The Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume 5

Part 3 out of 8

assault, was now changed by Henry, who was well versed in every knightly
art, to the disciplined manoeuvres of the line, and to that of fighting
in close ranks, so well calculated to withstand the furious onset of
their Hungarian foe. The discipline necessary for carrying these new
military tactics into practice among a nobility habituated to license
could alone be enforced by motives of honor, and Henry accordingly
formed a chivalric institution, which gave rise to new manners and to an
enthusiasm that imparted a new character to the age. The tournament--
from the ancient verb _turnen_, to wrestle or fight, a public contest in
every species of warfare, carried on by the knights in the presence of
noble dames and maidens, whose favor they sought to gain by their
prowess, and which chiefly consisted of tilting and jousting either
singly or in troops, the day concluding with a banquet and a dance--was
then instituted. In these tournaments the ancient heroism of the Germans
revived; they were in reality founded upon the ancient pagan legends of
the heroes who carried on an eternal contest in their Walhalla, in order
to win the smiles of the Walkyren, now represented by earth's well-born

The ancient spirit of brotherhood in arms, which had been almost
quenched by that of self-interest, by the desire of acquiring feudal
possessions, by the slavish subjection of the vassals under their
lieges, and by the intrigues of the bishops, who intermeddled with all
feudal matters, also reappeared. A great universal society of Christian
knights, bound to the observance of peculiar laws, whose highest aim was
to fight only for God--before long also for the ladies--and who swore
never to make use of dishonorable means for success, but solely to live
and to die for honor, was formed; an innovation which, although merely
military in its origin, speedily became of political importance, for, by
means of this knightly honor, the little vassal of a minor lord was no
longer viewed as a mere underling, but as a confederate in the great
universal chivalric fraternity. There were also many freemen who
sometimes gained their livelihood by offering their services to
different courts, or by robbing on the highways, and who were too proud
to serve on foot; Henry offered them free pardon, and formed them into a
body of light cavalry. In the cities the free citizens, who were
originally intended only to serve as foot soldiery, appear ere long to
have formed themselves into mounted troops, and to have created a fresh
body of infantry out of their artificers and apprentices. It is certain
that every freeman could pretend to knighthood.

Although the chivalric regulations ascribed to the emperor Henry, and to
his most distinguished vassals, may not be genuine, they offer
nevertheless infallible proofs of the most ancient spirit of knighthood.
Henry ordained that no one should be created a knight who either by word
or by deed injured the holy Church; the Pfalzgraf Conrad added, "no one
who either by word or by deed injured the holy German empire"; Hermann
of Swabia, "no one who injured a woman or a maiden"; Berthold, the
brother of Arnulf of Bavaria, "no one who had ever deceived another or
had broken his word"; Conrad of Franconia, "no one who had ever run away
from the field of battle." These appear to have been, in fact, the first
chivalric laws, for they spring from the spirit of the times, while all
the regulations concerning nobility of birth, the number of ancestors,
the exclusion of all those who were engaged in trade, etc., are, it is
evident from their very nature, of a much later origin.


A.D. 969


(It was the fate of the religion which Mahomet founded, as it has been
of other great systems, to undergo many sectarian divisions, and to be
used as the instrument of conquest and political power. When Islam had
somewhat departed from the character which it first manifested in moral
sternness and fiery zeal, and had established itself in various parts of
the world on a basis of commerce or of science, rather than that of its
original inspiration, various off shoots of the faith began to assume
prominence. Among the sects which sprang up was one that claimed to
represent the true succession of Mahomet. This sect was itself the
result of a schism among the adherents of one of the two principal
divisions of the Moslems--the Shiahs. They maintained that Ali, a
relation and the adopted son of Mahomet and husband of his daughter
Fatima, was the first legitimate imam or successor of the prophet. They
regarded the other and greater division--the Sunnites, who recognized
the first three caliphs, Abu-Bekr, Omar, and Othman--as usurpers. Ali
was the fourth caliph, and the Sunnites in turn looked upon his
followers, the Shiahs, as heretics.

The schism among the Shiahs grew out of the claim of the schismatics
that the legitimate imam or successor of the Prophet must be in the line
of descent from Ali. The sixth imam, Jaffer, upon the death of his
eldest son, Ismail, appointed another son, Moussa or Moses, his heir;
but a large body of the Shiahs denied the right of Jaffer to make a new
nomination, declaring the imamate to be strictly hereditary. They formed
a new party of Ismailians, and in 908 a chief of this sect, Mahomet,
surnamed el-Mahdi, or the Leader--a title of the Shiahs for their
imams--revolted in Africa. He called himself a descendant of Ismail and
claimed to be the legitimate imam. He aimed at the temporal power of a
caliph, and soon established a rival caliphate in Africa, where he had
obtained a considerable sovereignty. The dynasty thus begun assumed the
name of Fatimites in honor of Fatima. The fourth caliph of this line,
El-Moizz, conquered Egypt about 969, founded the modern Cairo, and made
it his capital. The claims of the Egyptian caliphate were heralded
throughout all Islam, and its rule was rapidly extended into Syria and
Arabia. It played an important part in the history of the Crusades, but
in 1171 was abolished by the famous Saladin, and Egypt was restored to
the obedience which it had formerly owned to Bagdad. The Bagdad caliphs,
called Abbassides--claiming descent from Abbas, the uncle of
Mahomet--remained rulers of Egypt until 1517, or until within twenty
years of the death of the last Abbasside.)

Three hundred and thirty years had passed since the Saracens first
invaded the valley of the Nile. The people, with traditional docility,
had liberally adopted the religion of their rulers, and the Moslems now
formed the great majority of the population. Arabs and natives had
blended into much the same race that we now call Egyptians; but so far
the mixture had not produced any conspicuous men. The few commanding
figures among the governors, Ibn-Tulun, the Ikshid, Kafur, were
foreigners, and even these were but a step above the stereotyped
official. They essayed no great extension of their dominions; they did
not try to extinguish their dangerous neighbors the schismatic
Fatimites; and though they possessed and used fleets, they ventured upon
no excursions against Europe.

The great revolution which had swept over North Africa, and now spread
to Egypt, arose out of the old controversy over the legitimacy of the
caliphate. The prophet Mahomet died without definitely naming a
successor, and thereby bequeathed an interminable quarrel to his
followers. The principle of election, thus introduced, raised the first
three caliphs, Abu-Bekr, Omar, Othman, to the _cathedra_ at Medina; but
a strong minority held that the "divine right" rested with Ali, the
"Lion of God," first convert to Islam, husband of the prophet's daughter
Fatima, and father of Mahomet's only male descendants. When Ali in turn
became the fourth caliph, he was the mark for jealousy, intrigue, and at
length assassination; his sons, the grandsons of the Prophet, were
excluded from the succession; his family were cruelly persecuted by
their successful rivals, the Ommiad usurpers; and the tragedy of Kerbela
and the murder of Hoseyn set the seal of martyrdom on the holy family
and stirred a passionate enthusiasm which still rouses intense
excitement in the annual representations of the Persian passion play.

The rent thus opened in Islam was never closed. The ostracism of Ali
"laid the foundation of the grand interminable schism which has divided
the Mahometan Church, and equally destroyed the practice of charity
among the members of their common creed and endangered the speculative
truths of doctrine."

The descendants of Ali, though almost universally devoid of the
qualities of great leaders, possessed the persistence and devotion of
martyrs, and their sufferings heightened the fanatical enthusiasm of
their supporters. All attempts to recover the temporal power having
proved vain, the Alides fell back upon the spiritual authority of the
successive candidates of the holy family, whom they proclaimed to be the
imams or spiritual leaders of the faithful. This doctrine of the imamate
gradually acquired a more mystical meaning, supported by an allegorical
interpretation of the _Koran_; and a mysterious influence was ascribed
to the imam, who, though hidden from mortal eye, on account of the
persecution of his enemies, would soon come forward publicly in the
character of the ever-expected _mahdi_, sweep away the corruptions of
the heretical caliphate, and revive the majesty of the pure lineage of
the prophet. All Mahometans believe in a coming mahdi, a messiah, who
shall restore right and prepare for the second advent of Mahomet and the
tribunal of the last day; but the Shiahs turned the expectation to
special account. They taught that the true Imam, though invisible to
mortal sight, is ever living; they predicted the mahdi's speedy
appearance, and kept their adherents on the alert to take up arms in his
service. With a view to his coming they organized a pervasive
conspiracy, instituted a secret society with carefully graduated stages
of initiation, used the doctrines of all religions and sects as weapons
in the propaganda, and sent missionaries throughout the provinces of
Islam to increase the numbers of the initiates and pave the way for the
great revolution. We see their partial success in the ravages of the
Karmathians, who were the true parents of the Fatimites. The leaders and
chief missionaries had really nothing in common with Mahometanism. Among
themselves they were frankly atheists. Their objects were political, and
they used religion in any form, and adapted it in all modes, to secure
proselytes, to whom they imparted only so much of their doctrine as they
were able to bear. These men were furnished with "an armory of
proselytism" as perfect, perhaps, as any known to history: they had
appeals to enthusiasm, and arguments for the reason, and "fuel for the
fiercest passions of the people and times in which they moved." Their
real aim was not religious or constructive, but pure nihilism. They used
the claim of the family of Ali, not because they believed in any divine
right or any caliphate, but because some flag had to be flourished in
order to rouse the people.

One of these missionaries, disguised as a merchant, journeyed back to
Barbary in 893, with some Berber pilgrims who had performed the sacred
ceremonies at Mecca. He was welcomed by the great tribe of the Kitama,
and rapidly acquired an extraordinary influence over the Berbers--a race
prone to superstition, and easily impressed by the mysterious rites of
initiation and the emotional doctrines of the propagandist, the wrongs
of the prophetic house, and the approaching triumph of the Mahdi.
Barbary had never been much attached to the caliphate, and for a century
it had been practically independent under the Aglabite dynasty, the
barbarous excesses of whose later sovereigns had alienated their
subjects. Alides, moreover, had established themselves, in the dynasty
of the Idrisides, in Morocco since the end of the eighth century. The
land was in every respect ripe for revolution, and the success of
Abu-Abdallah esh-Shii, the new missionary, was extraordinarily rapid. In
a few years he had a following of two hundred thousand armed men, and
after a series of battles he drove Ziyadat-Allah, the last Aglabite
prince, out of the country in 908. The missionary then proclaimed the
imam Obeid-Allah as the true caliph and spiritual head of Islam. Whether
this Obeid-Allah was really a descendant of Ali or not, he had been
carefully prepared for the role, and reached Barbary in disguise, with
the greatest mystery and some difficulty, pursued by the suspicions of
the Bagdad caliph, who, in great alarm, sent repeated orders for his
arrest. Indeed, the victorious missionary had to rescue his spiritual
chief from a sordid prison at Sigilmasa. Then humbly prostrating himself
before him, he hailed him as the expected mahdi, and in January, 910, he
was duly prayed for in the mosque of Kayrawan as "the Imam 'Obeid-Allah
el-Mahdi, Commander of the Faithful.'"

The missionary's Berber proselytes were too numerous to encourage
resistance, and the few who indulged the luxury of conscientious
scruples were killed or imprisoned. El-Mahdi, indeed, appeared so secure
in power that he excited the jealousy of his discoverer.

Abu-Abdallah, the missionary, now found himself nobody, where a month
before he had been supreme. The Fatimite restoration was to him only a
means to an end; he had used Obeid-Allah's title as an engine of
revolution, intending to proceed to the furthest lengths of his
philosophy, to a complete social and political anarchy, the destruction
of Islam, community of lands and women, and all the delight of
unshackled license. Instead of this, his creature had absorbed his
power, and all such designs were made void. He began to hatch treason
and to hint doubts as to the genuineness of the Mahdi, who, as he truly
represented, according to prophecy, ought to work miracles and show
other proofs of his divine mission. People began to ask for a "sign." In
reply, the Mahdi had the missionary murdered.

