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238 THE GREEK AGE OF INTELLECTUAL DECREPITUDE. [CH. VII. against the providence of God, spent his worthless life in weaving baskets and mats, or in solitary meditation in the caves of the desert of Thebais; but the monk of Europe encountered the labours of agriculture and social activity, and thereby aided, in no insignificant manner, in the civilization of England, France, and Germany. These things, duly considered, lead to the conclusion that human life, in its diversities, is dependent upon and determined by primary conditions in all countries and climates essentially the same.
DIGRESSION ON THE HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHICAL
INFLUENCES OF ROME.
PREPARATION FOR RESUMING THE EXAMINATION OF THE INTELLECTUAL
PROGRESS OF EUROPE,
Religious Ideas of the primitive Europeans. The Form of their Varia
tions is determined by the Influence of Rome.-Necessity of Roman
History in these Investigations. Rise and Development of Roman Power, its successive Phases, territorial Acquisitions. -Becomes Supreme in the Mediterranean.
Consequent Demoralization of Italy. -- Irresistible Concentration of Power. Development of Imperialism. Eventual Extinction of the true Roman
Race. Effect on the intellectual, religious, and social Condition of the Mediterranean Countries. - Produces homogeneous Thought. - Imperialism
prepares the Way for Monotheism.-Momentous Transition of the Roman World in its religious Ideas. Opinions of the Roman Philosophers.- Coalescence of the new and old Ideas.-Seizure of Power by the Illiterate, and consequent Debasement
of Christianity in Rome. FROM the exposition of the intellectual progress of Greece given in the preceding pages, we now turn, agreeably to the plan laid down, to an examina- from Greece tion of that of all Europe. The movement in to Europe. that single nation is typical of the movement of the entire continent.
The first European intellectual age--that of Credulityhas already, in part, been considered in Chapter II., more especially so far as Greece is concerned. I pro- European age pose now, after some necessary remarks in of Inquiry. conclusion of that topic, to enter on the description of the second European age—that of Inquiry.
For these remarks, what has already been said of Greece
prepares the way. Mediterranean Europe was philosophically and socially in advance of the central and northern countries. The wave of civilization passed from the south to the north ; in truth, it has hardly yet reached its extreme limit. The adventurous emigrants who in remote times had come from Asia left to the successive generations of their descendants a legacy of hardship. In the struggle for life, all memory of an Oriental parentage was lost; knowledge died away; religious ideas became debased; and the diverse populations sank into the same intellectual condition that they would have presented had they been proper autochthons of the soil.
The religion of the barbarian Europeans was in many respects like that of the American Indians. They recognized a Great Spirit-ommiscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. Religion of the In the earliest times they made no representation old Europeans. of him under the human form, nor had they temples; but they propitated him by sacrifices, offering animals, as the horse, and even men, upon rude altars. Though it was believed that this Great Spirit might sometimes be heard in the sounds of the forests at night, yet, for the most part, he was too far removed from human supplication, and hence arose, from the mere sorcerous ideas of a terrified fancy, as has been the case in so many other countries, star worship--the second stage of comparative theology. The gloom and shade of dense forests, a solitude that offers an air of sanctity, and seems a fitting resort for mysterious spirits, suggested the establishment of sacred groves and holy trees. Throughout Europe there was a confused idea that the soul exists after the death of the body; as to its particular state there was a diversity of belief. As among other people, also, the offices of religion were not only directed to the present benefit of individuals, but also to the discovery of future events by various processes of divination and augury practised among the priests.
Although the priests had thus charge of the religious Their priest- rites, they do not seem to have been organized in hood,
such a manner as to be able to act with unanimity or to pursue a steady system of policy. A class of female religious officials—prophetesses-joined in the ceremonials.
These holy women, who were held in very great esteem, prepared the way for the reception of Mariolatry. Instead of temples-rock-altars, cromlechs, and other rustic structures were used among the Celtic nations by the Druids, who were at the same time priests, magicians, and medicine-men. Their religious doctrines, which recall in many particulars those of the Rig-Veda, were perpetuated from generation to generation by the aid of songs.
The essential features of this system were its purely local form and its want of a well-organized hierarchy. Even the Celts offer no exception, though they had a subordination from the Arch-Druid downward. This was the reason of the weakness of the old faith and eventually the cause of its fall. When the German nations migrated to the south in their warlike expeditions, they left behind them their consecrated groves and sacred oaks, hallowed by immemorial ages. These objects the devotee and objects of could not carry with him, and no equivalent sub- adoration. stitute could be obtained for them. In the civilized countries to which they came they met with a very different state of things; a priesthood thoroughly organized and modelled according to the ancient Roman political system; its objects of reverence tied to no particular locality; its institutions capable of universal action; its sacred writings easy of transportation anywhere; its emblems moveable to all countries—the cross on the standards of its armies, the crucifix on the bosom of its saints. In the midst of the noble architecture of Italy and the splendid remains of those Romans who had once given laws to the world, in the midst of a worship distinguished by the magnificence of its ceremonial and the solemnity of its mysteries, they found a people whose faith taught them to Roman regard the present life as offering only a transi- Christianity
upon them tory occupation, and not for a moment to be weighed against the eternal existence hereafter-an existence very different from that of the base transmigration of Druidism or the Drunken Paradise of Woden, where the brave solace themselves with mead from cups made of the skulls of their enemies killed in their days upon earth.
The European age of inquiry is therefore essentially onnected with Roman affairs. It is distinguished by the
religious direction it took. In place of the dogmas of
rival philosophical schools, we have now to deal Importance of Roman his with the tenets of conflicting sects. The whole tory in this
history of those unhappy times displays the investigation.
organizing and practical spirit characteristic of Rome. Greek democracy, tending to the decomposition of things, led to the Sophists and Sceptics. Roman imperialism, ever constructive, sought to bring unity out of discords, and draw the line between orthodoxy and heresy by the authority of councils like that of Nicea. Following the ideas of St. Augustine in his work, “ The City of God,” I adopt, as the most convenient termination of this age, the sack of Rome by Alaric. This makes it overlap the age of Faith, which had, as its unmistakable beginning, the foundation of Constantinople.
Greek intellectual life displays all its phases completely, but not so was it with that of the Romans, who came to an untimely end. They were men of violence, who disappeared in consequence of their own conquests and crimes. The consumption of them by war bore, however, an insignificant proportion to that fatal diminution, that mortal adulteration occasioned by their merging in the vast mass of humanity with which they came in contact.
I approach the consideration of Roman affairs, which is thus the next portion of my task, with no little diffidence. It is hard to rise to a point of view sufficiently elevated and clear, where the extent of dominion is so great geographically, and the reasons of policy are obscured by
the dimness and clouds of so many centuries. culty of treat- Living in a social state the origin of which is in ing it.
the events now to be examined, our mental vision can hardly free itself from the illusions of historical perspective, or bring things into their just proportions and position. Of a thousand acts, all of surpassing interest and importance, how shall we identify the master ones ? how shall we discern with correctness the true relation of the parts of this wonderful phenomenon of empire, the vanishing events of which glide like dissolving views into each other? Warned by the example of those who have permitted the shadows of their own imagination to fall upon the scene, and have mistaken them for a part of it, I