Part 7 out of 8

condemned and executed, on the complaint of the people of Auvergne.
That flagitious minister, the Catiline of his age and country, held a
secret correspondence with the Visigoths, to betray the province which
he oppressed: his industry was continually exercised in the discovery
of new taxes and obsolete offences; and his extravagant vices would
have inspired contempt, if they had not excited fear and abhorrence.

Such criminals were not beyond the reach of justice; but whatever
might be the guilt of Ricimer, that powerful Barbarian was able to
contend or to negotiate with the prince, whose alliance he had
condescended to accept. The peaceful and prosperous reign which
Anthemius had promised to the West, was soon clouded by misfortune and
discord. Ricimer, apprehensive, or impatient, of a superior, retired
from Rome, and fixed his residence at Milan; an advantageous situation
either to invite or to repel the warlike tribes that were seated
between the Alps and the Danube. Italy was gradually divided into two
independent and hostile kingdoms; and the nobles of Liguria, who
trembled at the near approach of a civil war, fell prostrate at the
feet of the patrician, and conjured him to spare their unhappy
country. "For my own part," replied Ricimer, in a tone of insolent
moderation, "I am still inclined to embrace the friendship of the
Galatian; but who will undertake to appease his anger, or to mitigate
the pride, which always rises in proportion to our submission?" They
informed him, that Epiphanius, bishop of Pavia, united the wisdom of
the serpent with the innocence of the dove; and appeared confident,
that the eloquence of such an ambassador must prevail against the
strongest opposition, either of interest or passion. Their
recommendation was approved; and Epiphanius, assuming the benevolent
office of mediation, proceeded without delay to Rome, where he was
received with the honors due to his merit and reputation. The oration
of a bishop in favor of peace may be easily supposed; he argued, that,
in all possible circumstances, the forgiveness of injuries must be an
act of mercy, or magnanimity, or prudence; and he seriously admonished
the emperor to avoid a contest with a fierce Barbarian, which might be
fatal to himself, and must be ruinous to his dominions. Anthemius
acknowledged the truth of his maxims; but he deeply felt, with grief
and indignation, the behavior of Ricimer, and his passion gave
eloquence and energy to his discourse. "What favors," he warmly
exclaimed, "have we refused to this ungrateful man? What provocations
have we not endured! Regardless of the majesty of the purple, I gave
my daughter to a Goth; I sacrificed my own blood to the safety of the
republic. The liberality which ought to have secured the eternal
attachment of Ricimer has exasperated him against his benefactor. What
wars has he not excited against the empire! How often has he
instigated and assisted the fury of hostile nations! Shall I now
accept his perfidious friendship? Can I hope that he will respect the
engagements of a treaty, who has already violated the duties of a
son?" But the anger of Anthemius evaporated in these passionate
exclamations: he insensibly yielded to the proposals of Epiphanius;
and the bishop returned to his diocese with the satisfaction of
restoring the peace of Italy, by a reconciliation, of which the
sincerity and continuance might be reasonably suspected. The clemency
of the emperor was extorted from his weakness; and Ricimer suspended
his ambitious designs till he had secretly prepared the engines with
which he resolved to subvert the throne of Anthemius. The mask of
peace and moderation was then thrown aside. The army of Ricimer was
fortified by a numerous reenforcement of Burgundians and Oriental
Suevi: he disclaimed all allegiance to the Greek emperor, marched from
Milan to the Gates of Rome, and fixing his camp on the banks of the
Anio, impatiently expected the arrival of Olybrius, his Imperial

The senator Olybrius, of the Anician family, might esteem himself the
lawful heir of the Western empire. He had married Placidia, the
younger daughter of Valentinian, after she was restored by Genseric;
who still detained her sister Eudoxia, as the wife, or rather as the
captive, of his son. The king of the Vandals supported, by threats and
solicitations, the fair pretensions of his Roman ally; and assigned,
as one of the motives of the war, the refusal of the senate and people
to acknowledge their lawful prince, and the unworthy preference which
they had given to a stranger. The friendship of the public enemy might
render Olybrius still more unpopular to the Italians; but when Ricimer
meditated the ruin of the emperor Anthemius, he tempted, with the
offer of a diadem, the candidate who could justify his rebellion by an
illustrious name and a royal alliance. The husband of Placidia, who,
like most of his ancestors, had been invested with the consular
dignity, might have continued to enjoy a secure and splendid fortune
in the peaceful residence of Constantinople; nor does he appear to
have been tormented by such a genius as cannot be amused or occupied,
unless by the administration of an empire. Yet Olybrius yielded to the
importunities of his friends, perhaps of his wife; rashly plunged into
the dangers and calamities of a civil war; and, with the secret
connivance of the emperor Leo, accepted the Italian purple, which was
bestowed, and resumed, at the capricious will of a Barbarian. He
landed without obstacle (for Genseric was master of the sea) either at
Ravenna, or the port of Ostia, and immediately proceeded to the camp
of Ricimer, where he was received as the sovereign of the Western

The patrician, who had extended his posts from the Anio to the Melvian
bridge, already possessed two quarters of Rome, the Vatican and the
Janiculum, which are separated by the Tyber from the rest of the city;
and it may be conjectured, that an assembly of seceding senators
imitated, in the choice of Olybrius, the forms of a legal election.
But the body of the senate and people firmly adhered to the cause of
Anthemius; and the more effectual support of a Gothic army enabled him
to prolong his reign, and the public distress, by a resistance of
three months, which produced the concomitant evils of famine and
pestilence. At length Ricimer made a furious assault on the bridge of
Hadrian, or St. Angelo; and the narrow pass was defended with equal
valor by the Goths, till the death of Gilimer, their leader. The
victorious troops, breaking down every barrier, rushed with
irresistible violence into the heart of the city, and Rome (if we may
use the language of a contemporary pope) was subverted by the civil
fury of Anthemius and Ricimer. The unfortunate Anthemius was dragged
from his concealment, and inhumanly massacred by the command of his
son-in-law; who thus added a third, or perhaps a fourth, emperor to
the number of his victims. The soldiers, who united the rage of
factious citizens with the savage manners of Barbarians, were
indulged, without control, in the license of rapine and murder: the
crowd of slaves and plebeians, who were unconcerned in the event,
could only gain by the indiscriminate pillage; and the face of the
city exhibited the strange contrast of stern cruelty and dissolute
intemperance. Forty days after this calamitous event, the subject, not
of glory, but of guilt, Italy was delivered, by a painful disease,
from the tyrant Ricimer, who bequeathed the command of his army to his
nephew Gundobald, one of the princes of the Burgundians. In the same
year all the principal actors in this great revolution were removed
from the stage; and the whole reign of Olybrius, whose death does not
betray any symptoms of violence, is included within the term of seven
months. He left one daughter, the offspring of his marriage with
Placidia; and the family of the great Theodosius, transplanted from
Spain to Constantinople, was propagated in the female line as far as
the eighth generation.

Chapter XXXVI: Total Extinction Of The Western Empire. -- Part V.

Whilst the vacant throne of Italy was abandoned to lawless Barbarians,
the election of a new colleague was seriously agitated in the council
of Leo. The empress Verina, studious to promote the greatness of her
own family, had married one of her nieces to Julius Nepos, who
succeeded his uncle Marcellinus in the sovereignty of Dalmatia, a more
solid possession than the title which he was persuaded to accept, of
Emperor of the West. But the measures of the Byzantine court were so
languid and irresolute, that many months elapsed after the death of
Anthemius, and even of Olybrius, before their destined successor could
show himself, with a respectable force, to his Italian subjects.
During that interval, Glycerius, an obscure soldier, was invested with
the purple by his patron Gundobald; but the Burgundian prince was
unable, or unwilling, to support his nomination by a civil war: the
pursuits of domestic ambition recalled him beyond the Alps, and his
client was permitted to exchange the Roman sceptre for the bishopric
of Salona. After extinguishing such a competitor, the emperor Nepos
was acknowledged by the senate, by the Italians, and by the
provincials of Gaul; his moral virtues, and military talents, were
loudly celebrated; and those who derived any private benefit from his
government, announced, in prophetic strains, the restoration of the
public felicity. Their hopes (if such hopes had been entertained) were
confounded within the term of a single year, and the treaty of peace,
which ceded Auvergne to the Visigoths, is the only event of his short
and inglorious reign. The most faithful subjects of Gaul were
sacrificed, by the Italian emperor, to the hope of domestic security;
but his repose was soon invaded by a furious sedition of the Barbarian
confederates, who, under the command of Orestes, their general, were
in full march from Rome to Ravenna. Nepos trembled at their approach;
and, instead of placing a just confidence in the strength of Ravenna,
he hastily escaped to his ships, and retired to his Dalmatian
principality, on the opposite coast of the Adriatic. By this shameful
abdication, he protracted his life about five years, in a very
ambiguous state, between an emperor and an exile, till he was
assassinated at Salona by the ungrateful Glycerius, who was
translated, perhaps as the reward of his crime, to the archbishopric
of Milan.

The nations who had asserted their independence after the death of
Attila, were established, by the right of possession or conquest, in
the boundless countries to the north of the Danube; or in the Roman
provinces between the river and the Alps. But the bravest of their
youth enlisted in the army of confederates
, who formed the defence and the terror of Italy; and in this
promiscuous multitude, the names of the Heruli, the Scyrri, the Alani,
the Turcilingi, and the Rugians, appear to have predominated. The
example of these warriors was imitated by Orestes, the son of
Tatullus, and the father of the last Roman emperor of the West.
Orestes, who has been already mentioned in this History, had never
deserted his country. His birth and fortunes rendered him one of the
most illustrious subjects of Pannonia. When that province was ceded to
the Huns, he entered into the service of Attila, his lawful sovereign,
obtained the office of his secretary, and was repeatedly sent
ambassador to Constantinople, to represent the person, and signify the
commands, of the imperious monarch. The death of that conqueror
restored him to his freedom; and Orestes might honorably refuse either
to follow the sons of Attila into the Scythian desert, or to obey the
Ostrogoths, who had usurped the dominion of Pannonia. He preferred the
service of the Italian princes, the successors of Valentinian; and as
he possessed the qualifications of courage, industry, and experience,
he advanced with rapid steps in the military profession, till he was
elevated, by the favor of Nepos himself, to the dignities of
patrician, and master-general of the troops. These troops had been
long accustomed to reverence the character and authority of Orestes,
who affected their manners, conversed with them in their own language,
and was intimately connected with their national chieftains, by long
habits of familiarity and friendship. At his solicitation they rose in
arms against the obscure Greek, who presumed to claim their obedience;
and when Orestes, from some secret motive, declined the purple, they
consented, with the same facility, to acknowledge his son Augustulus
as the emperor of the West. By the abdication of Nepos, Orestes had
now attained the summit of his ambitious hopes; but he soon
discovered, before the end of the first year, that the lessons of
perjury and ingratitude, which a rebel must inculcate, will be
resorted to against himself; and that the precarious sovereign of
Italy was only permitted to choose, whether he would be the slave, or
the victim, of his Barbarian mercenaries. The dangerous alliance of
these strangers had oppressed and insulted the last remains of Roman
freedom and dignity. At each revolution, their pay and privileges were
augmented; but their insolence increased in a still more extravagant
degree; they envied the fortune of their brethren in Gaul, Spain, and
Africa, whose victorious arms had acquired an independent and
perpetual inheritance; and they insisted on their peremptory demand,
that a third part of the lands of Italy should be immediately divided
among them. Orestes, with a spirit, which, in another situation, might
be entitled to our esteem, chose rather to encounter the rage of an
armed multitude, than to subscribe the ruin of an innocent people. He
rejected the audacious demand; and his refusal was favorable to the
ambition of Odoacer; a bold Barbarian, who assured his
fellow-soldiers, that, if they dared to associate under his command,
they might soon extort the justice which had been denied to their
dutiful petitions. From all the camps and garrisons of Italy, the
confederates, actuated by the same resentment and the same hopes,
impatiently flocked to the standard of this popular leader; and the
unfortunate patrician, overwhelmed by the torrent, hastily retreated
to the strong city of Pavia, the episcopal seat of the holy
Epiphanites. Pavia was immediately besieged, the fortifications were
stormed, the town was pillaged; and although the bishop might labor,
with much zeal and some success, to save the property of the church,
and the chastity of female captives, the tumult could only be appeased
by the execution of Orestes. His brother Paul was slain in an action
near Ravenna; and the helpless Augustulus, who could no longer command
the respect, was reduced to implore the clemency, of Odoacer.