The first Fatimite caliph, though without experience, was so vigorous a
ruler that he could dispense with the dangerous support of his
discoverer. He held the throne for a quarter of a century and
established his authority, more or less continuously, over the Arab and
Berber tribes and settled cities from the frontier of Egypt to the
province of Fez (Fas) in Morocco, received the allegiance of the
Mahometan governor of Sicily, and twice despatched expeditions into
Egypt, which he would probably have permanently conquered if he had not
been hampered by perpetual insurrections in Barbary. Distant governors,
and often whole tribes of Berbers, were constantly in revolt, and the
disastrous famine of 928-929, coupled with the Asiatic plague which his
troops had brought back with them from Egypt, led to general
disturbances and insurrections which fully occupied the later years of
his reign. The western provinces, from Tahart and Nakur to Fez and
beyond, frequently threw off all show of allegiance. His authority was
founded more on fear than on religious enthusiasm, though zeal for the
Alide cause had its share in his original success. The new "Eastern
doctrines," as they were called, were enforced at the sword's point, and
frightful examples were made of those who ventured to tread in the old
paths. Nor were the freethinkers of the large towns, who shared the
missionary's esoteric principles, encouraged; for outwardly, at least,
the Mahdi was strictly a Moslem. When people at Kayrawan began to put in
practice the missionary's advanced theories, to scoff at all the rules
of Islam, to indulge in free love, pig's flesh, and wine, they were
sternly brought to order. The mysterious powers expected of a mahdi were
sedulously rumored among the credulous Berbers, though no miracles were
actually exhibited; and the obedience of the conquered provinces was
secured by horrible outrages and atrocities, of which the terrified
people dared not provoke a repetition at the hands of the Mahdi's savage

His eldest son Abul-Kasim, who had twice led expeditions into Egypt,
succeeded to the caliphate with the title of El-Kaim, 934-946. He began
his reign with warlike vigor. He sent out a fleet in 934 or 935, which
harried the southern coast of France, blockaded and took Genoa, and
coasted along Calabria, massacring and plundering, burning the shipping,
and carrying off slaves wherever it touched. At the same time he
despatched a third army against Egypt; but the firm hand of the Ikshid
now held the government, and his brother, Obeid-Allah, with fifteen
thousand horse, drove the enemy out of Alexandria and gave them a
crushing defeat on their way home. But for the greater part of his reign
El-Kaim was on the defensive, fighting for existence against the
usurpation of one Abu-Yezid, who repudiated Shiism, cursed the Mahdi and
his successor, stirred up most of Morocco and Barbary against El-Kaim,
drove him out of his capital, and went near to putting an end to the
Fatimite caliphate.

It was only after seven years of uninterrupted civil war that this
formidable insurrection died out, under the firm but politic management
of the third caliph, El-Mansur (946-953), a brave man who knew both when
to strike and when to be generous. Abu-Yezid was at last run to earth,
and his body was skinned and stuffed with straw, and exposed in a cage
with a couple of ludicrous apes as a warning to the disaffected.

The Fatimites so far wear a brutal and barbarous character. They do not
seem to have encouraged literature or learning; but this is partly
explained by the fact that culture belonged chiefly to the orthodox
caliphate; and its learned men could have no dealings with the heretical
pretender. The city of Kayrawan, which dates from the Arab conquest in
the eighth century, preserves the remains of some noble buildings, but
of their other capitals or royal residences no traces of art or
architecture remain to bear witness to the taste of their founders. Each
began to decay as soon as its successor was built.

With the fourth caliph, however, El-Moizz, the conqueror of Egypt,
953-975, the Fatimites entered upon a new phase.

El-Moizz was a man of politic temper, a born statesman, able to grasp
the conditions of success and to take advantage of every point in his
favor. He was also highly educated, and not only wrote Arabic poetry and
delighted in its literature, but studied Greek, mastered Berber and
Sudani dialects, and is even said to have taught himself Slavonic in
order to converse with his slaves from Eastern Europe. His eloquence was
such as to move his audience to tears. To prudent statesmanship he added
a large generosity, and his love of justice was among his noblest
qualities. So far as outward acts could show, he was a strict Moslem of
the Shiah sect, and the statement of his adversaries that he was really
an atheist seems to rest merely upon the belief that all the Fatimites
adopted the esoteric doctrines of the Ismailian missionaries.

When he ascended the throne in April, 953, he had already a policy, and
he lost no time in carrying it into execution. He first made a progress
through his dominions, visiting each town, investigating its needs, and
providing for its peace and prosperity. He bearded the rebels in their
mountain fastnesses, till they laid down their arms and fell at his
feet. He conciliated the chiefs and governors with presents and
appointments, and was rewarded by their loyalty.

At the head of his ministers he set Gawhar "the Roman," a slave from the
Eastern Empire, who had risen to the post of secretary to the late
Caliph, and was now by his son promoted to the rank of _wazir_ commander
of the forces. He was sent in 958 to bring the ever-refractory Maghreb
(Morocco) to allegiance. The expedition was entirely successful,
Sigilmasa and Fez were taken, and Gawhar reached the shore of the

Jars of live fish and sea-weed reached the capital, and proved to the
Caliph that his empire touched the ocean, the "limitless limit" of the
world. All the African littoral, from the Atlantic to the frontier of
Egypt--with the single exception of Spanish Ceuta--now peaceably
admitted the sway of the Fatimite Caliph.

The result was due partly to the exhaustion caused by the long struggle
during the preceding reigns, partly to the politic concessions and
personal influence of the able young ruler. He was liberal and
conciliatory toward different provinces, but to the Arabs of the capital
he was severe. Kayrawan teemed with disaffected folk, sheiks, and
theologians bitterly hostile to the heretical "orientalism" of the
Fatimites, and always ready to excite a tumult. Moizz was resolved to
give them no chance, and one of his repressive measures was the curfew.
At sunset a trumpet sounded, and anyone found abroad after that was
liable to lose not only his way, but his head. So long as they were
quiet, however, he used the people justly, and sought to impress them in
his favor. In a singular interview, recorded by Makrisi, he exhibited
himself to a deputation of sheiks, dressed in the utmost simplicity, and
seated before his writing materials in a plain room, surrounded by
books. He wished to disabuse them of the idea that he led in private a
life of luxury and self-indulgence.

"You see what employs me when I am alone," he said; "I read letters that
come to me from the lands of the East and the West, and answer them with
my own hand; I deny myself all the pleasures of the world, and I seek
only to protect your lives, multiply your children, shame your rivals,
and daunt your enemies." Then he gave them much good advice, and
especially recommended them to keep to one wife.

"One woman is enough for one man. If you straitly observe what I have
ordained," he concluded, "I trust that God will, through you, procure
our conquest of the East in like manner as he has vouchsafed us the

The conquest of Egypt was indeed the aim of his life. To rule over
tumultuous Arab and Berber tribes in a poor country formed no fit
ambition for a man of his capacity. Egypt, its wealth, its commerce, its
great port, and its docile population--these were his dream.

For two years he had been digging wells and building rest-houses on the
road to Alexandria. The West was now outwardly quiet, and between Egypt
and any hope of succor from the eastern caliphate stood the ravaging
armies of the Karmatis. Egypt itself was in helpless disorder. The great
Kafur was dead, and its nominal ruler was a child. Ibn-Furat, the
_wazir_, had made himself obnoxious to the people by arrests and
extortions. The very soldiery was in revolt, and the Turkish retainers
of the court mutinied, plundered the wazir's palace, and even opened
negotiations with Moizz. Hoseyn, the nephew of the Ikshid, attempted to
restore public order, but after three months of vacillating and
unpopular government he returned to his own province in Palestine to
make terms with the Karmatis. Famine, the result of the exceptionally
low Nile of 967, added to the misery of the country; plague, as usual,
followed in the steps of famine; over six hundred thousand people died
in and around Fustat, and the wretched inhabitants began in despair to
migrate to happier lands.

All these matters were fully reported to Moizz by the renegade Jew Yakub
Killis, a former favorite of Kafur, who had been driven from Egypt by
the jealous exactions of the wazir, Ibn-Furat, and who was perfectly
familiar with the political and financial state of the Nile valley. His
representations confirmed the Fatimite Caliph's resolve; the Arab tribes
were summoned to his standard; an immense treasure was collected, all of
which was spent in the campaign; gratuities were lavishly distributed to
the army, and at the head of over one hundred thousand men, all well
mounted and armed, accompanied by a thousand camels and a mob of horses
carrying money, stores, and ammunition, Gawhar marched from Kayrawan in
February, 969. The Caliph himself reviewed the troops. The marshal
kissed his hand and his horse's shoe. All the princes, emirs, and
courtiers passed reverently on foot before the honored leader of the
conquering army, who, as a last proof of favor, received the gift of his
master's own robes and charger. The governors of all the towns on the
route had orders to come on foot to Gawhar's stirrup, and one of them
vainly offered a large bribe to be excused the indignity.

The approach of this overwhelming force filled the Egyptian ministers
with consternation, and they thought only of obtaining favorable terms.
A deputation of notables, headed by Abu-Giafar Moslem, a _sherif_, or
descendant of the Prophet's family, waited upon Gawhar near Alexandria,
and demanded a capitulation. The general consented without reserve, and
in a conciliatory letter granted all they asked. But they had reckoned
without their host; the troops at Fustat would not listen to such
humiliation, and there was a strong war party among the citizens, to
which some of the ministers leaned. The city prepared for resistance,
and skirmishes took place with Gawhar's army, which had meanwhile
arrived at the opposite town of Giza in July. Forcing the passage of the
river, with the help of some boats supplied by Egyptian soldiers, the
invaders fell upon the imposing army drawn up on the other bank, and
totally defeated them. The troops deserted Fustat in a panic, and the
women of the city, running out of their houses, implored the sherif to
intercede with the conqueror.

Gawhar, like his master, always disposed to a politic leniency, renewed
his former promises, and granted a complete amnesty to all who
submitted. The overjoyed populace cut off the heads of some of the
refractory leaders, in their enthusiasm, and sent them to the camp in
pleasing token of allegiance. A herald, bearing a white flag, rode
through the streets of Fustat proclaiming the amnesty and forbidding
pillage, and on August the 5th the Fatimite army, with full pomp of
drums and banners, entered the capital.

That very night Gawhar laid the foundations of a new city, or rather
fortified palace, destined for the reception of his sovereign. He was
encamped on the sandy waste which stretched northeast of Fustat on the
road to Heliopolis, and there, at a distance of about a mile from the
river, he marked out the boundaries of the new capital. There were no
buildings, save the old "Convent of the Bones," nor any cultivation
except the beautiful park called "Kafur's Garden," to obstruct his
plans. A square, somewhat less than a mile each way, was pegged out with
poles, and the Maghrabi astrologers, in whom Moizz reposed extravagant
faith, consulted together to determine the auspicious moment for the
opening ceremony. Bells were hung on ropes from pole to pole, and at the
signal of the sages their ringing was to announce the precise moment
when the laborers were to turn the first sod. The calculations of the
astrologers were, however, anticipated by a raven, who perched on one of
the ropes and set the bells jingling, upon which every mattock was
struck into the earth, and the trenches were opened. It was an unlucky
hour; the planet Mars (El-Kahir) was in the ascendant; but it could not
be undone, and the place was accordingly named after the hostile planet,
El-Kahira, "the Martial" or "Triumphant," in the hope that the sinister
omen might be turned to a triumphant issue. Cairo, as Kahira has come to
be called, may fairly be said to have outlived all astrological
prejudices. The name of the Abbasside caliph was at once expunged from
the Friday prayers at the old mosque of Amr at Fustat; the black
Abbasside robes were proscribed, and the preacher, in pure white,
recited the Khutba for the imam Moizz, emir el-muminin, and invoked
blessings on his ancestors Ali and Fatima and all their holy family. The
call to prayer from the minarets was adapted to Shiah taste. The joyful
news was sent to the Fatimite Caliph on swift dromedaries, together with
the heads of the slain. Coins were struck with the special formulas of
the Fatimite creed--"Ali is the noblest of [God's] delegates, the wazir
of the best of apostles"; "the Imam Maadd calls men to profess the unity
of the Eternal"--in addition to the usual dogmas of the Mahometan faith.
For two centuries the mosques and the mint proclaimed the shibboleth of
the Shiahs.

