The World War and What was Behind It
Louis P. Benezet
Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Distributed Proofreaders
THE WORLD WAR AND WHAT WAS BEHIND IT
THE STORY OF THE MAP OF EUROPE
L. P. BENEZET
SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, EVANSVILLE, INDIANA
[Illustration: The Peace Palace at the Hague]
This little volume is the result of the interest shown by pupils,
teachers, and the general public in a series of talks on the causes of
the great European war which were given by the author in the fall of
1914. The audiences were widely different in character. They included
pupils of the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, students in high
school and normal school, teachers in the public schools, an
association of business men, and a convention of boards of education.
In every case, the same sentiment was voiced: "If there were only some
book which would give us these facts in simple language and illustrate
them by maps and charts as you have done!" After searching the market
for a book of this sort without success, the author determined to put
the subject of his talks into manuscript form. It has been his aim to
write in a style which is well within the comprehension of the
children in the upper grades and yet is not too juvenile for adult
readers. The book deals with the remarkable sequence of events in
Europe which made the great war inevitable. Facts are revealed which,
so far as the author knows, have not been published in any history to
date; facts which had the strongest possible bearing on the outbreak
of the war. The average American, whether child or adult, has little
conception of conditions in Europe. In America all races mix. The
children of the Polish Jew mingle with those of the Sicilian, and in
the second generations both peoples have become Americans. Bohemians
intermarry with Irish, Scotch with Norwegians. In Europe, on the other
hand, Czech and Teuton, Bulgar and Serb may live side by side for
centuries without mixing or losing their distinct racial
characteristics. In order that the American reader may understand the
complicated problem of European peace, a study of races and languages
is given in the text, showing the relationship of Slav, Celt, Latin,
and Teuton, and the various sub-divisions of these peoples. A
knowledge of these facts is very essential to any understanding of the
situation in Europe. The author has pointed out the fact that
political boundaries are largely king-made, and that they have seldom
been drawn with regard to the natural division of Europe by
nationalities, or to the wishes of the mass of the population.
The chapter, entitled "Europe as it Should Be," with its accompanying
map, shows the boundaries of the various nations as they would look if
the bulk of the people of each nationality were included in a single
political division. In many places, it is, of course, impossible to
draw sharp lines. Greek shades off into Bulgar on one side and into
Skipetar and Serb on the other. Prague, the capital of the Czechs, is
one-third German in its population. There are large islands of Germans
and Magyars in the midst of the Roumanians of Transylvania. These are
a few examples out of many which could be cited. However, the general
aim of the chapter has been to divide the continent into nations, in
each of which the leading race would vastly predominate in population.
It is hoped that the study of this little work will not only throw
light upon the causes of war in general, but will also reveal its
cruelty and its needlessness. It is shown that the history of Europe
from the time of the great invasions by the Germanic tribes has been a
continuous story of government without the consent of the governed.
A preventive for wars, such as statesmen and philanthropists in many
countries have urged, is outlined in the closing chapter. It would
seem as though after this terrible demonstration of the results of
armed peace, the governments of the world would be ready to listen to
some plan which would forever forbid the possibility of another war.
Just as individuals in the majority of civilized countries discovered,
a hundred years ago, that it was no longer necessary for them to carry
weapons in order to insure their right to live and to enjoy
protection, so nations may learn at last that peace and security are
preferable to the fruits of brigandage and aggression. The colonies of
America, after years of jealousy and small differences, followed by a
tremendous war, at last learned this lesson. In the same way the
states of Europe will have to learn it. The stumbling blocks in the
way are the remains of feudal government in Europe and the ignorance
and short-sightedness of the common people in many countries.
Ignorance is rapidly waning with the advance of education, and we
trust that feudalism will not long survive its last terrible crime,
the world war of 1914.
Now that the United States has become a belligerent, it is very
essential that our people understand the events that led up to our
participation in the war. So many of our citizens are of a
peace-loving nature, we are so far removed from the militarism of
continental Europe, and the whole war seems so needless and so
profitless to those who have not studied carefully its causes, that
there is danger of a want of harmony with the program of the
government if all are not taught the simple truth of the matter. There
is no quicker channel through which to reach all the people than the
public schools. With this in mind, two entire chapters and part of a
third are devoted to demonstrating why no other course was open to
this country than to accept the war which was forced upon her.
In the preparation of this little work, the author has received many
helpful suggestions from co-workers. His thanks are especially due to
Professor A. G. Terry of Northwestern University and Professor A. H.
Sanford of the Wisconsin State Normal School at La Crosse, who were
kind enough to read through and correct the manuscript before its
final revision. The author is especially indebted to the Committee on
Public Information at Washington, D. C., for furnishing to him
authoritative data on many phases of the war. Acknowledgment is also
made to Row, Peterson and Company for kind permission to use
illustrations from History Stories of Other Lands; also to the
International Film Service, Inc., of New York City for the use of many
valuable copyright illustrations of scenes relating to the great war.
L. P. BENEZET.
January 2, 1918
List of Maps
List of Illustrations
1. The Great War
2. Rome and the Barbarian Tribes
3. From Chiefs to Kings
4. Master and Man
5. A Babel of Tongues
6. "The Terrible Turk"
7. The Rise of Modern Nations
8. The Fall of Two Kingdoms
9. The Little Man from the Common People
10. A King-Made Map and Its Trail of Wrongs
11. Italy a Nation at Last
12. The Man of Blood and Iron
13. The Balance of Power
14. The "Entente Cordiale"
15. The Sowing of the Dragon's Teeth
16. Who Profits?
17. The Spark that Exploded the Magazine
18. Why England Came In
19. Diplomacy and Kingly Ambition
20. Back to the Balkans
21. The War under the Sea
22. Another Crown Topples
23. The United States at War--Why?
24. Europe As It Should Be
25. The Cost of It All
26. What Germany Must Learn
LIST OF MAPS
1. Distribution of Peoples According to Relationship
2. Distribution of Languages
3. Southeastern Europe in 600 B.C.
4. Southeastern Europe 975 A.D.
5. Southeastern Europe 1690
6. The Empire of Charlemagne
7. Europe in 1540
8. The Growth of Brandenburg-Prussia 1400-1806
9. Italy in 525
10. Italy in 650
11. Italy in 1175
12. Europe in 1796
13. Europe in 1810
14. Europe in 1815
15. Italy Made One Nation--1914--
16. Formation of the German Empire
17. Southeastern and Central Europe 1796
18. Losses of Turkey During the Nineteenth Century
19. Turkey As the Balkan Allies Planned to Divide It
20. Changes Resulting from Balkan Wars 1912-1913
21. The Two Routes from Germany into France
22. The Roumanian Campaign as the Allies Wished It
23. The Roumanian Campaign as It Turned Out
24. Europe as It Should Be
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
1. The Peace Palace at the Hague
2. Fleeing from Their Homes, Around which a Battle is Raging
3. A Drill Ground in Modern Europe
4. The Forum of Rome as It Was 1600 Years Ago
5. The Last Combat of the Gladiators
6. Germans Going into Battle
7. A Hun Warrior
8. Gaius Julius Caesar
9. A Prankish Chief
10. Movable Huts of Early Germans
11. Goths on the March
12. Franks Crossing the Rhine
13. Men of Normandy Landing in England
14. Alexander Defeating the Persians
15. A Knight in Armor
16. A Norman Castle in England
17. A Vassal Doing Homage to His Lord
18. William the Conqueror
19. A Typical Bulgarian Family
20. Mohammed II Before Constantinople
21. A Scene in Salonika
22. Louis XIV
23. John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough
24. The Great Elector of Brandenburg
25. Frederick the Great
26. Catharine II
27. Courtier of Time of Louis XIV
28. The Taking of the Bastille
29. The Palace of Versailles
30. The Reign of Terror
31. The First Singing of "The Marseillaise"
32. Charles the Fifth
33. The Emperor Napoleon in 1814
34. The Retreat from Moscow
35. Napoleon at Waterloo
36. The Congress of Vienna
37. Prince Metternich
38. The First Meeting of Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel
40. An Attack on a Convoy in the Franco-Prussian War
41. The Proclamation at Versailles of William I as Emperor of
42. Peter the Great
43. Entrance to the Mosque of St. Sophia
44. The Congress of Berlin
45. An Arab Sheik and His Staff
46. A Scene in Constantinople
48. A Modern Dreadnaught
50. A Fort Ruined by the Big German Guns
51. Russian Peasants Fleeing Before the German Army
52. A Bomb-proof Trench in the Western War Front
54. The Deutschland in Chesapeake Bay
55. Crowd in Petrograd During the Revolution
56. Revolutionary Soldiers in the Duma
57. Kerensky Reviewing Russian Troops
58. Flight from a Torpedoed Liner
59. President Wilson Reading the War Message
60. American Grain Set on Fire by German Agents
61. Polish Children
62. The Price of War
63. Rendered Homeless by War
64. Charles XII of Sweden
THE STORY OF THE MAP OF EUROPE
The Great War
The call from Europe.--Friend against friend.--Why?--Death and
devastation.--No private quarrel.--Ordered by government.--What makes
government?--The influence of the past.--Four causes of war.
Among the bricklayers at work on a building which was being erected in
a great American city during the summer of 1914 were two men who had
not yet become citizens of the United States. Born abroad, they still
owed allegiance, one to the Emperor of Austria, the other to the Czar
Meeting in a new country, and using a new language which gave them a
chance to understand each other, they had become well acquainted. They
were members of the same labor union, and had worked side by side on
several different jobs. In the course of time, a firm friendship had
sprung up between them. Suddenly, on the same day, each was notified
to call at the office of the agent of his government in the city. Next
morning the Russian came to his boss to explain that he must quit
work, that he had been called home to fight for the "Little Father" of
the Russians. He found his chum, the Austrian, there ahead of him,
telling that he had to go, for the Russians had declared war on
Austria and the good Kaiser, Franz Josef, had need of all his
 In the German language, the title Kaiser means Emperor.
The two chums stared at each other in sorrow and dismay. The pitiless
arm of the god of war had reached across the broad Atlantic, plucking
them back from peace and security. With weapons put into their hands
they would be ordered to kill each other on sight.