That successful Barbarian was the son of Edecon; who, in some
remarkable transactions, particularly described in a preceding
chapter, had been the colleague of Orestes himself. * The honor of an
ambassador should be exempt from suspicion; and Edecon had listened to
a conspiracy against the life of his sovereign. But this apparent
guilt was expiated by his merit or repentance; his rank was eminent
and conspicuous; he enjoyed the favor of Attila; and the troops under
his command, who guarded, in their turn, the royal village, consisted
of a tribe of Scyrri, his immediate and hereditary subjects. In the
revolt of the nations, they still adhered to the Huns; and more than
twelve years afterwards, the name of Edecon is honorably mentioned, in
their unequal contests with the Ostrogoths; which was terminated,
after two bloody battles, by the defeat and dispersion of the Scyrri.
Their gallant leader, who did not survive this national calamity, left
two sons, Onulf and Odoacer, to struggle with adversity, and to
maintain as they might, by rapine or service, the faithful followers
of their exile. Onulf directed his steps towards Constantinople, where
he sullied, by the assassination of a generous benefactor, the fame
which he had acquired in arms. His brother Odoacer led a wandering
life among the Barbarians of Noricum, with a mind and a fortune suited
to the most desperate adventures; and when he had fixed his choice, he
piously visited the cell of Severinus, the popular saint of the
country, to solicit his approbation and blessing. The lowness of the
door would not admit the lofty stature of Odoacer: he was obliged to
stoop; but in that humble attitude the saint could discern the
symptoms of his future greatness; and addressing him in a prophetic
tone, "Pursue" (said he) "your design; proceed to Italy; you will soon
cast away this coarse garment of skins; and your wealth will be
adequate to the liberality of your mind." The Barbarian, whose daring
spirit accepted and ratified the prediction, was admitted into the
service of the Western empire, and soon obtained an honorable rank in
the guards. His manners were gradually polished, his military skill
was improved, and the confederates of Italy would not have elected him
for their general, unless the exploits of Odoacer had established a
high opinion of his courage and capacity. Their military acclamations
saluted him with the title of king; but he abstained, during his whole
reign, from the use of the purple and diadem, lest he should offend
those princes, whose subjects, by their accidental mixture, had formed
the victorious army, which time and policy might insensibly unite into
a great nation.

Royalty was familiar to the Barbarians, and the submissive people of
Italy was prepared to obey, without a murmur, the authority which he
should condescend to exercise as the vicegerent of the emperor of the
West. But Odoacer had resolved to abolish that useless and expensive
office; and such is the weight of antique prejudice, that it required
some boldness and penetration to discover the extreme facility of the
enterprise. The unfortunate Augustulus was made the instrument of his
own disgrace: he signified his resignation to the senate; and that
assembly, in their last act of obedience to a Roman prince, still
affected the spirit of freedom, and the forms of the constitution. An
epistle was addressed, by their unanimous decree, to the emperor Zeno,
the son-in-law and successor of Leo; who had lately been restored,
after a short rebellion, to the Byzantine throne. They solemnly
"disclaim the necessity, or even the wish, of continuing any longer
the Imperial succession in Italy; since, in their opinion, the majesty
of a sole monarch is sufficient to pervade and protect, at the same
time, both the East and the West. In their own name, and in the name
of the people, they consent that the seat of universal empire shall be
transferred from Rome to Constantinople; and they basely renounce the
right of choosing their master, the only vestige that yet remained of
the authority which had given laws to the world. The republic (they
repeat that name without a blush) might safely confide in the civil
and military virtues of Odoacer; and they humbly request, that the
emperor would invest him with the title of Patrician, and the
administration of the diocese
of Italy." The deputies of the senate were received at Constantinople
with some marks of displeasure and indignation: and when they were
admitted to the audience of Zeno, he sternly reproached them with
their treatment of the two emperors, Anthemius and Nepos, whom the
East had successively granted to the prayers of Italy. "The first"
(continued he) "you have murdered; the second you have expelled; but
the second is still alive, and whilst he lives he is your lawful
sovereign." But the prudent Zeno soon deserted the hopeless cause of
his abdicated colleague. His vanity was gratified by the title of sole
emperor, and by the statues erected to his honor in the several
quarters of Rome; he entertained a friendly, though ambiguous,
correspondence with the patrician Odoacer; and he gratefully accepted
the Imperial ensigns, the sacred ornaments of the throne and palace,
which the Barbarian was not unwilling to remove from the sight of the

In the space of twenty years since the death of Valentinian, nine
emperors had successively disappeared; and the son of Orestes, a youth
recommended only by his beauty, would be the least entitled to the
notice of posterity, if his reign, which was marked by the extinction
of the Roman empire in the West, did not leave a memorable era in the
history of mankind. The patrician Orestes had married the daughter of
Count Romulus
, of Petovio in Noricum: the name of Augustus, notwithstanding the
jealousy of power, was known at Aquileia as a familiar surname; and
the appellations of the two great founders, of the city and of the
monarchy, were thus strangely united in the last of their successors.
The son of Orestes assumed and disgraced the names of Romulus
Augustus; but the first was corrupted into Momyllus, by the Greeks,
and the second has been changed by the Latins into the contemptible
diminutive Augustulus. The life of this inoffensive youth was spared
by the generous clemency of Odoacer; who dismissed him, with his whole
family, from the Imperial palace, fixed his annual allowance at six
thousand pieces of gold, and assigned the castle of Lucullus, in
Campania, for the place of his exile or retirement. As soon as the
Romans breathed from the toils of the Punic war, they were attracted
by the beauties and the pleasures of Campania; and the country- house
of the elder Scipio at Liternum exhibited a lasting model of their
rustic simplicity. The delicious shores of the Bay of Naples were
crowded with villas; and Sylla applauded the masterly skill of his
rival, who had seated himself on the lofty promontory of Misenum, that
commands, on every side, the sea and land, as far as the boundaries of
the horizon. The villa of Marius was purchased, within a few years, by
Lucullus, and the price had increased from two thousand five hundred,
to more than fourscore thousand, pounds sterling. It was adorned by
the new proprietor with Grecian arts and Asiatic treasures; and the
houses and gardens of Lucullus obtained a distinguished rank in the
list of Imperial palaces. When the Vandals became formidable to the
sea-coast, the Lucullan villa, on the promontory of Misenum, gradually
assumed the strength and appellation of a strong castle, the obscure
retreat of the last emperor of the West. About twenty years after that
great revolution, it was converted into a church and monastery, to
receive the bones of St. Severinus. They securely reposed, amidst the
broken trophies of Cimbric and Armenian victories, till the beginning
of the tenth century; when the fortifications, which might afford a
dangerous shelter to the Saracens, were demolished by the people of

Odoacer was the first Barbarian who reigned in Italy, over a people
who had once asserted their just superiority above the rest of
mankind. The disgrace of the Romans still excites our respectful
compassion, and we fondly sympathize with the imaginary grief and
indignation of their degenerate posterity. But the calamities of Italy
had gradually subdued the proud consciousness of freedom and glory. In
the age of Roman virtue the provinces were subject to the arms, and
the citizens to the laws, of the republic; till those laws were
subverted by civil discord, and both the city and the province became
the servile property of a tyrant. The forms of the constitution, which
alleviated or disguised their abject slavery, were abolished by time
and violence; the Italians alternately lamented the presence or the
absence of the sovereign, whom they detested or despised; and the
succession of five centuries inflicted the various evils of military
license, capricious despotism, and elaborate oppression. During the
same period, the Barbarians had emerged from obscurity and contempt,
and the warriors of Germany and Scythia were introduced into the
provinces, as the servants, the allies, and at length the masters, of
the Romans, whom they insulted or protected. The hatred of the people
was suppressed by fear; they respected the spirit and splendor of the
martial chiefs who were invested with the honors of the empire; and
the fate of Rome had long depended on the sword of those formidable
strangers. The stern Ricimer, who trampled on the ruins of Italy, had
exercised the power, without assuming the title, of a king; and the
patient Romans were insensibly prepared to acknowledge the royalty of
Odoacer and his Barbaric successors.

The king of Italy was not unworthy of the high station to which his
valor and fortune had exalted him: his savage manners were polished by
the habits of conversation; and he respected, though a conqueror and a
Barbarian, the institutions, and even the prejudices, of his subjects.
After an interval of seven years, Odoacer restored the consulship of
the West. For himself, he modestly, or proudly, declined an honor
which was still accepted by the emperors of the East; but the curule
chair was successively filled by eleven of the most illustrious
senators; and the list is adorned by the respectable name of Basilius,
whose virtues claimed the friendship and grateful applause of
Sidonius, his client. The laws of the emperors were strictly enforced,
and the civil administration of Italy was still exercised by the
Prætorian præfect and his subordinate officers. Odoacer devolved on
the Roman magistrates the odious and oppressive task of collecting the
public revenue; but he reserved for himself the merit of seasonable
and popular indulgence. Like the rest of the Barbarians, he had been
instructed in the Arian heresy; but he revered the monastic and
episcopal characters; and the silence of the Catholics attest the
toleration which they enjoyed. The peace of the city required the
interposition of his præfect Basilius in the choice of a Roman
pontiff: the decree which restrained the clergy from alienating their
lands was ultimately designed for the benefit of the people, whose
devotions would have been taxed to repair the dilapidations of the
church. Italy was protected by the arms of its conqueror; and its
frontiers were respected by the Barbarians of Gaul and Germany, who
had so long insulted the feeble race of Theodosius. Odoacer passed the
Adriatic, to chastise the assassins of the emperor Nepos, and to
acquire the maritime province of Dalmatia. He passed the Alps, to
rescue the remains of Noricum from Fava, or Feletheus, king of the
Rugians, who held his residence beyond the Danube. The king was
vanquished in battle, and led away prisoner; a numerous colony of
captives and subjects was transplanted into Italy; and Rome, after a
long period of defeat and disgrace, might claim the triumph of her
Barbarian master.

Notwithstanding the prudence and success of Odoacer, his kingdom
exhibited the sad prospect of misery and desolation. Since the age of
Tiberius, the decay of agriculture had been felt in Italy; and it was
a just subject of complaint, that the life of the Roman people
depended on the accidents of the winds and waves. In the division and
the decline of the empire, the tributary harvests of Egypt and Africa
were withdrawn; the numbers of the inhabitants continually diminished
with the means of subsistence; and the country was exhausted by the
irretrievable losses of war, famine, and pestilence. St. Ambrose has
deplored the ruin of a populous district, which had been once adorned
with the flourishing cities of Bologna, Modena, Regium, and Placentia.
Pope Gelasius was a subject of Odoacer; and he affirms, with strong
exaggeration, that in Æmilia, Tuscany, and the adjacent provinces, the
human species was almost extirpated. The plebeians of Rome, who were
fed by the hand of their master, perished or disappeared, as soon as
his liberality was suppressed; the decline of the arts reduced the
industrious mechanic to idleness and want; and the senators, who might
support with patience the ruin of their country, bewailed their
private loss of wealth and luxury. * One third of those ample estates,
to which the ruin of Italy is originally imputed, was extorted for the
use of the conquerors. Injuries were aggravated by insults; the sense
of actual sufferings was imbittered by the fear of more dreadful
evils; and as new lands were allotted to the new swarms of Barbarians,
each senator was apprehensive lest the arbitrary surveyors should
approach his favorite villa, or his most profitable farm. The least
unfortunate were those who submitted without a murmur to the power
which it was impossible to resist. Since they desired to live, they
owed some gratitude to the tyrant who had spared their lives; and
since he was the absolute master of their fortunes, the portion which
he left must be accepted as his pure and voluntary gift. The distress
of Italy was mitigated by the prudence and humanity of Odoacer, who
had bound himself, as the price of his elevation, to satisfy the
demands of a licentious and turbulent multitude. The kings of the
Barbarians were frequently resisted, deposed, or murdered, by their
subjects, and the various bands of Italian mercenaries, who associated
under the standard of an elective general, claimed a larger privilege
of freedom and rapine. A monarchy destitute of national union, and
hereditary right, hastened to its dissolution. After a reign of
fourteen years, Odoacer was oppressed by the superior genius of
Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths; a hero alike excellent in the arts
of war and of government, who restored an age of peace and prosperity,
and whose name still excites and deserves the attention of mankind.

Chapter XXXVII: Conversion Of The Barbarians To Christianity.

Part I.

Origin Progress, And Effects Of The Monastic Life. -- Conversion Of
The Barbarians To Christianity And Arianism. -- Persecution Of The
Vandals In Africa. -- Extinction Of Arianism Among The Barbarians.

The indissoluble connection of civil and ecclesiastical affairs has
compelled, and encouraged, me to relate the progress, the
persecutions, the establishment, the divisions, the final triumph, and
the gradual corruption, of Christianity. I have purposely delayed the
consideration of two religious events, interesting in the study of
human nature, and important in the decline and fall of the Roman
empire. I. The institution of the monastic life; and, II. The
conversion of the northern Barbarians.

I. Prosperity and peace introduced the distinction of the vulgar
and the Ascetic Christians. The loose and imperfect practice of
religion satisfied the conscience of the multitude. The prince or
magistrate, the soldier or merchant, reconciled their fervent zeal,
and implicit faith, with the exercise of their profession, the pursuit
of their interest, and the indulgence of their passions: but the
Ascetics, who obeyed and abused the rigid precepts of the gospel, were
inspired by the savage enthusiasm which represents man as a criminal,
and God as a tyrant. They seriously renounced the business, and the
pleasures, of the age; abjured the use of wine, of flesh, and of
marriage; chastised their body, mortified their affections, and
embraced a life of misery, as the price of eternal happiness. In the
reign of Constantine, the Ascetics fled from a profane and degenerate
world, to perpetual solitude, or religious society. Like the first
Christians of Jerusalem, * they resigned the use, or the property of
their temporal possessions; established regular communities of the
same sex, and a similar disposition; and assumed the names of Hermits,
Monks, and Anachorets, expressive of their lonely retreat in a natural
or artificial desert. They soon acquired the respect of the world,
which they despised; and the loudest applause was bestowed on this
Divine Philosophy, which surpassed, without the aid of science or
reason, the laborious virtues of the Grecian schools. The monks might
indeed contend with the Stoics, in the contempt of fortune, of pain,
and of death: the Pythagorean silence and submission were revived in
their servile discipline; and they disdained, as firmly as the Cynics
themselves, all the forms and decencies of civil society. But the
votaries of this Divine Philosophy aspired to imitate a purer and more
perfect model. They trod in the footsteps of the prophets, who had
retired to the desert; and they restored the devout and contemplative
life, which had been instituted by the Essenians, in Palestine and
Egypt. The philosophic eye of Pliny had surveyed with astonishment a
solitary people, who dwelt among the palm-trees near the Dead Sea; who
subsisted without money, who were propagated without women; and who
derived from the disgust and repentance of mankind a perpetual supply
of voluntary associates.

