These classical elements of the Gothic history of Cassiodorus (which rest chiefly on a misunderstanding of the vague and unscientific term "Scythians") are valueless for the purposes of history; but the old Gothic Sagas, of which he has evidently also preserved some fragments, are both interesting and valuable. When a nation has played so important a part on the theatre of the world as that assigned to the Goths, even their legendary stories of the past are precious. Whether these early Amal Kings fought and ruled and migrated as the Sagas represent them to have done, or not, in any case the belief that these were their achievements was a part of the intellectual heritage of the Gothic peoples. The songs to whose lullaby the cradle of a great nation is rocked are a precious possession to the historian.
The other most important work of Cassiodorus is the collection of letters called the Variae, in twelve books. This collection contains all the chief state-papers composed by him during the period (somewhat more than thirty years) which was covered by his official life. Five books are devoted to the letters written at the dictation of Theodoric; two to the Formulae or model-letters addressed to the various dignitaries of the State on their accession to office; three to the letters written in the name of Theodoric's immediate successors (his grandson, daughter, and nephew); and two to those written by Cassiodorus himself in his own name when he had attained the crowning dignity of Praetorian Prefect.
I have already made some extracts from this collection of "Various Epistles" and the reader, from the specimens thus submitted to him, will have formed some conception of the character of the author's style. That style is diffuse and turgid, marked in an eminent degree with the prevailing faults of the sixth century, an age of literary decay, when the language of Cicero and Virgil was falling into its dotage. There is much ill-timed display of irrelevant learning, and a grievous absence of simplicity and directness, in the "Various Epistles". It must be regarded as a misfortune for Theodoric that his maxims of statesmanship, which were assuredly full of manly sense and vigour, should have reached us only in such a shape, diluted with the platitudes and false rhetoric of a scholar of the decadence. Still, even through all these disguises, it is easy to discern the genuine patriotism both of the great King and of his minister, their earnest desire that right, not might, should determine every case that came before them, their true insight into the vices and the virtues of each of the two different nations which now shared Italy between them, their persevering endeavour to keep civilitas intact, their determination to oppose alike the turbulence of the Goth and the chicane of the scheming Roman.
As specimens of the rhetoric of Cassiodorus when he is trying his highest flights, the reader may care to peruse the two following letters. The first was written to Faustus the Praetorian Prefect, to complain of his delay in forwarding some cargoes of corn from Calabria to Rome:
[Footnote 91: Var., i., 35.]
"What are you waiting for?" says Cassiodorus, writing in his master's name. "Why are your ships not spreading their sails to the breeze? When the South-wind is blowing and your oarsmen are urging on your vessels, has the sucking-fish (Echeneis) fastened its bite upon them through the liquid waves? Or have the shell-fishes of the Indian Sea with similar power stayed your keels with their lips: those creatures whose quiet touch is said to hold back, more than the tumultuous elements can possibly urge forward? The idle bark stands still, though winged with swelling sails, and has no way on her though the breeze is propitious; she is fixed without anchors; she is moored without cables, and these tiny animals pull back, more than all such favouring powers can propel. Therefore when the subject wave would hasten the vessel's course, it appears that it stands fixed on the surface of the sea: and in marvellous style the floating ship is retained immovable, while the wave is hurried along by countless currents.
"But let us describe the nature of another kind of fish. Perhaps the crews of the aforesaid ships have been benumbed into idleness by the touch of a torpedo, by which the right hand of him who attacks it is so deadened—even through the spear by which it is itself wounded—that while still part of a living body it hangs down benumbed without sense or motion. I think some such misfortunes must have happened to men who are unable to move themselves.
"But no. The sucking-fish of these men is their hindering corruption. The shell-fishes that bite them are their avaricious hearts. The torpedo that benumbs them is lying guile. With perverted ingenuity they manufacture delays, that they may seem to have met with a run of ill-luck.
"Let your Greatness, whom it especially behoves to take thought for such matters, cause that this be put right by speediest rebuke: lest the famine, which will otherwise ensue, be deemed to be the child of negligence rather than of the barrenness of the land".
The occasion of the second letter (Var., x., 30.) was as follows. Some brazen images of elephants which adorned the Sacred Street of Rome were falling into ruin, Cassiodorus, writing in the name of one of Theodoric's successors, to the Prefect of the City, orders that their gaping limbs should be strengthened by hooks, and their pendulous bellies should be supported by masonry. He then proceeds to give to the admiring Prefect some wonderful information as to the natural history of the elephant. He regrets that the metal effigies should be so soon destroyed, when the animal which they represent is accustomed to live more than a thousand years.
"The living elephant" he says, "when it is once prostrate on the ground, cannot rise unaided, because it has no joints in its feet. Hence when they are helping men to fell timber, you see numbers of them lying on the earth till men come and help them to rise. Thus this creature, so formidable by its size, is really more helpless than the tiny ant. The elephant, wiser than all other creatures, renders religious adoration to the Ruler of all: also to good princes, but if a tyrant approach, it will not pay him the homage which is due only to the virtuous. It uses its proboscis, that nose-like hand which Nature has given it in compensation for its very short neck, for the benefit of its master, accepting the presents which will be profitable to him. It always walks cautiously, remembering that fatal fall into the hunter's pit which was the beginning of its captivity. When requested to do so, it exhales its breath, which is said to be a remedy for the headache.
"When it comes to water, it sucks up a vast quantity in its trunk, and then at the word of command squirts it forth like a shower. If any one have treated its demands with contempt, it pours forth such a stream of dirty water over him that one would think that a river had entered his house. For this beast has a wonderfully long memory, both of injury and of kindness. Its eyes are small but move solemnly, so that there is a sort of royal majesty in its appearance: and it despises scurrile jests, while it always looks with pleasure on that which is honourable".
It must be admitted that if the official communications of modern statesmen thus anxiously combined amusement with instruction, the dull routine of "I have the honour to inform" and "I beg to remain your obedient humble servant", would acquire a charm of which it is now destitute.
I have translated two letters which show the ludicrous side of the literary character of Cassiodorus. In justice to this honest, if somewhat pedantic, servant of Theodoric, I will close this sketch of his character with a state-paper of a better type, and one which incidentally throws some light on the social condition of Italy under the Goths.
"THEODORIC to the Illustrious Neudes. (Var., v., 29.)
"We were moved to sympathy by the long petition of Ocer but yet more by beholding the old hero, bereft of the blessing of sight, inasmuch as the calamities which we witness make more impression upon us than those of which we only hear. He, poor man, living on in perpetual darkness, had to borrow the sight of another to hasten to our presence in order that he might feel the sweetness of our clemency, though he could not gaze upon our countenance.
"He complains that Gudila and Oppas (probably two Gothic nobles or a Gothic chief and his wife) have reduced him to a state of slavery, a condition unknown to him or his fathers, since he once served in our army as a free man. We marvel that such a man should be dragged into bondage who (on account of his infirmity) ought to have been liberated by a lawful owner. It is a new kind of ostentation to claim the services of such an one, the sight of whom shocks you, and to call that man a slave, to whom you ought rather to minister with divine compassion.
"He adds also that all claims of this nature have been already judged invalid after careful examination by Count Pythias, a man celebrated for the correctness of his judgments. But now overwhelmed by the weight of his calamity, he cannot assert his freedom by his own right hand, which in the strong man is the most effectual advocate of his claims. We, however, whose peculiar property it is to administer justice indifferently, whether between men of equal or unequal condition, do by this present mandate decree, that if, in the judgment of the aforesaid Pythias, Ocer have proved himself free-born, you shall at once remove those who are harassing him with their claims, nor shall they dare any longer to mock at the calamities of others: these people who once convicted ought to have been covered with shame for their wicked designs".
THE ARIAN LEAGUE.
Political bearings of the Arianism of the German invaders of the Empire—Vandals, Suevi, Visigoths, Burgundians—Uprise of the power of Clovis—His conversion to Christianity—His wars with Gundobad, king of the Burgundians—With Alaric II., king of the Visigoths—Downfall of the monarchy of Toulouse—Usurpation of Gesalic—Theodoric governs Spain as guardian of his grandson Amalaric.