A last hand-clasp, a sorrowful "Good luck to you," and they parted.
Why was this necessary? What was this irresistible force, strong
enough to separate the two friends and drag them back five thousand
miles for the purpose of killing each other? To answer these two
questions is the purpose of this little volume.
Beginning with the summer of 1914, Europe and parts of Asia and Africa
were torn and racked with the most tremendous war that the world has
ever seen. Millions of men were killed. Other millions were maimed,
blinded, or disfigured for life. Still other millions were herded into
prison camps or forced to work like convict laborers. Millions of
homes were filled with grief. Millions of women were forced to do hard
work which before the war had been considered beyond their power.
Millions of children were left fatherless. What had been the richest
and most productive farming land in Europe was made a barren waste.
Thousands of villages and towns were utterly destroyed and their
inhabitants were forced to flee, the aged, the sick, and the infants
In many cases, as victorious armies swept through Poland and Serbia,
the wretched inhabitants fled before them, literally starving, because
all food had been seized for the use of fighting men. Dreadful
diseases, which cannot exist where people have the chance to bathe and
keep themselves clean, once more appeared, sweeping away hundreds of
thousands of victims. The strongest, healthiest, bravest men of a
dozen different nations were shot down by the millions or left to drag
out a miserable existence, sick or crippled for life. Silent were the
wheels in many factories which once turned out the comforts and
luxuries of civilization. There were no men to make toys for the
children, or to work for mankind's happiness. The only mills and
factories which were running full time were those that turned out the
tools of destruction and shot and shell for the guns. Nations poured
out one hundred fifty million dollars a day for the purpose of killing
off the best men in Europe. Had the world gone mad? What was the
reason for it all?
[Illustration: Fleeing from their Homes, around which a Battle is Raging.]
In 1913 Germans traveled in Russia and Englishmen traveled in Germany
freely and safely. Germans were glad to trade with intercourse
Russians, and happy to have Englishmen spend their money in Germany.
France and Austria exchanged goods and their inhabitants traveled
within each other's boundaries. A Frenchman might go anywhere through
Germany and be welcomed. There was nothing to make the average German
hate the average Englishman or Belgian. The citizen of Austria and the
citizen of Russia could meet and find plenty of ground for friendship.
We cannot explain this war, then, on the grounds of race hatred. One
can imagine that two men living side by side and seeing each other
every day might have trouble and grow to hate each other, but in this
great war soldiers were shooting down other soldiers whom they had
never seen before, with whom they had never exchanged a word, and it
would not profit them if they killed a whole army of their opponents.
In many cases, the soldiers did not see the men whom they were
killing. An officer with a telescope watched where the shells from the
cannon were falling and telephoned to the captain in charge to change
the aim a trifle for his next shots. The men put in the projectile,
closed and fired the gun. Once in a while, a shell from the invisible
enemy, two, three, or four miles away, fell among them, killing and
wounding. When a regiment of Austrians were ordered to charge the
Russian trenches, they shot and bayoneted the Russians because they
were told to do so by their officers, and the Russian soldiers shot
the Austrians because their captains so ordered them. The officers on
each side were only obeying orders received from their generals. The
generals were only obeying orders from the government.
In the end, then, we come back to the governments, and we wonder what
has caused these nations to fly at each other's throats. The question
arises as to what makes up a government or why a government has the
right to rule its people.
In the United States, the government officials are simply the servants
of the people. Practically every man in our country, unless he is a
citizen of some foreign nation, has a right to vote, and in many of
the states women, too, have a voice in the government. We, the people
of the United States, can choose our own lawmakers, can instruct them
how to vote and, in some states, can vote out of existence any law
that they the people have made which we do not like. In all states, we
can show our disapproval of what our law-makers have done by voting
against them at the next election. Such is the government of a
republic, a "government of the people, by the people, and for the
people," as Abraham Lincoln called it. In the leading British
colonies, the people rule. Australian citizens voted against forcing
men to serve in the army. The result was very close and the vote of
the women helped to decide it. Canada, on the contrary, voted to
compel her men to go. How is it in Europe? Have the people of Germany
or Austria the right to vote on war? Were they consulted before their
governments called them to arms and sent them to fight each other? It
is plain that in order to understand what this war is about, we must
look into the story of how the different governments of Europe came to
be and learn why their peoples obey them so unquestioningly.
We must remember that government by the people is a very new thing.
One hundred and thirty years ago, even in the United States only about
one-fourth of the men had the right to vote. These were citizens of
property and wealth. They did not think a poor man was worth
considering. In England, a country which allows its people more voice
in the government than almost any other nation in Europe, it is only
within the last thirty years that all men could vote. There are some
European countries, like Turkey, where the people have practically no
power at all and others, like Austria, where they have very little
voice in how they shall be governed.
For over a thousand years, the men of Europe have obeyed without
thinking when their lords and kings have ordered them to pick up their
weapons and go to war. In many instances they have known nothing of
the causes of the conflict or of what they were fighting for. A famous
English writer has written a poem which illustrates how little the
average citizen has ever known concerning the cause of war, and shows
the difference between the way in which war was looked upon by the men
of old and the way in which one should regard it. The poem runs as
THE BATTLE OF BLENHEIM
It was a summer evening,
Old Kaspar's work was done,
And he before his cottage door
Was sitting in the sun,
And by him sported on the green
His little grandchild Wilhelmine.
She saw her brother Peterkin
Roll something large and round,
Which he beside the rivulet
In playing there had found,
He came to ask what he had found
That was so large and smooth and round.
Old Kaspar took it from the boy,
Who stood expectant by;
And then the old man shook his head,
And, with a natural sigh--
"'Tis some poor fellow's skull," said he,
"Who fell in the great victory.
"I find them in the garden,
For there's many hereabout;
And often when I go to plow,
The plowshare turns them out!
For many a thousand men," said he,
"Were slain in the great victory."
"Now tell us what 'twas all about,"
Young Peterkin he cries;
And little Wilhelmine looks up
With wonder-waiting eyes--
"Now tell us all about the war,
And what they fought each other for."
"It was the English," Kaspar cried,
"Who put the French to rout;
But what they fought each other for
I could not well make out;
But everybody said," quoth he,
"That 'twas a famous victory.
"My father lived at Blenheim then,
Yon little stream hard by;
They burnt his dwelling to the ground,
And he was forced to fly;
So with his wife and child he fled,
Nor had he where to rest his head.
"They say it was a shocking sight
After the field was won--
For many thousand bodies here
Lay rotting in the sun;
But things like that, you know, must be
After a famous victory.
"Great praise the Duke of Marlborough won,
And our good Prince Eugene."
"Why,'twas a very wicked thing!"
Said little Wilhelmine.
"Nay, nay, my little girl," quoth he,
"It was a famous victory.
"And everybody praised the duke
Who this great fight did win."
"But what good came of it at last?"
Quoth little Peterkin.
"Why, that I cannot tell," said he;
"But 'twas a famous victory."
Old Kaspar, who has been used to such things all his life, cannot feel
the wickedness and horror Of the battle. The children, on the other
hand, have a different idea of war. They are not satisfied until they
know what it was all about and what good came of it, and they feel
that "it was a very wicked thing." If the men in the armies had
stopped to ask the reason why they were killing each other and had
refused to fight until they knew the truth, the history of the world
would have been very different.
One reason why we still have wars is that men refuse to think for
themselves, because it is so much easier to let their dead ancestors
think for them and to keep up customs which should have been changed
ages ago. People in Europe have lived in the midst of wars or
preparation for wars all their lives. There never has been a time when
Europe was not either a battlefield or a great drill-ground for
There was a time, long ago, when any man might kill another in Europe
and not be punished for his deed. It was not thought wrong to take
human life. Today it is not considered wrong to kill, provided a man
is ordered to do so by his general or his king. When two kings go to
war, each claiming his quarrel to be a just one, wholesale murder is
done, and each side is made by its government to think itself very
virtuous and wholly justified in its killing. It should be the great
aim of everyone today to help to bring about lasting peace among all
[Illustration: A Drill Ground in Modern Europe.]
In order to know how to do this, we must study the causes of the wars
of the past. We shall find, as we do so, that almost all wars can be
traced to one of four causes: (1) the instinct among barbarous tribes
to fight with and plunder their neighbors; (2) the ambition of kings
to enlarge their kingdoms; (3) the desire of the traders of one nation
to increase their commerce at the expense of some other nation; (4) a
people's wish to be free from the control of some other country and to
become a nation by itself. Of the four reasons, only the last
furnishes a just cause for war, and this cause has been brought about
only when kings have sent their armies out, and forced into their
kingdoms other peoples who wished to govern themselves.
Questions for Review
1. Why must foreigners in the United States return to their native
lands when summoned by their governments?
2. How is it that war helps to breed diseases?
3. Is race hatred a cause of war or a result of it?
4. Whom do we mean by the government in the United States?
5. Who controls the government in Russia?
6. Who in England?
7. Who in Germany?
8. Who in France?
9. In Southey's poem, how does the children's idea of the battle
differ from that of their grandfather? Why?
10. Are people less likely to protest against war if their forefathers
have fought many wars?
11. What have been the four main causes of war?
Rome and the Barbarian Tribes
New governments in Europe.--Earliest times.--How civilization
began.--The rise of Rome.--Roman civilization.--Roman cruelty.--The
German tribes.--The Slavic tribes.--The Celtic tribes.--The Huns and
Moors.--The great Germanic invasions of the Roman world.
To search for the causes of the great war which began in Europe in
1914, we must go far back into history. It should be remembered that
many of the governments of today have not lived as long as that of our
own country. This is, perhaps, a new thought to some of us, who rather
think that, as America is a new country, it is the baby among the
great nations. But, one hundred and thirty years ago, when the United
States was being formed, there was no nation called Italy; the
peninsula which we now know by that name was cut up among nine or ten
little governments. There was no nation known as Germany; the land
which is in the present German empire was then divided among some
thirty or thirty-five different rulers. There was no Republic of
France; instead, France had a king whose will was law, and the French
people were cruelly oppressed. There was no kingdom of Belgium, no
kingdom of Serbia, of Bulgaria, of Roumania. The kingdom of Norway was
part of Denmark. The Republic of France, as we now know it, dates back
only to 1871; the Empire of Germany and the United Kingdom of Italy to
about the same time. The kingdoms of Roumania, Serbia, and Bulgaria
have been independent of Turkey only since 1878. The kingdom of
Albania did not exist before 1913. Most of the present nations of
modern Europe, then, are very new. The troubles which led to the great
war, however, originated in the dim twilight of history.
