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DIGRESSION ON THE HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHICAL
INFLUENCES OF ROME. CREPARATION 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. f Imperialism.- Eventual Extinction of the true Roman
Rare. Effect on the intellectual, religious, and social Condition of the Mediter
ranean Countries. — Produces homogeneous Thought. — Imperialism prepares the way for Monotheism.- Momentous Transition of the
Roinan 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 Roi:.e. Ffrom the exposition of the intellectual progress of Greece given in the preceding pages, we now turn,
', Transition agreeably to the plan laid down, to an examina- fr m 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 philosophic caily 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 European». 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 bood, 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 rustio 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 i bjets of could not carry with him, and no equivalent sub- adorution. 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,
? Influence of 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 upon 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 wnnected 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 5 Roman his with the tenets of conflicting sects. The whole tory in this history of those unhappy times displays the in vestigation.
O 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 Greit diffi the dimness and clouds of so many centuries. culty ot tieut- 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 unun the scene, and have inistaken them for a part of it, I
The first thco
shall endeavour to apply the test of common sense to the facts of which it will be necessary to treat; and, believing that man has ever been the same in his modes of thought and motives of action, I shall judge of past occurrences in the same way as of those of our own times.
In its entire form the Roman power consists of two theocracies, with a nilitary domination intercalated. The first of these theocracies corresponds to Triple form of the fabulous period of the kings; the military Roman power. domination to the time of the republic and earlier Cæsars : the second theocracy to that of the Christian emperors and the Popes.
The first theocracy is so enveloped in legends and fictions that it is impossible to give a satisfactory account of it. The biographies of the kings offer such undeniable evidence of being mere romances, that, since the time of Niebuhr, they have been received by historians in that light. But during the reigns of the pagan emperors it was not safe in Rome to insinuate cracy and publicly any disbelief in such honoured legends legendary
times. as those of the wolf that suckled the foundlings; the ascent of Romulus into heaven; the nymph Egeria; the duel of the Horatii and Curiatii; the leaping of Curtius into the gulf on his horse; the cutting of a flint with a razor by Tarquin; the Sibyl and her books. The modern historian has, therefore, only very little reliable material. He may admit that the Romans and Sabines coalesced ; that they cinquered the Albans and Latins; that thousands of the latter were transplanted to Mount Aventine and made plebeians ; these movements being the origin of the castes which long afflicted Rome, Early Roman the vanquished people constituting a subor- history. dinate class ; that at first the chief occupation was agriculture, the nature of which is not only to accustom men to the gradations of rank, such as the proprietor of the land, the overseer, the labourer, but also to the cultivation of religious sentiment, and even the cherishing of superstition ; that, besides the more honourable riccupations in which the rising state was engaged, she had, from the beginning, indulged in aggressive war, and was therefore perpetually liable to reprisal-one of her