The position of Theodoric in relation both to his own subjects and to the Empire was seriously modified by one fact to which hitherto I have only alluded casually, the fact that he, like the great majority of the Teutonic invaders of the Empire, was an adherent of the Arian form of Christianity. In order to estimate at its true value the bearing of religion, or at least of religious profession, on politics, at the time of the fall of the Roman State, we might well look at the condition of another dominion, founded under the combined influence of martial spirit and religious zeal, which is now going to pieces under our very eyes, I mean the Empire of the Ottomans. In the lands which are still under the sway of the Sultan, religion may not be a great spiritual force, but it is at any rate a great political lever. When you have said that a man is a Moslem or a Druse, a member of the Orthodox or of the Catholic Church, an Armenian or a Protestant, you have almost always said enough to define his political position. Without the need of additional information you have already got the elements of his civic equation, and can say whether he is a loyal subject of the Porte, or whether he looks to Russia or Greece, to France, Austria, or England as the sovereign of his future choice. In fact, as has been often pointed out, in the East at this day "Religion is Nationality".
Very similar to this was the condition of the ancient world at the time when the general movement of the Northern nations began. The battle with heathenism was virtually over, Christianity being the unquestioned conqueror; but the question, which of the many modifications of Christianity devised by the subtle Hellenic and Oriental intellects should be the victor, was a question still unsettled, and debated with the keenest interest on all the shores of the Mediterranean. So keen indeed was the interest that it sometimes seems almost to have blinded the disputants to the fact that the Roman Empire, the greatest political work that the world has ever seen, was falling in ruins around them. When we want information about the march of armies and the fall of States, the chroniclers to whom we turn for guidance, withholding that which we seek, deluge us with trivial talk about the squabbles of monks and bishops, about Timothy the Weasel and Peter the Fuller, and a host of other self-seeking ecclesiastics, to whose names, to whose characters, and to whose often violent deaths we are profoundly and absolutely indifferent. But though a feeling of utter weariness comes over the mind of most readers, while watching the theological sword-play of the fourth and fifth centuries, the historical student cannot afford to shut his eyes altogether to the battle of the creeds, which produced results of such infinite importance to the crystallising process by which Mediaeval Europe was formed out of the Roman Empire.
As I have just said, Theodoric the Ostrogoth, like almost all the great Teutonic swarm-leaders, like Alaric the Visigoth, like Gaiseric the Vandal, like Gundobad the Burgundian, was an Arian. On the other hand, the Emperors, Zeno, for instance, and Anastasius, and the great majority of the population of Italy and of the provinces of the Empire, were Catholic. What was the amount of theological divergence which was conveyed by these terms Arian and Catholic, or to speak more judicially (for the Arians averred that they were the true Catholics and that their opponents were heretics) Arian and Athanasian? As this is not the place for a disquisition on disputed points of theology, it is sufficient to say that, while the Athanasian held for truth the whole of the Nicene Creed, the Arian—at least that type of Arian with whom we are here concerned—would, in that part which relates to the Son of God, leave out the words "being of one substance with the Father", and would substitute for them "being like unto the Father in such manner as the Scriptures declare". He would also have refused to repeat the words which assert the Godhead of the Holy Spirit. These were important differences, but it will be seen at once that they were not so broad as those which now generally separate "orthodox" from "heterodox" theologians.
The reasons which led the barbarian invaders of the Empire to accept the Arian form of Christianity are not yet fully disclosed to us. The cause could not be an uncultured people's preference for a simple faith, for the Arian champions were at least as subtle and technical in their theology as the Athanasian, and often surpassed them in these qualities. It is possible that some remembrances of the mythology handed down to them by their fathers made them willing to accept a subordinate Christ, a spiritualised "Balder the Beautiful", divine yet subject to death, standing as it were upon the steps of his father's throne, rather than the dogma, too highly spiritualised for their apprehension, of One God in Three Persons. But probably the chief cause of the Arianism of the German invaders was the fact that the Empire itself was to a great extent Arian when they were in friendly relations with it, and were accepting both religion and civilisation at its hands, in the middle years of the fourth century.
The most powerful factor in this change, the man who more than all others was responsible for the conversion of the Germanic races to Christianity, in its Arian form, was the Gothic Bishop, Ulfilas (311-381), whose construction of an Alphabet and translation of the Scriptures into the language of his fellow-countrymen have secured for him imperishable renown among all who are interested in the history of human speech. Ulfilas, who has been well termed "The Apostle of the Goths", seems to have embraced Christianity as a young man when he was dwelling in Constantinople as a hostage (thus in some measure anticipating the part which one hundred and thirty years later was to be played by Theodoric), and having been ordained first Lector (Reader) and afterwards (341) Bishop of Gothia, he spent the remaining forty years of his life in missionary journeys among his countrymen in Dacia, in collecting those of his converts who fled from the persecution of their still heathen rulers, and settling them as colonists in Moesia, and, most important of all, in his great work of the translation of the Bible into Gothic. Of this work, as is well known, some precious fragments still remain; most precious of all, the glorious Silver Manuscript of the Gospels (Codex Argenteus), which is supposed to have been written in the sixth century, and which, after many wanderings and an eventful history, rests now in a Scandinavian land, in the Library of the University of Upsala, It is well worth while to make a pilgrimage to that friendly and hospitable Swedish city, if for no other purpose than to see the letters (traced in silver on parchment of rich purple dye) in which the skilful amanuensis laboriously transcribed the sayings of Christ rendered by Bishop Ulfilas into the language of Alaric. For that Codex Argenteus is oldest of all extant monuments of Teutonic speech, the first fruit of that mighty tree which now spreads its branches over half the civilised world.
With the theological bearings of the Arian controversy we have no present concern; but it is impossible not to notice the unfortunate political results of the difference of creed between the German invaders and the great majority of the inhabitants of the Empire. The cultivators of the soil and the dwellers in the cities had suffered much from the misgovernment of their rulers during the last two centuries of Imperial sway; they could, to some extent, appreciate the nobler moral qualities of the barbarian settlers—their manliness, their truthfulness, their higher standard of chastity; nor is it idle to suppose that if there had been perfect harmony of religious faith between the new-comers and the old inhabitants they might soon have settled down into vigorous and well-ordered communities, such as Theodoric and Cassiodorus longed to behold, combining the Teutonic strength with the Roman reverence for law. Religious discord made it impossible to realise this ideal The orthodox clergy loathed and dreaded the invaders "infected", as they said, "with the Arian pravity". The barbarian kings, unaccustomed to have their will opposed by men who never wielded a broadsword, were masterful and high-handed in their demand for absolute obedience, even when their commands related to the things of God rather than to the things of Caesar; and the Arian bishops and priests who stood beside their thrones, and who had sometimes long arrears of vengeance for past insult or oppression to exact, often wrought up the monarch's mind to a perfect frenzy of fanatical rage, and goaded him to cruel deeds which made reconciliation between the warring creeds hopelessly impossible. In Africa, the Vandal kings set on foot a persecution of their Catholic subjects which rivalled, nay exceeded, the horrors of the persecution under Diocletian. Churches were destroyed, bishops banished, and their flocks forbidden to elect their successors: nay, sometimes, in the fierce quest after hidden treasure, eminent ecclesiastics were stretched on the rack, their mouths were filled with noisome dirt, or cords were twisted round their foreheads or their shins. In Gaul, under the Visigothic King Euric, the persecution was less savage, but it was stubborn and severe. Here, too, the congregations were forbidden to elect successors to their exiled bishops; the paths to the churches were stopped up with thorns and briers; cattle grazed on the grass-grown altar steps, and the rain came through the shattered roofs into the dismantled basilicas.
Thus all round the shores of the Mediterranean there was strife and bitter heart-burning between the Roman provincial and his Teutonic "guest", not so much because one was or called himself a Roman, while the other called himself Goth, Burgundian, or Vandal, but because one was Athanasian and the other Arian. With this strife of creeds Theodoric, for the greater part of his reign, refused to concern himself. He remained an Arian, as his fathers had been before him, but he protected the Catholic Church in the privileges which she had acquired, and he refused to exert his royal authority to either threaten or allure men into adopting his creed. So evenly for many years did he hold the balance between the rival faiths, that it was reported of him that he put to death a Catholic priest who apostatised to Arianism in order to attain the royal favour; and though this story does not perhaps rest on sufficient authority, there can be no doubt that the general testimony of the marvelling Catholic subjects of Theodoric would have coincided with that already quoted (See page 128.) from the Bishop of Ravenna that "he attempted nothing against the Catholic faith".