In the earliest days, there were no separate countries or kingdoms.
Men gathered together in little bands, each of which had its leader.
This leader was generally chosen because of his bodily strength and
courage. He was the best fighter of the tribe. The people did not have
any lasting homes. They moved around from place to place, wherever
they could find the best hunting and fishing. When two tribes wanted
the same hunting grounds, they fought, and the weaker party had to
give way. Selfishness was supreme. If a man wanted anything which
belonged to his weaker neighbor, he simply beat this neighbor over the
head with his club, and took it. The stronger tribe attacked the
weaker, without any thought of whether or not its quarrel was just.
Gradually, in the southern and warmer parts of Europe, the tribes
began to be more civilized. Towns sprang up. Ships were built. Trade
came to be one of the occupations. The fighting men needed weapons and
armor; so there grew up artisans who were skilled in working metals.
In Egypt and Syria there were people who had reached quite a high
degree of civilization, and gradually the Europeans learned from them
better ways of living. First the Greeks, then the Etruscans
(E-trus'cans), a people who lived in Italy just north of where
Rome now is, and finally the southern Italians learned that it was
possible to live in cities, without hunting and plundering. Grazing
(the tending of flocks of animals) came to be the occupation of many.
The owners of sheep or cattle drove their flocks from place to place,
as grass and water failed them where they were. There was no separate
ownership of land.
At last came the rise of the city of Rome, which, starting out as the
stronghold of a little gang of robbers, spread its rule gradually over
all the surrounding country. By this time, the barbarians of northern
Europe had gotten past the use of clubs as weapons. They, too, had
learned to make tools and arms of bronze, and those living near
civilized countries had obtained swords of iron. The club, however,
still remained as the sign of authority. The large bludgeon of the
chief was carried before the tribe as a sign of his power over them.
You have all seen pictures of a king sitting on his throne and holding
a wand or stick in his right hand. It is interesting to think that
this scepter, which the present king of England carries on state
occasions to remind his people of his power, is a relic of the old,
old days when his grandfather, many times removed, broke the head of
his rival for leadership in the tribe and set up his mighty club for
his awestruck people to worship.
The city of Rome (at first a republic, afterwards an empire) spread
its rule over all of Italy, over all the shores of the Mediterranean
Sea, and finally over all the countries of Europe south and west of
the rivers Danube and Rhine. One of the emperors planted a colony
north of the Danube near its mouth, and the descendants of these
colonists are living in that same country today. They have not
forgotten their origin, for they still call themselves Romans (Roumani
[Roo-mae'ni]), and talk a language greatly resembling the Latin,
which was the tongue spoken by the Romans of old. With the exception
of this country, which is now Roumania, the part of Europe north and
east of the Danube and Rhine was practically free from the Romans. In
this territory, roving bands wandered around, driving their cattle
with them and clearing the woods of game.
[Illustration: The Forum (public square) of Rome as it was 1600 years
In some ways, the Romans were a highly civilized people. They had
schools where their children were taught to read and write, to speak
Greek, and to work problems in geometry. They had magnificent public
buildings, fine temples and palaces. They built excellent paved roads
all over the southern part of Europe, and had wonderful systems of
aqueducts which supplied their cities with pure water from springs and
lakes miles away. Their dress was made of fine cloth. They knew how to
make paper, glass, and steel.
On the other hand, they were a cruel and bloodthirsty people. Their
favorite amusement was to go to shows where gladiators fought, either
with each other or with wild beasts. These gladiators were generally
men from tribes which had fought against Rome. They had been captured
and brought to that city, where they were trained to use certain
weapons. Then on holidays, with all the people of Rome packed into big
amphitheaters, these unfortunate captives were forced to fight with
each other until one man of each pair was killed. It occasionally
happened that one gladiator might be wounded, and lie helpless on the
sand, The spectators would then shout to the victorious fighter to
take his knife and finish what he had begun. In this way what would
seem to us like cold-blooded murder was committed hundreds of times
each year, while the fairest ladies and young girls of Rome sat and
watched with eager interest. Thus, although the Romans had all the
outward appearance of being civilized, they were savages at heart, and
had no sympathy for any people who were not of their own race.
[Illustration: The Last Combat of the Gladiators]
In the early days, the Romans prided themselves on their honor. They
scorned a lie and looked down on anyone who would cheat or deceive.
They lived hardy lives and would not allow themselves luxuries. They
rather despised the Greeks, because the latter surrounded themselves
with comforts in life. The early Romans were fighters by nature. They
had a certain god named Janus (our month January is named after him)
and his temple was open only when they were engaged in war. It is a
matter of history that during the twelve hundred years from the first
building of Rome to the end of the Roman Empire, the temple of Janus
was closed on but three occasions and then only for a short time.
About five or six hundred years after the founding of Rome came
several disastrous wars which killed off a great majority of her
sturdy fighters. Rome was the victor in all of these wars, but she won
them at tremendous cost to herself. With the killing off of her best
and bravest men, a great deal of the old time honesty was lost. Very
soon, we begin to hear of Roman governors who, when put in charge of
conquered states, used their offices only to plunder the helpless
inhabitants and to return to Rome after their terms were finished,
laden with ill-gotten gains. Roman morals, which formerly were very
strict, began to grow more lax, and in general the Roman civilization
showed signs of decay.
To the north and east of the Roman Empire dwelt a people who were to
become the leaders of the new nations of Europe. These were the free
German tribes, which occupied the part of Europe bounded, roughly, by
the rivers Danube and Rhine, the Baltic Sea, and the Carpathian
Mountains. In many ways they were much less civilized than the Romans.
They were clad in skins and furs instead of cloth. They lived in rough
huts and tents or in caves dug in the sides of a hill. They, too, like
the Romans, held human life cheap, and bloodshed and murder were
common among them. As a rule, the men scorned to work, leaving
whatever labor there was, largely to the women, while they busied
themselves in fighting and hunting, or, during their idle times, in
gambling. Nevertheless, these people, about the time that the Roman
honesty began to disappear, had virtues more like those of the early
Romans. They were frank and honorable. The men were faithful husbands
and kind fathers, and their family life was very happy. They were
barbarous and rough, but those of them who were taken to Rome and
learned the Roman civilization made finer, nobler men than Rome was
producing about the time of which we speak.
[Illustration: Germans Going Into Battle]
To the east of these German tribes were the Slavs, a people no better
civilized, but not so warlike in their nature. As the Germans, in
later years, moved on to the west, the Slavs, in turn, moved westward
and occupied much of the land which had been left vacant by the
[Illustration: A Hun Warrior]
The inhabitants of western Europe, that is, France, Spain, and the
British Isles, were largely Celts. In fact, all Europe could be said
to be divided up among four great peoples: There were the Latins in
Italy, the Celts in western Europe, the Germans in central Europe, and
the Slavs to the east. All of these four families were distantly
related, as can be proved by the languages which they spoke. The
Greeks, while not belonging to any one of the four, were also distant
cousins of both Germans and Latins. Probably all five peoples are
descended from one big family of tribes.
In addition to these, there were, from time to time invasions of
Europe by other nations which did not have any connection by blood
with Celts, Latins, Greeks, Germans, or Slavs. For instance, the
ferocious Huns, a people of the yellow race, rushed into Europe about
400 A.D., but were beaten in a big battle by the Romans and Germans
and finally went back to Asia. Three hundred years later, a great
horde of Moors and Arabs from Africa crossed over into Europe by way
of the Straits of Gibraltar, and at one time threatened to sweep
before them all the Christian nations. For several hundred years after
this, they held the southern part of Spain, but were finally driven
Let us now come back to the story of what happened in Europe after the
Romans had conquered all the country south and west of the Danube and
Rhine. The wild tribes of the Germans were restlessly roaming through
the central part of Europe. They were not at peace with each other. In
fact, constant war was going on. Julius Caesar, the great Roman
general, who conquered what is now France and added it to the Roman
world, tells us that one great tribe of Germans, the Suevi (Swe'vi),
made it their boast that they would let no other tribe live anywhere
near them. About a hundred years B.C., two great German tribes. the
Cimbri and the Teutones, broke across the Rhine and poured into the
Roman lands in countless numbers. For seven years they roamed about
until at last they were conquered in two bloody battles by a Roman
general, who was Caesar's uncle by marriage. After this time, the
Romans tried to conquer the country of the Germans and they might have
been successful but for a young German chief named Arminius. He had
lived in Rome as a young man and had learned the Romans' method of
war; so when an army came against his tribe, he taught the Germans how
to defend themselves. As a result, the Roman army was trapped in a big
forest and slaughtered, almost to a man.
[Illustration: Gaius Julius Caesar. From a bust in the British Museum]
This defeat ended any thought that the Romans may have had of
conquering all Germany. For the next one hundred and fifty years,
Germans and Romans lived apart, each afraid of the other. Then came a
time when the Germans again became the attacking party. Other fiercer
and wilder peoples, like the Huns, were assailing them in the east and
pushing them forward. They finally broke over the Rhine-Danube
boundary and poured across the Roman Empire in wave after wave. Some
of these tribes were the Vandals, Burgundians, Goths, Franks, and
Lombards. The Roman Empire went to pieces under their savage attacks.
Questions for Review
1. Why is it that after nations become civilized, people need less
land to live on?
2. Are barbarous tribes more likely to engage in war than civilized
3. Explain why clubs were the earliest weapons and why the more
civilized tribes were better armed than the barbarians.
4. Can a people be said to be civilized when they enjoy bloodshed and
are not moved by the sufferings of others?
