the crown.

To these and many other reforms the Dauphin pretended to yield under
the pressure of public opinion; but he soon broke all his promises
and began to rule again as he chose. Marcel, roused to indignation,
summoned his citizen levies, and, breaking into the Prince’s palace,
ordered his men-at-arms to seize two of the most hated ministers and
drag them to the royal presence. ‘Do that quickly for which you were
brought,’ he said to the soldiers; whereupon they slew the favourites
as they crouched at Charles’s feet, their fingers clinging to his robe.

This act of violence won for Étienne Marcel the undying hatred of the
Dauphin and his court, and from this time the decline of his influence
may be traced. In order to maintain his power the popular leader was
driven to condone the excesses of the peasants, in their rebellion,
that had shocked the whole of France, and to ally himself with Charles
the Bad, King of Navarre, to whom he promised to deliver the keys of
Paris in return for his support against the Dauphin.

This was a fatal move, for Charles the Bad did not care at all for the
interests of the middle classes: he only wished to gain some secret
or advantage worth selling, and at once betrayed Étienne to his foes
as soon as the Dauphin paid him a sufficient price. Then a trap was
arranged, and Marcel killed in the gateway of Paris as he was about
to open its strong bars to his treacherous ally. With his death all
attempts at securing a more liberal and responsible government failed.

The country, indeed, had sunk into the apathy of exhaustion; and two
years later the Treaty of Bretigni, that represents the high-water mark
of English power in France, was thankfully signed. In return for Edward
III’s surrender of his claim to the French throne, his right to the
Duchy of Guienne as well as to Calais and the country immediately round
its walls was recognized, without any of the feudal obligations that
had been such a fruitful source of trouble in old days.

[Illustration: The Treaty of BRETIGNI]

Peace now seemed possible for an indefinite period; but, in truth,
so long as two hostile nations divided France there was always the
likelihood of fresh discord; and the Dauphin, who had succeeded his
father, King John, gently fanned the flames whenever he thought that
the political wind blew to his advantage. From a timid, peevish youth,
one of the first to fly in terror from the field of Poitiers, he had
developed into an astute politician, whose successful efforts to regain
the lost territories of France earned him the title of ‘Wise’.

King Edward III and his son professed to despise this prince, who knew
not how to wield a lance to any purpose; but Charles, though feeble in
body and a student rather than a soldier at heart, knew how to choose
good captains to serve him in the field; and one of these--the famous
Bertrand du Guesclin, said to have been the ugliest knight and best
fighter of his time--became the hero of many a battle against the
English, first of all in France, and later in Spain.

It was owing to the war in Spain that the English hold over the south
of France was first shaken; for the Black Prince, who had been created
Duke of Guienne, unwisely listened to the exiled King of Castile,
Pedro the Cruel, who came to Bordeaux begging his assistance against
the usurper of his throne. This was his illegitimate brother, Henry of
Trastamara. The English Prince at once declared that chivalry demanded
that he should help the rightful king. Perhaps he remembered the strong
bond that there had been between England and Castile ever since his
great-grandfather, Edward I, had married the Spanish Eleanor: perhaps
it was the promise of large sums of money that Pedro declared would
reward the victorious troops: it is more likely, however, that the
fiery soldier was moved by the news that Henry of Trastamara had gained
his throne through French assistance and by the deeds of arms of the
renowned Du Guesclin.

[Sidenote: Battle of Navarette]

In 1367 the English Prince crossed the Pyrenees, and at Navarette, near
the river Ebro, his English archers and good generalship proved a match
once more for his foes. Although the Spaniards were in vastly superior
numbers they were mown down as they rashly charged to the attack; and
Henry of Trastamara was driven from the field, leaving Du Guesclin a
prisoner and his brother Pedro once more able to assert his kingship.

The real victors of Navarette now had cause to repent their alliance.
Sickness, due to the heat of the climate and strange food, had thinned
their ranks even more than the actual warfare: the money promised by
Pedro the Cruel was not forthcoming; indeed, that wily scoundrel,
after atrocities committed against his helpless prisoners that fully
bore out his nickname, had slipped away to secure his throne, while
the Black Prince was in no position to pursue him, and could gain
little satisfaction by correspondence. Sullen and weary, with the
fever already lowering his vitality that was finally to cut short his
life, Edward of Wales arrived in Bordeaux with his almost starving
‘companies’. Because he had no money to pay them, he set them free to
ravage southern France, while in order to fill his exchequer he imposed
a tax on every hearth in Guienne.

These measures proved him no statesman, whatever his generalship. In
the early days of the Hundred Years’ War Guienne had looked coldly
on Paris, and appreciated a distant ruler who secured her liberty of
action; now, victim of a policy of mingled pillage and exactions, she
soon came to regard her English rulers as foreign tyrants. Thus an
appeal was made by the men of Guienne to Charles V, and he, in defiance
of the terms of the Treaty of Bretigni, summoned Prince Edward to
Paris--as though he were his vassal--to answer the charges made against
him. ‘Gladly we will answer our summons,’ replied the Prince, when he
heard. ‘We will go as the King of France has ordered us, but with helm
on head and sixty thousand men.’

They were bold words; but the haughty spirit that dictated them spoke
from the mouth of a dying man, and the Black Prince never lived to
fulfil his boast. His place in France was taken by his younger brother,
John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, who proved himself an indifferent
general. In 1373 Duke John marched from Calais into the heart of
France, his army burning villages as it went; but though he pressed
deeper and ever deeper into the enemy’s country, he met no open foes
nor towns that he could take without a siege. ‘Let them be,’ said
Charles ‘the Wise’, when his indignant nobles pleaded for leave to
fight a pitched battle; ‘by burnings they shall not seize our heritage.
Though a storm and tempest rage together over a land they disperse
themselves: so will it be with these English.’

Ever since the Treaty of Bretigni Charles had been planning profitable
alliances with foreign rulers that would leave the English friendless;
while, like Henry the Fowler of Germany, he had fortified his cities
against invasion. With the advent of winter Lancaster and his men
could find no food nor succour from any local barons; and when at last
the remnant of his once proud army reached Bordeaux, it was without a
single horse, and leaving a track of sick and dying to be cut off by
guerrilla bands. He had not lost a single battle, but he was none the
less defeated, and had imperilled the English cause in France.

The truce of 1375 that practically closed the first period of the
Hundred Years’ War left to Edward III and his successors no more than
the coast towns of Calais, Cherbourg, Brest, Bayonne, and Bordeaux.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Henry V in France]

When in 1415 Henry V of England formally claimed the throne of France,
and by so doing renewed the war that had languished since 1375, he had
no satisfactory argument save his sword to uphold his demands. Grandson
of John of Gaunt, and son of the royal usurper Henry IV, who had
deposed and killed his cousin Richard II, Henry V hoped by a successful
campaign to establish the popularity of the Lancastrian dynasty. He
wished also, like most mediaeval rulers, to find a battle-ground for
his barons in any territory except his own. It is only fair to add that
of the modern belief that the one possible excuse for shedding human
blood is a righteous cause he had not the faintest conception.

‘War for war’s sake’ might have been the motto of this most mediaeval
of all English sovereigns; but if his purpose is indefensible to-day
in its selfish callousness, he at any rate chose an admirable time in
which to put it into execution; for France, that had begun to recover
a semblance of nationality under the rule of Charles ‘the Wise’, had
degenerated into anarchy under his son Charles ‘the Mad’.

First as a minor, for he was only eleven at the time of his accession,
and later when he developed frequent attacks of insanity, Charles VI
was destined to be some one else’s tool, while round his person raged
those factions for which Louis VIII had shortsightedly prepared when
he set the example of creating appanages.[29] First one ‘Prince of the
Lilies’ and then another strove to control the court and government in
their own interests; but the most formidable rivals at the beginning of
the fifteenth century were the Houses of Burgundy and Armagnac.

The latter centred in the person of the young Charles, Duke of Orleans,
the King’s nephew and a son-in-law of Count Bernard of Armagnac,
who gave his name to the party: the other was his cousin, John ‘the
Fearless’, Duke of Burgundy, who was also by inheritance from his
mother Count of Flanders, and therefore ruler of that great middle
province lying between France and the Empire.

The King himself in his moments of sanity inclined to the side of
Charles of Orleans and the Armagnacs; and it happened that just at
the time when Henry V of England landed in Normandy and laid siege to
Harfleur the Armagnacs controlled Paris. It was their faction therefore
that raised an army and sent it northwards to oppose the invaders,
while John of Burgundy stood aloof, for besides being unwilling to
help the Armagnacs he was reluctant to embroil himself in a war with
England, on whose wool trade the commercial fortunes of his Flemish
towns depended.

At Agincourt Henry V, who had taken Harfleur and was marching towards
Calais, came upon his foes drawn up across the road that he must
follow in such vastly superior numbers that they seemed overwhelming.
The battle that followed, however, showed that the French had learned
no military lesson from previous disasters. The heavily-armed,
undisciplined noble on horseback was still their main hope, and on this
dark October day he floundered helplessly in the mud, unable to charge,
scarcely able to extricate himself, an easy victim for his enemy’s
shafts. The slaughter was tremendous; for Henry, receiving a false
report that a new French army was appearing on the horizon, commanded
his prisoners to be killed, and numbers had perished before the mistake
was discovered and the order could be reversed.

When the news of the defeat and massacre at Agincourt reached Paris,
that had always hated the Armagnacs, the indignant populace broke
into rebellion, crying, ‘Burgundy and Peace!’ but the movement was
suppressed, and it was not till 1418 that John ‘the Fearless’ succeeded
in entering the capital. By this time Henry V, who had returned to
England after his victory, was once more back in France conquering
Normandy; and French indignation was roused to white heat when it was
known that Rouen, the old capital of the Duchy, had been forced to
surrender to his victorious arms.

Even the Duke of Burgundy, who still disliked war with England, felt
that he must take some steps to prevent further encroachments; and,
after negotiations with the enemy had failed owing to their arrogant
demands, he suggested an agreement with the Armagnacs, in order that
France, if she must fight, should at least present a united front to
her foes.

Here was the moment for France’s regeneration; for the head of the
Armagnac faction at this date was the Dauphin Charles, son of Charles
‘the Mad’, and in response to his rival’s olive branch he consented to
meet him on the bridge of Montereau in order that the old rift might
be cemented. In token of submission and goodwill John of Burgundy
knelt to kiss the Prince’s hand; but, as he did so, an Armagnac still
burning with party hate sprang forward and plunged his dagger into his
side. A shout of horror and rage arose from the Burgundians, and as
they carried away the body of John ‘the Fearless’ they swore that this
murder had been arranged from the beginning and that they would never
pay allegiance again to the false Dauphin.

[Sidenote: The Treaty of Troyes]

In the Treaty of Troyes that was forthwith negotiated with the English
they ratified this vow, for Henry V of England received the hand of the
mad king’s daughter Catherine in marriage and was recognized as his
heir to the throne of France.

Two years later died both Henry V and Charles VI, leaving France
divided into two camps, one lying mainly in the north and east,
that acknowledged as ruler the infant Henry VI, son of Henry V and
Catherine; the other in the south and south-west, that obeyed the
Valois Charles VII.

The Treaty of Troyes marks the high-water mark of English power in
France during the second period of the Hundred Years’ War; for, though
the banners that Henry V had carried so triumphantly at Agincourt were
pushed steadily southward into Armagnac territory after this date, yet
the influence of the invaders was already on the wane. The agreement
that gave France to a foreigner and a national enemy had been made only
with a section of the French nation; and some of those who in the heat
of their anger against the Armagnacs had consented to its terms were
soon secretly ashamed of their strange allegiance.

When Charles the Dauphin became Charles VII he ceased to appear
merely the leader of a party discredited by its murder of the Duke of
Burgundy. He became a national figure; and though his enemies might
call him in derision ‘King of Bourges’ because he dared not come to
Paris but ruled only from a town in central France, yet he remained in
spite of all their ridicule a king and a Frenchman. Had he been less
timid and selfish, more ready to run risks and exert himself rather
than to idle away his time with unworthy favourites, there is no doubt
that he could have hastened the English collapse. Instead he allowed
those who fostered his indolence and hatred of public affairs in
order to increase their own power to hinder a reconciliation with the
Burgundians that might have been the salvation of France.

Philip ‘the Good’, son of John ‘the Fearless’, disliked the Dauphin as
his father’s murderer, but he had little love for his English allies.
By marriage and skilful diplomacy he had absorbed a great part of
modern Holland into his already vast inheritance and could assume the
state and importance of an independent sovereign. With England he felt
that he could treat as an equal, and now regarded with dismay the idea
that she might permanently control both sides of the Channel. So long
as John, Duke of Bedford, brother of Henry V, acted as regent for his
young nephew with statesmanlike moderation, an outward semblance of
friendship was maintained; but Bedford could with difficulty keep in
order his quarrelsome, irresponsible younger brother, Humphrey, Duke
of Gloucester, who ruled in England, and with still greater difficulty
quell the sullen discontent of the people of Paris who, suffering from
starvation as the result of a prolonged war, professed to regard a
foreign king as the source of all their troubles.

Only the prestige of English arms retained the loyalty of northern
France. ‘Two hundred English would drive five hundred French before
them,’ says a chronicler of the day; but salvation was to come to
France from an unexpected quarter, and enable the same writer to add
proudly, ‘Now two hundred French would chase and beat four hundred

[Sidenote: Jeanne d’Arc]

In the village of Domremy on the Upper Meuse there lived at the
beginning of the fifteenth century a peasant maid, Jeanne d’Arc, who
was, according to the description of a fellow villager, ‘modest,
simple, devout, went gladly to Church and sacred places, worked, sewed,
hoed in the fields, and did what was needful about the house.’ Up till
the age of thirteen Jeanne had been like other light-hearted girls, but
it was then that a change came into her life: voices seemed to draw her
away from her companions and to speak to her from behind a brilliant
cloud, and later she had visions of St. Catherine and of St. Michael,
whose painted effigies she knew in church.

‘I saw them with my bodily eyes as clearly as I see you,’ she said when
questioned as to these appearances, and admitted that at first she
was afraid but that afterwards they brought her comfort. Always they
came with the same message, in her own words, ‘that she must change
her course of life and do marvellous deeds, for the King of Heaven had
chosen her to aid the King of France.’

Jeanne d’Arc was no hysterical visionary: she had always a fund of
common sense, and knew how ridiculous the idea that she, an uneducated
peasant girl, was called to save France would seem to the world. For
some time she tried to forget the message her Voices told her; but at
last it was borne in upon her that God had given her a mission, and
from this time neither her indignant father nor timid friends could
turn her from her purpose.

[Illustration: FRANCE in 1429]

Of all the difficulties and checks that she encountered before at last,
at the age of seventeen, she was allowed to have audience with Charles
VII, there is no space to tell here. News of her persistence had
spread abroad, and the torch-lit hall of the castle into which Jeanne
was shown was packed with gaily-clad courtiers, and standing amongst
them the King, in no way distinguished from the others by his dress or
any outward pomp. Every one believed that the peasant-maid would be
dazzled; but she, who had seen no portrait of the King and lived all
her life in the quiet little village of Domremy, showed no confusion
at the hundreds of eyes fixed on her. Recognizing at once the man with
whom her mission was concerned she went straight to him and said, ‘My
noble lord, I come from God to help you and your realm.’

There must have been something arresting in Jeanne’s simplicity and
frankness contrasted with that corrupt atmosphere. Even the feeble
king was moved; and, when she had been questioned and approved by his
bishops, he allowed her to ride forth, as she wished, with the armies
of France to save for him the important town of Orleans that was
closely besieged by the English. She went in armour with a sword in
hand and a banner, and those who rode with her felt her absolute belief
in victory, and into their hearts stole the magic influence of her own
gay courage and hope.

We have often spoken of ‘chivalry’, the ideal of good conduct in the
Middle Ages. The kings, princes, and knights, whose prowess has made
the chronicles of Froissart famous, were to their journalist veritable
heroes of chivalry, exponents of courage, courtesy, and breeding.
Yet to modern eyes these qualities seem often tarnished, since the
heroes who flaunted them were in no way ashamed of vices like cruelty,
selfishness, or snobbery. A King John of France would die in a foreign
prison rather than break his parole, but he would disdainfully ride
down a ‘rabble’ of archers whom his negligence had left too tired to
fight his battles. The Black Prince would wait like a servant on his
royal prisoner, but accept as a brother-in-arms to be succoured a human
devil like Pedro the Cruel; or put a town to the sword, as he did at
Limoges, old men, women, and children, because it had dared to set him
at defiance.

There is nothing of this tarnish in the chivalry of the peasant-maid
who saved France. Pure gold were her knightly deeds, yet achieved
without a trace of the prig or the boaster. Jeanne d’Arc was always
human and therefore lovable, quick in her anger at fraud, yet easily
appeased; friendly to king and soldier alike, yet never losing the
simple dignity that was her safeguard in court and camp. Of all
mediaeval warriors of whom we read she was the bravest; for she knew
what fear was and would often pray not to fall into the hands of her
enemies alive, yet she never shirked a battle or went into danger with
a downcast face. A slim figure, with her close-cropped dark hair and
shining eyes, she rode wherever the fight was thickest, always, in the
words of a modern biographer, ‘gay and gaily glad,’ quick to see her
opportunities and follow them up, joyful in victory, generous to her
foes, pitiful to the wounded and prisoners.

The sight of her awoke new courage in her countrymen, dismay as at the
supernatural in her enemies, who dubbed her a witch and vowed to burn

  ‘Suddenly she turned at bay,’ says a contemporary account of one
  of her battles, ‘and few as were the men with her she faced the
  English and advanced on them swiftly with standard displayed. Then
  fled the English shamefully and the French came back and chased
  them into their works.’

Orleans was relieved and entered, the reluctant, still half-doubting
Charles led to Reims, and there in the ancient capital of France
crowned, that all Frenchmen might know who was their true king. ‘The
Maid’ urged that the ceremony should be followed by a rapid march
on Paris; but favourites who dreaded her influence whispered other
counsels into the royal ear, and Charles dallied and hesitated. When
at last he advanced it was to find that the bridges over the Seine had
been cut, not by the retreating English but by French treachery.

Paris was ripe for rebellion, and at the sight of ‘the Maid’ would have
murdered her foreign garrison and opened her gates. Bedford was in the
north suppressing a revolt, yet Charles, clutching at the excuse of the
broken bridges, retreated southwards, disbanding his army and leaving
his defender to her fate.

Her Voices now warned Jeanne of impending capture and death, but her
mission was to save France, and hearing that the Duke of Burgundy
planned to take the important town of Compiègne she rode to its defence
with a small force. Under the walls, in the course of a sortie, she was
captured, refusing to surrender. ‘I have sworn and given my faith to
another than you, and I will keep my oath,’ she declared; and through
the months that followed, caged and fettered in a dark cell of the
castle of Rouen, exposed to the insults of the rough English archers,
she maintained her allegiance, saying to her foes of the prince who had
failed her so pitiably, ‘My King is the most noble of all Christians.’

Frenchmen (some of them bishops, canons, and lawyers of the University
of Paris), as well as Englishmen, were amongst those who, after the
mockery of a trial, sent Jeanne to be burned as a heretic in the
market-place of Rouen. Bravely as she had lived she died, calling on
her saints, begging the forgiveness of her enemies, pardoning the evil
they had done her. ‘That the world’, says a modern writer, ‘might have
no relic of her of whom the world was not worthy, the English threw her
ashes into the Seine.’

France, that had betrayed Jeanne d’Arc, needed no relic to keep her
memory alive. To-day men and women call her Saint, and one miracle she
certainly wrought, for she restored to her country, that through years
of anarchy had almost lost belief in itself, the undying sense of its
own nationality. ‘As to peace with the English,’ she had said, ‘the
only peace possible is for them to return to their own land.’ Within
little more than twenty years from her death the mission on which she
had ridden forth from Domremy had been accomplished, and Calais, of all
their French possessions, alone remained to the enemies of France.

In summary of the Hundred Years’ War it may be said that from the
beginning the English fought in a lost cause. Fortune, military genius,
and dogged courage gave to their conquests a fictitious endurance; but
nationality is a foe invincible because it has discovered the elixir of
life; and when the tide of fortune turned with the coming of ‘the Maid’
the ebb of English discomfiture was very swift.

In 1435 died the Duke of Bedford, and in the same year Charles VII,
moved from his sluggishness, concluded at Arras a treaty with Philip
of Burgundy that secured his entry into Paris. By good fortune his
young rival in the ensuing campaigns, the English King, Henry VI, had
inherited, not the energy and valour of his father, but an anaemic
version of his French grandfather’s insanity. Even before his first
lapse into melancholia, he was the weak puppet of first one set of
influences, then another; and the factions that strove to govern for
their own interests in his name lost him first Normandy and then
Guienne. Finally they carried their feuds back across the Channel to
work out what seemed an almost divine vengeance for the anarchy they
had caused in France, in the troubled ‘Wars of the Roses’.

Under Charles VII, well named _le bien servi_, France, as she gradually
freed herself from a foreign yoke, developed from a mediaeval into
the semblance of a modern state. Wise ministers, whom in his later
years the King had the sense to substitute for his earlier workless
favourites, built up the power of the monarchy, restored its financial
credit, and established in the place of the disorderly ‘companies’ a
standing army recruited and controlled by the crown.

These things were not done without opposition, and the rebellion of
‘the Praguerie’, in which were implicated nearly all the leading
nobles of France, including the King’s own son, the Dauphin Louis, was
a desperate attempt on the part of the aristocracy to shake off the
growing pressure of royal control. It failed because the nation, as
a whole, saw in submission to an absolute monarch a means, imperfect
perhaps but yet the only means available at the moment, of securing the
regeneration of France.

It is significant that when Louis XI succeeded to Charles VII he
inevitably followed in his father’s footsteps, forsaking the interests
of the class with which he had first allied himself, in order to rule
as an autocrat and fulfil the ideal of kingship in his day.

_Supplementary Dates. For Chronological Summary, see pp. 368-73._

  Philip VI of France                    1328-50
  John II of France                      1350-64
  Charles V of France                    1364-80
  Charles VI of France                   1380-1422
  Charles VII of France                  1422-61
  Henry V of England                     1413-22
  Henry VI of England                    1422-61
  Boccaccio                              1313-75
  Jeanne d’Arc                           1412-30



Spain has been rightly described as ‘one of the most cut up portions
of the earth’s surface’. A glance at her map will show the numerous
mountain ranges that pierce into the heart of the country, dividing her
into districts utterly unlike both in climate and soil. Even rivers
that elsewhere in Europe, as in the case of the Rhine and the Danube,
act as roads of friendship and commerce, are in Spain for the most part
unnavigable, running in wild torrents between precipitous banks so as
to form an additional hindrance to intercourse.

Geography thus came to play a very great part in the history of
mediaeval Spain, deciding that though overrun by Romans, Vandals,
Visigoths, and Saracens, no conquest should be ever quite complete,
since the invaded could always find inaccessible refuges amongst the
mountains. A spirit of provincial independence was also fostered, as in
Italy[30]--men learning to say first not ‘I am a Spaniard,’ but ‘I am
of Burgos,’ or ‘of Andalusia,’ or of ‘Barcelona,’ according to their

When the Saracens defeated King Rodrigo and his Christian army at the
battle of Guadalete,[31] we have seen that they found the subjugation
of southern and central Spain an easy matter. Rich towns and districts
passed into their hands almost without a blow: the Gothic nobles and
their families who should have defended them, weakened by tribal
dissensions, fled away northwards to the mountains of Leon and
Asturias, while the downtrodden masses that they left behind soon
welcomed their new masters.

It was the policy of the Moors to grant a slave his freedom on his
open acknowledgement of Allah as the one God and Mahomet as his
Prophet, while they allowed those Christians and Jews who refused to
surrender their faith to live in peace on the payment of a poll-tax not
required from Moslems.

[Illustration: The SPANISH KINGDOMS


[Sidenote: The Caliphate of Cordova]

The capital of the Saracen kingdom, or ‘Caliphate’, that was destined
to survive practically unmolested for some three hundred years, was the
town of Cordova, whose capture the Moors believed had been divinely
inspired by Allah, since as their army under cover of the darkness
swept up to the walls, a terrific hail-storm descended that deadened
the clatter of approaching hoofs. From a treacherous shepherd one of
the captains learned of a part of the fortifications easy to scale;
and, climbing up undetected by means of a fig-tree, he let down his
long turban to assist his fellows until a sufficient number had mounted
to overpower the guards and open the gates to the main army.

To the Spaniards, thus defeated almost in their sleep, Cordova was
a fallen city, disgraced by the presence of infidels; yet these
same infidels were to make her luxury and brilliance rival the
almost fabulous glories of Bagdad and to win for her culture the
grudging admiration of Christian Europe. As we read of her ‘Palace of
Pleasures’, ornamented with gold and precious stones, of her woods of
pomegranate and sweet almond, of her gardens and perfumed fountains, of
her luxurious rest-houses for travellers without the walls, we are back
in the atmosphere of some Eastern fairy tale that clings also around
the history of her Caliphs, tinging with romance their loves, their
hatreds, and their rivalries.

There are other aspects of Moorish Spain hardly less wonderful when
contrasted with the haphazard national development of the rest of
Europe. Here were agriculture and industry deliberately stimulated by
a close and practical study of such branches of knowledge as science
and botany, algebra and arithmetic. Arid soil, that under ordinary
mediaeval neglect would have been left a desert, became through canals
and irrigation a fertile plain, the garden of rice, sugar, cotton, or
oranges. Mathematics applied to everyday needs produced the mariner’s
compass; scientific brains and intelligent workmen the steel blades of
Toledo and Seville, the woven silk fabrics of Granada, and the pottery
and velvets of Valencia.

Yet, though knowledge was consciously applied for commercial purposes,
the Moors did not set up ‘Utility’ as an idol for their scholars
and tell them that only information that brought material wealth in
its train was worth having. Philosophy and literature, as well as
science, had their lecture-halls: Greece and the East were searched
by Caliphs’ orders for manuscripts to fill their libraries; and so
world-famous became Cordovan professors that in the twelfth century
Christian students hastened to sit at their feet; and the translations
of Aristotle by the Arabic professor Averroës became one of the chief
sources of authority for the most orthodox ‘schoolmen’.

In their search after knowledge for its own sake, the Moors accorded
toleration to the best brains of all races. Elsewhere in Europe the
Jews were held accursed, protected by Christian rulers so long as their
money-bags could be squeezed like a sponge, but exposed to insult,
torture, and death whenever popular fury, aroused by a crusade or an
epidemic, demanded an easy outlet for zeal in burning and pillaging

Christian fanaticism had closed nearly every avenue of life to the Jew
save that of money-lender, in which he found few competitors, since the
law of the Church forbade usury. It then proceeded to condemn him as a
blood-sucker because of the high rate of interest that his precarious
position induced him to charge for his loans. Thus, despised, hated,
and feared, persecution helped to breed in the average Jew the very
vices for which he was blamed, namely, the determination to sweat his
Christian neighbours, and an arrogant absorption in his own race to the
exclusion of all others.

In the cities of the Moors alone the Jew could rise to public eminence,
as in Cordova, where teachers of the race were especially noted for
their researches in medicine and surgery. Many Spanish Israelites
indeed became doctors, and proved themselves so unmistakably superior
in knowledge and skill to the ordinary quacks that rulers of Christian
states were thankful to employ them when their health was in danger.

It would seem at first sight as if this happy kingdom of the Moors,
where culture, comfort, and toleration reigned, must in time succeed in
spreading its civilizing influence over Europe; but there was another
and darker side to Moslem Spain. The Caliphate of Cordova, like other
Moslem states, was the victim of a form of government whose sole
bond was the religion of Islam. Its ruler was a tyrant independent
of any popular control, and could send even his Grand Vizier, or
chief minister, to death by a word. Such an exalted position had its
penalties, and the Caliph must keep continual watch lest he should
find enemies ready to slay him, not merely amongst his servants, but
even more amongst his sons or brothers. Since polygamy prevailed, in
nearly every family there were children of rival mothers, who learned
from their cradles to hate and fear each other. It depended only, as
it seemed, on a little luck or cunning who would succeed to the royal
title, and few scrupled to use dagger or poison to ensure themselves
the coveted honour.

Out of the feuds and plots of the Moorish court and the rise and fall
of Emirs and Sultans in the provinces, Moorish Spain prepared its own
downfall during the three centuries that it dominated southern and
central Spain.

Away in the north, in Asturias, the ‘cradle of the Spanish race’, where
every peasant considers himself an ‘hidalgo’ or noble, in the kingdoms
of Leon and Navarre, in the counties of Castile and Barcelona, the
descendants of the once enfeebled Goths were meanwhile developing into
a race of warriors.

Though ardent in his devotion to Christianity, weaving supernatural aid
around every victory, the Spaniard did not, in what might be called the
first period of ‘the Reconquest’, show any acute dislike of the Moor.
His early struggles were not for religion but for independence, and
often a Prince or Count would join with some friendly Emir to overthrow
a Christian rival. ‘All Kings are alike to me so long as they pay my
price!’ These words of Rodrigo (Ruy) Diaz, the greatest of Spanish
heroes, were typical of his race in the age in which he lived.

[Sidenote: The Cid]

This Ruy Diaz, ‘El Campeador’, or ‘the Challenger’, as the Christians
named him, but more popularly called by his Arabic title ‘Al Said’
or ‘the Cid’, meaning ‘the Chief’, was brave, generous, boastful,
and treacherous. A Castilian by race, he held his allegiance to the
King of Leon, whose wars he sometimes condescended to wage, as in no
way sacred; but when banished by that monarch, who had well-founded
suspicions of his loyalty, proceeded unabashed to fight on behalf of
his late master’s enemy, the Moorish Sultan of Saragossa.

It is evident from the old chronicles and ballads that the Cid himself
could rouse and keep the affection of those who served him. When he
sent for his relations and friends to tell them that he had been
banished by the King of Leon and to ask who would go with him into
exile, we are told that ‘Alvar Fañez, who was his cousin, answered,
“Cid, we will all go with you through desert and through peopled
country, and never fail you. In your service will we spend our mules
and horses, our wealth and our garments, and ever while we live be unto
you loyal friends and vassals”: and they all confirmed what Alvar Fañez
had said.’

Mediaeval Spain was always ready to admire a warrior; and a great part
of the Cid’s charm lay, no doubt, in his prowess on the battle-field,
when, charging with his good sword ‘Tizona’ in hand, none could
withstand the onslaught. To this admiration was added the deeper
feeling of fellowship. Their hero might spill the blood of hundreds
to attain his ambitions, but he was yet no noble after the mediaeval
French type, despising those of inferior rank; rather a full-blooded
Spaniard, keen in his sympathy with all other Spaniards.

As he rode from the town of Burgos on his way to exile the Cid called
Alvar Fañez to his side and said, ‘Cousin, the poor have no part in the
wrong which the King hath done us.... See now that no wrong be done
unto them along our road.’ ‘And an old woman who was standing at her
door said, “Go in a lucky minute and make spoil of whatever you wish.”’

The Cid’s ‘luck’, or perhaps it would be truer to say his admirable
discretion, carried him triumphantly through many campaigns--at times
reconciled with the Christian king and fighting under his banner, at
others laying waste his lands as a Moorish ally. At length he reached
the summit of his fortunes and carved himself a principality out of the
Moorish province of Valencia; and as ruler of this state made little
pretence of being any one’s vassal, but boasted that he, a Rodrigo,
would free Andalusia as another Rodrigo had let her fall into bondage.

This kingly achievement was denied him, for even heroes fail; so that a
time came when he fell ill, and the Moors invaded his land, and because
he could no longer fight against them he turned his face to the wall
and died. Yet his last victory was still to come; for his followers,
who had served him so faithfully, embalmed his body, and they set him
on his war-horse and bound ‘Tizona’ in his hand, and so they led him
out of the city against his foes. Instead of weeping and lamentations
the Cid’s widow had ordered the church bells to be rung and war
trumpets to be blown so that the Moors did not know their great enemy
was dead; but imagining that he charged amongst them, terrible in his
wrath as of old, they broke and fled.

In spite of this victory Valencia fell back under the rule of the
Moors, but she never forgot ‘Ruy Diaz’, and is proud to this day to be
called ‘Valencia of the Cid’.

The second period of the reconquest of Spain by the Christians may be
called the crusading period, and continued until the fall of Granada in
1492. It began not at any fixed date, but in the gradual realization by
the Christian states during the twelfth century that their war with the
Moors was something quite distinct and ever so much more important than
their almost fraternal feuds with one another. This dawning conviction
was intensified into a faith, when the Moorish kingdom, that, owing to
the feebleness and corruption of its government, had almost ceased to
be a kingdom and split up into a number of warring states, was towards
the end of the twelfth century overrun and temporarily welded together
by a fierce Berber tribe from North Africa, the Almohades.