Still, though determined not to govern in the interests of a sect, it was impossible that Theodoric's political relations should not be, to a certain extent, modified by his religious affinities. Let us glance at the position of the chief States with which a ruler of Italy at the close of the fifth century necessarily came in contact.
First of all we have the Empire, practically confined at this time to "the Balkan peninsula" south of the Danube, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, and presided over by the elderly, politic, but unpopular Anastasius. This State is Catholic, though, as we shall hereafter see, not in hearty alliance with the Church of Rome.
Westward from the Empire, along the southern shore of the Mediterranean, stretches the great kingdom of the Vandals, with Carthage for its capital. They have a powerful navy, but their kings, Gunthamund (484-496) and Thrasamund (496-523), do not seem to be disposed to renew the buccaneering expeditions of their grandfather, the great Vandal Gaiseric. They are decided Arians, and keep up a stern, steady pressure on their Catholic subjects, who are spared, however, the ruthless brutalities practised upon them by the earlier Vandal kings. The relations of the Vandals with the Ostrogothic kingdom seem to have been of a friendly character during almost the whole reign of Theodoric. Thrasamund, the fourth king who reigned at Carthage, married Amalafrida, Theodoric's sister, who brought with her, as dowry, possession of the strong fortress of Lilybaeum (Marsala), in the west of Sicily, and who was accompanied to her new home by a brilliant train of one thousand Gothic nobles with five thousand mounted retainers.
In the north and west of Spain dwell the nation of the Suevi, Teutonic and Arian, but practically out of the sphere of European politics, and who, half a century after the death of Theodoric, will be absorbed by their Visigothic neighbours.
This latter state, the kingdom of the Visigoths, is apparently, at the end of the fifth century, by far the most powerful of the new barbarian monarchies. All Spain, except its north-western corner, and something like half of Gaul—namely, that region which is contained between the Pyrenees and the Loire, owns the sway of the young king, whose capital city is Toulouse, and who, though a stranger in blood, bears the name of the great Visigoth who first battered a breach in the walls of Rome, the mighty Alaric. This Alaric II. (485-507), the son of Euric, who had been the most powerful sovereign of his dynasty, inherited neither his father's force of character (485-507) nor the bitterness of his Arianism. The persecution of the Catholics was suspended, or ceased altogether, and we may picture to ourselves the congregations again wending their way by unblockaded paths to the house of prayer, the churches once more roofed in and again made gorgeous by the stately ceremonial of the Catholic rite. In other ways, too, Alaric showed himself anxious to conciliate the favour of his Roman subjects. He ordered an abstract of the Imperial Code to be prepared, and this abstract, under the name of the Breviarium Alaricianum is to this day one of our most valuable sources of information as to Roman Law. He is also said to have directed the construction of the canal, which still bears his name (Canal d'Alaric), and which, connecting the Adour with the Aisne, assists the irrigation of the meadows of Gascony. But all these attempts to close the feud between the king and his orthodox subjects were vain. When the day of trial came, it was seen, as it had long been suspected, that the sympathies and the powerful influence of the bishops and clergy were thrown entirely on the side of the Catholic invader.
[Footnote 92: Sometimes called the Breviarium Aniani, from the name of the Registrar whose signature attested each copy of the Breviarium.]
Between the Visigothic and Ostrogothic courts there was firm friendship and alliance, the remembrance of their common origin and of many perils and hardships shared together on the shores of the Euxine and in the passes of the Balkans being fortified by the knowledge of the dangers to which their common profession of Arianism exposed them amidst the Catholic population of the Empire. The alliance, which had served Theodoric in good stead when the Visigoths helped him in his struggle with Odovacar, was yet further strengthened by kinship, the young king of Toulouse having received in marriage a princess from Ravenna, whose name is variously given as Arevagni or Ostrogotho.
A matrimonial alliance also connected Theodoric with the king of the Burgundians. These invaders, who were destined so strangely to disappear out of history themselves, while giving their name to such wide and rich regions of mediaeval Europe, occupied at this time the valleys of the Saone and the Rhone, as well as the country which we now call Switzerland. Their king, Gundobad, a man somewhat older than Theodoric, had once interfered zealously in the politics of Italy, making and unmaking Emperors and striking for Odovacar against his Ostrogothic rival. Now, however, his whole energies were directed to extending his dominions in Gaul, and to securing his somewhat precarious throne from the machinations of the Catholic bishops, his subjects. For he, too, was by profession an Arian, though of a tolerant type, and though he sometimes seemed on the point of crossing the abyss and declaring himself a convert to the Nicene faith. Theudegotho, sister of Arevagni, was given by her father, Theodoric in marriage to Sigismund, the son and heir of Gundobad.
The event which intensified the fears of all these Arian kings, and which left to each one little more than the hope that he might be the last to be devoured, was the conversion to Catholicism of Clovis, the heathen king of the Franks, that fortunate barbarian who, by a well-timed baptism, won for his tribe of rude warriors the possession of the fairest land in Europe and the glory of giving birth to one of the foremost nations in the world.
[Footnote 93: I call the Frankish king by the name by which he is best known in history, though no doubt the more correct form is either Hlodwig or Chlodovech. It is of course the same name with Ludovicus or Louis I do not know whether the barbarian sound of Hlodwig offended the delicate taste of Cassiodorus, but in the "Various Letters" he addresses the king of the Franks as Ludum. It seems probable that there was some harsh guttural before the L which Gregory of Tours endeavoured to represent by Ch (Chlodovech), while Cassiodorus, receiving the name from the Frankish barbarians, thought it safer to leave it unrepresented (Ludum). In any case his n must have been due to some defective understanding of the final sound.]
As we are here come to one of the common-places of history, I need but very briefly remind the reader of the chief stages in the upward course of the young Frankish king. Born in 466, he succeeded his father, Childeric, as one of the kings of the Salian Franks in 481. The lands of the Salians occupied but the extreme northern corner of modern France, and a portion of Flanders, and even here Clovis was but one of many kinglets allied by blood but frequently engaged in petty and inglorious wars one with another.
For five years the young Salian chieftain lived in peace with his neighbours. In the twentieth year of his age (486) he sprang with one bound into fame and dominion by attacking and overcoming the Roman Syagrius, who with ill-defined prerogatives, and bearing the title not of Emperor or of Prefect, but of King, had succeeded amidst the wreck of the Western Empire in preserving some of the fairest districts of the north of Gaul from barbarian domination. With the help of some of his brother chiefs, Clovis overthrew this "King of Soissons". Syagrius took refuge at the court of Toulouse, and the Frankish king now felt himself strong enough to send to the young Alaric, who had ascended the throne only a year before, a peremptory message, insisting, under the penalty of a declaration of war, on the surrender of the Roman fugitive. The Visigoth was mean-spirited enough to purchase peace by delivering up his guest, bound in fetters, to the ambassadors of Clovis, who shortly after ordered him to be privily done to death. From that time, we may well believe, Clovis felt confident that he should one day vanquish Alaric.
About seven years after this event (493) came his memorable marriage with Clotilda, a Burgundian princess, who, unlike her Arian uncle, Gundobad, was enthusiastically devoted to the Catholic faith, and who ceased not by private conversations and by inducing him to listen to the sermons of the eloquent Bishop Remigius, to endeavour to win her husband from the religion of his heathen forefathers to the creed of Rome and of the Empire. Clovis, however, for some years wavered. Sprung himself, according to the traditions of his people, from the sea-god Meroveus, he was not in haste to renounce this fabulous glory, nor to acknowledge as Lord, One who had been reared in a carpenter's shop at Nazareth. He allowed Clotilda to have her eldest son baptised, but when the child soon after died, he took that as a sign of the power and vengeance of the old gods. A second son was born, was baptised, fell sick. Had that child died, Clovis would probably have remained an obstinate heathen, but the little one recovered, given back, as was believed, to the earnest prayers of his mother.
[Footnote 94: More accurately Chrotchildis.]