5. What was it that lowered the morals of the Roman republic?
6. In what way were the Germans better men than the later Romans?
7. What was the religion of the Moors and the Arabs?
8. Why did the German tribes invade the Roman empire?
From Chiefs to Kings
The early chief a fighter.--The club the sign of power.--Free men led
by a chief of their own choosing.--The first slaves.--Barbarians
conquer civilized nations.--A ruling class among conquered
people.--All men no longer free and equal.--The value of arms and
armor.--The robber chiefs.--How kings first came.--Treaties between
tribes follow constant wars.--Tribes unite for protection against
enemies.--A king is chosen for the time being.--Some kings refuse to
resign their office when the danger is past.--New generations grow up
which never knew a kingless state.--The word "king" becomes sacred.
The chiefs of the invading tribes knew no law except the rule of the
sword. If they saw anything which they wanted, they took it. Rich
cities were plundered at will. They did not admit any man's ownership
of anything. In the old days when the tribes were roaming around,
there was no private ownership of land. Everything belonged to the
tribe in common. Each man had a vote in the council of the tribe.
Among these invaders, as with all barbarous tribes, there was no such
thing as an absolute rule. A chief was obeyed because the greater part
of his people considered him the best leader in war. Often, no doubt,
when a chief had lost a battle and the majority of the tribe had lost
confidence in him, he resigned and let them choose a new chief. (For
the same reason we frequently hear today that the prime minister, or
leader of the government, of some European country has resigned.) In
spite of the fact, then, that the chief was stronger than any other
man in the tribe, if the majority of his warriors had combined against
him to put another man in his place he could not have withstood them.
Government, in its beginning, was based upon the consent of the
governed. All men in the primitive tribe were equal in rank, except as
one was a better fighter than another, and the chief held the
leadership in war only because the members of his tribe allowed him to
[Illustration: A Frankish Chief.]
It must be remembered that in these early days, the people had no
fixed place of abode. Their only homes were rude huts which they could
put up or tear down at very short notice; and so when they heard of
more fertile lands or a warmer climate across the mountains to the
south they used to pull up stakes and migrate in a body, never to
return. It was always the more savage and uncivilized peoples who were
most likely to migrate. The lands which they wished to seize they
generally found already settled by other tribes, more civilized and
hence more peaceful, occupied in trade and agriculture, having
gradually turned to these pursuits from their former habits of hunting
and fighting. Sometimes these more civilized and peace-loving people
were able, by their better weapons and superior knowledge of the art
of fortifying, to beat back the invasion of the immigrating
barbarians. Oftener, though, the rougher, ruder tribes were the
victors, and settled down among the people they had conquered, to rule
them, doing no work themselves, but forcing the conquered ones to feed
and clothe them.
[Illustration: Movable Huts of Early Germans]
History is full of instances of such conquests, and they were taking
place, no doubt, ages before the times from which our earliest records
date. The best examples, however, are to be found in the invasions of
the Roman Empire by the Germanic tribes to which we have referred
above. The country between the Rhine River and the Pyrenees Mountains,
which had been called Gaul when the Gauls lived there, became France
when the Franks conquered the Gauls and stayed to live among them. In
like manner, two German tribes became the master races in Spain. The
Burgundians came down from the shores of the Baltic Sea and gave their
name to their new home in the fertile valley of the Saone (Son);
the Vandals came out of Germany to roam through Spain, finally
founding a kingdom in Africa; while the Lombards crossed the Alps to
become the masters of the Valley of the Po, whither the Gauls had gone
before them, seven hundred years earlier.
[Illustration: Goths on the March]
[Illustration: Franks Crossing the Rhine]
The island now known as Great Britain, which was inhabited two
thousand years ago by the Britons and Gaels, Celtic peoples, was
overrun and conquered in part about 450 A.D. by the Saxons and Angles,
Germanic tribes, after whom part of the island was called Angleland.
(The men from the south of England are of the same blood as the Saxons
in the German army, against whom they had to fight in the great war.)
Then came Danes, who partially conquered the Angles and Saxons, and
after them, in 1066 A.D., the country was again conquered by the
Normans, descendants of some Norsemen, who, one hundred and fifty
years before, had come down from Norway and conquered a large
territory in the northwestern part of France.
[Illustration: Men of Normandy Landing in England.]
In some cases, the conquered tribes moved on to other lands, leaving
their former homes to their conquerors. In this way the Britons and
Gaels gave up the greater part of their land to the Angles and Saxons
and withdrew to the hills and mountains of Wales, Cornwall, and
northern Scotland. In other cases, the conquered people and their
conquerors inhabited the same lands side by side, as the Normans
settled down in England among the Anglo-Saxons.
In the early days of savagery, one tribe would frequently make a raid
upon another neighboring tribe and bring home with it some captives
who became slaves, working without pay for their conquerors and
possessing no more rights than beasts of burden. (This custom exists
today in the interior of Africa, and was responsible for the infamous
African slave trade. Black captives were sold to white traders through
the greed of their captors, who forgot that their own relatives and
friends might be carried off and sold across the seas by some other
tribe of blacks.)
When these slaves were kept as the servants of their conquerors, their
number was very small as compared with that of their masters. When, on
the other hand, a tribe settled among a people whom they had
conquered, they often found themselves fewer in numbers, and kept
their leadership only by their greater strength and fighting ability.
Here there had arisen a new situation: all men were no longer equal,
led by a chief of their own choosing, but instead, the greater part of
them now had no voice in the government. They had become subjects,
working to earn their own living and also, as has been said, to
support in idleness their conquerors.
This ability of the few to rule the many and force them to support
their masters was increased as certain peoples learned better than
others how to make strong armor and effective weapons. Nearly five
hundred years before the time of Christ, at the battle of Marathon
(Mar'a thon), the Greeks discovered that one Greek, clad
in metal armor and armed with a long spear, was worth ten Persians
wearing leather and carrying a bow and arrows or a short sword. One
hundred and sixty years later, a small army of well-equipped
Macedonian Greeks, led by that wonderful general, Alexander the Great,
defeated nearly forty times its number of Persians in a great battle
in Asia and conquered a vast empire.
[Illustration: Alexander Defeating the Persians]
In later times, as better and better armor was made, the question of
wealth entered in. The chief who had money enough to buy the best arms
for his men could defeat his poorer neighbor and force him to pay
money as to a ruler. Finally, in the so-called "Middle Ages," before
the invention of gunpowder, one knight, armed from crown to sole in
steel, was worth in battle as much as one hundred poorly-armed farmers
or "peasants" as they are called in Europe.
In the "Dark Ages," after all these barbarians that we have
named had swarmed over Europe, and before the governments of modern
times were fully grown, there were hundreds of robber chiefs, who,
scattered throughout a country, were in the habit of collecting
tribute at the point of the sword from the peaceful peasants who lived
near. This tribute they collected in some cases, regularly, a fixed
amount each month or year, just as if they had a right to collect it,
like a government tax collector. It might be money or food or fodder,
or fuel. The robber chiefs were well armed themselves and were able to
give good weapons and armor to their men, who lived either in the
chief's castle or in small houses built very near it. They likewise
plundered any travelers who came by, unless their numbers and weapons
made them look too dangerous to be attacked. But the regular tribute
forced from the peaceful farmers was the chief source of their income.
The robber chief and his men lived a life of idleness when they were
not out upon some raid for plunder, and the honest, industrious
peasants worked hard enough to support both their own families and
those of the robbers.
 The "Dark Ages" came before the "Middle Ages." They were called
"dark" because the barbarians had extinguished nearly all civilization
[Illustration: A Knight in Armor]
These robber chiefs had no right but might. They were outlaws, and
lived either in a country which had no government and laws, or in one
whose government was too weak to protect its people. They were no
worse, however, than the so-called feudal barons who came after them,
who oppressed the people even more, because they had on their side
whatever law and government existed in those days.
Now let us stop to consider how first there came to be kings. In the
early days of the human race and also in later days among barbarous
peoples, the land was very sparsely settled. The reason lay in the
chief occupations of the men. A small tribe might inhabit a great
stretch of territory through which they wandered to keep within reach
of plenty of game. As time went on, however, the population increased,
and, as agriculture took the place of hunting, and homes became more
lasting, tribes found themselves living in smaller and smaller tracts
of land, and hence nearer to their neighbors. In some cases, constant
fighting went on, just as Caesar tells us that two thousand years ago,
the Swiss and the Germans fought almost daily battles back and forth
across the Rhine. In other cases, the tribes found it better for all
concerned to make treaties of peace with their neighbors, and if they
did not exchange visits and mix on friendly terms, at least they did
not attack each other.
Finally, one day there would come to several tribes which had treaties
with each other a common danger, such as an invasion by some horde of
another race or nation. Common interest would drive them together for
mutual protection, and the chief of some one of them would be chosen
to lead their joint army. In this way, we find the fifteen tribes of
the Belgians uniting against the Roman army led by Julius Caesar, and
electing as king over them the chief of one of the tribes "on account
of his justice and wisdom." Five years later, in the year 52 B.C., we
find practically all the inhabitants of what is now France united into
a nation under the leadership of Vercingetorix (Ver sin jet'o riks)
in one last effort to free themselves from Rome. Five hundred years
later, the Romans themselves were driven to join forces with two of
the Germanic tribes to check the swift invasion of the terrible Huns.
In some cases, these alliances were only for a short time and the
kingships were merely temporary. In other cases, the wars that drove
the tribes to unite under one great chief or king lasted for years or
even centuries, so that new generations grew up who had never lived
under any other government than that of a king. Thus when the wars
were ended, the tribes continued to be ruled by the one man, although
the reason for the kingship had ceased to be. In the days of the Roman
republic, from 500 to 100 B.C., when grave danger arose, the senate,
or council of elders, appointed one man who was called the dictator,
and this dictator ruled like an absolute monarch until the danger was
past. Then, like the famous Cincinnatus, he gave up the position and
retired to private life. The first lasting kingships, then, began, as
it were, by the refusal of some dictator to resign when the need for
his rule was ended.
By this time, the custom of choosing the son of a chief or king to
take his father's place was fairly well settled, and it did not take
long to have it understood as a regular thing that at a king's death
he should be followed by his oldest son. Often there were quarrels and
even civil wars caused by ambitious younger sons, who did not submit
to their elder brothers without a struggle, but as people grew to be
more civilized and peace-loving, they found it better to have the
oldest son looked upon as the rightful heir to the kingship.
