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The Battle of Chalons, A.D. 451.
A broad expanse of plains, the Campi Catalaunici of the ancients, spreads far and wide around the city of Chalons, in the north-east of France. About five miles from Chalons, near the little hamlets of Chape and Cuperly, the ground is indented and heaped up in ranges of grassy mounds and trenches, which attest the work of man's hand in ages past; and which, to the practiced eye, demonstrate that this quiet spot has once been the fortified position of a huge military host.
Local tradition gives to these ancient earthworks the name of Attila's Camp. Nor is there any reason to question the correctness of the title, or to doubt that behind these very ramparts it was that, 1400 years ago, the most powerful heathen king that ever ruled in Europe mustered the remnants of bis vast army, which had striven on these plains against the Christian soldiery of Thoulouse and Rome. Here it was that Attila prepared to resist to the death his victors in the field; and here he heaped up the treasures of his camp in one vast pile, which was to be his funeral pyre should his camp be stormed. It was here that the Gothic and Italian forces watched, but dared not assail, their enemy in his despair, after that great and terrible day of battle.
The victory which the Roman general Aetius, with his Gothic allies, had then gained over the Huns, was the last victory of Imperial Rome. But among the long Fasti of her triumphs, few can be found that, for their importance and ultimate benefit to mankind, are comparable with this expiring effort of her arms. It did not, indeed, open to her any new career of conquest; it did not consolidate the relics of her power; it did not turn the rapid ebb of her fortunes. The mission of Imperial Rome was, in truth, already accomplished. She had received and transmitted through her once ample dominion the civilization of Greece. She had broken up the barriers of narrow nationalities among the various states and tribes that dwelt around the coast of the Mediterranean. She had fused these and many other races into one organized empire, bound together by a community of laws, of government, and institutions. Under the shelter of her full power the True Faith had arisen in the earth, and during the years of her decline it had been nourished to maturity, and had overspread all the provinces that ever obeyed her sway. for no beneficial purpose to mankind could the dominion of the seven-billed city have been restored or prolonged. But it was all-important to mankind what nations should divide among them Rome's rich inheritance of empire: whether the Germanic and Gothic warriors should form states and kingdoms out of the fragments of her dominions, and become the free members of the commonwealth of Christian Europe; or whether pagan savages from the wilds of Central Asia should crush the relics of classic civilization, and the early institutions of the christianized Germans, in one hopeless chaos of barbaric conquest. The Christian Visigoths of King Theodoric fought and triumphed at Chalons, side by side with the legions of Aetius. Their
over the Hunnish host not only rescued for a time from destruction the old age of Rome, but preserved for centuries of power and glory the Germanic element in the civilization of modern Europe.
By the middle of the fifth century, Germanic nations had settled themselves in many of the fairest regions of the Roman empire, had imposed their yoke on the provincials, and had
undergone, to a considerable extent, that moral conquest which the arts and refinements of the vanquished in arms have so often achieved over the rough victor. The Visigoths held the north of Spain and Gaul south of the Loire. Franks, Alemanni, Alans, and Burgundians had established themselves in other Gallic provinces, and the Suevi were masters of a large southern portion of the Spanish peninsula. A king of the Vandals reigned in North Africa, and the Ostrogoths had firmly planted themselves in the provinces north of Italy. Of these powers and principalities, that of the Visigoths, under their king Theodoric, son of Alaric, was by far the first in power and in civilization,
A strong invitation from a Roman princess gave Attila a pretext for the war, and threw an air of chivalric enterprise over his invasion. Honoria, sister of Valentinian III., the Emperor of the West, had sent to Attila to offer him her hand, and her supposed right to share in the imperial power. This had been discovered by the Romans, and Honoria had been forth with closely imprisoned. Attila now pretended to take up arms in behalf of his self-promised bride, and proclaimed that he was about to march to Rome to redress Honoria’s wrongs. Ambition and spite against her brother must have been the sole motives that led the lady to woo the royal Hun; for Attila's face and person had all the national ugliness of his race, and the description given of him by a Byzantine ambassador must have been well known in the imperial courts.