It was perhaps during these years of indecision as to his future religious profession, that Clovis consented to a matrimonial alliance between his house and that of the Arian Theodoric. The great Ostrogoth married, probably about the year 495, the sister of Clovis, Augofleda, who, as we may reasonably conjecture, renounced the worship of the gods of her people, and was baptised by an Arian bishop on becoming "Queen of the Goths and Romans". Unfortunately the meagre annals of the time give us no hint of the character or history of the princess who was thus transferred from the fens of Flanders to the marshes of Ravenna. Every indication shows that she came from a far lower level of civilisation than that which her husband's people occupied. Did she soon learn to conform herself to the stately ceremonial which Ravenna borrowed from Constantinople? Did she too speak of civilitas and the necessity of obeying the Roman laws, and did she share the "glorious colloquies" which her husband held with the exuberant Cassiodorus? When war came between the Ostrogoth and the Frank, did she openly show her sympathy with her brother Clovis, or did she "forget her people and her father's house" and cleave with all her soul to the fortunes of Theodoric? As to all these interesting questions the "Various Letters", with all their diffuseness, give us no more information than the most jejune of the annalists. The only fact upon which we might found a conjecture is the love of literature and of Roman civilisation displayed by her daughter, Amalasuentha, which inclines us to guess that the mother may have thrown off her Frankish wildness when she came into the softening atmosphere of Italy.
We return to the event so memorable in the history of the world, Clovis' conversion to Christianity. In the year 486 he went forth to fight his barbarian neighbours in the south-east, the Alamanni, The battle was a stubborn and a bloody one, as well it might be when two such thunder-clouds met, the savage Frank and the savage Alaman. Already the Frankish host seemed wavering, when Clovis, lifting his eyes to heaven and shedding tears in the agony of his soul, said: "O Jesus Christ! whom Clotilda declares to be the son of the living God, who art said to give help to the weary, and victory to them that trust in thee, I humbly pray for thy glorious aid, and promise that if thou wilt indulge me with the victory over these enemies, I will believe in thee and be baptised in thy name. For I have called on my own gods and have found that they are of no power and do not help those who call upon them". Scarcely had he spoken the words when the tide of battle turned. The Franks recovered from their panic, the Alamanni turned to flight. Their king was slain, and his people submitted to Clovis, who, returning, told his queen how he had called upon her God in the day of battle and been delivered.
Then followed, after a short consultation with the leading men of his kingdom, which made the change of faith in some degree a national act, the celebrated scene in the cathedral of Rheims, where the king, having confessed his faith in the Holy Trinity, was baptised in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, the poetical bishop uttering the well-known words: "Bow down thy head in lowliness, O Sicambrian; adore what thou hast burned and burn what thou hast adored". The streets of the city were hung with bright banners, white curtains adorned the churches, and clouds of sweet incense filled all the great basilica in which "the new Constantine" stooped to the baptismal water. He entered the cathedral a mere "Sicambrian" chieftain, the descendant of the sea-god: he emerged from it amid the acclamations of the joyous provincials, "the eldest son of the Church".
The result of this ceremony was to change the political relations of every state in Gaul. Though the Franks were among the roughest and most uncivilised of the tribes that had poured westwards across the Rhine, as Catholics they were now sure of a welcome from the Catholic clergy of every city, and where the clergy led, the "Roman" provincials, or in other words the Latin-speaking laity, generally followed. Immediately after his baptism Clovis received a letter of enthusiastic welcome Into the true fold, written by Avitus, Bishop of Vienne, the most eminent ecclesiastic of the Burgundian kingdom. "I regret", says Avitus, "that I could not be present in the flesh at that most glorious solemnity. But as your most sublime Humility had sent me a messenger to inform me of your intention, when night fell I retired to rest already secure of your conversion. How often my friends and I went over the scene in our imaginations! We saw the band of holy prelates vying with one another in the ambition of lowly service, each one wishing to comfort the royal limbs with the water of life. We saw that head, so terrible to the nations, bowed low before the servants of God; the hair which had grown long under the helmet now crowned with the diadem of the holy anointing; the coat of mail laid aside and the white limbs wrapped in linen robes as white and spotless as themselves.
"One thing only have I to ask of you, that you will spread the light which you have yourself received to the nations around you. Scatter the seeds of faith from out of the good treasure of your heart, and be not ashamed, by embassies directed to this very end, to strengthen in other States the cause of that God who has so greatly exalted your fortunes. Shine on, for ever, upon those who are present, by lustre of your diadem, upon those who are absent, by the glory of your name. We are touched by your happiness; as often as you fight in those (heretical) lands, we conquer".
The use of language like this, showing such earnest devotion to the cause of Clovis in the subject of a rival monarch, well illustrates the tendency of the Frankish king's conversion to loosen the bonds of loyalty in the neighbouring States, and to facilitate the spread of his dominion over the whole of Gaul. In fact, the Frankish kingdom, having become Catholic, was like the magnetic mountain of Oriental fable, which drew to itself all the iron nails of the ships which approached it, and so caused them to sink in hopeless dissolution. Seeing this obvious result of the conversion of the Frank, some historians, especially in the last century, were disposed to look upon that conversion as a mere hypocritical pretence. Later critics have shown that this is not an accurate account of the matter. Doubtless the motives which induced Clovis to accept baptism and to profess faith in the Crucified One were of the meanest, poorest, and most unspiritual kind. Few men have ever been further from that which Christ called "the Kingdom of Heaven" than this grasping and brutal Frankish chief, to whom robbery, falsehood, murder were, after his baptism, as much as before it (perhaps even more than before it), the ordinary steps in the ladder of his elevation. But the rough barbaric soul had in its dim fashion a faith that the God of the Christians was the mightiest God, and that it would go well with those who submitted to him. In his rude style he made imaginary bargains with the Most High: "so much reverence to 'Clotilda's God,' so many offerings at the shrine of St. Martin, so much land to the church of St. Genovefa, on condition that I shall beat down my enemies before me and extend my dominions from the Seine to the Pyrenees". This is the kind of calculation which the missionaries in our own day are only too well accustomed to hear from the lips of barbarous potentates like those of Uganda and Fiji. A conversion thus effected brings no honour to any church, and the utter selfishness and even profanity of the transaction disgusts the devout souls of every communion. Still the conversion of Clovis was not in its essence and origin a hypocritical scheme for obtaining the support of the Catholic clergy in Gaul, how clearly so ever the new convert may have soon perceived that from that support he would "suck no small advantage".
[Footnote 95: Especially Dahn ("Urgeschichte der germanischen Voelker", iii., 61).]
The first of his Arian neighbours whom Clovis struck at was the Burgundian, Gundobad. In the year 500 he beseiged Dijon with a large army. Gundobad called on his brother Godegisel, who reigned at Geneva, for help, but that brother was secretly in league with Clovis, and at a critical moment joined the invaders, who were for a time completely successful. Gundobad was driven into exile and Godegisel accepting the position of a tributary ally of his powerful Frankish friend, ruled over the whole Burgundian kingdom. His rule however seems not to have been heartily accepted by the Burgundian people. The exiled Gundobad returned with a few followers, who daily increased in number; he found himself strong enough to besiege Godegisel in Vienne; he at length entered the city through the blow-hole of an aqueduct, slew his brother with his own hand, and put his chief adherents to death "with exquisite torments". The Frankish troops who garrisoned Vienne were taken prisoners, but honourably treated and sent to Toulouse to be guarded by Alaric the Visigoth, who had probably assisted the enterprise of Gundobad.
The inactivity of Clovis during this counter-revolution in Burgundy is not easily explained. Either there was some great explosion of Burgundian national feeling against the Franks, which for the time made further interference dangerous, or Gundobad, having added his brother's dominions to his own, was now too strong for Clovis to meddle with, or, which seems on the whole the most probable supposition, Gundobad himself, secretly inclining towards the Catholic cause, had made peace with Clovis through the mediation of the clergy, and came back to Vienne to rule thenceforward as a dependent ally, though not an avowed tributary, of Clovis and the Franks. We shall soon have occasion to observe that in the crisis of its fortunes the confederacy of Arian states could not count on the co-operation of Gundobad.
To form such a confederacy and to league together all the older Arian monarchies against this one aspiring Catholic state, which threatened to absorb them all, was now the main purpose of Theodoric. He seems, however, to have remained meanwhile on terms of courtesy and apparent harmony with his powerful brother-in-law.