As kingdoms grew larger, and more and more people came to be busied in
agriculture, trade, and even, on a small scale, in manufacture, the
warriors grew fewer in proportion, and people began to forget that the
king was originally only a war leader, and that the office was created
through military need. They came to regard the rule of the king as a
matter of course and stopped thinking of themselves as having any
right to say how they should be governed. Kings were quick to foster
this feeling. For the purpose of making their own positions sure, they
were in the habit of impressing it upon their people that the kingship
was a divine institution. They proclaimed that the office of king was
made by the gods, or in Christian nations, by God, and that it was the
divine will that the people of the nations should be ruled by kings.
The great Roman orator, Cicero (Sis'ero), in a speech delivered
in the year 66 B.C., referring to people who lived in kingdoms, says
that the name of king "seems to them a great and sacred thing." This
same feeling has lasted through all the ages down to the present time,
and the majority of the people in European kingdoms, even among the
educated classes, still look upon a king as a superior being, and are
made happy and proud if they ever have a chance to do him a service of
Questions for Review
1. Why was it that in barbarian tribes there was no private ownership
2. What is meant by saying that government was based upon the consent
of the governed?
3. Was there anything besides love of plunder that induced the German
tribes to move southward?
4. Explain the beginnings of slavery.
5. Explain the value of armor in early times.
6. What is meant by the "Dark Ages"?
7. What is meant by saying that the fighting men were parasites?
8. When the first kings were chosen was it intended that they should
be rulers for life?
9. Is it easy for a man in power to retain this power?
10. Why is it that most Europeans bow low before a king?
Master and Man
The land is the king's.--He lends it to barons.--Barons lend it to
knights and smaller barons.--Smaller barons collect rent for it from
the peasants.--A father's lands are lent to his son.--Barons pay for
the land by furnishing men for the king's wars.--No account is taken
of the rights of the peasant.--The peasant, the only producer, is
despised by the fighting men.--If a baron rebels, his men must rebel
also.--Dukes against kings.--What killed the feudal system.--Feudal
wrongs alive today.
When one great tribe or nation invaded and conquered a country, as the
Ostrogoths came into Italy in the year 489 A.D., or as the Normans
entered England in 1066, their king at once took it for granted that
he owned all the conquered land. In some cases, he might divide the
kingdom up among his chiefs, giving a county to each of forty or fifty
leaders. These great leaders (dukes or barons, as they were called in
the Norman-French language, or earls, as the English named them) would
in turn each divide up his county among several less important chiefs,
whom we may call lesser or little barons. Each little baron might have
several knights and squires, who lived in or near his castle and had
received from him tracts of land corresponding in size, perhaps, to
the American township and who, therefore, fought under his banner in
[Illustration: A Norman Castle in England]
Each baron had under him a strong body of fighting men, "men-at-arms,"
as they were called, or "retainers," who in return for their "keep,"
that is, their food and lodging, and a chance to share the plunder
gained in war, swore to be faithful to him, became his men, and gave
him the service called homage. (This word comes from homo, the Latin
for "man.") The lesser baron, in turn, swore homage to, and was the
"man" of the great baron or earl. Whenever the earl called on these
lesser chiefs to gather their fighting men and report to him, they had
to obey, serving him as unquestioningly as their squires and retainers
obeyed them. The earl or duke swore homage to the king, from whom he
had received his land.
This, then, was the feudal system (so named from the word feudum,
which, in Latin, meant a piece of land the use of which was given to a
man in return for his services in war), a system which reversed the
natural laws of society, and stood it on its apex, like a cone
balanced on its point. For instead of saying that the land was the
property of the people of the tribe or nation, it started by taking
for granted that the land all belonged to the king. The idea was that
the king did not give the land, outright, to his dukes and earls, but
that he gave them, in return for their faithful support and service in
war, the use of the land during their lifetime, or so long as they
remained true to him. In Macbeth, we read how, for his treason, the
lands of the thane (earl) of Cawdor were taken from him by the
Scottish king and given to the thane of Glamis. The lands thus lent
were called fiefs. Upon the death of the tenant, they went back to the
king or duke who had given them in the first place, and he at once
gave them to some other one of his followers upon the same terms. It
often happened that upon the death of an earl or baron his son was
granted the lands which his father had held, Finally, in many
counties, it grew into a custom, and the oldest son took possession of
his father's fief, but not without first going to the king and
swearing homage and fidelity to him.
Two things must be kept in mind if we are to understand the system
fully. In the first place, in the division of the lands among the
barons of the conquering nation, no account was taken of the peasants.
As they were of the defeated people, their rights to the land were not
once considered. In many countries, the victors thought of them as
part and parcel of the conquered territory. They "went with" the land
and were considered by the lord of the county as merely his servants.
When one lord turned over a farm to another, the farmers were part of
the bargain. If any of them tried to run away, they were brought back
and whipped. They tilled the land and raised live stock, giving a
certain share of their yearly crop and a certain number of beeves,
hogs, sheep, etc., to the lord, as rent for the land, much as the free
farmers in other countries paid tribute to the robber chieftains. Thus
the one class of people who really earned their right to live, by
producing wealth, were oppressed and robbed by all the others. Note
this point, for there are wrongs existing today that are due to the
fact that the feudal system is not wholly stamped out in some
[Illustration: A Vassal doing Homage to his Lord]
In the second place, it must be noted that the king was not the direct
master of all the people. Only the great lords had sworn homage to
him. He was lord of the dukes, earls, and barons. The less important
barons swore homage to the great barons, and the knights, squires,
retainers, and yeomen swore homage to the lesser barons. If a lesser
baron had subdivided his fief among certain knights and squires, the
peasants owed allegiance, not to him, but to the squire to whom they
had been assigned. Thus, if a "man" rebelled against his lord, all of
his knights, retainers, etc., must rebel also. If, for instance, a
great duke refused to obey his king and broke his oath of allegiance,
all his little barons and knights must turn disloyal too, or rather,
must remain loyal, for their oaths had been taken to support the duke,
and not the king. History is full of such cases. In many instances,
dukes became so powerful that they were able to make war on even terms
with kings. The great Dukes of Burgundy for a time kept the kings of
France in awe of their power; the Duke of Northumberland in 1403
raised an army that almost overthrew King Henry Fourth of England; the
Duke of York, in 1461, drove Henry Sixth from the throne of England
and became king in his place.
[Illustration: William the Conqueror]
A strange case arose when, in 1066, William, who as duke of Normandy
had sworn homage to the king of France, became, through conquest, king
of England. His sons, great-grandsons, and great-great-grandsons
continued for one hundred and fifty years to be obliged to swear
allegiance to the French kings in order to keep the duchy of Normandy.
It was as if the Governor of Texas had led an army into Mexico,
conquered it, and become Emperor of that country, without resigning
his governorship or giving up his American citizenship.
Two things which tended to break down the feudal system and bring more
power to the common people were, first, the invention of gunpowder,
and, second, the rise of towns. A man with a musket could bring down a
knight in armor as easily as he could the most poorly armored peasant.
Kings, in fighting to control their great lords, gave more freedom to
citizens of towns in return for their help. The king's armies came to
be recruited largely from townspeople, who were made correspondingly
free from the feudal lords.
The rule of the feudal system, that each man owed a certain amount of
military service to his ruler has lasted to the present day and is
responsible for much of the misery that now exists. Kings went to war
with each other simply to increase their territories. The more land a
king had under his control, the more people who owed him taxes, and
the greater number he could get into his army, the greater became his
ambition to spread his kingdom still farther.
Questions for Review
1. How was it that the king of a tribe could claim to own all the
land in the country which he had invaded?
2. Did the kings, lords, and fighting men contribute anything to the
welfare of the working classes?
3. Would the peasants have been better off if all the fighting men,
lords, dukes, kings, etc., had suddenly been killed?
4. Can you see why in some countries in Europe a man who earns his
living is looked down upon by the nobles?
5. What is meant by saying that the feudal system turns society
6. Why did the farmers continue to feed the fighting men?
7. Explain how the use of gunpowder in warfare helped to break up the
8. How did the rise of cities also help to do away with the feudal
A Babel of Tongues
The great family of languages.--Few languages in Europe not belonging
to the family.--The dying Celtic languages.--The three branches of the
Germanic family.--The influence of the Latin tongue on the south of
Europe.--The many Slavic peoples.--The map as divided by kings without
regard to peoples and languages.--The strange mixture in
Austria-Hungary.--The southeast of Europe.--The Greeks and
Dacians.--The Roman colonists.--The Slavs.--The Volgars.--The
Skipetars.--A hopeless mixture.
In Chapter II it was pointed out that almost all the peoples of
Europe were related, in one big family of tribes. It is likely that
the forefathers of the Celts, the Latins, the Germans, the Greeks, and
the Slavs belonged to one big tribe which had its home back in the
highlands of Central Asia. As a general rule, the relationship of
peoples to each other can be told by the languages which they speak.
If two tribes are related because their forefathers once belonged to
the same tribe, it is almost certain that they will show this
relationship in their languages.
The language of England a thousand years ago was very much like the
language of the Germans, for the English were originally German
tribes. Even today, it is easy to see that English is a Germanic
language. Take the English words house, father, mother, brother,
water, here, is, etc. The German words which mean the same are haus,
vater, mutter, bruder, wasser, hier, ist. It is very plain that the
two languages must have come from the same source.
There are professors in European colleges who have spent their whole
lives studying this relationship of languages. These men have proved
not only that almost all the languages of Europe are related, but that
the language of the Persians, and that of some of the old tribes in
Hindustan also belong to one great family of tongues. Let us take the
word for mother. In one of the ancient languages of Hindustan it was
matr; in the Greek, it was matar; in the Latin mater (maetar); in
the Bohemian matka; in the German mutter; in the Spanish maedre;
in the Norwegian moder, etc. This great family of languages is called
"the Indo-European group," because the tribes which spoke them,
originally inhabitants of Asia, have scattered all over India and
Europe. The only peoples in Europe whose languages do not belong to it
are the Finns and Laplanders of the north, the Basques (Basks) of the
Pyrenees Mountains, the Hungarians, the Gypsies, and the Turks.
