Introductory American History
Henry Eldridge Bourne and Elbert Jay Benton
Part 2 out of 4
BASILICAS. The Romans had other large buildings called basilicas.
These were porticoes or promenades, with the space in the center covered
by a great roof. They were used as places for public meetings. One of
them had one hundred and eight pillars arranged in a double row around
the sides and ends of this central space. The name basilica is Greek and
means "royal." Some of these basilicas were used as Christian churches
when the Romans accepted the Christian religion. The central space was
then called the "nave," and the spaces between the columns the aisles.
TRIUMPHAL ARCHES. The Romans built beautiful arches to celebrate
their victories. Several of these still remain, with sentences cut into
their stone tablets telling of the triumphs of their builders. Modern
people have taken them as models for similar memorial arches.
[Illustration: A ROMAN AQUEDUCT Still in good repair, the Pont
du Gard, near Nîmes, France]
ROMAN LAW. The Romans did much for the world by their laws. They
showed little regard for the rights of men captured in war and were
cruel in their treatment of slaves, but they considered carefully the
rights of free men and women. Under the emperors the lawyers and judges
worked to make the laws clearer and fairer to all. Finally the Emperor
Justinian, who ruled at the time when the empire was already half ruined
by the attacks of barbarian enemies, ordered the lawyer Tribonian to
gather into a single code all the statutes and decrees. These laws
lasted long after the empire was destroyed, and out of them grew many of
the laws used in Europe to-day. They have also influenced our laws
[Illustration: PAVEMENT OF A ROMAN VILLA IN ENGLAND Unearthed
not many years ago at Aldborough. Such stones laid in the form of
designs or pictures are called Mosaics]
1. In the political strife at Rome what did the brothers Tiberius
and Caius Gracchus try to do?
2. What did Julius Caesar do when a party of senators tried to ruin
him? What was the result of his war with the other Roman leaders?
3. From what Roman word does "Emperor" come? What is the origin of
the word "Kaiser"? How did Caesar die?
4. Who was Caesar's successor and the first one who organized the
5. Why were the Romans such great builders of roads? How were their
roads built? Do any traces of them still remain?
6. How did the Romans provide the city with a supply of pure water?
7. What was a Roman bath?
8. Were the Romans as famous as the Greeks for their buildings? Name
the largest buildings in Rome. What was a basilica? Of what use were
basilicas to the Christians later?
9. Do you remember the earliest form of the Roman law (Chapter
V)? What did Justinian do with the laws in his day? Are
these laws important to us?
1. What emperors are there now? Are they like Caesar and Augustus?
2. Find out if our roads are built as carefully as the Roman roads
and if they are likely to last as long. What different kinds of
roads do we have? Can any one in the room construct a small model of
a Roman road?
3. Find out how water is now carried to cities. Are cities provided
with great public baths like those of the Romans?
4. Ask a librarian or a lawyer to show you a copy of the revised
statutes of your state. This is a code somewhat like the code of
Justinian, only not so brief.
[Illustration: TEMPLUM JOVIS CAPITOLINI (Medallion)]
CHRISTIANITY AND THE ROMAN EMPIRE
THE RELIGION OF THE JEWS. Among the cities captured by the Romans
was Jerusalem, about which cluster so many stories from the Old
Testament. There, hundreds of years before, lived David, the shepherd
boy who, after wonderful adventures, became king of his people. There
his son Solomon built a temple of dazzling splendor. Among this people
had arisen great preachers,--Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah,--who declared that
religion did not consist in the sacrifice of bulls and goats, but in
justice, in mercy, and in humility. They had a genius for religion, just
as the Greeks had a genius for art, and the Romans a genius for
THE JEWS CONQUERED BY THE ROMANS. When the Jews first heard of the
Romans they admired these citizens of a republic who made and unmade
kings. In later years they learned that the Romans were hard masters and
they feared and hated them. The Jewish kingdom was one of the last
countries along the shores of the Mediterranean which the Romans
conquered, but like all the others it finally became a Roman province.
JESUS OF NAZARETH. A few years before the Jewish kingdom became a
Roman province there was born in a village near Jerusalem a child named
Jesus. After he had grown to manhood in Nazareth he gathered about him
followers or disciples whom he taught to live and act as is told in the
books of the New Testament.
[Illustration: A VIEW OF JERUSALEM Showing the Mount of Olives
in the distance]
This was the beginning of the Christian religion. It was first held by a
little band of Jews, but Paul, a Jew born in Tarsus, a city of Asia
whose inhabitants had received the rights of Roman citizenship, believed
that the message of the new religion was meant for all nations. He
taught it in many cities of Asia Minor and Greece, and even went as far
west as Rome. Several of the epistles or letters in the New Testament
were written by Paul to churches which he had founded or where he had
taught. So it happens that from Palestine came religious teachings which
multitudes consider even more important than the art and literature of
the Greeks or the laws and political methods of the Romans.
WHY THE CHRISTIANS WERE PERSECUTED. The Romans at first refused to
permit any one in their empire to call himself a Christian. They
disliked the Jews because the Jews denied that the Roman gods were real
gods, asserting that these gods were mere images in wood and stone. The
Christians did this also, but in the eyes of the Roman rulers the worst
offense of the Christians was that they appeared to form a sort of
secret society and held meetings to which other persons were not
admitted. The emperor had forbidden such societies.
The Romans also disliked the Christians because of their refusal to join
in the public ceremonies which honored the emperor as if he were a god
who had given peace and order to the world and who was able to reward
the good and punish the evil. The Christians believed it to be wrong to
join in the worship of an emperor, whether he were alive or dead.
CHRISTIANS PUT TO DEATH. The Romans were cruel in their manner of
punishing disobedience, and many Christians suffered death in its most
horrible forms. Some were burned, others were tortured, others were torn
to pieces by wild animals in the great amphitheaters to satisfy the
fierce Roman crowd. Nero, the worst of the Roman emperors, who, many
thought, set Rome on fire in order that he might enjoy the sight of the
burning city, tried to turn suspicion from himself by accusing the
Christians of the crime. He punished them by tying them to poles,
smearing their bodies with pitch, and burning them at night as torches.
THE CHRISTIANS ALLOWED TO WORSHIP. The new religion spread rapidly
from province to province in spite of these persecutions. At first the
Christians worshiped secretly, but later they ventured to build
churches. Finally, three centuries after the birth of Christ, the
emperors promised that the persecutions should cease and that the
Christians might worship undisturbed.
[Illustration: A VIEW OF CONSTANTINOPLE]
THE ROMAN EMPIRE BECOMES CHRISTIAN ABOUT 325 A.D. Constantine was
the first emperor to become Christian. He was the one who made the Greek
city Byzantium the capital of the empire and for whom it was renamed
Constantinople. For a time both the old Roman religion and the Christian
religion were favored by the emperors, but before the fourth century
closed the old religion was forbidden. In later days worshipers of the
Roman gods were mostly country people, called in Latin _pagani_, and
therefore their religion was called "paganism."
HOW THE CHURCH WAS RULED. One of the reasons why the Christians had
been successful in their struggle with the Roman emperors was that they
were united under wise and brave leaders. The Christians in each large
city were ruled by a bishop, and the bishops of several cities were
directed by an archbishop. In the western part of the empire the bishop
of Rome, who was called the pope, was honored as the chief of the
bishops and archbishops, and the successor of the Apostle Peter. In the
eastern part the archbishops or patriarchs of Constantinople and
Alexandria and Jerusalem honored the pope, but claimed to be equal in
authority with him.
There were also two kinds of clergy, parish priests and monks. The
priests were pastors of ordinary parishes, but the monks lived in groups
in buildings called monasteries. Sometimes their purpose was to dwell
far from the bustle and wrongs of ordinary life and give themselves to
prayer and fasting; sometimes they acted as a brotherhood of teachers in
barbarous communities, teaching the people better methods of farming,
and carrying the arts of civilized life beyond the borders of
1. Where did the Jews live in Ancient Times?
2. Do you remember any of the stories of David?
3. What finally became of the kingdom over which David ruled?
4. What era in the history of the world begins with the birth of
5. Why did the Romans forbid the Christians to worship? How did the
Romans punish them? How long after the birth of Christ before the
emperors allowed the Christians to worship undisturbed?
[Illustration: A MONASTERY IN THE MIDDLE AGES Abbey of
Saint-Germain des Prés as it appeared in 1361 with wall, towers, and
moat or ditch]
6. What is the name of the first Roman emperor who became a
Christian? What name was soon given to the worshipers of the old
7. By what titles were the leaders of the Christians named? What two
kinds of clergy were there?
_Important date_: 325 A.D., when the Roman Empire became Christian.
EMIGRANTS A THOUSAND YEARS AGO
THE MIDDLE AGES. It was more than a thousand years from the time of
Constantine to the time of Columbus. This period is called "Mediaeval,"
or the "Middle Ages." During these long centuries the ancient civilized
world of the Roman Empire was much changed. The Roman or Greek cities on
the southern shores of the Mediterranean were captured by Arabs or
Moors. The Moors conquered the larger part of Spain. The eastern lands
of Palestine and Asia Minor fell into the hands of the Turks. The Turks,
the Moors, and the Arabs were followers of the "prophet" Mohammed, who
died in the year 632. The Mohammedans were enemies of the Christians.
WESTERN EUROPE. The other part of the European world was also
changed. The countries on the shores of the Atlantic were now more
important than those on the shores of the Mediterranean. The names of
the different countries were changed. Instead of Gallia or Gaul, there
was France; instead of Britannia, England; for Hispania, Spain; for
Germania, Deutschland or Germany. Italy, the center of the old empire,
was finally divided into several states--city republics like Genoa and
Venice, provinces ruled by the pope, and other territories ruled by
dukes, princes, or kings.
FATE OF CIVILIZATION. The most important question to ask is, How
much of the manner of living or civilization of the Greeks and the
Romans did the later Europeans still retain? The answer is found in the
history of the Middle Ages. In this history is also found what men added
to that which they had learned from the Greeks and the Romans. The
emigrants to America were to carry with them knowledge which not even
the wisest men of the ancient world had possessed.