He congratulated him on a second victorious campaign against the Alamanni (about 503 or 504), and he took some trouble to comply with a request, which Clovis had made to him, to find out a skilful harper who might be sent to his court. The letter which relates to this transaction is a curious specimen of Cassiodorus' style. It is addressed to the young philosopher Boethius, a man whose varied accomplishments adorned the middle period of the reign of Theodoric, and whose tragical death was to bring sadness over its close. To this man, whose knowledge of the musical art was pre-eminent in his generation, Cassiodorus addresses one of the longest letters in his collection (it would occupy about six pages of an ordinary octavo), only one or two sentences of which relate to the business in hand. The letter begins: "Since the king of the Franks, attracted by the fame of our banquets, has with earnest prayers besought us to send him a harper (citharoedus), our only hope of executing his commission lies in you, whom we know to be accomplished in musical learning. For it will be easy for you to choose a well-skilled man, having yourself been able to attain to that high and abstruse study". Then follow a string of reflections on the soothing power of music, a description of the five "modes"  (Dorian, Phrygian, Aeolian, Ionian, and Lydian) and of the diapason; instances of the power of music drawn from the Scriptures and from heathen mythology, a discussion on the harmony of the spheres, and a doubt whether the enjoyment of this "astral music" be rightly placed among the delights of heaven. At length the marvellous state-paper draws to a close, "But since we have made this pleasing digression (because it is always agreeable to talk about learning with learned men) let your Wisdom choose out for us the best harper of the day, for the purpose that we have mentioned. Herein will you accomplish a task somewhat like that of Orpheus, when he with sweet sounds tamed the fierce hearts of savage creatures. The thanks which we owe you will be expressed by liberal compensation, for you obey our rule, and to the utmost of your power render it illustrious by your attainments".
[Footnote 96: Var., ii., 40.]
[Footnote 97: Toni]
[Footnote 98: "Voluptuosa digressio".]
Evidently the court of Theodoric was regarded as a centre of light and civilisation by his Teutonic neighbours, the lords of the new kingdoms to the north of him. King Gundobad desired to become the possessor of a clepsydra or water-clock, such as had long been used in Athens and Rome, to regulate the time allotted to the orators in public debates. He also wished to obtain an accurately graduated sun-dial. For both he made request to Theodoric, and again the universal genius Boethius was applied to, Cassiodorus writes him, in his master's name, a letter which gives us some interesting information as to the past career of Boethius, and then proceeds to give a specification of the required machines, in language so magnificent as to be, at any rate to modern mechanicians, hopelessly unintelligible. Then a shorter letter, to accompany the clock and dial, is written to King Gundobad. This letter, which is written in a slightly condescending tone, says that the tie of affinity between the two kings makes it right that Gundobad should receive benefits from Theodoric: "Let Burgundy under your sway learn to examine the most curious objects, and to praise the inventions of the ancients. Through you she is laying aside her old barbarian tastes, and while she admires the prudence of her King she rightly desires the works of wise men of old. Let her mark out the different intervals of the day by her actions: let her in the most fitting manner assign the occupation of each hour. This is to lead the true human life, as distinguished from that of the brutes, who know the flight of time only by the cravings of their appetites".
[Footnote 99: Strictly speaking not "again" but "previously", for the letter about the water-clock precedes the letter about the harper.]
A time, however, was approaching when this pleasant interchange of courtesies between the three sovereigns, Ostrogothic, Frankish, and Burgundian, was to be succeeded by the din of wan Alaric the Visigoth, alarmed at the victorious progress of the Frankish king, sent a message to this effect: "If my brother is willing, let him consider my proposal that, by the favour of God, we should have an interview with one another". Clovis accepted the offer, and the two kings met on an island in the Loire near Amboise. But either no alliance could be formed, owing to religious differences, or the treaty so made was too weak for the strain which it had to bear, and it became manifest before long that war would soon break out between "Francia" and "Gothia".
[Footnote 100: We have no date given us for this meeting, and the whole sequence of events between the Burgundian and Visigothic wars of Clovis (500-507) can only be stated conjecturally.]
Theodoric exerted himself strenuously to prevent the impending struggle, which, as he too surely foresaw, would bring only disaster to his Visigothic allies. He caused his eloquent secretary to write letters to Clovis, to Alaric, to Gundobad, to the neighbours of the Franks on their eastern border, the kings of the Heruli, the Warni, and the Thuringians. To Clovis he dilated on the horrors which war brings upon the inhabitants of the warring lands, who have a right to expect that the kinship of their lords will keep them at peace. A few paltry words were no sufficient cause of war between two such monarchs, and it was the act of a passionate and hot-headed man to be mobilising his troops while he was sending his first embassy. To Alaric he sent an earnest warning against engaging in war with Clovis: "You are surrounded by an innumerable multitude of subjects, and you are proud of the remembrance of the defeat of Attila, but war is a terribly dangerous game, and you know not how the long peace may have softened the warlike fibre of your people". He besought Gundobad to join with him in preserving peace between the combatants, to each of whom he had offered his arbitration. "It behoves us old, men to moderate the wrath of the royal youths, who should reverence our age, though they are still in the flower of their hot youth". The kings of the barbarians were reminded of the friendship which Alaric's father, Euric, had shown them in old days, and invited to join in a "League of Peace", in order to check the lawless aggressions of Clovis, which threatened danger to all.
[Footnote 101: There is some difficulty in understanding this remark about the relative ages of the sovereigns If we put the date of the letters at 506 (and a later date is hardly possible, nor one more than two or three years earlier), though Gundobad might well be over sixty, Theodoric himself could be only fifty-two, while on the other hand the "regii juvenes", Clovis and Alaric, were about forty. But senex and juvenis are expressions often used with no great exactness; and I conjecture that the cares and struggles of Theodoric's early manhood had made him an old man before his time.]
The diplomatic action of Theodoric was powerless to avert the war; possibly even it may have stimulated Clovis to strike rapidly before a hostile coalition could be formed against him.
At an assembly of his nation (perhaps the "Camp of March") in the early part of 507, he impetuously declared: "I take it grievously amiss that these Arians should hold so large a part of Gaul. Let us go and overcome them with God's help, and bring the land into subjection to us". The saying pleased the whole multitude, and the collected army inarched southward to the Loire. On their way they passed through the territory owned by the monastery of St. Martin of Tours, the greatest saint of Gaul. Here the king commanded them to abstain religiously from all depredations, taking only grass for their horses, and water from the streams. One of the soldiers, finding a quantity of hay in the possession of a peasant, took it from him, arguing that hay was grass, and so came within the permitted exception. He was, however, at once cut down with a sword, the king exclaiming. "What hope shall we have of victory if we offend the blessed Martin?" Having first prayed for a sign, Clovis sent his messengers with gifts to the great basilica of Tours, and behold! when these messengers set foot in the sacred building, the choristers were singing an antiphon, taken from the 18th Psalm: "Thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle, thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me".
Meanwhile, Alaric, taken at unawares, short of men and short of money, was endeavouring to remedy the latter deficiency by a depreciation of the currency. To swell his slender battalions he evidently looked to his father-in-law, Theodoric, whose peace-making letter had ended with these words: "We look upon your enemy as the common enemy of all. Whoever strives against you will rightly have to deal with me, as a foe". Yet notwithstanding this assurance, no Ostrogothic troops came at this time to the help of the Visigoths. In the great dearth of historical material, our account of these transactions has to be made up from scattered and fragmentary notices, which do not enable us to explain this strange inaction of so true-hearted an ally. It is not imputed to him as a fault by any contemporary authority, and it seems reasonable to suppose that not the will, but the power, to help his menaced son-in-law was wanting. One alarming change in the situation had revealed itself since Theodoric ordered his secretary to write the letters recommending an anti-Frankish confederacy of kings. Gundobad the Burgundian was now the declared ally of Clovis, and promised himself a share of the spoil. So powerful an enemy on the flank, threatening the communications of the two Gothic states, may very probably have been the reason why no timely succour was sent from Ravenna to Toulouse.