Egypt, the fruitful parent of superstition, afforded the first example
of the monastic life. Antony, an illiterate youth of the lower parts
of Thebais, distributed his patrimony, deserted his family and native
home, and executed his monastic
penance with original and intrepid fanaticism. After a long and
painful novitiate, among the tombs, and in a ruined tower, he boldly
advanced into the desert three days' journey to the eastward of the
Nile; discovered a lonely spot, which possessed the advantages of
shade and water, and fixed his last residence on Mount Colzim, near
the Red Sea; where an ancient monastery still preserves the name and
memory of the saint. The curious devotion of the Christians pursued
him to the desert; and when he was obliged to appear at Alexandria, in
the face of mankind, he supported his fame with discretion and
dignity. He enjoyed the friendship of Athanasius, whose doctrine he
approved; and the Egyptian peasant respectfully declined a respectful
invitation from the emperor Constantine. The venerable patriarch (for
Antony attained the age of one hundred and five years) beheld the
numerous progeny which had been formed by his example and his lessons.
The prolific colonies of monks multiplied with rapid increase on the
sands of Libya, upon the rocks of Thebais, and in the cities of the
Nile. To the south of Alexandria, the mountain, and adjacent desert,
of Nitria, were peopled by five thousand anachorets; and the traveller
may still investigate the ruins of fifty monasteries, which were
planted in that barren soil by the disciples of Antony. In the Upper
Thebais, the vacant island of Tabenne, was occupied by Pachomius and
fourteen hundred of his brethren. That holy abbot successively founded
nine monasteries of men, and one of women; and the festival of Easter
sometimes collected fifty thousand religious persons, who followed his
angelic rule of discipline. The stately and populous city of
Oxyrinchus, the seat of Christian orthodoxy, had devoted the temples,
the public edifices, and even the ramparts, to pious and charitable
uses; and the bishop, who might preach in twelve churches, computed
ten thousand females and twenty thousand males, of the monastic
profession. The Egyptians, who gloried in this marvellous revolution,
were disposed to hope, and to believe, that the number of the monks
was equal to the remainder of the people; and posterity might repeat
the saying, which had formerly been applied to the sacred animals of
the same country, That in Egypt it was less difficult to find a god
than a man.

Athanasius introduced into Rome the knowledge and practice of the
monastic life; and a school of this new philosophy was opened by the
disciples of Antony, who accompanied their primate to the holy
threshold of the Vatican. The strange and savage appearance of these
Egyptians excited, at first, horror and contempt, and, at length,
applause and zealous imitation. The senators, and more especially the
matrons, transformed their palaces and villas into religious houses;
and the narrow institution of six
Vestals was eclipsed by the frequent monasteries, which were seated on
the ruins of ancient temples, and in the midst of the Roman forum.
Inflamed by the example of Antony, a Syrian youth, whose name was
Hilarion, fixed his dreary abode on a sandy beach, between the sea and
a morass, about seven miles from Gaza. The austere penance, in which
he persisted forty-eight years, diffused a similar enthusiasm; and the
holy man was followed by a train of two or three thousand anachorets,
whenever he visited the innumerable monasteries of Palestine. The fame
of Basil is immortal in the monastic history of the East. With a mind
that had tasted the learning and eloquence of Athens; with an ambition
scarcely to be satisfied with the archbishopric of Cæsarea, Basil
retired to a savage solitude in Pontus; and deigned, for a while, to
give laws to the spiritual colonies which he profusely scattered along
the coast of the Black Sea. In the West, Martin of Tours, a soldier, a
hermit, a bishop, and a saint, established the monasteries of Gaul;
two thousand of his disciples followed him to the grave; and his
eloquent historian challenges the deserts of Thebais to produce, in a
more favorable climate, a champion of equal virtue. The progress of
the monks was not less rapid, or universal, than that of Christianity
itself. Every province, and, at last, every city, of the empire, was
filled with their increasing multitudes; and the bleak and barren
isles, from Lerins to Lipari, that arose out of the Tuscan Sea, were
chosen by the anachorets for the place of their voluntary exile. An
easy and perpetual intercourse by sea and land connected the provinces
of the Roman world; and the life of Hilarion displays the facility
with which an indigent hermit of Palestine might traverse Egypt,
embark for Sicily, escape to Epirus, and finally settle in the Island
of Cyprus. The Latin Christians embraced the religious institutions of
Rome. The pilgrims, who visited Jerusalem, eagerly copied, in the most
distant climates of the earth, the faithful model of the monastic
life. The disciples of Antony spread themselves beyond the tropic,
over the Christian empire of Æthiopia. The monastery of Banchor, in
Flintshire, which contained above two thousand brethren, dispersed a
numerous colony among the Barbarians of Ireland; and Iona, one of the
Hebrides, which was planted by the Irish monks, diffused over the
northern regions a doubtful ray of science and superstition.

These unhappy exiles from social life were impelled by the dark and
implacable genius of superstition. Their mutual resolution was
supported by the example of millions, of either sex, of every age, and
of every rank; and each proselyte who entered the gates of a
monastery, was persuaded that he trod the steep and thorny path of
eternal happiness. But the operation of these religious motives was
variously determined by the temper and situation of mankind. Reason
might subdue, or passion might suspend, their influence: but they
acted most forcibly on the infirm minds of children and females; they
were strengthened by secret remorse, or accidental misfortune; and
they might derive some aid from the temporal considerations of vanity
or interest. It was naturally supposed, that the pious and humble
monks, who had renounced the world to accomplish the work of their
salvation, were the best qualified for the spiritual government of the
Christians. The reluctant hermit was torn from his cell, and seated,
amidst the acclamations of the people, on the episcopal throne: the
monasteries of Egypt, of Gaul, and of the East, supplied a regular
succession of saints and bishops; and ambition soon discovered the
secret road which led to the possession of wealth and honors. The
popular monks, whose reputation was connected with the fame and
success of the order, assiduously labored to multiply the number of
their fellow-captives. They insinuated themselves into noble and
opulent families; and the specious arts of flattery and seduction were
employed to secure those proselytes who might bestow wealth or dignity
on the monastic profession. The indignant father bewailed the loss,
perhaps, of an only son; the credulous maid was betrayed by vanity to
violate the laws of nature; and the matron aspired to imaginary
perfection, by renouncing the virtues of domestic life. Paula yielded
to the persuasive eloquence of Jerom; and the profane title of
mother-in-law of God tempted that illustrious widow to consecrate the
virginity of her daughter Eustochium. By the advice, and in the
company, of her spiritual guide, Paula abandoned Rome and her infant
son; retired to the holy village of Bethlem; founded a hospital and
four monasteries; and acquired, by her alms and penance, an eminent
and conspicuous station in the Catholic church. Such rare and
illustrious penitents were celebrated as the glory and example of
their age; but the monasteries were filled by a crowd of obscure and
abject plebeians, who gained in the cloister much more than they had
sacrificed in the world. Peasants, slaves, and mechanics, might escape
from poverty and contempt to a safe and honorable profession; whose
apparent hardships are mitigated by custom, by popular applause, and
by the secret relaxation of discipline. The subjects of Rome, whose
persons and fortunes were made responsible for unequal and exorbitant
tributes, retired from the oppression of the Imperial government; and
the pusillanimous youth preferred the penance of a monastic, to the
dangers of a military, life. The affrighted provincials of every rank,
who fled before the Barbarians, found shelter and subsistence: whole
legions were buried in these religious sanctuaries; and the same
cause, which relieved the distress of individuals, impaired the
strength and fortitude of the empire.

The monastic profession of the ancients was an act of voluntary
devotion. The inconstant fanatic was threatened with the eternal
vengeance of the God whom he deserted; but the doors of the monastery
were still open for repentance. Those monks, whose conscience was
fortified by reason or passion, were at liberty to resume the
character of men and citizens; and even the spouses of Christ might
accept the legal embraces of an earthly lover. The examples of
scandal, and the progress of superstition, suggested the propriety of
more forcible restraints. After a sufficient trial, the fidelity of
the novice was secured by a solemn and perpetual vow; and his
irrevocable engagement was ratified by the laws of the church and
state. A guilty fugitive was pursued, arrested, and restored to his
perpetual prison; and the interposition of the magistrate oppressed
the freedom and the merit, which had alleviated, in some degree, the
abject slavery of the monastic discipline. The actions of a monk, his
words, and even his thoughts, were determined by an inflexible rule,
or a capricious superior: the slightest offences were corrected by
disgrace or confinement, extraordinary fasts, or bloody flagellation;
and disobedience, murmur, or delay, were ranked in the catalogue of
the most heinous sins. A blind submission to the commands of the
abbot, however absurd, or even criminal, they might seem, was the
ruling principle, the first virtue of the Egyptian monks; and their
patience was frequently exercised by the most extravagant trials. They
were directed to remove an enormous rock; assiduously to water a
barren staff, that was planted in the ground, till, at the end of
three years, it should vegetate and blossom like a tree; to walk into
a fiery furnace; or to cast their infant into a deep pond: and several
saints, or madmen, have been immortalized in monastic story, by their
thoughtless and fearless obedience. The freedom of the mind, the
source of every generous and rational sentiment, was destroyed by the
habits of credulity and submission; and the monk, contracting the
vices of a slave, devoutly followed the faith and passions of his
ecclesiastical tyrant. The peace of the Eastern church was invaded by
a swarm of fanatics, incapable of fear, or reason, or humanity; and
the Imperial troops acknowledged, without shame, that they were much
less apprehensive of an encounter with the fiercest Barbarians.

Superstition has often framed and consecrated the fantastic garments
of the monks: but their apparent singularity sometimes proceeds from
their uniform attachment to a simple and primitive model, which the
revolutions of fashion have made ridiculous in the eyes of mankind.
The father of the Benedictines expressly disclaims all idea of choice
of merit; and soberly exhorts his disciples to adopt the coarse and
convenient dress of the countries which they may inhabit. The monastic
habits of the ancients varied with the climate, and their mode of
life; and they assumed, with the same indifference, the sheep-skin of
the Egyptian peasants, or the cloak of the Grecian philosophers. They
allowed themselves the use of linen in Egypt, where it was a cheap and
domestic manufacture; but in the West they rejected such an expensive
article of foreign luxury. It was the practice of the monks either to
cut or shave their hair; they wrapped their heads in a cowl to escape
the sight of profane objects; their legs and feet were naked, except
in the extreme cold of winter; and their slow and feeble steps were
supported by a long staff. The aspect of a genuine anachoret was
horrid and disgusting: every sensation that is offensive to man was
thought acceptable to God; and the angelic rule of Tabenne condemned
the salutary custom of bathing the limbs in water, and of anointing
them with oil. * The austere monks slept on the ground, on a hard mat,
or a rough blanket; and the same bundle of palm-leaves served them as
a seat in the lay, and a pillow in the night. Their original cells
were low, narrow huts, built of the slightest materials; which formed,
by the regular distribution of the streets, a large and populous
village, enclosing, within the common wall, a church, a hospital,
perhaps a library, some necessary offices, a garden, and a fountain or
reservoir of fresh water. Thirty or forty brethren composed a family
of separate discipline and diet; and the great monasteries of Egypt
consisted of thirty or forty families.

Chapter XXXVII: Conversion Of The Barbarians To Christianity. -- Part

Pleasure and guilt are synonymous terms in the language of the monks,
and they discovered, by experience, that rigid fasts, and abstemious
diet, are the most effectual preservatives against the impure desires
of the flesh. The rules of abstinence which they imposed, or
practised, were not uniform or perpetual: the cheerful festival of the
Pentecost was balanced by the extraordinary mortification of Lent; the
fervor of new monasteries was insensibly relaxed; and the voracious
appetite of the Gauls could not imitate the patient and temperate
virtue of the Egyptians. The disciples of Antony and Pachomius were
satisfied with their daily pittance, of twelve ounces of bread, or
rather biscuit, which they divided into two frugal repasts, of the
afternoon and of the evening. It was esteemed a merit, and almost a
duty, to abstain from the boiled vegetables which were provided for
the refectory; but the extraordinary bounty of the abbot sometimes
indulged them with the luxury of cheese, fruit, salad, and the small
dried fish of the Nile. A more ample latitude of sea and river fish
was gradually allowed or assumed; but the use of flesh was long
confined to the sick or travellers; and when it gradually prevailed in
the less rigid monasteries of Europe, a singular distinction was
introduced; as if birds, whether wild or domestic, had been less
profane than the grosser animals of the field. Water was the pure and
innocent beverage of the primitive monks; and the founder of the
Benedictines regrets the daily portion of half a pint of wine, which
had been extorted from him by the intemperance of the age. Such an
allowance might be easily supplied by the vineyards of Italy; and his
victorious disciples, who passed the Alps, the Rhine, and the Baltic,
required, in the place of wine, an adequate compensation of strong
beer or cider.