The Almohades, like earlier followers of Mahomet, were definitely
hostile to both Christians and Jews, and so the feeling of religious
bitterness grew; and the war that at first was a series of victories
for the infidel developed its character of a crusade.

Other crusades, we have seen, gained public support; and at the
beginning of the thirteenth century Pope Innocent III, no less alive
to his responsibility towards Spain than towards the Holy Land, sent
a recruiting appeal to all the countries of Europe. This was answered
by the arrival of bands of Templars, Hospitallers, and other young
warriors anxious to win their spurs against the heathen. Spain herself
founded several Military Orders, of which the most famous was the Order
of Santiago, that is, of St. James, called after the national saint,
whose tomb at Compostella in the north was one of the favourite shrines
visited by pilgrims.

[Sidenote: Las Navas de Tolosa]

At the head of the Christian host, when it rode across the mountains to
the plain of Las Navas de Tolosa, where it was destined to fight one
of the most decisive of Spanish battles, was Alfonso VIII, ‘the Good’,
of Castile, who had warred against the Moors ever since his coronation
as a lad of fifteen. With him went his allies, the King of Navarre,
commanding the right wing, and Pedro II, King of Aragon, commanding
the left.

All day long the battle raged; and the Christian kings and their
knights fought like heroes; but in spite of their efforts they were
pressed back and defeat seemed almost certain. ‘Here must we die,’
exclaimed Alfonso bitterly, determined to sell his life at a high
price; but Rodrigo Ximenez, the fiery Archbishop of Toledo, replied,
‘Not so, Señor, here shall we conquer!’ and with his cross-bearer he
charged so resolutely against the foe that the Christians, rallying to
save their sacred standard, drove the Moors headlong from the field.
So overwhelming was the victory that the advance of the Almohades was
completely checked, and the Christian states became the dominating
power in the peninsula.

At first in their battles amongst themselves it had been Navarre that
took the lead amongst the Christian states; but later this little
mountain kingdom, that lay across the Pyrenees like a saddle and was
half French in her sympathies and outlook, lost her supremacy. Spanish
interest ceased to be centred in France, and focused itself instead in
the lands that were slowly being recovered from the Moors. Portugal
declared itself an independent kingdom, Castile broke off the yoke of
Navarre and united with Leon, Aragon absorbed the important province of
Catalonia, with its thriving seaport Barcelona.

[Sidenote: James ‘the Conqueror’]

One of the most famous of Aragonese heroes in the thirteenth century
was James ‘the Conqueror’, son of Pedro II of Aragon, who during the
Albigensian Crusade had died fighting on behalf of his brother and
vassal, the Count of Provence, against Simon de Montfort.[32] James,
who was only six at the time, was taken prisoner by the cruel Count,
but Innocent III insisted that he should be handed back to his own
people, and these gave him to the Templars to educate. It was natural
that in such a military environment the boy should grow up a soldier;
but he was to prove himself a statesman as well, and a lover of
literature, writing in the Catalan dialect a straightforward, manly
chronicle of his reign, and encouraging his Catalan subjects in the
devotion to poetry they had shared from early days with their Provençal

According to contemporary accounts the young king was handsome
beyond all ordinary standards, nearly seven feet tall, and well
built in proportion. Unfortunately he was so attractive that he
became thoroughly spoilt, and was dissolute in his way of life and
uncontrolled in his temper. When in one of his rages he was capable of
any crime, though ordinarily so generous and tender-hearted that he
hated to sign a death-warrant. In his chronicle he tells us how on one
of his campaigns he found a swallow had built her nest by the roundel
of his tent: ‘So I ordered the men not to take it down,’ he says,
‘until the swallow had flown away with her young, since she had come
trusting to my protection.’

The combination of good looks, brains, and chivalry found in James I
appealed to the imagination of the Aragonese, but still more did his
fighting qualities that were typically Spanish. ‘It has ever been the
fate of my race’, he wrote, ‘to conquer or die in battle’; and when
quite a small boy he made up his mind that he would become a crusader.

For many years after he was declared old enough to reign for himself
King James was forced to spend his time and energy in subduing the
nobles who during his long minority had been allowed to become a law
unto themselves. This vindication of his authority accomplished, he led
his armies against the Moors, and under his conquering banner ‘Valencia
of the Cid’ passed finally into Christian hands.

The Moorish kingdom was now reduced to Granada in the south and the
dependent province of Murcia to the north-east that was claimed by the
Castilians, though Alfonso ‘the Learned’ of Castile was quite unable to
make himself master of it.

Hearing of the Aragonese victories in Valencia, Alfonso, who was
‘the Conqueror’s’ son-in-law, asked King James if he would help him
by invading Murcia, a project that first aroused the anger of the
Aragonese because it seemed to them that they were expected to do the
hard work in order that some one else might reap the spoils.

King James was more far-seeing than his subjects and held a different
view. The Moors were weak at the moment; but, owing to the influx of
fresh warriors from North Africa, they had always been able to rally
their power in the past and might do so again. ‘If the King of Castile
happen to lose his land I shall hardly be safe in mine,’ was his shrewd
summary of the case; and with this he invaded and overran Murcia, which
he gave to his son-in-law in 1262.

This date, 1262, though it marked no fresh acquisition of territory
for Aragon, was nevertheless an epoch in her history. Hitherto her
main interest had been identical with Castile’s--namely, the freedom
of Spain from the infidel--but now, owing to the conquest of Murcia,
she was surrounded by Christian neighbours, and what remained of the
crusade had become the business of Castile alone. Early in his reign
also, King James had closed another chapter in Aragonese history, when,
as a result of his father’s defeat and death, he had been forced to
cede all Catalonian claims to Provence, and thus to put away for ever
the prospect of absorbing France that had dazzled his ancestors.

Where, then, should Aragon turn her victorious arms? King James, a true
Aragonese, had already answered this question, when in 1229 he began
the conquest of the Balearic Islands, thus clearly recognizing that his
country’s natural outlook for expansion was neither north nor south,
but eastwards. Already Catalan fishermen and the merchants of Barcelona
were disputing the commercial overlordship of the Mediterranean
with their fellows of Marseilles and the Italian Republics, and
thenceforward Aragonese kings were to take a hand in the game,
supporting commerce with diplomacy and the sword.

[Sidenote: Peter III of Aragon]

James ‘the Conqueror’ did not die in battle-harness, as he had
predicted, but in the robe of a Cistercian monk, expiating in the
seclusion of a monastery the sins of his tempestuous, pleasure-loving
youth. His tradition as a warrior descended to his son Pedro III, under
whose rule Aragon entered on her campaign of Italian conquests.

Both the excuse for this undertaking and the occasion have been
noticed elsewhere in another connexion. The excuse was the execution
of Conradin,[33] last legitimate descendant of the Neapolitan
Hohenstaufen. As he stood on the scaffold calmly awaiting his death,
the boy, for he was little more, had flung his gauntlet amongst the
crowd. The action spoke for itself, the one bitter word ‘revenge’; and
a partisan who witnessed it, kneeling swiftly, picked up the glove and
bore it away to Spain. Here he presented it to Pedro III, to whose wife
Constance, the daughter of an illegitimate son of Frederick II, the
claims of the Italian Hohenstaufen had descended.

Pedro did not forget the glove or its message; and when the Sicilians,
rising in wrath at the Easter Vespers,[34] massacred their Angevin
tyrants, it was Aragonese ships that brought them succour, and Pedro
who defied the anathemas of the Pope and the power of France to drive
him from his new throne.

All the failures and victories of the years that followed, when
Aragonese and Angevin claimants deluged ‘the Kingdom’ and adjoining
island with blood, are more a matter of Italian than Spanish history,
and it is with Castile that the interests of the peninsula become
mainly concerned.

Castile in later mediaeval times consisted of some two-thirds of the
whole area of Spain, stretching from the Bay of Biscay in the north to
the confines of the Moorish kingdom of Granada in the south. As her
name suggests, she was a land of castles, built originally, not like
the strongholds of Stephen’s lawless barons in England--to maintain a
tyranny over the countryside--but as military outposts in each fresh
stage of the reconquest from Islam. Naturally those who lived in such
outposts, and might be wakened any night to take part in a border
foray or to withstand a surprise attack, expected to receive special
privileges in compensation. This was as it should be, and grateful
Kings of Castile, in order to encourage traders as well as knights
and princes to settle on their dangerous southern border, offered
concessions in the form of charters and revenues with a reckless
prodigality at which other European monarchs would have shuddered.

Trouble began when, with the steady advance of the crusading armies,
outposts ceased to be outposts; and yet their inhabitants, naturally
enough again, saw no reason why they should be deprived of the
privileges and riches that they had won in the past. Had they known
how to use their independence, when danger from the Moors diminished,
in securing a government conscious of national needs and aspirations,
Spain might have become the political leader of Europe. Unfortunately
the average Castilian felt only a selfish sense of the advantages
that liberty might afford, without realizing in the least that their
possession entailed heavy responsibilities. Thus he allowed his country
to degenerate into anarchy.

War seemed the natural atmosphere of life to the Castilian of pure
blood, whose ancestors had all been crusaders. Unable to compete in
agriculture or industry with the thrifty Moslems or Jews who remained
behind on the lands that he reconquered, he decided that labour, except
with the sword, was the hall-mark of slaves; and this unfortunate
fallacy, widely adopted, became the ultimate ruin of Spain. It turned
her from the true road of national prosperity, which can be gained
only by solid work, while it prevented nobles and town representatives
from understanding one another, and so rendered them incapable of
common action in the ‘Cortes’, or national parliament. The fallacy
went farther, for it made war between noble and noble seem a natural
outlet for martial zeal when no Moslem force was handy on which to whet
Christian swords.

The part played by the King in this land of independent crusaders and
aristocratic cut-throats was difficult and precarious. Though not so
legally bound by the concessions he had been forced to make as in
Aragon--where no king might pass a law without the consent of his
Cortes and where the ‘Justiciar’, a popular minister, disputed his
supreme right of justice--mediaeval Castilian monarchs were in practice
very much at the mercy of their subjects.

Henry II of England had been able to burn down his barons’ castles and
hang some of their owners, thus paving the way of royal supremacy;
but kings of Castile could scarcely adopt such drastic measures
against subjects usually more wealthy than themselves, whose castles
were required as national fortresses, and whose retainers formed the
main part of Christian armies against the Moors. Instead, custom and
circumstances seemed ever forcing the rulers of Castile to grant new
liberties, and to alienate their lands and revenues in constant rewards
and bribes.

[Sidenote: The ‘Siete Partidas’]

This was one of the failings of Alfonso ‘the Learned’, who in spite of
his boast, ‘Had I been present at the Creation I would have arranged
the world better,’ was certainly not ‘the Wise’, as he is sometimes
called. Alfonso was a great reader and a scientist in advance of
his day; but the best work that he ever did for his kingdom was the
publication of the _Siete Partidas_ (Seven Divisions), a compilation
of all the previous laws of Spain, both Roman and Gothic, drawn up
and arranged in a single code. For the rest, apart from his somewhat
academic cleverness, he was vain, irresolute, and superficial. On one
occasion he divorced his wife; and then, when the new wife he had
chosen, a Norwegian princess, had already arrived at a Spanish port, he
decided to send her away and retain the old. This capriciousness was of
a piece with the rest of his actions.

During the ‘Great Interregnum’[35] Alfonso was one of the claimants for
the imperial crown, but had neither money nor sufficient popularity to
carry through this foolish project, for which he heavily overtaxed his
people. He also planned an invasion of Africa in grand crusading style,
but had to turn his attention instead to struggling against unruly
sons. He died with little accomplished save his reputation for wisdom.

The reign of Alfonso X was a prelude to a century and a half of anarchy
in Castile, a period when few of her kings could claim to be either
‘wise’ or ‘learned’, and when four of them by ill fortune ascended
the throne in childhood, and so presented their nobles with extra
opportunities for seeking their own ambitions at the royal expense.

On one struggle during this century and a half we have already
touched--the bitter feud between Pedro ‘the Cruel’, the Nero of Spain,
and his half-brother, Henry of Trastamara.[36] There is no end to the
list of crimes of which this monster has been accused, from strangling
his rival’s mother, and calmly watching while his half-brother, a twin
of Henry of Trastamara, was pursued and cut down unarmed by the royal
guard, to ordering that the young bride with whom he had refused to
live should be given poisonous herbs that she might die.

Stained, indeed, must the Black Prince have felt his honour when he
discovered what a brother-in-arms he had crossed the Pyrenees to
aid--one who would massacre prisoners for sheer love of butchery,
burn a priest for prophesying his death, and murder an archbishop in
a fit of savagery. It is probably true to describe this worst of the
Spanish kings as mad: many of his atrocities were so meaningless, such
obvious steps to his own downfall, because they alienated those who
tried to remain loyal to his cause. His end, when it came, rejoiced
the popular heart and imagination, for Pedro, according to tradition,
was at last entrapped by the crafty Du Guesclin, lately released from
imprisonment by the Black Prince, and once more in the service of Henry
of Trastamara.

King Pedro believed that every man had a price, and, on Du Guesclin’s
pretence that he might be bought over, stole secretly one night to
the Frenchman’s tent. Here he found his hated brother with some of
his courtiers who cried aloud ‘Look, Señor, it is your enemy.’ ‘I am!
I am!’ screamed Pedro furiously, seeing he was betrayed, and flung
himself on his brother, while the latter struck at him with his dagger.
Over and over they rolled in the half-light of a tallow candle, until
Pedro, who had gained the upper hand, fumbled for his poignard with
which to strike a fatal blow. Then, according to the old ballad, Du
Guesclin interfered. ‘I neither make king nor mar king, but I serve my
master,’ he said, and turned Pedro over on his back, enabling those
who were standing by to dispatch him with their knives. The tale, if
creditable to Du Guesclin’s loyalty, is hardly so to his love of fair
play, but the murdered king had lived like a wild animal, and it is
difficult to feel any regret that he died like one instead of in battle
as a knight.

The House of Trastamara was now established on the Castilian throne by
the triumphant Henry II. Some years later it gave also a king to its
eastern neighbour, when the royal House of Aragon had become extinct
in the male line. This was the Infante Ferdinand, a man of mature
judgement, who had already won golden opinions for his honesty and
statesmanship when acting as guardian for his young nephew, John II of

Both kingdoms, but more especially Castile, were to remain victims of
civil wars and of frequent periods of anarchy for another half-century.
John II, deprived of his uncle’s wise guidance, devoted his time
to composing love-songs and surrendered his weak will to a royal
favourite, Alvaro de Luna, without whose consent, tradition says, he
dared not even go to bed. The result was incessant turbulence, for
the nobles hated the arrogant and all-powerful upstart, who managed
the court as he pleased, and steadily added to his own estates and
revenues. Yet, having brought about his downfall and death, they had no
better government with which to replace his tyranny.

[Sidenote: Henry IV of Castile]

Under John’s son and successor Castile fared even worse; for Henry IV
was not merely weak but vicious, so that he rolled the crown in the
mire of scandal and degradation. Government of any sort was now at
an end. ‘Our swords’, wrote a contemporary Castilian, recalling this
time of nightmare, ‘were employed, not to defend the boundaries of
Christendom, but to rip up the entrails of our country.... He was most
esteemed among us who was strongest in violence: justice and peace were
far removed.’

In their efforts to save something of their lives and fortunes
from this wreck, towns and villages formed _Hermandades_ or
‘brotherhoods’--that is, troops of armed men who pursued and punished
criminals; but these leagues without support from the crown were not
strong enough to deal with the worst offenders, the wealthy nobles, who
could cover their misdeeds with lavish bribery or threats.

[Sidenote: Ferdinand and Isabel]

At this moment in Castile’s history, when she had sunk to a depth from
which she could not save herself, Henry IV died, and was succeeded
on the throne by his sister, Isabel, a girl in years but already a
statesman in outlook and discretion. Henry IV had attempted to secure
personal advantages in his lifetime by arranging various marriages for
Isabel, first with a French prince, then with the King of Portugal,
and finally with one of his own worthless favourites, and his sister
had won his dislike by her steady refusal to agree to any of these
alliances. Secretly, indeed, she had married her cousin Ferdinand, heir
to the throne of Aragon, a youth already distinguished for his military
abilities and shrewd common sense.

As joint rulers of Castile and Aragon Isabel and Ferdinand dominated
Spain, and were able to impose their will even on the most powerful
of their rebellious subjects, taking back the crown lands that had
been recklessly given away, organizing a _Santa Hermandad_, or ‘Holy
Brotherhood’, on the model of previous local efforts to ensure order,
and themselves holding supreme tribunals to judge important cases of
robbery and murder. In this display of authority the land not merely
acquiesced but rejoiced, utterly weary of an independence the misuse of
which had produced licence instead of freedom.

Thus it was that a strong monarchy, such as Louis XI was able to
establish in France at the end of the Hundred Years’ War, and the
Tudors in England after the Wars of the Roses, was also organized and
maintained in Spain. Under its despotic sway many popular liberties
were lost, but peace was gained at home, and glory and honour abroad
above all expectations. The perpetual crusade against the Moors had
always touched the imagination of Europe--now its crowning achievement,
the Conquest of Granada, dazzled their eyes with all the pageantry and
pomp of victory so dear to mediaeval minds.

Hardly was this wonder told when news came that a Genoese adventurer
had discovered, in the name of Isabel and Ferdinand, a Spanish empire
of almost fabulous wealth beyond the Atlantic.[37] To these triumphs
were added conquests in Italy, fruits of Ferdinand’s Aragonese

The glory of Spain belongs to modern not to mediaeval history; but
just as a man or woman is a development of the child, so this, the
first nation in Europe as she became in the sixteenth century, proved
the outcome of the qualities and vices of an earlier age. Above all
things she became, as we should expect, a nation of warriors, inspired
with ardour for the Catholic Faith, arrogant and ambitious. To her
strength was added a fatal weakness bred of conceit and a narrow
outlook, that is the intolerance that admired Ferdinand and Isabel’s
ruthless Inquisition and rejoiced in the expulsion of thousands of
thrifty Jews and Moors.

Spain was a born conqueror among nations, but what she conquered she
had learned neither the sympathy nor adaptability to govern. Thus the
empire won by her courage and endurance was destined to slip from her

_Supplementary Dates. For Chronological Summary, see pp. 368-73._

  Saracen rule in Spain                  711-1031
  The Cid                         (died) 1099
  James I of Aragon                      1213-76
  Pedro III of Aragon                    1276-85
  Alfonso X of Castile                   1252-84
  Pedro I of Castile                     1350-69
  John II of Castile                     1407-54
  Henry IV of Castile                    1454-74
  Isabel I of Castile                    1474-1504
  Ferdinand II of Aragon                 1479-1516



[Sidenote: Rudolf I]

The accession of Rudolf of Habsburg[38] as King of the Romans in 1273
is a turning-point in the history of mediaeval Germany. Hitherto
private or imperial ambitions had prevented even well-intentioned
emperors from exerting their full strength against anarchy at home;
while a few like Frederick II had deliberately ignored German
interests. The result had been a steady process of disintegration,
perpetuating racial and class feuds; but now at last the tradition was
broken and an Emperor chosen who was willing to forgo the glory of
dominating Rome and Lombardy in order to build up a nation north of the

The election itself was somewhat of a surprise; for Rudolf belonged to
an obscure and far from wealthy family, owning territory in Alsace and
amongst the Swiss mountains. What is interesting to the modern world is
that the man who did most to influence the Electors in their choice,
and thus helped to plant a Habsburg with his feet on the ladder of
greatness, was a Hohenzollern.

Count Rudolf at the time of his election was a middle-aged man of
considerable military experience, kindly, simple, and resolute. He had
won the affection of his own vassals by helping them in their struggles
against the unjust demands of local tyrants, such as feudal bishops
or the barons who built castles amongst the crags and sent out armed
retainers to waylay merchants and travellers. One tale records how,
with an apparently small force, he advanced boldly against a robber
fastness, thus encouraging the garrison to issue out and attack him.
When the robbers approached, however, they found to their horror that
each of their mounted opponents had another armed man seated behind
him, and so, hopelessly outnumbered as well as outwitted, they were
forced to surrender or fly.

Rudolf needed all his military ability when he was chosen Emperor; for
the most powerful ruler in central Europe at that time, King Ottocar
of Bohemia, refused to recognize him, being furious that he himself
had not received a single vote, while an obscure count from the Swiss
mountains had been elected his master. The truth was that Ottocar was
well known to be arrogant and bad-tempered, so that all the Electors
were afraid of him; and there was general rejoicing when, in a battle
against King Rudolf near Vienna, he was killed and the throne of
Bohemia passed to his son, a boy of twelve.

This victory was the real beginning of the Habsburg fortunes; for
Rudolf by the confiscation of the Austrian provinces of Carinthia,
Styria, and Carniola, that had belonged to his rival, established
his family as one of the great territorial powers of the Empire.
Unfortunately his character seemed to deteriorate with success, and his
greed for lands and power to increase with acquisition.

Instead of finding Rudolf the protector of their liberties, his sturdy
Swiss vassals now had to defend themselves against his encroachments;
and in the year 1291 some of them in self-defence formed what they
called a ‘Perpetual League’, whose covenant, drawn up a few years later
in a simplified form, is just as sacred a charter of liberty to the
Swiss as Magna Charta to the English.

  ‘Know, all men,’ it began, ‘that we, the people of the Valley of
  Uri, the Community of the Valley of Schwyz, and the mountaineers
  of the Lower Valley, seeing the malice of the times, have solemnly
  agreed and bound ourselves by oath to aid and defend each other
  with all our might and main, with our lives and property, both
  within and without our boundaries, each at his own expense, against
  every enemy whatever who shall attempt to molest us, whether singly
  or collectively.’

This was the first ‘Confederation of the Swiss’, the union of the three
provinces of Uri, Schwyz, and the ‘Lower Valley’, or ‘Unterwalden’;
but Rudolf died in the same year 1291, so that the Swiss struggle for
liberty really began against his son, Albert of Austria.

Rudolf, in spite of the Concordat he had made with the Pope renouncing
his claims over papal territory, had never been to Italy to be crowned
Emperor, so that he died merely ‘King of the Romans’; and the Electors
of Germany made this one of their excuses for not immediately choosing
his son to succeed him.

Like Ottocar, Albert was overbearing and ambitious; and had at once on
his father’s death obtained possession of the entire family estates,
without allowing any of them to pass to Count John of Habsburg, a son
of his elder brother who had died some years before. Albert was a
persistent man when he wished for anything very ardently, and, having
failed to be elected Emperor a first time, he set himself to win
friends and allies amongst the powerful families all over Germany. So
successful was he that when a fresh imperial vacancy occurred in 1298
the choice of the Electors fell on him.

This realization of his ambitions spurred Albert’s energies to
fresh efforts. He was now overlord of the Empire, but on his own
estates amongst the Swiss mountains his will was often disputed by
citizens and peasants, who claimed to have imperial permission for
their independence. As Emperor, Rudolf could withdraw privileges
light-heartedly granted by predecessors who were not Habsburgs; and
with this in view he sent bailiffs and stewards to govern in his name,
with orders to enforce complete submission to his demands.

Concerning the events that followed, fiction has built round fact a
wonderful tale, that, whether true or false in its main incidents, is
characteristic of mediaeval Swiss daring, and a fit introduction to a
great national struggle for liberty.

Gessler, legend tells us, was the most hated of all Albert’s Austrian
governors. So narrow-minded was he that he hated to see the peasants
building themselves stone houses instead of living in mud hovels, and
would take every opportunity of humbling and oppressing them.

[Sidenote: Story of William Tell]

Once he set up a hat on a pole in the market-place of one of the
principal towns, and ordered every one who passed to salute it. A
certain William Tell, either through obstinacy or carelessness, failed
to do so, on which Gessler, who had found out that he was an archer,
ordered him as a punishment to shoot at long range an apple placed
on his son’s head. In vain the father begged for any other sentence:
Gessler only laughed. Seeing that entreaty was useless, Tell took two
shafts, and with one he pierced straight through the apple. Gessler was
annoyed at his success and, looking at him suspiciously, asked, ‘What,
then, is the meaning of thy second arrow?’ The archer hesitated; and
not until he had been promised his life if he would answer the truth
would he speak. Then he said bluntly, ‘Had I injured my child my second
shaft should not have missed thy heart.’ There was a murmur of applause
from the townsmen, but the governor was enraged at such a bold answer.
‘Truly,’ he shouted, ‘I have promised thee life; but I will throw thee
into a dungeon, where never more shall sun nor moon let fall their rays
on thee.’ The legend goes on to relate how, though bound and closely
guarded, the gallant archer made his escape, and hiding in the bushes
not far from the road where Gessler must pass to his castle, he shot
him and fled. ‘It is Tell’s shaft,’ said the dying man, as he fell
from his horse. By his daring struggle against the tyrant William Tell
became one of Switzerland’s national heroes.

Fortunately for the Swiss, Albert was so busy as ruler of all Germany
that he could not give the full attention to subduing his rebellious
vassals that he would have liked; and when at last he found time to
visit his own estates, just as he was almost within sight of the family
castle of the Habsburgs, he was murdered, not by a peasant, but by his
nephew Count John, who considered that he had been unjustly robbed of
his inheritance.

The task of attempting to reduce the Swiss to submission fell on a
younger son of King Albert, Duke Leopold, a youth who despised the
peasants of his native valleys quite as heartily as the French their
‘Jacques Bonhomme’. His army, as it wandered carelessly up the Swiss
mountains, without order or pickets, resembled a hunting-party seeking
a day’s amusement; and on their saddles his horsemen carried bundles of
rope to hang the rebels and bind together the cattle they expected to
capture as spoils.

Meeting with no opposition, Duke Leopold began to ascend the frozen
side of the Morgarten; and here, as he advanced between high ridges,
discovered himself in a death-trap. From the heights above, the Swiss
of the Forest Cantons rained a deadly fire of stones and missiles that
threw the horses below into confusion, slipping and falling on the
smooth surface of the track. Then there descended from all sides small
bodies of peasants armed with halberds, so sure-footed amid the snow
and ice that they cut down the greater part of the Duke’s forces before
they could extricate themselves and find safe ground.

Leopold escaped, but he rode from the carnage, according to his
chronicler, ‘distracted and with a face like death’. Swiss independence
had been vindicated by his defeat; and round the nucleus of the forest
republics there soon gathered others, bound together in a federal
union that, while securing the safety of all, guaranteed to each their

[Sidenote: Charles ‘the Bold’]

Other campaigns still remained to be fought on behalf of complete Swiss
independence; and one of the most important of these occurred towards
the end of the fifteenth century, and was waged against a military
leader of Europe, Charles, Duke of Burgundy, son and successor of that
Philip ‘the Good’ who had played so great a part in the latter half of
the Hundred Years’ War.[39]

This Charles ‘the Bold’, sometimes called also ‘the Rash’ or ‘the
Terrible’, was in many ways a typical mediaeval soldier. From his
boyhood he had loved jousting--not the magnificent tourneys, in which
as heir to the dukedom he could count on making a safe as well as a
spectacular display of knightly courage, but real contests in which,
disguised in plain armour, his strength and skill could alone win him
laurels and avoid death. Strong and healthy, brave and impetuous, he
loved the atmosphere of war with all its hazards and hardships. ‘I
never heard him complain of weariness,’ wrote Philip de Commines, a
French historian who was at one time in his service, ‘and I never saw
in him a sign of fear.’

To qualities like courage and endurance Charles added failings that
were often his undoing--a hot temper, impatience, and a tendency to
under-estimate the wits of his opponents. His clever, ambitious brain
was always weaving plans, but he did not realize that he had neither
the skill nor the political vision to keep many irons in the fire
without letting one get too hot or another over-cold.

Like all mediaeval rulers of Burgundy, he was faced by the problem of
his middle kingdom, with its large commercial population, whose trade
interests must be considered alongside his own territorial ambitions.
To the rulers of both France and the Empire he was tenant-in-chief for
different provinces, and either of these potentates could cause him
discomfort by stirring up trouble amongst his subjects, or else unite
with him to his great advantage in order to defy the authority of the

At first Charles tried to increase his territory in the west at the
expense of Louis XI of France, and even gained some showy triumphs, but
gradually he found that he was no match in diplomacy for that astute
king, ‘the universal spider’, as a contemporary christened him; and so
he turned his attention to his eastern border.

Here he discovered that a Habsburg, Sigismund of the Tyrol, had become
involved in a quarrel with the Swiss Cantons, and had been forced to
promise them a large sum of money that he was quite unable to pay.
When Charles offered to lend him the sum required if he would hand
over as security his provinces of Alsace and Breisgau, Sigismund,
seeing no other alternative, reluctantly agreed. So remote was the
prospect of repayment that the Duke of Burgundy at once began to rule
the territories that he held in pawn as though they were his own, and
might indeed have absorbed them quietly amongst his possessions had not
the French ‘Spider’ chosen to take a hand in the game. Louis XI had
never forgiven Charles for his clumsy attempts to rob him of French
territory, and now, weaving a web that was to entangle the Burgundian
to his ultimate ruin, he secretly pointed out to the Swiss how much
more dangerous a neighbour was Charles ‘the Bold’ than Sigismund ‘the
Penniless’. Let Sigismund, he suggested, agree to withdraw all Habsburg
claims to towns and lands belonging to the Cantons, and let the
Cantons in return pledge themselves to pay for the restoration of the
lost provinces.

This compromise was finally arranged, and the exasperated Charles
called upon to hand back the lands he already considered his own.
Instead of complying he made overtures to both Louis and the Emperor,
with such success that when the Swiss troops invaded Alsace in order to
gain possession of that province for Sigismund, they found themselves
without the powerful allies on whose support they had counted.

[Sidenote: Battles of Granson and Morat]

Charles, ever too prone to over-estimate his importance, now believed
that he was in a position to crush these presumptuous burghers once
and for all. With a splendidly equipped army of some fifty thousand
men, and some of the new heavy artillery that had already begun to
turn battle-fields into an inferno, he crossed the Jura mountains and
marched towards the town of Granson, that had been occupied by the
Swiss. This he speedily reduced, hanging the entire garrison on the
trees without the gates as an indication of how he intended to deal
with rebels, and then continued on his way, since he heard that the
army of the Cantons, some eighteen thousand men in all, had gathered in
the neighbourhood.

On the slopes of a vineyard he could soon see their vanguard, kneeling
with arms outstretched. ‘These cowards are ours,’ he exclaimed
contemptuously, and at once ordered his artillery to fire; for he
thought that the peasants begged for mercy, whereas, believing God was
on their side, they really knelt in prayer. Mown down in scores, the
Swiss maintained their ground; and Charles, to tempt them from their
strong position, ordered a part of his army to fall back as if in rout.
This ruse his own Burgundians misunderstood, the more that at the
moment they received the command they could see the main Swiss forces
advancing rapidly across the opposite heights and blowing their famous
war-horns. Confusion ensued, and soon, in the words of an old Swiss
chronicler, ‘the Burgundians took to their heels and disappeared from
sight as though a whirlwind had swept them from the earth.’

Such was the unexpected victory of Granson, that delivered into
Swiss hands the silken tents and baggage-wagons of the richest and
most luxurious ruler in Europe. Carpets and Flemish lace, fine linen
and jewellery, embroidered banners, beautifully chased and engraved
weapons: these were some of the treasures, of which specimens are still
to be found in the museums of the Cantons.

Charles was defeated, ‘overcome by rustics whom there would have
been no honour in conquering,’ as the King of Hungary expressed
the situation in the knightly language of the day. Such a disgrace
intensified Burgundian determination to continue the war; while the
Swiss on their part found their resolution hardened by the sight of the
garrison of Granson hanging from the trees.

‘There are three times as many of the foe as at Granson, but let no one
be dismayed. With God’s help we will kill them all.’ Thus spoke a Swiss
leader on the eve of the battle of Morat, where savage hand-to-hand
fighting reduced the Burgundian infantry to a fragment and drove the
Duke with a few horsemen in headlong flight from the field.

Twice defeated, a wise prince might have done well to consider terms
of peace with those who, though rustics, had proved more than his
equals; but Charles, a brave soldier, would not recognize that his own
bad generalship had largely contributed to his disasters. He chose
to believe instead in that convenient but somewhat thin excuse for
failure, ‘bad luck’, and prophesied that his fortune would turn if he

More dubious of their ruler’s ability than his fortune, the Flemings,
as they grudgingly voted money for a fresh campaign, besought their
Duke to make peace. His former allies, once dazzled by his name and
riches, were planning to desert him: but Charles was deaf alike to
hints of prudence or tales of treachery.