[Illustration: WALL OF AURELIAN This wall enclosed the ancient
city of Rome. It was about thirteen miles in circumference, fifty-five
feet high, and had three hundred towers]
MEDIAEVAL GERMAN EMIGRANTS. The first part of the history of the
Middle Ages explains how the German peoples from whom most of our
forefathers were descended began to move from the northern forests
towards the borders of the Roman Empire. Many thousand men had already
crossed the Rhine and the Danube to serve in the Roman armies. Sometimes
an unusually strong and skilful warrior would be made a general. Germans
had also crossed the Rhine to work as farmers on the estates of the rich
Gallic nobles. Other Germans, called Goths, worked in Constantinople and
the cities of the East as masons, porters, and water-carriers. The
Romans had owned so many slaves that they had lost the habit of work and
were glad to hire these foreigners.
STORY OF ULFILAS. Many of the Goths who lived north of the Danube
had forsaken their old gods and become Christians. They were taught by
Bishop Ulfilas, once a captive among them, afterward a missionary. He
translated the Bible into the Gothic language, and this translation is
the most ancient specimen of German that we possess. Many of the other
German tribes learned about Christianity from the Goths, and although
they might be enemies of the Roman government, they were not enemies of
THE GOTHS INVADE THE ROMAN EMPIRE. The Roman emperors tried to
prevent the northern tribes from crossing the frontier in great numbers,
because, once across, if they did not find work and food, they became
plunderers. Not many years after Constantine's death, a million Goths
had passed the Danube and had plundered the country almost to the walls
of Constantinople. This was not like the invasion of a regular army,
which comes to fight battles and to arrange terms of peace.
The Goths, and the Germans who soon followed their example, moved as a
whole people, with their wives and children, their cattle, and the few
household goods they owned. Wherever they wished to settle they demanded
of the Romans one third, sometimes two thirds, of the land. They soon
learned to be good neighbors of the older inhabitants, although at first
they were little better than robbers. Alaric, one of the leaders of the
Goths, led them into Italy and in the year 410 captured Rome. Alaric did
not injure the buildings much, and he kept his men from robbing the
churches. Some of the other barbarous tribes who roamed about plundering
villages and attacking cities did far greater damage. The Roman
government grew weaker and weaker, until one by one the provinces fell
into the hands of German kings.
BEGINNINGS OF ENGLAND, FRANCE, AND GERMANY. Britain was attacked by
the Angles and Saxons from the shores of Germany across the North Sea.
They drove away the inhabitants or made slaves of
them and settled upon the lands they had seized. The country was then
called Angle-land or England, and the people Anglo-Saxons or Englishmen.
The Roman provinces in Gaul were gradually conquered by the Franks from
the borders of the Rhine, and they gave the name France to the land.
At about the same time the other German tribes that had remained in
Germany united under one king.
THE RESULT OF BARBARIAN ATTACKS. The part of the ancient world
which lay about Constantinople was less changed than the rest during the
Middle Ages. The walls of Constantinople were high and thick, and they
withstood attack after attack until 1453. Within their shelter men
continued to live much as they had lived in Ancient Times. A few
delighted to study the writings of the ancient Greeks. In Italy and the
other countries of western Europe most of the cities were in ruins. The
ancient baths, amphitheaters, aqueducts, and palaces of Rome crumbled
and fell. The mediaeval Romans also used huge buildings like the
Colosseum as quarries of cut stone and burned the marble for lime. This
was done in every country where Roman buildings existed.
[Illustration: THE AMPHITHEATER AT ARLES]
The amphitheater at Arles in southern France had a still stranger
fortune. It was used at one time as a citadel, at another as a prison
and gradually became the home of hundreds of the criminals and the poor
of the city. "Every archway held its nest of human outcasts. From stone
to stone they cast their rotting beams and plaster and burrowed into the
very entrails of the enormous building to seek a secure retreat from the
pursuit of the officers of the law."
Few persons traveled from Constantinople to Italy or France, and few
from western Europe visited Constantinople. The men of Italy and France
and England did not know how to read Greek. Many of them also ceased to
read the writings of the ancient Romans.
[Illustration: ST. MARTIN'S CHURCH, CANTERBURY, ENGLAND This
church is on the site of a chapel built in the sixth century. Its walls
show some of the bricks of the original chapel]
THE ENGLISH BECOME CHRISTIANS, 597 A.D. Christianity had spread
throughout the Roman Empire, and it became the religion of all the
tribes who founded kingdoms of their own upon the ruins of the Empire.
The Angles and Saxons, when they invaded Britain, were still worshipers
of the gods Wodan and Thor. They had never learned from the Goths of
Ulfilas anything about Christianity.
One day in the slave market at Rome three fair-haired boys were offered
for sale. Gregory, a noble Roman, who had become a monk and was the
abbot of his monastery, happened to be passing and asked who they were.
He was told they were Angles. "Angels," he cried, "yes, they have faces
like angels, and should become companions of the angels in heaven." When
this good abbot became pope, he sent missionaries to Angle-land and they
established themselves at Canterbury.
[Illustration: GREGORY AND THE LITTLE ENGLISH SLAVES]
MISSIONARIES TO THE GERMANS AND THE SLAVS. The conversion of the
English helped in the spread of Christianity on the Continent, for
Boniface, an English monk, was the greatest missionary to the Germans.
He won thousands from the worship of their ancient gods and founded many
churches. The Slavs, who lived east of the Germans, were taught by
missionaries from Constantinople instead of from Rome.
THE EDUCATED MEN OF THE MIDDLE AGES. The missionaries and teachers
of the Church had been educated like the older Romans. They read Roman
books, and tried to preserve the knowledge which both Greeks and Romans
had gathered. Influenced by them, the emigrants and conquerors from the
north also tried to be like the Romans. Educated men, and especially the
priests of the Church, used Latin as their language. In this way some
parts of the old Roman and Greek civilization were preserved, although
the Roman government had fallen and many beautiful cities were mere
heaps of ruins.
THE VIKINGS. The emigration of whole peoples from one part of
Europe to another did not stop when the Roman Empire was overrun. New
peoples appeared and sought to plunder or crowd out the tribes which had
already settled within its boundaries and were learning the ways of
One of these peoples came from the regions now known as Norway, Sweden,
and Denmark. They were called Danes by the English, and Northmen or
Normans by other Europeans. They had another name, Vikings, which was
their word for sea-rovers.
It was their custom to sail the seas and rivers rather than march on the
land. They were a hardy and daring people, who liked nothing better than
to fight and conquer and rob in other countries. There was not a land in
western Europe, even as far south as Sicily, that they did not visit.
Wherever they went they plundered and burned and murdered, leaving a
THE DANES IN ENGLAND. The Danes ravaged the eastern and southern
shores of England, and after they were tired of robbery, partly because
there was little left to take, they began to settle in the land. Alfred,
the greatest of the early English kings, was driven by them into the
swamps for a while, but in the year 878 A.D. he conquered an army of
them in battle and persuaded one of their kings to be baptized as a
Christian. Alfred was obliged to allow them to keep the eastern portion
of England, a region called Danelaw, because the law of the Danes was
[Illustration: A VIKING SHIP AT SEA]
THE DANES BECOME NORMANS. No more Danes or Northmen came to trouble
England for a time, but instead they crossed the Channel to France and
rowed up the Seine and tried to capture Paris. A few years later a
Frankish king gave them the city of Rouen, further down the Seine, and
the region about it which was called Normandy. These Normans also
THE VIKINGS BECOME DISCOVERERS. Before another hundred years had
passed the Northmen performed a feat more difficult than sailing up
rivers and burning towns. They were the first to venture far out of
sight of land, though their ships were no larger than our fishing boats.
These bold sailors visited the Orkney and the Shetland Islands, north of
Scotland, and finally reached Iceland. In Iceland their sheep and cattle
flourished, and a lively trade in fish, oil, butter, and skins sprang up
with the old homeland and with the British islands.
Before long one of the settlers, named Eric the Red, led a colony to
Greenland, the larger and more desolate island further west. He called
it Greenland because, he said, men would be more easily persuaded to go
there if the land had a good name. This was probably in the year 985.
[Illustration: LEIF ERICSON From the statue in Boston]
DISCOVERY OF VINLAND. Eric had a son, called Leif Ericson, or Leif
the Lucky, who visited Norway and was well received at the court of King
Olaf. Not long before missionaries had persuaded Olaf and his people to
give up their old gods and accept Christianity, and Leif followed their
example. Leif set out in the early summer of the year 1000 to carry the
new religion to his father, Eric the Red, to his father's people, and to
his neighbors. The voyage was a long one, lasting all the summer, for on
the way his ship was driven out of its course and came upon strange
lands where wild rice and grape-vines and large trees grew. The milder
climate and stories of large trees useful for building ships aroused the
curiosity of the Greenlanders.
They sent exploring expeditions, and found the coast of North America at
places which they called Helluland, that is, the land of flat stones;
Markland, the land of forests; and Vinland, where the grape-vines grow.
Helluland was probably on the coast of Labrador, Markland somewhere on
the shores of Newfoundland, and Vinland in Nova Scotia.
THE SETTLEMENT IN VINLAND. Thornfinn Karlsefni, a successful trader
between Iceland and Greenland, attempted to plant a colony in the new
lands. Karlsefni and his friends, to the number of one hundred and sixty
men and several women, set out in 1007 with three or four ships, loaded
with supplies and many cattle. They built huts and remained three or
four winters in Vinland, but all trace of any settlement
disappeared long ago.
They found, their stories tell us, swarthy, rough-looking Indians, with
coarse hair, large eyes, and broad cheeks, with whom they traded red
cloth for furs. Trouble broke out between the Northmen and the Indians,
who outnumbered them. So many Northmen were killed that the survivors
became alarmed and returned to Greenland.
[Illustration: DISCOVERIES OF THE NORTHMEN The American lands
they found are marked with diagonal lines]
VINLAND FORGOTTEN. The voyages to Vinland soon ceased and the
discoveries of Leif and his followers were only remembered in the songs
or "sagas" of the people. They thought of Vinland mainly as a land of
flat stones, great trees, and fierce natives. Nor did the wise men of
Europe who heard the Northmen's story guess that a New World had been
discovered. It was probably fortunate that five hundred years were to go
by before Europeans settled in America, for within that time they were
to learn a great deal and to find again many things which the Romans had
left but which in the year 1000 were hidden away, either in the ruins of
the ancient cities or in libraries and treasure-houses, where few knew
of them. The more Europeans possessed before they set out, the more
Americans would have to start with.
[Illustration: FACSIMILE OF A BIT OF AN OLD SAGA MANUSCRIPT]
1. What is meant by the "Middle Ages" or the "Mediaeval" period?
2. Show on the map, what part of the Roman Empire was
conquered by the Mohammedans.
