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When Constantine the Great and his successors, under ecclesiastical influence, had declared themselves the enemies Byzantine
of worldly learning, it became necessary for the suppression of clergy to assume the duty, of seeing to the
physical as well as the religious condition of the people. It was unsuited to the state of things that physicians, whose philosophical tendencies inclined them to the pagan party, should be any longer endured. Their education in the Asclepions imparted to them ideas in opposition to the new policy. An edict of Constantine suppressed those establishments, ample provision being, however, made for replacing them by others more agreeable to the genius of Christianity. Hospitals and benevolent organizations were founded in the chief cities,
and richly endowed with money and lands. of public
In these merciful undertakings the empress
mother, Helena, was distinguished, her example being followed by many high-born ladies. The heart of women, which is naturally open to the desolate and afflicted, soon gives active expression to its sympathies when it is sanctified by Christian faith. In this, its legitimate direction, Christianity could display its matchless benevolence and charities. Organizations were introduced upon the most extensive and varied scale; one had charge of foundlings, another of orphans, another of the poor. We have already alluded to the parabolani or visitors, and of the manner in which they were diverted from their original intent.
But, noble as were these charities, they laboured under an essential defect in having substituted for educated physicians well-meaning but unskilful ecclesiastics. The destruction of the Asclepions was not attended by any suitably extensive measures for insuring professional educa
tion. The sick who were placed in the beneinto miracle- volent institutions were, at the best, rather
under the care of kind nurses than under the advice of physicians; and the consequences are seen in the gradually increasing credulity and imposture of succeeding ages, until, at length, there was an almost universal reliance on miraculous interventions. Fetiches, said to be the relics of saints, but no better than those of tropical
Africa, were believed to cure every disorder. To the shrines of saints crowds repaired as they had at one time to the temples of Æsculapius. The worshippers remained, though the name of the divinity was changed.
Scarcely were the Asclepions closed, the schools of philosophy prohibited, the libraries dispersed or destroyed, learning branded as magic or schools of punished as treason, philosophers driven into medicine and
philosophy. exile and as a class exterminated, when it became Pads apparent that a void had been created which it was incumbent on the victors to fill. Among the great prelates, who was there to stand in the place of those men whose achievements had glorified the human race? Who was to succeed to Archimedes, Hipparchus, Euclid, Herophilus, Eratosthenes? who to Plato and Aristotle? The quackeries of miracle-cure, shrine-cure, relic-cure, were destined to eclipse the genius of Hippocrates, and nearly two thousand years to intervene between Archimedes and Newton, nearly seventeen hundred between Hipparchus and Kepler. A dismal interval of almost twenty centuries parts Hero, whose first steam-engine revolved in the Serapion, from James Watt, who has revolutionized the industry of the world. What a fearful blank! Yet not a blank, for it had its products-hundreds of patristic folios filled with obsolete speculation, oppressing the shelves of antique libraries, enveloped in dust, and awaiting the worm.
Never was a more disastrous policy adopted than the Byzantine suppression of profane learning. It its deplorable is scarcely possible now to realize the mental results. degradation produced when that system was at its height. Many of the noblest philosophical and scientific works of antiquity disappeared from the language in which they had been written, and were only recovered, for the use of later and better ages, from translations which the Saracens had made into Arabic. The insolent assumption of wisdom by those who held the sword crushed every intellectual aspiration. Yet, though triumphant for a time, this policy necessarily contained the seeds of its own ignominious destruction. A day must inevitably come when so grievous a wrong to the human race must be exposed, and execrated, and punished-a day in which the poems of Homer
might once more be read, the immortal statues of the Greek Insecurity
sculptors find worshippers, and the demonstrathe Byzantine tions of Euclid a consenting intellect. But that system.
unfortunate, that audacious policy of usurpation once entered upon, there was no going back. He who is infallible must needs be immutable. In its very nature the action implied compulsion, compulsion implied the possession of power, and the whole policy insured an explosion the moment that the means of compression should be weak.
It is said that when the Saracens captured Alexandria, their victorious general sent to the khalif to know his pleasure respecting the library. The answer was in the spirit of the age. “ If the books be confirmatory of the Bigotry of the Koran, they are superfluous; if contradictory, first Saracens. they are pernicious. Let them be burnt.” At this moment, to all human appearance, the Mohammedan autocrat was on the point of joining in the evil policy of the Byzantine sovereign. But fortunately it was but the impulse of a moment, rectified forthwith, and a noble course of action was soon pursued. The Arab incorporated into his literature the wisdom of those he had conquered.