The descendants of the old Celtic peoples have not kept up the Celtic
languages to any great extent. The reason for this is that first the
Romans and then the Germanic tribes conquered most of the lands where
the Celts lived. In this way, Spain, Portugal, France, and Belgium now
talk languages that have grown from the Latin, the language of Rome.
The Celts in the British Isles now all talk English, because the
English, who were a Germanic people, conquered them and forced them to
use their language. Patriotic Irishmen and Welshmen (who are
descendants of the Celtic tribes) are trying to keep alive the Irish
and Welsh languages, but all of the young people in the British Isles
learn English, and they are generally content to talk only one
language. The other Celtic languages which have existed within the
last one hundred years are the Gaelic of the north of Scotland, the
Breton of western France, and the Cornish of the southwestern corner
The Germanic languages (sometimes called Teutonic) are found in three
parts of Europe today. The Scandinavian languages, Danish, Norwegian,
and Swedish, belong to this family. Western Austria and Germany form,
with Holland and Western Belgium, a second group of German-speaking
nations. (The people of eastern Belgium are Celts and talk a kind of
French.) The third part of Europe which uses a Germanic language is
In an earlier chapter we learned how the Celts in France, Spain, and
Portugal gave up their own languages and used the Latin. Latin
languages today are found also in the southern and western parts of
Switzerland, all over Italy, and in Roumania.
We learned also about the Slavs who lived to the eastward of the
Germanic tribes. When the Germans moved west, these Slavs followed
them and occupied the lands which had just been left vacant. In this
way, we find Slavic peoples talking Slavic (sometimes called Slavonic)
languages in the parts of Europe to the east and south of the Germans.
More than half of the inhabitants of Austria-Hungary are Slavs,
although the Austrians proper are a Germanic people, and the
Hungarians do not belong to the Indo-European family at all. The
Serbians and Montenegrins are Slavs. The Poles and Russians are Slavs.
The Bulgarians speak a Slavic language and have some Slavic blood in
them, although, as will be pointed out later, originally they did not
belong to the Slavic family.
[Map: Distribution Of Peoples According to Relationship]
The Greeks and Albanians belong to the great Indo-European family of
tribes, but their languages are not closely related to any of the four
[Map: Distribution Of Languages]
The two maps on pages 65 and 66 are very much alike and yet
in some respects very different. The first shows how Europe is largely
inhabited by peoples of the great Indo-European family. Those who are
descended from the Celts are marked Celtic even though today they have
given up their Celtic language, as have the Cornish in England and the
inhabitants of Spain, France, eastern Belgium, and the greater part of
Ireland. The Bulgarians are marked as not belonging to the great
family, although they speak a Slavic language.
In the second map, the distribution of languages is shown. You
will notice that the Celtic languages are found only in small parts of
the British Isles, and in the westernmost point of France. The
Bulgarians are here marked Slavic because their language belongs to
that branch. One of the most curious things about the two maps is the
presence of little spots like islands, particularly made up of
German-speaking peoples. There are several of these little islands in
Russia. They have been there for nearly two hundred years. A traveler
crossing the southern part of Russia is astonished to find districts
as large as an American county where not a word of Russian is spoken.
The people are all of Germanic blood, although they live under the
government of Russia. In the same way, there is a large German island
in the midst of the Roumanians in Transylvania and another between the
Slovaks and Poles at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. There is a
large Hungarian island in Transylvania also, entirely surrounded by
Germans and Roumanians. The table on the opposite page shows the main
branches of the Indo-European family that are found in Europe.
THE INDO-EURPOEAN FAMILY OF LANGUAGES
(a) Hindu branch
(b) Persian branch
(c) Celtic branch Gae'lic (northern Scotland)
Bre'ton (western France)
(d) Latin branch Portuguese
Romansh (southeastern Switzerland)
(e) Germanic branch Norwegian
(f) Slavonic branch Russian
Lettish } Baltic states of Russia
Old Prussian (dead)
Czech (Bohemian [pronounced Check])
Slo vak' (northern Hungary)
Slove'nian (southwestern Austria)
Croa'tian (southern Austria)
Ruthe'nian (northeastern Austria-Hungary, and
The main source of the present trouble in Europe is that kings and
their ministers and generals, like their ancestors, the feudal lords,
never considered the wishes of the people when they changed the
boundaries of kingdoms. Austria-Hungary is a good example. The
Austrians and Hungarians were two very different peoples. They had
nothing in common and did not wish to be joined under one ruler, but a
king of Hungary, dying, left no son to succeed him, and his only
daughter was married to the archduke of Austria. This archduke of
Austria (a descendant of the counts of Hapsburg) was also emperor of
Germany and king of Bohemia, although the Bohemian people had not
chosen him as their ruler. The Hungarians, before their union with
Austria, had conquered certain Slavic tribes and part of the
Roumanians. Later Austria annexed part of Poland. In this way, the
empire became a jumble of languages and nationalities. When its
congress is called together, the official announcement is read in
eleven different languages. Forty-one different dialects are talked in
an area not as large as that of the state of Texas.
We must remember that besides the literary or written languages of
each country there are several spoken dialects. A man from Devonshire,
England, meeting a man from Yorkshire in the north of the same
country, has difficulty in understanding many words in his speech. The
language of the south of Scotland also is English, although it is very
different from the English that we in America are taught. A Frenchman
from the Pyrenees Mountains was taught in school to speak and read the
French language as we find it in books. Yet besides this, he knows a
dialect that is talked by the country people around him, that can not
be understood by the peasants from the north of France near the
Flemish border. The man who lives in the east of France can understand
the dialect of the Italians from the west of Italy much better than he
can that of the Frenchman from the Atlantic coast.
In America, with people moving around from place to place by means of
stage coach, steamboat, and railroad, there has been no great chance
to develop dialects, although we can instantly tell the New Englander,
the southerner, or the westerner by his speech. It should be
remembered that in Europe, for centuries, the people were kept on
their own farms or in their own towns. The result of this was that
each little village or city has its own peculiar language. It is said
that persons who have studied such language matters carefully, after
conversing with a man from Europe, can tell within thirty miles where
his home used to be in the old country. There are no sharply marked
boundaries of languages. The dialects of France shade off into those
of Spain on the one hand and into those of the Flemish and the Italian
on the other.
[Map: Southeastern Europe, 600 B.C.]
The British Isles furnish us with four or five different
nationalities. The people of the north of Ireland are really lowland
Scotch of Germanic descent, while the other three-fourths of Ireland
is inhabited by Celts. To make the difference all the greater, the
Celts are almost universally Catholics, while the Scotch-Irish are
Protestants. The people of the north of Scotland are Gaels, a Celtic
race having no connection in language or blood with the people of the
southern half of that country. The Welsh are a Celtic people, having
no relationship with the English, who are a Germanic people. The Welsh
and the Cornish of Cornwall and the people of highland Scotland are
the descendants of the ancient Britons and Gaels who inhabited the
island when Julius Caesar and the Romans first landed there. Then five
hundred years afterwards, as has already been told, came great swarms
of Germans (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes), who drove the Britons to the
west and north, and settled the country now known as England. After
these, you will recall, came a number of Danes, another Germanic
people, who settled the east coast of England. Two hundred years
later, the Normans came from France. These Normans had been living in
France for a century or two, but had come originally from Norway.
Normans, Danes, Angles, and Saxons all mixed to make the modern
English. Together, they fought the Scotch, the Welsh and the Irish,
and having conquered them, oppressed them harshly for many centuries.
[Map: Southeastern Europe, 975 A.D.]
But it is in the southeastern corner of Europe that one finds the
worst jumble of nationalities. Six hundred years before Christ, the
Greeks and their rougher cousins, the Thracians, Macedonians, and
Dacians inhabited this district. When one of the Roman Emperors
conquered the Dacians about 100 A.D., he planted a large Roman colony
north of the Danube River. Then came the West Goths, who swept into
this country, but soon left it for the west of Europe. Next came the
Slavic tribes who are the ancestors of the modern Serbs. Following
these, came a large tribe which did not belong to the Indo-European
family, but was distantly related to the Finns and the Turks. These
people were called the Volgars, for they came from the country around
the River Volga. Before long, we find them called the Bulgars. (The
letters B and V are often interchanged in the languages of
south-eastern Europe. The people of western Europe used to call the
country of the Serbs Servia, but the Serbs objected, saying that the
word servio, in Latin, means "to be a slave," and that as they were
not slaves, they wanted their country to be called by its true name,
Serbia. The Greeks, on the other hand, pronounce the letter B as
though it were V.)
A strange thing happened to the Volgars or Bulgars. They completely
gave up their Asiatic language and adopted a new one, which became in
time the purest of the Slavic tongues. They intermarried with the
Slavs around them and adopted Slavic names. They founded a flourishing
nation which lay between the kingdom of Serbia and the Greek Empire of
North of the Bulgars lay the country of the Roumani (roo
mae'ni). These people claimed to be descended from the Roman
Emperor's colonists, as was previously told, but the reason their
language is so much like the Italian is that a large number of people
from the north of Italy moved into the country nearly a thousand years
after the first Roman colonists settled there. From 900 to 1300 A.D.,
south-eastern Europe was inhabited by Serbians, Bulgarians,
Roumanians, and Greeks.
[Illustration: A Typical Bulgarian Family]
A fifth people perhaps ought to be counted here, the Albanians.
(See map) This tribe is descended from the Illyrians, who
inhabited the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea even before the time
of the Roman Empire. Their language, like the Greek, is a branch of
the Indo-European family which is neither Latin, Celtic, Germanic, nor
Slavic. They are distant cousins of the Italians and are also slightly
related to the Greeks. They are a wild, fierce, uncivilized people,
and have never known the meaning of law and order. Robbery and warfare
are common. Each village is always fighting with the people of the
neighboring towns. The Albanians, or Skipetars (skip'etars) as
they call themselves, were Christians until they were conquered by the
Turks about 1460. Since that time, the great majority of them have
been staunch believers in the Mohammedan religion.