The candidate who aspired to the virtue of evangelical poverty,
abjured, at his first entrance into a regular community, the idea, and
even the name, of all separate or exclusive possessions. The brethren
were supported by their manual labor; and the duty of labor was
strenuously recommended as a penance, as an exercise, and as the most
laudable means of securing their daily subsistence. The garden and
fields, which the industry of the monks had often rescued from the
forest or the morass, were diligently cultivated by their hands. They
performed, without reluctance, the menial offices of slaves and
domestics; and the several trades that were necessary to provide their
habits, their utensils, and their lodging, were exercised within the
precincts of the great monasteries. The monastic studies have tended,
for the most part, to darken, rather than to dispel, the cloud of
superstition. Yet the curiosity or zeal of some learned solitaries has
cultivated the ecclesiastical, and even the profane, sciences; and
posterity must gratefully acknowledge, that the monuments of Greek and
Roman literature have been preserved and multiplied by their
indefatigable pens. But the more humble industry of the monks,
especially in Egypt, was contented with the silent, sedentary
occupation of making wooden sandals, or of twisting the leaves of the
palm-tree into mats and baskets. The superfluous stock, which was not
consumed in domestic use, supplied, by trade, the wants of the
community: the boats of Tabenne, and the other monasteries of Thebais,
descended the Nile as far as Alexandria; and, in a Christian market,
the sanctity of the workmen might enhance the intrinsic value of the

But the necessity of manual labor was insensibly superseded. The
novice was tempted to bestow his fortune on the saints, in whose
society he was resolved to spend the remainder of his life; and the
pernicious indulgence of the laws permitted him to receive, for their
use, any future accessions of legacy or inheritance. Melania
contributed her plate, three hundred pounds weight of silver; and
Paula contracted an immense debt, for the relief of their favorite
monks; who kindly imparted the merits of their prayers and penance to
a rich and liberal sinner. Time continually increased, and accidents
could seldom diminish, the estates of the popular monasteries, which
spread over the adjacent country and cities: and, in the first century
of their institution, the infidel Zosimus has maliciously observed,
that, for the benefit of the poor, the Christian monks had reduced a
great part of mankind to a state of beggary. As long as they
maintained their original fervor, they approved themselves, however,
the faithful and benevolent stewards of the charity, which was
entrusted to their care. But their discipline was corrupted by
prosperity: they gradually assumed the pride of wealth, and at last
indulged the luxury of expense. Their public luxury might be excused
by the magnificence of religious worship, and the decent motive of
erecting durable habitations for an immortal society. But every age of
the church has accused the licentiousness of the degenerate monks; who
no longer remembered the object of their institution, embraced the
vain and sensual pleasures of the world, which they had renounced, and
scandalously abused the riches which had been acquired by the austere
virtues of their founders. Their natural descent, from such painful
and dangerous virtue, to the common vices of humanity, will not,
perhaps, excite much grief or indignation in the mind of a

The lives of the primitive monks were consumed in penance and
solitude; undisturbed by the various occupations which fill the time,
and exercise the faculties, of reasonable, active, and social beings.
Whenever they were permitted to step beyond the precincts of the
monastery, two jealous companions were the mutual guards and spies of
each other's actions; and, after their return, they were condemned to
forget, or, at least, to suppress, whatever they had seen or heard in
the world. Strangers, who professed the orthodox faith, were
hospitably entertained in a separate apartment; but their dangerous
conversation was restricted to some chosen elders of approved
discretion and fidelity. Except in their presence, the monastic slave
might not receive the visits of his friends or kindred; and it was
deemed highly meritorious, if he afflicted a tender sister, or an aged
parent, by the obstinate refusal of a word or look. The monks
themselves passed their lives, without personal attachments, among a
crowd which had been formed by accident, and was detained, in the same
prison, by force or prejudice. Recluse fanatics have few ideas or
sentiments to communicate: a special license of the abbot regulated
the time and duration of their familiar visits; and, at their silent
meals, they were enveloped in their cowls, inaccessible, and almost
invisible, to each other. Study is the resource of solitude: but
education had not prepared and qualified for any liberal studies the
mechanics and peasants who filled the monastic communities. They might
work: but the vanity of spiritual perfection was tempted to disdain
the exercise of manual labor; and the industry must be faint and
languid, which is not excited by the sense of personal interest.

According to their faith and zeal, they might employ the day, which
they passed in their cells, either in vocal or mental prayer: they
assembled in the evening, and they were awakened in the night, for the
public worship of the monastery. The precise moment was determined by
the stars, which are seldom clouded in the serene sky of Egypt; and a
rustic horn, or trumpet, the signal of devotion, twice interrupted the
vast silence of the desert. Even sleep, the last refuge of the
unhappy, was rigorously measured: the vacant hours of the monk heavily
rolled along, without business or pleasure; and, before the close of
each day, he had repeatedly accused the tedious progress of the sun.
In this comfortless state, superstition still pursued and tormented
her wretched votaries. The repose which they had sought in the
cloister was disturbed by a tardy repentance, profane doubts, and
guilty desires; and, while they considered each natural impulse as an
unpardonable sin, they perpetually trembled on the edge of a flaming
and bottomless abyss. From the painful struggles of disease and
despair, these unhappy victims were sometimes relieved by madness or
death; and, in the sixth century, a hospital was founded at Jerusalem
for a small portion of the austere penitents, who were deprived of
their senses. Their visions, before they attained this extreme and
acknowledged term of frenzy, have afforded ample materials of
supernatural history. It was their firm persuasion, that the air,
which they breathed, was peopled with invisible enemies; with
innumerable demons, who watched every occasion, and assumed every
form, to terrify, and above all to tempt, their unguarded virtue. The
imagination, and even the senses, were deceived by the illusions of
distempered fanaticism; and the hermit, whose midnight prayer was
oppressed by involuntary slumber, might easily confound the phantoms
of horror or delight, which had occupied his sleeping and his waking

The monks were divided into two classes: the Cnobites
, who lived under a common and regular discipline; and the Anachorets,
who indulged their unsocial, independent fanaticism. The most devout,
or the most ambitious, of the spiritual brethren, renounced the
convent, as they had renounced the world. The fervent monasteries of
Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, were surrounded by a Laura, a distant
circle of solitary cells; and the extravagant penance of Hermits was
stimulated by applause and emulation. They sunk under the painful
weight of crosses and chains; and their emaciated limbs were confined
by collars, bracelets, gauntlets, and greaves of massy and rigid iron.
All superfluous encumbrance of dress they contemptuously cast away;
and some savage saints of both sexes have been admired, whose naked
bodies were only covered by their long hair. They aspired to reduce
themselves to the rude and miserable state in which the human brute is
scarcely distinguishable above his kindred animals; and the numerous
sect of Anachorets derived their name from their humble practice of
grazing in the fields of Mesopotamia with the common herd. They often
usurped the den of some wild beast whom they affected to resemble;
they buried themselves in some gloomy cavern, which art or nature had
scooped out of the rock; and the marble quarries of Thebais are still
inscribed with the monuments of their penance. The most perfect
Hermits are supposed to have passed many days without food, many
nights without sleep, and many years without speaking; and glorious
was the man ( I abuse that name) who contrived any cell, or seat, of a
peculiar construction, which might expose him, in the most
inconvenient posture, to the inclemency of the seasons.

Among these heroes of the monastic life, the name and genius of Simeon
Stylites have been immortalized by the singular invention of an aërial
penance. At the age of thirteen, the young Syrian deserted the
profession of a shepherd, and threw himself into an austere monastery.
After a long and painful novitiate, in which Simeon was repeatedly
saved from pious suicide, he established his residence on a mountain,
about thirty or forty miles to the east of Antioch. Within the space
of a mandra
, or circle of stones, to which he had attached himself by a ponderous
chain, he ascended a column, which was successively raised from the
height of nine, to that of sixty, feet from the ground. In this last
and lofty station, the Syrian Anachoret resisted the heat of thirty
summers, and the cold of as many winters. Habit and exercise
instructed him to maintain his dangerous situation without fear or
giddiness, and successively to assume the different postures of
devotion. He sometimes prayed in an erect attitude, with his
outstretched arms in the figure of a cross, but his most familiar
practice was that of bending his meagre skeleton from the forehead to
the feet; and a curious spectator, after numbering twelve hundred and
forty- four repetitions, at length desisted from the endless account.
The progress of an ulcer in his thigh might shorten, but it could not
disturb, this celestial life; and the patient Hermit expired, without
descending from his column. A prince, who should capriciously inflict
such tortures, would be deemed a tyrant; but it would surpass the
power of a tyrant to impose a long and miserable existence on the
reluctant victims of his cruelty. This voluntary martyrdom must have
gradually destroyed the sensibility both of the mind and body; nor can
it be presumed that the fanatics, who torment themselves, are
susceptible of any lively affection for the rest of mankind. A cruel,
unfeeling temper has distinguished the monks of every age and country:
their stern indifference, which is seldom mollified by personal
friendship, is inflamed by religious hatred; and their merciless zeal
has strenuously administered the holy office of the Inquisition.

The monastic saints, who excite only the contempt and pity of a
philosopher, were respected, and almost adored, by the prince and
people. Successive crowds of pilgrims from Gaul and India saluted the
divine pillar of Simeon: the tribes of Saracens disputed in arms the
honor of his benediction; the queens of Arabia and Persia gratefully
confessed his supernatural virtue; and the angelic Hermit was
consulted by the younger Theodosius, in the most important concerns of
the church and state. His remains were transported from the mountain
of Telenissa, by a solemn procession of the patriarch, the
master-general of the East, six bishops, twenty-one counts or
tribunes, and six thousand soldiers; and Antioch revered his bones, as
her glorious ornament and impregnable defence. The fame of the
apostles and martyrs was gradually eclipsed by these recent and
popular Anachorets; the Christian world fell prostrate before their
shrines; and the miracles ascribed to their relics exceeded, at least
in number and duration, the spiritual exploits of their lives. But the
golden legend of their lives was embellished by the artful credulity
of their interested brethren; and a believing age was easily
persuaded, that the slightest caprice of an Egyptian or a Syrian monk
had been sufficient to interrupt the eternal laws of the universe. The
favorites of Heaven were accustomed to cure inveterate diseases with a
touch, a word, or a distant message; and to expel the most obstinate
demons from the souls or bodies which they possessed. They familiarly
accosted, or imperiously commanded, the lions and serpents of the
desert; infused vegetation into a sapless trunk; suspended iron on the
surface of the water; passed the Nile on the back of a crocodile, and
refreshed themselves in a fiery furnace. These extravagant tales,
which display the fiction without the genius, of poetry, have
seriously affected the reason, the faith, and the morals, of the
Christians. Their credulity debased and vitiated the faculties of the
mind: they corrupted the evidence of history; and superstition
gradually extinguished the hostile light of philosophy and science.
Every mode of religious worship which had been practised by the
saints, every mysterious doctrine which they believed, was fortified
by the sanction of divine revelation, and all the manly virtues were
oppressed by the servile and pusillanimous reign of the monks. If it
be possible to measure the interval between the philosophic writings
of Cicero and the sacred legend of Theodoret, between the character of
Cato and that of Simeon, we may appreciate the memorable revolution
which was accomplished in the Roman empire within a period of five
hundred years.

II. The progress of Christianity has been marked by two glorious and
decisive victories: over the learned and luxurious citizens of the
Roman empire; and over the warlike Barbarians of Scythia and Germany,
who subverted the empire, and embraced the religion, of the Romans.
The Goths were the foremost of these savage proselytes; and the nation
was indebted for its conversion to a countryman, or, at least, to a
subject, worthy to be ranked among the inventors of useful arts, who
have deserved the remembrance and gratitude of posterity. A great
number of Roman provincials had been led away into captivity by the
Gothic bands, who ravaged Asia in the time of Gallienus; and of these
captives, many were Christians, and several belonged to the
ecclesiastical order. Those involuntary missionaries, dispersed as
slaves in the villages of Dacia, successively labored for the
salvation of their masters. The seeds which they planted, of the
evangelic doctrine, were gradually propagated; and before the end of a
century, the pious work was achieved by the labors of Ulphilas, whose
ancestors had been transported beyond the Danube from a small town of

Ulphilas, the bishop and apostle of the Goths, acquired their love and
reverence by his blameless life and indefatigable zeal; and they
received, with implicit confidence, the doctrines of truth and virtue
which he preached and practised. He executed the arduous task of
translating the Scriptures into their native tongue, a dialect of the
German or Teutonic language; but he prudently suppressed the four
books of Kings, as they might tend to irritate the fierce and
sanguinary spirit of the Barbarians. The rude, imperfect idiom of
soldiers and shepherds, so ill qualified to communicate any spiritual
ideas, was improved and modulated by his genius: and Ulphilas, before
he could frame his version, was obliged to compose a new alphabet of
twenty-four letters; * four of which he invented, to express the
peculiar sounds that were unknown to the Greek and Latin
pronunciation. But the prosperous state of the Gothic church was soon
afflicted by war and intestine discord, and the chieftains were
divided by religion as well as by interest. Fritigern, the friend of
the Romans, became the proselyte of Ulphilas; while the haughty soul
of Athanaric disdained the yoke of the empire and of the gospel The
faith of the new converts was tried by the persecution which he
excited. A wagon, bearing aloft the shapeless image of Thor, perhaps,
or of Woden, was conducted in solemn procession through the streets of
the camp; and the rebels, who refused to worship the god of their
fathers, were immediately burnt, with their tents and families. The
character of Ulphilas recommended him to the esteem of the Eastern
court, where he twice appeared as the minister of peace; he pleaded
the cause of the distressed Goths, who implored the protection of
Valens; and the name of Moses
was applied to this spiritual guide, who conducted his people through
the deep waters of the Danube to the Land of Promise. The devout
shepherds, who were attached to his person, and tractable to his
voice, acquiesced in their settlement, at the foot of the Mæsian
mountains, in a country of woodlands and pastures, which supported
their flocks and herds, and enabled them to purchase the corn and wine
of the more plentiful provinces. These harmless Barbarians multiplied
in obscure peace and the profession of Christianity.