In thus conceding to knowledge a free and unpolicy soon
embarrassed career, and, instead of repressing, pursued.
encouraging to the utmost all kinds of learning did the Koran take any harm ? It was a high statesmanship which, almost from the beginning of the impulse from Mecca, bound down to a narrow, easily comprehended, and easily expressed dogma the exacted belief, and in all other particulars let the human mind go free.
In the preceding paragraphs I have criticized the course of events, condemning or applauding the actions and the actors as circumstances seem to require, herein following the usual course, which implies that men can control affairs, and that the agent is to be held responsible for his
deed. We have, however, only to consider the
course of our own lives to be satisfied to how preceding limited an extent such is the case.
We are, as we often say, the creatures of circumstances. In that expression there is a higher philosophy than might at first sight appear.
Our actions are not the pure and unmingled results of our desires; they are the offspring of
The true causes of the
many various and mixed conditions. In that which seems to be the most voluntary decision there enters much that is altogether involuntary--more, perhaps, than we generally suppose. And, in like manner, those who are imagined to have exercised an irresponsible and spontaneous influence in determining public policy, and thereby fixing the fate of nations, will be found, when we understand their position more correctly, to have been the creatures of circumstances altogether independent and irrespective of them-circumstances which they never created, of whose influence they only availed themselves. They were placed in a current which drifted them irresistibly along
From this more accurate point of view we should therefore consider the course of these events, recognizing the principle that the affairs of men pass forward in determinate way, expanding and unfolding themselves. And hence we see that the things of which we have spoken as though they were matters of choice were, in reality, forced upon
their apparent authors by the necessity of the times. But, in truth, they should be considered as the presentations of a certain phase of life which nations in their onward course sooner or later assume. In the individual, how well we know that a sober moderation of action, an appropriate gravity of demeanour, belong to the mature period of life; a change from the wanton wilfulness of youth, which may be ushered in, or its beginning marked, by many accidental incidents : in one perhaps by domestio bereavements, in another by the loss of fortune, in a third by ill health. We are correct enough in imputing to such trials the change of character, but we never deceive ourselves by supposing that it would have failed to take place had those incidents not occurred. There runs an irresistible destiny in the midst of all these vicissitudes.
We may therefore be satisfied that, whatever may have been the particular form of the events of which we have had occasion to speak, their order of affairs detersuccession was a matter of destiny, and altogether mined by law. beyond the reach of any individual. We may condemn the Byzantine monarchs, or applaud the Arabian khalifs
our blame and our praise must be set at their proper
value. Europe was passing from its Age of Inquiry to its Age of Faith. In such a transition the predestined underlies the voluntary. There are analogies between the life of a nation and that of an individual, who, though he may
be in one respect the maker of his own fortunes for happiness or for misery, for good or for evil, though he remains here or goes there, as his inclinations prompt, though he does this or abstains from that as he chooses, is nevertheless held fast by an inexorable fate—a fate which brought him into the world involuntarily so far as he was concerned, which presses him forward through a definite career, the stages of which are absolutely invariable-infancy, childhood, youth maturity, old age, with all their characteristic actions and passions, and which removes him from the scene at the appointed time, in most cases against his will. So also it is with nations; the voluntary is only the outward semblance, covering, but hardly hiding the predetermined. Over the events of life we may have control, but none whatever over the law of its progress. There is a geometry that applies to nations, an equation of their curve of advance. That no mortal man can touch.
We have now to examine in what manner the glimmering lamp of knowledge was sustained when it was all but ready to die out.
By the Arabians it was science in its handed down to us.
The grotesque forms of some of those who took charge of it are not
without interest. They exhibit a strange mixture of the Neoplatonist, the Pantheist, the Mohammedan, the Christian. In such untoward times, it was perhaps needful that the strongest passions of men should be excited and science stimulated by inquiries for methods of turning lead into gold, or of prolonging life indefinitely. We have now to deal with the philosopher's stone, the elixir vitæ, the powder of projection, magical mirrors, per petual lamps, the transmutation of metals. In smoky caverns under ground, where the great work is stealthily carried on, the alchemist and his familiar are busy with their alembics, cucurbites, and pelicans, maintaining their fires for so many years that salamanders are asserted to be born in them.
stage of sorcery.