3. Mention the Roman names of England, France, Germany, and Spain,
Why were they changed to what they are now?
4. What people early in the Middle Ages began to emigrate from their
homes to the Roman Empire? What did they do for a living?
5. Where did the Goths live? Who taught them the Christian religion?
When the Goths entered the Roman Empire what did they ask of the
inhabitants? Did they destroy much? How many years separated the
capture of Rome by Alaric from its capture by the Gauls?
6. What tribes conquered England or Britain? What tribes conquered
Roman Gaul or France? How long before Constantinople was captured?
7. What was the effect of these raids and wars upon many cities? Who
tried to keep fresh the memory of what the Greeks and the Romans had
done? Who used the language of the Romans?
8. Tell the story of the way the English became Christians. Who
taught the Christian religion to many Germans? From what city did
the Slavs receive missionaries?
9. What different names are given to the inhabitants of Denmark,
Norway, and Sweden who became rovers over the seas? Where did they
10. Tell the story of how Leif the Lucky discovered America. Why did
the Northmen leave Vinland?
1. Point out on the map all the places mentioned in this chapter.
2. On an outline map mark the names of the peoples mentioned in the
chapter on the countries where they settled.
3. Ask children in school who know some other language than English
what are their names for England, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy.
Alaric's capture of Rome, 410 A.D.
Discovery of America by the Northmen, 1000 A.D.
HOW ENGLISHMEN LEARNED TO GOVERN THEMSELVES
HEROES OF THE MIDDLE AGES. The Middle Ages, like Ancient Times, are
recalled by many interesting tales. Some of them, such as the stories of
King Arthur and his Knights, the story of Roland, and the Song of the
Niebelungs, are only tales and not history. Others tell us about great
kings, Charlemagne and St. Louis of France, Frederick the Redbeard of
Germany, or St. Stephen of Hungary. The hero-king for England was
Alfred, who fought bravely against the pirate Danes and finally
conquered and persuaded many of them to live quietly under his rule.
KING ALFRED BEGAN TO REIGN IN 871. King Alfred was a skilful
warrior, but he was also an excellent ruler in time of peace. When he
was a boy he had shown his love of books. His mother once offered a
beautifully written Saxon poem as a prize to the one of her sons who
should be the first to learn it. Alfred could not yet read, but he had a
ready memory, and with the aid of his teacher he learned the poem and
won the prize.
At that time almost all books were written in Latin and few even of the
clergy could read. During the long wars with the Danes many books had
been destroyed. Men found battle-axes more useful than books and ceased
to care about reading. King Alfred feared that the Saxons would soon
become ignorant barbarians, and sent for priests and monks who were
learned and were able to teach his clergy. He sent even into France
for such men.
EARLY ENGLISH BOOKS. As it would be easier for people to learn to
read books written in the language they spoke rather than in Latin,
Alfred helped to translate several famous Latin books into English.
Among these was a history written by a Roman before the Germans had
overthrown the Roman Empire. This history told about the world of the
Greeks and the Romans.
Alfred commanded some of his clergy to keep a record from year to year
of things which happened in his kingdom. This record was called the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and was the first history written in the English
language. It was carefully kept for many years after Alfred's death.
Another wise thing Alfred did was to collect the laws or "dooms" of the
earlier kings, so that every one might know what the law required.
[Illustration: EXTRACT FROM THE SAXON CHRONICLE From a copy in
the British Museum]
THE BEGINNING OF A NAVY. Alfred has been called the creator of the
English navy. He thought that the only way to keep the Danes from
plundering his shores was to fight them on the sea. He built several
ships which were bigger than the Danish ships, but they were not always
victorious, for they could not follow the Danish ships into shallow
water. Nevertheless, the Danes could not plunder England as easily
THE NEW ARMY. Alfred organized his fighting men in a better way. In
times past the men had been called upon to fight only when the Danes
were near, but now he kept a third of his men ready all the time, and
another third he placed in forts, so the rest were able to work in the
fields in safety. There are good reasons why Englishmen regard Alfred
as a hero.
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR BEGAN TO RULE ENGLAND IN 1066. About a
hundred and fifty years after Alfred died, William, duke of Normandy,
crossed the Channel with an army, killed the English king in battle, and
seized the throne. This was not altogether a misfortune to the English,
for they came under the same ruler as the Normans and they shared in all
that the men of the Continent were beginning to learn. For one thing,
builders from the Continent taught the English to construct the great
Norman churches or cathedrals which every traveler in England sees.
Besides, William the Conqueror was a strong king and put down the chiefs
or lords that were inclined to oppress the common people.
HENRY II. Henry II, one of William's successors, ruled over most of
western France as well as over England. His officers and nobles were
tired out by his endless traveling in his lands, which extended from the
banks of the river Loire in France to the borders of Scotland. All
Englishmen and Americans should remember him with gratitude because of
the improvements he made in the ways of discovering the truth when
disputes arose and were carried into courts.
[Illustration: THE NORMANS CROSSING THE ENGLISH CHANNEL From the
Bayeux Tapestry, embroidered in the time of William the Conqueror. The
figures are worked on a band of linen two hundred and thirty feet long,
and twenty inches wide. Worsteds of eight colors are used]
ORDEALS AND TRIALS BY BATTLE. Before Henry's reign it was the
custom when a man was accused of a crime to find out the truth by
arranging a wager of battle or what were called ordeals. The two most
common ordeals were the ordeal by fire and the ordeal by water. In the
ordeal by fire an iron was heated red-hot, and after it had been blessed
by a priest it was put into the hand of the man the truth of whose word
was being tested, and he had to carry it a certain number of feet. His
hand was then bound up and left for three days. If at the end of that
time the wound was healing, men believed he was innocent, for they
thought God would keep an innocent man from being punished.
In the ordeal by water the man was tied and thrown into water which had
been blessed by the priest. If he was guilty, the people thought the
water would not receive him. If he sank at once, he was pulled out and
treated as if he had told the truth.
[Illustration: TRIAL BY BATTLE After a drawing in an old
A wager of battle was a fight between the two men whose dispute was to
be settled, or between a man and his accuser. Each was armed with a
hammer or a small battle-axe, and the one who gave up lost his case.
TRIAL BY JURY. King Henry introduced a better way of finding out
the truth. He called upon twelve men from a neighborhood to come before
the judges, to promise solemnly to tell what they knew about a matter,
and then to decide which person was in the right. They were supposed to
know about the facts, and they were allowed to talk the matter over with
one another before they made a decision.
Later these men from the neighborhood were divided into two groups, one
to tell what they knew and the other to listen and decide what was true.
Those who told what they knew were called the witnesses, and those who
listened and decided were called jurors. The name jurors came from a
Latin word meaning to take an oath.
RICHARD THE LIONHEARTED. King Henry had two sons, Richard and John.
Richard was the boldest and most skilful fighter of his time. When the
news was brought to England that Jerusalem had been captured by the
Mohammedans, he led an army to Palestine to recapture it. He failed to
take the city, but he became famous throughout the East as a fearless
warrior and was ever afterwards called the "Lionhearted." At his death
his brother John became king. He was as cowardly and wicked as Richard
was brave and generous.
THE GREAT CHARTER. The leaders of the people, the nobles and the
clergy, soon grew tired of John's wickedness. In 1215 they raised an
army and threatened to take the kingdom from John and crown another
prince as king. John was soon ready to promise anything in order to
obtain power once more, and the nobles and bishops met him at Runnymede
on the river Thames, a few miles west of London, and compelled him to
sign a list of promises. As the list contained sixty-three separate
promises, it was called the Great Charter or Magna Charta. If John did
not keep these promises, the lords and clergy agreed to make war on him,
and he even said that this would be their duty.
PROMISES OF THE CHARTER. Many of the articles of the Great Charter
were important only to the men of King John's day, but others are as
important to us as to them. In these the king promised that every one
should be treated justly. He said he would not refuse to listen to the
complaints of those who thought they were wronged. The king also
promised that he would not decide in favor of a rich man just because
the rich man might offer him money. He would put no one in prison who
had not been tried and found guilty by a jury. By another important
promise the king said he would not levy new taxes without the consent of
the chief men of the kingdom. This opened the way for the people to have
something to say about how their money should be spent. This right is a
very important part of what we call self-government.
[Illustration: A PORTION OF THE GREAT CHARTER]
PROMISES OF THE GREAT CHARTER RENEWED. In after times whenever the
English thought a king was doing them a wrong they reminded him of the
promises made by King John in the Great Charter and demanded that the
promises be solemnly renewed.
In 1265 a great noble named Simon de Montfort asked many towns to send a
number of their chief men to meet with the nobles and clergy to talk
over the conduct of the king. Others, even kings, soon followed Simon's
example by asking the townsmen for advice about matters of government.
After a while this became the custom. Occasionally the king wanted the
advice of the clergy, the nobles, and the townsmen at the same time and
called them together. The meeting was called a parliament, that is, an
assembly in which talking or discussion goes on.
[Illustration: Parliament House Westminster Hall Westminster
Abbey--WHERE PARLIAMENT MET IN LONDON IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY]
THE ENGLISH PARLIAMENT. Only the most important nobles or lords
could go in person to the assemblies, otherwise the meeting would be too
large to do any business. The other lords chose certain ones from their
number to go in place of all the rest. We call such men representatives.
In this way, besides the men who represented the towns, there were
present these nobles who represented the landowners of the counties.
Gradually these nobles and the townsmen formed an assembly of their own,
while the greater lords, the bishops, and abbots sat together in another
assembly. The two assemblies were called the House of Commons and the
House of Lords, and the two made up the parliament.
AN ASSEMBLY OF REPRESENTATIVES. This parliament was a great
invention. The English had discovered a better way of governing
themselves than either the Greeks or the Romans. We call it the
representative system. If a Roman citizen who lived far from Rome wanted
to take part in the elections, he was obliged to leave his farm or his
business and travel to Rome, for only the citizens who were at Rome
could have a share in making the laws. It never occurred to the Romans
that the citizens outside of Rome could send some of their number as
representatives to Rome. The formation of the English parliament was an
important step towards what we mean in America by "government of the
people, for the people, and by the people."
1. Mention the names of heroes or hero-kings of the Middle Ages.
What stories have you learned about these heroes?
2. Who was the hero-king of the English? How did he early show his
love of books? What did he do to help his people to a knowledge
3. How did he succeed better than other kings in driving back the
Danes? Why has he been called the creator of the English navy?