Their fiercer brethren, the formidable Visigoths, universally adopted
the religion of the Romans, with whom they maintained a perpetual
intercourse, of war, of friendship, or of conquest. In their long and
victorious march from the Danube to the Atlantic Ocean, they converted
their allies; they educated the rising generation; and the devotion
which reigned in the camp of Alaric, or the court of Thoulouse, might
edify or disgrace the palaces of Rome and Constantinople. During the
same period, Christianity was embraced by almost all the Barbarians,
who established their kingdoms on the ruins of the Western empire; the
Burgundians in Gaul, the Suevi in Spain, the Vandals in Africa, the
Ostrogoths in Pannonia, and the various bands of mercenaries, that
raised Odoacer to the throne of Italy. The Franks and the Saxons still
persevered in the errors of Paganism; but the Franks obtained the
monarchy of Gaul by their submission to the example of Clovis; and the
Saxon conquerors of Britain were reclaimed from their savage
superstition by the missionaries of Rome. These Barbarian proselytes
displayed an ardent and successful zeal in the propagation of the
faith. The Merovingian kings, and their successors, Charlemagne and
the Othos, extended, by their laws and victories, the dominion of the
cross. England produced the apostle of Germany; and the evangelic
light was gradually diffused from the neighborhood of the Rhine, to
the nations of the Elbe, the Vistula, and the Baltic.

Chapter XXXVII: Conversion Of The Barbarians To Christianity. -- Part

The different motives which influenced the reason, or the passions, of
the Barbarian converts, cannot easily be ascertained. They were often
capricious and accidental; a dream, an omen, the report of a miracle,
the example of some priest, or hero, the charms of a believing wife,
and, above all, the fortunate event of a prayer, or vow, which, in a
moment of danger, they had addressed to the God of the Christians. The
early prejudices of education were insensibly erased by the habits of
frequent and familiar society, the moral precepts of the gospel were
protected by the extravagant virtues of the monks; and a spiritual
theology was supported by the visible power of relics, and the pomp of
religious worship. But the rational and ingenious mode of persuasion,
which a Saxon bishop suggested to a popular saint, might sometimes be
employed by the missionaries, who labored for the conversion of
infidels. "Admit," says the sagacious disputant, "whatever they are
pleased to assert of the fabulous, and carnal, genealogy of their gods
and goddesses, who are propagated from each other. From this principle
deduce their imperfect nature, and human infirmities, the assurance
they were born
, and the probability that they will die. At what time, by what means,
from what cause, were the eldest of the gods or goddesses produced? Do
they still continue, or have they ceased, to propagate? If they have
ceased, summon your antagonists to declare the reason of this strange
alteration. If they still continue, the number of the gods must become
infinite; and shall we not risk, by the indiscreet worship of some
impotent deity, to excite the resentment of his jealous superior? The
visible heavens and earth, the whole system of the universe, which may
be conceived by the mind, is it created or eternal? If created, how,
or where, could the gods themselves exist before creation? If eternal,
how could they assume the empire of an independent and preexisting
world? Urge these arguments with temper and moderation; insinuate, at
seasonable intervals, the truth and beauty of the Christian
revelation; and endeavor to make the unbelievers ashamed, without
making them angry." This metaphysical reasoning, too refined, perhaps,
for the Barbarians of Germany, was fortified by the grosser weight of
authority and popular consent. The advantage of temporal prosperity
had deserted the Pagan cause, and passed over to the service of
Christianity. The Romans themselves, the most powerful and enlightened
nation of the globe, had renounced their ancient superstition; and, if
the ruin of their empire seemed to accuse the efficacy of the new
faith, the disgrace was already retrieved by the conversion of the
victorious Goths. The valiant and fortunate Barbarians, who subdued
the provinces of the West, successively received, and reflected, the
same edifying example. Before the age of Charlemagne, the Christian
nations of Europe might exult in the exclusive possession of the
temperate climates, of the fertile lands, which produced corn, wine,
and oil; while the savage idolaters, and their helpless idols, were
confined to the extremities of the earth, the dark and frozen regions
of the North.

Christianity, which opened the gates of Heaven to the Barbarians,
introduced an important change in their moral and political condition.
They received, at the same time, the use of letters, so essential to a
religion whose doctrines are contained in a sacred book; and while
they studied the divine truth, their minds were insensibly enlarged by
the distant view of history, of nature, of the arts, and of society.
The version of the Scriptures into their native tongue, which had
facilitated their conversion, must excite among their clergy some
curiosity to read the original text, to understand the sacred liturgy
of the church, and to examine, in the writings of the fathers, the
chain of ecclesiastical tradition. These spiritual gifts were
preserved in the Greek and Latin languages, which concealed the
inestimable monuments of ancient learning. The immortal productions of
Virgil, Cicero, and Livy, which were accessible to the Christian
Barbarians, maintained a silent intercourse between the reign of
Augustus and the times of Clovis and Charlemagne. The emulation of
mankind was encouraged by the remembrance of a more perfect state; and
the flame of science was secretly kept alive, to warm and enlighten
the mature age of the Western world. In the most corrupt state of
Christianity, the Barbarians might learn justice from the law
, and mercy from the gospel; and if the knowledge of their duty was
insufficient to guide their actions, or to regulate their passions,
they were sometimes restrained by conscience, and frequently punished
by remorse. But the direct authority of religion was less effectual
than the holy communion, which united them with their Christian
brethren in spiritual friendship. The influence of these sentiments
contributed to secure their fidelity in the service, or the alliance,
of the Romans, to alleviate the horrors of war, to moderate the
insolence of conquest, and to preserve, in the downfall of the empire,
a permanent respect for the name and institutions of Rome. In the days
of Paganism, the priests of Gaul and Germany reigned over the people,
and controlled the jurisdiction of the magistrates; and the zealous
proselytes transferred an equal, or more ample, measure of devout
obedience, to the pontiffs of the Christian faith. The sacred
character of the bishops was supported by their temporal possessions;
they obtained an honorable seat in the legislative assemblies of
soldiers and freemen; and it was their interest, as well as their
duty, to mollify, by peaceful counsels, the fierce spirit of the
Barbarians. The perpetual correspondence of the Latin clergy, the
frequent pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem, and the growing authority
of the popes, cemented the union of the Christian republic, and
gradually produced the similar manners, and common jurisprudence,
which have distinguished, from the rest of mankind, the independent,
and even hostile, nations of modern Europe.

But the operation of these causes was checked and retarded by the
unfortunate accident, which infused a deadly poison into the cup of
Salvation. Whatever might be the early sentiments of Ulphilas, his
connections with the empire and the church were formed during the
reign of Arianism. The apostle of the Goths subscribed the creed of
Rimini; professed with freedom, and perhaps with sincerity, that the
Son was not equal, or consubstantial to the Father; communicated these
errors to the clergy and people; and infected the Barbaric world with
a heresy, which the great Theodosius proscribed and extinguished among
the Romans. The temper and understanding of the new proselytes were
not adapted to metaphysical subtilties; but they strenuously
maintained, what they had piously received, as the pure and genuine
doctrines of Christianity. The advantage of preaching and expounding
the Scriptures in the Teutonic language promoted the apostolic labors
of Ulphilas and his successors; and they ordained a competent number
of bishops and presbyters for the instruction of the kindred tribes.
The Ostrogoths, the Burgundians, the Suevi, and the Vandals, who had
listened to the eloquence of the Latin clergy, preferred the more
intelligible lessons of their domestic teachers; and Arianism was
adopted as the national faith of the warlike converts, who were seated
on the ruins of the Western empire. This irreconcilable difference of
religion was a perpetual source of jealousy and hatred; and the
reproach of Barbarian
was imbittered by the more odious epithet of Heretic. The heroes of
the North, who had submitted, with some reluctance, to believe that
all their ancestors were in hell, were astonished and exasperated to
learn, that they themselves had only changed the mode of their eternal
condemnation. Instead of the smooth applause, which Christian kings
are accustomed to expect from their royal prelates, the orthodox
bishops and their clergy were in a state of opposition to the Arian
courts; and their indiscreet opposition frequently became criminal,
and might sometimes be dangerous. The pulpit, that safe and sacred
organ of sedition, resounded with the names of Pharaoh and Holofernes;
the public discontent was inflamed by the hope or promise of a
glorious deliverance; and the seditious saints were tempted to promote
the accomplishment of their own predictions. Notwithstanding these
provocations, the Catholics of Gaul, Spain, and Italy, enjoyed, under
the reign of the Arians, the free and peaceful exercise of their
religion. Their haughty masters respected the zeal of a numerous
people, resolved to die at the foot of their altars; and the example
of their devout constancy was admired and imitated by the Barbarians
themselves. The conquerors evaded, however, the disgraceful reproach,
or confession, of fear, by attributing their toleration to the liberal
motives of reason and humanity; and while they affected the language,
they imperceptiby imbibed the spirit, of genuine Christianity.

The peace of the church was sometimes interrupted. The Catholics were
indiscreet, the Barbarians were impatient; and the partial acts of
severity or injustice, which had been recommended by the Arian clergy,
were exaggerated by the orthodox writers. The guilt of persecution may
be imputed to Euric, king of the Visigoths; who suspended the exercise
of ecclesiastical, or, at least, of episcopal functions; and punished
the popular bishops of Aquitain with imprisonment, exile, and
confiscation. But the cruel and absurd enterprise of subduing the
minds of a whole people was undertaken by the Vandals alone. Genseric
himself, in his early youth, had renounced the orthodox communion; and
the apostate could neither grant, nor expect, a sincere forgiveness.
He was exasperated to find that the Africans, who had fled before him
in the field, still presumed to dispute his will in synods and
churches; and his ferocious mind was incapable of fear or of
compassion. His Catholic subjects were oppressed by intolerant laws
and arbitrary punishments. The language of Genseric was furious and
formidable; the knowledge of his intentions might justify the most
unfavorable interpretation of his actions; and the Arians were
reproached with the frequent executions which stained the palace and
the dominions of the tyrant. Arms and ambition were, however, the
ruling passions of the monarch of the sea. But Hunneric, his
inglorious son, who seemed to inherit only his vices, tormented the
Catholics with the same unrelenting fury which had been fatal to his
brother, his nephews, and the friends and favorites of his father; and
even to the Arian patriarch, who was inhumanly burnt alive in the
midst of Carthage. The religious war was preceded and prepared by an
insidious truce; persecution was made the serious and important
business of the Vandal court; and the loathsome disease which hastened
the death of Hunneric, revenged the injuries, without contributing to
the deliverance, of the church. The throne of Africa was successively
filled by the two nephews of Hunneric; by Gundamund, who reigned about
twelve, and by Thrasimund, who governed the nation about twenty-seven,
years. Their administration was hostile and oppressive to the orthodox
party. Gundamund appeared to emulate, or even to surpass, the cruelty
of his uncle; and, if at length he relented, if he recalled the
bishops, and restored the freedom of Athanasian worship, a premature
death intercepted the benefits of his tardy clemency. His brother,
Thrasimund, was the greatest and most accomplished of the Vandal
kings, whom he excelled in beauty, prudence, and magnanimity of soul.
But this magnanimous character was degraded by his intolerant zeal and
deceitful clemency. Instead of threats and tortures, he employed the
gentle, but efficacious, powers of seduction. Wealth, dignity, and the
royal favor, were the liberal rewards of apostasy; the Catholics, who
had violated the laws, might purchase their pardon by the renunciation
of their faith; and whenever Thrasimund meditated any rigorous
measure, he patiently waited till the indiscretion of his adversaries
furnished him with a specious opportunity. Bigotry was his last
sentiment in the hour of death; and he exacted from his successor a
solemn oath, that he would never tolerate the sectaries of Athanasius.
But his successor, Hilderic, the gentle son of the savage Hunneric,
preferred the duties of humanity and justice to the vain obligation of
an impious oath; and his accession was gloriously marked by the
restoration of peace and universal freedom. The throne of that
virtuous, though feeble monarch, was usurped by his cousin Gelimer, a
zealous Arian: but the Vandal kingdom, before he could enjoy or abuse
his power, was subverted by the arms of Belisarius; and the orthodox
party retaliated the injuries which they had endured.

