« AnteriorContinuar »
known sarcasm uttered by that Spanish monarch respecting the imperfect construction of the heavens, according to the Ptolemaic hypothesis. For long, however, the Jews had been dabbling in free-thinking speculations. Thus Aben Tybbon, above-mentioned, anticipating that branch of science which has drawn upon itself, in later years, so much opprobrium, wrote a work containing a discussion of the causes which prevent the waters of the sea from encroaching on the land. Abba Mari, a Marseillese Jew, translated the Almagest of Ptolemy and the Commentary of Averroes upon it. The school of Salerno was still sending forth its doctors. In Rome, Jewish physicians were very numerous, the popes themselves employing them. Boniface VIII. had for his medical adviser Rabbi Isaac. At this period Spain and France were full of learned Jews; and perhaps partly by their exerting upon the higher classes with whom they came in contact too much influence, for the physician of a Christian prince was very often the rival of his confessor, and partly because the practice of medicine, as they pursued it, interfered with the gains of the Church, the clergy took alarm, and caused to be re-enacted or enforced the ancient laws. The Council of Beziers, A.D. 1246, and the Council of Alby, A.D. 1254, prohibited all Christians from resorting to the services of an Israelitish physician. It would appear that these enactments had either fallen into desuetude or had failed to be enforced. The faculty of Paris, awakening at last to the danger of the case, caused, A.D. 1301, a decree to be published prohibiting either man or woman of the religion of Moses from practising medicine upon any person of the Catholic religion. A similar course was also taken in Spain. At this time the Jews were confessedly at the head of French medicine. It was the appointment of one of their persuasion, Profatius, as regent of the faculty of Montpellier A.D. 1300, which drew upon them the wrath of the faculty of Paris. This learned man was a skilful astronomer; he composed tables of the moon; of the longitudes of many Asiatic and African towns; he determined the obliquity of the ecliptic, his result being honourably alluded to by Copernicus. The animosity of the French ecclesiastics against the Jewish physicians at last led to the banishment of all the Jews from France,
A.D. 1306. "It was," say the historians of this The University of Paris event, “a most revolting spectacle to see so many causes the ex: learned men, who had adorned and benefited pulsion of the Jews from France, proscribed, wanderers without a country, France.
or an asylum. Some of them expired of grief upon the road. Abba Mari gives in his work heart-rend. ing details of the expulsion of the Jews from Montpellier, at the head of whom were the professors and doctors of the faculty.”
But, though thus driven into exile, these strangers had Result that accomplished their
accomplished their destiny. They had silently they had ac deposited in France their ideas. They had complished.
sapped the credulity of the higher classes in Europe, and taught them to turn away from the supernatural. A clear recognition of their agency in this matter fastened upon them the watchful eye of the Inquisition, and made them the victims of its tyranny.
And so it might well be. Out of the Spanish peninsula there had come across the Pyrenees an intellectual influence, which reached the populace under the form of a fresh and pleasing literature, and the better classes by novel but unorthodox ideas. To a very great extent the Jews had been its carriers. The result was the overthrow of supernaturalism. We shall hardly accept the affirmation of good Catholics that fairies disappeared on account of the Reformation, unable to bear the morose sectarianism with which it was accompanied, or the still more material
explanation of the rustics that it was through of fairies by the introduction of tobacco. However that may
CCO. be, no longer is Robin Goodfellow the compeller of household duties—no longer do bad elves sit by the dying embers of the hearth-stone at night, in the shape of shrivelled frogs, after the family have gone to bed. For a long time there have been no miracles in Europe. Even Rome, the workshop of those artifices, has ceased to be the seat of that trade.
From human institutions of any kind, a great principle, firmly inwrought and inwoven at the beginning, can never be removed. It will show itself whenever occasion permits. The animosity between the Byzantine ecclesiastical
system and all true wisdom was inextinguishable, though it was utterly foreign to Christianity. It was fastened by imperial violence on the nations, ecclesiastical and made its appearance, with unabated force, opposition. at intervals of ages. The same evil instinct which tore Hypatia piecemeal in the church at Alexandria brought Galileo into the custody of the familiars of the holy office at Rome. The necessary consequence of this upholding ignorance by force was the emergence of ideas successively more and more depraved. Whoever will ingenuously compare the religious state of Italy in the fourteenth century with its state in the fourth-that is, the recent Italian with the old Roman—will find that Degraded among the illiterate classes nothing whatever state of Italy. had been accomplished. There were no elevated thoughts of holy things. From practical devotion God had altogether disappeared; the Saviour had been supplanted by the blessed Virgin; and she herself-such was the increasing degradation—had been abandoned for the ignoble worship of apotheosized men, who, under the designation of saints, had engrossed all the votaries. There had been a rapid descent to the last degree of more than African abasement in bleeding statues and winking pictures.