4. What was the name of the Norman duke who conquered the English
and ruled over them? Did this conquest hinder or help them?
5. Why should we remember Henry II gratefully? Explain an ordeal and
a trial by battle. How were the first juries formed and what did
they do? How were they afterwards divided?
6. For what was King Richard most celebrated? What sort of a king
was his brother John?
7. Why was the Charter which John was forced to grant called
"Great"? Repeat some of its promises. Did the English soon forget
8. Who asked the townsmen to send several of their number to talk
over affairs with the clergy and the nobles? What was this body
finally called? Into what two bodies was it divided?
9. What is a "representative system"? Why was it an invention? What
did the Romans do when they lived in towns distant from Rome and
wanted to take part in elections or help make the laws?
1. Learn and tell one of the King Arthur stories and a part of the
story of the Niebelungs. Find a story about Charlemagne, Frederick
the Redbeard, St. Louis, or St. Stephen.
2. Collect pictures of war vessels, those of old times and those of
to-day, and explain their differences.
3. Find out how men nowadays decide whether an accused man is
4. What is the name of the assembly in your state which makes the
laws? What assembly at Washington makes the laws for the
THE CIVILIZATION OF THE MIDDLE AGES
WHAT THE ENGLISH OWED TO THEIR EUROPEAN NEIGHBORS. If the English
succeeded better than other Europeans in learning how to govern
themselves, one reason was that the Channel protected them from attack,
and they could quarrel with their king without running much risk that
their enemies in other countries would take advantage of the quarrel to
seize their lands or attempt to conquer them.
The French were not so well placed. France also was not united like
England, and whole districts called counties or duchies were almost
independent of the king, being ruled by their counts and dukes. In
France it would not have been wise for the people to quarrel with the
king, for he was their natural protector against cruel lords. Germany
and Italy were even more divided, with not only counties and duchies,
but also cities nearly as independent as the ancient cities of Greece.
The Europeans on the Continent did many things which the English were
doing, and some of these were so well done that the English were ready
to accept these Europeans as their teachers. The memory of what the
Greeks and the Romans had done remained longer in southern France and
Italy because so many buildings were still standing which reminded
Frenchmen and Italians of the people who built them.
[Illustration: A MONK COPYING MANUSCRIPT BOOKS]
CLASSES OF PEOPLE. The people of Europe, as well as of England,
were divided into two classes, nobles and peasants. The clergy seemed to
form another class because there were so many of them. Besides the
parish priests and the bishops there were thousands of monks, who were
persons who chose to dwell together in monasteries under the rule of an
abbot or a prior, rather than live among ordinary people where men were
so often tempted to do wrong or were so likely to be wronged by others.
The monks worked on the farms of the monasteries, or studied in the
libraries, or prayed and fasted. For a long time the men who knew how to
read were nearly always monks or priests. Outside of the monasteries or
the bishops' houses there were few books.
THE NOBLES. The nobles were either knights, barons, counts, or
dukes. In England there were also earls. Many mediaeval nobles ruled
like kings, but over a smaller territory. They gained their power
because they were rich in land and could support many men who were ready
to follow them in battle, or because in the constant wars they proved
themselves able to keep anything they took, whether it was a hilltop or
a town. Timid and peaceable people were often glad to put themselves
under the protection of such a fighter, who saved them from being robbed
by other fighting nobles.
In this way the nobles served a good purpose until the kings, who were
at first only very successful nobles, were able to bring nobles as well
as peasants under their own rule and to compel every one to obey the
same laws. After this the nobles became what we call an aristocracy,
proud of their family history, generally living in better houses and
owning more land than their neighbors, but with little power
[Illustration: PLAN OF A MEDIAEVAL CASTLE 1. The Donjon-keep. 2.
Chapel. 3. Stables. 4. Inner Court. 5. Outer Court. 6. Outworks. 7.
Mount, where justice was executed. 8. Soldiers' Lodgings]
[Illustration: PIERREFONDS--ONE OF THE GREAT CASTLES OF FRANCE]
CASTLES. For safety, kings and nobles in the Middle Ages were
obliged to build strong stone forts or fortified houses called castles.
They were often placed on a hilltop or on an island or in a spot where
approach to the walls could be made difficult by a broad canal, or moat,
filled with water. At different places along the walls were towers, and
within the outer ring of walls a great tower, or keep, which was hard to
capture even after the rest of the castle had been entered by the enemy.
These castles were gloomy places to live in until, centuries later,
their inner walls were pierced with windows. Many are still standing,
others are interesting heaps of ruins.
KNIGHTHOOD. The lords of the castles were occupied mostly in
hunting or fighting. They fought to keep other lords from interfering
with them or to win for themselves more lands and power. They hunted
that they might have meat for their tables. In later times, when it was
not so necessary to kill animals for food, they hunted as a sport.
Fighting also ceased to be the chief occupation, although the nobles
were expected to accompany the king in his wars.
From boyhood the sons of nobles, unless they entered the Church as
priests or monks, were taught the art of fighting. A boy was sent to the
castle of another lord, where he served as a page, waiting on the lord
at table or running errands. He was trained to ride a horse boldly and
to be skilful with the sword and the lance. When his education was
finished he was usually made a knight, an event which took place with
many interesting ceremonies.
The young man bathed, as a sign that he was pure. The weapons and arms
for his use were blessed by a priest and laid on the altar of the
church, and near them he knelt and prayed all night. In the final
ceremony a sword was girded upon him and he received a slight blow on
the neck from the sword of some knight, or perhaps of the king. His
armor covered him from head to foot in metal, and sometimes his horse
was also covered with metal plates. When he was fully armed, he was
expected to show his skill to the lords and ladies who were present.
THE DUTIES OF A KNIGHT. The duties of the knight were to defend the
weak, to protect women from wrong, to be faithful to his lord and king,
and to be courteous even to an enemy. A knight true to these duties was
called "chivalrous," a word which means very much what we mean by the
word "gentlemanly." There were many wicked knights, but we must not
forget that the good knights taught courtesy, faithfulness in keeping
promises, respect for women, courage, self-sacrifice, and honor.
[Illustration: A Knight in Armor Thirteenth century]
THE PEASANTS. Most of the people were peasants or townsmen. There
were few towns, because many had been burned by the barbarian tribes
which broke into the Roman Empire, or had been destroyed in the later
wars. The peasants were crowded in villages close to the walls of some
castle or monastery. They paid dearly for the protection which the lord
of the castle or the abbot of the monastery gave them, for they were
obliged to work on his lands three days or more each week, and to bring
him eggs, chickens, and a little money several times a year. They also
gave him a part of their harvest.
THE TOWNSMEN. At first the towns belonged to lords, or abbots, or
bishops, but many towns drove out their lords and ruled themselves or
received officers from the king. When they ruled themselves, their towns
were called communes. The citizens agreed that whenever the town bell
was rung they would gather together. Any one who was absent was fined.
For them "eternal vigilance was the price of liberty." Some of the
belfries of these mediaeval towns are still standing, and remind the
citizens of to-day of the struggles of the early days.
[Illustration: VIEW OF CARCASSONNE This is an ancient city in
France founded by the Romans]
The men of each occupation or trade were organized into societies or
guilds, with masters, journeymen, and apprentices. There were guilds of
goldsmiths, ironmongers, and fishmongers, that is, workers in gold and
iron and sellers of fish. The merchants also had their guilds. In many
towns no one was allowed to work at a trade or sell merchandise who was
not a member of a guild.
OLD CITIES WHICH STILL EXIST. Many of the towns which grew up in
the Middle Ages are now the great cities of England and Europe. Their
citizens can look back a thousand years and more over the history of
their city, can point to churches, to town halls, and sometimes to
private houses, that have stood all this time. They can often show the
remains of mediaeval walls or broad streets where once these walls
stood, and the moats that surrounded them. The traveler in York or
London, in Paris, in Nuremburg, in Florence, or in Rome eagerly searches
for the relics about which so many interesting stories of the past
VENICE AND GENOA. One of the most fascinating of these old cities
is Venice, built upon low-lying islands two miles from the shore of
Italy and protected by a sand bar from the waters of the Adriatic.
Venice was founded by men and women who fled from a Roman city on the
mainland which was ruined by the barbarians in the fifth century after
Christ. In many places piles had to be driven into the loose sands to
furnish a foundation for houses. The Venetians did not try to keep out
the water but used it as streets, and instead of driving in wagons they
went about in boats. They grew rich in trade on the sea, as the Greeks
had done in those same waters hundreds of years before.
Farther down the coast of Italy were the cities Brindisi and Taranto,
the Brundusium and Tarentum of the Romans. Across the peninsula to the
west was another trading city called Genoa, which was the birthplace
MODERN LANGUAGES. While the people of mediaeval times were building
city walls and towers to protect themselves they were also doing other
things. Almost without knowing it they formed the languages which we now
speak and write--English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish.
The English and German languages are closely related because the
forefathers of the English emigrated to England from Germany, taking
their language with them. This older language was gradually changed, but
it still remained like German. Dutch is another language like both
English and German.
There are many words in these languages borrowed from other peoples.
Englishmen, because of their long union with western France, borrowed
many words from the French. The French did not invent these words, for
the French language grew out of the Latin language which the French
learned from the Romans.
HOW MODERN LANGUAGES WERE FORMED. In English we have two sets of
words and phrases: one is used in writing books or speeches, the other
in conversation. When the Gauls learned Latin, the language of Rome,
most of them learned the words used in conversation and did not learn
the words of Roman books. Before long spoken words differed so much from
the older written words that only scholars understood that the two had
belonged to the same language. This new language was French. In the same
way Italian and Spanish grew out of the ordinary Latin spoken in Italy
When men began to write books in the new languages, the changes went on
more slowly because the use of words in books kept the spelling the
same. Men wrote less in Latin, but it was still used in the religious
services of the Church and in the schools and universities.
[Illustration: VENICE AND THE GRAND CANAL]
SCHOOLS IN THE MIDDLE AGES. In the Middle Ages most boys and girls
did not go to school. Education was principally for those who expected
to become priests or monks. The schools were in the monasteries or in
the houses or palaces of the bishops. The students were taught a little
Latin grammar, to write or speak Latin, and to debate. They also learned
arithmetic; enough astronomy to reckon the days on which the festivals
of the Church should come; and music, so much as was then known of it.
Printing had not been invented, so there were no text-books for them to
study, and written books or manuscripts were too costly. Students
listened to the teacher as he read from his manuscripts and copied the
words or tried to remember them.