Clovis and his Frankish host, hungering for the spoil, pressed forwards, and succeeded, apparently without opposition, in crossing the broad river Loire. Alaric had taken up a strong position at the Campus Vogladensis (Vouille: dep. Vienne), about ten miles from Poitiers. Here he wished to remain on the defensive till the expected succours from Theodoric could arrive, but his soldiers, confident in their power to beat the Franks unassisted, began to revile their king's over-caution and his father-in-law's delay, and forced Alaric to fight. The Goths began hurling their missile weapons, but the daring Franks rushed in upon them and commenced a hand-to-hand encounter, in which they were completely victorious. The Goths turned to flee, and Clovis, riding up to where Alaric was fighting, slew him with his own hand. He himself had immediately afterwards a narrow escape from two of the enemy, who, coming suddenly upon him, thrust their long spears at him, one on each side. The strength of his coat of mail, however, and the speed of his horse saved him from a disaster which might possibly even then have turned the tide of victory.
[Footnote 102: This statement as to the battle being forced on, contrary to the wishes of Alaric, rests only on the authority of Procopius, not a contemporary author, and not very well informed as to the events of this campaign.]
The result of this battle was the complete overthrow of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse. In a certain sense it survived, and for two centuries played a great part in Europe as the Spanish kingdom of Toledo, but, as competitors for dominion in Gaul, the Visigoths henceforward disappear from history. There seems to have been a certain want of toughness in the Visigothic fibre, a tendency to rashness combined with a tendency to panic, which made it possible for their enemies to achieve a complete triumph over them in a single battle. (376) Athanaric staked his all on one battle with the Huns, and lost, by the rivers of Bessarabia. (507) Alaric II., as we have seen, staked his all on one battle with the Franks, and lost, on the Campus Vogladensis. (701) Two centuries later Roderic staked his all upon one battle with the Moors, and lost, at Xeres de la Frontera.
All through the year 507 the allied forces of Franks and Burgundians seem to have poured over the south-west and south of Gaul, annexing Angouleme, Saintonge, Auvergne, and Gascony to the dominions of Clovis, and Provence to the dominions of Gundobad. Only the strong city of Aries, and perhaps the fortress of Carcassonne (that most interesting relic of the early Middle Ages, which still shows the handiwork of Visigothic kings in its walls), still held out for the son of Alaric.
In 508 the long delayed forces of Theodoric appeared upon the scene under his brave general, Tulum, and dealt some severe blows at the allied Frankish and Burgundian armies. In 509 another army, under Duke Mammo, crossed the Cottian Alps near Briancon, laid waste part of Dauphine, and probably compelled a large detachment of the Burgundian army to return for the defence of their homes. And lastly, in 510, Theodoric's general, Ibbas, inflicted a crushing defeat on the allied armies, leaving, it is said, thirty thousand Franks dead upon the field. The number is probably much exaggerated (as these historical bulletins are apt to be), but there can be no doubt that a great and important victory was won by the troops of Theodoric. The immediate result of this victory was the raising of the siege of Aries, whose valiant defenders had held out against storm and blockade, famine and treachery within, Franks and Burgundians without, for the space of two years and a half. Ultimately, and perhaps before many months had passed, the victory of Ibbas led to a cessation of hostilities, if not to a formal treaty of peace, between the three powers which disputed the possession of Gaul. The terms practically arranged were these. Clovis remained in possession of far the largest part of Alaric's dominions, Aquitaine nearly up to the roots of the Pyrenees, and so much of Languedoc (including Toulouse, the late capital of the Visigoths) as lay west of the mountains of the Cevennes. Theodoric obtained the rest of Languedoc and Provence, the first province being deemed to be a part of the Visigothic, the second of the Ostrogothic, dominions, Gundobad obtained nothing, but lost some towns on his southern frontier—a fitting reward for his tortuous and shifty policy.
In the meantime something like civil war had been waged on the other side of the Pyrenees for the Spanish portion of the Visigothic inheritance. Alaric, slain on the field of Vouille, had left two sons, one Amalaric, his legitimate heir and the grandson of Theodoric, but still a child, the other a young man, but of illegitimate birth, named Gesalic. This latter was, on the death of his father, proclaimed king by some fraction of the Visigothic people. Had Gesalic shown courage and skill in winning back the lost inheritance of his father, Theodoric, whose own descent was not legitimate according to strict church law, would not, perhaps, have interfered with his claim to the succession. But the young man was as weak and cowardly as his birth was base, and the strenuous efforts of Theodoric, seconded probably by many of the Visigoths who had first acclaimed him as king, were directed to getting rid of this futile pretender. Gesalic, defeated by Gundobad at Narbonne (which, for a time, became the possession of the Burgundians), fled over the Pyrenees to Barcelona, and from thence across the sea to Carthage. Thrasamund, king of the Vandals, aided him with money and promised him support, being probably deceived by the glozing tongue of Gesalic, and looking upon him simply as a brave young Visigoth battling for his rightful inheritance with the Franks. A correspondence followed between Ravenna and Carthage, in which Theodoric bitterly complained of the protection given by his brother-in-law to an intriguer and a rebel; and, on the receipt of Theodoric's letter, Thrasamund at once disclaimed all further intention of helping the pretender and sent rich presents to his offended kinsman, which Theodoric graciously returned. Gesalic again appeared in Barcelona, still doubtless wearing the insignia of kingship, but was defeated by the same Duke Ibbas who had raised the siege of Aries, and, fleeing into Gaul, probably in order to claim the protection of the enemy of his house, King Gundobad, he was overtaken by the soldiers of Theodoric near the river Durance, and was put to death by his captors. Thus there remained but one undisputed heir to what was left of the great Visigothic kingdom, the little child Amalaric, Theodoric's grandson. He was brought up in Spain, but, apparently with the full consent of the Visigothic people, his grandsire assumed the reins of government, ruling in his own name but with a tacit understanding that Amalaric and no other should succeed him.
(510-525) There was thus for fifteen years a combination of states which Europe has not witnessed before or since, though Charles V. and some of his descendants were not far from achieving it. All of Italy and all of Spain (except the north-west corner, which was held by the Suevi) obeyed the rule of Theodoric, and the fair regions of Provence and Languedoc, acknowledging the same master, were the ligament that united them. Of the character of the government of Theodoric in Spain, history tells us scarcely anything; but there is reason to think that it was as wise and beneficent as his government of Italy, its chief fault being probably the undue share of power which was grasped by the Ostrogothic minister Theudis, whom Theodoric had appointed as guardian to his grandson, and who, having married a wealthy Spanish lady, assumed a semi-royal state, and became at last so mighty that Theodoric himself did not dare to insist upon the recall which he had veiled under the courteous semblance of an invitation to his palace at Ravenna.
[Footnote 103: East of the Cevennes.]
Thus then the policy of Theodoric towards his kinsmen and co-religionists in Gaul had failed, but it had not been a hopeless failure. He had missed, probably through no fault of his own, through the rashness of Alaric and the treachery of Gundobad, the right moment for saving the kingdom of Toulouse from shipwreck, but he had vindicated in adversity the honour of the Gothic name, and he had succeeded in saving a considerable part of the cargo which the stately vessel had carried.
Anastasius, the Eastern Emperor—His character—His disputes with his subjects—Theodoric and the king of the Gepidse—War of Sinnium and its consequences—Raid on the coast of Italy—Reconciliation between the courts of Ravenna and Constantinople—Anastasius confers on Clovis the title of Consul—Clovis removes many of his rivals—Death of Clovis—Death of Anastasius.
In order to complete our survey of the foreign policy of the great Ostrogoth, we must now consider the relations which existed between him and the majestic personage who, though he had probably never set foot in Italy, was yet always known in the common speech of men as "The Roman Emperor". It has been already said that Zeno, the sovereign who bore this title when Theodoric started for Italy, died before his final victory, and that it was his successor, Anastasius, with whom the tedious negotiations were conducted which ended (497) in a recognition, perhaps a somewhat grudging recognition, by the Emperor of the right of the Ostrogothic king to rule in Italy.