In Europe there had been incorporated old forms of worship and old festivals with Christian ones; the local gods and goddesses had been replaced by saints; for deification canonization had been substituted. There had been produced a civilization, the character of Rise of a new which was its extraordinary intolerance. A man social system. could not be suspected of doubting the popular belief without risk to his goods, his body, or his life. As a necessary consequence, there could be no great lawgivers, no philosophers, no poets. Society was pervaded by a systematic hypocrisy. This tyranny over others sometimes led to strange results. It caused the Jews to discover the art of making wealth invisible by bills of exchange and other such like means, so that money might be imperceptibly but instantaneously moved.
Thus, after the dying out of Greek science, there followed, among the new populations, an intellectual immobility, which soon became the centre of a vast number of
growing interests quickly and firmly crystallizing round Influence of it. For them it was essential that there should that new be no change no advance. In the midst of system,
jarrings and conflicts between those interests, that condition was steadfastly maintained, as if through instinct, by them all. It mattered not how antiquated were the forms insisted on, nor how far they outraged common sense. New life was given to decay illusions, and, in return, strength was gathered from them. Isis,
de with the moon beneath her feet, was planted, tion by Afri- under a new name, on the Bosphorus and the
eas. Tiber. African theology, African ecclesiastical machinery, and African monasticism were made objects of reverence to unsuspecting Europe. Juvenal says that the Roman painters of his day lived on the goddess Isis. The Italian painters of a later day lived on her modernized form.
In such a condition of things the literary state could be No literature no other than barren. Political combinations in the Age of had not only prescribed an intellectual terminus, Faith.
but had even laid down a rail upon which mental excursions were to be made, and from which there was no departing; or, if a turn-out was permitted, it was managed by a tonsured man. For centuries together, if we exclude theological writings, there was absolutely no literature worth the name. Life seems to have been spent in the pursuit of mere physical enjoyment, and that enjoyment of a very low kind. When in the South of France and Sicily literature began to dawn, it is not to be overlooked how much of it was of an amatory kind; and love is the strongest of the passions. The first aspect of Western literature was animal, not intellectual. A taste for learning excited, there reappeared in the schools the Its critical old treatises written a thousand years before-innocence. the Elements of Euclid, the Geography of Ptolemy. Long after the Reformation there was an intellectual imbecility which might well excite our mirth, if it were not the index of a stage through which the human mind must pass. Often enough we see it interestingly in the interweaving of the new with the old ideas. If we take up a work on metallurgy, it commences with Tuba) Cain; if on music, with Jubal. The history of each country is traced back to the sons of Noah, or at least to the fugitives from the siege of Troy. An admiration for classical authors may perhaps be excused. It exhibited itself amusingly in the eccentricity of interlarding compositions of every kind with Greek and Latin quotations. This was an age of literary innocence, when no legend was too stupendous for credulity; when there was no one who had ever suspected that Tully, as they delighted to call him, was not a great philosopher, and Virgil not a great poet.
Of those ponderous, those massive folios on ecclesiastical affairs, at once the product and representatives Disuse of paof the time, but little needs here to be said. tristic works. They boasted themselves as the supreme effort of human intellect; they laid claim to an enduring authority; to many they had a weight little less than the oracles of God. But if their intrinsic value is to be measured by their pretensions, and their pretensions judged of by their present use, what is it that must be said ? Long ago their term was reached, long ago they became obsolete. They have no reader. Such must be the issue of any literature springing from an immovable, an unexpanding basis, the offspring of thought that has been held in subjugation by political formulas, or of intellectual energies that have been cramped.
The Roman ecclesiastical system, like the Byzantine, had been irrevocably committed in an opposition Spread of to intellectual development. It professed to science in cultivate the morals, but it crushed the mind. Franc Yet, in the course of events, this state of things was to come to an end through the working of other principles equally enduring and more powerful. They constitute what we may speak of under the title of the Arabian element. On preceding pages it has been shown that, when the Saracens conquered Egypt, they came under the influence of the Nestorians and Hellenizing Jews, acquir. ing from them a love of philosophy, which soon manifested itself in full energy from the banks of the Euphrates to those of Guadalquivir. The hammer of Charles Martel might strike down the ranks of the Saracens on the field of