THE BEGINNING OF UNIVERSITIES. If students remained in the schools
after these things had been learned, they studied the laws of the
Romans, or the practise of medicine, or the religious questions which
are called theology. Some teachers talked in such an interesting way
about such questions that hundreds of students came to listen. Like
other kinds of workers, who were organized in societies or guilds, the
teachers and students formed a guild called a university. The teachers
were the master-workmen, and the students were the apprentices.
WHERE THE STUDENTS LIVED. In the beginning the universities had no
buildings of their own, and the teachers taught in hired halls, the
students boarding wherever they could find lodgings. Partly to help
students who were too poor to pay for good lodgings, and partly to bring
the students under the direct rule of teachers, colleges were built.
These were not separate institutions like the American colleges, but
simply houses for residence, although later some teaching was done
SOME FAMOUS UNIVERSITIES. The oldest university was in Bologna in
Italy, and teachers began to explain the laws of the Romans to its
students eight hundred years ago. The University of Paris was called the
greatest university in the Middle Ages. Its students numbered sometimes
between six and seven thousand. About the same time the English
universities of Oxford and Cambridge were formed, and there, many years
later, a large number of the men who settled in America were educated.
THE WISDOM OF THE ARABS. Students in these universities obtained
several of the writings of the Greeks through the Arabs, the followers
of Mohammed, who had conquered most of Spain. Long before Europeans
thought of founding universities the Arabs had flourishing schools and
universities in Spain. The capital of the Mohammedan Empire was first at
Bagdad on the Euphrates, where once ruled Haroun-al-Raschid, the hero of
the tales of the Arabian Nights.
[Illustration: VIEW OF NEW COLLEGE, OXFORD Built in the
WHAT EUROPEANS BORROWED FROM THE ARABS. The Arabs had learned much
of geography and mathematics from the Greeks, and they also found out
much for themselves. The numerals which we use are Arabic; and algebra,
one of our principal studies in mathematics, was thought out by the
Arabs. Their learned men were deeply interested in the books of
Aristotle, an ancient Greek, who had been a teacher of Alexander the
Great. They translated his books into Arabic, and Christian students in
Spain translated the Arabic into Latin. The great scholars at the
University of Paris believed that Aristotle reasoned better than other
thinkers, and took as their model the methods of reasoning found in this
Latin translation of an Arabic translation of what Aristotle had
written in Greek.
[Illustration: THE ALCAZAR AT SEVILLE Built by the Moors in the
twelfth century. Note the elaborate decoration of the Moorish
BUILDERS IN THE MIDDLE AGES. The Greeks and the Romans had been
great builders, but the men of the Middle Ages succeeded in building
churches, town halls, and palaces or castles which equaled in grandeur
and beauty the best that the ancient builders had made. The large
churches or cathedrals seem wonderful because their builders were able
to place masses of stone high in the air and to cover immense spaces
with beautiful vaulted roofs. Builders nowadays imitate, but not often,
if ever, equal them. Fortunately the original buildings are still
standing in many English and European cities: in Canterbury, Durham, and
Winchester; in Paris, Chartres, and Rheims; in Cologne, Erfurt, and
Strasbourg; in Barcelona and Toledo; in Milan, Venice, and Rome.
[Illustration: NOTRE DAME IN PARIS View from the rear,
showing the arches and buttresses]
CHURCH BUILDING. The Italians began by building churches like Roman
basilicas. Roman arches and domes, supported by heavy walls, were also
used north of the Alps, and the method of building was named Romanesque,
or in England, Norman. The architects or builders of western France
discovered a way of roofing over just as large spaces without using such
heavy walls, so that the interior could be lighted by larger windows.
Instead of having rounded arches they used pointed arches. The walls
between the windows were strengthened by masses of stone called
buttresses. The peak of the roof of these cathedrals was sometimes more
than one hundred and fifty feet above the floor. The glass of the
windows showed in beautiful colors scenes from the Bible or from lives
of sainted men and women. The outer walls, especially the western front,
the doorways and the towers, were richly carved and adorned with
statues, and often with the figures of strange birds and beasts which
lived only in the imagination of the builders. This method of building
was named Gothic, and it was used not only for churches but for town
halls and private houses. Architects use similar methods of
[Illustration: THE CATHEDRAL AT AMIENS A typical Gothic
THE RENAISSANCE. Men who could build and adorn great churches and
town halls and who were eager to study in the new universities should be
called civilized. The barbarous days were gone, but men still had much
to learn from the ancient Greeks and Romans. Many of the ancient
buildings were in ruins, the statues half buried or broken, the
paintings destroyed, and the books lost. Men began to search for what
was left of these things and to study them carefully to learn what the
Graeco-Roman world had been like. After a while students could think of
nothing else, and tried to imitate, if they could not surpass, what the
Romans and the Greeks had done. The age in which men were first
interested in these things is called the Renaissance or "rebirth,"
because men were so unlike what they had been that they seemed born
again. With the beginning of the Renaissance the Middle Ages came to
[Illustration: ST. PETER'S AT ROME]
PETRARCH. One of the earliest of these "new" men was Petrarch, an
Italian poet who lived in the fourteenth century, a hundred years before
Columbus. He wished above all things to read, copy, and possess the
writings of the Romans, and especially of Cicero, an orator and writer
who lived in the days of Julius Caesar. Petrarch and his friends
searched for the manuscripts of Roman authors which had been preserved,
hidden away in monastery libraries.
The same love of Roman books seized others, and princes spent large sums
of money in collecting and copying ancient writings. At this time a
beginning of the great libraries of Europe was made, Petrarch tried to
learn Greek, but could find no one in Italy able to teach him.
GREEK BOOKS BROUGHT AGAIN TO ITALY. Shortly after Petrarch died
some Greeks came from Constantinople seeking the aid of the pope and the
kings of the West in an attempt to drive back the Turks, who had already
crossed into Europe and settled in the lands which they now occupy.
Unless help should be sent to Constantinople, the city would certainly
fall into their hands. With these Greeks was one of those men who still
loved to read the writings of the ancient authors. He was persuaded to
remain a few years in Florence and other Italian cities and teach Greek
to the eager Italian scholars. He was also persuaded to write a grammar
of the Greek language, in order that after he had returned to
Constantinople others might be able to continue his teaching.
Collectors of books now searched for Greek writings as eagerly as they
had searched for Latin writings. Merchants sent their agents to
Constantinople to buy books. One traveler and scholar brought back to
Italy over two hundred. Soon Italy was the land to which students from
Germany, France, and England went to learn Greek and to obtain copies of
Greek books. It was fortunate that so many books had been brought from
Constantinople, for at last, in 1453, the Turks captured that city and
no place in the East was left where the books of the Greeks were studied
as they had been at Constantinople.
[Illustration: A PRINTING OFFICE IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY]
THE INVENTION OF PRINTING. After collectors of Greek and Roman
writings had made several good libraries, partly by purchase, partly by
copying manuscripts belonging to others, a great invention was made
which enabled these writings to be spread far and wide and placed in the
hands of every student. This invention was the method of printing with
movable types. It is not quite certain who made the invention, although
John Gutenberg, of Mainz, in Germany, has generally been called the
inventor. Probably several men thought of the method at about the same
time, that is, about 1450.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF TYPE. In forming their type the German printers
imitated the lettering made by copyists with a quill. Their type is
called Gothic, and it is still widely used in German books. The Italian
printers made their letters more round and simple in shape, imitating
the handwriting of the best Italian copyists. This is the Roman type, in
which many European peoples, as also the English and the Americans,
print their books. The Italians also prepared a kind of lettering which,
because they were the inventors, is named _italic_.
THE ALDINE PRESS. One of the most famous printers of this early
time was a Venetian named Aldus Manutius or Manucci. He gathered about
him a number of Greeks and planned to print all the Greek manuscripts
that had been discovered. This he did in beautiful type, imitated from
the handwriting of one of his Greek friends. He sold the books for a
price per volume about equal to our fifty cents, so that few scholars
were too poor to buy.
SOME EARLY PRINTED BOOKS. Another great printer was the Englishman
William Caxton, who learned the art in the Netherlands. Among the books
he printed was Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The first book printed by
Gutenberg was the Bible in Latin. Early in the sixteenth century,
through the labors of a Dutch scholar, Erasmus, and of his printer, the
German Froben, the New Testament in Greek was printed.
ARCHITECTURE AND SCULPTURE. The artists and the architects of this
time began to imitate the buildings they found or that they unearthed.
They used round arches and domes more than the pointed arches and
vaulted roofs of the Gothic builders. Sculptors pictured in stone the
stories of the Greek and Roman gods and heroes. Statues long buried in
ancient ruins were dug up, and great artists like the Italian Michel
Angelo studied them and rivaled them in the beautiful statues they cut.
On every hand men's minds were awakened by what they saw of the work of
the founders of the civilized world.
[Illustration: FACSIMILE OF PART OF CAXTON'S AENEID (REDUCED)
With the same in modern type]
1. Why did the memory of the Greeks and Romans remain longer in
France and Italy than in Germany and England?
2. What different classes of people were there in the Middle Ages?
What was the difference between a parish priest and a monk?
3. How did the nobles gain a living? Were they useful? In what sorts
of houses did they live? Describe a castle. What was the "keep"?
4. How were the sons of nobles trained? What was a page? How was a
young man made a knight? What were the duties of a knight?
5. Were the farmers or peasants prosperous and happy in the Middle
Ages? How did the townsmen learn to protect themselves? What was a
guild? Why are many Europeans proud of their cities?
6. Why is Venice especially interesting? Why do we remember Genoa?
7. From what language did French, Italian, and Spanish grow? How
were the changes made in the old language? Where did the English get
their language? Was it just like the English we speak?
8. What did the boys study in the Middle Ages? What did the word
"university" mean then? Name two or three universities founded then
which still exist. What did the Arabs teach Christian students?
9. What sort of buildings did men in the Middle Ages especially like
to build? Are these buildings still standing? Why do we admire these
10. What do we call the time when men began to study once more Roman
and Greek books, and began to imitate the ways of living and
thinking common in the Graeco-Roman world? Who was the first of
these "new" men? Where especially did men search for Greek books?
11. What invention helped men spread far and wide this new
knowledge? How do the Germans come to have "Gothic" type? Where do
we get our Roman and _italic_ type? What books did the Venetian
printer Aldus print? Name a famous English and a famous
12. What besides ancient books did the men of the Renaissance like
to study and imitate?