The passionate declamations of the Catholics, the sole historians of
this persecution, cannot afford any distinct series of causes and
events; any impartial view of the characters, or counsels; but the
most remarkable circumstances that deserve either credit or notice,
may be referred to the following heads; I. In the original law, which
is still extant, Hunneric expressly declares, (and the declaration
appears to be correct,) that he had faithfully transcribed the
regulations and penalties of the Imperial edicts, against the
heretical congregations, the clergy, and the people, who dissented
from the established religion. If the rights of conscience had been
understood, the Catholics must have condemned their past conduct or
acquiesced in their actual suffering. But they still persisted to
refuse the indulgence which they claimed. While they trembled under
the lash of persecution, they praised the laudable
severity of Hunneric himself, who burnt or banished great numbers of
Manichæans; and they rejected, with horror, the ignominious
compromise, that the disciples of Arius and of Athanasius should enjoy
a reciprocal and similar toleration in the territories of the Romans,
and in those of the Vandals. II. The practice of a conference, which
the Catholics had so frequently used to insult and punish their
obstinate antagonists, was retorted against themselves. At the command
of Hunneric, four hundred and sixty-six orthodox bishops assembled at
Carthage; but when they were admitted into the hall of audience, they
had the mortification of beholding the Arian Cyrila exalted on the
patriarchal throne. The disputants were separated, after the mutual
and ordinary reproaches of noise and silence, of delay and
precipitation, of military force and of popular clamor. One martyr and
one confessor were selected among the Catholic bishops; twenty- eight
escaped by flight, and eighty-eight by conformity; forty-six were sent
into Corsica to cut timber for the royal navy; and three hundred and
two were banished to the different parts of Africa, exposed to the
insults of their enemies, and carefully deprived of all the temporal
and spiritual comforts of life. The hardships of ten years' exile must
have reduced their numbers; and if they had complied with the law of
Thrasimund, which prohibited any episcopal consecrations, the orthodox
church of Africa must have expired with the lives of its actual
members. They disobeyed, and their disobedience was punished by a
second exile of two hundred and twenty bishops into Sardinia; where
they languished fifteen years, till the accession of the gracious
Hilderic. The two islands were judiciously chosen by the malice of
their Arian tyrants. Seneca, from his own experience, has deplored and
exaggerated the miserable state of Corsica, and the plenty of Sardinia
was overbalanced by the unwholesome quality of the air. III. The zeal
of Generic and his successors, for the conversion of the Catholics,
must have rendered them still more jealous to guard the purity of the
Vandal faith. Before the churches were finally shut, it was a crime to
appear in a Barbarian dress; and those who presumed to neglect the
royal mandate were rudely dragged backwards by their long hair. The
palatine officers, who refused to profess the religion of their
prince, were ignominiously stripped of their honors and employments;
banished to Sardinia and Sicily; or condemned to the servile labors of
slaves and peasants in the fields of Utica. In the districts which had
been peculiarly allotted to the Vandals, the exercise of the Catholic
worship was more strictly prohibited; and severe penalties were
denounced against the guilt both of the missionary and the proselyte.
By these arts, the faith of the Barbarians was preserved, and their
zeal was inflamed: they discharged, with devout fury, the office of
spies, informers, or executioners; and whenever their cavalry took the
field, it was the favorite amusement of the march to defile the
churches, and to insult the clergy of the adverse faction. IV. The
citizens who had been educated in the luxury of the Roman province,
were delivered, with exquisite cruelty, to the Moors of the desert. A
venerable train of bishops, presbyters, and deacons, with a faithful
crowd of four thousand and ninety- six persons, whose guilt is not
precisely ascertained, were torn from their native homes, by the
command of Hunneric. During the night they were confined, like a herd
of cattle, amidst their own ordure: during the day they pursued their
march over the burning sands; and if they fainted under the heat and
fatigue, they were goaded, or dragged along, till they expired in the
hands of their tormentors. These unhappy exiles, when they reached the
Moorish huts, might excite the compassion of a people, whose native
humanity was neither improved by reason, nor corrupted by fanaticism:
but if they escaped the dangers, they were condemned to share the
distress of a savage life. V. It is incumbent on the authors of
persecution previously to reflect, whether they are determined to
support it in the last extreme. They excite the flame which they
strive to extinguish; and it soon becomes necessary to chastise the
contumacy, as well as the crime, of the offender. The fine, which he
is unable or unwilling to discharge, exposes his person to the
severity of the law; and his contempt of lighter penalties suggests
the use and propriety of capital punishment. Through the veil of
fiction and declamation we may clearly perceive, that the Catholics
more especially under the reign of Hunneric, endured the most cruel
and ignominious treatment. Respectable citizens, noble matrons, and
consecrated virgins, were stripped naked, and raised in the air by
pulleys, with a weight suspended at their feet. In this painful
attitude their naked bodies were torn with scourges, or burnt in the
most tender parts with red-hot plates of iron. The amputation of the
ears the nose, the tongue, and the right hand, was inflicted by the
Arians; and although the precise number cannot be defined, it is
evident that many persons, among whom a bishop and a proconsul may be
named, were entitled to the crown of martyrdom. The same honor has
been ascribed to the memory of Count Sebastian, who professed the
Nicene creed with unshaken constancy; and Genseric might detest, as a
heretic, the brave and ambitious fugitive whom he dreaded as a rival.
VI. A new mode of conversion, which might subdue the feeble, and alarm
the timorous, was employed by the Arian ministers. They imposed, by
fraud or violence, the rites of baptism; and punished the apostasy of
the Catholics, if they disclaimed this odious and profane ceremony,
which scandalously violated the freedom of the will, and the unity of
the sacrament. The hostile sects had formerly allowed the validity of
each other's baptism; and the innovation, so fiercely maintained by
the Vandals, can be imputed only to the example and advice of the
Donatists. VII. The Arian clergy surpassed in religious cruelty the
king and his Vandals; but they were incapable of cultivating the
spiritual vineyard, which they were so desirous to possess. A
patriarch might seat himself on the throne of Carthage; some bishops,
in the principal cities, might usurp the place of their rivals; but
the smallness of their numbers, and their ignorance of the Latin
language, disqualified the Barbarians for the ecclesiastical ministry
of a great church; and the Africans, after the loss of their orthodox
pastors, were deprived of the public exercise of Christianity. VIII.
The emperors were the natural protectors of the Homoousian doctrine;
and the faithful people of Africa, both as Romans and as Catholics,
preferred their lawful sovereignty to the usurpation of the Barbarous
heretics. During an interval of peace and friendship, Hunneric
restored the cathedral of Carthage; at the intercession of Zeno, who
reigned in the East, and of Placidia, the daughter and relict of
emperors, and the sister of the queen of the Vandals. But this decent
regard was of short duration; and the haughty tyrant displayed his
contempt for the religion of the empire, by studiously arranging the
bloody images of persecution, in all the principal streets through
which the Roman ambassador must pass in his way to the palace. An oath
was required from the bishops, who were assembled at Carthage, that
they would support the succession of his son Hilderic, and that they
would renounce all foreign or transmarinecorrespondence. This
engagement, consistent, as it should seem, with their moral and
religious duties, was refused by the more sagacious members of the
assembly. Their refusal, faintly colored by the pretence that it is
unlawful for a Christian to swear, must provoke the suspicions of a
jealous tyrant.

Chapter XXXVII: Conversion Of The Barbarians To Christianity. -- Part

The Catholics, oppressed by royal and military force, were far
superior to their adversaries in numbers and learning. With the same
weapons which the Greek and Latin fathers had already provided for the
Arian controversy, they repeatedly silenced, or vanquished, the fierce
and illiterate successors of Ulphilas. The consciousness of their own
superiority might have raised them above the arts and passions of
religious warfare. Yet, instead of assuming such honorable pride, the
orthodox theologians were tempted, by the assurance of impunity, to
compose fictions, which must be stigmatized with the epithets of fraud
and forgery. They ascribed their own polemical works to the most
venerable names of Christian antiquity; the characters of Athanasius
and Augustin were awkwardly personated by Vigilius and his disciples;
and the famous creed, which so clearly expounds the mysteries of the
Trinity and the Incarnation, is deduced, with strong probability, from
this African school. Even the Scriptures themselves were profaned by
their rash and sacrilegious hands. The memorable text, which asserts
the unity of the three who bear witness in heaven, is condemned by the
universal silence of the orthodox fathers, ancient versions, and
authentic manuscripts. It was first alleged by the Catholic bishops
whom Hunneric summoned to the conference of Carthage. An allegorical
interpretation, in the form, perhaps, of a marginal note, invaded the
text of the Latin Bibles, which were renewed and corrected in a dark
period of ten centuries. After the invention of printing, the editors
of the Greek Testament yielded to their own prejudices, or those of
the times; and the pious fraud, which was embraced with equal zeal at
Rome and at Geneva, has been infinitely multiplied in every country
and every language of modern Europe.

The example of fraud must excite suspicion: and the specious miracles
by which the African Catholics have defended the truth and justice of
their cause, may be ascribed, with more reason, to their own industry,
than to the visible protection of Heaven. Yet the historian, who views
this religious conflict with an impartial eye, may condescend to
mention one
preternatural event, which will edify the devout, and surprise the
incredulous. Tipasa, a maritime colony of Mauritania, sixteen miles to
the east of Cæsarea, had been distinguished, in every age, by the
orthodox zeal of its inhabitants. They had braved the fury of the
Donatists; they resisted, or eluded, the tyranny of the Arians. The
town was deserted on the approach of an heretical bishop: most of the
inhabitants who could procure ships passed over to the coast of Spain;
and the unhappy remnant, refusing all communion with the usurper,
still presumed to hold their pious, but illegal, assemblies. Their
disobedience exasperated the cruelty of Hunneric. A military count was
despatched from Carthage to Tipasa: he collected the Catholics in the
Forum, and, in the presence of the whole province, deprived the guilty
of their right hands and their tongues. But the holy confessors
continued to speak without tongues; and this miracle is attested by
Victor, an African bishop, who published a history of the persecution
within two years after the event. "If any one," says Victor, "should
doubt of the truth, let him repair to Constantinople, and listen to
the clear and perfect language of Restitutus, the sub-deacon, one of
these glorious sufferers, who is now lodged in the palace of the
emperor Zeno, and is respected by the devout empress." At
Constantinople we are astonished to find a cool, a learned, and
unexceptionable witness, without interest, and without passion. Æneas
of Gaza, a Platonic philosopher, has accurately described his own
observations on these African sufferers. "I saw them myself: I heard
them speak: I diligently inquired by what means such an articulate
voice could be formed without any organ of speech: I used my eyes to
examine the report of my ears; I opened their mouth, and saw that the
whole tongue had been completely torn away by the roots; an operation
which the physicians generally suppose to be mortal." The testimony of
Æneas of Gaza might be confirmed by the superfluous evidence of the
emperor Justinian, in a perpetual edict; of Count Marcellinus, in his
Chronicle of the times; and of Pope Gregory the First, who had resided
at Constantinople, as the minister of the Roman pontiff. They all
lived within the compass of a century; and they all appeal to their
personal knowledge, or the public notoriety, for the truth of a
miracle, which was repeated in several instances, displayed on the
greatest theatre of the world, and submitted, during a series of
years, to the calm examination of the senses. This supernatural gift
of the African confessors, who spoke without tongues, will command the
assent of those, and of those only, who already believe, that their
language was pure and orthodox. But the stubborn mind of an infidel,
is guarded by secret, incurable suspicion; and the Arian, or Socinian,
who has seriously rejected the doctrine of a Trinity, will not be
shaken by the most plausible evidence of an Athanasian miracle.

The Vandals and the Ostrogoths persevered in the profession of
Arianism till the final ruin of the kingdoms which they had founded in
Africa and Italy. The Barbarians of Gaul submitted to the orthodox
dominion of the Franks; and Spain was restored to the Catholic church
by the voluntary conversion of the Visigoths.

This salutary revolution was hastened by the example of a royal
martyr, whom our calmer reason may style an ungrateful rebel.
Leovigild, the Gothic monarch of Spain, deserved the respect of his
enemies, and the love of his subjects; the Catholics enjoyed a free
toleration, and his Arian synods attempted, without much success, to
reconcile their scruples by abolishing the unpopular rite of a second
baptism. His eldest son Hermenegild, who was invested by his father
with the royal diadem, and the fair principality of Btica, contracted
an honorable and orthodox alliance with a Merovingian princess, the
daughter of Sigebert, king of Austrasia, and of the famous Brunechild.
The beauteous Ingundis, who was no more than thirteen years of age,
was received, beloved, and persecuted, in the Arian court of Toledo;
and her religious constancy was alternately assaulted with
blandishments and violence by Goisvintha, the Gothic queen, who abused
the double claim of maternal authority. Incensed by her resistance,
Goisvintha seized the Catholic princess by her long hair, inhumanly
dashed her against the ground, kicked her till she was covered with
blood, and at last gave orders that she should be stripped, and thrown
into a basin, or fish-pond. Love and honor might excite Hermenegild to
resent this injurious treatment of his bride; and he was gradually
persuaded that Ingundis suffered for the cause of divine truth. Her
tender complaints, and the weighty arguments of Leander, archbishop of
Seville, accomplished his conversion and the heir of the Gothic
monarchy was initiated in the Nicene faith by the solemn rites of
confirmation. The rash youth, inflamed by zeal, and perhaps by
ambition, was tempted to violate the duties of a son and a subject;
and the Catholics of Spain, although they could not complain of
persecution, applauded his pious rebellion against an heretical
father. The civil war was protracted by the long and obstinate sieges
of Merida, Cordova, and Seville, which had strenuously espoused the
party of Hermenegild He invited the orthodox Barbarians, the Seuvi,
and the Franks, to the destruction of his native land; he solicited
the dangerous aid of the Romans, who possessed Africa, and a part of
the Spanish coast; and his holy ambassador, the archbishop Leander,
effectually negotiated in person with the Byzantine court. But the
hopes of the Catholics were crushed by the active diligence of the
monarch who commanded the troops and treasures of Spain; and the
guilty Hermenegild, after his vain attempts to resist or to escape,
was compelled to surrender himself into the hands of an incensed
father. Leovigild was still mindful of that sacred character; and the
rebel, despoiled of the regal ornaments, was still permitted, in a
decent exile, to profess the Catholic religion. His repeated and
unsuccessful treasons at length provoked the indignation of the Gothic
king; and the sentence of death, which he pronounced with apparent
reluctance, was privately executed in the tower of Seville. The
inflexible constancy with which he refused to accept the Arian
communion, as the price of his safety, may excuse the honors that have
been paid to the memory of St. Hermenegild. His wife and infant son
were detained by the Romans in ignominious captivity; and this
domestic misfortune tarnished the glories of Leovigild, and imbittered
the last moments of his life.