Near the town of Nanci he met the Swiss for a third time, and once
more the famous horns, ‘the bull’ of Uri and ‘the cow’ of Unterwalden,
bellowed forth their calls to victory, and the Burgundians, inspired
by treachery or forebodings of defeat, turned and fled. None knew what
had happened to the Duke, until a captured page reported that he had
seen him cut down as he fought stubbornly against great numbers. Later
his body was discovered, stripped for the sake of its rich armour, and
half-embedded in a frozen lake.

Thus fittingly died Charles ‘the Rash’, leaving the reputation as a
warrior that he would gladly have earned to his enemies the Swiss, now
regarded as amongst the invincible veterans of Europe.

       *       *       *       *       *

The voice of freedom had spoken so loudly through the Forest Cantons
that mediaeval Europe had been forced to acknowledge her claim,
and elsewhere also democratic forces were openly at work. We have
spoken in previous chapters of the ‘Communes’ of northern France and
Italy, precocious in their civilization, modern in their demands for
self-government. In Italy, at least, they had been strong enough
to form Leagues and defeat Emperors; but commercial jealousy and
class feuds had always prevented these Unions from developing into a

This is true also of southern Germany, where towns like Augsburg and
Nuremburg become, as the central mart for trade between Eastern and
Western Europe and also between Venice, Genoa, and the lands north of
the Alps, rivals in wealth and luxury of Mediterranean ports. During
periods like the ‘Great Interregnum’, when German kingship was of no
avail to preserve peace or order, it was associations of these towns
that sent out young burghers to fight the robber knights that were the
pest of the countryside, and to protect the merchandise on which their
joint fortunes depended.

Union for obvious purposes of defence was thus a political weapon
forged early in town annals; but, on the other hand, it was only slowly
that burghers and citizens came to realize the advantages of permanent
combination for other ends, such as commercial expansion, or in order
to secure stable government.

This limited outlook arose partly from the very different stages of
development at which mediaeval towns were to be found at the same
moment. Some would be just struggling out of dependence on a local
bishop or count by the payment of huge tolls, at the same time that
others, though enjoying a good deal of commercial freedom, were
still forced to accept magistrates appointed by their neighbouring
overlord. Yet again, a privileged few would be ‘free’ towns, entirely
self-governed, and owning allegiance only to the Emperor. Perhaps a
master mind could have dovetailed all these conflicting systems of
government into a federation that would have helped and safeguarded
the interests of all, but unfortunately the mediaeval mind was a slave
to the fallacy that commercial gain can only be made at the expense of
some one else.

The men of one town hated and feared the prosperity of another and
were convinced that the utmost limit of duty to a neighbour was their
own city walls. Nothing, for instance, is more opposed to modern codes
of brotherhood than the early mediaeval opinion on the subjects of
wrecks. Men and women of those days saw no incongruity in piously
petitioning God in public prayer for a good wreckage, or in regarding
the shipwrecked sailor or merchant cast on their rocks as prey to be
knocked on the head and plucked.

The towns of North Germany shared to the full this primitive savagery,
but they learned the secret of co-operation that their wealthy southern
neighbours utterly missed, and in so doing became for a time a
political force of world-wide fame.

[Sidenote: The ‘Hansa’]

Such was the commercial league of ‘the Hansa’, formed first of all by a
few principal ports, Lübeck, Danzig, Bremen, and Hamburg, lying on the
Baltic or North Sea, but afterwards increased to a union of eighty or
more towns as the value of mutual support and obligations was realized.

Law in the Middle Ages was personal rather than territorial--that is to
say, a man when he travelled abroad would not be judged or protected by
the law of the country to which he went, but would carry his own law
with him. If this law was practically non-existent, as for a German
during years of anarchy when the Holy Roman Empire was thoroughly
discredited in the eyes of Europe, the merchant stood a small chance of
safeguarding himself and his wares.

It was here, when emperors and kings of the Romans failed, that the
Hanseatic League stepped in, maintaining centres in foreign towns where
the merchants of those cities included in the League could lodge and
store their goods, and where permanent representatives of the League
could make suit to the government of the country on behalf of fellow
merchants who had suffered from robbery or violence.

As early as the tenth century German traders had won privileges in
English markets, for we find in the code of Ethelred ‘the Rede-less’
the following statement: ‘The people of the Emperor have been judged
worthy of good laws like ourselves.’

Later, ‘steelyards,’ or depots somewhat similar to the Flemish
‘staple-towns’, were established for the convenience of imperial
merchants; and owing to the energy of the Hanseatic League these
became thriving centres of commerce, respected by kings of England if
jealously disliked by their subjects.

Protection of the merchants belonging to ‘the Hansa’ while in foreign
countries soon represented, however, but a small part of the League’s
duty towards those who claimed her privileges. The merchant must travel
safely to his market by land and sea; but in North Germany he had not
merely to fear robber knights but national foes: the hostile Slav
tribes that attacked him as he rode eastwards to the famous Russian
market of Nijni-Novgorod to negotiate for furs, tallow, and fats: or
even more dangerous Scandinavian pirates who sought to sink his vessel
as he crossed the Baltic or threaded the Danish isles.

One of the chief sources of Hanse riches was the fishing industry,
since the law that every Christian must abstain from meat during
the forty days of Lent, and on the weekly Friday fast, made fish a
necessity of life even more in the Middle Ages than in modern times.
Now the cheapest of all fish for anxious housekeepers was the salted
herring, and as the herring migrated from one ocean-field to another it
made and unmade the fortune of cities. From the middle of the twelfth
to the middle of the fifteenth century it chose the Baltic as a home of
refuge from the North Sea whales, and in doing so built the prosperity
of Lübeck, just as it broke that prosperity when it swam away to the
coasts of Holland.

For two months every year the North German fishermen cast nets for
their prey as it swept in millions through the narrow straits past the
coast of Skaania; but here lay trouble for ‘the Hansa’, since Skaania,
one of the southernmost districts of modern Sweden, was then a Danish
province, and the Danes, who were warriors rather than traders, hated
the Germans heartily.

[Illustration: N.E. EUROPE


In early mediaeval times we have noticed Scandinavia as the home
of Norse pirates; as the mother of a race of world-conquerors, the
Normans; under Cnut, who reigned in England, Norway, and Denmark, as an
empire-builder. The last ideal was never quite forgotten, for as late
as the Hundred Years’ War King Valdemar III of Denmark planned to aid
his French ally by invading England; but the necessary money was not
forthcoming, and other and more pressing political problems intervened
and stopped him.

Valdemar inherited from his Norse ancestors a taste for piracy that he
pursued with a restless, unscrupulous energy very tiring to his people.
Sometimes it brought him victory, but more often disaster, at least to
his land. ‘In the whole kingdom’, says a discontented Dane, ‘no time
remained to eat, to repose, to sleep--no time in which people were not
driven to work by the bailiffs and servants of the King at the risk of
losing his royal favour, their lives, and their goods.’ Because of his
persistence Valdemar was nicknamed ‘Atterdag’, or ‘There is another
day’: his boast being that there was always time to return to any task
on completing which he had set his heart.

Valdemar’s chief ambition was to make Denmark the supreme power in
northern Europe, and in endeavouring to achieve this object he was
always forming alliances with Norway and Sweden that broke down and
plunged him into wars instead. The Hanse towns he hated and despised,
and in 1361, moved by this enmity, he promised his army that ‘he
would lead them whither there was gold and silver enough, and where
pigs ate out of silver troughs’. His allusion was to Wisby, the
capital of Gothland, that under the fostering care and control of
North German merchants had become the prosperous centre of the Baltic
herring-fishery. Under Valdemar’s unexpected onslaught the city, with
its forty-eight towers rising from the sea, was set on fire and sacked.

Since Gothland was a Swedish island, vengeance for this insult did not
legally rest with the Hansa, but, recognizing that the blow had been
aimed primarily at her trade, she sent a fleet northwards to co-operate
with the Swedes and Norwegians. This led to one of the greatest
disasters that ever befell the Hanseatic League, for her allies did not
appear, and her fleet, being outnumbered, was beaten and destroyed.

Valdemar, delighted with his success, determined to reduce the North
Germans to ruin, and continued his policy of aggression with added
zest; but in this he made a political mistake. Many of the towns,
especially those not on the Baltic, were apathetic when the struggle
with the Danish king began: they did not wish to pay taxes even for a
victory, and angrily repudiated financial responsibility for defeat.
It was only as they became aware, through constant Danish attacks,
that the very existence of the League was at stake, that a new public
opinion was born, and that it was decided at Cologne in 1367 to reopen
a campaign against King Valdemar, towards which every town must
contribute its due.

  ‘If any city refuse to help’, ran the announcement of the meeting’s
  decisions, ‘its burghers and merchants shall have no intercourse
  with the towns of the German “Hansa”, no goods shall be bought from
  them or sold to them, they shall have no right of entry or exit, of
  lading or unlading, in any harbour.’

The result of the League’s vigorous policy was entirely successful, and
compelled the unscrupulous Valdemar, who found himself shortly in an
awkward corner, to collect all the money that he could and depart on a
round of visits to the various courts of Europe. He left his people to
the fate he had prepared for them, and during his absence Copenhagen
was sacked, and the Danes driven to conclude the Treaty of Stralsund
that placed the League in control of all the fortresses along the coast
of Skaania for fifteen years.

The Hansa had now acquired the supremacy of the Baltic, and because
the duty of garrisoning fortresses and patrolling the seas required
a standing army and navy, the League of northern towns did not,
like those in South Germany, Italy, or France, melt away as soon as
temporary safety was achieved. Each city continued to manage its own
affairs, but federal assemblies were held, where questions of common
taxation and foreign policy were discussed, and where those towns that
refused to abide by decisions previously arrived at were ‘unhansed’,
that is, deprived of their privileges.

Even Emperors, who condemned leagues on principle from old Hohenstaufen
experience, respected if they disliked ‘the Hansa’ that carried through
national police-work in the north of which they themselves were quite

The Emperor Charles IV, when he visited Lübeck, addressed the principal
civic officials as ‘My lords!’ and when, suspicious of this flattery,
they demurred, he replied, ‘You are lords indeed, for the oldest
imperial registers know that Lübeck is one of the five towns that have
accorded to them ducal rank in the imperial council.’ The chronicler
adds proudly that thus Lübeck was acknowledged the equal of Rome,
Venice, Florence, and Pisa.

In the latter half of the fourteenth century the Hanseatic League stood
at the height of its power; for though the political genius of Queen
Margaret, daughter of Valdemar III, succeeded in uniting Denmark,
Norway, and Sweden by the agreement called ‘the Union of Kalmar’, and
also forced the Hansa to surrender the fortresses on the Skaania coast;
yet even the foundation of this vast Scandinavian Empire could not
shake German supremacy over the Baltic. Under Margaret’s successors the
Union of Kalmar degenerated into a Danish tyranny; and because it was
the result of a dynastic settlement and not of any national movement it
soon came to shipwreck amid general discontent and civil wars.

The Hanseatic League itself, though it lingered on as a political force
through the fifteenth century, gradually declined and lost touch with
the commercial outlook of the age. The decline may be traced partly to
the fact that there was no vigorous national life in Germany to feed
the League’s vitality, but also to a steady tendency for towns to drift
apart and become absorbed in the local interests of their provinces.

The real blow to the prestige of the League was, however, the departure
of the herring-shoals from the Baltic to the coasts of Amsterdam. ‘The
Hansa’ had concentrated its commercial interests in the Baltic, and
when the Baltic failed her she found herself unable to compete with the
Dutch and English traders, who were already masters of the North Sea.

Other and more adventurous rivals were opening up trade routes along
the African coast and across the Atlantic; but the Hanseatic League,
with her rigid and limited conception of commercial interests, was like
a nurse still holding by the hand children that should have been able
to fend for themselves. Once the protection of her merchants, she had
degenerated into a check on individual enterprise, and so, belonging to
the spirit of the Middle Ages, with the Middle Ages passed away.

[Sidenote: The Teutonic Knights]

Another mediaeval institution, destined also to decline and finally
vanish, was a close ally of the Hanseatic League, namely, the Order
of Teutonic Knights. Transferred, as we have noticed,[40] on the fall
of the Latin Empire in Asia Minor to the shores of the Baltic, the
Order had there justified its existence by carrying on a perpetual war
against the heathen Lithuanians and Prussians, building fortresses and
planting colonies of German settlers, as Charlemagne and his Franks had
set the example.

While there still remained heathen to conquer the Knights were warmly
encouraged by the Pope, and their battle-fields were a popular resort
for the chivalry of nearly every country in Europe, competing in their
claim with the camps of Valencia, Murcia, and Granada.

Nearer home the Order found less favour. In Poland, for instance,
that had at first welcomed the Knights as a bulwark against northern
barbarism, the unpleasant knowledge gradually dawned that the
crusaders, by securing the territory of Livonia, Curland, and Prussia,
had cut her off from a lucrative sea-trade.

Poland was the most easterly of those states that in mediaeval times
owned a nominal allegiance to Holy Roman Emperors. She had received her
Christianity from Rome, and was thus drawn into the network of western
life--unlike Russia, or the kingdom of Rus as it was called, that was
converted by missionaries from Constantinople, and whose princes and
dukes were subject to Mongol overlords in Siberia from the middle of
the thirteenth to the middle of the fifteenth century.

The Poles were brave, intensely devoted to their race, persistent in
their enmities, and in none more than in their dislike of the German
Knights, whose military genius and discipline had so often thwarted
their ambitions. Quarrels and wars were continuous, but the most mortal
wound dealt by the Poles was the result not of a victory but of a
marriage alliance.

In 1387, soon after the death of Louis ‘the Great’, who had been King
of both Hungary and Poland, the Poles offered their crown to Duke
Jagello of Lithuania; on the condition that he would marry one of
Louis’s daughters and become a Christian. The temptation of a kingdom
soon overcame Jagello’s religious scruples, so that he cast away his
old gods and was baptized as Ladislas V, becoming the founder of the
Jagellan dynasty, that continued on the thrones of Poland and Lithuania
right through the Middle Ages.

The conversion of the Lithuanians, who, whatever their beliefs, were
driven at the spear-point to accept Jagello’s new faith, completely
undermined the position of the Teutonic Order that, surrounded by
Christian neighbours, had no longer a crusade to justify its claims.
Popes ceased to send their blessing to the Grand Master, and talked
instead of the possibilities of suppression; while tales of immorality
and avarice such as had pursued the Templars were everywhere whispered
into willing ears.

Within their own territory also the influence of the Knights was
waning; for the very nature of their vows made their rule merely a
military domination; and, once the fear of heathen invasion had been
removed, German colonists began to resent this. Condemned to celibacy,
the Knights could train up no hereditary successors in sympathy from
childhood with the needs of the Baltic province; but, as they grew
old and died, they must yield place instead to recruits from distant
parts of Germany, who could only learn anew by their own experience the
manners and traditions of those whom they governed.

In the stress of these new conditions the good work that the Teutonic
Order had done in saving North Germany from barbarism was forgotten.
Weakened by disaffection within her own state, she fell an inevitable
victim to Polish enmity, and at the battle of Tannenberg her Grand
Master and many of her leading Knights were slain. The daring and
determination of those who remained prevented the full fruits of this
victory from being reaped until 1466, when, by the Treaty of Thorn,
Poland received the whole of western Prussia, including the important
town of Danzig, that gave her the long-coveted control of the Vistula
and a Baltic seaport, beside hemming her enemies into the narrow strip
of eastern Prussia.

[Sidenote: Louis ‘the Great’]

Poland’s southern neighbour was the kingdom of Hungary, with which
she had been for a short time united under Louis ‘the Great’, ‘the
Banner-bearer of the Church’ as he was styled by a grateful Pope for
his victories over the Mahometans. Besides fighting against the Turks,
Louis had other military irons in the fire. One of his ambitions was
to dominate Eastern Europe, and with this object he was continually
attacking and weakening the Serbian Empire, that appeared likely to
be his chief rival. He also fought with the Venetians for the mastery
of the Dalmatian coast, while we shall see in a later chapter that he
aimed at becoming King of Naples on the murder of his brother Prince
Andrew, husband of Joanna I.

So successful was Louis in his war against the Venetians that he was
able to take from them Dalmatia and exact the promise of a large yearly
tribute. This in itself was achievement enough to win him a reputation
in Europe, for the ‘Queen of the Adriatic’ was a difficult foe to
humble; but Louis also gained public admiration by his enlightened
rule. Recognizing how deeply his land was scarred by racial feuds, such
as those of the Czechs and Magyars, that have carried their bitterness
far into modern times, he set himself to think out equitable laws,
which he endeavoured to administer with impartial justice, instead of
favouring one race at the expense of another. He also made his court a
centre of culture and learning, where his nobles might develop their
wits and manners as well as their sword-arms.

One of the chief supporters of Louis in this work of civilization was
the Emperor Charles IV, whom we have noticed paying compliments to the
citizens of Lübeck. The friendship lasted for several years, until some
of the princes of the Empire, weary of Charles’s rule, began to compare
the two monarchs, one so sluggish, the other a military hero, and to
suggest that the overlord should be deposed in favour of the famous
King of Hungary. Louis indignantly repudiated this plot; but Charles,
who would hardly have done the same in a like case, could not bring
himself to believe him, and in his anger began petulantly to abuse the
Queen Mother of Hungary, to whom he knew her son was devoted. This
led to recriminations, and finally to a war, in which Charles was so
thoroughly beaten that he sued for peace; and outward friendship was
restored by the marriage of the Emperor’s son, Sigismund of Luxemburg,
with Louis’s daughter Mary.

When Louis died, Poland, that had never wholeheartedly submitted to
his rule, gave itself, as we have seen, to King Jagello of Lithuania;
while the Hungarians, after some years of anarchy, chose Sigismund of
Luxemburg as their king.

       *       *       *       *       *

The House of Luxemburg was in the later Middle Ages the chief rival
of the Habsburgs, and provided the Empire with some of her most
interesting rulers. One of these, the Emperor Henry VII, belongs to an
earlier date than that with which we have just been dealing, for he was
grandfather of Charles IV. He was a gallant and chivalrous knight, who,
but for his unfortunate foreign policy, might have proved himself a
good and wise king.

Dante, the greatest of Italian poets, who lived in the days of Henry
VII, made him his hero, and hoped that he would save the world by
establishing a Ghibelline supremacy that would reform both Church and
State. It was Henry VII’s undoing that he believed with Dante that he
had been called to this impossible mission; and so he crossed the Alps
to try his hand at settling Italian feuds. Germany saw him no more; for
soon after his coronation at Rome he fell ill and died, poisoned, it is
said, in the cup of wine given him by a priest at Mass.

Discord now broke out in Germany, and it was not till 1348 that another
of the House of Luxemburg was chosen King of the Romans. This was
Charles IV, a man of a very different type of mind to his grandfather.
For Charles Italy had no lure: he only crossed the Alps because he
realized that it increased the prestige of the ruler of Germany to be
crowned as Emperor by the Pope, and he did not mind at all that he was
received without any pomp or respect, only with suspicion and begging
demands. As soon as the ceremony was over he hastened back to his own
kingdom, turning a deaf ear to all Italian complaints and suggestions.

This hurried journey was certainly undignified for a world-Emperor;
but Charles, who had run away in his youth from the battle-field of
Creci, was never a heroic figure. Neither the thought of glory nor of
duty could stir his sluggish blood; but as far as obvious things were
concerned he had a good deal of common sense. At any rate, in sharing
Rudolf I’s conviction that Germany should come first in his thoughts he
was wiser than his heroic grandfather.

[Sidenote: The Golden Bull]

To the reign of Charles IV belongs the ‘Golden Bull’, a document so
called from its _bulla_ or seal. The ‘Golden Bull’ set forth clearly
the exact method of holding an imperial election. Hitherto much of the
trouble in disputed elections had arisen because no one had been sure
of the correct procedure, and so disappointed candidates, by arguing
that something illegal had occurred, were able to refuse allegiance to
the successful nominee. Now it was decided that there should be seven
Electors--three archbishops and four laymen--and that the ceremony
should always take place at Frankfort, the minority agreeing to be
bound by the will of the majority.

Besides these main clauses the ‘Golden Bull’ secured to the seven
Electors enormous privileges and rights of jurisdiction, thus raising
them to a much higher social and political level than the other
princes of Germany, who were merely represented in the Imperial Diet
or Parliament. The Electors became, in fact, more influential than the
Emperor himself, and Charles has often been blamed for handing over
Germany to a feudal oligarchy.

It is possible that he did not foresee the full results or permanence
of the ‘Golden Bull’, but was determined only to construct for the time
being a workable scheme that would prevent anarchy. There is also the
supposition that he was more interested in the position of the kingdom
of Bohemia, his own hereditary possession, which he raised to the first
place among the electing territories, than in the rôle of Emperor to
which he had been chosen. Whatever Charles’s real motive, it is at any
rate clear that he had the sense to see that the Empire as it stood
was an outworn institution, and thus to try and mould it into a less
fantastic form of government. Like Edward I of England and Philip IV
of France, though without the genius of the one or the opportunities
of the other, he stands for posterity as one of those rulers of Europe
during whose reign their country was enabled to shake off some of its
mediaeval characteristics. Charles wore the imperial crown longer
than any of his predecessors without arousing serious opposition--a
sign that, if not an original politician, he yet moved with his times
towards a more Modern Age.

_Supplementary Dates. For Chronological Summary, see pp. 368-73._

  The Perpetual League                   1291
  Charles ‘the Bold’                     1433-77
  Valdemar III                           1340-75
  Ladislas V of Poland                   1386-1433
  Treaty of Thorn                        1466
  Emperor Henry VII                      1308-13



When the ‘Company of Death’ repulsed the German army of Frederick
Barbarossa on the field of Legnano[41] it raised aloft before the eyes
of Europe not only the banner of democracy but also of nationality.
Others, as we have seen, followed these banners once displayed: the
Swiss Cantons shook off the Habsburg yoke: the Flemish towns defied
their counts and French overlords: the Hanse cities formed political as
well as commercial leagues against Scandinavia: France, England, and
Spain emerged, through war and anarchy, modern states conscious of a
national destiny.

This slow evolution of nations and classes is the history of the later
Middle Ages; but in Italy there is no steady progress to record;
rather, a retrogression that proves her early efforts to secure freedom
were little understood even by those who made them.

Frederick II had ruled Lombardy in the thirteenth century through
tyrants; but, long after the Hohenstaufen had disappeared, and the
quarrels of Welfs and Waiblingen had dwindled into a memory in Germany,
the feuds of Guelfs and Ghibellines were still a monstrous reality in
towns south of the Alps, where petty despots enslaved the Communes and
reduced the country to perpetual warfare.

At length from this welter of lost hopes and evil deeds there emerged,
not Italy a nation, but five Italian states of pre-eminence in the
peninsula, namely, Milan, Venice, Florence, Naples, and Rome. Each
was more jealous of the other than of foreign intervention, so that
on the slightest pretext one would appeal to France to support her
ambitions, another to Spain or the Empire, and yet a third to Hungary
or the Greeks. If Italy, as a result, became at a later date ‘the
cockpit of Europe’, where strangers fought their battles and settled
their fortunes, it was largely her lack of any national foresight in
mediaeval times that brought on her this misery.

[Illustration: ITALY


The history of Milan, first as a Commune fighting for her own liberty
and destroying her neighbour’s, then as the battle-ground of a struggle
between two of her chief families, and finally as the slave of the
victor, is the tale of many a north Italian town, only that position
and wealth gave to the fate of this famous city a more than local

[Sidenote: The Visconti]

The lords of Milan in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries were
the Visconti, typical tyrants of the Italy of their day, quick with
their swords, but still more ready with poison or a dagger, profligate
and luxurious, patrons of literature and art, bad enemies and still
worse friends, false and cruel, subtle as the serpent they so fittingly
bore as an emblem. No bond but fear compelled their subject’s loyalty,
and deliberate cruelty to inspire fear they had made a part of their

Bernabò Visconti permitted no one but himself to enjoy the pleasures
of the chase; but for this purpose he kept some five thousand savage
hounds fed on flesh, and into their kennels his soldiers cast such
hapless peasants as had accidentally killed their lord’s game or dared
to poach on his preserves.

No sense of the sanctity of an envoy’s person disturbed this grim
Visconti’s sense of humour, when he demanded of messengers sent by the
Pope with unpleasant tidings whether they would rather drink or eat. As
he put the question he pointed towards the river, rushing in a torrent
beneath the bridge on which he stood, and the envoys, casting horrified
eyes in that direction, replied, ‘Sir, we will eat.’ ‘Eat this, then,’
said Bernabò sternly, handing them the papal letter with its leaden
seals and thick parchment, and before they left his presence the whole
had been consumed.

Galeazzo Visconti, an elder brother of Bernabò, bore an even worse
reputation for cruelty. Those he condemned to death had their suffering
prolonged on a deliberate programme during forty-one days, losing
now an eye, and now a foot or a hand, were beaten, forced to swallow
nauseous drinks, and then, when the agony could be prolonged no
further, broken on the wheel. The scene of this torture was a scaffold
set in the public gaze that Milan might read what was the anger of the
Visconti and tremble.

The most famous of this infamous family was Gian Galeazzo, son of
Galeazzo, a youth so timid by nature that he would shake and turn white
at the sudden closing of a door, or at a noise in the street below.
His uncle, Bernabò, believed him half-witted, and foolishly accepted
an invitation to visit him after his father’s death, intending to
manage the young man’s affairs for him and to keep him in terrified
submission. The wily old man was to find himself outmatched, however,
for Gian Galeazzo came to their meeting-place with an armed guard,
arrested his uncle, and imprisoned him in a castle, where he died by
slow poison.

After this Gian Galeazzo reigned alone in Milan, with no law save his
ruthless ambition; and by this and his skill in creating political
opportunities, and making use of them at his neighbour’s expense, he
succeeded in stretching his tyranny over the plains of Lombardy and
southwards amongst the hill cities of Tuscany. Near at home he beat
down resistance by force of arms, while farther away he secured by
bribery or fraud the allegiance of cities too weak to stand alone, yet
less afraid of distant Milan than of Venice or Florence that lay nearer
to their walls.

It was Gian Galeazzo’s aim to found a kingdom in North Italy, and he
went far towards realizing his project, stretching his dominion at
one time to Verona and Vicenza at the very gates of Venice, while
in the south he absorbed as subject-towns Pisa and Siena, the two
arch-enemies of Florence. This territory, acquired by war, bribery,
murder, and fraud, he persuaded the Emperor to recognize as a duchy
hereditary in his family, and at once proceeded to form alliances with
the royal houses of Europe. The marriage of his daughter Valentina
with the young and weak-minded Duke of Orleans, brother of the French
king, though hardly an attractive union for the bride, proved fraught
with importance for the whole of Italy, since at the very end of the
fifteenth century, Louis, Duke of Orleans, a grandson of Valentina
Visconti, succeeded to the French crown as Louis XII, and also laid
claim to the duchy of Milan, as a descendant of the Visconti.[42]

At first sight it seems strange that any race so cruel and unprincipled
as the Visconti should continue to maintain their tyranny over men
and women naturally independent like the inhabitants of North Italy.
Certainly, if their rulers had been forced to rely on municipal
levies they would not have kept their power even for a generation;
but unfortunately the old plan of expecting every citizen of military
age to appear at the sound of a bell in order to defend his town had
practically disappeared. Instead the professional soldier had taken the
citizen’s place--the type of man who, as long as he received high wages
and frequent booty, did not care who was his master, nor to what ugly
job of carnage or intimidation he was bidden to bring his sword.

This system of hiring soldiers, _condottieri_, as they were called in
Italy, had arisen partly from the laziness of the townsmen themselves,
who did not wish to leave their business in order to drill and fight,
and were therefore quite willing to pay volunteers to serve instead of
them. Partly it was due to the reluctance of tyrants to arm and employ
as soldiers the people over whom they ruled. From the point of view of
the Visconti, for instance, it was much safer to enrol strangers who
would not have any patriotic scruples in carrying out a massacre, or
any other orders equally harsh.

For such ruffians Italy herself supplied a wide recruiting-ground,
namely, the numberless small towns, once independent but now swallowed
up by bigger states, who treated the conquered as perpetual enemies to
be bullied and suppressed; allowing them no share in the government
nor voice in their future destiny. Wide experience has taught the
world that such tyranny breeds merely hatred and disloyalty, and the
continual local warfare from which mediaeval Italy suffered could be
largely traced to the failure to recognize this political truth. With
no legitimate outlet for their energies, the young men of the conquered
towns found in the formation of a company of adventurers, or in the
service of some prince, the only path to renown, possibly a way of

[Sidenote: The ‘Condottieri’ System]

To Italian _condottieri_ were added German soldiers whom Emperors
visiting Italy had brought in their train, and who afterwards remained
behind, looking on the cities of Italy as a happy hunting-ground for
loot and adventure. Yet a third source of supply were freebooters from
France, released by one of the truces of the Hundred Years’ War, and
hastily sent by those who had employed them to seek their fortunes

Amongst those who came to Italy in the fourteenth century, and built
for himself a name of terror and renown, was an English captain, Sir
John Hawkwood, the son of an Essex tailor, knighted by Edward III for
his prowess on the battle-fields of France. Here is what a Florentine
chronicler says of him:

  ‘He endured under arms longer than any one, for he endured sixty
  years: and he well knew how to manage that there should be little
  peace in Italy in his time.... For men and Communes and all cities
  live by peace, but these men live and increase by war, which is the
  undoing of cities, for they fight and become of naught. In such men
  there is neither love nor faith.’

One tale of the day records how some Franciscans, meeting Sir John
Hawkwood, exclaimed as was their custom, ‘Peace be with you.’ To their
astonishment he answered, ‘God take away your alms.’ When they asked
him the reason for wishing them so ill, he replied, ‘You also wished
that God might make me die of hunger. Know you not that I live on war,
and that peace would ruin me? I therefore returned your greeting in
like sort.’

Sir John Hawkwood spent most of his time in the service of Florence;
and, whatever his cruelty and greed, he does not seem to have been
as false as other captains of his time. Indeed, when he died, the
Florentines buried him in their cathedral, and raised an effigy in
grateful memory of his deeds on behalf of the city.

Returning to the history of Milan and her _condottieri_, Gian Galeazzo,
though timid and unwarlike himself, was a shrewd judge of character,
and his captains, while they struck terror into his enemies, remained
faithful to himself. When he died in 1402, however, many of them tried
to establish independent states; and it was some years before his son,
Filippo Maria, could master them and regain control over the greater
part of the Duchy.

Even more cowardly than his father, Filippo Maria lived, like Louis XI
of France, shut off from the sight of men. Sismondi, the historian,
describes him as ‘a strange, dingy, creature, with protruding eyeballs
and furtive glance.’ He hated to hear the word ‘death’ mentioned, and
for fear of assassination would change his bedroom every night. When
news was brought him of defeat he would tremble in the expectation that
his _condottieri_ might desert him: when messengers arrived flushed
with victory he was scarcely less aghast, believing that the successful
general might become his rival.

Such was the penalty paid by despots, save by those of iron nerve, in
return for their luxury and power: the dread that the most servile of
_condottieri_ might be bribed into a relentless enemy, poison lurk in
the seasoned dish or wine-cup, a dagger pierce the strongest mesh of a
steel tunic. So night and day was the great Visconti haunted by fear,
while his hired armies forced Genoa to acknowledge his suzerainty, and
plunged his Duchy into rivalry with Venice along the line of the River

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Venice]

The history of Venice differs in many ways from that of other Italian
states. Built on a network of islands that destined her geographically
for a great sea-power, she had looked from earliest times not to
territorial aggrandisement, but to commercial expansion for the
satisfaction of her ambitions. In this way she had avoided the strife
of feudal landowners, and even the Guelf and Ghibelline factions that
had reduced her neighbours to slavery.

Elsewhere in Italy the names of cities and states are bound up with
the histories of mediaeval families; Naples with the quarrels of
Hohenstaufen, Angevins, and Aragonese: Rome with the Barons of the
Campagna, the Orsini and Colonna: Milan with the Visconti, and later
with the Sforza: Florence with the Medici: but in Venice the state
was everything, demanding of her sons and daughters not the startling
qualities and vices of the successful soldier of fortune, but
obedience, self-effacement, and hard work.