1. Find out what titles of noblemen are used now in different
European countries. In what country are men often knighted? Why are
they knighted? What title shows that a man is a knight?
2. Collect pictures of armor and of castles, especially of castles
still standing. Collect pictures of old town walls.
3. Collect pictures of Venice and Genoa, especially from advertising
4. Find the names of several large American universities. Do the
students live in "colleges" as students did in the Middle Ages?
5. Tell one or two stories from the Arabian Nights. Collect pictures
of Arabian costumes and of Arabian buildings in Spain, or Africa,
6. Collect pictures of English and European cathedrals. Find
pictures of churches in America which resemble them.
_How ancient civilization was preserved_
1. What ruined so many ancient cities?
2. Who tried to preserve the memory of what the Greeks and the
Romans had done?
3. What language did the churchmen continue to use?
4. How did the missionaries help?
5. How did Alfred teach the English some of the things the Romans
6. What did the Arabs teach the Christians which the Greeks had
7. What was studied at Bologna? How did the universities help in
preserving the ancient knowledge?
8. What did Petrarch do to find lost books? What did other men of
Petrarch's time do?
9. What help came from the invention of printing?
10. From what besides books did the men of the Renaissance learn
about the Greeks and the Romans?
[Illustration: HUSBANDMAN AND COUNTRY WOMAN OF FIFTEENTH
TRADERS, TRAVELERS, AND EXPLORERS IN THE LATER MIDDLE AGES
THE PERILS OF TRADERS. There was a time in the Middle Ages when
merchants scarcely dared to travel from one town to another for fear of
being plundered by some robber lord or common thief. If they traveled by
sea they might also be attacked by robbers. Some of these robbers, like
the Northmen, came from afar, but others were ordinary sailors who put
out from near-by ports when there seemed nothing better to do.
This state of things gradually changed. The kings or great lords
succeeded in protecting merchants on land, and the merchants armed
vessels of their own to drive the pirates from the sea. As trade grew
greater the towns became richer and stronger and the robbers and pirates
fewer, so that the number of merchant ships increased rapidly and long
voyages were attempted.
FAIRS. At first trade was carried on at great fairs, held in places
convenient for the merchants of England and western Europe. The fairs
lasted about six weeks, and one fair followed another. As soon as the
first was over the merchants packed their unsold wares and journeyed to
the next. At the fairs were found drugs and spices, cottons and silks
from the East, skins and furs from the North, wool from England, and
other products from Germany, Italy, France, and Spain.
THE TREASURES OF THE EAST. Men in the Middle Ages were dependent
for luxuries upon the lands of Asia which are commonly called the East.
By this name we may mean Persia, Arabia, India, China, or the Molucca
Islands, where the choicest spices still grow. Spices were a great
luxury, and were needed to flavor the food, because the manner of
cooking was poor and there was little variety in the kinds of food. Most
of the cotton cloth, the silks, the drugs, and the dyes were also
procured from the East.
[Illustration: TRADER'S CARAVAN CROSSING THE DESERT]
ROUTES TO THE EAST. No one knew that it was possible to reach Asia
by sailing around the southern point of Africa or through what is called
the Strait of Magellan. The products of the East were brought to Europe
by several routes, two reaching the Mediterranean at Alexandria, in
Egypt, a third at Antioch, in Syria, and a fourth on the southeastern
shore of the Black Sea.
The loads were carried by camels in long caravans across the deserts
from the Red Sea, or the Persian Gulf, or from northern India. Ships
from the Italian cities of Genoa, Pisa, and Venice struggled with one
another for the right to bring back these precious wares and sell them
to the merchants of Europe, who were ready to pay high prices.
[Illustration: MAP OF THE TRADE ROUTES IN THE MIDDLE AGES]
VENETIAN TRADERS. Merchants from Germany came to Venice to trade
the products of the North for spices, drugs, dyes, and silks, which they
carried back across the Alps. Once a year the Venetians sent a fleet of
vessels westward through the straits of Gibraltar and along the Atlantic
shore as far as Bruges and London. The voyage was long and dangerous,
and the Venetians traded in ports on the way. Spices in Bruges sold for
two or three times what they cost in Venice.
THE CRUSADES. One event that brought to the Venetians an
opportunity to enrich themselves was the Crusades. The Mohammedans had
long held a large part of Spain, and towards the end of the eleventh
century they threatened France and Italy. They also attacked what was
left of the Roman Empire in the East, and the emperors sent to the pope
and the western kings frantic appeals for help. Thousands of Frenchmen,
Germans, Englishmen, and Italians were suddenly seized with the desire
to go to Palestine and drive the Mohammedans from Jerusalem, the Holy
City, and from the tomb of Christ. For the next two centuries large
armies were sent there, sometimes gaining victories, sometimes being
defeated in battle or overcome by disease.
WHAT THE VENETIANS GAINED FROM THE CRUSADES. Most of the Crusaders
went to the Holy Land by sea, and when they had no ships of their own
they often took passage in Venetian ships. The Venetians asked large
sums for this, and also succeeded in obtaining all the rights of trade
in many of the seaports which were captured. Sometimes the Venetians
undertook to govern islands like Cyprus and Crete, or territories along
the coasts, but their main aim was to increase their trade rather than
to build up an empire.
THE NEW VENETIAN SHIPS. The Crusaders who returned to Europe brought
back a liking for the luxuries of the East, and their tales made other
men eager for them. For this reason more ships were built to sail in the
Mediterranean. The shipowners attempted to make their ships larger and
stronger. They were larger than those built by the English or by other
peoples along the Atlantic coast, but they would seem small to us. There
is an account of Venetian ships in the thirteenth century which tells us
that they were one hundred and ten feet long and carried crews of one
thousand men. They relied mainly upon the use of oars, but had a mast,
sometimes two masts, rigged with sails, which they could use if the wind
[Illustration: VENETIAN SHIPS]
DANGERS OF THE SEA. One difficulty about sailing was the lack of
any means in cloudy weather, and especially at night, of telling the
direction in which they were going. The sailors did not like to venture
far from shore, although the open sea is safer during a storm than a
wind-swept and rocky coast. At the time when the sailors of the
Mediterranean were building up their trade to Alexandria, Antioch, and
the Black Sea, two instruments came into use which enabled them to tell
just where they were.
THE COMPASS. One of these instruments was the compass, which the
Chinese had long used, and which was known to the Arabs before the
Europeans heard of it. If a boy will take a needle, rub its point with a
magnet, and lay the needle on a cork floating in water, he will have a
rough sort of compass. The point of the needle wherever it may be turned
will swing back towards the north, thus guiding the sailors.
[Illustration: MARINER'S COMPASS]
The compass was known in Europe about 1200. There is a story that at
first sailors thought its action due to magic and refused to sail under
a captain who used it. But a century later it was in general use, and
had been so much improved that even in the severest storms the needle
remained level and pointed steadily towards the north.
[Illustration: AN ASTROLABE]
THE ASTROLABE. The other instrument, called the astrolabe, was a
brass circle marked off into 360 degrees. To this circle were fastened
two movable bars, at the ends of which were sights, or projecting pieces
pierced by a hole. The astrolabe was hung on a mast in such a way that
one bar was horizontal and the other could be moved until through its
sights some known star could be seen. The number of degrees marked on
the circle between the two bars told how high the star was above the
horizon, and the sailors could reckon the latitude of the place where
they were. In a similar way their longitude could be found out.
The astrolabe was not so useful as the compass, for it could be used
only on clear days or nights. With these two instruments it was possible
to sail far out into the Atlantic. By the middle of the fourteenth
century ships from Genoa and Portugal had visited the Madeira and the
Canary Islands, and even the Azores which are a thousand miles from
WHAT MEN THOUGHT ABOUT A SEA ROUTE TO THE EAST. Men learned more
about other strange lands through a Venetian traveler, Marco Polo, who
wrote an account of his wonderful journey to the court of the Grand
Khan, or Emperor of the Mongols, of his travels through China, and of
his return to Persia by sea.
Many men in the Middle Ages had believed that east of Asia was a great
marsh, and that because of it even if they succeeded in sailing around
Africa it would be impossible to reach the region of the spices and
silks and jewels which they so much desired. They also thought that the
heat in the tropics was so intense that at a certain distance down the
coast of Africa they would find the water of the ocean boiling. These
things and the tales of strange monsters that inhabited the deep sea had
terrified them. The news which Marco Polo brought changed this feeling.
THE MONGOLS. The way Marco Polo happened to visit the court of the
Mongol emperor was this. The Mongol Tartars were great conquerors, and
they not only subdued the Chinese but marched westward, overrunning most
of Russia and stopping only when they were on the frontiers of Italy.
For a long time southern Russia remained under their rule. Their capital
was just north of the Great Wall of China.
The Mongol emperor did not hate Europeans, and even sent to the pope for
missionaries to teach his people. Marco Polo's father and uncle while on
a trading expedition had found their way to his court, and on a second
journey, in 1271, they took with them Marco, a lad of seventeen years.
The emperor was much interested in his western visitors and took young
Marco into his service.
[Illustration: THE MONGOL EMPEROR OF MARCO POLO'S TIME After an
old Chinese manuscript]
MARCO POLO'S TRAVELS. Marco Polo traveled over China on official
errands, while his father and uncle were gathering wealth by trade.
After many years they desired to return to Italy, but the emperor was
unwilling to lose such able servants. It happened, however, that the
emperor wished to send a princess as a bride to the Khan or Emperor of
Persia, also a Mongol sovereign, and the three Polos, who were known to
be trustworthy seamen, were selected to escort the princess to her royal
husband. After doing this they did not return to China, but went on
They had been absent twenty-four years, and they found that their
relatives had given them up for dead and did not recognize them. It was
like the old story of Ulysses, who, when he returned to his native
Ithaca after his wanderings, was recognized by nobody. The Polos proved
the truth of what they said by showing the great treasures which they
had sewed into the dresses of coarse stuff of a Tartar pattern which
they wore. They displayed jewels of the greatest value, diamonds,
emeralds, rubies, and sapphires.
[Illustration: MAP OF MARCO POLO'S TRAVELS
The known world is in white, the undiscovered in black, and that first
described by Marco Polo is dotted]
WHAT MARCO POLO TOLD. In the account Marco Polo wrote of his
travels and of the countries he had visited he described a wonderful
palace of the Great Emperor. Its walls were covered with gold and
silver, the dining hall seated six thousand people, and its ceiling was
inlaid with gold. This palace seemed to Marco Polo so large, so rich,
and so beautiful that no man on earth could design anything to equal it.