Gawhar set himself at once to restore tranquillity and alleviate the
sufferings of the famine-stricken people. Moizz had providently sent
grain ships to relieve their distress, and as the price of bread
nevertheless remained at famine rates, Gawhar publicly flogged the
millers, established a central corn-exchange, and compelled everyone to
sell his corn there under the eye of a government inspector. In spite of
his efforts the famine lasted for two years; plague spread alarmingly,
insomuch that the corpses could not be buried fast enough, and were
thrown into the Nile; and it was not till the winter of 971-972 that
plenty returned and the pest disappeared. As usual, the viceroy took a
personal part in all public functions. Every Saturday he sat in court,
assisted by the wazir Ibn-Furat, the cadi, and skilled lawyers, to hear
causes and petitions and to administer justice. To secure impartiality,
he appointed to every department of state an Egyptian and a Maghrabi
officer. His firm and equitable rule insured peace and order; and the
great palace he was building, and the new mosque, the Azhar, which he
founded in 970 and finished in 972, not only added to the beauty of the
capital, but gave employment to innumerable craftsmen.

The inhabitants of Egypt accepted the new _regime_ with their habitual
phlegm. An Ikshidi officer in the Bashmur district of Lower Egypt did,
indeed, incite the people to rebellion, but his fate was not such as to
encourage others. He was chased out of Egypt, captured on the coast of
Palestine, and then, it is gravely recorded, he was given sesame oil to
drink for a month, till his skin stripped off, whereupon it was stuffed
with straw and hung up on a beam, as a reminder to him who would be
admonished. With this brief exception we read of no riots, no sectarian
risings, and the general surrender was complete when the remaining
partisans of the deposed dynasty, to the number of five thousand, laid
down their arms. An embassy sent to George, King of Nubia, to invite him
to embrace Islam, and to exact the customary tribute, was received with
courtesy, and the money, but not the conversion, was arranged. The holy
cities of Mecca and Medina in the Higaz, where the gold of Moizz had
been prudently distributed some years before, responded to his
generosity and success by proclaiming his supremacy in the mosques; the
Hamdanide prince who held Northern Syria paid similar homage to the
Fatimite Caliph at Aleppo, where the Abbassides had hitherto been
recognized. Southern Syria, however, which had formed part of the
Ikshid's kingdom, did not submit to the usurpers without a struggle.
Hoseyn was still independent at Ramla, and Gawhar's lieutenant, Giafar
ben Fellah, was obliged to give him battle. Hoseyn was defeated and
exposed bareheaded to the insults of the mob at Fustat, to be finally
sent, with the rest of the family of Ikshid, to a Barbary jail.
Damascus, the home of orthodoxy, was taken by Giafar, not without a
struggle, and the Fatimite doctrine was there published, to the
indignation and disgust of the Sunnite population.

A worse plague than the Fatimite conquest soon afflicted Syria. The
Karmati leader, Hasan ben Ahmad, surnamed El-Asam, finding the
blackmail, which he had lately received out of the revenues of Damascus,
suddenly stopped, resolved to extort it by force of arms. The Fatimites
indeed sprang from the same movement, and their founder professed the
same political and irreligious philosophy as Hasan himself; but this did
not stand in his way, and his knowledge of their origin made him the
less disposed to render homage to the sacred pretensions of the new
imams, whom he contemptuously designated as the spawn of the quacks,
charlatans, and the enemies of Islam. He tried to enlist the support of
the Abbasside Caliph, but El-Muti replied that Fatimis and Karmatis were
all one to him, and he would have nothing to do with either. The
Buweyhid prince of Irak, however, supplied Hasan with arms and money;
Abu-Taghlib, the Hamdanide ruler of Rahba on the Euphrates, contributed
men; and, supported by the Arab tribes of Okeyl, Tavy, and others, Hasan
marched upon Damascus, where the Fatimites were routed, and their
general, Giafar, killed. Moizz was forthwith publicly cursed from the
pulpit in the Syrian capital, to the qualified satisfaction of the
inhabitants, who had to pay handsomely for the pleasure.

Hasan next marched to Ramla, and thence, leaving the Fatimite army of
eleven thousand men shut up in Jaffa, invaded Egypt. His troops
surprised Kulzum at the head of the Red Sea, and Farama (Pelusium), near
the Mediterranean, at the two ends of the Egyptian frontier. Tinnis
declared against the Fatimites, and Hasan appeared at Heliopolis in
October, 971. Gawhar had already intrenched the new capital with a deep
ditch, leaving but one entrance, which he closed with an iron gate. He
armed the Egyptians as well as the African troops, and a spy was set to
watch the wazir Ibn-Furat, lest he should be guilty of treachery. The
sherifs of the family of Ali were summoned to the camp, as hostages for
the good behavior of the inhabitants. Meanwhile, the officers of the
enemy were liberally tempted with bribes. Two months they lay before
Cairo, and then, after an indecisive engagement, Hasan stormed the gate,
forced his way across the ditch, and attacked the Egyptians on their own
ground. The result was a severe repulse, and Hasan retreated, under
cover of night, to Kulzum, leaving his camp and baggage to be plundered
by the Fatimites, who were only balked of a sanguinary pursuit by the
intervention of night. The Egyptian volunteers displayed unexpected
valor in the fight, and many of the partisans of the late dynasty, who
were with the enemy, were made prisoners.

Thus the serious danger, which went near to cutting short the Fatimite
occupation of Egypt, was not only resolutely met, but even turned into
an advantage. There was no more intriguing on behalf of the Ikshidids;
Tinnis was recovered from its temporary defection and occupied by the
reinforcements which Moizz had hurriedly despatched under Ibn-Ammar to
the succor of Gawhar; and the Karmati fleet, which attempted to recover
this fort, was obliged to slip anchor, abandoning seven ships and five
hundred prisoners. Jaffa, which still held out resolutely against the
besieging Arabs, was now relieved by the despatch of African troops from
Cairo, who brought back the garrison, but did not dare to hold the post.
The enemy fell back upon Damascus, and the leaders fell out among

The Karmati chief was not crushed, however, by his defeat. In the
following year he was collecting ships and Arabs for a fresh invasion.
Gawhar, who had long urged his master to come and protect his conquest,
now pointed out the extreme danger of a second attack from an enemy
which had already succeeded in boldly forcing his way to the gate of
Cairo. Moizz had delayed his journey, because he could not safely trust
his western provinces in his absence; but on the receipt of this grave
news, he appointed Yusuf Bulugin ben Zeyri, of the Berber tribe of
Sanhaga, to act as his deputy in Barbary, left Sardaniya--the
Fontainebleau of Kayrawan, as Mansuriya was its Versailles--in November,
972, and making a leisurely progress, by way of Kabis, Tripolis,
Agdabiya, and Barka, reached Alexandria in the following May. Here the
Caliph received a deputation, consisting of the cadi of Fustat and other
eminent persons, whom he moved to tears by his eloquent and virtuous
discourse. A month later he was encamped in the gardens of the monastery
near Giza, where he was reverently welcomed by his devoted servant,
Gawhar, content to efface himself in his master's shadow.

The entry of the new Caliph into his new capital was a solemn spectacle.
With him were all his sons and brothers and kinsfolk, and before him
were borne the coffins of his ancestors. Fustat was illuminated and
decked for his reception; but Moizz would not enter the old capital of
the usurping caliphs. He crossed from Roda by Gawhar's new bridge, and
proceeded direct to the palace-city of Cairo. Here he threw himself on
his face and gave thanks to God.

There was yet an ordeal to be gone through before he could regard
himself as safe. Egypt was the home of many undoubted sherifs or
descendants of Ali, and these, headed by a representative of the
distinguished Tabataba family, came boldly to examine his credentials.
Moizz must prove his title to the holy imamate inherited from Ali, to
the satisfaction of these experts in genealogy. According to the story,
the Caliph called a great assembly of the people, and invited the
sherifs to appear; then, half drawing his sword, he said:

"Here is my pedigree," and scattering gold among the spectators, added,
"and there is my proof."

It was perhaps the best argument he could produce. The sherifs could
only protest their entire satisfaction at this convincing evidence; and
it is at any rate certain that, whatever they thought of the Caliph's
claim, they did not contest it. The capital was placarded with his name,
and the praises of Ali and Moizz were acclaimed by the people, who
flocked to his first public audience. Among the presents offered him,
that of Gawhar was especially splendid, and its costliness illustrates
the colossal wealth acquired by the Fatimites. It included five hundred
horses with saddles and bridles encrusted with gold, amber, and precious
stones; tents of silk and cloth of gold, borne on Bactrian camels;
dromedaries, mules, and camels of burden; filigree coffers full of gold
and silver vessels; gold-mounted swords; caskets of chased silver
containing precious stones; a turban set with jewels, and nine hundred
boxes filled with samples of all the goods that Egypt produced.




(Writers on the history of chivalry are unable to refer its origin to
any definite time or place; and even specific definition of chivalry is
seldom attempted by careful students. They rather give us, as does
Gautier in the picturesque account which follows, some recognized
starting-point, and for definition content themselves with
characterization of the spirit and aims of chivalry, analysis of its
methods, and the story of its rise and fall.

Chivalry was not an official institution that came into existence by the
decree of a sovereign. Although religious in its original elements and
impulses, there was nothing in its origin to remind us of the foundation
of a religious order. It would be useless to search for the place of its
birth or for the name of its founder. It was born everywhere at once,
and has been everywhere at the same time the natural effect of the same
aspirations and the same needs. "There was a moment when people
everywhere felt the necessity of tempering the ardor of old German
blood, and of giving to their ill-regulated passions an ideal. Hence

Yet chivalry arose from a German custom which was idealized by the
Christian church; and chivalry was more an ideal than an institution. It
was "the Christian form of the military profession; the knight was the
Christian soldier." True, the profession and mission of the church meant
the spread of peace and the hatred of war, she holding with her Master
that "they who take the sword shall perish with the sword." Her thought
was formulated by St. Augustine: "He who can think of war and can
support it without great sorrow is truly dead to human feelings." "It is
necessary," he says, "to submit to war, but to wish for peace." The
church did, however, look upon war as a divine means of punishment and
of expiation, for individuals and nations. And the eloquent Bossuet
showed the church's view of war as the terrestrial preparation for the
Kingdom of God, and described how empires fall upon one another to form
a foundation whereon to build the church. In the light of such
interpretations the church availed herself of the militant auxiliary
known as chivalry.

Along with the religious impulse that animated it, chivalry bore,
throughout its purer course, the character of knightliness which it
received from Teutonic sources. How the fine sentiments and ennobling
customs of the Teutonic nations, particularly with respect to the
gallantry and generosity of the male toward the female sex, grew into
beautiful combination with the rule of protecting the weak and
defenceless everywhere, and how these elements were blended with the
spirit of religious devotion which entered into the organization and
practices of chivalry, forms one of the most fascinating features in the
study of its development; and this gentler side, no less than its
sterner aspects, is faithfully presented in the brilliant examination of
Gautier. And the heroic sentiment and action which inspired and
accomplished the sacred warfare of the Crusades are not less admirably
depicted in these pages; while in his summary of the decline of chivalry
Gautier has perhaps never been surpassed for penetrating insight and
lucid exposition.)

There is a sentence of Tacitus--the celebrated passage in the
_Germania_--that refers to a German rite in which we really find all the
military elements of the future chivalry. The scene took place beneath
the shade of an old forest. The barbarous tribe is assembled, and one
feels that a solemn ceremony is in preparation. Into the midst of the
assembly advances a very young man, whom you can picture to yourself
with sea-green eyes, long fair hair, and perhaps some tattooing. A chief
of the tribe is present, who without delay places gravely in the hands
of the young man a _framea_ and a buckler. Failing a sovereign ruler, it
is the father of the youth, or some relative, who undertakes this
delivery of weapons. "Such is the 'virile robe' of these people," as
Tacitus well puts it; "such is the first honor of their youth. Till then
the young man was only one in a family; he becomes by this rite a member
of the Republic. _Ante hoc domus pars videtur: mox rei publicae_. This
sword and buckler he will never abandon, for the Germans in all their
acts, whether public or private, are always armed. So, the ceremony
finished, the assembly separates, and the tribe reckons a _miles_--a
warrior--the more. That is all!"

The solemn handing of arms to the young German--such is the first germ
of chivalry which Christianity was one day to animate into life.
"_Vestigium vetus creandi equites seu milites_." It is with reason that
Sainte-Palaye comments in the very same way upon the text of the
_Germania_, and that a scholar of our own days exclaims with more than
scientific exactness, "The true origin of _miles_ is this bestowal of
arms which among the Germans marks the entry into civil life."