The Doge, or Duke, the chief magistrate of Venice, has been compared
to a king; but he was in reality merely a president elected for life,
and that by a system rendered as complicated as possible in order to
prevent wire-pulling. Once chosen and presented to the people with the
old formula, ‘This is your Doge an’ it please you!’ the new ruler of
the city found himself hedged about by a hundred constitutional checks,
that compelled him to act only on the well-considered advice of his six
Ducal Councillors, forbade him to raise any of his family to a public
office or to divest himself of a rank that he might with years find
more burdensome than pleasant. He was also made aware that the respect
with which his commands were received was paid not to himself but to
his office, and through his office to Venice, a royal mistress before
whom even a haughty aristocracy willingly bent the knee.

In early days all important matters in Venice were decided by a General
Assembly of the people; but as the population grew, this unwieldy body
was replaced by a ‘Grand Council’ of leading citizens. In the early
fourteenth century another and still more important change was made,
for the ranks of the Grand Council were closed, and only members of
those families who had been in the habit of attending its meetings
were allowed to do so in future. Thus a privileged aristocracy was
created, and the majority of Venetians excluded from any share in their
government; but because this government aimed not at the advantage
of any particular family but of the whole state, people forgave its
despotic character. Even the famous Council of Ten that, like the
Court of Star Chamber under the Tudors, had power to seize and examine
citizens secretly, in the interests of the state, was admired by the
Venetians over whom it exerted its sway, because of its reputation
for even-handed justice, that drew no distinctions between the son
of a Doge, a merchant, or a beggar. ‘The Venetian Republic’, says a
modern writer on mediaeval times, ‘was the one stable element in all
North Italy,’ and this condition of political calm was the wonder and
admiration of contemporaries.

Sometimes to-day it seems difficult to admire mediaeval Venice because
of her selfishness and frank commercialism. She had no sense of
patriotism either towards Italy or Christendom; witness the Fourth
Crusade,[43] where nothing but her insistent desire to protect her
trading position in the East had influenced her diplomacy.

This accusation of selfishness is true; but we must remember that the
word ‘patriotism’ has a much wider scope in modern times than was
possible to the limited outlook of the Middle Ages. Venice might be
unmoved by the words ‘Italy’ or ‘Christendom’, but the whole of her
life and ideals was centred in the word ‘Venice’. Her sailors and
merchants, who laid the foundations of her greatness, were no hired
mercenaries, but citizens willing to lay down their lives for the
Republic who was their mother and their queen. Thus narrowing the
term ‘patriotism’, we see that of all the Italian Powers Venice alone
understood what the word meant, in that her sons and daughters were
willing to sacrifice as a matter of course not merely life but family
ambitions, class, and even individuality to the interests of their

The ambitions of Venice were bound up with the shipping and commerce
that had gained for her the carrying-trade of the world. To take, for
example, the wool manufacture, of such vital interest to English and
Flemings, we find that at one time this depended largely on Venetian
merchants, who would carry sugar and spices to England from the East,
replace their cargo with wool, unload this in its turn in the harbours
of Flanders, and then laden with bales of manufactured cloth return to
dispose of them in Italian markets.

Besides the carrying-trade, which depended on her neighbour’s industry,
Venice had her own manufactures such as silk and glass; but in either
case both her sailors and workmen found one thing absolutely vital
to their interests, namely, the command of the Adriatic. Like the
British Isles to-day, Venice could not feed her thriving population
from home-produce, and yet, with enemies or pirates hiding along the
Dalmatian coast, safety for her richly-laden vessels passing to and
fro could not be guaranteed. These are some of the reasons why from
earliest times the Republic had embarked on an aggressive maritime
policy that brought her into clash with other Mediterranean ports, and
especially with Genoa, her rival in Eastern waters.

When, at the end of the Fourth Crusade, Venice forced Constantinople
to accept a Latin dynasty, she secured for herself for the time being
especial privileges in that world-market; Genoa, who adopted the cause
of the exiled Greeks, achieved a signal triumph in her turn when in
1261 with her assistance Michael Paleologus, a Greek general, restored
the Byzantine Empire amid public rejoicings.

Open warfare was now almost continuous between the republics; there
was street-fighting in Constantinople and in the ports of Palestine,
sea-battles off the Italian and Greek coasts, encounters in which
varying fortunes gave at first the mastery of the Mediterranean to
neither Venice nor Genoa, but which disastrously weakened the whole
resistance of Christendom to the Mahometans.

At length in 1380 a decisive battle was fought off Chioggia, one of the
cities of the Venetian Lagoons, whither the Genoese fleet, triumphant
on the open seas, had taken up its quarters determined to blockade the
enemy into surrender. ‘Let us man every vessel in Venice and go and
fight the foe’, was the general cry; and a popular leader, Pisani,
imprisoned on account of his share in a recent naval disaster, was
released on the public demand and made captain of the enterprise. ‘Long
live Pisani!’ the citizens shouted in their joy, but their hero, true
to the spirit of Venice, answered them, ‘Venetians cry only, “Long live
St. Mark!”’

With the few ships and men at his disposal, Pisani recognized that
it was out of the question to lead a successful attack; but he knew
that if he could defer the issue there was a Venetian fleet in the
eastern Mediterranean which, learning his straits, would return with
all possible speed to his aid. He therefore determined to force the
enemy to remain where they were without offering open battle, and this
manœuvre he carried out with great boldness and skill, sinking heavy
vessels loaded with stones in the channels that led to Chioggia, while
placing his own fleet across the main entrance to prevent Genoese
reinforcements. The blockaders were now blockaded; and through long
winter days and nights the rivals, worn out by their bitter vigil,
starving and short of ammunition, watched one another and searched
the horizon anxiously. At length a shout arose, for distant sails had
been sighted; then as the Venetian flag floated proudly into view the
shout of Pisani and his men became a song of triumph: the Republic
was saved. Venice was not only saved from ruin, her future as Queen
of the Adriatic was assured, for the Genoese admiral was compelled to
surrender, and his Republic to acknowledge her rival’s supremacy of the

The sea-policy of Venice was the inevitable result of her geographical
position; but as the centuries passed she developed a much more
debatable land-policy. Many mediaeval Venetians declared that since
land was the source of all political trouble, therefore Venice should
only maintain enough command over the immediate mainland to secure
the city from a surprise attack. Others replied that such an argument
was dictated by narrow-minded prejudice, a point of view suitable to
the days when Lombardy had been divided amongst a number of weak city
states, but impracticable with powerful tyrants, such as the Visconti,
masters of North Italy. Unless Venice could secure the territories
lying at the foot of the Alps, and also a wide stretch of eastern
Lombardy, she would find that she had no command over the passes in the
mountains by means of which she carried on her commerce with Germany
and Austria.

The advocates of a land-empire policy received confirmation of their
warnings when in the early part of the fourteenth century Mastino della
Scala, lord of Vicenza, Padua, and Treviso, attempted to levy taxes on
Venetian goods passing through his territories. The Republic, roused
by what she considered an insult to her commercial supremacy, promptly
formed a league with Milan and Florence against Mastino, and obtained
Treviso and other towns as the result of a victorious war.

This campaign might, of course, be called merely a part of Venice’s
commercial policy, defence not aggression; but later, in 1423, the
Florentines persuaded the Republic to join with them in a war against
the Visconti, declaring that they were weary of struggling alone
against such tyrants, and that if Venice did not help them they would
be compelled to make Filippo Maria ‘King of North Italy.’ The result
of the war that followed was a treaty securing Venice a temporary
increase of power on the mainland, and may be taken as the first
decisive step in her deliberate scheme of building up a land-empire in

Machiavelli, a student of politics in the sixteenth century, who wrote
a handbook of advice for rulers called _The Prince_, as well as the
history of Florence, his native city, declares that the decline of the
Venetians ‘dated from the time when they became ambitious of conquests
by land and of adopting the manners and customs of the other states of
Italy’. This may be true; but it is doubtful whether the great Republic
could have remained in glorious isolation with the Visconti knocking at
her gates.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Florence]

From Venice we must turn to Florence, which, by the fifteenth century,
emerged from petty rivalries as the first city in Tuscany. Like
Milan, Florence fell a prey to Guelfs and Ghibellines; but these
feuds, instead of becoming a family rivalry between would-be despots,
developed into a bitter class-war.

On the fall of Frederick II the Guelfs, who in Florence at this date
may be taken as representing the _populo grasso_, or rich merchants, as
opposed to the _grandi_, or nobles, succeeded in driving the majority
of their enemies out of the city. They then remodelled the constitution
in their own favour.

The chief power in the city was now the ‘Signory’, composed of the
‘Gonfalonier of Justice’ and a number of ‘Priors’, representatives of
the _arti_, or guilds of lawyers, physicians, clothiers, &c.: to name
but a few. No aristocrat might stand for any public office unless he
became a member of one of the guilds, and in order to ensure that he
did not merely write down his name on their registers it was later
enacted that every candidate for office must show proof that he really
worked at the trade of the guild to which he claimed to belong.

Other and sterner measures of proscription followed with successive
generations. The noble who injured a citizen of lesser rank, whether
on purpose or by accident, was liable to have his house levelled
with the dust: the towers, from which in old days his ancestors had
poured boiling oil or stones upon their rivals, were reduced by law
to a height that could be easily scaled; in the case of a riot no
aristocrat, however innocent his intentions, might have access to the
streets. The _grande_ was, in fact, both in regard to politics and
justice, placed at such an obvious disadvantage that to ennoble an
ambitious enemy was a favourite Florentine method of rendering him

The Guelf triumph of the thirteenth century did not, in spite of its
completeness, bring peace to Florence. New parties sprang up; and the
government in its efforts to keep clear of class or family influence
introduced so many complicated checks that great injury was done to
individual action, and all hope of a steady policy removed. Members of
the ‘Signory’, for instance, served only for two months at a time: the
twelve ‘Buonomini’, or ‘Good men’, elected to give them advice only
for six. What was most in contrast to the ideal of ‘the right man for
the right job’ was the practice of first making a list of all citizens
considered suitable to hold office, then putting the names in a bag,
and afterwards picking them out haphazard as vacancies occurred. Even
this precaution against favouritism--and, one is inclined to add, also
against efficiency--was checked by another law, the summoning of a
_parlamento_ in cases of emergency. This _parlamento_ was an informal
gathering of the people collected by the ringing of a bell in the big
square, where it was then asked to decide whether a special committee
should be appointed with free power to alter the existing constitution.
Politicians argued that here in the last resort was a direct appeal to
the people, but in reality by placing armed men at the entrances to the
square a docile crowd could be manœuvred at the mercy of any mob-orator
set up by those behind the scenes.

Power remained in Florence in the hands of the prosperous burghers and
merchants, and these in time developed their own feuds under the names
of ‘Whites’ and ‘Blacks’, adopted by the partisans in a family quarrel.

[Sidenote: Dante Alighieri]

The greatest of Italian poets, Dante Alighieri, was a ‘White’, and was
exiled from his city in 1302 owing to the triumph of his rivals. When
pardon was suggested on the payment of a large sum of money, Dante,
who had tried to serve his city faithfully, refused to comply, feeling
that this would be an open acknowledgement of his guilt. ‘If another
way can be found ... which shall not taint Dante’s fame and honour’, he
wrote proudly, ‘that way I will accept and with no reluctant steps ...
but if Florence is not to be entered by any such way never will I enter

Dante’s mental outlook was typical of mediaeval times in its stern
prejudices and hatreds, but it was also clearer and nobler in its
scope. An enthusiastic Ghibelline in politics, he believed that it
was the first duty of Holy Roman Emperors to exert their authority
over Italy, but this vision was not narrowed, as with many Italians,
into the mere hope of restoration to home and power, with a sequel of
revenge on private enemies. Dearer to Dante than any personal ambitions
was the desire for the salvation of both Church and state from tyranny
and corruption; and this he believed could only be achieved by
bestowing supreme power on a world-emperor.

One attempt at reform had been made in 1294, when the conclave of
Cardinals, suddenly stung with the contrast between the character
of the Catholic Church and its professions, chose as their Vicar a
hermit noted for his privations and holy life. Celestine V, as he was
afterwards called, was a small man, pale and feeble, with tousled hair
and garments of sackcloth. When a deputation of splendidly dressed
cardinals came to find him, he fled in terror, and it was almost by
force that he was at last persuaded to go with them and put on the
pontifical robes. The men and women who longed for reform now waited
eagerly for this new Pope’s mandates; but their expectations were
doomed to failure. Celestine V had neither the originality nor the
strength of will to withstand his change of fortunes. Terrified by his
surroundings, he became an easy prey to those who were unscrupulous and
ambitious, giving away benefices sometimes twice over because he dared
not refuse them to importunate courtiers, and creating new cardinals
almost as fast as he was asked to do so. At last he was allowed to
abdicate, and hurried back to his cell, but only to be seized by his
successor, the fierce Boniface VIII,[44] and shut up in a castle, where
he died.

Dante hated Boniface as a ruler who debased his spiritual opportunities
in order to obtain material rewards, but he had hardly less scorn for
Celestine V, who was given power to reform the Church of Christ and
‘made the great refusal’. Reform, in the Florentine’s eyes, could
not be looked for from Rome, but, when the Emperor Henry VII crossed
the Alps,[45] his hopes rose high that here at last was the saviour
of Italy, and it is probable that at this time the poet wrote his
political treatise called the _De Monarchia_, embodying his views. He
himself went out to meet his champion, but Henry was not destined to
be a second Charlemagne or Otto the Great, and his death closed all
expectations built on his chivalrous character and ideals.

Dante’s greatest work is his long poem the _Divina Commedia_, divided
into three parts, the _Inferno_, the _Purgatorio_, and the _Paradiso_.
It tells how on Good Friday of the year of Jubilee 1300 the Florentine,
meeting with the spirit of Virgil whom he had chosen as his master, was
led by him through the realms of everlasting punishment and of penance,
and from there was borne by another guide, Beatrice, the idealized
vision of a woman he had loved on earth, up through the ‘Nine Heavens’
to the very throne of God. As a summary of mediaeval theories as to the
life eternal, and also as the reflection of a fourteenth-century mind
on politics of the day, the _Divine Comedy_ is indeed an historical
treasury as well as a masterpiece of Italian literature. It is,
however, a great deal more--the revelation of the development of a
human soul. Dante’s journey is told with a mastery of atmosphere and
detail that holds our imaginations to-day with the sense of reality.
It was obviously still more real to himself and expresses the agonized
endeavour of a soul, alive to the corruption and nerve-weariness of the
world around him, to find the way of salvation, a pilgrimage crowned at
last by the realization of a _Civitas Dei_ so supreme in its beauty and
peace as to surpass the prophecies of St. Augustine.

      Now ‘Glory to the Father, to the Son,
      And to the Holy Spirit’ rang aloud
      Throughout all Paradise; that with the song
      My spirit reel’d, so passing sweet the strain.
      And what I saw was equal ecstasy:
      One universal smile it seemed of all things;
      Joy past compare; gladness unutterable;
      Imperishable life of peace and love;
      Exhaustless riches and unmeasured bliss.

Dante himself did not live to fulfil his earthly dream of returning to
Florence, but died at Ravenna in 1321. On his tomb is an inscription in
Latin containing the words, ‘Whom Florence bore, the mother that did
little love him’; while his portrait has the proud motto so typical
of his whole life, ‘I yield not to misfortune’. In later centuries
Florence recalled with shame her repudiation of this the greatest of
her sons; but while he lived, and for some years after his death,
political prejudices blinded her eyes. In the Emperor Henry VII, to
whom Dante referred as ‘King of the earth and servant of God’, Florence
saw an enemy so hateful that she was willing to forgo her boasted
democracy, and to accept as master any prince powerful enough to oppose
him. Thus she granted the _Signoria_, or ‘overlordship’ of the city,
for five years to King Robert of Naples, the head of the Guelf party in
Italy during the early years of the fourteenth century.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Naples]

King Robert of Naples was a grandson of Charles, Count of Anjou,
brother of St. Louis, and, true to the tradition of his house, stood
as the champion of the Popes against imperial claims over Italy.
Outwardly he was by far the most powerful of the Italian princes of
his day; but in reality he sat uneasily on his throne. The Neapolitans
had not learned with time to love their Angevin rulers, but even after
the death of Conradin remembered the Hohenstaufen, and envied Sicily
that dared to throw off the French yoke and give herself to a Spanish

It is difficult to provide a short and at the same time connected
account of the history of Naples from the death of King Robert in 1343
until 1435, when it was conquered by the House of Aragon. For nearly a
century there is a dismal record of murders and plots, with scarcely an
illuminating glimpse of patriotism or of any heroic figure. It is like
a ‘dance of death’, with ever-changing partners, and nothing achieved
save crimes and revolutions.

King Robert’s successor was a granddaughter, Joanna I, a political
personage from her cradle, and married at the age of five to a boy
cousin two years her senior, Andrew of Hungary, brother of Louis the
Great. We cannot tell if, left to themselves, this young couple, each
partner so passionate and self-willed, could have learned to work
together in double harness. What is certain is that no one in that
corrupt court gave them the chance, one party of intriguers continually
whispering in Joanna’s ear that as queen it was beneath her dignity to
accept any interference from her husband, while their rivals reminded
the young Prince Andrew that he was descended from King Robert’s
elder brother, and therefore had as great a right to the throne as
his wife. Frequent quarrels as to whose will should prevail shook the
council-chamber, and then at last came tragedy.

In 1345 Joanna and Andrew, then respectively eighteen and twenty,
set out together into the country on an apparently amicable
hunting-expedition. As they slept one night in the guest-room of a
convent the Prince heard himself called by voices in the next room.
Suspecting no harm he rose and went to see which of his friends had
summoned him, only to find himself attacked by a group of armed men.
He turned to re-enter the bedroom, but the door was locked behind him.
With the odds now wholly against him, Andrew fought bravely for his
life, but at length two of his assassins succeeded in throwing a rope
round his neck, and with this they strangled him and hung his body from
the balcony outside.

Attendants came at last, and, forcing the door, told Joanna of the
murder; on which she declared that she had been so soundly asleep
that she had heard nothing, though she was never able to explain
satisfactorily how in that case the door of her bedroom had become
locked behind the young king. Naturally the greater part of Europe
believed that she was guilty of connivance in the crime, and King Louis
of Hungary brought an army to Italy to avenge his brother’s death.
He succeeded in driving Joanna from Naples, which he claimed as his
rightful inheritance, but he was not sufficiently supported to make
a permanent conquest, and in the end he was forced to hurry away to
Hungary, where his throne was threatened, leaving the question of his
sister-in-law’s guilt to be decided by the Pope.

The Pope at this time looked to the Angevin rulers of Naples as his
chief supporters, and at once proclaimed Joanna innocent. It is worthy
of note that three princes were found brave enough to become her
husband in turn; but, though four times married, Joanna had but one
son, who died as a boy.

At first she was quite willing to accept as her heir a cousin, Charles
of Durazzo, who was married to her niece, but soon she had quarrelled
violently with him and offered the throne instead to a member of the
French royal house, Louis, Duke of Anjou. This is a very bewildering
moment for students of history, because it introduces into Italian
politics a second Angevin dynasty only distantly connected with the
first, yet both laying claim to Naples and waging war against one
another as if each belonged to a different race.

Joanna in the end was punished for her capriciousness, for in the
course of the civil wars she had introduced she fell into the hands of
Charles of Durazzo, who, indignant at his repudiation, shut her up in a
castle, where she died. One report says that she was smothered with a
feather-bed; another that she was strangled with a silken cord--perhaps
in memory of Prince Andrew’s murder.

After this act of retribution, Charles of Durazzo maintained his power
in Naples for four years, though he was forced to surrender the County
of Provence to his Angevin rival. Not content with his Italian kingdom,
he set off with an army to Hungary as soon as he heard of the death
of Louis the Great, hoping to enforce his claims on that warrior’s
lands. Instead he was assassinated, and succeeded in Naples by his son
Ladislas, a youth of fifteen.

Ladislas proved a born soldier of unflagging energy and purpose, so
that he not only conquered his unruly baronage but made himself master
of southern Italy, including Rome, from which with unusual Angevin
hostility he drove the Pope. Here was a chance for bringing about the
union of Italy under one ruler, and Ladislas certainly aimed at such
an achievement, but apart from his military genius he was a typical
despot of his day--cruel, unscrupulous, and pleasure-seeking as the
Visconti--and when he died, still a young man, in 1414 few mourned his

His sister, Joanna II, who succeeded him, lacked his strength while
exhibiting many of his vices. Like Joanna I she was false and fickle;
like Joanna I she had no direct heirs, so that the original House of
Anjou in Naples came to an end when she died. Many negotiations as
to her successor took place during the latter years of her reign,
and for some time it seemed as if the old queen would be content to
accept Louis III of Anjou, at this time the representative of the
Second Angevin House, but in a moment of caprice and anger she suddenly
bestowed her favour instead on Alfonso V of Aragon and Sicily, and
adopted him as her heir. Of course, being Joanna, she again changed
her mind; but, though Alfonso pretended to accept his repudiation, the
hard-headed Spaniard was not to be turned so easily from an acquisition
that would forward Aragonese ambitions in the Mediterranean.

Directly Joanna II died, Alfonso appeared off Naples with a fleet,
and though he was taken prisoner in battle and sent as a prisoner to
Filippo Maria Visconti at Milan, he acted with such diplomacy that
he persuaded that despot, hitherto an ally of the Angevins, that it
was much safer for Milan to have a Spanish rather than a French House
reigning in Naples. This was the beginning of a firm alliance between
Milan and Naples, for Alfonso, released from his captivity, succeeded
in establishing himself in ‘the Kingdom’, where withdrawing his court
from Aragon he founded a new capital that became a centre for learned
and cultured Italians as of old in the days of Frederick II.

We have dealt now with four of the five principal Italian states during
the later Middle Ages. In Rome, to pick up the political threads,
we must go back to the effects of the removal of the papal court to
Avignon in 1308.[46]

From the point of view of the Popes themselves, many of them Frenchmen
by birth, there were considerable advantages to be gained by this
change--not only safety from the invasions of Holy Roman Emperors
aspiring to rule Italy, but also from the turbulence of Roman citizens
and barons of the Campagna.

Avignon was near enough to France to claim her king’s protection, but
far enough outside her boundaries to evade obedience to her laws. It
stood in the County of Provence, part of the French estates of the
Angevin House of Naples, but during her exile Joanna I, penniless and
in need of papal support, was induced to sell the city, and it remained
an independent possession of the Holy See until the eighteenth century.

From the immediate advantages caused by the ‘Babylonish Captivity’, as
these years of papal residence in Avignon were called, we turn to the
ultimate disadvantages, and these were serious. Inevitably there was a
lowering of papal prestige in the eyes of Europe. In Rome, that since
classic times had been the recognized capital of the Western world, the
Pope had seemed indeed a world-wide potentate, on whom the mantle both
of St. Peter and of the Caesars might well have fallen. Transferred to
a city of Provence he shrank almost to the measure of a petty sovereign.

During the Hundred Years’ War, for instance, there was widespread
grumbling in England at the obedience owed to Avignon. The Popes, ran
popular complaint, were more than half French in political outlook and
sympathy, so that an Englishman who wished for a successful decision
to his suit in a papal law-court must pay double the sums proffered by
men of any other race in order to obtain justice. What was more, he
knew that any money he sent to the papal treasury helped to provide the
sinews of war for his most hated enemies.

The Papacy had been disliked across the Channel in the days of
Innocent IV, when England was taxed to pay for wars against the
Hohenstaufen: now, more than a century later, grumbling had begun to
crystallize in the dangerous shape of a resistance not merely to papal
supremacy, but to papal doctrine on which that supremacy was based.
Thus Wycliffe, the first great English heretic, who began to proclaim
his views during the later years of Edward III’s reign, was popularly
regarded as a patriot, and his sermons denouncing Catholic doctrine
widely read and discussed.

In the thirteenth century it had been possible to suppress heresy in
Languedoc; but in the fourteenth century there were no longer Popes
like Innocent III who could persuade men to fight the battles of
Avignon, and so the practice of criticism and independent thought grew,
and by the fifteenth century many of the doctrines taught by Wycliffe
had spread across Europe and found a home in Bohemia.

[Sidenote: Rome]

With the history of Bohemian heresy we shall deal later, but, having
treated its development as partly arising from the change in papal
fortunes, we must notice the effect of the Babylonish Captivity on Rome
herself, and this, indeed, was disastrous.

  ‘The absence of the Pope’, says Gregorovius, a modern German
  historian, ‘left the nobility more unbridled than ever; these
  hereditary Houses now regarded themselves as masters of Rome left
  without her master. Their mercenaries encamped on every road;
  travellers and pilgrims were robbed; places of worship remained
  empty. The entire circumstances of the city were reduced to a
  meaner level. No prince, nobleman, or envoy of a foreign power,
  any longer made his appearance.... Vicars replaced the cardinals
  absent from their titular churches, while the Pope himself was
  represented in the Vatican, as by a shadow, by some bishop of the
  neighbourhood, Nepi, Viterbo, or Orvieto.’

The wealth and pomp that had made the papal court a source of revenue
to the Romans were transferred to Provence: the Orsini and Colonna
battled in the streets with no High Pontiff to hold them in check. Only
his agents remained, who were there mainly to collect his rents and
revenues, so that the city seemed once again threatened with political
extinction as when Constantine had removed his capital to the Bosporus.

[Sidenote: Cola di Rienzi]

One short period of glory there was in seventy years of gloom--the
realized vision of a Roman, Cola di Rienzi, a youth of the people, who,
steeped in the writings of classical times, hoped to bring back to the
city the freedom and greatness of republican days. From contemporary
accounts Rienzi had a wonderful personality, striking looks, and an
eloquence that rarely failed to move those who heard him. At Avignon,
as a Roman envoy, he gained papal consent to some measures earnestly
desired at Rome, and this success won him a large and enthusiastic
following amongst the citizens, who applauded all that he said, and
offered to uphold his ambitions with their swords.

The first step to the greatness of Rome was obviously to restore order
to her streets, and Rienzi therefore determined to overthrow the
nobles, who with their retainers were always brawling, and above all
the proud family of Colonna, one of whom without any provocation had
killed his younger brother in a fit of rage.

The revolution took place in May 1347, when, with the Papal Vicar
standing at his side, and banners representing liberty, justice, and
peace floating above his head, Rienzi proclaimed a new constitution to
the populace, and invested himself as chief magistrate with the title
of ‘Tribune, Illustrious Redeemer of the Holy Roman Republic’.

At first there was laughter amongst the Roman nobles when they heard of
this proclamation. ‘If the fool provokes me further,’ exclaimed Stephen
Colonna, the head of that powerful clan, ‘I will throw him from the
Capitol’; but his contempt was turned to dismay when he heard that a
citizen army was guarding the bridges, and confining the aristocratic
families to their houses. In the end Stephen fled to his country
estates, while the younger members of his household came to terms with
the Tribune, and swore allegiance to the new Republic.

Rienzi was now triumphant, and his letters to all the rulers of Europe
announced that Rome had found peace and law, while he exhorted the
other cities of Italy to throw off the yoke of tyrants and join a
‘national brotherhood’.

It would seem that Rienzi alone of his contemporaries saw a vision of
a united Italy; but unfortunately the common sense and balance that are
necessary to secure the practical realization of a visionary’s dreams
were lacking. The Tribune was undoubtedly great, but not great enough
to stand success. The child of peasants, he began to boast that he was
really a son of the Emperor Henry VII, and the pageantry that he had
first employed to dazzle the Romans grew more and more elaborate as he
himself became ensnared by a false sense of his own dignity. Clad in a
toga of white silk edged with a golden fringe, he would ride through
the streets on a white horse, amid a cavalcade of horsemen splendidly
equipped. In order to celebrate his accession to power he instituted
a festival, where, amid scenes of lavish pomp, he was knighted in the
Lateran with a golden girdle and spurs, after bathing in the porphyry
font in which tradition declared that Constantine had been cleansed
from leprosy.

The people, as is the way with crowds, clapped their hands and shouted
while the trumpets blew, and they scrambled for the gold Rienzi’s
servants threw broadcast; but long afterwards, when they had forgotten
the even-handed justice their Tribune had secured them, they remembered
his foolish extravagance and display, and resented the taxes that he
found it necessary to impose in order to maintain his government and

The history of Rienzi’s later years is a tale of brilliant
opportunities, created in the first place by his genius, and then lost
by his timidity or lack of balance. On one occasion, when he learned
that the very nobles who had sworn on oath to uphold his constitution
were plotting its overthrow, he invited the leaders of the conspiracy
to a banquet, arrested them, and sent them under guard to prison. The
next morning the prison-bell tolled, and the nobles within were led out
apparently to the death their treachery had richly deserved. At the
last moment, however, when each had given up hope, the Tribune came
before the scaffold, and, after a sermon on the forgiveness of sins,
ordered those who were condemned to be set free.

If he had wished to win their allegiance by this act of clemency Rienzi
had ill-judged his enemies. They had disliked him before as a peasant
upstart; now they hated him far more bitterly as a man who had been
able to humble them in the public gaze, believing, whether rightly or
wrongly, that it was not forgiveness but fear of the powerful families
to which they belonged that had finally moved him to mercy. From this
moment the Orsini, the Colonna, and their friends had but one object in
life--to pull the Tribune from his throne. By bribery and the spreading
of false rumours they set themselves to undermine his influence,
telling tales everywhere of his extravagance and luxury as contrasted
with the heavy taxes, until at last in 1354 a tumult broke out in the
city, and a mob collected that stormed the palace where Rienzi lodged,
shouting ‘Death to the Traitor!’ As the Tribune attempted to escape he
was seen against the flames of his burning walls and cut down.

[Sidenote: St. Catherine of Siena]

With the fall of Rienzi died the idea of a restored and reformed Italy
through the medium of a Holy Roman Republic, just as Dante’s hope of a
new and more perfect Roman Empire had been shattered by the death of
Henry VII. Was there then no hope for Italy in mediaeval minds? The
next answer that there was hope, indeed, came from Siena, one of the
hill towns not far south of Florence, and its author was a peasant
girl, Catherine Benincasa, who, like Jeanne d’Arc, looking round upon
the misery of her country, believed that she was called by God to show
her fellow countrymen the way of salvation.

St. Catherine, for she was afterwards canonized, was one of the
twenty-five children of a Sienese dyer, who was at first very angry
that his daughter refused to marry and instead joined the Order of
Dominican Tertiaries--that is, of women who, still remaining in their
own homes, bound themselves by vows to obey a religious rule.

In time, not only the dyer but all Siena came to realize that Catherine
possessed a mind and spirit far above ordinary standards, so that,
while in her simplicity she would accept the meanest household tasks,
she had yet so great an understanding of the larger issues of life that
she could read the cause of each man or woman’s trouble who came to
her, and suggest the remedy they needed to give them fresh courage or

During an outbreak of plague in Siena it was Catherine who, undismayed
and tireless, went everywhere amongst the sick and dying, infusing
new heart into the weary doctors and energy into patients succumbing
helplessly to the disease.

When one of the wild young nobles of the town was condemned to death
according to the harsh law of the day for having dared to criticize his
government, Catherine visited him in prison. She found him raging up
and down his cell like some trapped wild animal, refusing all comfort;
but her presence and sympathy brought him so great a sense of peace and
even of thanksgiving that he went to the scaffold at last joyfully, we
are told, calling it ‘the holy place of justice’. Here, not shrinking
from the scene of death itself, Catherine awaited him, kneeling before
the block, and received his head in her lap when it was severed from
his body. ‘When he was at rest,’ she wrote afterwards, showing what the
strain had been, ‘my soul also rested in peace and quiet.’

St. Catherine was not alarmed when ambassadors from other cities, and
even messengers from the Pope at Avignon, came to ask her advice on
thorny problems. She believed that she was a messenger of God, ‘servant
and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ’, as she styled herself in
her letters, and that God intended the regeneration of Italy to be
brought about neither by Emperor, nor by a Holy Roman Republic, but
by the Pope himself. No longer must he live at Avignon, but return to
Rome, and, once established there, begin the work of reform so sorely
needed both by Church and State. Then would follow a call to the world
that, recognizing by his just and generous acts that he was indeed the
‘Father of Christendom’, would joyfully come to offer its allegiance.

This high ideal touched the hearts and imaginations of even the least
spiritual of Catherine’s contemporaries. One of her letters was
addressed to that firebrand Sir John Hawkwood, whom she besought to
turn his sword away from Italy against the Turks; and it is said that
on reading it he took an oath that if other captains would go on a
crusade he would do so also.