It was not until the year 451 that the Huns commenced the siege of Orleans; and during their campaign in Eastern Gaul, the Roman general Aetius bad strenuously exerted himself in collecting and organizing such an army as might, when united to the soldiery of the Visigoths, be fit to face the Huns in the field. He enlisted every subject of the Roman empire whom patriotism, courage, or compulsion could collect beneath the standards; and round these troops, which assumed the once proud title of the legions of Rome, he arrayed the large forces of barbaric auxiliaries whom pay, persuasion, or the general hate and dread of the Huns, brought to the camp of the last of the Roman generals. King Theodoric exerted himself with equal energy. Orleans resisted her besiegers bravely as in after times. The passage of the Loire was skilfully defended against the Huns; and Aetius and Theodoric, after much manœuvring and difficulty, effected a junction of their armies to the south of that important river.
It was during the retreat from Orleans that a Christian bermit is reported to have approached the Hunnish king, and said to him, “ Thou art the Scourge of God for the chastise. ment of Christians.” Attila instantly assumed this new title of terror, which thenceforth became the appellation by which he was most widely and most fearfully known.
The confederate armies of Romans and Visigoths at last met their great adversary, face to face, on the ample battleground of the Chalons plains. Aetius commanded on the right of the allies; King Theodoric on the left; and Sangipan, king of the Alans, whose fidelity was suspected, was placed purposely in the centre and in the very front of the battle. Attila commanded his centre in person, at the head of his own countrymen, while the Ostrogoths, the Gepidæ, and the other subject allies of the Huns, were drawn up on the wings. Some maneuvring appears to have occurred before the engagement, in which Aetius bad the advantage, inasmuch as he succeeded in occupying a sloping hill, which commanded
the left flank of the Huns. Attila saw the importance of the position taken by Aetius on the high ground, and commenced the battle by a furious attack on this part of the Roman line, in which he seems to have detached some of his best troops from his centre to aid his left. The Romans having the advantage of the ground, repulsed the Huns, and while the allies gained this advantage on their right, their left, under King Theodoric, assailed the Ostrogoths, who formed the right of Atilla's army. The gallant king was himself struck down by a javelin, as be rode onward at the head of his men, and his own cavalry charging over him trampled him to death in the confusion. But the Visigoths, infuriated, not dispirited, by their monarch's fall, routed the enemies opposed to them, and then wheeled upon the flank of the Hunnish centre, which had been engaged in a sanguinary and indecisive contest with the Alans. In this peril Attila made his centre fall back upon
camp; and when the shelter of its entrenchments and wagons had once been gained, the Hunnish archers repulsed, without difficulty, the charges of the vengeful Gothic cavalry. Aetius had not pressed the advantage which he gained on his side of the field, and when night fell over the wild scene of havoc, Attila's left was still unbroken, but his right had been routed, and bis centre forced back upon his camp.
Expecting an assault on the morrow, Attila stationed his best archers in front of the cars and wagons, which were drawn up as a fortification along bis lines, and made every preparation for a desperate resistance. But the · Scourge of God" resolved that no man should boast of the honor of having either captured or slain him; and he caused to be raised in the centre of his encampment a huge pyramid of the wooden saddles of his cavalry: round it he heaped the spoils and the wealth that he had won; on it he stationed his wives who had accompanied him in the campaign; and on the summit he placed himself, ready to perish in the flames, and baulk the victorious foe of their choicest booty, should they succeed in storming his defences.
But when the morning broke, and revealed the extent of the carnage, with which the plains were heaped for miles, the successful allies saw also and respected the resolute attitude of their antagonist. Neither were any measures taken to blockade him in his camp, and so to extort by famine that submission which it was too plainly perilous to enforce with the sword. Attila was allowed to march back the remnants of his army without molestation, and even with the semblance of success.
Attila's attacks on the Western empire were soon renewed; but never with such peril to the civilized world as had menaced it before his defeat at Chalons. And on his death, two years after that battle, the vast empire which his genius had founded was soon dissevered by the successful revolts of the subject nations. The name of the Huns ceased for some centuries to inspire terror in Western Europe, and their ascendency passed away with the life of the great king by whom it had been so fearfully augmented.
the most flourishing cities were taken and utterly destroyed. The people of the Venetian territory (Veneti) took refuge in the neighboring islands, and thus was founded a maritime republic, which afterward became the great mart of Europe. Leo, Bishop of Rome, having implored of Attila to relax his iron grip, and the payment of an immense sum of money, induced the terrible barbarian to take his departure from the sunny land of Italy, and his death in the following year, 453, relieved the empire of its dreaded and remorseless enemy.