Questions for Review
1. Where did the great Indo-European family of languages have its
2. Why is it that the Celtic languages are dying out?
3. What killed the Celtic languages in Spain and France?
4. What are the three parts of Europe where Germanic languages are
5. In what parts of Europe are languages spoken which are descended
from the Latin?
6. Explain the presence in Austria-Hungary of eleven different
7. Are the Bulgarians really a Slavic people?
"The Terrible Turk"
The Greek Empire at Constantinople.--The invading Mohammedans.--The
Ottoman Turks.--The fall of Constantinople.--The enslaving of the
Bulgars, Serbs, Greeks, Albanians, and Roumanians.--One little part of
Serbia unconquered.--The further conquests of the Turks.--The attack
on Vienna.--John Sobieski to the rescue.--The waning of the Turkish
empire.--The Spanish Jews.--The jumble of languages and peoples in
In the last chapter, we referred briefly to the Greek empire at
Constantinople. This city was originally called Byzantium, and was a
flourishing Greek commercial center six hundred years before Christ.
Eleven hundred years after this, a Roman emperor named Constantine
decided that he liked Byzantium better than Rome. Accordingly, he
moved the capital of the empire to the Greek city, and renamed it
Constantinopolis (the word polis means "city" in Greek). Before long,
we find the Roman empire divided into two parts, the capital of one at
Rome, of the other at Constantinople. This eastern government was
continued by the Greeks nearly one thousand years after the government
of the western empire had been seized by the invading Germanic tribes.
[Illustration: The Turkish Sultan before Constantinople]
For years, this Greek empire at Constantinople had been obliged to
fight hard against the Mohammedans who came swarming across the
fertile plains of Mesopotamia (mes'o po ta' mi a) and Asia
Minor. (Mesopotamia is the district lying between the Tigris
(ti'gris) and Euphrates (ufra'tez) Rivers. Its name in Greek
means "between the rivers.") The fiercest of the Mohammedan tribes,
the warlike Ottoman Turks, were the last to arrive. For several years,
they thundered at the gates of Constantinople, while the Greek Empire
grew feebler and feebler.
At last in 1453, their great cannon made a breach in the walls, and
the Turks poured through. The Greek Empire was a thing of the past,
and all of southeastern Europe lay at the mercy of the invading
Moslems (another name for "Mohammedans"). The Turks did not drive out
the Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbians, and Albanians, but settled down
among them as the ruling, military class. They strove to force these
peoples to give up Christianity and turn Mohammedans, but were
successful only in the case of the Skipetars of Albania. The
Albanians, Serbians, Bulgarians, Greeks, and Roumanians remained where
they had been, but were oppressed by the newcomers.
For more than two hundred years after the capture of Constantinople,
the Turks pushed their conquests farther and farther into Europe. The
entire coast of the Black Sea fell into their hands. All of Greece,
all of Bulgaria, and all of Roumania became part of their empire. Of
the kingdom of Serbia, one small province remained unconquered. Up in
the mountains near the coast of the Adriatic gathered the people of
one county of the Serbian kingdom. As the Turks attacked them, they
retreated higher and higher up the mountain sides and rolled huge
stones down upon the invaders. Finally, the Turk became disgusted, and
concluded that "the game was not worth the candle." Thus the little
nation of Montenegro was formed, composed of Serbians who never
submitted to the Ottoman rule. (The inhabitants of this small country
call it Tzernagorah (tzer nae go'ra); the Italians call it
Montenegro. Both of these names mean "Dark Mountain.")
Not satisfied with these conquests, the Turks pushed on, gaining
control of the greater part of the kingdom of Hungary. About 1682,
they were pounding at the forts around Vienna. The heroic king of
Poland, John Sobieski (so bi es'ki), came to the rescue of the
Austrian emperor with an army of Poles and Germans and
completely defeated the Turks. He saved Vienna, and ended any further
advance of the Turkish rule into Europe. (The map on page 82
shows the high water mark of the Turkish conquests.)
It must be remembered that the original inhabitants of the conquered
lands were still living where they always had lived. The Turks were
very few in number compared with the millions of people who inhabited
their empire and paid them tribute. Many wars were caused by this
conquest, but it was two hundred and thirty years before the Christian
peoples won back their territory.
[Map: Southeastern Europe 1690 A.D.]
By the year 1685, the Hungarians had begun to win back part of their
kingdom. By 1698, almost all of Hungary and Transylvania was free from
Turkish rule. It will be recalled that a certain Count of Hapsburg had
become Emperor of Germany, and when we say Germany, we include
Austria, which had become the home of the Hapsburgs. It was shortly
after this that the Hapsburg family came to be lords of Hungary also,
through the marriage of one of their emperors with the only daughter
of the king of that country. (See page 69.)
In this way, when the province of Bukowina and the territory known as
the Banat, just north of the Danube and west of what is now Roumania,
were reconquered from the Turks, it was the joint kingdom to which
they were attached. (Bukowina has never been a part of Hungary. It is
still a crown land, or county subject to the emperor of Austria
During the 15th century, the southeastern part of Europe came to be
inhabited by a still different people. Not long after Ferdinand and
Isabella, the king and queen of Spain, had conquered the Moorish
kingdom of Granada (see Chapter II) that used to stretch across
the southern half of Spain, the Spaniards decided to drive out of
their country all "unbelievers," that is, all who were not Christians
of the Catholic faith. (This happened in 1492, the same year that they
sent Columbus to America.) The Moors retreated into Africa, which was
their former home, but the millions of Spanish Jews had no homeland to
which to return. In the midst of their distress, the Sultan of Turkey,
knowing them to be prosperous and well-behaved citizens, invited them
to enter his land. They did so by hundreds of thousands.
The descendants of these people are to be found today throughout the
Balkan peninsula, though mainly in the large cities. They are so
numerous in Constantinople that four newspapers are published there in
the Spanish language, but printed in Hebrew characters. The city of
Salonika, a prosperous seaport of 140,000 people, which used to belong
to Turkey but now is part of Greece, has over 50,000 of these Jews.
They readily learn other tongues, and many of them can talk in four or
five languages besides their native Spanish, which they still use in
the family circle.
Constantinople (called Stamboul by the Turks) is a polyglot city, that
is, a place of many languages. Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Jews,
Italians are all found mingled together.
[Illustration: A Scene in Salonicka]
The main source of trouble in the Balkan peninsula is that the races
and nationalities are so jumbled together that it is almost impossible
to say which land should belong to which nation. Take the case of
Macedonia (the district just northwest of the Aegean Sea). It is
inhabited largely by Bulgarians, and yet there are so many Greeks and
Serbs mixed in with the former that at the close of the last Balkan
war in 1913, Greece and Serbia both claimed it as belonging to them
because of the "prevailing nationality of its inhabitants!" In other
words, the Serbians claimed that the inhabitants of Macedonia were
largely Serbs, the Greeks were positive that its people were largely
Greeks, while Bulgaria is very resentful today because the land was
not given to her, on the ground that almost all its inhabitants are
Religious and racial hatreds have had a great deal to do with making
the Balkan peninsula a hotbed of political trouble. Right in the
center of Bulgaria, for example, speaking the same language, dressing
exactly alike, doing business with each other on an equal footing, are
to be found the native Bulgarian and the descendant of the Turkish
conquerors; yet one goes to the Greek Orthodox Church to worship and
the other to the Mohammedan Mosque. With memories of hundreds of years
of wrong and oppression behind them, Bulgarians and Turks hate and
despise each other with a fierce intensity. Let us now leave the
Balkan states, with their seething pot of racial and religious hatred,
and turn to other causes of European wars.
Questions for Review
1. What became of the Greeks when the Turks captured Constantinople?
2. Why could one county of Serbia resist the Turks?
3. How long after the fall of Constantinople were the Turks
4. Explain how Constantinople has people of so many different
5. Why have the Turk and Bulgarian never been friendly?
The Rise of Modern Nations
How the peasants looked upon war.--War the opportunity of the fighting
men.--The decreasing power of barons.--The growth of royal power.--How
four little kingdoms became Spain.--Other kingdoms of Europe.--The
rise of Russia.--The Holy Roman Empire.--The electors.--The rise of
Brandenburg.--The elector of Brandenburg becomes King of
Prussia.--Frederick the Great.--The seizure of Silesia and the
You have already been shown how in the early days of the feudal
system, the lords, with their squires, knights, and fighting men made
up a class of the population whose only trade was war, and how the
poor peasants were compelled to raise crops and live stock enough to
feed both themselves and the fighting men. These peasants had no love
for war, as war resulted only in their losing their possessions in
case their country was invaded by the enemy. The fighting men, on the
other hand, had nothing to do unless war was going on, and as those
who were not killed returned from a war with rich plunder in case they
were victorious, they were always looking for a chance to start
trouble with some neighboring country.
In those days, kings cared little what their nobles did, so long as
the nobles furnished them with fighting men in times of war. As a
result, one county in a certain kingdom would often be at war with a
neighboring county. The fighting man either was killed in battle or he
came out of it with increased glory and plunder, but the peasants and
the common people had nothing to gain by war and everything to lose.
As we have seen, force ruled the world, and the common people had no
voice in their government. The workers were looked down upon by the
members of the fighting class, who never did a stroke of work
themselves and considered honest toil as degrading. In fact, as one
writer has said, the only respectable trade in Europe in those days
was what we today would call highway robbery.
France and England in the 15th Century
Gradually in most of the European countries the king was able to put
down the power of his nobles and make himself master over the whole
nation. In this way a strong central power grew up in France. After
the death of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, in 1477, no noble
dared to question the leadership of the king of France. The same thing
was true in England after the battle of Bosworth in 1485, which
resulted in the death of King Richard III and the setting of the Tudor
family on the throne.