St. Catherine herself went to Avignon and saw Pope Gregory XI--a timid
man, who loved luxury and peace of mind, fearing greatly the turbulence
of Rome. At this time all the barons of the Campagna and most of the
cities on the papal estates were up in arms, and Gregory had been
warned that unless he went in person to pacify the combatants he was
likely to lose all his temporal possessions. Catherine, when consulted,
told him sternly that he should certainly return to Italy, but not for
this reason.

‘Open the eyes of your intelligence,’ she said, ‘and look steadily
at this matter. You will then see, Holy Father, that ... it is more
needful for you to win back souls than to reconquer your earthly

In January 1377 St. Catherine gained her most signal triumph, for
Gregory XI, at her persuasion, appeared in Rome and took up his
quarters there, so bringing to an end the ‘Babylonish Captivity’. Not
long afterwards he died; and the Romans who had rejoiced at his coming
were overwhelmed with fear that his successor might be a Frenchman and
return to Avignon. ‘Give us a Roman!’ they howled, surging round the
palace where the College of Cardinals, or Consistory, as it was called,
was holding the election; and the cardinals, believing that they would
be torn in pieces unless they at least chose an Italian, hastily
elected a Neapolitan, the Archbishop of Bari, who took the name of
Urban VI.

It was an unfortunate choice. Urban honestly wished to reform the
Church, but of Christian charity, without which good deeds are of no
avail, he possessed nothing. Arrogant, passionate, and fierce in his
frequent hatreds, blind to either tact or moderation, he tried to
force the cardinals by threats and insults into surrendering their
riches and pomp. ‘I tell you in truth,’ exclaimed one of them, when he
had listened to the Pope’s first fiery denunciations, ‘you have not
treated the Cardinals to-day with the respect they received from your
predecessors. If you diminish our honour we shall diminish yours.’

Rome was soon aflame with the plots of the rebellious college, whose
members finally withdrew from the city, declared that they had been
intimidated in their choice by the mob, that the election of Urban was
therefore invalid, and that they intended to appoint some one else. As
a result of this new conclave there appeared a rival Pope, Clement
VII, who after a short civil war fled from Italy and took up his
residence at Avignon.

[Sidenote: The Great Schism]

The period that followed is called the Great Schism, one of the times
of deepest humiliation into which the papal power ever descended. From
Rome and Avignon two sets of bulls, claiming divine sanction and the
necessity of human obedience, went forth to Christendom, their authors
each declaring himself the one lawful successor of St. Peter, and
Father of the Holy Catholic Church.

With Clement VII sided France, her ally Scotland, Spain, and Naples;
with Urban VI, Germany, England, and most of the northern kingdoms; and
when these Popes died the cardinals they had elected perpetuated the
schism by choosing fresh rivals to rend the unity of the Church. Thus
in the struggle for temporal supremacy reform was forgotten, and the
growing spirit of doubt and scepticism given a fair field in which to
sow her seed.

St. Catherine had realized her desire, the return of the Pope to Rome,
only, we see, to find it fail in achieving the purpose for which she
had prayed and planned. The Popes of the fourteenth century were men of
the age in which they lived, not great souls like the saint of Siena
herself, who called them to a task of which they were spiritually
incapable. With her death her ideal faded, and another gradually took
shape in the minds of men, namely, ‘an appeal from the Vicar of Christ
on earth to Christ Himself, residing in the whole body of the Church’.

Christendom remembered that in the early days of her history it had
been Councils of the Fathers, sitting at Nicea and elsewhere, that had
defined the Faith and made laws for the Catholic Church. Now it was
suggested that once more a large world-council should be called from
every Catholic nation, composed of Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, the
Heads of the Friars and of the Monastic and Military Orders, together
with Doctors of Theology and Law. This council was to be given power by
the whole of Christendom to end the schism, condemn heresy, and reform
the Church.

The person who was chiefly responsible for the summoning of this
council, that met at Constance in 1414, was Sigismund, King of the
Romans, a son of the Emperor Charles IV, and brother and heir to the
Emperor Wenzel, a drunken sot, who was also King of Bohemia, but quite
incapable of playing an intelligent part in public affairs. Sigismund
was King of Hungary by election and through his marriage with a
daughter of Louis the Great[47]; but his subjects had little respect
for his ability, and were usually in a state of chronic rebellion. In
spite of the fact that he had no money and had been decisively and
ingloriously defeated in battle by the Turks, he continued to hold
high ambitions, desiring above all things to appear as the arbiter of
European destinies who would reform both Church and State.

The Council of Constance gave him his opportunity, and certainly no
other man worked as hard to make it a success. Sometimes he presided in
person at the meetings, which dragged out their weary discussions for
about four years: at other times he would visit the courts of Europe,
trying to persuade rival Popes to resign, or, if they were obstinate,
civil sovereigns to refuse them patronage and protection. He even
tried, though in vain, to act as mediator in the Hundred Years’ War, in
order that the political quarrels of French and English might not bring
friction to the council board.

[Sidenote: John Huss]

It is unfortunate for Sigismund’s memory that his share in the Council
of Constance was marred by treachery. As heir to the throne of Bohemia
and the incapable Wenzel he was often led to interfere in the affairs
of that kingdom, and felt it his duty to take some steps with regard
to the spread of Wycliffe’s doctrines amongst his future subjects,
especially in the national University of Prague. Here heretical views
were daily expounded by a clever priest and teacher, John Huss. Now the
orthodox Catholics in the university were mainly Germans, and hated by
the ordinary Bohemians, who were Slavs, and these therefore admired and
followed Huss for national as well as from religious convictions.

Sigismund agreed with Huss in desiring a drastic reform of the
Church, suitable means for ensuring which he hoped to see devised at
Constance. At the same time he trusted that the representatives of
Christendom would come to some kind of a compromise with the Bohemian
teacher on his religious views, and persuade him by their arguments to
withdraw some of his most unorthodox opinions. With this end in view
he therefore invited Huss to appear at the Council, offering him a

Many of the Bohemians suspected treachery and shook their heads when
their national hero insisted that he was bound in honour to make
profession of his faith when summoned. ‘God be with you!’ exclaimed
one, ‘for I fear greatly that you will never return to us.’ This
prophecy was fulfilled; for Huss, when he arrived at Constance, found
that Sigismund was absent, and the attitude of the Council definitely
hostile to anything he might say. After a prolonged examination he was
called upon to recant his errors, and, refusing to yield, was condemned
to death as a heretic; Sigismund, on his return to Constance shortly
after this sentence had been passed, was persuaded that unless he
consented to withdraw his safe-conduct the whole gathering would break
up in wrath.

Herod, he was told, had made a bad oath in agreeing to fulfil the wish
of Herodias’s daughter and should have refused her demand for the head
of John the Baptist. To pledge faith to a heretic was equally wrong,
for as an example and warning to Christendom all heretics should be
burned. It was imperative therefore for the good of the Church that
such a safe-conduct should be withdrawn. Sigismund at last sullenly
yielded, conscious of the stain on his honour, yet still more fearful
lest the council he had called together with so great an effort should
melt away, its tasks unfulfilled, as his many enemies hoped.

In July 1415 Huss was burned alive, crying aloud with steadfast courage
as those about him urged him to recant, ‘Lo! I am prepared to die in
that truth of the Gospel which I taught and wrote.’ Lest he should
be revered as a martyr, the ashes of Huss were flung into the river,
his very clothes destroyed; but measures that had prevailed when an
Arnold of Brescia preached to a few, some two centuries before, were
unavailing when a John Huss died for the faith of a nation. Sigismund
kept his council together, but he paid for his broken word in the
flame of hatred that his accession in 1419 aroused in Bohemia, and
which lasted during the seventeen years of what are usually called the
Hussite Wars.

The Council of Constance had condemned heresy: it succeeded in deposing
three rival popes, and by its united choice of a new pope, Martin V, it
put an end to the long schism that had divided the Church. The question
of reform, the most vital of all the problems discussed, resulted
in such controversy that men grew weary, and it was postponed for
settlement to another council that the new pope pledged himself to call
in five years.

Such were the practical results of the first real attempt of the Church
to solve the problems of mediaeval times, not by the decision of one
man, whether pope or emperor, but by the voice of Christendom at large.
If the attempt failed the difficulties in the way were so great that
failure was inevitable.

The Conciliar Movement was modern in the sense that it was an appeal
to the judgement of the many rather than of a single autocrat; but it
proved too mediaeval in actual construction and working for the growing
spirit of nationality that brought its prejudices and misunderstandings
to the council hall. English and French, Germans and Bohemians,
Italians and men from beyond the Alps, were too mutually suspicious,
too assured of the righteousness of their own outlook, to be able to
sacrifice their individual, or still more their national, convictions
to traditional authority. The day for world-rule, as mediaeval
statesmen understood the term, had passed; and the Council of Constance
was a witness to its passing.

_Supplementary Dates. For Chronological Summary, see pp. 368-73._

  Dante Alighieri                        1265-1321
  King Robert of Naples                  1309-43
  Joanna I of Naples                     1343-82
  Ladislas of Naples                     1386-1414
  Joanna II of Naples                    1414-35
  St. Catherine of Siena                 1347-80
  Pope Gregory XI                        1371-8
  Pope Urban VI                          1378-89
  Pope Clement VII                       1378-94
  Pope Martin V                          1417-31



The final failure of Christendom to preserve Eastern Europe from the
infidel may be traced back to the disastrous Fourth Crusade[48] in the
thirteenth century, when Venice, for purely selfish reasons, drove out
the Greek rulers of Constantinople, and helped to establish a Latin or
Frankish Empire. This Empire lasted for fifty-seven years, weak in its
foundation, and growing ever weaker like a badly built house, ready to
tumble to the ground at the first tempest. It pretended to embrace all
the territory that had belonged to its predecessors, but many of the
feudal landowners whom it appointed were never able to take possession
of their estates that remained under independent Greek or Bulgarian
princes, while in Asia Minor the exiled Greek emperors ruled at Nicea,
awaiting an opportunity to cross the Bosporus and effect a triumphant

Michael Paleologus, to whom the opportunity came, was an unscrupulous
adventurer who, on account of his military reputation, had been
appointed guardian of the young Emperor of Nicea, John Ducas, a boy of
eight. Taking advantage of this position, Michael drove from the court
all whom he knew to be disinterested partisans of his charge, and then
declared himself joint emperor with the child. This ambitious claim was
but a step to worse deeds, for before he was ten years old the unhappy
little Emperor had been blinded and thrust into a dungeon by his
co-emperor’s orders, and the Paleologi had become the reigning house of
the Eastern Empire.

[Sidenote: The Eastern Empire]

This was an evil day for Christendom, for though Michael Paleologus
beat down the resistance of all the Greek princes who dared to resent
the way in which he had usurped the throne, and afterwards succeeded in
entering Constantinople, yet neither he nor his descendants were the
type of men to preserve what he had gained. Nearly all the Paleologi
were weak and false: Michael himself so shifty in his dealings that
his friends trusted him less than his enemies. Because he had won his
throne by fraud and cruelty he was always suspicious, like Italian
despots, lest one of his generals should turn against him and outwit
him. Instead, therefore, of keeping his attention fixed on the steadily
increasing power of the Mahometans, an inspection that would have
warned a wise man to maintain a strong army along the borders of the
Empire in Asia Minor, he was so afraid of his own Greek troops that,
once established in Constantinople, he disbanded whole regiments, and
exiled their best officers. Everything he did, in fact, was calculated
merely to secure his immediate safety or advantage, with no thought for
the future, so that he died leaving his kingdom an easy prey to foreign
enemies strong enough to seize the advantage.

[Illustration: The NEAR EAST


Besides the misrule of Michael Paleologus, other factors were at work,
busily undermining the restored Greek Empire. For one thing, the Greek
and Bulgarian princes, who had obtained independence when the Latins
ruled in Constantinople, had no intention of returning to their old
allegiance; while here and there were feudal states, like the Duchy
of Athens, established by the Latins and still held by them, although
the Frankish Emperor who had been their suzerain had disappeared. The
islands in the Aegean Sea were most of them in Venetian hands, and
Venice took care that the Greek Empire, whose fleet she had swept from
the Mediterranean in the thirteenth century, should not construct
another sufficiently strong to win back these commercial and naval
bases. In the same way the trade that had passed from Constantinople
never returned: for the cities of the Mediterranean preferred to deal
on their own account with Syrian and Egyptian merchants rather than to
pay toll to a ‘middleman’ in the markets of the Paleologi.

For all these reasons it can be easily seen that the new Byzantine
Empire was in a far worse state of weakness and instability than
the old. Like Philip IV of France, who found the financial methods
of Charlemagne quite inadequate for dealing with his more modern
needs and expenses, the Paleologi were confronted by a system of
administering laws and exacting taxes that, having completely broken
down under the strain of foreign invasion, was even more incapable
of meeting fourteenth-century problems with any feasible solution.
More practical rulers might have invented new methods, but the only
hope of the upstart line that had usurped power without realizing
the responsibility such power entailed was to seek the military and
financial aid of the West as in the days of Alexius Commenus.

Little such aid was there to gain. Venice and Genoa, once eager
crusaders, were now too busy contesting the supremacy of the
Mediterranean to act together as allies in Eastern waters. The Popes,
annoyed that the overthrow of the Latin Empire had brought about the
restoration of the Greek Church, were willing enough to consider the
reconversion of Byzantium held out to them as a bait; but even if they
granted their sympathy they had obviously too many political troubles
of their own to make lavish promises likely of fulfilment. Western
Europe, in fact, was too interested in its own national struggles
to answer calls to a crusade, too blind in its narrow self-interest
and prejudice against the Greeks to realize what danger the ruin of
Constantinople must bring on those who had for centuries used her as a

[Sidenote: Turkish Invasion of Europe]

Andronicus II, the son and successor of Michael, was equally cruel
and false, and still more of a personal coward. He saw the danger of
Mahometan invasion that his father had ignored, and, in terror both
of the Turks and of his own subjects, arranged to hire a band of
Catalan mercenaries who had been fighting for the Aragonese against the
Angevins in Sicily, in the war introduced by the Sicilian Vespers.[49]
This war over, the captain of the Catalans, Roger de Flor, a Templar
who had been expelled from his Order for his wild deeds, was quite
willing to unsheathe his sword on a new field of glory and pillage; so
that on receiving dazzling promises of reward and friendship he and his
‘merry men’ sailed for the East.

Once established in Greece, however, the Catalans proved so arrogant
and lawless that the Greeks complained that they were a far worse
infliction than the Mahometans. Quarrels ensued, and finally, in the
course of a bitter dispute between Roger de Flor and Andronicus,
the Spanish general was murdered as he stood talking to his master.
This act of treachery, added to growing indignation at the limited
supplies of money the Emperor had grudgingly disbursed for his foreign
army, turned the Catalans from pretence allies into a horde of raging
enemies. From the walls of Constantinople itself they were driven back,
but elsewhere they burned and slew and laid waste the country, until at
last, reaching Athens, they stormed the walls of that city, killed its
Latin Duke, and established themselves as an independent republic.

By the time they had ceased to rove the Catalans had also ceased
to be dangerous, but in their savage wanderings they had inflicted
incalculable harm upon the Byzantine Empire. The Andronicus who
could barely hold them at bay before the gates of his capital was an
Andronicus who could not hope to withstand invasion in Asia Minor; and
over his Eastern boundaries, left weakly garrisoned since the days of
Michael Paleologus, poured the Turks in irresistible numbers. Soon
there remained to the Greek Empire, of all their provinces across the
Bosporus, merely a strip of coast-line to the north of the Dardanelles,
and finally this also was whittled away, and the Turks crossed the
Straits and captured Gallipoli as a base for future operations in

The chief Mahometan Emir during this period of conquest was a certain
Orkhan, the son of Othman, whose name in the form ‘Ottoman’ is still
borne by his branch of the Turkish race. This Orkhan was quite as
cruel and unscrupulous as the Paleologi, but far more statesmanlike;
for as he conquered the territory of Greek Emperors and rival Emirs in
Asia Minor he consolidated his rule over them by a just and careful
government that gradually welded them into a compact state.

When a civil war broke out between John V, the grandson of Andronicus
II, and his guardian and co-ruler, a wily schemer of the Michael
Paleologus type called John Cantacuzenus, the latter, with utter lack
of patriotism, appealed to Orkhan for aid. He even offered him his
daughter in marriage, an alliance to which the Turk eagerly agreed,
dispatching a large force of auxiliaries to Thrace as token of his
friendly intentions towards his future father-in-law. These troops he
determined should remain, and difficult indeed the Christians found
it to dislodge them in later years, for the Turkish legions had been
stiffened by a device of Orkhan which has done more to keep his name in
men’s minds perhaps than any of his victories.

It was the Emir’s custom on a march of conquest not to oppress the
conquered, but to exact from them a tribute both in money and in
child life. From every village that passed under the rule of Orkhan
his soldiers carried away from their homes a fixed number of young
boys, chosen because of their health and sturdy, well-developed limbs.
These children were placed in barracks, where they were educated
without any knowledge of their former life to become soldiers of the
Prophet--fanatical, highly disciplined, skilled with the bow and sabre,
inculcated with but one ideal and ambition--to excel in statecraft or
on the battle-field.

Because of their excessive loyalty emirs would choose from among
the ranks of these ‘tribute children’ their viziers and other chief
officials, while the majority would enter the infantry corps of
‘Janissaries’, or ‘new soldiers’, whose ferocity and endurance in
attacking or holding apparently impossible positions became the terror
of Europe. In the words of a modern historian, ‘With diabolical
ingenuity the Turks secured the victory of the Crescent by the Children
of the Cross, and trained up Christian boys to destroy the independence
and authority of their country and their Church.’

In 1361, some years after Orkhan’s death, the Turks captured
Adrianople, and thus came into contact with other Christian nations
besides the Greeks, namely, the Serbians and Hungarians.

The Serbians were the principal Slav race in the Balkans, and under
their great ruler Stephen Dushan it had seemed likely that they might
become the predominant power in Eastern Europe. The Kings of Bulgaria
and Bosnia were their vassals; they had made conquests both in Albania
and Greece, thus opening up a way to the Adriatic and Aegean Seas. It
would have been well for Christendom if this energetic race of fighters
could have subdued the feeble Greeks, and so presented to the Turks,
when they crossed the Bosporus, a foe worthy to match the Janissaries
in stubborn courage. Unfortunately Stephen Dushan died before the
years of Turkish invasion, leaving his throne to a young son, ‘a youth
of great parts,’ as a Serbian chronicler describes him, ‘quiet and
gracious, but without experience.’

Only experience or an iron will could have held together in those
rough times a kingdom relying for its protection on the swords of
a quarrelsome nobility; and Serbia broke up into a number of small
principalities, her disintegration assisted by the ambitious jealousy
of Louis the Great of Hungary, who lost no opportunity of dismembering
and weakening this sister kingdom that might otherwise prove a
hindrance to his own imperial projects.

With the career of Louis we have dealt in other chapters, and have
seen him humbling the Venetians, driving Joanna I out of Naples,
acquiring the throne of Poland, fighting against the Turks and the
Emperor Charles IV. Because he spent his energy recklessly on all
these projects, Louis remains for posterity, apart from the civilizing
influence of his court life, one of the arch-destroyers of the Middle
Ages, the sovereign who more than any other exposed Eastern Europe to
Mahometan conquest. Had he either refrained from his constant policy
of aggression towards Serbia, thus allowing her to unite her subject
princes in the face of the invading Turks, or had he even been powerful
enough to found an Empire of Hungary that would absorb both Serbia and
Constantinople and act as a bulwark in the East, mediaeval history
would have closed on a different scene. Instead, the famous victories
of Louis over the Turks, that made his name honoured by Christendom,
were rendered of no avail by other partial victories over Christian
nations who should have been his allies.

[Sidenote: Battle of Kossovo]

On the field of Kossovo, in 1389, the Serbians, shorn of half their
provinces and weakened and betrayed by the Hungarians, met the Turks in
battle. Both sides have left record of the ferocity of the struggle.
‘The angels in Heaven’, said the Turks, ‘amazed by the hideous noise,
forgot the heavenly hymns with which they always glorify God.’ ‘The
battle-field became like a tulip-bed with its ruddy severed heads and
rolling turbans.’ ‘Few’, wrote the Serbian chronicler, ‘returned to
their own country.’

When the day closed, both the Serbian king, Lazar, and the Turkish
sultan lay dead amid their warriors, and the victory, as far as the
actual fighting was concerned, seemed to rest neither with Christian
nor Moslem. Yet, in truth, the Turk could supply other armies, as
numerous and as well-equipped, to take the place of those who had
fallen, while the Serbians had exhausted their uttermost effort: thus
the fruits of the battle fell entirely into the hands of the infidel.

‘Things are hard for us, hard since Kossovo,’ is a modern Serbian
saying, for the Serbs have never forgotten the day when they fought
their last despairing battle as champions of the Cross, and lost for a
time their ambition of dominating Eastern Europe.

      There resteth to Serbia a glory, (runs the old ballad)

             *       *       *       *       *

      Yea! As long as a babe shall be born,
      Or there resteth a man in the land--
      So long as a blade of corn
      Shall be reaped by a human hand,
      So long as the grass shall grow
      On the mighty plain of Kossovo--
      So long, so long, even so
      Shall the glory of those remain
      Who this day in battle were slain.

From the day of Kossovo the ultimate conquest of Eastern Europe by the
Turks became a certainty. Lack of ambition on the part of some of the
sultans and a life and death struggle in which others found themselves
involved in Asia Minor against Tartar tribes merely deferred the time
of reckoning, but it came at last in the middle of the fifteenth
century, when Mohammed II, ‘the Conqueror’, determined to reign in

This Mohammed, famous in mediaeval history, was the son of a Serbian
princess, and he is said to have grown up indifferent alike to
Christianity or Islam. He is described as having ‘a pair of red and
white cheeks full and round, a hooked nose, and a resolute mouth’,
while flatterers went still farther and declared that his moustache
was ‘like leaves over two rosebuds, and every hair of his beard a
thread of gold’. In character, from a fierce, undisciplined boy he grew
into a self-willed man, intent upon the satisfaction of his ambitions
and desires. He could speak, or at least understand, Arabic, Greek,
Persian, Hebrew, and Latin; and chroniclers record that it was in
reading the triumphs of Alexander and Julius Caesar that he was first
inspired with the thought of becoming a great general.

His rival, Constantine XI, the last and best of the Paleologi, was
a man of very different type from the Turk, or indeed from his own
ancestors. He was devoted to the Christian religion and Greece--brave,
simple, and generous. When he first became aware of Mohammed’s
aggressive hostility he attempted to disarm it by liberating Turkish
prisoners. ‘If it shall please God to soften your heart’, he sent word,
‘I shall rejoice; but however that may be, I shall live and die in the
defence of my people and of my Faith.’ His words were put to the test
when, in the autumn of 1452, the siege of Constantinople began.

[Sidenote: Fall of Constantinople]

The Emperor looked despairingly for Western aid, in order to secure
which the Emperor John V had himself in years gone by visited Rome
and made formal renunciation to the Pope of all the views of the
Greek Church that disagreed with Catholic doctrine. One of the chief
points of controversy had been the Catholic use of unleavened bread
in the Sacrament of the Mass; another, the words of the Nicene Creed,
declaring that the Holy Ghost ‘proceeded’ from the Son as well as from
the Father.

In all matters of faith as well as of ecclesiastical jurisdiction
John V, and later Constantine himself, had made open acknowledgement
of the supremacy of Rome, but their compliance did not avail to save
their kingdom in the hour of danger: indeed, while it evoked little
military support from Catholic nations it aroused keen hostility and
treachery at home. There were many Greeks who refused to endorse their
sovereign’s signature to what they considered an act of national
betrayal, some declaring openly that the Mahometan victories were
God’s punishment on kings who had forsaken the faith of their fathers,
and that it would be better to see the turbans of the infidels in St.
Sophia than a cardinal’s red hat.

When, then, Mohammed began to thunder with his fourteen batteries
against the once impregnable walls of Constantinople, making enormous
breaches, the reduction of the city had become only a question of
days. It is said that the Sultan in his eagerness to take possession
offered the Emperor and his army freedom and religious toleration if
they would capitulate. ‘I desire either my throne or a grave,’ replied
Constantine, knowing well which of the two must be his fate.

Beside some four thousand of his own subjects he could command only a
few hundred mercenaries sent by the Pope, and three hundred Genoese.
Of the Venetians and other Western Europeans there were even less; and
it was with this miniature army that he manned the wide circuit of the
walls, led out sorties, and rebuilt as well as he could the gaps made
by the heavy guns.

The contest was absurdly unequal, for Mohammed had some two hundred and
fifty-eight thousand men; and in May 1453 the inevitable end came to a
heroic struggle. Up through the breaches in the wall, that no labour
was left to repair, climbed wave after wave of fanatical Janissaries,
shouting their hopes of victory and Paradise. Beneath their continuous
onslaughts the defenders weakened and broke, fighting to the last amid
the narrow streets, until Constantine himself was slain, his body only
recognized later by the golden eagles embroidered on his shoes.

The women, and many of the Greeks who had refused to help in this time
of crisis because of the Emperor’s submission to the Catholic Church,
were torn from their sanctuary in St. Sophia and sold as slaves in the
markets of Syria.

Thus was lost the second city of Christendom to the infidels, and the
old Roman Empire, whose restoration had been a mediaeval idea for
centuries, perished for ever.

       *       *       *       *       *

Retribution, at least according to human ideas of justice, often seems
to lag in history; but in the case of the fall of Constantinople
some of the culprits most responsible, on account of their selfish
indifference, were speedily called on to pay the penalty. Mohammed II,
his ambition inflated by what he had already achieved, planned the
reduction of Christendom, declaring that he would feed his horse from
the altar of St. Peter’s in Rome. With an enormous army he advanced
through Serbia and besieged Belgrade; but here he was thrust back by
a Christian champion, John Hunyadi, ‘the wicked one’, as the title
reads in Turkish, with such loss of men and material ‘that Hungary and
eastern Germany were saved from serious danger for eighty years’.

With the Balkan states it was otherwise, whose governments, divided
in their counsels, jealous in their rivalries, had been incapable of
the union that could alone have saved them, and one by one they were
crushed beneath ‘the Conqueror’s’ heel. Greece also came under Moslem
domination, and finally the islands of the Aegean Sea that Venice had
torn from Constantinople in the interests of her trade were wrested
away from her, leaving her faced with the prospect of commercial ruin.


[Sidenote: Marco Polo]

All through the Middle Ages it had been to the cities of the
Mediterranean, first of all to Amalfi and Pisa, then to Marseilles,
Barcelona, Genoa, and Venice, that Europe had turned as her obvious
medium of communication with the East and all its fabulous wonders.
In the thirteenth century a Venetian merchant, Marco Polo, setting
forth with his father and uncle, had visited the kingdom of Cathay, or
China, and brought back twenty years later not only marvellous tales of
the court of Khubla Khan in Pekin, but also precious stones, rubies,
sapphires, diamonds, and emeralds in such abundance that he was soon
nicknamed by his fellow citizens ‘Marco of the Millions’.

Into the delighted ears of the guests he invited to a banquet on
his return he poured descriptions of a land where ‘merchants are
so numerous and so rich that their wealth can neither be told nor
believed. They and their ladies do nothing with their own hands, but
live as delicately as if they were kings.’ What seems to have struck
his mediaeval mind with most astonishment were the enormous public
baths in the ‘City of Heaven’ in southern China, of which there were
four thousand, ‘the largest and most beautiful baths in the world.’

The banquets also given by the great Khan excelled any European feasts.
They were attended by many thousands of guests, and their host, raised
on a dais, had as his servants the chief nobles, who would wind rich
towels round their mouths that they might not breathe upon the royal
plates. For presents the Khan was accustomed to receive at a time
some five thousand camels, or an equal number of elephants, draped in
silken cloths worked with silver and gold. His government surpassed
in its organization anything Europe had imagined since the fall of
the Roman Empire, such, for instance, as the postal system, by means
of messengers on foot and horse, that linked up Pekin with lands a
hundred days distant, or the beneficent regard of a ruler who in times
of bad harvests not only remitted taxation but dispatched grain to the
principal districts that had suffered.

Coal was used in China freely, ‘a kind of black stone cut from the
mountains in veins,’ as Marco Polo describes it. ‘It maintains the
fire’, he added, ‘better than wood, and throughout the whole of Cathay
this fuel is used.’

Besides dilating on the wealth and prosperity of China, the Venetian
had also much to say of Zipangu, or Japan, of Tibet and Bengal, of
Ceylon, ‘the finest island in the world,’ and of Java, supposed then to
be ‘above three thousand miles wide’.

Other travellers were to confirm many of his statements, but none told
their tale so simply and realistically as Polo, while not a few, like
the English Sir John Mandeville in the fourteenth century, supplied
fiction in large doses where it seemed to them that truth might bore
their readers. The eagerness with which either fact or fiction was
swallowed bears witness, at any rate, first to the extraordinary
fascination excited in mediaeval minds by such names as ‘Cathay’ or
‘Zipangu’; and next to the general Western belief in the inexhaustible
riches of the East and their determination to secure at least a portion.

When the Seljuk Turks, with their fierce animosity towards Christendom,
had settled like a curtain between East and West, the dangers and
expense of trading and commerce with Arabia and Asia Minor of course
increased. Venice and Genoa still brought back shiploads of silks,
spices, and perfumes for Western markets, but the price of these goods
was increased by the tolls paid to Turkish sultans and emirs for leave
to transfer merchandise from camels to trading-sloops. Then came the
fall of Constantinople, when Venice, by a treaty with ‘the Conqueror’
in the following year, appeared to secure wonderful trading privileges.
Mohammed, however, made such promises only to break them when
convenient, and, so soon as he could afford to do so, because he was
securely established in Europe, the tolls he demanded became heavier,
not lighter, the restrictions he placed upon trade more and more
galling to Christian merchants, until the usual purchasers of Venetian
goods grew exasperated at prices that doubled and trebled continually.

[Sidenote: Voyage and Discovery]

There were but two methods of avoiding this ever-increasing policy of
exploitation apart from doing without such luxuries: either a complete
conquest of the Turks, that would compel them to open up afresh the
old caravan routes to the East; or else the discovery of a new route
that would avoid their dominions altogether. Largely through the blind
selfishness of Mediterranean cities, and especially of Venice, we have
seen that the golden opportunity of aiding the Byzantine Empire had
been lost for ever. Thus the first method failed. It remains to deal
with the second, the voyages of discovery with which the Middle Ages
fittingly close.

[Sidenote: Henry ‘the Navigator’]

Towards the end of the fourteenth century there was born in Portugal
a prince, Henry, third son of King John I, and grandson by an English
mother of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. While he was still a boy
this prince earned fame for his share in the capture of Ceuta, a
Moorish town exactly opposite Gibraltar on the North African coast.
To the ordinary Portuguese mind this conquest raised hopes of a
gradual absorption of the southern Mediterranean seaboard, possibly of
competition in the Levant with Genoa and Venice; but Prince Henry saw
farther than ordinary minds. The problem that he set himself and any
one, Arab or European, who seemed likely to supply a solution was--What
would happen if, instead of entering the Mediterranean, Portuguese
ships were to sail due south? How big was this unknown stretch of land
called Africa, in the maps of which geographers hid their ignorance
by placing labels, such as ‘Here are hippografs! Here are two-headed
monsters!’? Would it not be possible to reach the far-famed wonders of
Cathay by sailing first south and then east round Africa, thus avoiding
trade routes through Syria and southern Russia?

It was fortunate that Prince Henry was a mathematician and geographer
himself, for many people told him in answer to his inquiries that
Africa ended at Cape Nam, not so many miles south of Tangier, and
others that the white man who dared to sail beyond a certain point
would be turned black by the heat of the sun, while the waters boiled
about his vessel and the winds blew sheets of flame across the horizon.

Prince Henry refused to believe such tales. He could not sail himself,
because he was so often occupied with wars in Africa against the Moors;
but year after year he fitted out ships at his own expense, and chose
the most daring mariners whom he could find, bribing them with promises
of reward and fame to navigate the unknown African coast. He himself
built a naval arsenal at Sagres on a southern promontory of Portugal,
and here, when not busy with affairs of state, he would study the
heavens, make charts, and watch anxiously for the returning sails of
his brave adventurers.