Anastasius, who was Theodoric's contemporary during twenty-five years of his reign, was already past sixty when the widowed Empress Ariadne chose him for her husband and her Emperor, and he had attained the age of eighty-eight when his harassed life came to a close. A man of tall stature and noble presence, a wise administrator of the finances of the Empire, and therefore one who both lightened taxation and accumulated treasure, a sovereign who chose his servants well and brought his only considerable war, that with Persia, to a successful issue, Anastasius would seem to be an Emperor of whom both his own subjects and posterity should speak favourably. Unfortunately, however, for his fame he became entangled in that most wearisome of theological debates, which is known as the Monophysite controversy. In this controversy he took an unpopular side; he became embroiled with the Roman Pontiff, and estranged from his own Patriarch of Constantinople. Opposition and the weariness of age soured a naturally sweet temper, and he was guilty of some harsh proceedings towards his ecclesiastical opponents. Even worse than his harshness (which did not, even on the representations of his enemies, amount to cruelty) was a certain want of absolute truthfulness, which made it difficult for a beaten foe to trust his promises of forgiveness, and thus caused the fire of civil discord, once kindled, to smoulder on almost interminably. The religious party to which he belonged had probably the majority of the aristocracy of Constantinople on its side, but the mob and the monks were generally against Anastasius, and some scenes very humiliating to the Imperial dignity were the consequence of this antagonism.
(511) Once, when he had resolved on the deposition of the orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Macedonius, so great a tempest of popular and theological fury raged through the city, that he ordered the great gates of his palace to be barred and the ships to be made ready at what is now called Seraglio Point, intending to seek safety in flight. A humiliating reconciliation with the Patriarch, the order for whose banishment he rescinded, saved him from this necessity. The citizens and the soldiers poured through the streets shouting triumphantly: "Our father is yet with us!" and the storm for the time abated. But the Emperor had only appeared to yield, and some months later he stealthily but successfully carried into effect his design for the banishment of Macedonius. Again, the next year, a religious faction-fight disgraced the capital of the Empire.
(511) The addition of the words "Who wast crucified for us" to the chorus of the Te Deum, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty", goaded the orthodox but fanatical mob to madness. For three days such scenes as London saw during Lord George Gordon's "No Popery" riots were enacted in the streets of Constantinople. The palaces of the heterodox ministers were burned, their deaths were eagerly demanded, the head of a monk, who was supposed to be responsible for the heretical addition to the hymn, was carried round the city on a pole, while the murderers shouted: "Behold the head of an enemy to the Trinity!" Then the statues of the Emperor were thrown down, an act of insurrection which corresponded to the building of barricades in the revolutions of Paris, and loud voices began to call for the proclamation of a popular general as Augustus. Anastasius this time dreamed not of flight, but took his seat in the podium at the Hippodrome, the great place of public meeting for the citizens of Constantinople. Thither, too, streamed the excited mob, fresh from their work of murder and pillage, shouting with hoarse voices the line of the Te Deum in its orthodox form. A suppliant, without his diadem, without his purple robe, the white-haired Anastasius, eighty-two years of age, sat meekly on his throne, and bade the criers declare that he was ready to lay down the burden of the Empire if the citizens would decide who should assume it in his stead. The humiliation was accepted, the clamorous mob were not really of one mind as to the election of a successor, and Anastasius was permitted still to reign and to reassume the diadem, which has not often encircled a wearier or more uneasy head.
[Footnote 104: The Imperial box.]
Such an Emperor as this, at war with a large part of his subjects, and suspected of heresy by the great body of the Catholic clergy, was a much less formidable opponent for Theodoric than the young and warlike Clovis, with his rude energy, and his unquestioning if somewhat truculent orthodoxy. Moreover, at this time, independently of these special causes of strife, there was a chronic schism between the see of Rome and the see of Constantinople (precursor of that great schism which, three centuries later, finally divided the Eastern and Western Churches), and this schism, though it did not as yet lead to the actual excommunication of Anastasius, caused him to be looked upon with coldness and suspicion by the successive Popes of Rome, and made the rule of Theodoric, avowed Arian as he was, but anxious to hold the balance evenly between rival churches, far more acceptable at the Lateran than that of the schismatic partisan Anastasius.
[Footnote 105: By order of Pope Hormisdas the name of Anastasius was solemnly "erased from the diptychs" in 519; that is, he was virtually excommunicated after his death, but I do not find that he was formally excommunicated by the Pope in his life-time.]
For some years after the embassy of Festus (497) and the consequent recognition of Theodoric by the Emperor, there appears to have been peace, if no great cordiality, between the courts of Ravenna and Constantinople. But a war in which Theodoric found himself engaged with the Gepidae (504), taking him back as it did into his old unwelcome nearness to the Danube, led to the actual outbreak of hostilities between the two States, hostilities, however, which were but of short duration.
The great city of Sirmium on the Save, the ruins of which may still be seen about eighty miles west of Belgrade, had once belonged to the Western Empire and had been rightly looked upon as one of the bulwarks of Italy. To anyone who studies the configuration of the great Alpine chain, which parts off the Italian peninsula from the rest of Europe, it will be manifest that it is in the north-east that that mountain barrier is the weakest. The Maritime, Pennine, and Cottian Alps, which soar above the plains of Piedmont and Western Lombardy, afford scarcely any passes below the snow-line practicable for an invading army. Great generals, like Hannibal and Napoleon, have indeed crossed them, but the pride which they have taken in the achievement is the best proof of its difficulty. Modern engineering science has carried its zig-zag roads up to their high crests, has thrown its bridges across their ravines, has defended the traveller by its massive galleries from their avalanches, and in these later days has even bored its tunnels for miles through the heart of the mountains; but all these are works done obviously in defiance of Nature, and if Europe relapsed into a state of barbarism, the eternal snow and the eternal silence would soon reassert their supremacy over the frail handiwork of man. Quite different from this is the aspect of the mountains on the north-eastern border of Italy. The countries which we now call Venetia and Istria are parted from their northern neighbours by ranges (chiefly that known as the Julian Alps) which are indeed of bold and striking outline, but which are not what we generally understand by "Alpine" in their character, and which often do not rise to a greater elevation than four thousand feet. Therefore it was from this quarter of the horizon, from the Pannonian (or in modern language, Austrian) countries bordering on the Middle Danube, that all the greatest invaders in the fifth and sixth centuries, Alaric, Attila, Alboin, bore down upon Italy. And for this reason it was truly said by an orator who was recounting the praises of Theodoric in connection with this war: "The city of the Sirmians was of old the frontier of Italy, upon which Emperors and Senators kept watch, lest from thence the stored up fury of the neighbouring nations should pour over the Roman Commonwealth".
[Footnote 106: Ennodius.]
This city of Sirmium, however, and the surrounding territory had now been for many years divorced from Italy. In Theodoric's boyhood it is possible that his own barbarian countrymen, occupying as they did the province of Pannonia, lorded it in the streets of Sirmium, which was properly a Pannonian city. Since the Ostrogoths evacuated the province (473), the Gepidae, as we have seen, had entered it, and it was a king of the Gepidae, Traustila, who sought to bar Theodoric's march into Italy, and who sustained at the hands of the Ostrogothic king the crushing defeat by the Hiulca Palus (488). Traustila's son, Trasaric, had asked for Theodoric's help against a rival claimant to the throne, and had, perhaps, promised to hand over possession of Sirmium in return for that assistance. Theodoric, who, as king of "the Hesperian realm", felt that it was a point of honour to recover possession of "the frontier city of Italy", gave the desired help, but failed to receive the promised recompense. When Trasaric's breach of faith was manifest, Theodoric sent an army (504) composed of the flower of the Gothic youth, commanded by a general named Pitzias, into the valley of the Save. The Gepidaae, though reinforced by some of the Bulgarians (who about thirty years before this time had made their first appearance in the country which now bears their name), were completely defeated by Pitzias. Trasaric's mother, the widow of Theodoric's old enemy, Traustila, fell into the hands of the invaders; Trasaric was expelled from that corner of Pannonia, and Sirmium, still apparently a great and even opulent city, notwithstanding the ravages of the barbarians, submitted, probably with joy, to the rule of Theodoric, under which she felt herself once more united to the Roman Commonwealth.
