Imatges de pàgina


§ 16. The Empire

and the Church.

which was heresy, had gained their position by the direct or indirect choice of the churches over which they presided. The constitution of each church in the third century was, in spirit at least, not unlike the constitution of the Roman state six centuries earlier. The magistrates and councillors sprang from the popular choice, and derived all their authority from popular support. But they were bound by their positions to respect the traditions of their order, to instruct, and guide, rather than to listen and to follow. It was no wonder therefore that not the worst but the best emperors struggled hard against an organisation so strong in every point in which their own. organisation was weak, and that they only at last gave way when resistance was no longer possible. Constantine, indeed, as is probable, had little idea that in assembling at Nicæa a general council of the bishops, he was increasing the strength of a society which was stronger than that over which he ruled. In fact, he had given his consent to the erection of a real representative assembly. The force which had been scattered over countless congregations was at last brought into a focus.

For a long time the empire and the church pursued their several paths side by side. Different as their organisations were, they were saved from collision by the difference of their aims. After some vain attempts, the emperors, at least in the west, refrained from promulgating creeds. The clergy had no wish to take part in the direction of armies. Nor were the materials of a conflict to be found in the domain of justice, afterwards so fruitful of quarrels between the lay and the ecclesiastical authorities. If the emperors sometimes interfered with the occupant of the important See of Rome, they showed no disposition to hamper the general relations between the clergy and their flocks, and the clergy were

too good Romans themselves to find fault with the working of the Roman law in other matters.

It was one thing to offer no positive opposition to the empire; it was another thing to support it actively in its day of trial. The empire at last suffered the fate of all institutions which do not root themselves in the active support of those for whose benefit they arise. As the danger from its Teutonic assailants grew more formidable, the pressure of taxation grew heavier till it was almost unendurable. The material wants of the people were not provided for. Its distresses were not alleviated. A population without enthusiasm could not be called upon to furnish men for the military defence of its rulers. The evil counsel prevailed of entrusting the defence of the frontier to Germans, trained and disciplined to the habits of Roman warfare. At last the time came when those who had been admitted as servants claimed to be masters, and their brethren from the forests of Germany poured in at the gaps left undefended. In Western Europe the empire melted away before so dire a succession of calamities.


§17. Fall

of the Em

pire in the



The church rapidly transferred its allegiance to the $18. The numerous Teutonic kings who sprung up on what had once been Roman soil. It was too universal in its sympathies, and too independent in its action to be fettered by devotion to the frame-work of any existing government. The clergy, however, soon found that a new position had been created for them. If they had been less Roman than the emperors, they were more Roman than the new rulers. A political position, and that too an antagonistic position, was forced upon the bishops. They were the depositaries of a tradition of equal law and universal justice in the face of conquerors who understood none of these things. Occupying sees

and the

Teutonic querors.


CHAP. 1.

in the old Roman municipalities, they became the defenders of the conquered populations in general, and of municipal rights in particular. Everywhere on the continent the progress of civilisation was determined by the form of compromise between the Roman civilisation. upheld by the clergy, and the ruder but more vigorous civilisation of the Teutonic kings.





THE inhabitants of the southern portion of Britain which alone had been brought under Roman domination were even in worse case than their Gaulish neighbours. §1. The Large districts, especially in the western and more hilly Province of part of the island, retained their Celtic speech and their Britain. Celtic habits. Even where Roman civilisation had made its way, its influence had been far more superficial than in Gaul. What intellectual vigour there was in the fourth century in any part of the empire, expressed itself chiefly in ecclesiastical legislation and literature, and the British church gave evidence of its weakness by taking little part in either. When in the beginning of the fifth century, the Roman legions were finally withdrawn, the provincials, divided amongst themselves, and enervated and helpless through the long habit of looking elsewhere than to their own courage for defence, fell a prey to the ravages of the Celtic tribes who had retained their independence of Rome. The Picts of those northern regions which now bear the name of Scotland, and the Scots of Ireland, whose colony in the Western Highlands was afterwards to impress that name upon the North of Britain, ravaged the land without mercy. The more distinctly Celtic West resisted not without success. The Romanised Celt of the East invited the




§2. The English Settle


alliance of the Teutonic sea-rovers who had long been the piratic assailants of their coast.

When in the middle of the fifth century, our Teutonic ancestors landed on the shores of Britain, they carved out settlements for themselves; they were Jutes, and Saxons and Angles from the coast which stretches from Jutland to the mouths of the Elbe and Weser. Over the horror of the struggle a thick darkness has settled down, and, with the exception of one lightning-flash from a Celtic writer, it was only by its leading features, by a battle or a siege traditionally remembered, that any portion of it could be recovered when civilisation and its power of recording events again spread over the land. At the end of a century and a half, the Teutonic settlers occupied the whole of the eastern half of the land, from the Forth to the Straits of Dover, and from the coast of the German Ocean to the Severn. Over all this tract the Low German speech of the invaders was to be heard. To what extent the British population had disappeared is a matter of controversy. It is a point on which no certain knowledge is attainable. The invaders did not enter the island impressed with the dignity of Roman civilisation. They knew nothing of the Roman speech. They seized upon the land of the Britons. They stormed and sacked their cities. They probably often carried off their daughters to be their wives or concubines. The men who resisted were slain as wild beasts are slain, without thought of mercy. Of the rest some were reduced to slavery, some may have kept up a precarious independence in the woods. Under such circumstances a population suffers fearful diminution from misery and starvation. The weak and the old with the young child, the hope of future generations, perish for lack of food. Yet whatever the numerical amount of the survivors may have been, the general result is certain. The Teu

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