During Prince Henry’s lifetime Portuguese or Italians in his pay
discovered not only Madeira, or ‘the island of wood’, as they
christened it from its many forests, but the Canaries, Cape Verde
Islands, and the African coast as far south as Gambia and Sierra Leone.
Soon there was no longer any need to bribe mariners into taking risks,
for those who first led the way on these adventurous voyages brought
back with them negroes and gold dust as evidence that they had been
to lands where men could live, and where there were possibilities of
untold wealth. Thus the work of exploration continued joyfully.

It was in 1471, some years after the death of Prince Henry, that
Portuguese navigators crossed the Equator without being broiled black
by the sun or raising sheets of flame, as the superstitious had
predicted. The next important step on this new road to Asia was the
voyage of Bartholomew Diaz, who, sailing ever southwards, swept in an
icy wind without knowing it round the Cape, past Table Mountain, and
then, turning eastwards, landed at last on the little island of Santa
Cruz in Algoa Bay, where he planted a cross. He would have explored the
mainland also, but Kaffirs armed with heavy stones collected and drove
back the landing-party.

Diaz, emboldened by his success, wished to sail farther, but his crew
were weary of adventure, and with tears of regret in his eyes he was
forced to yield to their threats of mutiny and turn homewards. At
Lisbon, describing his voyage, he said that on account of its dangers
he had called the southernmost point of Africa the ‘Cape of Storms’,
but the King of Portugal, hearing that this was indeed the limit of
the continent, and that in all probability the way to Asia lay beyond,
would not consent to such an ill-omened name. ‘It shall be the Cape of
Good Hope,’ he declared, and so it has remained.

[Sidenote: Vasco da Gama]

In 1498 the work of exploration begun by Diaz was completed by another
famous navigator, Vasco da Gama. National hopes of wealth and glory
were centred in his task, and when he and his company marched forth
to their ships a large crowd went with them to the shore, carrying
candles, and singing a solemn litany. Then the sails of his four
vessels dipped below the horizon and were not seen for two years and
eight months, but when at last men and women had begun to despair at
the great silence, their hero reappeared amongst them, bringing news
more wonderful and glorious than anything that Portugal had dared to

There is little space to tell in this chapter the adventures that Vasco
da Gama related to the King and his court. He and his crews, it seemed,
had sailed for weeks amid ‘a lonely dreary waste of seas and boundless
sky’: they had skirmished with Hottentots and ‘doubled the Cape’,
caught in such a whirl of breakers and stormy winds that the walls of
the wooden ships had oozed water, and despair and sickness had seized
upon all. Vasco da Gama, even when ill and depressed, was not to be
turned from his purpose. Eastwards and northwards he set his sails, in
the teeth of laments and threats from his sailors, and so on Christmas
Day landed on a part of the coast to which in memory of the most famous
_Dies Natalis_ he gave the name of Natal.

From Natal, battling the dread disease of scurvy brought on by a
prolonged diet of salt meat, the Portuguese commander pursued his way,
attacked, as often as he landed for water and fresh food, by fierce
Mahometan tribes, until at last, guided by an Arabian pilot whom he
had picked up, he came to the harbours of Calicut in India, where was
a Christian king. The new route to Asia had been discovered. ‘A lucky
venture--plenty of emeralds.... You owe great thanks to God for having
brought you to a country holding such riches,’ declared the natives,
and loud was the rejoicing of the Portuguese at this glorious national

The likely effects of Vasco da Gama’s voyage did not pass unnoticed
elsewhere in Europe. ‘Soon,’ exclaimed a Venetian merchant in deep
gloom, ‘it will be cheaper to buy goods in Lisbon than in Venice.’ The
death-knell of the great Republic’s commercial prosperity sounded in
these words.

[Sidenote: Christopher Columbus]

In the meanwhile, some years before Vasco da Gama’s triumphant
achievement, a still greater discovery was made that was destined in
the course of time to change the whole commercial aspect of the world.
Its author was a Genoese sailor, Christopher Columbus, who, tradition
says, once sailed as far north as Iceland, and in the south to the
island of Porto Santo. Always in his spare time he could be found
bent over maps and charts, calculating, weaving around his reasoned
mathematical arguments the tales of shipwrecked mariners, until at last
he brought to the ears of his astonished fellow men and women a scheme
for finding Cathay, neither by sailing south nor east, but due west
across the Atlantic.

Here is a fourteenth-century description of the Atlantic, a dismal
picture still popularly accepted in the fifteenth: ‘A vast and
boundless ocean on which ships dared not venture out of sight of
land. For even if sailors knew the directions of the winds they would
not know whither those winds would carry them; and, as there is no
inhabited country beyond, they would run great risks of being lost in
the mist and vapour. The limit of the west is the Atlantic Ocean.’

Many people still believed that the world was flat, and that to sail
across the Atlantic was to incur the risk of being driven by the winds
over the edge into space. Thus Columbus met with either reproof for
contemplating such risks, or ridicule for his folly, but so convinced
was he of his own wisdom that he only grew the more enthusiastic as a
result of opposition.

Without money or royal patronage he could not hope to make the voyage
a success, and so he laid his scheme before the King of Portugal,
usually a willing patron of adventure. Unfortunately for Columbus,
the discoveries along the African coast promised such wealth and trade
to Portugal that her ruler did not feel inclined to take risks in
other directions that, while they must involve expense, as yet held no
guarantee of repayment.

‘I went to take refuge in Portugal,’ wrote Columbus at a later date,
‘since the King of that country was more versed in discovery than any
other, but ... in fourteen years I could not make him understand what I
said.’ Driven at last from Portugal by a decided refusal, Christopher
went to Spain, sending his brother Bartholomew with a letter explaining
his project to King Henry VII of England. It is interesting to note
that the keen-witted Tudor, as soon as the scheme was laid before him,
is said to have expressed his readiness to learn more and to lend his
support; but Bartholomew had been shipwrecked on his voyage northwards,
and owing to this delay Columbus had already received the patronage of
Spain and set out on his voyage before his brother returned with the

It was Queen Isabel of Castile, wife of King Ferdinand of Aragon,[50]
who after considerable hesitation, and against the advice of a council
of leading bishops and statesmen, determined finally to pledge her
sympathy, and tradition says her jewels if necessary, in the mariner’s
cause. Part of the attraction of his project lay in its appeal to
her Castilian imagination, for Castile had been ever haunted by the
possibilities of the bleak grey ocean that rolled at the gates of
Galicia; but still more potent than the thought of discovery was
the desire of spreading the Catholic Faith. This hope also inspired
Columbus, who regarded his enterprise as in the nature of a crusade,
believing that he had been called to preach the Gospel to the millions
of heathen inhabiting Cathay.

When Columbus set forth on his first voyage to ‘the Indies’, as he
roughly called the unknown territory he sought, those who sailed in
his three ships were many of them ‘pressed’ men, that is, sailors
ordered on board by their town, that having incurred royal displeasure
was given this way of appeasing it. Thus they were without enthusiasm
or any belief in what they thought their admiral’s mad and dangerous
adventure, and from the time that they lost sight of land they never
ceased to grumble and utter threats of mutiny. At one time it was the
extraordinary variations in the compass that brought them trembling
to complain; at another the steadiness of the wind blowing from the
East that they believed would never change and allow them to return
home; finally it was the sluggish waters of the Sargassa Sea, amid
whose weeds they saw themselves destined to drift until they died
of starvation and thirst. To every suggestion of setting the sails
eastward Columbus turned a deaf ear: but for the rest he threatened,
cajoled, or argued, as the occasion seemed to demand, his own heart
sinking each time the cry of ‘Land!’ was raised and the ardently
desired vision proved only to be some bank of clouds lying low upon the

At length came the news that a moving light had been seen in the
darkness. ‘It appeared like a candle that went up and down,’ says
Columbus in his diary, and all waited eagerly for dawn that revealed at
last a wooded island, later called the Bahamas, but then believed to be
part of the mainland of Asia. Clad in armour, and carrying the royal
banner of Spain, the great discoverer of the West stepped ashore, and
there, humbly kneeling, he and his crews raised to Heaven a _Te Deum_
of thankfulness and joy.

Columbus made five voyages to the West in all, for the way once
shown proved easy enough, nor did he need to ‘press’ crews for the
enterprise, but rather to guard against unwelcome stowaways. The
brown-skinned Indians, gaily coloured parrots, gold nuggets, and
strange roots that he brought back as witness of his first success were
enough to inflame the minds and ambitions of Spaniards with such high
hopes of wealth and glory that they almost fought to be allowed to join
the expeditions.

Vasco da Gama was rewarded for his voyage to India with a large pension
and the Portuguese title of ‘Dom’: he died in honoured old age. It is
sad to find that after the first triumphant return, when no glory and
praise seemed too great to bestow on their hero, the Spaniards turned
against Columbus. They blamed him because gold was not more abundant;
because his settlers quarrelled and started feuds with the natives;
because, although a very great mariner, he did not prove a ‘governor’
able to control and manage other men easily. Not a few were jealous of
his genius, and determined to bring about his ruin out of spite.

From his third voyage to the West Columbus was sent back by his enemies
in chains, ill with wounded pride at his shameful treatment. Queen
Isabel, hearing of it, instantly ordered his release, and tried to
soothe his indignation; but not long afterwards she herself died, and
Ferdinand, left to himself, was wholly intent on Aragonese ambitions in
the Mediterranean. To him the conquest of Naples was far more important
than any discovery of Cathay, and so Columbus’s complaints went
unheeded and he died in poverty forgotten by all save a few. ‘After
twenty years of toil and peril,’ he exclaimed bitterly, as he was borne
ashore from his last voyage, ‘I do not own even a roof in Spain.’

The New World to which he had won an entrance was given the name of
another, namely, of a Florentine, Amerigo Vespucci, who, sailing beyond
the West Indies, reached the mainland.

The effect of Columbus’s discovery upon the life of Europe was
momentous. No longer the Atlantic lay like a grey wall between man and
the Unknown. It had become a highway, not to Cathay but to a greater
West, where were riches beyond all human dreaming, ready as a harvest
for the enterprising and hardworking.

The central road of mediaeval commerce had been the Mediterranean, the
highway of the modern world was to be the Atlantic, and the commercial
future of Europe lay not with the city republics of the South but
with the nations of the North and West, with Portugal and Spain, with
Flanders and England, that had lain upon the fringe of the Old World
but stood at the very heart of the New.

_Supplementary Dates. For Chronological Summary, see pp. 368-73._

  Emperor Andronicus II                  1282-1328
  Emperor John V                         1341-91
  Sultan Orkhan                          1325-59
  Sultan Mohammed II                     1451-81
  Stephen Dushan                         1331-55
  Marco Polo                             1254-1324
  Henry ‘the Navigator’                  1394-1460
  Cape of Good Hope rounded              1486



All history is the record of change, either in the direction of social
progress or decay; but so gradual is this movement that, like the
transition from night to dawn or noon to evening, it is beyond our
vision to state the moment when tendencies began or ceased. It is only
possible to note the definite changes in their achievement, and then to
disentangle the threads by turning back along the twisted chain into
which they have been woven.

Sometimes in history there have been so many changes within a short
time that the effect has been cumulative and an epoch has been created,
as at the break-up of the Roman Empire, when civilization was merged
in the ‘Dark Ages’. Again, it is true of Europe at the end of the
fifteenth century and during the greater part of the sixteenth, a
period usually called ‘the Renaissance’, or time of ‘New Birth’,
because then it became apparent that the old mediaeval outlook and
ways of life had vanished, while others much more familiar and easy to
understand had taken their place: the Modern World had been called into

The most obvious change to be found at the Renaissance was the collapse
of the mediaeval ideal of a world-empire ruled in the name of God by
Pope and Emperor. The Western Empire still remained pretentious in its
claims; but its wiser rulers, such as Rudolph I and Charles IV, had
already realized that success lay rather in German kingship than in
imperial influence. The Popes had been restored to Rome, but the threat
of councils that could depose and reform hung like a cloud over their
insistence on the absolute obedience of Christendom; and, recognizing
the inevitable, the Vatican had sunk the ambitions of an Innocent III
in those of a temporal Italian Prince. Searching along the chain of
causes, it becomes clear enough that the trend of history during the
later Middle Ages had been this development of the smaller unity of
the nation out of the bigger unity of the world-state. By the end of
the fifteenth century England, France, and Spain were already nations;
while even Germany and Italy, feeling the call in a lesser degree, had
substituted for a wider sense of nationality devotion to a province or
city state.

The second of the great changes that characterize the Renaissance
was the development of the idea of man as an individual. All through
the Middle Ages, except perhaps in the case of rulers, men and women
counted in the life of the world around them, not so much as separate
influences as a part of the system into which they were born or
absorbed. In early days the tribe accepted its members’ acts, whether
good or bad, as something that was the concern of all to be atoned for,
supported, or avenged, as a public duty. Still more strongly was this
attitude expressed in family affairs, as in the numerous ‘vendettas’,
or feuds like those of the Welfs and Waiblingen, or of ‘the Blacks’ and
‘Whites’ in Florence.

Turning from racial ties to social, we find mediaeval associations
of all kinds holding a man bound, not by his own personal choice or
discretion, but by the decision of the group to which he happened to
be attached. The feudal system was never complete enough in practice
to make a good example of this bondage, but in theory from the
tenant-in-chief to the landowner lowest in the social scale there was
a settled rule of life, dictating the duties and responsibilities of
lord and vassal. Still more was this binding rule true of that greatest
of all mediaeval corporations--monasticism, that demanded from its
sons and daughters absolute obedience in the annihilation of self.
St. Bernard, whose personality was so strong that he could not remain
hidden amongst the mass of his fellows, was yet, we remember, angry
with Abelard for this above all other failings--that he had set up his
individual judgement as a test of life. In Abelard, as in Arnold of
Brescia, lay the first stirrings of the independent modern spirit that
at the Renaissance was to shake the foundations of the mediaeval world.

Besides monasticism there were other associations--the universities
and the class corporations, merchant guilds such as the North German
Hansa, and smaller city guilds, such as the ‘Greater’ and ‘Lesser Arts’
in Florence, comprising groups of lawyers, fishmongers, &c. All these
last maintained a standard of uniformity, regulating not only hours
of work, rate of pay, nature of employment, scale of contributions,
like a modern trade union, but went much farther, interfering in the
life of each individual member to insist on what he should wear in
public and how he might spend the money he had earned. It was a spirit
of benevolent slavery that held sway so long as the strivings of the
individual mind were overborne by a sense of helplessness in the face
of ignorance or by the weight of tradition.

This weight of tradition leads naturally to the third great change
heralded by the Renaissance--the breaking-up of a sky curtained in
mental darkness into separate groups of clouds, still heavily charged
with superstition and ignorance, but their density relieved by the
light of a genuine inquiry after truth for its own sake. During the
Middle Ages we have seen that men and women looked back for inspiration
to the Roman Empire, and this made them distrust progress, just as
a timid rider will dread a spirited horse because he fears to lose
control and to be carried into unknown ways.

The earliest guardian of mediaeval knowledge had been the Church,
and in the light that she understood her task she faithfully taught
the world about her. Her motto was ‘Reverence for the Past’; but,
bent in worship before the altar of tradition, she lost sight of that
other great world-motto, ‘Trust the Future’, which has been one of
the guiding stars of modern times. Her interpretation of the Faith,
of the legitimate bounds of knowledge, of the limits of Art, had been
almost a necessary school of discipline for the early Middle Ages
with their tendency to barbaric licence; but as she civilized men’s
minds and their aptitude for reasoning and understanding deepened, the
restrictions of the school became the bars of a prison. The mediaeval
Church, once a pioneer, lost her grip on realities, her spiritual
outlook became obscured by material ambitions, her faith weakened;
until at last so little sure was she in her heart of the complete truth
of her teaching that she opposed and denounced criticism or discovery,
much like a merchant who is secretly afraid that his methods of
business may be obsolete refuses to entertain ‘newfangled notions’ that
would open his eyes.

When Columbus laid his scheme for crossing the Atlantic before a
council of bishops and leading members of the Spanish universities,
mediaeval knowledge derided his presumption by quoting texts from the
Old Testament and various statements of St. Augustine and other Fathers
of the Church. There could be no Antipodes, they argued, because it was
distinctly said that the world was peopled by the descendants of Noah,
and how could such men have crossed these miles of ocean? Many similar
objections were raised and the mariner’s project condemned, just as
Roger Bacon had been judged a heretic for his scientific inquiries two
hundred years before.[51] It is significant of the change of mental
outlook that while Roger Bacon wasted his last years in prison and
Abelard was driven from the lecture-hall to a monastery, Columbus found
public support, vindicated his calculations, and so opened up a new

The great secret of the Renaissance is indeed this release of the
restless spirit of inquiry after truth, that is as old as humanity
itself, and that, swooping like a bird through the door of a cage out
into the air and sunshine, reckless of danger, carried along by the
sheer joy of unfettered life, sometimes foolish and extravagant in
its zest for experience, was at first too absorbed in the glory and
interest of freedom to feel any regret for the prison that had been at
least a shelter from the many stormy problems that were to rend the
modern world.

Charlemagne had believed that ‘without knowledge good works were
impossible’. The men of the early Renaissance were not so intent
upon the importance of good works or the hope of salvation as their
forefathers, but they would have assented eagerly to the statement
that ‘without knowledge any true understanding of human life was

Had the conditions under which knowledge could be obtained remained as
restricted as in mediaeval times, the Renaissance on its intellectual
side would in all probability have become a cult, a movement shared
by a few learned men and women to which the mass of the people in
every nation had no clue; and in this way it would have died out like
a plant unable to spread its roots. Human invention intervened with
the discovery of printing, which brought the great thoughts of the
world out of the monastic libraries, where they had been laboriously
collected and copied by hand, to distribute them, slowly at first but
ever faster and faster, throughout the busy centres of Europe, where
brains as well as stomachs are always eager for food.

It was a German, John Gutenburg, who invented printing by means of
movable types, but because he had not enough money to carry out his
design he was forced to borrow from a rich citizen of Mainz called John
Fust. This Fust treated John Gutenburg very badly, for he demanded
back the money he had lent so soon as he understood the value of the
other’s secret, and by this means forced Gutenburg, when he could not
pay, to hand over his plant in compensation. Fust then began to print
on his own account, and when the people of Mainz saw the copies of the
Bible that he produced, each number an exact replica of the first,
they declared that he had sold himself to the devil and was practising
magic. Thus, it is said, started the legend of Doctor Faustus that has
inspired poets, musicians, and dramatists.

The first English printer was William Caxton, a Kentishman, to view
whose press came King and court in great amazement, interested, but
utterly unaware of what a mental revolution this small piece of
machinery was to bring about.

The greatest of Italian printers were the Venetians, whose famous
Aldine press produced volumes that are still the admiration of the
world as well as treasure trove for book-collectors. In modern times
the desire for knowledge, or rather for information, has become a
scramble, and printing has degenerated into a trade. In the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries it was regarded as an art, and Aldus Manutius,
the Roman who established his press at Venice, intending to reproduce
an edition of all the Greek authors then known, was a great
scholar, who modelled his letters on the handwriting of the Italian
poet Petrarch, and gathered around him the most intellectual and
enterprising minds of his day to advise and help him. It was at the
Aldine press that one of the leaders of the Dutch Renaissance, Erasmus,
had several of his books printed, and Venice at this time became a
centre for scholars, and for all whose minds were alive with a thirst
for new impressions.

Fifteenth-century Italy was not, on the surface, so very different
from Italy in the fourteenth. The complete domination of the five
Powers, foreshadowed in the earlier century, had become fixed, and
three of them--Milan, Florence, and Naples--had succeeded in forming
an alliance to preserve the balance of power in the peninsula, and to
keep at bay the ambitions of Venice, whose empire was still spreading
over the mainland. In Naples ruled Ferrante I, an illegitimate son of
Alfonso V of Aragon, a typical despot like the Angevins his father had
replaced. In Milan the Visconti had merged themselves in the House of
Sforza, through a clever ruse of one of the most famous of mediaeval
_condottieri_, Francesco Sforza, who, besieging his master, Filippo
Maria Visconti, in Milan in 1441, had forced him to give him his only
daughter and heiress Bianca in marriage, and then to acknowledge him as
his successor.

[Sidenote: ‘Il Moro’]

The grim traditions established by the Visconti continued under this
new family, christened with their very names. Francesco’s son, Galeazzo
Maria, whose life was spent in debauch, is said to have poisoned his
mother and buried his subjects alive. When he was assassinated, his
brother, Ludovico, called from his swarthy complexion _Il Moro_, or
‘the Moor’, seized the reins of government, and proceeded to act
on behalf of his young nephew, Gian Galeazzo, whom he kept in the
background at Pavia, declaring him a helpless invalid.

Philip de Commines describes Ludovico as ‘clever, but very nervous and
cringing when he was afraid: a man without faith when he thought it to
his advantage to break his word’. Outwardly he displayed the genial
manners customary in a Renaissance prince, and presided at Milan over
a court so famed for its hospitality, wit, and intellect that it drew
within its circle painters, sculptors, writers, and scholars, as well
as military heroes and men of fashion.

It will be seen that Italy opened her arms wide to the new spirit of
intellectual and artistic enjoyment. Venice, Naples, Milan, each vied
with the other in attracting and rewarding genius: even the Popes at
Rome, whose natural instinct as the guardian of mediaeval tradition
was to distrust freedom of thought, were influenced by the atmosphere
around them, and to Pope Nicholas V the world owes the foundation of
the wonderful Vatican Library.

To the Queen of the Renaissance states we turn last--to Florence, the
‘City of Flowers’, that we left distracted by the internal discords
of her ‘Blacks’ and ‘Whites’, and by her wars against Filippo Maria
Visconti. The turning of the century had seen great changes in
Florence, the whittling away of the old ideal of liberty that would
brook no master, so that she became willing to accept the domination of
a family superficially disguised as a freely elected government.

The Medici were no royal stock, nor were they flaunting _condottieri_
like the Sforza, but a house of bankers, who by brains and solid
hard work had built up for itself a position of respect, not only in
Florence, but also throughout Europe, where their loans had secured the
fortunes of many a monarchy that would otherwise have tumbled in ruins
owing to lack of funds. It was the advantage of such monarchies to
preserve the credit of the House of Medici, and so the bankers gained
outside influence to aid their ambitions at home.

Within Florence the Medici posed as common-sense men of business,
unassuming citizens, easy of access, ready friends, ever the
supporters, while they were climbing the ladder of civic fame, of the
popular party that loved to shout ‘Liberty!’ in the streets, while it
voted her destroyers into public offices.

[Sidenote: Cosimo de Medici]

Cosimo de Medici, the first of the family to establish a position of
supremacy, was related to many of the nobles debarred by their rank
from any share in the government: but, though he won the allegiance
of this faction, he took care to claim no honour himself that
might frighten the public mind with terrors of a despot. Instead,
simply clad and almost unattended, he walked through the streets,
chatting in friendly equality with the merchants he met, many of
whose interests were identical or wrapped up with his own financial
projects; discussing agriculture with the Tuscan farmers like a country
gentleman, freely spending his money on the schemes of the working
classes, or scattering it amongst beggars.

When he died his mourning fellow citizens inscribed on his tomb the
words _Pater Patriae_, ‘Father of his Country’. They had felt the
benefits received through Cosimo’s government: they had not realized,
or were indifferent to, the chains with which he had bound them. Some
bitter enemies he had, of course, aroused, but these with quiet but
remorseless energy he had swept from his path. It was his custom to
sap the fortunes of possible rivals by immense exactions--to make them
pay in fact for the liberal government, for which he would afterwards
receive the praise, while drawing away their friends and supporters by
bribery and threats. At last, ruined and deserted, they would be driven
from the city; and here even Cosimo did not rest, since his influence
at foreign courts enabled him to hunt his prey from one refuge to
another until they died, impotently cursing the name of Medici, a
warning to malcontents of the length and breadth of a private citizen’s

The Medici, it has been said, ‘used taxes as other men use their
swords’, and the charge of deliberate corruption that has been brought
against them is undeniable. ‘It is better to injure the city than to
ruin it,’ once declared Cosimo himself, adding cynically, ‘It takes
more to direct a government than to sit and tell one’s beads.’

Neither he nor his descendants were the type of ruler represented by
Charlemagne or Alfred the Great. Their ideals were frankly low, with
self-interest in the foreground, however skilfully disguised. When this
has been admitted, however, it should be also remembered that Cosimo
employed no army of hired ruffians to terrorize fellow citizens as
the Visconti had done. Florence was willing to be corrupted, and if
she lost the freedom she had loved in theory, yet she rose under the
benevolent despotism of the Medici to a greater height of material and
political prosperity than ever before or since in her history. ‘The
authority that they possessed in Florence and throughout Christendom’,
says Machiavelli, ‘was not obtained without being merited.’

[Sidenote: The New Learning]

It was under the fostering care of the Medici that Florence, more than
any of the other Italian states, became the home of the intellectual
Renaissance, from which the ‘New Learning’ was to radiate out across
the world. This intellectual movement was twofold. Still under
mediaeval influence, it began at first by finding its inspiration
in the past, and so introduced a great classical revival, in which
manuscripts of Greek and Latin authors and statues of gods and nymphs
were almost as much revered as relics of the saints in an earlier
age. Rich men hastened on journeys to the East in order to purchase
half-burned fragments of literature from astonished Greeks, while in
the lecture-halls of Italy eager pupils clamoured for fresh light on
ancient philosophy and history. So great was the enthusiasm that it is
said one famous scholar’s hair turned white with grief when he learned
of the shipwreck of a cargo of classical books.

Cosimo de Medici had been a ‘friend and patron of learned men’; but
it was in the time of his grandson, Lorenzo ‘the Magnificent’, that
the Renaissance reached its height in Florence. It was Lorenzo who
founded the ‘Platonic Academy’ in imitation of the old academies of
Greek philosophers, an assembly that became the battle-ground of
the sharpest and most brilliant intellects of the day. Here were
fought word-tournaments, often venomous in the intensity of their
partisanship, between defenders of the views of Plato and of Aristotle:
here were welcomed like princes cultured Greeks, driven into exile
by Mahometan invasion, certain of crowded and enthusiastic audiences
if only they were prepared to lecture on the literary treasures of
their race. The enthusiasm recalled the days when Abelard held Paris
spellbound by his reasoning on theology, but showed how far away had
slipped the age of dialectics.

The last great name amongst the schoolmen is that of Duns Scotus,
a Franciscan of the thirteenth century, who raised the process of
logical reasoning to such a fine art that it has been said of him,
‘he reasoned scholasticism out of human reach’. Ordinary theologians
could not dispute with him, since it made their brains reel even to
try and follow his arguments, so at last they snapped their fingers
at him, crying, ‘Oh, Duns! Duns!’ Thus by his excessive skill in
intellectual juggling he reduced himself and his subject to absurdity,
and ‘Dunce’ has passed down to posterity as a fitting name for some one
unreasonably stupid.

Scholasticism, the glory of mediaeval lecture-halls, held no thrill
or charm for men of the Renaissance, and though Aristotle was still
revered and a great deal of labour expended on trying to make his views
and those of Plato match with current religious beliefs, yet the spirit
that underlay this attempt was wholly different to the efforts of
mediaeval minds.

‘Salvation’, ‘The City of God’--such words and phrases had been keys to
the thought of the Middle Ages from St. Augustine to St. Dominic and
St. Thomas Aquinas. To Renaissance minds there was but one master-word,

What message had these classical philosophers, that tradition held had
lived in a golden age, for struggling humanity more than a thousand
years later? The men and women of the Renaissance, as they put this
question, hoped that the answers they discovered would agree with the
Faith that the Church had taught them; but there was no longer the same
insistence that they must or be disregarded as heresy. The interest in
an immortal soul had become mingled with interest in what was human and
transitory, with the beauty and charm of this life as well as with the
glory of the next.

Searching after beauty, no longer under the stern school-mistress
‘tradition’, but led by that will-o’-the-wisp ‘literary instinct’, the
poets and authors under the influence of the Renaissance gradually
turned from the use of Latin and Greek to that more natural medium of
expression, their own language.

This was the second aspect of the ‘New Learning’, the disappearance of
the belief that Latin and Greek alone were literary, and the gradual
linking up of mediaeval with modern scholarship by the discovery that
the growth of national ideals and aspirations could best be expressed
in a living national tongue. The forerunners of this movement lived
long before the period that we usually call the Renaissance. Thus
Dante, greatest of mediaeval minds, was inspired to employ his native
Italian in his masterpiece, the _Divina Commedia_, that, had his genius
been less original, might have been merely a classical imitation.
Petrarch, the friend of Rienzi and lover of liberty, who lived at the
papal court at Avignon, was half-ashamed of his Italian sonnets, yet it
is by their charm still more than by his Latin letters that he lives
to-day, as Boccaccio by the witty easy-flowing style of his tales.

These are the names of literary ‘immortals’, and perhaps it may
seem strange to find, when we pass from them to the ‘New Learning’
itself, that the greater part of the works published by members of the
‘Platonic Academy’ and other intellectual circles are now as dead as
the dialectics of the schoolmen. Yet it is still harder, if we turn
their pages, to believe that such florid sentences and long-drawn
arguments could ever have stirred men’s blood to a frenzy of enthusiasm
or passion. The explanation lies in the fact that for all the charm of
its newly-won freedom, the Renaissance, on its literary side, was not
a time of creation but of criticism and inquiry. Its leaders were too
busy clearing away outworn traditions, collecting material for fresh
thought, and laying literary foundations, to build themselves with any
breadth of vision. Where they paused exhausted, or failed, the ‘giants’
of the modern world were able to erect their masterpieces.

Lorenzo ‘the Magnificent’ himself we can remember for the genuine
love of nature and poetry apparent in his sonnets, but his claim to
remain immortal in the world’s history must rest, not on his literary
achievements, but on his generous patronage and appreciation of
scholars and artists, as well as on the political wisdom that made him
the first statesman of his day.

[Sidenote: Giotto]

If the literature of the Renaissance was mainly experimental in
character, painting was pre-eminently its finished glory--the
representation of that sense of beauty in nature and in human life
from which the Middle Ages had turned away, as from a snare set by the
Devil to distract souls from Paradise. Here again, in painting, there
is a twofold aspect: the artist mind seeking in the past as well as
aspiring to the future for inspiration to guide his brush. It was in
the life of St. Francis, ‘the little Brother of Assisi’, that Giotto,
the great forerunner of the ‘new’ art, found that sense of humanity
idealized that spurred him to break away from the old conventional
Byzantine models, stiff, decorative, and inhuman, in order to attempt
the realization of life as he saw it around him in the street and field.

Cimabue, a famous Florentine painter, had found Giotto as a shepherd
lad, cutting pictures of the sheep grouped round him with a stone
upon the rockside. He carried the boy away to be his apprentice, but
the pupil soon excelled the master and not merely Florence but all
Italy heard of his wondrous colours and designs. ‘He took nature for
his guide,’ says Leonardo da Vinci; and many are the tales of this
kindly peasant genius, small and ugly in appearance but full of the
joy and humour of the world that he studied so shrewdly. The Angevin
King Robert of Naples once asked him to suggest a symbol of his
own turbulent Southern kingdom, whereupon the artist drew a donkey
saddled, sniffing at another saddle lying on the ground. ‘Such are your
subjects,’ he remarked, ‘that every day would seek a new master.’ No
politician could have made a more fitting summary of mediaeval Naples.

Giotto’s chief fame to-day lies in his frescoes of the life of St.
Francis on the walls of the double chapel at Assisi and in the
Franciscan Church of Santa Croce in Florence. Most of them, damaged
by the action of time and weather on the rough plaster, have been
repaired to their disadvantage, though a few remain unharmed to show
the painter’s clear, delicate colouring and boldness of outline. To the
average sightseer to-day they seem perhaps just legendary pictures,
more or less crude in design, but when Giotto painted we must remember
that the crowds who watched his brush in breathless admiration read as
they gazed the story of the most human of saints--a man who had but
lately walked amongst the Umbrian hills, and whose words and deeds were
to them more vivid than many a living utterance.

To understand what the genius of Giotto meant to his own day we must
consider the stiff unreality of former art, just as we cannot realize
the greatness of Columbus by thinking of a modern voyage from the
Continent to America, but only by recalling the primitive navigation of
his time. Giotto, like Columbus, had many imitators and followers, some
of them famous names, but the pioneer work that he had done for art
was commemorated at the Renaissance when, by the orders of Lorenzo de
Medici, a Latin epitaph was placed on his tomb containing these words:
‘Lo! I am he by whom dead Art was restored to life ... by whom Art
became one with Nature.’