His son and successor, Recared, the first Catholic king of Spain, had
imbibed the faith of his unfortunate brother, which he supported with
more prudence and success. Instead of revolting against his father,
Recared patiently expected the hour of his death. Instead of
condemning his memory, he piously supposed, that the dying monarch had
abjured the errors of Arianism, and recommended to his son the
conversion of the Gothic nation. To accomplish that salutary end,
Recared convened an assembly of the Arian clergy and nobles, declared
himself a Catholic, and exhorted them to imitate the example of their
prince. The laborious interpretation of doubtful texts, or the curious
pursuit of metaphysical arguments, would have excited an endless
controversy; and the monarch discreetly proposed to his illiterate
audience two substantial and visible arguments, -- the testimony of
Earth, and of Heaven. The Earth
had submitted to the Nicene synod: the Romans, the Barbarians, and the
inhabitants of Spain, unanimously professed the same orthodox creed;
and the Visigoths resisted, almost alone, the consent of the Christian
world. A superstitious age was prepared to reverence, as the testimony
of Heaven, the preternatural cures, which were performed by the skill
or virtue of the Catholic clergy; the baptismal fonts of Osset in
Btica, which were spontaneously replenished every year, on the vigil
of Easter; and the miraculous shrine of St. Martin of Tours, which had
already converted the Suevic prince and people of Gallicia. The
Catholic king encountered some difficulties on this important change
of the national religion. A conspiracy, secretly fomented by the
queen-dowager, was formed against his life; and two counts excited a
dangerous revolt in the Narbonnese Gaul. But Recared disarmed the
conspirators, defeated the rebels, and executed severe justice; which
the Arians, in their turn, might brand with the reproach of
persecution. Eight bishops, whose names betray their Barbaric origin,
abjured their errors; and all the books of Arian theology were reduced
to ashes, with the house in which they had been purposely collected.
The whole body of the Visigoths and Suevi were allured or driven into
the pale of the Catholic communion; the faith, at least of the rising
generation, was fervent and sincere: and the devout liberality of the
Barbarians enriched the churches and monasteries of Spain. Seventy
bishops, assembled in the council of Toledo, received the submission
of their conquerors; and the zeal of the Spaniards improved the Nicene
creed, by declaring the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son, as
well as from the Father; a weighty point of doctrine, which produced,
long afterwards, the schism of the Greek and Latin churches. The royal
proselyte immediately saluted and consulted Pope Gregory, surnamed the
Great, a learned and holy prelate, whose reign was distinguished by
the conversion of heretics and infidels. The ambassadors of Recared
respectfully offered on the threshold of the Vatican his rich presents
of gold and gems; they accepted, as a lucrative exchange, the hairs of
St. John the Baptist; a cross, which enclosed a small piece of the
true wood; and a key, that contained some particles of iron which had
been scraped from the chains of St. Peter.

The same Gregory, the spiritual conqueror of Britain, encouraged the
pious Theodelinda, queen of the Lombards, to propagate the Nicene
faith among the victorious savages, whose recent Christianity was
polluted by the Arian heresy. Her devout labors still left room for
the industry and success of future missionaries; and many cities of
Italy were still disputed by hostile bishops. But the cause of
Arianism was gradually suppressed by the weight of truth, of interest,
and of example; and the controversy, which Egypt had derived from the
Platonic school, was terminated, after a war of three hundred years,
by the final conversion of the Lombards of Italy.

The first missionaries who preached the gospel to the Barbarians,
appealed to the evidence of reason, and claimed the benefit of
toleration. But no sooner had they established their spiritual
dominion, than they exhorted the Christian kings to extirpate, without
mercy, the remains of Roman or Barbaric superstition. The successors
of Clovis inflicted one hundred lashes on the peasants who refused to
destroy their idols; the crime of sacrificing to the demons was
punished by the Anglo-Saxon laws with the heavier penalties of
imprisonment and confiscation; and even the wise Alfred adopted, as an
indispensable duty, the extreme rigor of the Mosaic institutions. But
the punishment and the crime were gradually abolished among a
Christian people; the theological disputes of the schools were
suspended by propitious ignorance; and the intolerant spirit which
could find neither idolaters nor heretics, was reduced to the
persecution of the Jews. That exiled nation had founded some
synagogues in the cities of Gaul; but Spain, since the time of
Hadrian, was filled with their numerous colonies. The wealth which
they accumulated by trade, and the management of the finances, invited
the pious avarice of their masters; and they might be oppressed
without danger, as they had lost the use, and even the remembrance, of
arms. Sisebut, a Gothic king, who reigned in the beginning of the
seventh century, proceeded at once to the last extremes of
persecution. Ninety thousand Jews were compelled to receive the
sacrament of baptism; the fortunes of the obstinate infidels were
confiscated, their bodies were tortured; and it seems doubtful whether
they were permitted to abandon their native country. The excessive
zeal of the Catholic king was moderated, even by the clergy of Spain,
who solemnly pronounced an inconsistent sentence: that
the sacraments should not be forcibly imposed; but that the Jews who
had been baptized should be constrained, for the honor of the church,
to persevere in the external practice of a religion which they
disbelieved and detested. Their frequent relapses provoked one of the
successors of Sisebut to banish the whole nation from his dominions;
and a council of Toledo published a decree, that every Gothic king
should swear to maintain this salutary edict. But the tyrants were
unwilling to dismiss the victims, whom they delighted to torture, or
to deprive themselves of the industrious slaves, over whom they might
exercise a lucrative oppression. The Jews still continued in Spain,
under the weight of the civil and ecclesiastical laws, which in the
same country have been faithfully transcribed in the Code of the
Inquisition. The Gothic kings and bishops at length discovered, that
injuries will produce hatred, and that hatred will find the
opportunity of revenge. A nation, the secret or professed enemies of
Christianity, still multiplied in servitude and distress; and the
intrigues of the Jews promoted the rapid success of the Arabian

As soon as the Barbarians withdrew their powerful support, the
unpopular heresy of Arius sunk into contempt and oblivion. But the
Greeks still retained their subtle and loquacious disposition: the
establishment of an obscure doctrine suggested new questions, and new
disputes; and it was always in the power of an ambitious prelate, or a
fanatic monk, to violate the peace of the church, and, perhaps, of the
empire. The historian of the empire may overlook those disputes which
were confined to the obscurity of schools and synods. The Manichæans,
who labored to reconcile the religions of Christ and of Zoroaster, had
secretly introduced themselves into the provinces: but these foreign
sectaries were involved in the common disgrace of the Gnostics, and
the Imperial laws were executed by the public hatred. The rational
opinions of the Pelagians were propagated from Britain to Rome,
Africa, and Palestine, and silently expired in a superstitious age.
But the East was distracted by the Nestorian and Eutychian
controversies; which attempted to explain the mystery of the
incarnation, and hastened the ruin of Christianity in her native land.
These controversies were first agitated under the reign of the younger
Theodosius: but their important consequences extend far beyond the
limits of the present volume. The metaphysical chain of argument, the
contests of ecclesiastical ambition, and their political influence on
the decline of the Byzantine empire, may afford an interesting and
instructive series of history, from the general councils of Ephesus
and Chalcedon, to the conquest of the East by the successors of

Chapter XXXVIII: Reign Of Clovis.

Part I.

Reign And Conversion Of Clovis. -- His Victories Over The Alemanni,
Burgundians, And Visigoths. -- Establishment Of The French Monarchy In
Gaul. -- Laws Of The Barbarians. -- State Of The Romans. -- The
Visigoths Of Spain. -- Conquest Of Britain By The Saxons.

The Gauls, who impatiently supported the Roman yoke, received a
memorable lesson from one of the lieutenants of Vespasian, whose
weighty sense has been refined and expressed by the genius of Tacitus.
"The protection of the republic has delivered Gaul from internal
discord and foreign invasions. By the loss of national independence,
you have acquired the name and privileges of Roman citizens. You
enjoy, in common with yourselves, the permanent benefits of civil
government; and your remote situation is less exposed to the
accidental mischiefs of tyranny. Instead of exercising the rights of
conquest, we have been contented to impose such tributes as are
requisite for your own preservation. Peace cannot be secured without
armies; and armies must be supported at the expense of the people. It
is for your sake, not for our own, that we guard the barrier of the
Rhine against the ferocious Germans, who have so often attempted, and
who will always desire, to exchange the solitude of their woods and
morasses for the wealth and fertility of Gaul. The fall of Rome would
be fatal to the provinces; and you would be buried in the ruins of
that mighty fabric, which has been raised by the valor and wisdom of
eight hundred years. Your imaginary freedom would be insulted and
oppressed by a savage master; and the expulsion of the Romans would be
succeeded by the eternal hostilities of the Barbarian conquerors."
This salutary advice was accepted, and this strange prediction was
accomplished. In the space of four hundred years, the hardy Gauls, who
had encountered the arms of Cæsar, were imperceptibly melted into the
general mass of citizens and subjects: the Western empire was
dissolved; and the Germans, who had passed the Rhine, fiercely
contended for the possession of Gaul, and excited the contempt, or
abhorrence, of its peaceful and polished inhabitants. With that
conscious pride which the preeminence of knowledge and luxury seldom
fails to inspire, they derided the hairy and gigantic savages of the
North; their rustic manners, dissonant joy, voracious appetite, and
their horrid appearance, equally disgusting to the sight and to the
smell. The liberal studies were still cultivated in the schools of
Autun and Bordeaux; and the language of Cicero and Virgil was familiar
to the Gallic youth. Their ears were astonished by the harsh and
unknown sounds of the Germanic dialect, and they ingeniously lamented
that the trembling muses fled from the harmony of a Burgundian lyre.
The Gauls were endowed with all the advantages of art and nature; but
as they wanted courage to defend them, they were justly condemned to
obey, and even to flatter, the victorious Barbarians, by whose
clemency they held their precarious fortunes and their lives.

As soon as Odoacer had extinguished the Western empire, he sought the
friendship of the most powerful of the Barbarians. The new sovereign
of Italy resigned to Euric, king of the Visigoths, all the Roman
conquests beyond the Alps, as far as the Rhine and the Ocean: and the
senate might confirm this liberal gift with some ostentation of power,
and without any real loss of revenue and dominion. The lawful
pretensions of Euric were justified by ambition and success; and the
Gothic nation might aspire, under his command, to the monarchy of
Spain and Gaul. Arles and Marseilles surrendered to his arms: he
oppressed the freedom of Auvergne; and the bishop condescended to
purchase his recall from exile by a tribute of just, but reluctant
praise. Sidonius waited before the gates of the palace among a crowd
of ambassadors and suppliants; and their various business at the court
of Bordeaux attested the power, and the renown, of the king of the
Visigoths. The Heruli of the distant ocean, who painted their naked
bodies with its crulean color, implored his protection; and the Saxons
respected the maritime provinces of a prince, who was destitute of any
naval force. The tall Burgundians submitted to his authority; nor did
he restore the captive Franks, till he had imposed on that fierce
nation the terms of an unequal peace. The Vandals of Africa cultivated
his useful friendship; and the Ostrogoths of Pannonia were supported
by his powerful aid against the oppression of the neighboring Huns.
The North (such are the lofty strains of the poet) was agitated or
appeased by the nod of Euric; the great king of Persia consulted the
oracle of the West; and the aged god of the Tyber was protected by the
swelling genius of the Garonne. The fortune of nations has often
depended on accidents; and France may ascribe her greatness to the
premature death of the Gothic king, at a time when his son Alaric was
a helpless infant, and his adversary Clovis an ambitious and valiant