After Valentinian III., a succession of meritless princes, or rather of names, reigned in the West. In the reign of Romulus, surnamed Augustulus, the son of Orestes, the empire of the West came to a final period. Odoacer, prince of the Heruli, subdued Italy, and spared the life of Augustulus on the condition of his resigning the throne, A.D. 476. From the building of Rome to this era, the extinction of the Western Empire, is a period of 1,228
Thus terminated the western division of the great Roman Empire. The Eastern division continued to exist for nearly one thousand years.
The ruin of the Roman Empire was the inevitable consequence of its greatness. The extension of its dominion relaxed the vigor of its frame; the vices of the conquered nations infected the victorious legions, and foreign luxuries corrupted their commanders; selfish interests supplanted patriotic affection; the martial spirit was designedly debased by the emperors, who dreaded its effects upon their own power; and the whole mass, thus weakened and enervated, fell an easy prey to the torrent of barbarians which overwhelmed it.
The Herulian dominion in Italy was of short duration. Odoacer had reigned, not without renown, for twelve years, when Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, with the consent of the Byzantine emperor, marched from the Danube on Italy.
He was followed by 200,000 men fit for war, with their wives, children, and goods. Odoacer was unable to resist this force. Overcome by Theodoric near Verona, he concealed himself behind the walls of Ravenna; and it was only after a gallant defence of three years that he at length surrendered upon honorable conditions. But at a riotous banquet given by the Goths, he was subsequently killed. From this time the empire of the Ostrogoths, which extended from the southern point of Italy to the
Danube, was wisely and justly governed by Theodoric. It was during this reign of thirty-three years that the common saying prevailed, so perfect was the peace and prosperity, “that a piece of gold might be safely left in the field." Theodoric married the sister of Clovis, king of the Franks.
While this was the condition of affairs in Gothic Italy, the Empire of the East was under the government of Justinian. The Roman name again to distinction through the merits of his generals. Belizarius was the support of his throne. This great general overwhelmed the Vandal sovereignty of Africa, and recovered that province to the empire. He wrested Italy from its Gothic scourge, and once more restored it, for a brief space, to the dominion of its ancient masters. It was in the reign of Justinian that the body of laws was collected and digested, whick, under the general title of the civil law, has produced so great an effect on the institutions of civilized Europe, and consequently on the condition of the people. These famous collections were made by small bodies of men appointed like the commissioners of the present day, their labor being presided over by Triborian, a lawyer of great eminence.
Justinian procured silkworms from China by an artifice, and transplanted the manufacture of silk into Europe. He built the church of St. Sophia in Constantinople, and drew the sword upon heathens and Arians.
Belizarius was unjustly disgraced, and is said, when a blind old man, to have supported life by begging for alms.
Before the death of Justinian, the Longobards were called out of Pannonia (Hungary), when they advanced, under the leadership of Alboin, to the river Po, the territory taken possession of receiving the name of Lombardy, and Pavia chosen as the capital. Alboin died by the bloody vengeance of his wife, the beautiful Rosamunda. He had killed her father, the king of the Gepidæ, some years before in battle, and, in accordance with the German custom, had had his skull converted into a goblet. Having compelled Rosamunda to drink from her father's skull, she retaliated by assassination. The rude Longobards treated the nations with violence, and deprived them of the greater part of their possessions. But the sturdy arms of the Germans soon brought the land to a condition of superb cultiva
A powerful nobility stood at the head of this nation, who elected their kings in the assemblies of the people (Maifelder). The kingdom of the Lombards in Italy lasted for more than two centuries, and the famous iron crown of Lombardy is said to have been presented to one of their queens by the celebrated Pontiff, Gregory the Great, as a reward for converting the king to the Catholic faith.
The depravity of the court dimmed the lustre that the glory of Justinian had shed upon the Byzantine empire; and wicked princes ascended the blood-stained throne, in the midst of the most horrible atrocities, and the most abominable infamies. Constantinople, however, remained, throughout the whole of the middle ages, the seat of learning and refinement. The affairs of the church always excited the keenest interest at Constantinople. When the increasing veneration for images and relics threatened to establish a new form of idolatry, inasmuch as the ignorant people worshipped the images themselves, Leo the Isaurian, A.D. 717, removed them altogether from the churches. This gave rise to a storm that caused the throne to rock for more than a century. Two parties sprang into existence, the image worshippers, Iconoduli, and the image breakers, Iconoclasts. Leo's energetic son, Constantine Copronymus, followed the lead of his father. His son again, Leo IV., was an Iconoclastic emperor, but his wife Irene, who caused her own son's eyes to be put out, and meditated a marriage with Charlemagne, had all the images restored to the churches. The question was still a vexed one when Basilius the Macedonian ascended the throne, A.D. 867, a house that ruled with little interruption for two hundred years.