No other origin will support the scrutiny of the critic, and he will not
find anyone now to support the theory of Roman origin with Sainte-Marie,
or that of the Arabian origin with Beaumont. There only remains to
explain in this place the term knight (chevalier), but it is well known
to be derived from _caballus_, which primarily signifies a beast of
burden, a pack-horse, and has ended by signifying a war-horse. The
knight, also, has always preserved the name of _miles_ in the Latin
tongue of the Middle Ages, in which chivalry is always called _militia_.
Nothing can be clearer than this.

We do not intend to go further, however, without replying to two
objections, which are not without weight, and which we do not wish to
leave behind us unanswered.

In a certain number of Latin books of the Middle Ages we find, to
describe chivalry, an expression which the "Romanists" oppose
triumphantly to us, and of which the Romish origin cannot seriously be
doubted. When it is intended to signify that a knight has been created,
it is stated that the individual has been girt with the _cingulum
militare_. Here we find ourselves in full Roman parlance, and the word
signified certain terms which described admission into military service,
the release from this service, and the degradation of the legionary.
When St. Martin left the militia, his action was qualified as _solutio
cinguli_, and at all those who act like him the insulting expression
_militaribus zonis discincti_ is cast. The girdle which sustains the
sword of the Roman officer--_cingulum zona_, or rather _cinctorium_--as
also the baldric, from _balteus_, passed over the shoulder and was
intended to support the weapon of the common soldier. "You perceive
quite well," say our adversaries, "that we have to do with a Roman
costume." Two very simple observations will, perhaps, suffice to get to
the bottom of such a specious argument: The first is that the Germans in
early times wore, in imitation of the Romans, "a wide belt ornamented
with bosses of metal," a baldric, by which their swords were suspended
on the left side; and the second is that the chroniclers of old days,
who wrote in Latin and affected the classic style, very naturally
adopted the word _cingulum_ in all its acceptations, and made use of
this Latin paraphrasis--_cingulo militari decorare_--to express this
solemn adoption of the sword. This evidently German custom was always
one of the principal rites of the collation of chivalry. There is then
nothing more in it than a somewhat vague reminiscence of a Roman custom
with a very natural conjunction of terms which has always been the habit
of a literary people.

To sum up, the word is Roman, but the thing itself is German. Between
the _militia_ of the Romans and the chivalry of the Middle Ages there is
really nothing in common but the military profession considered
generally. The official admittance of the Roman soldier to an army
hierarchically organized in no way resembled the admission of a new
knight into a sort of military college and the "pink of society." As we
read further the singularly primitive and barbarous ritual of the
service of knightly reception in the twelfth century, one is persuaded
that the words exhale a German odor, and have nothing Roman about them.
But there is another argument, and one which would appear decisive. The
Roman legionary could not, as a rule, withdraw from the service; he
could not avoid the baldric. The youthful knight of the Middle Ages, on
the contrary, was always free to arm himself or not as he pleased, just
as other cavaliers are at liberty to leave or join their ranks. The
principal characteristic of the knightly service, and one which
separates it most decidedly from the Roman _militia_, was its freedom of

One very specious objection is made as regards feudalism, which some
clear-minded people obstinately confound with chivalry. This was the
favorite theory of Montalembert. Now there are two kinds of feudalism,
which the old feudalists put down very clearly in two words now out of
date--"fiefs of dignity" and "fiefs simple." About the middle of the
ninth century, the dukes and counts made themselves independent of the
central power, and declared that people owed the same allegiance to them
as they did to the emperor or the king. Such were the acts of the "fiefs
of dignity," and we may at once allow that they had nothing in common
with chivalry. The "fiefs simple," then, remained.

In the Merovingian period we find a certain number of small proprietors,
called _vassi_, commending themselves to other men more powerful and
more rich, who were called _seniores_. To his senior who made him a
present of land the _vassus_ owed assistance and fidelity. It is true
that as early as the reign of Charlemagne he followed him to war, but it
must be noted that it was to the emperor, to the central power, that he
actually rendered military service. There was nothing very particular in
this, but the time was approaching when things would be altered. Toward
the middle of the ninth century we find a large number of men falling
"on their knees" before other men! What are they about? They are
"recommending" themselves, but, in plainer terms, "Protect us and we
will be your men." And they added: "It is to you and to you only that we
intend in future to render military service; but in exchange you must
protect the land we possess--defend what you will in time concede to us;
and defend _us_ ourselves." These people on their knees were "vassals"
at the feet of their "lords"; and the fief was generally only a grant of
land conceded in exchange for military service.

Feudalism of this nature has nothing in common with chivalry.

If we consider chivalry in fact as a kind of privileged body into which
men were received on certain conditions and with a certain ritual, it is
important to observe that every vassal is not necessarily a cavalier.
There were vassals who, with the object of averting the cost of
initiation or for other reasons, remained _damoiseaux_, or pages, all
their lives. The majority, of course, did nothing of the kind; but all
could do so, and a great many did.

On the other hand we see conferred the dignity of chivalry upon
insignificant people who had never held fiefs, who owed to no one any
fealty, and to whom no one owed any.

We cannot repeat too often that it was not the cavalier (or knight), it
was the _vassal_ who owed military service, or _ost_, to the _seigneur_,
or lord; and the service _in curte_ or _court_: it was the vassal, not
the knight, who owed to the "lord" relief, "aid," homage.

The feudal system soon became hereditary. Chivalry, on the contrary, has
never been hereditary, and a special rite has always been necessary to
create a knight. In default of all other arguments this would be

But if, instead of regarding chivalry as an institution, we consider it
as an ideal, the doubt is not really more admissible. It is here that,
in the eyes of a philosophic historian, chivalry is clearly distinct
from feudalism. If the western world in the ninth century had _not_ been
feudalized, chivalry would nevertheless have come into existence; and,
notwithstanding everything, it would have come to light in Christendom;
for chivalry is nothing more than the Christianized form of military
service, the armed _force_ in the service of the unarmed Truth; and it
was inevitable that at some time or other it must have sprung, living
and fully armed, from the brain of the church, as Minerva did from the
brain of Jupiter.

Feudalism, on the contrary, is not of Christian origin at all. It is a
particular form of government, and of society, which has scarcely been
less rigorous for the church than other forms of society and government.
Feudalism has disputed with the church over and over again, while
chivalry has protected her a hundred times. Feudalism is force--chivalry
is the brake.

Let us look at Godfrey de Bouillon. The fact that he owed homage to any
suzerain, the fact that he exacted service from such and such vassals,
are questions which concern feudal rights, and have nothing to do with
chivalry. But if I contemplate him in battle beneath the walls of
Jerusalem; if I am a spectator of his entry into the Holy City; if I see
him ardent, brave, powerful and pure, valiant and gentle, humble and
proud, refusing to wear the golden crown in the Holy City where Jesus
wore the crown of thorns, I am not then anxious--I am not curious--to
learn from whom he holds his fief, or to know the names of his vassals;
and I exclaim, "There is the knight!" And how many knights, what
chivalrous virtues, have existed in the Christian world since feudalism
has ceased to exist!

The adoption of arms in the German fashion remains the true origin of
chivalry; and the Franks have handed down this custom to us--a custom
perpetuated to a comparatively modern period. This simple, almost rude
rite so decidedly marked the line of civil life in the code of manners
of people of German origin, that under the Carlovingians we still find
numerous traces of it. In 791 Louis, eldest son of Charlemagne, was only
thirteen years old, and yet he had worn the crown of Aquitaine for three
years upon his "baby brow." The king of the Franks felt that it was time
to bestow upon this child the military consecration which would more
quickly assure him of the respect of his people. He summoned him to
Ingelheim, then to Ratisbon, and solemnly girded him with the sword
which "makes men." He did not trouble himself about the framea or the
buckler--the sword occupied the first place. It will retain it for a
long time.

In 838 at Kiersy we have a similar scene. This time it is old Louis who,
full of sadness and nigh to death, bestows upon his son Charles, whom he
loved so well, the "virile arms"--that is to say, the sword. Then
immediately afterward he put upon his brow the crown of "Neustria."
Charles was fifteen years old.

These examples are not numerous, but their importance is decisive, and
they carry us to the time when the church came to intervene positively
in the education of the German _miles_. The time was rough, and it is
not easy to picture a more distracted period than that in the ninth and
tenth centuries. The great idea of the Roman Empire no longer, in the
minds of the people, coincided with the idea of the Frankish kingdom,
but rather inclined, so to speak, to the side of Germany, where it
tended to fix itself. Countries were on the way to be formed, and people
were asking to which country they could best belong. Independent
kingdoms were founded which had no precedents and were not destined to
have a long life. The Saracens were for the last time harassing the
southern French coasts, but it was not so with the Norman pirates, for
they did not cease for a single year to ravage the littoral which is now
represented by the Picardy and Normandy coasts, until the day it became
necessary to cede the greater part of it to them. People were fighting
everywhere more or less--family against family--man to man. No road was
safe, the churches were burned, there was universal terror, and everyone
sought protection. The king had no longer strength to resist anyone, and
the counts made themselves kings. The sun of the realm was set, and one
had to look at the stars for light. As soon as the people perceived a
strong man-at-arms, resolute, defiant, well established in his wooden
keep, well fortified within the lines of his hedge, behind his palisade
of dead branches, or within his barriers of planks; well posted on his
hill, against his rock, or on his hillock, and dominating all the
surrounding country--as soon as they saw this each said to him, "I am
your man"; and all these weak ones grouped themselves around the strong
one, who next day proceeded to wage war with his neighbors. Thence
supervened a terrible series of private wars. Everyone was fighting or
thinking of fighting.

In addition to this, the still green memory of the grand figure of
Charlemagne and the old empire, and I can't tell what imperial
splendors, were still felt in the air of great cities; all hearts
throbbed at the mere thought of the Saracens and the Holy Sepulchre; the
crusade gathered strength of preparation far in advance, in the rage and
indignation of all the Christian race; all eyes were turned toward
Jerusalem, and in the midst of so many disbandments and so much
darkness, the unity of the church survived fallen majesty!

It was then, it was in that horrible hour--the decisive epoch in our
history--that the church undertook the education of the Christian
soldier; and it was at that time, by a resolute step, she found the
feudal baron in his rude wooden citadel, and proposed to him an ideal.
This ideal was chivalry!

That chivalry may be considered a great military confraternity as well
as an eighth sacrament, will be conceded. But, before familiarizing
themselves with these ideals, the rough spirits of the ninth, tenth, and
eleventh centuries had to learn the principles of them. The chivalrous
ideal was not conceived "all of a piece," and certainly it did not
triumph without sustained effort; so it was by degrees, and very slowly,
that the church succeeded in inoculating the almost animal intelligence
and the untrained minds of our ancestors with so many virtues.

In the hands of the church, which wished to mould him into a Christian
knight, the feudal baron was a very intractable individual. No one could
be more brutal or more barbarous than he. Our more ancient
ballads--those which are founded on the traditions of the ninth and
tenth centuries--supply us with a portrait which does not appear
exaggerated. I know nothing in this sense more terrible than _Raoul de
Cambrai_, and the hero of this old poem would pass for a type of a
half-civilized savage. This Raoul was a kind of Sioux or other redskin,
who only wanted tattoo and feathers in his hair to be complete. Even a
redskin is a believer, or superstitious to some extent, while Raoul
defied the Deity himself. The savage respects his mother, as a rule; but
Raoul laughed at his mother, who cursed him. Behold him as he invaded
the Vermandois, contrary to all the rights of legitimate heirs. He
pillaged, burned, and slew in all directions: he was everywhere
pitiless, cruel, horrible. But at Origni he appears in all his ferocity.
"You will erect my tent in the church, you will make my bed before the
altar, and put my hawks on the golden crucifix." Now that church
belonged to a convent. What did that signify to him? He burned the
convent, he burned the church, he burned the nuns! Among them was the
mother of his most faithful servitor, Bernier--his most devoted
companion and friend--almost his brother! but he burned her with the
others. Then, when the flames were still burning, he sat himself down,
on a fast-day, to feast amid the scenes of his sanguinary
exploits--defying God and man, his hands steeped in blood, his face
lifted to heaven. That was the kind of soldier, the savage of the tenth
century, whom the church had to educate!