While Childeric, the father of Clovis, lived an exile in Germany, he
was hospitably entertained by the queen, as well as by the king, of
the Thuringians. After his restoration, Basina escaped from her
husband's bed to the arms of her lover; freely declaring, that if she
had known a man wiser, stronger, or more beautiful, than Childeric,
that man should have been the object of her preference. Clovis was the
offspring of this voluntary union; and, when he was no more than
fifteen years of age, he succeeded, by his father's death, to the
command of the Salian tribe. The narrow limits of his kingdom were
confined to the island of the Batavians, with the ancient dioceses of
Tournay and Arras; and at the baptism of Clovis the number of his
warriors could not exceed five thousand. The kindred tribes of the
Franks, who had seated themselves along the Belgic rivers, the Scheld,
the Meuse, the Moselle, and the Rhine, were governed by their
independent kings, of the Merovingian race; the equals, the allies,
and sometimes the enemies of the Salic prince. But the Germans, who
obeyed, in peace, the hereditary jurisdiction of their chiefs, were
free to follow the standard of a popular and victorious general; and
the superior merit of Clovis attracted the respect and allegiance of
the national confederacy. When he first took the field, he had neither
gold and silver in his coffers, nor wine and corn in his magazine; but
he imitated the example of Cæsar, who, in the same country, had
acquired wealth by the sword, and purchased soldiers with the fruits
of conquest. After each successful battle or expedition, the spoils
were accumulated in one common mass; every warrior received his
proportionable share; and the royal prerogative submitted to the equal
regulations of military law. The untamed spirit of the Barbarians was
taught to acknowledge the advantages of regular discipline. At the
annual review of the month of March, their arms were diligently
inspected; and when they traversed a peaceful territory, they were
prohibited from touching a blade of grass. The justice of Clovis was
inexorable; and his careless or disobedient soldiers were punished
with instant death. It would be superfluous to praise the valor of a
Frank; but the valor of Clovis was directed by cool and consummate
prudence. In all his transactions with mankind, he calculated the
weight of interest, of passion, and of opinion; and his measures were
sometimes adapted to the sanguinary manners of the Germans, and
sometimes moderated by the milder genius of Rome, and Christianity. He
was intercepted in the career of victory, since he died in the
forty-fifth year of his age: but he had already accomplished, in a
reign of thirty years, the establishment of the French monarchy in

The first exploit of Clovis was the defeat of Syagrius, the son of
Ægidius; and the public quarrel might, on this occasion, be inflamed
by private resentment. The glory of the father still insulted the
Merovingian race; the power of the son might excite the jealous
ambition of the king of the Franks. Syagrius inherited, as a
patrimonial estate, the city and diocese of Soissons: the desolate
remnant of the second Belgic, Rheims and Troyes, Beauvais and Amiens,
would naturally submit to the count or patrician: and after the
dissolution of the Western empire, he might reign with the title, or
at least with the authority, of king of the Romans. As a Roman, he had
been educated in the liberal studies of rhetoric and jurisprudence;
but he was engaged by accident and policy in the familiar use of the
Germanic idiom. The independent Barbarians resorted to the tribunal of
a stranger, who possessed the singular talent of explaining, in their
native tongue, the dictates of reason and equity. The diligence and
affability of their judge rendered him popular, the impartial wisdom
of his decrees obtained their voluntary obedience, and the reign of
Syagrius over the Franks and Burgundians seemed to revive the original
institution of civil society. In the midst of these peaceful
occupations, Syagrius received, and boldly accepted, the hostile
defiance of Clovis; who challenged his rival in the spirit, and almost
in the language, of chivalry, to appoint the day and the field of
battle. In the time of Cæsar Soissons would have poured forth a body
of fifty thousand horse and such an army might have been plentifully
supplied with shields, cuirasses, and military engines, from the three
arsenals or manufactures of the city. But the courage and numbers of
the Gallic youth were long since exhausted; and the loose bands of
volunteers, or mercenaries, who marched under the standard of
Syagrius, were incapable of contending with the national valor of the
Franks. It would be ungenerous without some more accurate knowledge of
his strength and resources, to condemn the rapid flight of Syagrius,
who escaped, after the loss of a battle, to the distant court of
Thoulouse. The feeble minority of Alaric could not assist or protect
an unfortunate fugitive; the pusillanimous Goths were intimidated by
the menaces of Clovis; and the Roman king, after a short confinement,
was delivered into the hands of the executioner. The Belgic cities
surrendered to the king of the Franks; and his dominions were enlarged
towards the East by the ample diocese of Tongres which Clovis subdued
in the tenth year of his reign.

The name of the Alemanni has been absurdly derived from their
imaginary settlement on the banks of the Leman
Lake. That fortunate district, from the lake to the Avenche, and Mount
Jura, was occupied by the Burgundians. The northern parts of Helvetia
had indeed been subdued by the ferocious Alemanni, who destroyed with
their own hands the fruits of their conquest. A province, improved and
adorned by the arts of Rome, was again reduced to a savage wilderness;
and some vestige of the stately Vindonissa may still be discovered in
the fertile and populous valley of the Aar. From the source of the
Rhine to its conflux with the Mein and the Moselle, the formidable
swarms of the Alemanni commanded either side of the river, by the
right of ancient possession, or recent victory. They had spread
themselves into Gaul, over the modern provinces of Alsace and
Lorraine; and their bold invasion of the kingdom of Cologne summoned
the Salic prince to the defence of his Ripuarian allies. Clovis
encountered the invaders of Gaul in the plain of Tolbiac, about
twenty-four miles from Cologne; and the two fiercest nations of
Germany were mutually animated by the memory of past exploits, and the
prospect of future greatness. The Franks, after an obstinate struggle,
gave way; and the Alemanni, raising a shout of victory, impetuously
pressed their retreat. But the battle was restored by the valor, and
the conduct, and perhaps by the piety, of Clovis; and the event of the
bloody day decided forever the alternative of empire or servitude. The
last king of the Alemanni was slain in the field, and his people were
slaughtered or pursued, till they threw down their arms, and yielded
to the mercy of the conqueror. Without discipline it was impossible
for them to rally: they had contemptuously demolished the walls and
fortifications which might have protected their distress; and they
were followed into the heart of their forests by an enemy not less
active, or intrepid, than themselves. The great Theodoric
congratulated the victory of Clovis, whose sister Albofleda the king
of Italy had lately married; but he mildly interceded with his brother
in favor of the suppliants and fugitives, who had implored his
protection. The Gallic territories, which were possessed by the
Alemanni, became the prize of their conqueror; and the haughty nation,
invincible, or rebellious, to the arms of Rome, acknowledged the
sovereignty of the Merovingian kings, who graciously permitted them to
enjoy their peculiar manners and institutions, under the government of
official, and, at length, of hereditary, dukes. After the conquest of
the Western provinces, the Franks alone maintained their ancient
habitations beyond the Rhine. They gradually subdued, and civilized,
the exhausted countries, as far as the Elbe, and the mountains of
Bohemia; and the peace of Europe was secured by the obedience of

Till the thirtieth year of his age, Clovis continued to worship the
gods of his ancestors. His disbelief, or rather disregard, of
Christianity, might encourage him to pillage with less remorse the
churches of a hostile territory: but his subjects of Gaul enjoyed the
free exercise of religious worship; and the bishops entertained a more
favorable hope of the idolater, than of the heretics. The Merovingian
prince had contracted a fortunate alliance with the fair Clotilda, the
niece of the king of Burgundy, who, in the midst of an Arian court,
was educated in the profession of the Catholic faith. It was her
interest, as well as her duty, to achieve the conversion of a Pagan
husband; and Clovis insensibly listened to the voice of love and
religion. He consented (perhaps such terms had been previously
stipulated) to the baptism of his eldest son; and though the sudden
death of the infant excited some superstitious fears, he was
persuaded, a second time, to repeat the dangerous experiment. In the
distress of the battle of Tolbiac, Clovis loudly invoked the God of
Clotilda and the Christians; and victory disposed him to hear, with
respectful gratitude, the eloquent Remigius, bishop of Rheims, who
forcibly displayed the temporal and spiritual advantages of his
conversion. The king declared himself satisfied of the truth of the
Catholic faith; and the political reasons which might have suspended
his public profession, were removed by the devout or loyal
acclamations of the Franks, who showed themselves alike prepared to
follow their heroic leader to the field of battle, or to the baptismal
font. The important ceremony was performed in the cathedral of Rheims,
with every circumstance of magnificence and solemnity that could
impress an awful sense of religion on the minds of its rude
proselytes. The new Constantine was immediately baptized, with three
thousand of his warlike subjects; and their example was imitated by
the remainder of the gentle Barbarians
, who, in obedience to the victorious prelate, adored the cross which
they had burnt, and burnt the idols which they had formerly adored.
The mind of Clovis was susceptible of transient fervor: he was
exasperated by the pathetic tale of the passion and death of Christ;
and, instead of weighing the salutary consequences of that mysterious
sacrifice, he exclaimed, with indiscreet fury, "Had I been present at
the head of my valiant Franks, I would have revenged his injuries."
But the savage conqueror of Gaul was incapable of examining the proofs
of a religion, which depends on the laborious investigation of
historic evidence and speculative theology. He was still more
incapable of feeling the mild influence of the gospel, which persuades
and purifies the heart of a genuine convert. His ambitious reign was a
perpetual violation of moral and Christian duties: his hands were
stained with blood in peace as well as in war; and, as soon as Clovis
had dismissed a synod of the Gallican church, he calmly assassinated
all the princes of the Merovingian race. Yet the king of the Franks
might sincerely worship the Christian God, as a Being more excellent
and powerful than his national deities; and the signal deliverance and
victory of Tolbiac encouraged Clovis to confide in the future
protection of the Lord of Hosts. Martin, the most popular of the
saints, had filled the Western world with the fame of those miracles
which were incessantly performed at his holy sepulchre of Tours. His
visible or invisible aid promoted the cause of a liberal and orthodox
prince; and the profane remark of Clovis himself, that St. Martin was
an expensive friend, need not be interpreted as the symptom of any
permanent or rational scepticism. But earth, as well as heaven,
rejoiced in the conversion of the Franks. On the memorable day when
Clovis ascended from the baptismal font, he alone, in the Christian
world, deserved the name and prerogatives of a Catholic king. The
emperor Anastasius entertained some dangerous errors concerning the
nature of the divine incarnation; and the Barbarians of Italy, Africa,
Spain, and Gaul, were involved in the Arian heresy. The eldest, or
rather the only, son of the church, was acknowledged by the clergy as
their lawful sovereign, or glorious deliverer; and the armies of
Clovis were strenuously supported by the zeal and fervor of the
Catholic faction.

Under the Roman empire, the wealth and jurisdiction of the bishops,
their sacred character, and perpetual office, their numerous
dependants, popular eloquence, and provincial assemblies, had rendered
them always respectable, and sometimes dangerous. Their influence was
augmented with the progress of superstition; and the establishment of
the French monarchy may, in some degree, be ascribed to the firm
alliance of a hundred prelates, who reigned in the discontented, or
independent, cities of Gaul. The slight foundations of the Armorican
republic had been repeatedly shaken, or overthrown; but the same
people still guarded their domestic freedom; asserted the dignity of
the Roman name; and bravely resisted the predatory inroads, and
regular attacks, of Clovis, who labored to extend his conquests from
the Seine to the Loire. Their successful opposition introduced an
equal and honorable union. The Franks esteemed the valor of the
Armoricans and the Armoricans were reconciled by the religion of the
Franks. The military force which had been stationed for the defence of
Gaul, consisted of one hundred different bands of cavalry or infantry;
and these troops, while they assumed the title and privileges of Roman
soldiers, were renewed by an incessant supply of the Barbarian youth.
The extreme fortifications, and scattered fragments of the empire,
were still defended by their hopeless courage. But their retreat was
intercepted, and their communication was impracticable: they were
abandoned by the Greek princes of Constantinople, and they piously
disclaimed all connection with the Arian usurpers of Gaul. They
accepted, without shame or reluctance, the generous capitulation,
which was proposed by a Catholic hero; and this spurious, or
legitimate, progeny of the Roman legions, was distinguished in the
succeeding age by their arms, their ensigns, and their peculiar dress
and institutions. But the national strength was increased by these
powerful and voluntary accessions; and the neighboring kingdoms
dreaded the numbers, as well as the spirit, of the Franks. The
reduction of the Northern provinces of Gaul, instead of being decided
by the chance of a single battle, appears to have been slowly effected
by the gradual operation of war and treaty and Clovis acquired each
object of his ambition, by such efforts, or such concessions, as were
adequate to its real value. His savage character, and the virtues of
Henry IV., suggest the most opposite ideas of human nature; yet some
resemblance may be found in the situation of two princes, who
conquered France by their valor, their policy, and the merits of a
seasonable conversion.

The kingdom of the Burgundians, which was defined by the course of two
Gallic rivers, the Saone and the Rhône, extended from the forest of
Vosges to the Alps and the sea of Marseilles. The sceptre was in the
hands of Gundobald. That valiant and ambitious prince had reduced the
number of royal candidates by the death of two brothers, one of whom
was the father of Clotilda; but his imperfect prudence still permitted
Godegesil, the youngest of his brothers, to possess the dependent
principality of Geneva. The Arian monarch was justly alarmed by the
satisfaction, and the hopes, which seemed to animate his clergy and
people after the conversion of Clovis; and Gundobald convened at Lyons
an assembly of his bishops, to reconcile, if it were possible, their
religious and political discontents. A vain conference was agitated
between the two factions. The Arians upbraided the Catholics with the
worship of three Gods: the Catholics defended their cause by
theological distinctions; and the usual arguments, objections, and
replies were reverberated with obstinate clamor; till the king
revealed his secret apprehensions, by an abrupt but decisive question,
which he addressed to the orthodox bishops. "If you truly profess the
Christian religion, why do you not restrain the king of the Franks? He
has declared war against me, and forms alliances with my enemies for
my destruction. A sanguinary and covetous mind is not the symptom of a
sincere conversion: let him show his faith by his works." The answer
of Avitus, bishop of Vienna, who spoke in the name of his brethren,
was delivered with the voice and countenance of an angel. "We are
ignorant of the motives and intentions of the king of the Franks: but
we are taught by Scripture, that the kingdoms which abandon the divine
law are frequently subverted; and that enemies will arise on every
side against those who have made God their enemy. Return, with thy
people, to the law of God, and he will give peace and security to thy
dominions." The king of Burgundy, who was not prepared to accept the


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