The robes of the emperor and his twelve thousand nobles and knights were
of silk and beaten gold, each having a girdle of gold decorated with
Marco Polo told of great cities in China where men traded in the costly
wares of the East, and where silk was abundant and cheap. He described
from hearsay Japan as an island fifteen hundred miles from the mainland.
Its people, he said, were white, civilized, and wondrously rich. The
palace of the emperor of Japan was roofed with gold, its pavements and
floors were of solid gold, laid in plates two fingers thick.
REASONS FOR FINDING A SEA ROUTE TO THE EAST. Tales of such great
wealth made Europeans more eager than ever to reach the East. Marco Polo
had shown that it was possible to sail past India, through the islands,
to the eastern coast of Asia. When printing was invented his account was
printed, and the copy of that book which Columbus owned is still
preserved. Upon its margins Columbus wrote his own opinions about
Other travelers besides the Polos returned with similar tales of the
East. Soon, however, all chance to go there by way of the land was lost,
because the Mongol emperors were driven out of China and the new rulers
would not permit Europeans to enter the country. The ordinary caravan
routes to the East were also closed not long afterwards. In 1453 the
Turks captured Constantinople, drove away the Italian merchants, and
prevented European sailors from reaching the Black Sea. Fifty years
later the Turks seized Egypt and closed that route also. Fortunately
before this happened a better route had been discovered.
THE PORTUGUESE SAILORS. During the Middle Ages the Portuguese princes
fought to recover Portugal from the Moors. When this was done they were
eager to cross the straits and attack the Moors in Africa. Prince Henry
of Portugal made an expedition to Africa and returned with the desire to
know more about the coast south of the point beyond which European
sailors dared not venture. Sailors were afraid of being lost in the Sea
of Darkness or killed by the heat of the boiling tropics.
[Illustration: DANGERS OF THE "SEA OF DARKNESS" From an old
From his love of exploring the seas Prince Henry has been called "The
Navigator." He took up his residence on a lonely promontory in southern
Portugal, and gathered about him learned men of all peoples, Arabian and
Jewish mathematicians, and Italian mapmakers. Captains trained in this
new school of seamanship were sent into the southern seas. Each was to
sail farther down the western coast of Africa than other captains had
gone. Before Prince Henry died in 1460 his captains had passed Cape
Verde, and ten years later they crossed the equator without suffering
the fate which men had once feared. But they were discouraged when they
found that beyond the Gulf of Guinea the coast turned southward again,
for they had hoped to sail eastward to Asia.
[Illustration: THE PORTUGUESE ROUTE TO INDIA
The broken lines show the old trade routes to the East. The solid line
shows the new Portuguese route]
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE DISCOVERED. At last in 1487 the end of what
seemed to be an endless coast was reached. The fortunate captain who
accomplished this was Bartholomew Diaz, who came of a family of daring
seamen. He had been sailing southward along the coast for nearly eight
months, when a northerly gale drove him before it for thirteen days. The
weather cleared and Diaz turned eastward to find the coast. As he did
not see land he turned northward and soon discovered land to the west.
This showed that he had passed the southern point of Africa. His crew
were unwilling to go farther and he followed the coast around to the
western side again. The southern point he called the Cape of Storms, but
the king of Portugal, when the voyagers returned, named it the Cape of
Good Hope, for now he knew that an expedition could be sent directly to
Diaz had sailed thirteen thousand miles, and his voyage was the most
wonderful that Europeans had ever heard about.
THE SEA ROUTE TO INDIA. Eleven years later the Portuguese king sent
Vasco da Gama, another captain, to attempt to reach the coast of India
by sailing around the Cape of Good Hope which Diaz had discovered. Da
Gama was successful and landed at Calicut on the south-western coast of
India. He returned to Portugal in 1499, and his cargo was worth sixty
times the cost of the voyage. This was the beginning of a trade with the
East which enriched Portugal and especially the merchants of Lisbon.
1. What dangers threatened traders in the Middle Ages who traveled
by sea or land? What was a fair?
2. What products were brought from the East? By what routes? Point
these out on a map. What rival trading cities were in Italy? How did
the Venetians get their wares to London?
3. Who were the Crusaders? Why did they attack the Mohammedans? What
did the Venetian traders gain by these wars? Describe a large
Venetian ship of this time.
4. When was the compass invented? Why was it dangerous to sail great
seas and oceans without a compass? Tell how an astrolabe was made.
5. What at first kept men from attempting to sail to eastern Asia?
Who was Marco Polo? Describe his adventures. How did he return to
Venice? How did people learn about the lands he had visited?
6. Why after 1453 was it necessary to find a sea route to Asia? What
did Prince Henry the Navigator succeed in doing? How was the Cape of
Good Hope discovered? Who went with Diaz on this voyage?
7. Who first sailed to India by the Cape of Good Hope? Was the
voyage profitable? What city was made rich by the new trade?
1. Find from a map in the geography how many miles goods must have
been carried to reach Venice from Persia, India, the Moluccas, or
China. How far is it from Venice by sea to Bruges or London?
2. Where and how do we now obtain cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves?
3. What line of emperors has been recently ruling over China? Where
has been their capital? Find out about the present Mongols. Collect
pictures of China and Japan.
4. Read a longer account of Marco Polo.
5. Study the geography of Portugal. Collect pictures of Portugal.
Find out if many Portuguese are living in the United States.
_Steps Towards the Discovery of America_
Greek colonies in Italy, Gaul, and Spain.
Roman conquest of Gaul, Spain, and Britain.
Viking voyages to Greenland and Vinland.
Venetian trade in spices with the East, and Venetian voyages to
London and Bruges.
Marco Polo's travels in China and the East.
Portuguese voyages down the coast of Africa and about the Cape of
THE DISCOVERY OF A NEW WORLD
CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS. Six years before Vasco da Gama made his
famous voyage to India around Africa and opened a new trade route for
the Portuguese merchants, another seaman had formed and carried out a
much bolder plan. This was Christopher Columbus, and his plan was to
sail directly west from Europe into the unknown ocean in search of new
islands and the coast of Asia. Columbus, who was a native of Genoa in
Italy, had followed his younger brother to Portugal. Both were probably
led there by the fame of Prince Henry's explorations.
The brothers became very skilful in making maps and charts for the
Portuguese. They also frequently sailed with them on their expeditions
along the coast of Africa. All the early associations of Columbus were
with men interested in voyages of discovery, and particularly with those
engaged in the daring search for a sea route to India.
HOW COLUMBUS FORMED HIS PLAN. Columbus gathered all the information
on geography which he could from ancient writers and from modern
discoverers. Many of them believed that the world was shaped like a
ball. If such were its shape, Columbus reasoned, why might not a ship
sail around it from east to west? Or, better, why not sail directly west
to India, and perhaps find many wonderful islands between Europe and
Asia? His imagination was also fired by Marco Polo's description of the
marvelous riches of China, Japan, and the Spice Islands. But the idea of
going directly west into the midst of the unknown and seemingly
boundless waste of water, and on and on to Asia, appeared to most men of
the fifteenth century to be madness.
[Illustration: CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS The oldest known picture of
Columbus, in the National Library, Madrid]
HIS NOTION OF THE DISTANCE TO ASIA. Columbus made two fortunate
errors in reckoning the distance to the Indies. He imagined that Asia
extended much farther eastward than it actually does, making it nearer
Europe, and estimated the earth to be smaller than it is. His figures
placed Japan less than 3,000 miles west of the Canary Islands, instead
of the 12,000 miles which is the real distance. He accordingly thought
Japan would be found about where Mexico or Florida is situated.
HOW HE SECURED HELP. Even so, many years passed before Columbus was
able to undertake a voyage. He was too poor himself, and needed the help
of some government to fit out such an expedition. He may have tried to
get his native city, Genoa, to help him. There is such a story. If he
did, it was without success. He tried to obtain the help of Portugal,
where he lived a long time, and whose princes were greatly interested in
the discovery of new trade routes. His brother visited England in the
same cause. Neither of these countries, however, was willing to
undertake this expensive and doubtful enterprise.
The King and Queen of Spain, to whom Columbus turned, kept him waiting
many years for an answer. They thought that they had more important work
in hand. There was another king in Spain at the time, the king of the
Moors. Ferdinand and Isabella, the Christian king and queen, were trying
to conquer the Moors, and thus to end the struggle between Christians
and Mohammedans for the possession of Spain, which had lasted nearly
eight centuries. This war required all the strength and revenue
Fortunately, just as Columbus was becoming thoroughly discouraged, the
war with the Moors came to an end. Granada, the seat of their former
power, was finally taken in January, 1492. Now was a good time to ask
favors of the sovereigns of Spain, and to plan large enterprises for the
future. Powerful friends aided Columbus to renew his petition, and Queen
Isabella was persuaded to promise him all the help that he needed.
THE SHIPS OF COLUMBUS. Three ships, or caravels as they were
called, were fitted out. The _Santa Maria_ was the largest of the three,
but it was not much larger than the small sailing yachts which we see
to-day. It was about ninety feet long by twenty feet broad, and had a
single deck. This was Columbus's principal ship or flagship. The second
caravel, the _Pinta_, was much swifter, built high at the prow and
stern, and furnished with a forecastle for the crew and a cabin for the
officers, but without a deck in the center. The third and smallest
caravel, called the _Niña_, the Spanish word for baby, was built much
like the _Pinta_. Ninety persons made up the three crews.
[Illustration: COLUMBUS'S IDEAS OF THE ATLANTIC The shaded portions
represent the land as Columbus expected to find it. The light outline
of the Americas shows the actual position of the land as he found it.]
The ships were the usual size of those which coasted along the shores
of Europe in the fifteenth century. Expeditions had never gone far out
into the ocean. Columbus preferred the smaller vessels in a voyage of
discovery, because they would be able to run close to the shores and
into the smaller harbors and up the rivers.
BEGINNING OF THE VOYAGE. The expedition set sail from Palos in
Spain, August 3, 1492. It went directly to the Canary Islands. These
were owned by Spain, and were selected by Columbus as the most
convenient starting-point. The little fleet was delayed three weeks at
the islands making repairs. On September 6 Columbus was off again. He
struck due west from the Canaries.
THE TERRORS OF THE VOYAGE. While the little fleet was still in
sight of the Canary Islands a volcanic eruption nearly frightened the
sailors out of their wits. They deemed such an event an omen of evil.