Unfortunately this Raoul de Cambrai is not a unique specimen; he was not
the only one who had uttered this ferocious speech: "I shall not be
happy until I see your heart cut out of your body." Aubri de Bourguignon
was not less cruel, and took no trouble to curb his passions. Had he the
right to massacre? He knew nothing about that, but meanwhile he
continued to kill. "Bah!" he would say, "it is always an enemy the
less." On one occasion he slew his four cousins. He was as sensual as
cruel. His thick-skinned savagery did not appear to feel either shame or
remorse; he was strong and had a weighty hand--that was sufficient.
Ogier was scarcely any better, but notwithstanding all the glory
attaching to his name, I know nothing more saddening than the final
episode of the rude poem attributed to Raimbert of Paris. The son of
Ogier, Baudouinet, had been slain by the son of Charlemagne, who called
himself Charlot. Ogier did nothing but breathe vengeance, and would not
agree to assist Christendom against the Saracen invaders unless the
unfortunate Charlot was delivered to him. He wanted to kill him, he
determined to kill him, and he rejoiced over it in anticipation. In vain
did Charlot humble himself before this brute, and endeavor to pacify him
by the sincerity of his repentance; in vain the old Emperor himself
prayed most earnestly to God; in vain the venerable Naimes, the Nestor
of our ballads, offered to serve Ogier all the rest of his life, and
begged the Dane "not to forget the Saviour, who was born of the Virgin
at Bethlehem." All their devotion and prayers were unavailing. Ogier,
pitiless, placed one of his heavy hands on the youthful head, and with
the other drew his sword, his terrible sword "Courtain." Nothing less
than the intervention of an angel from heaven could have put an end to
this terrible scene in which all the savagery of the German forests was

The majority of these early heroes had no other shibboleth than "I am
going to separate the head from the trunk!" It was their war-cry. But if
you desire something more frightful still, something more "primitive,"
you have only to open the _Loherains_ at hazard, and read a few stanzas
of that raging ballad of "derring-do," and you will almost fancy you are
perusing one of those pages in which Livingstone describes in such
indignant terms the manners of some tribe in Central Africa. Read this:
"Begue struck Isore upon his black helmet through the golden circlet,
cutting him to the chine; then he plunged into his body his sword
Flamberge with the golden hilt; took the heart out with both hands, and
threw it, still warm, at the head of William, saying, 'There is your
cousin's heart; you can salt and roast it.'" Here words fail us; it
would be too tame to say with Goedecke, "These heroes act like the
forces of nature, in the manner of the hurricane which knows no pity."
We must use more indignant terms than these, for we are truly amid
cannibals. Once again we say, there was the warrior, there was the
savage whom the church had to elevate and educate!

Such is the point of departure of this wonderful progress; such are the
refractory elements out of which chivalry and the knight have been

The point of departure is Raoul of Cambrai burning Origni. The point of
arrival is Girard of Roussillon falling one day at the feet of an old
priest and expiating his former pride by twenty-two years of penitence.
These two episodes embrace many centuries between them.

A very interesting study might be made of the gradual transformation
from the redskin to the knight; it might be shown how, and at what
period of history, each of the virtues of chivalry penetrated
victoriously into the undisciplined souls of these brutal warriors who
were our ancestors; it might be determined at what moment the church
became strong enough to impose upon our knights the great duties of
defending it and of loving one another.

This victory was attained in a certain number of cases undoubtedly
toward the end of the eleventh century: and the knight appears to us
perfected, finished, radiant, in the most ancient edition of the
_Chanson of Roland_, which is considered to have been produced between
1066 and 1095.

It is scarcely necessary to observe that chivalry was no longer in
course of establishment when Pope Urban II threw with a powerful hand
the whole of the Christian West upon the East, where the Tomb of Christ
was in possession of the Infidel.

In legendary lore the embodiment of chivalry is Roland: in history it is
Godfrey de Bouillon. There are no more worthy names than these.

The decadence of chivalry--and when one is speaking of human
institutions, sooner or later this word must be used--perhaps set in
sooner than historians can believe. We need not attach too much
importance to the grumblings of certain poets, who complain of their
time with an evidently exaggerated bitterness, and we do not care for
our own part to take literally the testimony of the unknown author of
_La Vie de Saint Alexis_, who exclaims--about the middle of the eleventh
century--that everything is degenerate and all is lost! Thus: "In olden
times the world was good. Justice and love were springs of action in it.
People then had faith, which has disappeared from amongst us. The world
is entirely changed. The world has lost its healthy color. It is
pale--it has grown old. It is growing worse, and will soon cease

The poet exaggerates in a very singular manner the evil which he
perceives around him, and one might aver that, far from bordering upon
old age, chivalry was then almost in the very zenith of its glory. The
twelfth century was its apogee, and it was not until the thirteenth that
it manifested the first symptoms of decay.

"_Li maus est moult want_" exclaims the author of _Godfrey de Bouillon_,
and he adds, sadly, "_Tos li biens est fines_."

He was more correct in speaking thus than was the author of _Saint
Alexis_ in his complainings, for the decadence of chivalry actually
commenced in his time. And it is not unreasonable to inquire into the
causes of its decay.

_The Romance of the Round Table_, which in the opinion of prepossessed
or thoughtless critics appears so profoundly chivalrous, may be
considered one of the works which hastened the downfall of chivalry. We
are aware that by this seeming paradox we shall probably scandalize some
of our readers, who look upon these adventurous cavaliers as veritable
knights. What does it matter? _Avienne que puet_. The heroes of our
_chansons de geste_ are really the authorized representatives and types
of the society of their time, and not those fine adventure-seeking
individuals who have been so brilliantly sketched by the pencil of
Cretien de Troyes.

It is true, however, that this charming and delicate spirit did not
give, in his works, an accurate idea of his century and generation. We
do not say that he embellished all he touched, but only that he
enlivened it. Notwithstanding all that one could say about it, this
school introduced the old Gaelic spirit into a poetry which had been
till then chiefly Christian or German. Our epic poems are of German
origin, and the _Table Round_ is of Celtic origin. Sensual and light,
witty and delicate, descriptive and charming, these pleasing romances
are never masculine, and become too often effeminate and effeminating.
They sing always, or nearly so, the same theme. By lovely pasturages
clothed with beautiful flowers, the air full of birds, a young knight
proceeds in search of the unknown, and through a series of adventures
whose only fault is that they resemble one another somewhat too closely.

We find insolent defiances, magnificent duels, enchanted castles, tender
love-scenes, mysterious talismans. The marvellous mingles with the
supernatural, magicians with saints, fairies with angels. The whole is
written in a style essentially French, and it must be confessed in
clear, polished, and chastened language--perfect!

But we must not forget, as we said just now, that this poetry, so
greatly attractive, began as early as the twelfth century to be the mode
universally; and let us not forget that it was at the same period that
the _Percevalde Gallois_ and _Aliscans, Cleomades_, and the
_Couronnement Looys_ were written. The two schools have coexisted for
many centuries: both camps have enjoyed the favor of the public. But in
such a struggle it was all too easy to decide to which of them the
victory would eventually incline. The ladies decided it, and no doubt
the greater number of them wept over the perusal of _Erec_ or _Enid_
more than over that of the _Covenant Vivien_ or _Raoul de Cambrai_.

When the grand century of the Middle Ages had closed, when the blatant
thirteenth century commenced, the sentimental had already gained the
advantage over our old classic _chansons_; and the new school, the
romantic set of the _Table Round_, triumphed! Unfortunately, they also
triumphed in their manners; and they were the knights of the Round Table
who, with the Valois, seated themselves upon the throne of France.

In this way temerity replaced true courage; so good, polite manners
replaced heroic rudeness; so foolish generosity replaced the charitable
austerity of the early chivalry. It was the love of the unforeseen even
in the military art; the rage for adventure--even in politics. We know
whither this strategy and these theatrical politics led us, and that
Joan of Arc and Providence were required to drag us out of the

The other causes of the decadence of the spirit of chivalry are more
difficult to determine. There is one of them which has not, perhaps,
been sufficiently brought to light, and this is--will it be
believed?--the exdevelopment of certain orders of chivalry! This
statement requires some explanation.

We must confess that we are enthusiastic, passionate admirers of these
grand military orders which were formed at the commencement of the
twelfth century. There have never been their like in the world, and it
was only given to Christianity to display to us such a spectacle. To
give to one single soul the double ideal of the soldier and the monk, to
impose upon him this double charge, to fix in one these two conditions
and in one only these two duties, to cause to spring from the earth I
cannot tell how many thousands of men who voluntarily accepted this
burden, and who were not crushed by it--that is a problem which one
might have been pardoned for thinking insoluble. We have not
sufficiently considered it. We have not pictured to ourselves with
sufficient vividness the Templars and the Hospitallers in the midst of
one of those great battles in the Holy Land in which the fate of the
world was in the balance.

No: painters have not sufficiently portrayed them in the arid plains of
Asia forming an incomparable squadron in the midst of the battle. One
might talk forever and yet not say too much about the charge of the
Cuirassiers at Reichshoffen; but how many times did the Hospitaller
knights and the Templars charge in similar fashion? Those soldier-monks,
in truth, invented a new idea of courage. Unfortunately they were not
always fighting, and peace troubled some of them. They became too rich,
and their riches lowered them in the eyes of men and before heaven. We
do not intend to adopt all the calumnies which have been circulated
concerning the Templars, but it is difficult not to admit that many of
these accusations had some foundation. The Hospitallers, at any rate,
have given no ground for such attacks. They, thank heaven, remained
undefiled, if not poor, and were an honor to that chivalry which others
had compromised and emasculated.

But when all is said, that which best became chivalry, the spice which
preserved it the most surely, was poverty!

Love of riches had not only attacked the chivalrous orders, but in a
very short space of time all knights caught the infection. Sensuality
and enjoyment had penetrated into their castles. "Scarcely had they
received the knightly baldric before they commenced to break the
commandments and to pillage the poor. When it became necessary to go to
war, their sumpter-horses were laden with wine, and not with weapons;
with leathern bottles instead of swords; with spits instead of lances.
One might have fancied, in truth, that they were going out to dinner,
and not to fight. It is true their shields were beautifully gilt, but
they were kept in a virgin and unused condition. Chivalrous combats were
represented upon their bucklers and their saddles, certainly; but that
was all!"

Now who is it who writes thus? It is not, as one might fancy, an author
of the fifteenth century--it is a writer of the twelfth; and the
greatest satirist, somewhat excessive and unjust in his statements, the
Christian Juvenal whom we have just quoted, was none other than Peter of

A hundred other witnesses might be cited in support of these indignant
words. But if there is some exaggeration in them, we are compelled to
confess that there is a considerable substratum of truth also.

These abuses--which wealth engendered, which more than one poet has
stigmatized--attracted, in the fourteenth century, the attention of an
important individual, a person whose name occupies a worthy place in
literature and history. Philip of Mezieres, chancellor of Cyprus under
Peter of Lusignan, was a true knight, who one day conceived the idea of
reforming chivalry. Now the way he found most feasible in accomplishing
his object, in arriving at such a difficult and complex reform, was to
found a new order of chivalry himself, to which he gave the
high-sounding title of "the Chivalry of the Passion of Christ."

The decadence of chivalry is attested, alas! by the very character of
the reformers by which this well-meaning Utopian attempted to oppose it.
The good knight complains of the great advances of sensuality, and
permits and advises the marriage of all knights. He complains of the
accursed riches which the Hospitallers themselves were putting to a bad
use, and forbade them in his _Institutions_; but nevertheless the
luxurious habits of his time had an influence upon his mind, and he
permitted his knights to wear the most extravagant costumes, and the
dignitaries of his order to adopt the most high-sounding titles. There
was something mystical in all this conception, and something theatrical
in all this agency. It is hardly necessary to add that the "Chivalry of
the Passion" was only a beautiful dream, originating in a generous mind.
Notwithstanding the adherence of some brilliant personages, the order
never attained to more than a theoretical organization, and had only a
fictitious foundation. The idea of the deliverance of the Holy Sepulchre
from the Infidel was hardly the object of the fifteenth-century
chivalry; for the struggle between France and England then was engaging
the most courageous warriors and the most practised swords. Decay
hurried on apace!

This was not the only cause of such a fatal falling away. The portals of
chivalry had been opened to too many unworthy candidates. It had been
made vulgar! In consequence of having become so cheap the grand title of
"knight" was degraded. Eustace Deschamps, in his fine, straightforward
way, states the scandal boldly and "lashes" it with his tongue. He says:
"Picture to yourself the fact that the degree of knighthood is about to
be conferred now upon babies of eight and ten years old."