ARABIA AND THE EMPIRE OF THE
SARACENS. The fall of the Western empire of the Romans, and the final subjugation of Italy by the Lombards, is the era from which we date the commencement of modern history. The Eastern empire of the Romans continued to exist for many ages after this period, still magnificent, though in a comparative state of weakness and degeneracy. Towards the end of the sixth century, a new dominion arose in the
East, which was destined to produce a wonderful mendation to its votaries. The Koran taught the change on a great portion of the globe.
belief of one God, its doctrine being, “There is The Arabians, at this time a rude nation, living but one God, and Mahomet is his prophet," whose chiefly in independent tribes, who traced their de
will and power were constantly exerted towards the scent from the patriarch Abraham, through Ishmael, happiness of his creatures; that the duty of man the son of Hagar, professed a mixed religion, com- was to love his neighbors, assist the poor, protect pounded of Judaism and idolatry. Mecca, their holy the injured, to be humane to inferior animals, and city, arose to eminence from donations of pilgrims to pray seven times a day. Gaming and usury were to its temple, in which was deposited a black stone, particularly proscribed. an object of high veneration. Mahomet was born The pious Mussulmen, polygamy being already at Mecca, A.D. 571. Though descended from a sanctioned by the customs of Arabia, were allowed family which had produced many chieftains, and to have four wives, and as many concubines as they belonging to the tribe of Koreish, the most noble in chose; and with a view to a resurrection and a fuArabia, he was born in low circumstances, and had ture life, which were among the original tenets of no education; but his natural talents being above his countrymen, the pleasures of love were promised the ordinary stamp, he sought to raise himself to
as the supreme joys of paradise, intermingled with celebrity, by feigning a divine mission to propagate such other particular indulgences and luxuries as a new religion for the salvation of mankind. The were directly opposed to the inconveniences and Jewish expectations of a Messiah yet to come, and deprivations of an Asiatic climate; gardens irrithe Christian promise of a Comforter, afforded him gated by rivers, and groves of perpetual shade. yrounds sufficient to set out upon the pretensions of To revive the impression of these laws, which God, being the person intended to restore happiness to all it was pretended, had engraved originally on the nations of the earth, while an Arabian prediction, hearts of men, he had sent from time to time his in favor of such pretensions, seemed to confine it to prophets upon earth, Abraham, Moses, Jesus some member of the tribe of Koreish, to which, as Christ, and Mahomet; the last the greatest, to has been shown, Mahomet particularly belonged. whom all the world should owe its conversion to He accordingly retired to the Desert, and pretended the true religion. By producing the Koran in deto hold conferences with the angel Gabriel, who, it tached parcels, Mahomet had it in his power to was asserted, delivered him, from time to time, por- solve all objections by new revelations; while his tions of a sacred book, or Koran, containing revela- adoption of the Oriental tenet of predestination to tions of the will of the Supreme Being, and of the its fullest extent, took from his followers the fear doctrines which he required his prophet to commu- of death, in all attempts to propagate his religion nicate to the world. It is certainly remarkable, that by the sword. the book should be written in a style so peculiar, as Dissensions and popular tumults between the beto have become a model of the Arabic tongue, lievers and the infidels caused the banishment of since on the eloquence of the writing Mahomet in a Mahomet from Mecca. His flight, called Hegira, great measure rested the truth of his mission, con- A.D. 622, is the era of his glory. He betook himtrasting the purity of the style with the deficiency self to Medina, was joined by the brave Omar, of his own education, and in want of other creden- and propagating his doctrines with great success, tials, insisting upon it as carrying with it all the marched with his followers in arms, and took the weight and importance of an actual and true mira- city of Mecca. In a few years, he subdued all Aracle. Perhaps the secret is to be found in the cir- bia; and then attacking Syria, won several of the cumstances of the tribe to which he belonged, the Roman cities. He died, A.D. 632, in the midst of Koreish being particularly pure, and free from pro- his victories, at the age of sixty-one. He had nomvincial corruptions. The religion, while it adopted inated Ali, his son-in-law, his successor; but Abubin part the morality of Christianity, retained many eker, his father-in-law, secured the succession. of the rites of Judaism, and some of the Arabian The books of the Koran were united and pubsuperstitions, as the pilgrimage to Mecca; but owed lished by Abubeker, who also prosecuted the conto a certain spirit of voluptuousness its chief recom- quests of Mahomet. He took Jerusalem, and sub