But the expedition had fine weather day after day. Steady, gentle,
easterly winds, the trade winds of the tropics, wafted them slowly
westward. But the timid sailors began to wonder how they would ever be
able to return against winds which seemed never to change from the east.
Then they came to an immense field of seaweed, larger in area than the
whole of Spain. This terrified the sailors, who feared they might be
driven on hidden rocks or be engulfed in quicksands. They imagined, too,
that great sea-monsters were lurking beyond the seaweed waiting to
[Illustration: A CARAVEL OF COLUMBUS After the reconstructed
model exhibited at the Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893]
THE FIRST SIGNS OF A NEW LAND. In spite of fears and complaints,
and threats of resistance, Columbus kept a westward course for more than
four weeks. Then as he began to see so many birds flying to the
southwest, he concluded that land must be nearer in that direction. He
had heard that most of the islands held by the Portuguese were
discovered by following the flight of birds. So on October 7 the
westward course was changed to one slightly southwest.
From this time on the signs of land grew frequent. Floating branches,
occasionally covered with berries, pieces of wood, bits of cane, were
encouraging signs. Birds like ducks and sandpipers became common sights.
The Queen had promised a small pension to the one who should first see
land. Columbus had offered to give a silken doublet in addition. With
what eagerness the sailors must have kept on the lookout!
THE GREAT DISCOVERY. At last as the fleet was sailing onward in the
bright moonlight Columbus saw a light moving as if carried by hand along
a shore. A few hours later, about two o'clock on the morning of October
12, a sailor on the _Pinta_ saw land distinctly, and soon all beheld, a
few miles away, a long, low beach. The vessels hove to and waited for
daylight. Early the same day, Friday, October 12, 1492, they approached
the land, which proved to be a small island. Columbus named it San
Salvador, which means Holy Saviour. We do not know which one of the
Bahama islands he first saw, but we believe it was the one now called
Watling Island. Columbus went ashore with the royal standard and banners
flying to take possession of the land in the name of King Ferdinand and
WHERE COLUMBUS THOUGHT HE WAS. The astonished inhabitants of the
island soon gathered to see the strange sight--the landing of white men
in the West Indies. They looked upon the ships as sea-monsters, and the
white men as gods. Nor was Columbus less puzzled by what he saw. The
people were a strange race--cinnamon colored, naked, greased, and
painted to suit each one's fancy. They had only the rudest means of
self-defense, and were almost as poor as the parrots that chattered in
the trees above them. Such savages bore little resemblance to the people
whom Marco Polo said inhabited the Spice Islands.
Columbus thought that he had reached some outlying island not far from
Japan. A cruise of a few days among the Bahamas satisfied him that he
was in the ocean near the coast of Asia, for had not Marco Polo
described it as studded with thousands of spice-bearing islands? He had
not found any spices, but the air was full of fragrance and the trees
and herbs were strange in appearance. Of course if the islands were the
Indies, the people must be Indians. Columbus called them Indians, and
this name clung to the red men, although their islands were not the
[Illustration: WATLING ISLAND, WHERE COLUMBUS FIRST LANDED]
THE SEARCH FOR THE GOLDEN EAST. Columbus thought that the natives
meant to tell him in their sign language of a great land to the south
where gold abounded. He set off in search of this, and came upon a land
the natives called Cuba. Its large size convinced him that he had at
last found the Asiatic mainland, and he sent two messengers, one a Jew
knowing many languages, in search of the Emperor of China. They found
neither cities nor kingdoms, neither gold nor spices. This was a great
disappointment to Columbus, but he patiently kept up his search for the
riches which he expected to find.
THE MISFORTUNES OF COLUMBUS. While on the coast of Cuba, Pinzon,
the commander of the _Pinta_, deserted him. Pinzon, whose ship was
swifter than the others, probably wished to be the first to get home, in
order to tell a story which would gain him the credit of the discovery
of the Indies. A few days later Columbus discovered a large island which
the natives called Hayti, and which he called Española or "Spanish
Land." At every island he searched for the spices and gold which Marco
Polo had given him reason to expect. In a storm off Española Columbus's
own ship, the _Santa Maria_, was totally wrecked. Such disasters
convinced him that it was high time to return to Spain with the news of
PREPARATIONS FOR RETURN TO SPAIN. As there was not room for both
crews on the tiny _Niña_, his one remaining ship, it became necessary to
leave about forty sailors in Española. A fort was built, and supplies
were left for a year. Columbus with the rest set off on the return to
Spain. Ten Indians were captured and taken with them to show to his
friends in Europe. Besides, Columbus hoped that they would learn the
language of Spain, and carry Christianity back to their people.
THE SEARCH FOR CHINA RENEWED. There was rejoicing in Palos when the
voyagers returned. Great honors were bestowed upon Columbus. It was now
easy to get men and money for another voyage. In September, 1493,
Columbus started to return to his islands, this time with seventeen
ships and fifteen hundred men, all confident that they would soon see
the marble palaces of China, and secure a share in the wealth of the
Spice Islands. No one yet realized that a new world--two great
continents--lay between them and their coveted goal in Asia. Columbus
went directly to Española, where he found that his colony of the
previous year had been murdered by the Indians. A new settlement was
quickly started. A little town called Isabella was built, with a fort, a
church, a market place, public granary, and dwelling-houses. Isabella
was the first real settlement in the New World.
[Illustration: MAP OF LANDS DISCOVERED BY COLUMBUS]
OTHER VOYAGES TO THE NEW WORLD. Columbus made two other voyages. He
continued to search for the coast of Asia, which he believed to be near.
He made a third voyage from Spain to the West Indies in 1498. He sailed
farther south, and came upon the mainland which later was called South
America. A fourth expedition in 1502 touched on the coast that we call
Central America. He died soon after this voyage, still believing that he
had discovered a new route to the Indies and new lands on the coast
THE SAD END OF COLUMBUS'S LIFE. The close of his life was a sad
one. The lands he had found did not yield the riches which he had
expected. The colonists whom he had sent out to the islands had
rebelled, and jealous enemies had accused him falsely before the king
and queen of misgovernment in his territories. Once his opponents had
him carried to Spain chained like a common prisoner. He was given his
liberty on reaching Spain, but the people had become prejudiced
Ferdinand, the son of Columbus, tells us that as he and his brother
Diego, who were pages in the queen's service, happened to pass a crowd
of his father's enemies, the latter greeted them with hoots: "There go
the sons of the Admiral of Mosquitoland, the man who has discovered a
land of vanity and deceit, the grave of Spanish gentlemen." Hardships
and disappointments broke down the great discoverer, and he died
neglected and almost forgotten by the people of Spain.
[Illustration: THE COLUMBUS MONUMENT AT GENOA]
1. What plan did Columbus form? Why was it bolder than the plan Diaz
had carried out in 1487, or even than that Da Gama carried out a few
years later? Why did men like Columbus and Diaz desire to find a sea
route to India? Had anybody before Columbus believed the
2. What mistake did Columbus make in estimating the size of the
earth? Why was this a fortunate error?
3. From what countries did Columbus try to obtain help? Why did he
find it so hard to secure this? What event in Spain finally favored
his cause? Who were the Moors?
4. Why was Columbus surprised when he saw the natives in the West
Indies? Why were the Indians on their side surprised?
5. What islands did Columbus find and claim for Spain on his first
voyage? How many other voyages did he make? What new lands did he
find on his later voyages? What did he think he had found?
6. Why did the enemies of Columbus in Spain call him the Admiral of
Mosquitoland, the man who discovered a land of vanity and deceit,
the grave of Spanish gentlemen? What did they mean by this?
1. Find pictures of the ships of Columbus or of the sailing ships of
other explorers of that day. How does the deck arrangement on those
differ from the ocean steamships of to-day? What advantage would
ships like those of Columbus have over present steamships in
exploring strange coasts? What disadvantages?
2. Draw up a list of reasons why Columbus's sailors were afraid to
go on and wished to turn back to Spain.
3. Trace on an outline map the voyage of Columbus. Mark where
Columbus found land, and where he expected to find Japan and China.
What great mass of land was really very near the island he first
4. Find from the maps mentioned in Chapter IV (Greek World), Chapter
VII (Roman World), Chapter VIII (The world after Polo's journey),
and Chapter XIV (The world as known after Columbus), how much more
the Romans knew of the world than the Greeks had known, the
Europeans after Marco Polo's journey than the Romans, and the
Europeans after Columbus's voyage than after Marco Polo's journey.
_Important Date_--1492. The discovery of America by Columbus.
OTHERS HELP IN THE DISCOVERY OF THE NEW WORLD
THE RACE TO THE INDIES. The discovery of all the lands which make
what we call the New World came very slowly. It was the work of many
different explorers. Most of the expeditions sent out to the new islands
went in search of a passage to India. It was a fine race. Each nation
was eager to see its ships the first to reach India by the westward
route. All were disappointed at finding so much land between Europe and
Asia. It seemed to them to be of little value and to block the way to
the richer countries of the East. Gradually, however, they discovered
the great continents which we know as North and South America. Columbus
had done more than he dreamed, and his discovery was a turning-point
JOHN CABOT. John Cabot, an Italian mariner at this time in the
service of England, left Bristol in 1497 on a voyage of discovery. This
was five years after Columbus discovered the West Indies. Cabot had
heard that the sailors of Portugal and of Spain had occupied unknown
islands. He planned to do the same for King Henry VII of England. For
his voyage he had a single vessel no larger than the _Niña_, the
smallest ship in the fleet of Columbus. Eighteen men made up his crew.
He passed around the southern end of Ireland, and sailed north and west
until he came to land, which proved to be the coast of North America
somewhere between the northern part of Labrador and the southern end of
CABOT'S DISCOVERY. John Cabot saw no inhabitants, but he found
notched trees, snares for game, and needles for making nets, which
showed plainly that the land was inhabited by human beings. Like
Columbus, Cabot thought he was off the coast of China.
THE CABOT VOYAGES FORGOTTEN. Before the end of 1497 John Cabot was
back in Bristol. It is almost certain that he and his son, Sebastian
Cabot, made a second voyage to the new found lands in the following
year. The Cabot voyages, however, were soon almost forgotten by the
people of England.
[Illustration: SEBASTIAN CABOT After the picture ascribed to
THE NAMING OF THE NEW LANDS. Why was our country named America
rather than Columbia or New India? Both the southern and northern
continents which we call the Americas were named for Americus Vespucius
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