Well might this excellent man exclaim in another place: "Disorders
always go on gathering strength, and even incomparable knights like Du
Guesclin and Bayard cannot arrest the fatal course of the institution
toward ruin." Chivalry was destined to disappear.

It is very important that one should make one's self acquainted with the
true character of such a downfall. France and England in the fourteenth
and fifteenth centuries still boasted many high-bred knights. They
exchanged the most superb defiances, the most audacious challenges, and
proceeded from one country to another to run each other through the body
proudly. The Beaumanoirs, who drank their blood, abounded. It was a
question who would engage himself in the most incredible pranks; who
would commit the most daring folly! They tell us afterward of the
beautiful passages of arms, the grand feats performed, and the
inimitable Froissart is the most charming of all these narrators, who
make their readers as chivalrous as themselves.

But we must tell everything: among these knights in beautiful armor
there was a band of adventurers who never observed, and who could not
understand, certain commandments of the ancient chivalry. The laxity of
luxury had everywhere replaced the rigorous enactments of the old
manliness, and even warriors themselves loved their ease too much. The
religious sentiment was not the dominant one in their minds, in which
the idea of a crusade now never entered. They had not sufficient respect
for the weakness of the Church nor for other failings. They no longer
felt themselves the champions of the good and the enemies of evil. Their
sense of justice had become warped, as had love for their great native

Again, what they termed "the license of camps" had grown very much
worse; and we know in what condition Joan of Arc found the army of the
King. Blasphemy and ribaldry in every quarter. The noble girl swept away
these pests, but the effect of her action was not long-lived. She was
the person to reestablish chivalry, which in her found the purity of its
now-effaced type; but she died too soon, and had not sufficient

There were, after her time, many chivalrous souls, and, thank heaven,
there are still some among us; but the old institution is no longer with
us. The events which we have had the misfortune to witness do not give
us any ground to hope that chivalry, extinct and dead, will rise again
to-morrow to light and life.

In St. Louis' time, caricature and parody--they were low-class forces,
but forces nevertheless--had already commenced the work of destruction.
We are in possession of an abominable little poem of the thirteenth
century, which is nothing but a scatological pamphlet directed against
chivalry. This ignoble _Audigier_, the author of which is the basest of
men, is not the only attack which one may disinter from amid the
literature of that period. If one wishes to draw up a really complete
list it would be necessary to include the _jabliaux_--the _Renart_ and
the _Rose_, which constitute the most anti-chivalrous--I had nearly
written the most Voltairian--works that I am acquainted with. The thread
is easy enough to follow from the twelfth century down to the author of
_Don Quixote_--which I do not confound with its infamous predecessors--
to Cervantes, whose work has been fatal, but whose mind was elevated.

However that may be, parody and the parodists were themselves a cause of
decay. They weakened morals. Gallic-like, they popularized little
_bourgeois_ sentiments, narrow-minded, satirical sentiments; they
inoculated manly souls with contempt for such great things as one
performs disinterestedly. This disdain is a sure element of decay, and
we may regard it as an announcement of death.

Against the knights who, here and there, showed themselves unworthy and
degenerate, was put in practice the terrible apparatus of degradation.
Modern historians of chivalry have not failed to describe in detail all
the rites of this solemn punishment, and we have presented to us a scene
which is well calculated to excite the imagination of the most
matter-of-fact, and to make the most timid heart swell.

The knight judicially condemned to submit to this shame was first
conducted to a scaffold, where they broke or trod under foot all his
weapons. He saw his shield, with device effaced, turned upside down and
trailed in the mud. Priests, after reciting prayers for the vigil of the
dead, pronounced over his head the psalm, "_Deus laudem meam_," which
contains terrible maledictions against traitors. The herald of arms who
carried out this sentence took from the hands of the pursuivant of arms
a basin full of dirty water, and threw it all over the head of the
recreant knight in order to wash away the sacred character which had
been conferred upon him by the accolade. The guilty one, degraded in
this way, was subsequently thrown upon a hurdle, or upon a stretcher,
covered with a mortuary cloak, and finally carried to the church, where
they repeated the same prayers and the same ceremonies as for the dead.

This was really terrible, even if somewhat theatrical, and it is easy to
see that this complicated ritual contained only a very few ancient
elements. In the twelfth century the ceremonial of degradation was
infinitely more simple. The spurs were hacked off close to the heels of
the guilty knight. Nothing could be more summary or more significant.
Such a person was publicly denounced as unworthy to ride on horseback,
and consequently quite unworthy to be a knight. The more ancient and
chivalrous, the less theatrical is it. It is so in many other
institutions in the histories of all nations.

That such a penalty may have prevented a certain number of treasons and
forfeitures we willingly admit, but one cannot expect it to preserve all
the whole body of chivalry from that decadence from which no institution
of human establishment can escape.

Notwithstanding inevitable weaknesses and accidents, the Decalogue of
Chivalry has none the less been regnant in some millions of souls which
it has made pure and great. These ten commandments have been the rules
and the reins of youthful generations, who without them would have been
wild and undisciplined. This legislation, in fact--which, to tell the
truth, is only one of the chapters of the great Catholic Code--has
raised the moral level of humanity.

Besides, chivalry is not yet quite dead. No doubt, the ritual of
chivalry, the solemn reception, the order itself, and the ancient oaths,
no longer exist. No doubt, among these grand commandments there are many
which are known only to the erudite, and which the world is unacquainted
with. The Catholic Faith is no longer the essence of modern chivalry;
the Church is no longer seated on the throne around which the old
knights stand with their drawn swords; Islam is no longer the hereditary
enemy; we have another which threatens us nearer home; widows and
orphans have need rather of the tongues of advocates than of the iron
weapon of the knights; there are no more duties toward liege-lords to be
fulfilled; and we even do not want any kind of superior lord at all;
_largesse_ is now confounded with charity; and the becoming hatred of
evil-doing is no longer our chief, our best, passion!

But whatever we may do there still remains to us, in the marrow, a
certain leaven of chivalry which preserves us from death. There are
still in the world an immense number of fine souls--strong and upright
souls--who hate all that is small and mean, who know and who practise
all the delicate promptings of honor, and who prefer death to an
unworthy action or to a lie!

That is what we owe to chivalry, that is what it has bequeathed to us.
On the day when these last vestiges of such a grand past are effaced
from our souls--we shall cease to exist!



A.D. 988-1015


(According to early Greek and Roman writers, Russia in their time was
inhabited by Scythians and Sarmatians. The Greeks established commercial
relations with the most southerly tribes. In the fourth and fifth
centuries, during the migrations of the nations, Russia was invaded by
Goths, Alans, Huns, Avars, and Bulgarians, who, however, made no
settlements. They were followed by the Slavs, who are looked upon as the
Sarmatians already mentioned.

The Slavs settled as far north as the upper Volga. The chief settlements
were Novgorod and Kieff, which became the capitals of independent
principalities, Novgorod especially becoming an important commercial and
trading centre.

The commerce northward through the Baltic was subject to the attacks of
the Scandinavian Northmen, known as Varangians. They demanded tribute of
the Slavs, and on its refusal attacked and captured Novgorod. A little
later Novgorod established its independence as a republic; but within a
few years we find this section controlled by a Varangian tribe from Rus,
a district of Sweden. This tribe was led by three brothers, Ruric the
Peaceful, Sineous the Victorious, and Trouvor the Faithful, who settled
and ruled in different parts of the country.

In 864, on the death of his brothers, Ruric consolidated their
territories with his, assumed the title of grand prince, peaceably took
possession of Novgorod and made it his capital, naming the country
Russia, after his native place.

With the advent of the Varangians the authentic history of Russia
begins. The millenary of that event was celebrated in 1862 at Novgorod,
as the foundation of the Russian empire.

Ruric died in 879. In the next hundred years his successors conquered
many neighboring lands and added them to the empire. Kieff became the
capital. Numerous invasions into the territory of the Greek empire were
made and Constantinople was frequently attacked, resulting sometimes in
repulse, and at others in exacting heavy tribute from the Eastern
Emperor. Treaties were executed and a gradual growth of commerce and
intercourse between the Greeks and Russians took place. Olga, the famous
and popular widow of Ruric's son, Igor, became a Christian and was
baptized in Constantinople in 955, and during the rest of her life lent
her powerful influence to the spread of the faith. And though her son,
the emperor Sviatoslaf, remained a pagan throughout his reign,
Christianity continued to grow, and the general Christianization of
Russia during the reign of her grandson, Vladimir, was aided materially
by the great example of the good queen Olga.

In 970 Sviatoslaf divided his empire among his three sons, Iaropolk I,
Oleg, and Vladimir. After the death of Sviatoslaf in 972 civil war began
between the three brothers. Oleg was killed and Vladimir fled to Sweden.
In 980, supported by a force of Varangians, Vladimir returned, captured
Novgorod and Kieff, and put Iaropolk to death. Under Vladimir, later
known as Vladimir the Great, Russia increased in importance, and
civilization was enhanced by the spread of Christianity through the
missionary efforts of the Greek Church, now the Holy, Orthodox,
Catholic, Apostolic, Oriental Church. It is, therefore, not strange that
the Russian prelates were distinguished by their loyalty and fidelity to
the Greek Church throughout the continued conflicts between it and the
Roman Church which resulted in their separation in 1054.

In the fifteenth century, with the consent of the patriarchate of
Constantinople, the Orthodox Graeco-Russian Church assumed national
independence, and became the state church; and after the establishment
of Mahometanism in Constantinople, since its capture by Mahomet II in
1453, the reigning Czar of Russia has come to be regarded not only as
the temporal and spiritual head of the Greek Church by the great mass of
adherents which form the bulk of the population in Russia, but also as
the champion of all the followers of the church in Greece and throughout
the orient.

The story of the introduction of Christianity into Russia presents an
interesting psychological study of the growth and development of the
religious sentiment inherent in man--be he never so brutalized and
barbarous. Notwithstanding its display of national pride and bias,
pardonable in a native historian, Mouravieff's account is exceedingly

The Russian Church, like the other orthodox churches of the East, had an
apostle for its founder. St. Andrew, the first called of the Twelve,
hailed with his blessing long beforehand the destined introduction of
Christianity into our country; ascending up and penetrating by the
Dnieper into the deserts of Scythia, he planted the first cross on the
hills of Kieff. "See you," said he to his disciples, "these hills? On
these hills shall shine the light of divine grace. There shall be here a
great city, and God shall have in it many churches to his name."

Such are the words of the holy Nestor, the monk and annalist of the
Pechersky monastery, that point from whence Christian Russia has sprung.

But it was only after an interval of nine centuries that the rays of
divine light beamed upon Russia from the walls of Byzantium, in which
city the same apostle, St. Andrew, had appointed Stachys to be the first
bishop, and so committed, as it were, to him and to his successors, in
the spirit of prescience, the charge of that wide region in which he had
himself preached Christ. Hence the indissoluble connection of the
Russian with the Greek Church, and the dependence of her metropolitans
during six centuries upon the patriarchal throne of Constantinople,
until, with its consent, she obtained her own equality and independence
in that which was accorded to her native primates.

The Bulgarians of the Danube, the Moravians, and the Slavonians of
Illyria had been already enlightened by holy baptism about the middle of
the ninth century, during the reign of the Greek emperor Michael and the
patriarchate of the illustrious Photius. St. Cyril and St. Methodius,
two learned Greek brothers, translated into the Slavonic the New
Testament and the books used in divine service, and according to some
accounts even the whole Bible.

This translation of the Word of God became afterward a most blessed
instrument for the conversion of the Russians, for the missionaries were
by it enabled to expound the truths of the Gospel to the heathens in
their native dialect, and so win for them a readier entrance to their

Oskold and Dir, two princes of Kieff and the companions of Ruric, were
the first of the Russians who embraced Christianity. In the year 866
they made their appearance in armed vessels before the walls of
Constantinople when the Emperor was absent, and threw the Greek capital
into no little alarm and confusion. Tradition reports that "The
patriarch Photius took the virginal robe of the Mother of God from the
Blachern Church, and plunged it beneath the waves of the strait, when
the sea immediately boiled up from underneath and wrecked the vessels of
the heathen. Struck with awe, they believed in that God who had smitten
them, and became the first-fruits of their people to the Lord." The hymn
of victory of the Greek Church, "To the protecting Conductress," in
honor of the most holy Virgin, has remained a memorial of this triumph,
and even now concludes the _Office for the First Hour_ in the daily
_Matins_; for that was, indeed, the first hour of salvation to the land
of Russia.