Spain and Other Kingdoms
Spain had been divided into four little kingdoms: Leon, Castile,
Aragon, and Granada, the latter ruled by the Moors. The nation
marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon to Isabella of Castile and Leon joined
the three Christian kingdoms into one, and after 1492, when the Moors
were defeated and Granada annexed to the realm of Ferdinand and
Isabella, Spain became one kingdom. About this time, also, there had
grown up a strong kingdom of Hungary, a kingdom of Portugal, a kingdom
of Poland, and one of Denmark. Norway was ruled by the Danes, but
Sweden was a separate kingdom. In Russia, Czar Ivan the Terrible
(1533-84) had built up a strong power which was still further
strengthened by Czar Peter the Great (1690-1725).
The Holy Roman Empire
The rest of the continent of Europe, with the exception of the Turkish
Empire, formed what was called the Holy Roman Empire, a rule which had
been founded by Charlemagne (A.D. 800), the great Frankish monarch,
who had been crowned in Rome by the pope as ruler of the western
world. (The name "Holy Roman Empire" was not used by Charlemagne. We
first hear of it under Otto I, the Saxon emperor, who was crowned in
[Map: The Empire of Charlemagne]
This Holy Roman Empire included all of what is now Germany (except the
eastern third of Prussia), all of what is now Bohemia, Austria (but
not Hungary), and all of Italy except the part south of Naples. There
were times when part of France and all of the low countries (now
Belgium and Holland) also belonged to the Empire. (The mountaineers of
Switzerland won their independence from the Empire in the fourteenth
century, and formed a little republic.) See map "Europe in 1540."
[Map: Europe in 1540]
In the Holy Roman Empire, the son of the emperor did not necessarily
succeed his father as ruler. There were seven (afterwards nine)
"electors" who, at the death of the ruling monarch, met to elect his
successor. Three of these electors were archbishops, one was king of
Bohemia, and the others were counts of large counties in Germany like
Hanover and Brandenburg. It frequently happened that the candidate
chosen was a member of the family of the dead emperor, and there were
three or four families which had many rulers chosen from among their
number. The most famous of these families was that of the Counts of
Hapsburg, from whom the present emperor of Austria is descended.
[Illustration: Louis XIV]
This Holy Roman Empire was not a strong government, as the kingdoms of
England and France grew to be. The kings of Bohemia, Saxony, and
Bavaria all were subjects of the emperor, as were many powerful
counts. These men were jealous of the emperor's power, and he did not
dare govern them as strictly as the king of France ruled his nobles.
France in the 18th Century
[Illustration: John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough]
During the 18th century, there were many wars in Europe caused by the
ambition of various kings to make their domains larger and to increase
their own incomes. King Louis XIV of France had built up a very
powerful kingdom. Brave soldiers and skillful generals spread his rule
over a great part of what is Belgium and Luxemburg, and annexed to the
French kingdom the part of Germany between the Rhine River and the
Vosges (Vozh) Mountains. Finally, the English joined with the troops
of the Holy Roman Empire to curb the further growth of the French
kingdom, and at the battle of Blenheim (1704), the English Duke of
Marlborough, aided by the emperor's army, put an end to the further
expansion of the French.
[Illustration: The Great Elector of Brandenburg]
The 18th century also saw the rise of a new kingdom in Europe. You
will recall that there was a county in Germany named Brandenburg,
whose count was one of the seven electors who chose the emperor. The
capital of this county was Berlin. It so happened that a number of
Counts of Brandenburg, of the family of Hohenzollern, had been men of
ambition and ability. The little county had grown by adding small
territories around it. One of these counts, called "the Great
Elector," had added to Brandenburg the greater part of the neighboring
county of Pomerania. His son did not have the ability of his father,
but was a very proud and vain man. He happened to visit King William
III of England, and was very much offended because during the
interview, the king occupied a comfortable arm chair, while the
elector, being simply a count, was given a chair to sit in which was
straight-backed and had no arms. Brooding over this insult, as it
seemed to him, he went home and decided that he too should be called a
king. The question was, what should his title be. He could not call
himself "King of Brandenburg," for Brandenburg was part of the Empire,
and the emperor would not allow it. It had happened some one hundred
years before, that, through his marriage with the daughter of the Duke
of Prussia, a Count of Brandenburg had come into possession of the
district known as East Prussia, at the extreme southeastern corner of
the Baltic Sea. Between this and the territory of Brandenburg lay the
district known as West Prussia, which was part of the Kingdom of
Poland. However, Prussia lay outside the boundaries of the Empire, and
the emperor had nothing to say about what went on there. Therefore,
the elector sent notice to all the kings and princes of Europe that
after this he was to be known as the "King of Prussia." It was a
situation somewhat like the one we have already referred to, when the
kings of England were independent monarchs and yet subjects of the
kings of France because they were also dukes of Normandy.
[Illustration: Frederick The Great]
The son of this elector who first called himself king had more energy
and more character than his father. He ruled his country with a rod of
iron, and built up a strong, well-drilled army. He was especially fond
of tall soldiers, and had agents out all over Europe, kidnapping men
who were over six feet tall to serve in his famous regiment of Guards.
He further increased the size of the Prussian kingdom.
His son was the famous Frederick the Great, one of the most remarkable
fighters that the world has ever seen. This prince had been brought up
under strict discipline by his father. The old king had been insistent
that his son should be no weakling. It is told that one day, finding
Frederick playing upon a flute, he seized the instrument and snapped
it in twain over his son's shoulder. The young Frederick, under this
harsh training, became a fit leader of a military nation. When his
father died and left him a well-filled treasury and a wonderfully
drilled army, he was fired with the ambition to spread his kingdom
wider. Germany, as has been said, was made up of a great many little
counties, each ruled by its petty prince or duke, all owing homage, in
a general way, to the ruler of Austria, who still was supposed to be
the head of the Holy Roman Empire.
[Map: The Growth of Brandenburg-Prussia, 1400-1806]
This empire was not a real nation, but a collection of many different
nationalities which had little sympathy with each other. The ruler of
Austria was also king of Bohemia and of Hungary, but neither country
was happy at being governed by a German ruler. Then, too, the
Croatians, Serbs, Slovenes, and Slovaks were unhappy at being ruled,
first by the Hungarians and then by the emperor, as they were Slavic
peoples who wished their independence. It so happened that about the
time that Frederick became king of Prussia in place of his father, the
head of the House of Austria died, leaving his only child, a daughter,
Maria Theresa, to rule the big empire. Frederick decided that he could
easily defeat the disorganized armies of Austria, so he announced to
the world that the rich province of Silesia was henceforth to be his
and that he proposed to take it by force of arms. Naturally, this
brought on a fierce war with Austria, but in the end, Frederick's
well-trained troops, his store of money, and above all, his expert
military ability made the Prussians victorious, and at the close of
the fighting, almost all of Silesia remained a part of the kingdom of
Prussia. The Austrians, however, were not satisfied, and two more wars
were fought before they finally gave up trying to recover the stolen
state. Frederick remained stronger than ever as a result of his
Questions for Review
1. Why were the fighting men of the Middle Ages a source of loss to a
nation in general?
2. How was it that Spain became one nation?
3. What did Peter the Great do for Russia?
4. Why did the Emperor have less power than many kings?
5. What was the ambition of Louis XIV of France?
6. What effect had the training of his father upon the character of
Frederick the Great?
7. Had Frederick the Great any right to Silesia?
The Fall of the Two Kingdoms
The Poles, a divided nation.--The three partitions.--Wars and revolts
as a result.--The disappearance of Lithuania.--The growing power of
the king of France.--An extravagant and corrupt court.--Peasants
cruelly taxed and oppressed.--Bankruptcy at last.--The meeting of the
three estates.--The third estate defies the king.--The fall of the
Bastille.--The flight and capture of the king.--The king
beheaded.--Other kings alarmed.--Valmy saves the revolution.--The
reign of terror.
In the flat country to the northeast of Austria-Hungary and east of
Prussia lay the kingdom of Poland, the largest country in Europe with
the exception of Russia. The Poles, as has been said before, were a
Slavic people, distant cousins of the Russians and Bohemians. They had
a strong nobility or upper class, but these nobles were jealous of
each other, and as a result, the country was torn apart by many
warring factions. The condition of the working class was very
miserable. The nobles did not allow them any privileges. They were
serfs, that is to say, practically slaves, who had to give up to their
masters the greater part of the crops that they raised. In the council
of the Polish nobles, no law could be passed if a single nobleman
opposed it. As a result of this jealousy between factions, the Poles
could not be induced to obey any one leader, and thus, divided, were
easy to conquer.
Frederick the Great, regretting the fact that he was separated from
his land in East Prussia by the county of West Prussia, which was part
of Poland, proposed to his old enemy, Maria Theresa of Austria, and to
the Empress Catharine II of Russia that they each take a slice of
Poland. This was accordingly done, in the year 1772. Poor Poland was
unable to resist the three great powers around her, and the other
kings of Europe, who had been greedily annexing land wherever they
could get it, stood by without a protest. Some twenty years later,
Prussia and Russia each again annexed a large part of the remainder of
Poland, and two years after this, the three powers divided up among
them all that was left of the unhappy kingdom. The Poles fought
violently against this last partition, but they were not united and
were greatly outnumbered by the troops of the three powers.
This great crime against a nation was the result of the military
system; and this in turn was the result of the feudal system, which
made the king, as commander-in-chief of the army, the supreme ruler of
his country. The men in the Prussian and Austrian armies had no desire
to fight and conquer the poor Poles. Victory meant nothing to them.
They gained no advantage from it. To the kings who divided up the
countries it simply meant an enlargement of their kingdoms, more
people to pay taxes to them, and more men to draw on for their armies.
[Illustration: Catharine II]
Instead of crushing out the love of the Poles for their country, this
wrongful tearing apart has made their national spirit all the
stronger. There have been revolts and bloody wars, caused by Polish
uprisings, time and time again, and the Poles will never be satisfied
until their unhappy country is once more united.
To the northeast of the Poles live the Lithuanians, whose country had
been annexed to the Polish kingdom when their duke, who had married
the daughter of the king of Poland, followed his father-in-law on the
Polish throne. Lithuania fell to Russia's share in the division, so
that its people only changed masters. They are a distinct nation,
however, possessing a language and literature of their own, and having
no desire to be ruled by either Poles or Russians. If they were to
receive justice, they would form a country by themselves, lying
between Poland and Russia proper.
The Downfall of the French Monarchy
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