It would be impossible to condense satisfactorily in a few short
paragraphs the triumphant history of Renaissance painting, the rapid
development of which Giotto and his ‘school’ had made practicable,
or even to give a slight sketch of the artists on whom that history
depends. Never before has so much genius been crowded into so few
years; but before we leave this pre-eminent age in modern Art, there
is one arresting figure who must be described, a man who more than any
other embodies the spirit of the Renaissance at its best, Leonardo da
Vinci, ‘foremost amongst the supreme masters of the world’.

[Sidenote: Leonardo da Vinci]

Leonardo ‘the Florentine’, as he liked to call himself, was born in
the fortified village of Vinci midway between Florence and Pisa.
The illegitimate son of a notary, born as it would seem to no great
heritage, he was yet early distinguished amongst his fellows.

‘The richest gifts of Heaven,’ says Vasari, ‘are sometimes showered
upon the same person, and beauty, grace, and genius, are combined in
so rare a manner in one man that, to whatever he may apply himself,
every action is so divine that all others are left behind him.’ This
reads like exaggeration until we turn to the facts that are known
about Da Vinci’s life, and find he is all indeed Vasari described--a
giant amongst his fellows in physique and intellect, and still more
in practical imagination. So strong was he that with his fingers he
could bend a horseshoe straight, so full of potent charm for all things
living that his presence in a room would draw men and women out of
sadness, while in the streets the wildest horses would willingly yield
to his taming power. Of the cruelty that rests like a stain on the
Middle Ages there was in him no trace--rather that hot compassion for
suffering and weakness so often allied with strength. It is told of him
as of St. Francis that he would buy the singing-birds sold in cages in
the street that he might set them free.

His copy-books are full of the drawings of horses, and probably his
greatest work of art, judged by the opinion of his day and the rough
sketches still extant of his design, was the statue he modelled for
Ludovico ‘Il Moro’ of Francesco Sforza, the famous _condottiere_ poised
on horseback. Unfortunately it perished almost at once, hacked in
pieces by the French soldiery when they drove Ludovico from his capital
some years later.

Leonardo has been called the ‘true founder of the Italian School of
oil-painting’. His most celebrated picture, ‘The Last Supper’, painted
in oils as an experiment, on the walls of a convent near Milan, began
to flake away, owing to the damp, even before the artist’s death. It
has been so constantly retouched since, that very little, save the
consummate art in the arrangement of the figures, and the general
dramatic simplicity of the scene depicted, is left to show the
master-hand. Even this is enough to convey his genius. Amongst the most
famous of his works that still remain are his ‘Mona Lisa’, sometimes
called ‘La Gioconda’, the portrait of a Neapolitan lady, and the
‘Madonna of the Rocks’, both in the gallery of the Louvre.

Leonardo excelled his age in engineering, in his knowledge of anatomy
and physics, in his inventive genius that led him to guess at the
power of steam, and struggle over models of aeroplanes, at which his
generation laughed and shrugged their shoulders. He himself took
keen pleasure in such versatility, but his art, that held other men
spellbound with admiration, would plunge him in depression. ‘When he
sat down to paint he seemed overcome with fear’, says one account of
him, and describes how he would alter and finally destroy, in despair
of attaining his ideal, canvases that those about him considered
already perfect. It is little wonder then that few finished works came
from the brush of this indefatigable worker; but his influence on his
age and after-centuries was none the less prodigious.

Leonardo stands for all that was best in the Renaissance--its zest for
truth, its eager vitality and love of experiment, but most of all for
its sympathy. He is the embodiment of that motto that seems more than
any other to express the Renaissance outlook: _Homo sum; humani nil a
me alienum puto_--‘I am a man, and nothing pertaining to mankind is
foreign to my nature.’

       *       *       *       *       *

Italy, we have seen, was pre-eminently the home of the Renaissance--the
teacher destined to give the world the ‘New Learning’ as she had
preserved the old during the Dark Ages. In those sunny days, when
Lorenzo ‘the Wise’, as well as ‘the Magnificent’, ruled in Florence,
and by his statesmanship preserved so neat a balance of politics that
the peninsula, divided by five ambitious Powers, yet remained at peace,
a glorious future seemed assured; but in 1492, the year that Columbus
discovered America, Lorenzo died. ‘The peace of Italy is dead also,’
exclaimed a statesman with prophetic insight, when he heard the news:
and indeed the stability and moderation that Lorenzo and his house had
symbolized was soon threatened.

In Florence, Wisdom was succeeded by Folly in the person of Piero,
Lorenzo’s son, an Orsini on his mother’s side, and an inheritor to the
full of the haughty, intractable temperament of the Roman baronage.
Playing his football in the streets amongst the shopkeepers’ open
booths, insolent to the merchants his father had courted, reckless of
advice, Piero was soon to learn that a despotism, such as that of the
Medici, founded not on armies but on public goodwill, falls at the
first adverse wind. This wind, a whirlwind for Italy, blew from France;
but it was Ludovico ‘Il Moro’, not the young Medici, who actually sowed
the seed.

‘Nervous and cringing,’ as Philip de Commines had described him,
Ludovico had found himself involved by his treatment of his nephew in
a fog of suspicions and fears. Left to himself, uneducated and ailing
in health, Gian Galeazzo Sforza would never have dared to thwart his
ambitious uncle; but he had married a Neapolitan princess of stronger
fibre, a granddaughter of Ferrante I, and when she complained to her
relations, and they in turn remonstrated with ‘Il Moro’, trouble began.

It seemed to Ludovico, assailed by secret visions of Naples allying
herself with Milan’s most dreaded enemy Venice, or even with Florence
and Rome to secure revenge and his own downfall, that he must hastily
give up the idea that Lorenzo had advocated of a balance of power
within the peninsula itself, and look instead beyond the mountains for
help and support. Mediaeval annals could give many instances of Popes
and former rulers of Milan who had taken this same unpatriotic step,
while a ready excuse could be found for invoking the aid of France, on
account of the French King’s descent from the Second House of Anjou,
that Alfonso V, Ferrante’s father, had driven from Naples.[52]

Acting, then, from motives of personal ambition, not from any wide
conception of statecraft, Ludovico persuaded Charles VIII of France,
son of Louis XI, that honour and glory lay in his renewal of the
old Angevin claims to Naples, and in 1494, with a great flourish of
trumpets, the French expedition started across the Alps. ‘I will assist
in making you greater than Charlemagne,’ Ludovico had boasted, when
dangling his bait before the young French King’s eyes; but the results
of what he had intended were so far beyond his real expectations as to
give him new cause for ‘cringing and fear’. ‘The French,’ said Pope
Alexander VI sarcastically, ‘needed only a child’s wooden spurs and
chalk to mark up their lodgings for the night.’

[Sidenote: French Invasion of Italy]

Almost without opposition, and where they encountered it achieving
easy victories, the French marched through Italy from north to south,
entering Florence, that had driven Piero and his brothers into exile,
compelling the hasty submission of Rome, sweeping the Aragonese from
Naples, whose fickle population came out with cheers to greet their new

Certainly the causes of this victory were not due to the young
conqueror himself, with his ungainly body and over-developed head,
with his swollen ambitions and feeble brain, with his pious talk of a
crusade against the East, and the idle debauch for which he and his
subjects earned unenviable notoriety. Commines, a Frenchman with a
shrewd idea of his master’s incompetence, believed that God must have
directed the conquering armies, since the wisdom of man had nothing to
say to it; but Italian historians found the cause of their country’s
humiliation in her political and military decadence.

We have seen how ‘Companies’ of hired soldiers held Italy in thrall
during the fourteenth century; but with the passing of years what was
once a serious business had become a complicated kind of chess with
mercenary levies for pawns. Fifteenth-century _condottieri_ were as
great believers in war as ever Sir John Hawkwood; but, susceptible to
the veneer of civilization that glosses the Renaissance, they had lost
the mediaeval taste for bloodshed. What they retained was the desire
to prolong indeterminate campaigns in order to draw their pay, while
reducing the dangers and hardships involved to the least adequate
pretence of real warfare. Here is Machiavelli’s sarcastic commentary:

  ‘They spared no effort,’ he says, ‘to relieve themselves and their
  men from fatigue and danger, not killing one another in battle but
  making prisoners ... they would attack no town by night nor would
  those within make sorties against their besieging foes. Their camps
  were without rampart or trench. They fought no winter campaigns.’

Before the national levies of France, rough campaigners with no taste
for military chess but only determined on as speedy a victory as
possible, the make-believe armies of Italy were mown down like ninepins
or ran away. Thus clashed two opposing systems--one real, the other by
this time almost wholly artificial--and because of its noise and stir,
1494, the year of Charles VIII’s invasion of Italy, is often taken as
the boundary-line between mediaeval and modern times, just as the year
476, when Romulus Augustulus gave up his crown, is accepted as the
beginning of the Middle Ages. In both cases it is not the events of
the actual year that can be said to have created the change. They are
merely the culminating evidence of the end of an old order of things
and the beginning of a new.

[Sidenote: End of the Middle Ages]

By 1494 Constantinople was in the hands of the Turks: Columbus had
discovered America: John Gutenburg had invented his printing-press:
Vasco da Gama was meditating his voyage to India. All these things were
witness of ‘a new birth’, the infancy of a modern world; but the year
1494 stands also as evidence of the death of an old, the mediaeval.

Stung by the oppression and insolence of their conquerors, Italian
armies and intrigue were to drive the French in the years to come
temporarily out of Naples; but in spite of this success the effect of
Charles VIII’s military ‘walk-over’ was never to be effaced. Italy,
in Roman times the centre of Europe from which all law and order had
radiated, had clung to a fiction of this power and glory through
mediaeval days. Now at last the sham was exposed, and before the forces
of nationality her boasted supremacy collapsed. The centre of political
gravity had changed, and with it the traditions and ideals for which
the supremacy of Italy had stood.

_Supplementary Dates. For Chronological Summary, see pp. 368-73_.

  Invention of Printing            1435
  Caxton’s Press                   1474
  The Aldine Press                 1494
  Duns Scotus               (died) 1308
  Petrarch                         1304-74
  Giotto                           1276-1337
  Leonardo da Vinci                1452-1519
  Ferrante I of Naples      (died) 1494
  French Invasion of Italy         1494


      _The Dark Ages._  C. W. Oman.
      _The Empire and Papacy._  T. F. Tout.
      _The Close of the Middle Ages._  R. Lodge.

      _Mediaeval Europe._  K. Bell.
      _The Renaissance and the Reformation._  E. M. Tanner.

      _The Beginning of the Middle Ages._  R. Church.
      _The Normans in Europe._  A. H. Johnson.
      _The Crusades._  G. W. Cox.
      _Edward III._  W. Warburton.

      _Mohammedanism._  D. S. Margoliouth.
      _Mediaeval Europe._  H. W. Davis.
      _The Renaissance._  E. Sichel.

      _Charles the Great._  T. Hodgkin.
      _Philip Augustus._  W. H. Hutton.
      _Cosimo de Medici._  D. K. Ewart.

  MEDIAEVAL TOWN SERIES.  _Venice_, _Assisi_, &c.

      _Alfred ‘The Great’._  B. A. Lees.
      _Theodoric the Goth._  T. Hodgkin.
      _Charlemagne._  H. W. Davis.
      _Columbus._  Washington Irving.
      _Isabel of Castile._  I. Plunket.
      _The Cid Campeador._  H. Butler-Clarke.
      _Prince Henry of Portugal._  R. Beazley.
      _Lorenzo de Medici._  A. Armstrong.
      _Mahomet._  D. S. Margoliouth.
      _Saladin._  S. Lane Poole.
      _Charles the Bold._  R. Putnam, and others.

      _Germany._  S. Baring-Gould.
      _Spain._  Watts.
      _Moors in Spain._  Lane Poole.
      _Turkey._  Lane Poole.
      _Byzantine Empire._  Oman.
      _Hansa Towns._  H. Zimmern.
      _Denmark and Sweden._  Stefanson.
      _Norway._  Boyesen, and others.

      _Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire._  Gibbon.
      _The Cambridge Mediaeval History._
      _The Cambridge Modern History_ (vol. i).
      _The Mediaeval Mind._  Osborne Taylor.
      _Illustrations of the History of Mediaeval Thought._  Lane Poole.
      _History of Latin Christianity._  H. Milman.
      _A Handbook of European History. 476-1871._  A. Hassall.
      _A Notebook of Mediaeval History. 328-1453._  R. Beazley.
      _A Source Book for Mediaeval History._  Thatcher and McNeal.
      _The Monks of the West_ (vol. v).  Gasquet.
      _The Black Death._  Gasquet.
      _Histoire Générale._  Lavisse et Rambaud.
      _History of the Papacy during the Reformation_ (vol. i).  Creighton.
      _History of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages._  H. C. Lea.
      _A Book of Discovery._  M. B. Synge.
      _The Crusades._  Archer and Kingsford.
      _The Normans in Europe._  Haskins.
      _Introduction to the History of Western Europe._  T. H. Robinson.

      _Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire._  S. Dill.
      _Social Life in Rome, &c._  Warde-Fowler.
      _Italy and her Invaders._  T. Hodgkin.
      _Life and Times of Hildebrand._  A. E. Mathew.
      _Innocent the Great._  G. H. Pirie-Gordon.
      _History of Rome in the Middle Ages._  Gregorovius.
      _From Francis to Dante._  Coulton.
      _Dante and his Time._  C. Federn.
      _François d’Assise._  P. Sabatier.
      _Francis of Assisi._  Little.
      _History of the Italian Republics._  Sismondi.
      _The Age of the Condottieri._  O. Browning.
      _Guelfs and Ghibellines._  O. Browning.
      _Studies in Venetian History_ (vol. i).  H. Brown.
      _The Painters of Florence._  J. Cartwright.
      _The Prince._  Machiavelli.
      _History of Florence._  Machiavelli.

      _Histoire de France_ (vol. i).  Duruy.
      _The Court of a Saint._  W. Knox.
      _Chronicle._  Joinville.
      _Histoire de la Jacquerie._  S. Luce.
      _The Maid of France._  A. Lang.
      _Mémoires._  Philippe de Commines.
      _Chronicles._  Froissart.
      _La France sous Philippe le Bel._  Boutaric.
      _History of Charles the Bold._  Kirk.
      _Histoire de France._  Michelet.
      _The Spanish People._  Martin Hume.
      _The Rise of the Spanish Empire._  R. Bigelow Merriman.
      _Ferdinand and Isabella._  Prescott.
      _Christians and Moors in Spain._  C. Yonge.

      _The Mediaeval Empire._  H. A. L. Fisher.
      _Holy Roman Empire._  Bryce.
      _Germany in the Early and Later Middle Ages_ (two vols.).  Stubbs.
      _The Life of Frederick II, &c._  Kington.

Chronological Summary, 476-1494

  _Eastern Europe and Asia Minor._ |        _France and Spain._
  475-491 Emperor Zeno.            |
                                   |481-511 Clovis, King of the Franks.
                                   |  486   Battle of Soissons.
  491-518 Emperor Anastasius.      |
  518-527 Emperor Justin I.        |
  527-565 Emperor Justinian.       |
  565-578 Emperor Justin II.       |
                                   |  585   Visigothic Conquest of
                                   |          Spain complete.
  610-641 Emperor Heraclius.       |
    622   The ‘Hijrah’.            |
    626   Siege of Constantinople  |
            by Chosroes.           |
    627   Battle of Nineveh.       |
    634   Battle of Yermuk.        |
                                   |628-638 Dagobert I.
    637   Jerusalem taken by the   |
            Moslems.               |
  642-668 Emperor Constans II.     |
  668-685 Emperor Constantine IV   |
            (Pogonatus).           |
  685-695}Justinian II.            |
  705-711}                         |
                                   |  712   Battle of Guadalete.
  715-717 Theodosius III.          |714-741 Charles Martel, ‘Mayor of
  717-740 Leo ‘the Isaurian’.      |          the Palace’.
                                   |  732   Battle of Poitiers.
                                   |  751   Dethronement of the
                                   |          Merovingians.
  786-809 Haroun al-Raschid,       |768-814 Charlemagne, King of the
            Caliph of Bagdad.      |          Franks.
  780-797 Emperor Constantine VI.  |
  797-802 Empress Irene.           |
                                   |814-840 Louis I ‘the Pious’.
                                   |  842   Oath of Strasbourg.
                                   |  843   Treaty of Verdun.

            _Italy._               |  _Central and Northern Europe._
    476   Romulus Augustulus       |
            deposed, Odoacer       |
            becomes ‘Patrician’.   |
    489   Invasion of Italy by the |  480   Landing of the Angles in
            Ostrogoths.            |          Britain.
  493-526 Theoderic, King of       |
            Italy.                 |
    556   Conquest of Italy by     |
            Justinian.             |
    568   Conquest of North Italy  |  563   St. Columba’s Mission to
            by the Lombards.       |          Scotland.
                                   |  577   Victory of West Saxons at
                                   |          Dyrham.
  590-604 Pope Gregory ‘the        |  597   Mission of St. Augustine to
            Great’.                |          England.
  741-752 Pope Zacharias.          |  743   Boniface becomes Archbishop
                                   |          of Mainz.
    753   End of Exarchate of      |
            Ravenna.               |
  752-757 Pope Stephen II.         |
  772-795 Pope Adrian I.           |
  795-816 Pope Leo III.            |
    800   Charlemagne crowned in   |
            Rome.                  |
                                   |837-878 Struggle between West
                                   |          Saxons and Danes.
                                   |843-876 Louis ‘the German’.
  858-867 Pope Nicholas I.         |

  _Eastern Europe and Asia Minor._ |        _France and Spain._
  873-867   Rupture between        |880-888   Charles ‘the Fat’,
              Churches of East and |             Emperor of the West.
              West.                |
  867-886   Emperor Basil I.       |  885     Siege of Paris by the
                                   |            Northmen.
                                   |  909     Foundation of Cluni.
                                   |898-929   Charles ‘the Simple’.
                                   |987-996   Hugh Capet, King of
                                   |            France.
                                   |  1031    Break up of Caliphate of
                                   |             Cordova.
  1039      ‘Seljuk’ Turks conquer |
              Caliphate of Bagdad. |
  1081-1118 Emperor Alexius        |
              Commenus I.          |
  1096-1099 The First Crusade.     |
     1099   Capture of Jerusalem   |
              by Crusaders.        |
     1118   Order of Templars      |
              founded.             |
                                   |   1138   St. Bernard attacks
                                   |            Abelard.
  1146-1149 Second Crusade.        |   1153   Death of St. Bernard.
     1187   Saladin takes          |1180-1223 Philip II ‘Augustus’ of
            Jerusalem.             |            France.
  1189-1192 Third Crusade.         |
     1202   Fourth Crusade.        |
  1204-1261 Latin Empire of        |   1204   Philip II conquers
              Constantinople.      |            Normandy.
  1204-1260 Empire of Nicea.       |   1209   Albigensian Crusade.
                                   |   1212   The Children’s Crusade.
                                   |   1312   Battle of Las Navas de
                                   |            Tolosa.
                                   |   1214   Battle of Bouvines.
  1228-1229 Crusade of             |1226-1270 Louis IX of France (St.
              Frederick II.        |            Louis).
  1248-1256 Seventh Crusade. St.   |   1230   Union of Leon and Castile.
              Louis invades Egypt  |
              and Palestine.       |

              _Italy._             |   _Central and Northern Europe._
                                   | 871-901  Alfred ‘the Great’, King
                                   |            of Wessex.
                                   |   878    Peace of Wedmore.
                                   | 911-918  Emperor Conrad I.
                                   | 919-936  Emperor Henry I ‘the
                                   |            Fowler’.
                                   | 936-973  Emperor Otto I.
     962    Otto I crowned Emperor |   955    Battle of Augsburg.
              of Rome.             | 973-983  Emperor Otto II.
                                   | 979-1016 Ethelred II ‘the
                                   |            Rede-less’.
                                   | 983-1002 Emperor Otto III.
                                   |1003-1024 Emperor Henry II.
    1046    Synod of Sutri.        |1017-1035 Cnut—King of England.
  1060-1091 Norman Conquest of     |1024-1039 Emperor Conrad II.
              Sicily.              |
  1073-1085 Pope Gregory VII       |1039-1056 Emperor Henry III.
             (Hildebrand).         |1056-1106 Emperor Henry IV.
    1077    Humiliation of Henry   |  1066    Norman Conquest of
              IV at Canossa.       |            England.
  1088-1099 Pope Urban II.         |
                                   |1106-1125 Emperor Henry V.
                                   |  1122    Concordat of Worms.
                                   |1137-1152 Emperor Conrad III.
    1176    Battle of Legnano.     |1153-1190 Emperor Frederick I—
    1183    Peace of Constance.    |           ‘Barbarossa’.
                                   |  1170    Murder of Thomas Becket.
  1198-1216 Pope Innocent III.     |1190-1197 Emperor Henry VI.
    1210    Innocent III;          |
              excommunication      |
              of Otto IV.          |
  1216-1227 Pope Honorius III.     |1215-1250 Emperor Frederick II.
                                   |  1215    Magna Charta.
    1223    Foundation of the      |
              Franciscan Order.    |
    1225    Treaty of San Germano. |
  1227-1241 Pope Gregory IX.       |  1226    Teutonic Order moves to
                                   |            Prussia.
  1243-1254 Pope Innocent IV.      |1256-1273 The ‘Great Interregnum’.
    1282    The Sicilian Vespers.  |

  _Eastern Europe and Asia Minor._ |         _France and Spain._
  1260-1282 Emperor Michael        |
              Paleologus.          |
     1270   Eighth Crusade.        |1285-1314 Philip IV ‘le Bel’ of
              St. Louis invades    |            France.
              North Africa.        |
     1291   Fall of Acre.          |1309-1376 The Babylonish Captivity.
                                   |   1312   Suppression of the
                                   |            Templars.
                                   |   1337   Outbreak of the Hundred
                                   |            Years’ War.
                                   |   1346   Battle of Creci.
                                   |   1347   English capture Calais.
                                   |1347-1348 The Black Death.
                                   |   1356   Battle of Poitiers.
                                   |   1358   The Jacquerie.
                                   |   1360   Treaty of Bretigni.
                                   |   1367   Battle of Navarette.
  1370-1382 King Louis ‘the Great’ |
              of Hungary and       |
              Poland.              |
     1386   Union of Poland and    |
              Lithuania.           |
     1389   Battle of Kossovo.     |
                                   |   1415   Battle of Agincourt.
                                   |   1419   Murder of John ‘the
                                   |            Fearless’.
                                   |   1420   Treaty of Troyes.
                                   |   1430   Death of Jeanne d’Arc.
                                   |   1440   The Praguerie.
  1448-1453 Emperor Constantine XI.|
     1453   Fall of Constantinople.|   1453   End of the Hundred Years’
                                   |            War.
                                   |1461-1483 Louis XI of France.
                                   |1483-1498 Charles VIII.
                                   |   1492   Columbus discovers
                                   |            America.
                                   |   1498   Vasco da Gama discovers
                                   |            Cape route to India.

                 _Italy._          |   _Central and Northern Europe._
     1294   Celestine V.           |
  1294-1303 Boniface VIII.         |1273-1291 Emperor Rudolf I.
                                   |1298-1308 Emperor Albert I.
                                   |   1309   Independence of Swiss
                                   |            Forest Cantons
                                   |            recognized.
                                   |   1314   Battle of Bannockburn.
                                   |   1315   Battle of Morgarten.
                                   |   1340   Battle of Sluys.
  1347-1354 Rienzi founds the      |1347-1378 Emperor Charles IV.
              Holy Roman           |
              Republic.            |
                                   |   1356   The Golden Bull.
     1377   Pope Gregory XI        |   1370   Treaty of Stralsund.
              returns to Rome      |
              from Avignon.        |
  1378-1417 The Great Schism.      |
     1380   Battle of Chioggia.    |   1380   Wycliffe translates the
     1395   Gian Galeazzo          |            Bible.
              Visconti becomes     |   1397   The Union of Kalmar.
              Duke of Milan.       |
                                   |1410-1437 Emperor Sigismund.
                                   |   1410   Battle of Tannenburg.
                                   |1414-1418 Council of Constance.
                                   |   1415   Death of John Huss.
     1417   Election of Pope       |
              Martin V. End of     |
              the Schism.          |
                                   |   1431   Council of Basel.
                                   |   1436   John Gutenburg invents the
                                   |            Printing Press.
                                   |1438-1439 Emperor Albert II.
                                   |1440-1493 Emperor Frederick III.
                                   |1455-1485 The Wars of the Roses.
  1469-1492 Lorenzo de Medici      |   1476   Battles of Granson and
              rules Florence.      |            Morat.
                                   |   1477   Battle of Nanci.
     1494   Charles VIII invades   |
              Italy.               |



   1 The King of England from the Conquest until Henry VII
   2 The House of Charlemagne
   3 The House of Capet
   4 The House of Valois
   5 The Norman Rulers of Sicily
   6 The First & Second House of Anjou in Naples
   7 The House of Aragon in Spain & Naples
   8 The House of Castile & Leon
   9 The Guelfs & Ghibellines
  10 The Dukes of Burgundy & House of Habsburg
  11 The House of Luxemburg
  12 The Paleologi


                         WILLIAM I
       |                |            |                   |
    ROBERT           WILLIAM II    HENRY I             ADELA = STEPHEN
  Duke of Normandy    1087-1100    1110-1133                 | Earl of
                                     |                       | Blois
                     +---------------+                       |
                     |               |                       |
                  WILLIAM        MATILDA = GEOFFREY          STEPHEN
                  d.1120                 | Count of Anjou    1135-1154
                                       HENRY II
 |           |                   |            |         |
 d.1182            the Lion    1189-1199   1199-1216           of Castile
                   of Saxony                  |
                                           HENRY III
   |                                                             |
  EDWARD I = ELEANOR                                          EDMUND
 1272-1307 | of Castile                                 Earl of Lancaster
           |                                                     |
     EDWARD II = ISABEL                                       HENRY
     1307-1327 | of France                              Earl of Lancaster
               |                                                 |
           EDWARD III = PHILIPPA                              HENRY
            1327-1377 | of Hainault                     Duke of Lancaster
                      |                                          |
                      +----------+------------+      +-----------+
                      |          |            |      |
                    EDWARD     EDMUND        JOHN = BLANCHE
                  the “Black   Duke of         of | Heiress of Lancaster
                    Prince”     York         Gaunt|
                    d.1376    (4th.son)  (3rd.son)|
                       |          |               +-------+
                       |          |               |       |
                 RICHARD II   RICHARD        HENRY IV  PHILIPPA = JOHN I
                 1377-1399    Earl of        1399-1413          |of
                             Cambridge            |             |Portugal
                               |                  |             |
                               |                  |          PRINCE HENRY
                               |                  |         the Navigator
                               |                  |
                     +---------+   +--------------+----+---------+
                     |             |                   |         |
                 RICHARD        HENRY V = CATHERINE   JOHN    HUMPHREY
               Duke of York    1413-1422| of         Duke of   Duke of
                     |                  | France     Bedford   Gloucester
           +---------+--+               |            d.1433    d.1447
           |            |               |
         1431-1483    1483-1485      1422-1461
         (d. 1471)
    |          |             |
 Murdered   Duke of York               1485-1509
 1483       Murdered 1483


                     CHARLES MARTEL
           Duke of Austrasia. Mayor of the Palace
                     PEPIN “the Short”
                 King of the Franks 751-768
        |                                  |
    CHARLEMAGNE                         CARLOMAN
  King of the Franks 771            King of Austrasia
 Emperor of the West 800-814            768-771
   |         |                             |
 CHARLES    PEPIN                   LOUIS the Pious
 d.811   Kg. of Italy d.810   Emperor of the West 814-840
             |                        |
             |                        |
           BERNARD                    |
        King of Italy 810-818         |
    |           |           |               |
  LOTHAR      PEPIN       LOUIS          CHARLES “the Bald”
 Emperor of   Kg. of      Kg. of         Kg. of France
 the West     Aquitaine   Germany         843-877
  840-855     d.838       843-876          |
                            |              |
                        CHARLES          LOUIS II
                       “the Fat”         Kg. of
                       Emperor of        France
                        the West         877-879
                         881-887           |
                        |                  |           |
                     LOUIS III        CARLOMAN       CHARLES III
                    Kg. of France   Kg. of France   “the Simple”
                       879-882        879-884      Kg. of France
                                                    LOUIS IV
                                                   Kg. of France
                                              |              |
                                           LOTHAIR         CHARLES
                                          Kg. of France    Duke of
                                           954-986         Lorraine
                                           LOUIS V
                                         Kg. of France
                                    “The Good-for-Nothing”

[Illustration: 3. THE HOUSE OF CAPET

          the Strong
       Duke of the French
      |                  |
     ODO               ROBERT
  Count of Paris     King of the
  King of the        West Franks
  West Franks            |
                     HUGH the Great
                    Count of Paris
                     HUGH CAPET
                  King of France 987-996
                     ROBERT II
                     HENRY I
                     PHILIP I
                     LOUIS VI
                    LOUIS VII -- m (1) ELEANOR of Aquitaine = Henry II
                    1137-1180      (3) ADELA of Champagne   of England
                         |                                    Count of
                PHILIP II “Augustus”                             Anjou
                       LOUIS VIII = BLANCHE of Castile
                        1223-1226 |
                              |                        |
                           LOUIS IX                 CHARLES
                         (St. Louis)        Count of Anjou & Provence
                          1226-1270             & King of Sicily
                              |               (See Table VI--First
                              |             House of Anjou in Naples)
                    PHILIP III “The Rash”
                              |                       |
                      PHILIP IV “le Bel”           CHARLES = MARGARET
                          1285-1314         Count of Valois|of Sicily
                              |                            |
    +----------+-----------+--+---------+                  |
    |          |           |            |                  |
 1314-1316   1316-1322   1322-1328          | of England   |
                                            |              |
                                        EDWARD III         |
                                        of England      PHILIP VI
                                                        of Valois
                                                  (See Table IV--The
                                                   House of Valois)

[Illustration: 4. THE HOUSE OF VALOIS

                   Count of Valois
                      PHILIP VI
                    JOHN “the Good”
    |     |               |            |          |
    |     |               |            |       ISABEL = GIAN GALEAZZO
    | LOUIS        PHILIP “the Bold”   |              |      Visconti
    | Duke of      Duke of Burgundy    |              |
    | Anjou        (See Table        JEANNE = CHARLES |
    | (See Table   X—Dukes                  “the Bad” |
    | VI—Second    of Burgundy)            of Navarre |
    | House of                                        |
    | Anjou in Naples)                                |
    |                                                 |
 CHARLES V                                            |
 1364-1380                                            |
    |                                                 |
    +------------+--------------------------+         |
                 |                          |         |
              CHARLES VI                   LOUIS = VALENTINA
              “The Mad”           Duke of Orleans| Visconti
              1380-1422             murdered 1407|
                 |                               |
   +-------------+-----+                         |
   |                   |                         |
 1422-1461                    | of England     Duke of Orleans
   |                          |                  |
 LOUIS XI                   HENRY VI             |
 1461-1483                 of England            |
   |                                             |
 CHARLES VIII                                  LOUIS XII
 1483-1498                                     1498-1515


       |             |            |
 HAUTEVILLE   Duke of Apulia   Count of Sicily
                 1060-1085        |
                              ROGER II
                       King of Sicily & Naples
        |              |            |
   Duke of Apulia   “the Bad”           |
        |              |                |
     TANCRED         WILLIAM            |
                    “the Good”          |
                     d.1189        EMPEROR FREDERICK II


                     LOUIS VIII of France
                     Count of Anjou & Provence
                & King of Sicily and Naples (d.1285)
                            CHARLES II
                             d. 1309
            |               |               |           |
            |             King of       of Durazzo           of Valois
            |             Naples             |       [See Table IV for
            |               |                |                House of
            |               |                |           Valois & also
         CAROBERT         CHARLES            |     The Second House of
         of Hungary      of Calabria         |        Anjou in Naples]
            |               |                |
      +-----+---+      +----+---------+      +----------+
      |         |      |              |      |          |
    the           d.1382                  | d.1348      |
    Great King                            |             |
    of Hungary                            |             |
           |                              |             |
           +------------+                 |             |
           |            |                 |             |
 of Luxembourg                of                   | of Durazzo
                              Lithuania            |
                              (King Ladislas   +---+--------+
                              V of Poland)     |            |
                                             LADISLAS    JOANNA II
                                              d.1414     d.1433