It is probable that on their return to their own country the princes of
Kieff sowed there the seeds of Christianity; for, eighty years
afterward, on occasion of a conference for peace between the prince Igor
and certain Byzantine ambassadors, we find mention already of a "Church
of the Prophet Elias" in Kieff where the Christian Varangians swore to
the observance of the treaty. Constantine Porphyrogenitus and other
Greek annalists even relate that in the lifetime of Oskold there was a
bishop sent to the Russians by the emperor Basil the Macedonian, and the
patriarch St. Ignatius, and that he made many converts, chiefly "in
consequence of the miraculous preservation of a volume of the Gospels,
which was thrown publicly into the flames and taken out after some time
unconsumed." Also in Condinus, _Catalogue of Sees Subject to the
Patriarch of Constantinople_, the metropolitical see of Russia appears
as early as the year 891.

Lastly, it is certain that many of the Varangians who served in the
imperial bodyguard were Christians, and that the Greek sovereigns never
lost sight of any opportunity of converting them to their own faith, by
which they hoped to soften their savage manners. When the emperor Leo
was concluding a peace with Oleg, he showed not only his own treasures
to the ambassadors of the Russian prince, but also the splendor of the
churches, the holy relics, the precious _icons_, and the "Instruments of
the Passion of our Lord," if by any means they might catch from them the
spirit of the faith.

Some such influences as these, while Christianity as yet was only
struggling for an uncertain existence at Kieff, produced in good time
their effect on the wisest of the daughters of the Slavonians, the
widowed princess Olga, who governed Russia during the minority of her
son Sviatoslaf. She undertook a voyage to Constantinople for no other
end than to obtain a knowledge of the true God, and there she received
baptism at the hands of the patriarch Polyeuctes; the emperor
Constantine Porphyrogenitus himself, who admired her wisdom, being her
godfather. Nestor draws an affecting picture of the patriarch
foretelling to the newly illumined princess the blessings which were to
descend by her means on future generations of the Russians, while Olga,
now become Helena by baptism--that she might resemble both in name and
deed the mother of Constantine the Great--stood meekly bowing down her
head and drinking in, as a sponge that is thirsty of moisture, the
instructions of the prelate concerning the canons of the Church,
fasting, prayer, almsgiving, and continence, all which she observed with
exactness on her return to her own country.

Although, in spite of all her entreaties, the fierce and warlike prince
Sviatoslaf persisted in refusing to humble his proud heart under the
meek yoke of Christ, he had still so much affection for his mother as
not to persecute such as agreed with her in religion, but even to allow
them freely to make open profession of their faith under the protection
of that princess. He confided his children to her care during his
incessant military expeditions, and so enabled her to confirm the saving
impressions of Christianity among the people who respected her, and to
instil them into the mind of her young grandson Vladimir; for nothing
sinks so deep into the heart as the simple-and affectionate words of a
mother. The princess had with her a priest named Gregory, whom she had
brought from Constantinople, and by him she was buried after her death
in the spot which she had herself appointed, without any of the usual
pagan ceremonies. The people, by whom she had been surnamed "the Wise"
during life, began to bless her for a saint after her death, when they
came themselves to follow the example of this "Morning Star" which had
risen and gone before to lead Russia into the path of salvation.

Nowhere has Christianity ever been less persecuted at its first
introduction than in our own country. The _Chronicle_ speaks of only two
Christian martyrs, the Varangians Theodore and John, who were put to
death by the fury of the people because one of them, from natural
affection, had refused to give up his son when he had been devoted by
the prince Vladimir to be offered as a sacrifice to Peroun.

Probably the very zeal of this prince for the heathen deities, to whom
he set up statues and multiplied altars, may have inspired the
neighboring nations with the desire of converting so powerful a ruler to
their respective creeds; and thus his blind impulse toward the Deity,
which was unknown to him, received a true direction. The Mahometan
Bulgarians were the first to send ambassadors to him, with the offer of
their faith; but the mercy of Providence--for so it plainly
was--inspired him to give them a decided refusal on the ground that he
did not choose to comply with some of their regulations; though else a
sensual religion might well have enticed a man who was given up to the
indulgence of his passions.

The Chazarian Jews flattered themselves with the hope of attracting the
Prince by boasting of their religion and the ancient glory of Jerusalem.
"But where," demanded the wise grandson of Olga, "is your country?"

"It is ruined by the wrath of God for the sins of our fathers," was
their answer. Vladimir then said that he had no mind to embrace the law
of a people whom God had abandoned. There came also western doctors from
Germany, who would have persuaded Vladimir to embrace Christianity, but
their Christianity seemed strange to him; for Russia had hitherto no
acquaintance but with Byzantium.

"Return home," he said; "our ancestors did not receive this religion
from you."

A Greek embassy had the best success of them all. A certain philosopher,
a monk named Constantine, after having exposed the insufficiency of
other religions, eloquently set before the Prince those judgments of God
which are in the world, the redemption of the human race by the blood of
Christ, and the retribution of the life to come. His discourse
powerfully affected the heathen monarch, who was burdened with the heavy
sins of a tumultuous youth; and this was particularly the case when the
monk pointed out to him on an icon, which represented the last judgment,
the different lot of the just and of the wicked.

"Good to these on the right hand, but woe to those on the left!"
exclaimed Vladimir, deeply affected. But sensual nature still struggled
in him against heavenly truth. Having dismissed the missionary, or
ambassador, with presents, he still hesitated to decide, and wished
first to examine further concerning the faith, in concert with the
elders of his council, that all Russia might have a share in his
conversion. The council of the Prince decided to send chosen men to make
their observations on each religion on the spot where it was professed;
and this public agreement explains in some degree the sudden and general
acceptance of Christianity which shortly after followed in Russia. It is
probable that not only the chiefs, but the common people also, were
expecting and ready for the change.

The Greek emperors did not fail to profit by this favorable opportunity,
and the patriarch himself in person celebrated the divine liturgy in the
Church of St. Sophia with the utmost possible magnificence before the
astonished ambassadors of Vladimir. The sublimity and splendor of the
service struck them; but we do not ascribe to the mere external
impression that softening of the hearts of these heathens, on which
depended the conversion of a whole nation. From the very earliest times
of the Church, extraordinary signs of God's power have constantly gone
hand-in-hand with that apparent weakness of man by which the Gospel was
preached; and so also the _Byzantine Chronicle_ relates of the Russian
ambassadors, "That during the Divine liturgy, at the time of carrying
the Holy Gifts in procession to the throne or altar and singing the
cherubic hymn, the eyes of their spirits were opened, and they saw, as
in an ecstasy, glittering youths who joined in singing the hymn of the
'Thrice Holy.'"

Being thus fully persuaded of the truth of the orthodox faith, they
returned to their own country already Christians in heart, and without
saying a word before the Prince in favor of the other religions, they
declared thus concerning the Greek: "When we stood in the temple we did
not know where we were, for there is nothing else like it upon earth:
there in truth God has his dwelling with men; and we can never forget
the beauty we saw there. No one who has once tasted sweets will
afterward take that which is bitter; nor can we now any longer abide in

Then the _boyars_ said to Vladimir: "If the religion of the Greeks had
not been good, your grandmother Olga, who was the wisest of women, would
not have embraced it."

The weight of the name of Olga decided her grandson, and he said no more
in answer than these words: "Where shall we be baptized?"

But Vladimir, led by a sense which had not yet been purged by Greece,
thought it best to follow the custom of his ancestors, who made warlike
descents upon Constantinople, and so win to himself, sword in hand, his
new religion. He embarked his warriors on board their vessels and
attacked Cherson in the Taurid, a city which was subject to the emperors
Basil and Constantine.

After a long and unsuccessful siege a certain priest, named Anastasius,
by means of an arrow shot from the town, informed the Prince that the
fate of the besieged depended upon his cutting off the aqueducts, which
supplied them with water. Vladimir in great joy made a vow that he would
be baptized if he gained possession of the town; and he did gain
possession of it. Then he sent to Constantinople to demand from the
Greek Emperor the hand of their sister Anna, and they in answer proposed
as a condition that he should embrace Christianity; for though they
themselves desired an alliance with so powerful a prince, they at the
same time took care to follow the prudent and pious policy of their
predecessors, who had ever sought to bring their fierce neighbors under
the humanizing influence of the faith. The Prince declared his consent;
because, in his own words, he had "long since examined and conceived a
love for the Greek law."

It was her faith alone which influenced the princess to sacrifice
herself at once for the temporal interests of her own country and for
the eternal welfare of a strange people. Accompanied by a venerable body
of clergy, she sailed for Cherson, and on her arrival induced the Prince
to hasten his baptism. "For it was so ordered," says the pious annalist,
"by the wisdom of God, that the sight of the Prince was at that time
much affected by a complaint of the eyes, but at the moment that the
Bishop of Cherson laid his hands upon him, when he had risen up out of
the bath of regeneration, Vladimir suddenly received not only spiritual
illumination, but also the bodily sight of his eyes, and cried out, 'Now
I have seen the true God!'"

Many of the Prince's suite were so struck by his miraculous recovery
that they followed his example and were baptized in like manner; and
these were doubtless afterward zealous for the introduction of
Christianity into their country. The baptism and marriage of Vladimir
were both celebrated in the Church of the Most Holy Mother of God; and
hence, no doubt, arose his peculiar zeal for the most pure Virgin, to
whose honor he afterward erected a cathedral church in his own city of
Kieff. In Cherson itself he built a church, in the name of his angel or
patron St. Basil; and taking with him the relics of St. Clement, Bishop
of Rome, and his disciple Thebas, with church vessels and ornaments and
icons, he restored the city to be again under the power of the emperors,
and returned to Kieff, accompanied by the princess, their daughter, and
her Greek ecclesiastics.

Nestor makes no mention of any of the bishops and priests from
Constantinople and Cherson who followed in the train of the Prince,
excepting only of one, Anastasius, the priest who had rendered him such
good service during the siege; but the _Books of the Genealogies_ give
the name of Michael, a Syrian by birth, and of six other bishops who
were sent together with him to Cherson by the patriarch Nicholas
Chrysoberges. Some have ventured to suppose that Michael was the name of
the bishop of the times of Oskold; but Nestor says nothing about him,
and this much only is certain, that he stands the first in the list of
the metropolitans of Russia.

After his return to Kieff the "Great Prince" caused his twelve sons to
be baptized, and proceeded to destroy the monuments of heathenism. He
ordered Peroun to be thrown into the Dnieper. The people at first
followed their idol, as it was borne down the stream, but were soon
quieted when they saw that the statue had no power to help itself.

And now Vladimir, being surrounded and supported by believers in his own
domestic circle, and encouraged by seeing that his boyars and suite were
prepared and ready to embrace the faith, made a proclamation to the
people, "That whoever, on the morrow, should not repair to the river,
whether rich or poor, he should hold him for his enemy." At the call of
their respected lord all the multitude of the citizens in troops, with
their wives and children, flocked to the Dnieper; and without any manner
of opposition received holy baptism as a nation from the Greek bishops
and priests. Nestor draws a touching picture of this baptism of a whole
people at once: "Some stood in the water up to their necks, others up to
their breasts, holding their young children in their arms; the priests
read the prayers from the shore, naming at once whole companies by the
same name." He who was the means of thus bringing them to salvation,
filled with a transport of joy at the affecting sight, cried out to the
Lord, offering and commending into his hands himself and his people: "O
great God! who hast made heaven and earth, look down upon these thy new
people. Grant them, O Lord, to know thee the true God, as thou hast been
made known to Christian lands, and confirm in them a true and unfailing
faith; and assist me, O Lord, against my enemy that opposes me, that,
trusting in thee and in thy power, I may overcome all his wiles."

Vladimir erected the first church--that of St. Basil, after whom he was
named--on the very mount which had formerly been sacred to Peroun,
adjoining his own palace. Thus was Russia enlightened.