jected all peoples between Mount Libanus and the the Oriental poetry by adding regularity to its fancy Mediterranean. On his death Omar was elected to and luxuriance of imagery. Their proverbs and the Caliphate, the successors of the Prophet in things romances are popular to this day. Of the latter the spiritual and temporal being denominated Caliphs, book of the Thousand and One Nights, popularly and in one campaign deprived the Greek empire of known as “The Arabian Nights' Entertainments," Syria, Phænicia, including Palestine, Mesopotamia, is a remarkable instance, Mosques, palaces and and Chaldæa. In the west, he subdued to the Mus- gardens were to be met with in every Arabian town. sulman dominion and belief the entire empire of Architecture, music (the system of notes), and decPersia. His generals at the same time conquered orative painting (arabesques), flourished in all the Egypt, Libya and Numidea.. Twice did the victori- chief cities. The Arabians translated the writings ous Mahometans lay siege to Constantinople, but of the Greeks, especially those of Aristotle and were repelled from its walls only by effectual use of Euclid. The literature and civilization of this the famous Greek fire. This is supposed to have people had the greatest influence upon the develbeen a kind of bitumen or inflammable oil, and was opment of the Christian Middle Age. poured from the ramparts, or blown through long tubes against the besiegers.
Othmar, the successor of Omar, added to the dominions of the Caliphs, Bactriana, and part of Tartary, and ravaged Rhodes and the Greek islands.
MONARCHY OF THE FRANKS. . His successor was Ali, the son-in-law of Mahomet, a name to this day revered by the Mahometans. The The Franks were originally those tribes of Gerseat of the Caliphate was successively removed from mans who inhabited the districts lying on the Lower Mecca to Couffa, Damascus, and Bagdad. In the Rhine and Weser. They assumed the name of space of half a century from the beginning of the Franks, or Freemen, from their temporary union to conquests of Mahomet, the Saracens raised an em- resist the dominion of the Romans, being first so pire more extensive than what remained of the called by the historians of the third century. LegRoman. Nineteen Caliphs of the race of Omar endary chronicles record a Pharamond and a Mero(Ommiades), had reigned in succession, when veus; the latter the head of the first race of the Mervan II. was dethroned and his whole race de- kings of France termed the Merovingians; but the stroyed, with the single exception of the celebrated authentic history of the Franks commences only with Abderrahman, ,whose career in Spain will appear his grandson, Clovis, who began to reign in the year hereafter. In this century the Bulgarians crossed 481. While only in the twentieth year
age, the Danube, followed by various Slavonian tribes, Clovis achieved the conquest of Gaul, and by marand having vanquished the Roman armies sent rying Clotilda, daughter of Chilperic, king of Buragainst them, founded, A.D. 680, the kingdom of gundy, soon added that province to his dominions, Bulgaria. This kingdom was a formidable enemy by dethroning his father-in-law. He was converted to the Greek empire till the reign of Basil II., when by Clotilda, and the Franks, till then idolaters, beit became a province of the empire till 1186, when came Christians, after their sovereign's example. it once more regained its independence.
The Visigoths were at this time masters of AquiWith Abu Abbas began the dynasty of the Abas- taine, the country between the Rhone and the sidæ, descended by the male line from Mahomet. Loire, and though, like the Franks, they also had Haroun Al Raschid, of "The Arabian Nights' En- been converted to Christianity, yet, having emtertainments" fame, flourished as Caliph at the braced the Arian tenets, they were opposed to the commencement of the ninth century, reigned for principles of Clotilda, who had deserted her countwenty-three years, and is celebrated as a second trymen, and embraced the Catholic faith. The inAugustus. He was the illustrious contemporary temperate zeal of Clovis prompted the extirpation and ally of Charlemagne. The sciences chiefly cul- of these heretics, who retreated across the Pyrenees tivated by the Arabians were Medicine, Chemistry, into Spain, and the province of Aquitaine became Botany, Geometry and Astronomy. They improved part of the kingdom of the Franks. Theodoric the