                                    CHARLES = MARGARET
                                   Count of | of Sicily
                                     Valois |
                                        PHILIP VI
                                     JOHN “the Good”
                        |                   |
                    CHARLES V       LOUIS Duke of Anjou
                    1364-1380           d. 1385
                                        LOUIS II
                                        d. 1417
        |               |                    |        |
     d. 1434         d.1480               Duke of        |   of France
                        |                 Maine          |
                        |                   |            |
                    YOLANDE = FREDERICK   CHARLES      LOUIS XI
                            | of           d.1481        |
                            | Vaudemont                  |
                            |                            |
                 Réné I Duke of Lorraine              CHARLES VIII

 * Réné le Bon disinherited his grandson Réné Duke of Lorraine
   and left his claims to Naples to his nephew Charles—with
   remainder to the French Crown. In this way Charles VIII was
   enabled to claim the Neapolitan throne.


   of Aragon
   1196-1213           King of Naples
       |                     |
   JAMES I                MANFRED
   “the Conqueror”     (illegitimate)
   1213-1276                 |
       |                     |
   King of Aragon 1276-1285
   King of Sicily 1282-1285
       |                     |
   1283-1291             1291-1327
                        ALFONSO IV
                         PEDRO IV
             |               |                 |
 JOHN I = ELEANOR         JOHN I            MARTIN I
   of Castile            1387-1395         1395-1410
        |                           |
    HENRY III                   FERDINAND I
   of Castile            (chosen King of Aragon)
          |                               |
      ALFONSO V                         JOHN II
 of Aragon 1416-1458                  of Aragon
 of Naples 1435-1458                  1458-1479
          |                               |
      FERRANTE I                      FERDINAND = ISABEL
    King of Naples                 the Catholic  of Castile
       d. 1494
     |                |
  d. 1495       (deposed 1501)
  d. 1296

[Illustration: 8. THE HOUSE OF CASTILE & LEON

                            SANCHO III
                            of Castile
                 |                              |
        ALFONSO VIII “the Good”             FERDINAND II
             1158-1214                      of Leon
                 |                          1157-1188
                 +------------------+           |
                 |                  |           |
 of France  |                             | 1188-1290
            |                             |
        St LOUIS                     FERDINAND III
                               King of Castile 1217-1252
                               King of Castile & Leon 1230-1252
           |                                    |
     ALFONSO X “the Learned”                 ELEANOR = EDWARD I
       1252-1284                                      of England
       SANCHO IV
      |                                 |
   HENRY II                           PEDRO
 (of Trastamara)                   “the Cruel”
   1369-1379                        1350-1369
      |                                 |
    JOHN I  = ELEANOR             CONSTANCE = JOHN of Gaunt
  1379-1390 | of Aragon
  HENRY III                        FERDINAND I
  1390-1406                  (elected King of Aragon)
      |                             1412-1416
      |                                 |
      |                                 +------------+
      |                                 |            |
   JOHN II                           JOHN II      ALFONSO V
  1406-1454                         of Aragon  of Aragon & Naples
      |                                 |
      +-----------------------+         |
      |                       |         |
  HENRY IV                 ISABEL = FERDINAND
  1454-1474              of Castile  of Aragon
                          1474-1504  1479-1516

[Illustration: 9. THE GUELFS & GHIBELLINES

                                  EMPEROR HENRY III
                                    (Salian Line)
             WELF IV                   HENRY IV
               |                   Emperor 1056-1106
               |                          |
   +-----------+-----+               +----+--------+
   |                 |               |             |
 WELF V            HENRY           HENRY V       AGNES = FREDERICK
                “the Black”    Emperor 1106-1125       | of Hohenstaufen
                     |                                 |
      +--------------+--+          +-------------------+-----+
      |                 |          |                         |
    HENRY             JUDITH = FREDERICK                 CONRAD III
 “the Proud”                 | of Suabia             Emperor 1138-1152
      |                      |
 “the Lion” | of England   “Barbarossa”
 of Saxony  |              Emperor 1152-1190
            |               |
            |               +--------------------------------+
            |               |                                |
        OTTO IV           HENRY VI  =    CONSTANCE         PHILIP
   Emperor 1198-1218      Emperor   | Heiress of Sicily   of Suabia
                          1190-1197 |     & Naples      Emperor 1198-1208
                               FREDERICK II
                             Emperor 1215-1250
           |                     |                 |
         HENRY               CONRAD IV          MANFRED
  King of the Romans         1250-1254             |
                                 |                 |
                           CONRADIN d. 1268    CONSTANCE = PETER III
                                                           of Aragon


                                                __HOUSE OF HABSBURG__

    JOHN “the Good”                          RUDOLF I Emperor 1273-1291
 King of France 1350-1364                                  |
           |                                               |
 PHILIP “the Bold”  =  MARGARET                         ALBERT I
 Duke of Burgundy      Heiress of                      1298-1308
     d. 1404           Duchy of Brabant                    |
           |                        +----------------+-----+-----+
           |                        |                |           |
  JOHN “the Fearless”            RUDOLF           LEOPOLD      ALBERT
    murdered 1419            King of Bohemia      d. 1326     d. 1358
           |                    d. 1307                          |
           +--------------+                                      |
           |              |                                      |
 JOHN =  ANNE     PHILIP “the Good”                       LEOPOLD d. 1386
 Duke of              d. 1467                                    |
 Bedford                  |                                ERNEST d. 1424
                          |                                      |
                          |                      +---------------+
                          |                      |
                   CHARLES “the Rash”       FREDERICK III
                       d. 1477            King of the Romans
                          |                   1440-1493
                          |                       |
                         MARY    =    The Emperor MAXIMILIAN I
                 Heiress of Burgundy         1493-1519

[Illustration: 11. THE HOUSE OF LUXEMBURG

         The Emperor HENRY VI                    CAROBERT
              1308-1313                       King of Hungary
                  |                                  |
                JOHN                                 |
            King of Bohemia                  +-------+----+
                  |                          |            |
       The Emperor CHARLES IV              LOUIS        ANDREW = Joanna I
              1347-1378                 “the Great”             of Naples
                  |                          |
         +--------+--------------+           +-------+
         |                       |           |       |
       WENZEL                SIGISMUND  =  MARY     HEDWIG = JAGELLO
 King of Bohemia 1378-1419  King of Hungary                  of Lithuania
 Emperor 1378-1400          Emperor 1410-1437                (LADISLAS V
                                                             of Poland

[Illustration: 12. THE PALEOLOGI

                       MICHAEL VIII
                       ANDRONICUS II
                  dethroned 1326, died 1332
                        MICHAEL IX
               (Joint Emperor with his father)
                        died 1320
     1347-1354          1328-1341
         |                  |
       HELENA      =      JOHN V
                        MANÚEL II
         |                                     |
      JOHN VI                            CONSTANTINE XI
     1423-1448                             1448-1453


[1] See p. 41.

[2] See p. 43.

[3] See p. 62.

[4] See p. 48.

[5] See Genealogy, p. 377.

[6] See p. 85.

[7] See p. 16.

[8] See p. 95.

[9] See p. 103.

[10] See p. 120.

[11] See p. 115.

[12] See p. 77.

[13] See p. 45.

[14] See p. 143.

[15] See p. 131.

[16] See p. 122.

[17] See p. 152.

[18] See p. 154.

[19] See p. 169.

[20] See p. 115.

[21] See p. 49.

[22] See p. 164.

[23] See p. 199.

[24] See p. 194.

[25] See p. 195.

[26] See Genealogical Table, p. 378.

[27] See p. 55.

[28] The province of Dauphiné, formerly an imperial fief, was acquired
by the French crown in 1349, and became a regular ‘appanage’ of the
King’s eldest son, conferring on him the title of ‘Dauphin’, equivalent
to the English title ‘Prince of Wales’.

[29] See p. 223.

[30] See p. 53.

[31] See p. 62.

[32] See p. 215.

[33] See p. 195.

[34] See p. 229.

[35] See p. 229.

[36] See p. 247.

[37] See p. 342.

[38] See p. 229.

[39] See p. 252.

[40] See p. 151.

[41] See p. 179.

[42] See Genealogical Table, p. 379.

[43] See p. 184.

[44] See p. 230.

[45] See p. 294.

[46] See p. 232.

[47] See p. 294, and genealogy, p. 380.

[48] See p. 184.

[49] See p. 229.

[50] See p. 274.

[51] See p. 207.

[52] See Genealogical Table, p. 382.



  Aachen, 93, 99, 102, 188.

  Abelard, Peter, 208, 209, 211, 347, 349, 354.

  Abu Bakr, 68, 74.

  Abu Talib, 67, 69, 70.

  Adrianople, 38, 332.

  Agincourt, 250.

  Alaric, 40, 41, 45.

  Albert I, 278, 279.

  Albigenses, the, 213, 214, 216, 217, 266.

  Alboin, 51.

  Alcuin, 82, 97, 99.

  Aldine Press, 350.

  Alessandria, 179.

  Alexander II, Pope, 137.

  Alexander III, Pope, 179.

  Alexander VI, Pope, 361.

  Alexius Commenus, 143 et seq.

  Alfonso V of Aragon, 315, 361.

  Alfonso VIII of Castile, 265, 266.

  Alfonso X of Castile, 267, 271.

  Alfred the Great, 105, 106, 107, 131.

  Almohades, the, 265, 266.

  Alsace, 276, 281, 282.

  Ambrose, St., 33, 42.

  Amerigo Vespucci, 345.

  Anagni, 231.

  Andrew of Hungary, 293, 313.

  Andronicus II, 330.

  _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 105, 113.

  Anjou, Charles of, 229, 230, 312.

  --, second House of, 314, 361.

  Anno, Archbishop, 138.

  Anselm, Archbishop, 142.

  Antioch, 149.

  Aquinas, Thomas, 209, 355.

  Arcadius, the Emperor, 39.

  Aristotle, 208, 210, 261, 355.

  Arius, 30, 31.

  Armagnac, 250, 251.

  Arnold of Brescia, 211, 212, 326, 347.

  Artevelde, Jacob van, 237, 239.

  Assize of Clarendon, 163.

  Athanaric, 39, 143.

  Athaulf, 54.

  Athelney, 106.

  Athens, Duchy of, 329, 330.

  Attila, 44, 45, 145.

  Augustine, St., of Canterbury, 52.

  Augustine, St., of Hippo, 42, 43, 97, 197, 208, 210, 349, 355.

  Augustulus, the Emperor, 46, 363.

  Augustus, the Emperor, 2, 4, 6, 9, 20, 98.

  Averroës, 261.

  Avignon, 232, 316, 317, 318, 321, 322, 323, 356.


  Babylonish Captivity, 232, 316, 322.

  Bacon, Roger, 207, 349.

  Badr, battle of, 71.

  Bagdad, 87, 146, 151.

  Balearic Islands, 268.

  Barcelona, 266, 268, 337.

  Basil, St., 32.

  Bavaria, Duchy of, 89, 91, 133.

  Becket, Thomas, 160, 163-5, 202, 215.

  Bedford, John, Duke of, 253, 257.

  Belisarius, 50.

  Benedict, St., 125.

  Benedict IX, Pope, 135.

  Benedictines, the, 126, 222.

  Berengaria of Navarre, 156.

  Bernard, King of Italy, 101.

  Bernard, St., 126, 128, 129, 152, 153, 154, 209, 212, 214, 219, 347.

  Black Death, the, 240, 241, 242.

  Blanche of Castile, 217, 223.

  Boccaccio, 241, 356.

  Boethius, 48, 107.

  Bohemia, 277, 317.

  Bohemund, 145, 149.

  Bologna, University of, 178, 201, 208.

  Boniface, St., 88, 89, 98.

  Boniface VIII, Pope, 230, 231, 311.

  Bouvines, battle of, 169, 187.

  Brandenburg, 131, 151.

  Breisgau, 281.

  Bretigni, Treaty of, 246.

  Burgos, 264.

  Burgundians, the, 55, 59.

  Burgundy, Charles, Duke of, 280 et seq.

  Burgundy, John, Duke of, 250, 252.

  --, Philip, Duke of, 252, 256, 257.


  Calais, 240, 248, 249, 257.

  Canon Law, 202.

  Canossa, 140, 141, 176, 183.

  Cantacuzenos, John, 331.

  Cape of Good Hope, 341.

  Capet, Hugh, 109.

  Capet, Odo, 109.

  _Capitularies_, the, 96.

  Carinthia, 277.

  Carniola, 277.

  Carthage, 45, 77, 228.

  Carthusians, the, 127, 128.

  Castile, 269, 270.

  Catalan Company, the, 330.

  Catherine, St., of Siena, 320 et seq.

  Catherine of Valois, 251.

  Caxton, William, 350.

  Celestine V, Pope, 310.

  Chalons, battle of, 44, 54.

  _Chambre des Comptes_, 233.

  _Chanson de Roland_, 80, 81, 82.

  Charlemagne, 78 et seq., 101, 104, 107, 109, 142, 170, 200, 291, 349,

  Charles ‘Martel’, 62, 78, 88, 98.

  Charles ‘the Bald’, 102, 103, 109.

  Charles ‘the Fat’, 103.

  Charles ‘the Simple’, 110.

  Charles V of France, 245, 247, 248, 249.

  Charles VI of France, 250.

  Charles VII of France, 251, 252, 254, 256, 257, 258.

  Charles VIII of France, 361, 362, 363.

  Charles of Durazzo, 314.

  Charles IV, the Emperor, 289, 293, 294 et seq., 324, 333, 346.

  Chioggia, battle of, 306.

  Chloderic, 58.

  Chosroes, King, 73, 74.

  Cid, the, 263 et seq.

  Cimabue, 357.

  Cistercians, the, 128, 215.

  _Civitas Dei_, the, 43, 97, 222, 311.

  Civitate, battle of, 115.

  Clement V, Pope, 232.

  Clement VII, Pope, 323.

  _Clericis Laicos_, the Bull, 230.

  Clermont, Council of, 147, 148.

  Clovis, 57 et seq.

  Cluni, 127, 133, 135.

  Cnut, King, 108, 287.

  Colonna, Stephen, 318.

  Columbus, Christopher, 342 et seq., 349, 358, 360.

  _Comitatus_, the, 16, 119.

  Commines, Philip de, 280, 351, 362.

  Commune, the French, 173, 284.

  --, the Italian, 176, 177, 178, 180, 284.

  Compostella, 265.

  _Condottieri_, the, 301.

  Conrad I, 131.

  Conrad III, 152.

  Conrad (son of Frederick II), 192.

  Conradin, 194, 229, 269, 312.

  _Conseil du Roi_, 233.

  _Consolations of Philosophy_, the, 48, 107.

  Constance of Naples, 181, 182, 183.

  Constance, Perpetual Peace of, 180.

  --, Council of, 324, 325, 326.

  Constans II, Emperor, 75.

  Constantine ‘the Great’, 27 et seq., 34 et seq.

  Constantine ‘Pogonatus’, 75.

  Constantine XI, 334 et seq.

  Constantinople, 34 et seq., 40, 49, 74, 86, 87, 143, 306, 327, 328,
          329, 335, 336, 338, 363.

  --, Latin Empire of, 184, 329.

  Constitutions of Clarendon, 164.

  Cordova, Caliphate of, 260 et seq.

  _Corpus Juris Civilis_, the, 49.

  Cortenuova, battle of, 193.

  Council of Ten, 304.

  Courtrai, battle of, 234.

  Creci, battle of, 239, 240.

  Crema, 178, 179.

  Crusade, the First, 147-50.

  --, the Second, 129, 152, 158.

  --, the Third, 154-8.

  --, the Fourth, 184, 306.

  --, the Seventh, 226-7.

  --, the Children’s, 226.

  _Curia_, the, 13, 14.

  _Curia Regis_, the, 162.

  _Curiales_, the, 13, 14, 19, 117.

  Cyprus, 156, 226.


  Dagobert, King, 60.

  Danegeld, 108.

  Danelaw, the, 106.

  Dante, 294, 309 et seq., 356.

  Danzig, 285, 292.

  _Decameron_, the, 241.

  _Decretum_, the, 202, 209.

  Denmark, 108, 287.

  Diaz, Bartholomew, 340.

  Didier, King, 82-4.

  _Divina Commedia_, 199, 311, 356.

  Domesday Book, 113.

  Dominic, St., 215, 216, 219.

  Donation of Constantine, 85.

  Du Guesclin, 247, 272.

  Duns Scotus, 355.


  Eccelin de Romano, 192.

  Edessa, 150, 152.

  Edward ‘the Confessor’, 111.

  Edward ‘the Elder’, 106.

  Edward I, 228, 230, 234, 235, 247.

  Edward II, 236.

  Edward III, 236, 237, 242, 246, 247, 317.

  Edward ‘the Black Prince’, 242, 247, 248.

  Eginhard, 90, 98.

  Eleanor of Aquitaine, 152, 159, 166.

  Epicurus, 22.

  Erasmus, 351.

  Ethelred, ‘the Rede-less’, 107, 108, 109, 111, 286.


  Faust, Legend of, 350.

  Ferdinand I of Aragon, 273.

  Ferdinand II of Aragon, 274, 343, 345.

  Ferrante of Naples, 361.

  Feudalism, 117 et seq.

  Flanders, 234, 237, 238, 250, 305, 345.

  Florence, 290, 297, 302, 303, 307, 308 et seq., 348, 352, 360, 361.

  Francis, St., of Assisi, 217 et seq., 357.

  Franks, the, 55 et seq., 83.

  Frederick I, ‘Barbarossa’, 154, 178 et seq., 191, 202, 296.

  Frederick II, 183, 185, 186 et seq., 203, 210, 224, 226, 276, 296,
          308, 315.

  Friars, the, 216, 220, 221.

  Froissart, 239, 243, 244.


  Genoa, 145, 187, 284, 305, 306, 307, 329, 337, 338.

  Genseric, 43, 45.

  _Germania_, the, 15-17.

  Gessler, 278, 279.

  Ghibellines, the, 176, 178, 179, 193, 194, 206, 229, 294, 296.

  Giotto, 357, 358.

  Gloucester, Humphrey, Duke of, 253.

  Godfrey de Bouillon, 149, 150.

  Godwin, House of, 111.

  Golden Bull, the, 295.

  Goths, the, 31, 104.

  Granada, 274.

  Grand Council, Venetian, 304.

  Granson, battle of, 282.

  Gratian, 202.

  Greenland, 105.

  Gregory, St., 32.

  Gregory, St., of Tours, 59.

  Gregory I, ‘the Great’, Pope, 52, 53, 107.

  Gregory VII, Pope (Hildebrand), 111, 115, 136 et seq., 147, 177, 183,
          202, 229.

  Gregory IX, Pope, 190, 191, 193, 216.

  Gregory XI, Pope, 321, 322.

  Grosstete, Bishop, 205.

  Guadalete, battle of, 62, 259.

  Guelfs, the, 176, 178, 179, 185, 193, 194, 206, 229, 296, 308.

  Guienne, Duchy of, 225, 235, 236, 242, 246, 248, 258.

  Guiscard, Robert, 116, 141, 145.

  Guthrum, King, 106.

  Gutenburg, John, 363, 350.

  Guy de Lusignan, 153.


  Hako, King, 206.

  Hansa, the, 285 et seq., 348.

  Harold ‘the Saxon’, 111, 144.

  Haroun al-Raschid, 87, 146.

  Hattin, battle of, 153.

  Hauteville, House of, 115, 116.

  Hawkwood, Sir John, 302, 321, 362.

  Henry II of Castile, 247, 271, 272.

  Henry IV of Castile, 273.

  Henry I of England, 142, 160.

  Henry II of England, 159 et seq., 181, 202, 215, 270.

  Henry III of England, 204, 205, 221, 225.

  Henry IV of England, 249.

  Henry V of England, 249, 250, 251, 252.

  Henry VI of England, 258.

  Henry VII of England, 343.

  Henry ‘the Fowler’, 120, 131, 132.

  Henry III, the Emperor, 135, 137.

  Henry IV, the Emperor, 138 et seq., 176, 177.

  Henry VI, the Emperor, 156, 168, 181, 182, 183, 185, 191.

  Henry VII, the Emperor, 294, 311, 312, 319.

  Henry ‘the Lion’, 178, 179, 181.

  Henry ‘the Navigator’, 339, 340.

  Heraclius, the Emperor, 73, 75.

  Hijrah, the, 69.

  Hildebrand. _See_ Gregory VII.

  Hohenstaufen, the, 176, 177, 183, 185, 188, 191, 192, 194, 269, 312,

  Holy Roman Empire, the, 134, 185, 194, 285.

  Holy Roman Republic, the, 318, 320.

  Honorius, the Emperor, 39, 40, 41, 54.

  Honorius III, Pope, 189, 190.

  Hospitallers. _See_ John, Knights of St.

  Hundred Years’ War, 236 et seq., 287, 316, 324.

  Hungarians, the, 132.

  Huns, the, 37, 44, 104.

  Huss, John, 324, 325, 326.

  Hussite Wars, the, 326.


  Iceland, 105.

  Ingeborg, Queen, 170, 171, 184.

  Innocent III, Pope, 168, 170, 171, 183 et seq., 187, 188, 214, 216,
          221, 226, 265, 266, 317, 346.

  Innocent IV, Pope, 193, 204, 205, 224, 317.

  Interregnum, the Great, 229, 271, 284.

  Investiture Question, the, 138 et seq.

  Irene, the Empress, 86.

  _Irminsul_, the, 88, 90.

  Isabel I of Castile, 274, 343, 345.

  Isabel, Queen of England, 236.


  Jacquerie, the, 244.

  Jagello of Lithuania. _See_ Ladislas V.

  James ‘the Conqueror’, 266-8.

  Janissaries, the, 332, 336.

  Jeanne d’Arc, 253 et seq., 320.

  Jerome, St., 33, 41, 208.

  Jerusalem, 75, 114, 147, 150, 153, 157, 190.

  --, Latin Kingdom of, 151, 153.

  Joanna I of Naples, 293, 313, 314, 333.

  Joanna II of Naples, 315.

  John II of Castile, 273.

  John V, the Emperor, 331, 335.

  John II of France, 243.

  John, King of England, 167, 168, 169, 170.

  John I of Portugal, 339.

  John Ducas, 327.

  John Hunyadi, 336.

  John, Knights of St., 150, 153, 232, 265.

  John of Gaunt, 248, 249, 339.

  Joinville, 226.

  Julian, Count, 77.

  Justinian I, 49 et seq., 178.

  Justinian II, 76.


  Ka’bah, the, 66, 67, 72.

  Kalmar, Union of, 290.

  Khubla Khan, 337.

  Koran, the, 68.

  Kossovo, battle of, 333, 334.


  Ladislas of Naples, 315.

  Ladislas V of Poland, 292.

  Lateran Council, Fourth, 188.

  Lazar of Serbia, 333.

  Legnano, battle of, 179, 235, 296.

  Leo ‘the Isaurian’, 77, 144.

  Leo I, Pope, 45, 52.

  Leo III, Pope, 85, 86, 97.

  Leo IX, Pope, 115, 135, 136.

  Leonardo da Vinci, 357 et seq.

  Leopold, the Archduke, 156, 167.

  Leopold, Duke, 279, 280.

  _Lex Visigothorum_, the, 78.

  Limoges, 255.

  Lombard League, the, 179, 192, 193, 202.

  Lombards, the, 50 et seq., 75, 82, 85.

  Lothair, Count, 133.

  Lothar, Emperor, 102, 103.

  Lotharingia, 103, 133.

  Louis ‘the German’, 103.

  Louis ‘the Good for Nothing’, 109.

  Louis ‘the Pious’, 101.

  Louis III of Anjou, 315.

  Louis VII of France, 152, 159, 165, 166.

  Louis VIII of France, 217, 223, 250.

  Louis IX of France, 172, 217, 223 et seq., 233, 312.

  Louis XI of France, 258, 274, 281, 302, 361.

  Louis XII of France, 300.

  Louis ‘the Great’ (of Hungary,) 291, 293 et seq., 313, 314, 324, 332,

  Lübeck, 285, 286, 293.

  Ludovico ‘Il Moro’, 351, 359, 360 et seq.

  Luna, Alvaro de, 273.


  Machiavelli, 308, 354, 362.

  Madeira, 340.

  Magna Charta, 158, 168.

  _Magnum Concilium_, 162.

  Mahomet, 66 et seq.

  Mainz, 89.

  Mandeville, Sir John, 338.

  Maniaces, 115.

  Marcel, Étienne, 245.

  Margaret of Denmark, 290.

  Martin V, Pope, 326.

  Matthew Paris, 205.

  Maxentius, Emperor, 27.

  Mayfield, the, 83.

  Mayor of the Palace, the, 56, 61.

  Mecca, 67.

  Medici, Cosimo de, 352, 353, 354.

  Medici, Lorenzo de, 354, 356, 358, 360.

  Medici, Piero de, 360, 361.

  Medinah, 70.

  Mercia, 106.

  Merovingians, the, 55, 60, 62, 64, 95, 103, 109.

  Milan, 297, 298 et seq., 303, 308, 315, 351, 352.

  --, Edict of, 29.

  _Minnesingers_, the, 200.

  _Missi_, the, 95, 96, 97, 107, 121.

  Mohammed II, 334, 336, 338.

  Monasticism, 31, 123 et seq., 348.

  Montereau, bridge of, 251.

  Morat, battle of, 283.

  Morgarten, battle of, 280.

  Morkere, House of, 111.

  Murcia, 267, 268.


  Narses, 50, 51.

  Nanci, battle of, 283.

  Naples, 297, 303, 312 et seq., 352, 357, 361.

  Navarette, battle of, 247.

  Navarre, 266.

  Navarre, ‘Charles the Bad’ of, 245.

  Navas de Tolosa, battle of, 265.

  Nero, Emperor, 9, 25.

  Nicholas I, Pope, 144.

  Nicholas II, Pope, 115, 136.

  Nicholas V, Pope, 352.

  Nineveh, battle of, 74.

  Nogaret, 231.

  Normandy, Duchy of, 108, 110, 169.

  Northmen, the, 104 et seq., 109, 114.

  Norway, 108.


  Odo of Bayeux, 113, 149.

  Odoacer, 46, 47.

  Orkhan, Sultan, 331, 332.

  Orleans, 256.

  Ostrogoths, the, 46, 47.

  Othman, Caliph, 75.

  Otto I, the Great, 132 et seq., 142.

  Otto IV, 169, 185, 186, 187, 188, 193.

  Ottocar of Bohemia, 277, 278.


  Paleologus, Michael, 306, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331.

  Paris, 174, 201, 208.

  --, University of, 257.

  _Parlamento_, the, 309.

  _Parlement de Paris_, 233.

  Pavia, 82, 84, 85.

  Pedro ‘the Cruel’, 247, 248, 271, 272.

  Pedro II of Aragon, 266.

  Pedro III of Aragon, 268, 269.

  Pepin ‘the Short’, 63 et seq., 79, 86.

  Perpetual League, the, 277.

  Peter III of Aragon, 230.

  Peter ‘the Hermit’, 147, 154.

  Peter Lombard, 209, 211.

  Petrarch, 356.

  Philip II ‘Augustus’, 154, 156, 165, 168 et seq., 181, 184, 185, 197,
          201, 217, 223, 224.

  Philip III of France, 228.

  Philip IV of France, 228, 230, 232 et seq., 236.

  Philip V of France, 236.

  Philip VI of France, 237, 239.

  Philip II, the Emperor, 185, 186.

  Pisa, 145, 290, 300, 337.

  Pisani, 306.

  Platonic Academy, the, 354, 356.

  Poitiers, 62, 243.

  Poland, 291.

  Polo, Marco, 337, 338.

  Portugal, 266, 339, 343.

  Praetorian Guard, the, 18.

  Praguerie, the, 258.

  Provence, 268, 314, 316, 317.


  Ravenna, 93, 95, 312.

  Ravenna, Exarchate of, 51, 53, 64, 75, 115, 144.

  Raymond VI, 213, 215.

  Raymond VII, 217.

  Remi, St., 57.

  Renaissance, the, 346 et seq.

  Rhodes, 232.

  Richard I, 154-8, 167.

  Richard II, 238, 249.

  Rienzi, Cola di, 318, 320, 356.

  Robert of Naples, 312, 357.

  Robert of Normandy, 114, 149.

  Roderic, King, 62, 259.

  Roger II, 116.

  Roger de Flor, 330.

  Rollo of Normandy, 110.

  Rome, 41, 46, 290, 303, 316 et seq., 352.

  Roncesvalles, 81.

  Rudolf I, 229, 276, 277, 295.


  Sacred Months, the, 66, 123.

  Saladin, 153 et seq.

  Salic Law, the, 56, 96, 236.

  Salisbury, Gemot of, 121.

  San Germano, Treaty of, 191.

  _Santa Hermandad_, 274.

  Santiago, Order of, 265.

  Saxons, the, 88 et seq., 130.

  Scala, Mastino della, 307.

  Schism, the Great, 323.

  Scholasticism, 209, 355.

  Scutage, 162.

  Senlac, battle of, 112.

  _Sententiae_, the, 209.

  Serbia, 293, 332, 333, 334.

  Sforza, Francesco, 351.

  Sforza, Galeazzo Maria, 351.

  Sforza, Gian Galeazzo, 361.

  Sicilian Vespers, the, 229, 269, 330.

  Siena, 320.

  _Siete Partidas_, the, 271.

  Sigismund, the Emperor, 294, 324 et seq.

  Sigismund of the Tyrol, 281.

  Simon de Montfort, 215, 266.

  ‘Sluggard Kings’, the, 60.

  Sluys, battle of, 238.

  Spoletum, Duchy of, 83.

  Stamford Bridge, battle of, 111.

  ‘Staple’ Towns, 237.

  States-General, 233.

  Stephen II, Pope, 64.

  Stephen Dushan, 332.

  Stephen of England, 122, 160.

  Stilicho, 39, 40.

  Stralsund, Treaty of, 289.

  Strasbourg, the Oath of, 103, 130.

  Styria, 277.

  _Summa Theologiae_, the, 210.

  Sutri, Synod of, 135.

  Swiss Cantons, the, 277, 279, 282 et seq., 296.


  Tacitus, 4, 15, 17, 25, 54, 119.

  Tancred of Sicily, 156, 182.

  Tannenberg, battle of, 292.

  Tell, William, 279.

  Templars, the, 151, 153, 190, 232, 265.

  Teutonic Knights, 151, 291 et seq.

  Theodora, the Empress, 49.

  Theodoric, King, 47, 48.

  Theodosius, the Emperor, 33, 39.

  Thorn, Treaty of, 292.

  Titus, the Emperor, 11, 46.

  Toulouse, Counts of, 199, 212.

  Trajan, the Emperor, 25.

  Troubadours, the, 200.

  Troyes, Treaty of, 252.

  Truce of God, 123.

  Tunis, 227.

  Turks, the, 146 et seq., 331 et seq., 338.


  Urban II, Pope, 145, 147.

  Urban VI, Pope, 322.


  Valdemar III, 287, 288, 289.

  Valencia, 261, 264.

  Valens, the Emperor, 37, 38.

  Valentian, the Emperor, 37.

  Vandals, the, 43, 50, 77, 104.

  Vasco da Gama, 341, 342, 344, 363.

  Venice, 45, 95, 145, 158, 284, 290, 293, 297, 300, 303 et seq., 329,
          337, 338, 350, 352.

  Verdun, the Partition of, 103.

  Vespasian, the Emperor, 9.

  Visconti, Bernabò, 299.

  Visconti, Filippo Maria, 302, 308, 315, 351.

  Visconti, Gian Galeazzo, 299, 300, 302.

  Visconti, Valentina, 300.

  Visigoths, the, 37, 40, 41, 54, 59, 77.


  Waldensians, the, 213, 214, 219.

  Wedmore, Treaty of, 106.

  Wenzel, Emperor, 324.

  Wessex, 105, 106.

  William I of England, 111, 112 et seq., 121, 137.

  William II of England, 114.

  Wisby, 288.

  Witikind, 90.

  Worms, Concordat of, 142.

  Wycliffe, 317, 324.


  Ximenez, Rodrigo, 266.


  Yermuk, battle of, 75.


  Zeno, Emperor, 47.

  Zeno, philosopher, 22.


Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

The Sidenotes in this eBook originally were page headers. Some of them
may be a paragraph or two away from their ideal placement, and in some
versions of this eBook are left-justified on lines of their own.

Ditto marks have been replaced by the actual text.

Bottom-of-page footnotes have been moved to the end of the text, just
before the Index.

Index not checked for proper alphabetization or correct page references.

Page 105: “To wake war” was printed that way.

Page 140: “In the winter of 1066” should be 1077, as shown correctly on
page 371 of the Chronological Summary.

Page 156: “bethrothed” was printed that way.

Page 383: “The House of Habsburg” was underlined, not italicized.

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