So sudden and ready a conversion of the inhabitants of Kieff might well
seem improbable--that is, unless effected by violence--did we not attend
to the fact that the Russians had been gradually becoming enlightened
ever since the times of Oskold, for more than a hundred years, by means
of commerce, treaties of peace, and relations of every kind with the
Greeks, as well as with the Bulgarians and Slavonians of kindred origin
with ourselves, who had already been long in possession of the Holy
Scriptures in their own language. The constant endeavors of the Greek
emperors for the conversion of the Russians by means of their
ambassadors and preachers, the tolerance of the princes, the example and
protection of Olga, and the very delay and hesitation of Vladimir in
selecting his religion must have favorably disposed the minds of the
people toward it; especially if it be true, as has been asserted, that
Russia had already had a bishop in the time of Oskold. In a similar way,
though under different circumstances, in the vast Roman Empire, the
conversion of Constantine the Great suddenly rendered Christianity the
dominant religion, because, in fact, it had long before penetrated among
all ranks of his subjects.

Vladimir engaged zealously in building churches throughout the towns and
villages of his dominions, and sent priests to preach in them. He also
founded many towns all around Kieff, and so propagated and confirmed the
Christian religion in the neighborhood of the capital, from whence the
new colonies were sent forth. Neither was he slow in establishing
schools, into which he brought together the children of the boyars,
sometimes even in spite of the unwillingness of their rude parents. In
the mean time the Metropolitan with his bishops made progresses into the
interior of Russia, to the cities of Rostoff and Novgorod, everywhere
baptizing and instructing the people. Vladimir himself, for the same
good end, went in company with other bishops to the district of Souzdal
and to Volhynia. The boyars on the Volga and some of the Pechenegian
princes embraced the gospel of salvation together with his subjects, and
rejoiced to be admitted to holy baptism.

The pious Prince wished to see in his own capital a magnificent temple
in honor of the birth of the most holy Virgin, to be a likeness and
memorial of that at Cherson, in which he himself had been baptized; and
the year after his conversion he sent to Greece for builders, and laid
the foundation of the first stone cathedral in Russia, on the very same
spot where the Varangian martyrs had suffered. But the first
metropolitan was not to live to its completion; only his holy remains
were buried in it, and were thence translated afterward to the Pechersky
Lavra. Another metropolitan, Leontius, a Greek by birth, sent by the
same patriarch Nicholas, consecrated the new temple, to the great
satisfaction of Vladimir, who made a vow to endow it with the tenth part
of all his revenues; and from hence it was called "the Cathedral of the

These tithes, according to the ordinance ascribed to Prince Vladimir,
consisted of the fixed quota of corn, cattle, and the profits of trade,
for the support of the clergy and the poor; and besides this there was a
further tithe collected from every cause which was tried; for the right
of judging causes was granted to the bishops and the metropolitan, and
they judged according to the Nomocanon. The canons of the holy councils
and the Greek ecclesiastical laws, together with the Holy Scriptures,
were taken, from the very first, as the basis of all ecclesiastical
administration in Russia; and together with them there came into use
some portions also of the civil law of the Greeks, through the influence
of the Church. The care of the new temple and the collection of tithes
for its support were intrusted to a native of Cherson named Anastasius,
who enjoyed the confidence of Vladimir and his successors.

The light of Christianity had now been diffused throughout the whole of
Russia; but still the faith was nowhere as yet firmly established,
because there were no bishops regularly settled in the towns. The
metropolitan Leontius formed the first five dioceses, and appointed
Joachim of Cherson to be Bishop of Novgorod, Theodorus of Rostoff,
Neophytus of Chernigoff, Stephen the Volhynian of Vladimir, and Nicetas
of Belgorod. Assisted by Dobrina, the uncle of the "Great Prince," who
had long governed in Novgorod, the new bishop Joachim threw the statue
of Peroun into the Volkoff, and broke down the idolatrous altars without
any opposition on the part of the citizens; for they, too, like the
inhabitants of Kieff, from their comparative degree of civilization and
from their relations of intercourse with the Greeks, were in all
probability already favorably disposed for the reception of
Christianity. Tradition asserts that even as far back as the time of St.
Olga the hermits Sergius and Germanus lived upon the desolate island of
Balaam in the lake Ladoga, and that from thence St. Abramius went forth
to preach Christ to the savage inhabitants of Rostoff.

The attempt to found a diocese at Rostoff was less successful. The first
two bishops, Theodore and Hilarion, were driven away by the fierce
tribes of the forest district of Meri, who held obstinately to their
idols in spite of the zeal of St. Abramius. It cost the two succeeding
bishops, St. Leontius and St. Isaiah, many years of extraordinary labor
and exertion, attended frequently by persecutions, before they at length
succeeded in establishing Christianity in that savage region, from
whence it spread itself by degrees into all the surrounding districts.

Thus Vladimir, having piously observed the commandments of Christ during
the course of his long reign, had the consolation of seeing before his
death the fruits of his own conversion in all the wide extent of his
dominions. He departed this life in peace at Kieff, and was soon
reckoned with his grandmother Olga among the guardian saints of Russia.
John, the third metropolitan, who had been sent from Constantinople upon
the death of Leontius, buried the Prince in the Church of the Tithes,
which he had built, near the tomb of the Grecian princess, his wife, and
the uncorrupted relics of St. Olga were translated to the same spot.


A.D. 1000



(Besides the Northmen or Norsemen, those ancient Scandinavians
celebrated in history for their adventurous exploits at sea, the Chinese
and the Welsh have laid claim to the discovery of North America at
periods much earlier than that of Columbus and the Cabots. But to the
Norse sailors alone is it generally agreed that credit for that
achievement is probably due. Associated with their supposed arrival and
sojourn on the coast of what is now New England, about A.D. 1000, the
"Round Tower" or "Old Stone Mill" at Newport, R.I., the mysterious
inscription on the "Dighton Rock" in Massachusetts, and the "Skeleton in
Armor" dug up at Fall River, Mass., and made the subject of a ballad by
Longfellow, have figured prominently in the discussion of this
pre-Columbian discovery. But these conjectural evidences are no longer
regarded as having any connection with historical probability or as
dating back to the time of the Northmen.

It is considered, however, to be pretty certain that at the end of the
tenth century or at the beginning of the eleventh the Northmen reached
the shores of North America. About that time, it is known, they settled
Iceland, and from there a colony went to Greenland, where they long
remained. From there, either by design or by accident, some of them, it
is supposed, may have reached the coast of Labrador, and thence sailed
down until they came to the region which they named Vinland. From there
they sent home glowing accounts to their countrymen in the northern
lands, who came in larger numbers to join them in the New World.

About the middle of the nineteenth century great interest among students
of this subject was aroused by a work written by Prof. C.C. Rafn, of the
Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries, Copenhagen. In this work--
_Antiquitates Americanae_--the proofs of this visit of the Northmen to
the shores of North America were convincingly set forth. In the same
work the Icelandic sagas, written in the fourteenth century, and
containing the original accounts of the Northmen's voyages to Vinland,
were first brought prominently before modern scholars. Although many
other writings on the voyages have since appeared, the great work of
Rafn still holds its place of authority, very little in the way of new
material having been brought to light. The portion of his narrative
which follows covers the main facts of the history, and the translation
from the saga furnishes an excellent example of its quaint and simple


Eric The Red, in the spring of 986, emigrated from Iceland to Greenland,
formed a settlement there, and fixed his residence at Brattalid in
Ericsfiord. Among others who accompanied him was Heriulf Bardson, who
established himself at Heriulfsnes.

Biarne, the son of the latter, was at that time absent on a trading
voyage to Norway; but in the course of the summer returning to Eyrar, in
Iceland, and finding that his father had taken his departure, this bold
navigator resolved "still to spend the following winter, like all the
preceding ones, with his father," although neither he nor any of his
people had ever navigated the Greenland sea.

They set sail, but met with northerly winds and fogs, and, after many
days' sailing, knew not whither they had been carried. At length when
the weather again cleared up, they saw a land which was without
mountains, overgrown with wood, and having many gentle elevations. As
this land did not correspond to the descriptions of Greenland, they left
it on the larboard hand, and continued sailing two days, when they saw
another land, which was flat and overgrown with wood.

From thence they stood out to sea, and sailed three days with a
southwest wind, when they saw a third land, which was high and
mountainous and covered with icebergs (glaciers). They coasted along the
shore and saw that it was an island.

They did not go on shore, as Biarne did not find the country to be
inviting. Bearing away from this island, they stood out to sea with the
same wind, and, after four days' sailing with fresh gales, they reached
Heriulfsnes, in Greenland.

Some time after this, probably in the year 994, Biarne paid a visit to
Eric, Earl of Norway, and told him of his voyage and of the unknown
lands he had discovered. He was blamed by many for not having examined
these countries more accurately.

On his return to Greenland there was much talk about undertaking a
voyage of discovery. Leif, a son of Eric the Red, bought Biarne's ship,
and equipped it with a crew of thirty-five men, among whom was a German,
of the name of Tyrker, who had long resided with his father, and who had
been very fond of Leif in his childhood. In the year 1000 they commenced
the projected voyage, and came first to the land which Biarne had seen
last. They cast anchor and went on shore. No grass was seen; but
everywhere in this country were vast ice mountains (glaciers), and the
intermediate space between these and the shore was, as it were, one
uniform plain of slate (_hella_). The country appearing to them
destitute of good qualities, they called it Hellu-Land.

They put out to sea, and came to another land, where they also went on
shore. The country was very level and covered with woods; and
wheresoever they went there were cliffs of white sand (_sand-ar
hvitir_), and a low coast (_o-soe-bratt_). They called the country Mark
Land (woodland). From thence they again stood out to sea, with a
northeast wind, and continued sailing for two days before they made land
again. They then came to an island which lay to the eastward of the
mainland. They sailed westward in waters where there was much ground
left dry at ebb tide.

Afterward they went on shore at a place where a river, issuing from a
lake, fell into the sea. They brought their ship into the river, and
from thence into the lake, where they cast anchor. Here they constructed
some temporary log huts; but later, when they had made up their mind to
winter there, they built large houses, afterward called Leifs-Budir

When the buildings were completed Leif divided his people into two
companies, who were by turns employed in keeping watch at the houses,
and in making small excursions for the purpose of exploring the country
in the vicinity. His instructions to them were that they should not go
to a greater distance than that they might return in the course of the
same evening, and that they should not separate from one another.

Leif took his turn also, joining the exploring party the one day, and
remaining at the houses the other.

It so happened that one day the German, Tyrker, was missing. Leif
accordingly went out with twelve men in search of him, but they had not
gone far from their houses when they met him coming toward them. When
Leif inquired why he had been so long absent, he at first answered in
German, but they did not understand what he said. He then said to them
in the Norse tongue: "I did not go much farther, yet I have a discovery
to acquaint you with: I have found vines and grapes."

He added by way of confirmation that he had been born in a country where
there were plenty of vines. They had now two occupations: namely, to hew
timber for loading the ship, and collect grapes; with these last they
filled the ship's longboat. Leif gave a name to the country, and called
it Vinland (Vineland). In the spring they sailed again from thence, and
returned to Greenland.

Leif's Vineland voyage was now a subject of frequent conversation in
Greenland, and his brother Thorwald was of opinion that the country had
not been sufficiently explored. He, accordingly, borrowed Leif's ship,
and, aided by his brother's counsel and directions, commenced a voyage
in the year 1002. He arrived at Leif's-booths, in Vineland, where they
spent the winter, he and his crew employing themselves in fishing. In
the spring of 1003 Thorwald sent a party in the ship's long-boat on a
voyage of discovery southward. They found the country beautiful and well
wooded, with but little space between the woods and the sea; there were
likewise extensive ranges of white sand, and many islands and shallows.

They found no traces of men having been there before them, excepting on
an island lying to westward, where they found a wooden shed. They did
not return to Leif's-booths until the fall. In the following summer,
1004, Thorwald sailed eastward with the large ship, and then northward
past a remarkable headland enclosing a bay, and which was opposite to
another headland. They called it Kial-Ar-Nes (Keel Cape).

From thence they sailed along the eastern coast of the land, into the
nearest firths, to a promontory which there projected, and which was
everywhere overgrown with wood. There Thorwald went ashore with all his
companions. He was so pleased with this place that he exclaimed: "This
is beautiful! and here I should like well to fix my dwelling!"
Afterward, when they were preparing to go on board, they observed on the
sandy beach, within the promontory, three hillocks, and repairing hither


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