We have still (in the "Various Letters" of Cassiodorus) two letters relating to this annexation of Sirmium. In the first, addressed to Count Colossaeus, that "Illustrious" official is informed that he is appointed to the governorship of Pannonia Sirmiensis, a former habitation of the Goths. This province is now to extend a welcome to her old Roman lords, even as she gladly obeyed her Ostrogothic rulers. Surrounded by the wild anarchy of the barbarous nations, the new governor is to exhibit the justice of the Goths, "a nation so happily situated in the midst of praise, that they could accept the wisdom of the Romans and yet hold fast the valour of the barbarians". He is to shield the poor from oppression, and his highest merit will be to establish in the hearts of the inhabitants of the land the love of peace and order.
To the barbarians and Romans settled in Pannonia the secretary of Theodoric writes, informing them that he has appointed as their governor a man mighty in name (Colossaeus) and mighty in deeds. They must refrain from acts of violence and from redressing their supposed wrongs by main force. Having got an upright judge, they must use him as the arbiter of their differences. What is the use to man of his tongue, if his armed hand is to settle his cause, or how can peace be maintained if men take to fighting in a civilised State? They are therefore to imitate the example of "our Goths", who do not shrink from battles abroad, but who have learned to exhibit peaceable moderation at home.
The recovery of Sirmium from the Gepidae, though doubtless the subject of congratulation in Italy, was viewed with much displeasure at Constantinople. Whether the part of Pannonia in which it was included belonged in strictness to the Eastern or Western Empire, is a question that has been a good deal discussed and upon which we have perhaps not sufficient materials for coming to a conclusion. The boundary line between East and West had undoubtedly fluctuated a good deal in the fourth and fifth centuries, and the fact that there were not, as viewed by a Roman statesman, two Empires at all, but only one great World-Empire, which for the sake of convenience was administered by two Emperors, one dwelling at Ravenna or Milan and the other at Constantinople, was probably the reason why that boundary was not defined as strictly as it would have been between two independent kingdoms. Moreover, through the greater part of the fifth century, when Huns and Ostrogoths, Rugians and Gepidae were roaming over these countries of the Middle Danube, any claim of either the Eastern or Western Emperor to rule in these lands must have been so purely theoretical that it probably seemed hardly worth while to spend time in defining it. But now that the actual ruler of Italy, and that ruler a strong and capable barbarian like Theodoric, was holding the great city of Sirmium, and was sending his governors to civilise and subdue the inhabitants of what is now called the "Austrian Military Frontier", the Emperor who reigned at Constantinople was not unlikely to find his neighbourhood unpleasant.
It was doubtless in consequence of the jealousy, arising from the conquest of Sirmium, that war soon broke out between the two powers. Upper Moesia (in modern geography Servia) was undoubtedly part of the Eastern Empire, yet it is there that we next find the Gothic troops engaged in war. (505) Mundo, the Hun, a descendant of Attila, was in league with Theodoric, but at enmity with the Empire, and was wandering with a band of freebooters through the half desolate lands south of the Danube. Sabinian, the son of the general of the same name, who twenty-six years before had fought with Theodoric in Macedonia, was ordered by Anastasius to exterminate this disorderly Hun. With 10,000 men (among whom there were some Bulgarian foederati), and with a long train of waggons containing great store of provisions, he marched from the Balkans down the valley of the Morava. Mundo, in despair and already thinking of surrender, called on his Ostrogothic ally for aid, and Pitzias, marching rapidly with an army of 2,500 young and warlike Goths (2,000 infantry and 500 cavalry), reached Horrea Margi, the place where Mundo was besieged, in time to prevent his surrender. Notwithstanding the enthusiasm of the Gothic troops, the battle was most stubbornly contested, especially by the fierce Bulgarians, but in the end Pitzias obtained a complete victory. We may state this fact with confidence, as it is recorded in the chronicles of an official of the Eastern Empire. He says of Sabinian: "Having joined battle at Horrea Margi, and many of his soldiers having been slain in this conflict and drowned in the river Margus (Morava), having also lost all his wagons, he fled with a few followers to the fortress which is called Nato. In this lamentable war so promising an army fell, that, speaking after the manner of men, its loss could never be repaired".
[Footnote 107: Morava Hissar, about half-way between Nisch and Belgrade.]
[Footnote 108: Marcellinus Comes. Strangely enough he makes no mention of the Goths as assisting Mundo.]
Without any general campaign, the quarrel between the Goths and the Empire seems to have smouldered on for three years longer. In his chronicle for the year 508, the same Byzantine official who has just been quoted, says very honestly: "Romanus Count of the Domestics and Rusticus Count of the Scholarii, with 100 armed ships and as many cutters, carrying 8,000 soldiers, went forth to ravage the shores of Italy, and proceeded as far as the most ancient city of Tarentum. Having recrossed the sea they reported to Anastasius Caesar this inglorious victory, which in piratical fashion Romans had snatched from their fellow-Romans".
[Footnote 109: Both these terms denote what we should call "household troops".]
These words of the chronicler show to what extent Theodoric's kingdom was looked upon as still forming part of the Roman Empire, and they also point to the difficulty of the position of Anastasius, who, whatever might be his cause of quarrel with Theodoric, could only enforce his complaints against him by resorting to acts which in the eyes of his subjects wore the unholy appearance of a civil war.
Though we are not precisely informed when or how hostilities were brought to a close, it seems probable that soon after this raid, about the year 509, peace, unbroken for the rest of Theodoric's reign, was re-established between Ravenna and Byzantium. The Epistle which stands in the forefront of the "Various Letters" of Cassiodorus was probably written on this occasion.
"Most clement Emperor", says Theodoric, or rather Cassiodorus speaking in his name, "there ought to be peace between us since there is no real occasion for animosity. Every kingdom should desire tranquillity, since under it the people flourish and the common good is secured. Tranquillity is the comely mother of all useful arts; she multiplies the race of men as they perish and are renewed; she expands our powers, she softens our manners, and he who is a stranger to her sway grows up in ignorance of all these blessings. Therefore, most pious Prince, it redounds to your glory that we should now seek harmony with your government, as we have ever felt love for your person. For you are the fairest ornament of all realms, the safeguard and defence of the world; to whom all other rulers rightly look up with reverence, inasmuch as they recognise that there is in you something which exists nowhere else. But we pre-eminently thus regard you, since by Divine help it was in your Republic that we learned the art of ruling the Romans with justice. Our kingdom is an imitation of yours, which is the mould of all good purposes, the only model of Empire, Just in so far as we follow you do we surpass all other nations.
"You have often exhorted me to love the Senate, to accept cordially the legislation of the Emperors, to weld together all the members of Italy. Then, if you wish thus to form my character by your counsels, how can you exclude me from your august peace? I may plead, too, affection for the venerable city of Rome, from which none can separate themselves who prize that unity which belongs to the Roman name.
"We have therefore thought fit to direct the two Ambassadors who are the bearers of this letter to visit your most Serene Piety, that the transparency of peace between us, which from various causes hath been of late somewhat clouded, may be restored to-its former brightness by the removal of all contentions. For we think that you, like ourselves, cannot endure that any trace of discord should remain between two Republics which, under the older Princes, ever formed but one body, and which ought not merely to be joined together by a languid sentiment of affection, but strenuously to help one another with their mutually imparted strength. Let there be always one will, one thought in the Roman kingdom. ... Wherefore, proffering the honourable expression of our salutation, we beg with humble mind that you will not even for a time withdraw from us the most glorious charity of your Mildness, which I should have a right to hope for even if it were not granted to others. (The change from We to I, which here occurs in the original, is puzzling.)
"Other matters we have left to be suggested to your Piety verbally by the bearers of this letter, that on the one hand this epistolary speech of ours may not become too prolix, and on the other that nothing may be omitted which would tend to our common advantage".
The letter which I have attempted thus to bring before the reader is one which almost defies accurate translation. It is an exceedingly diplomatic document, full of courtesy, yet committing the writer to nothing definite. The very badness of his style enables Cassiodorus to envelop his meaning in a cloud of words from which the Quaestor of Anastasius perhaps found it as hard to extract a definite meaning then, as a perplexed translator finds it hard to render it into intelligible English now. It is certainly difficult to acquit Cassiodorus of the charge of a deficient sense of humour, when we find him putting into the mouth of his master, who had so often marched up and down through Thrace, ravaging and burning, these solemn praises of "Tranquillity". And when we read the fulsome flattery which is lavished on Anastasius, the almost obsequious humbleness with which the great Ostrogoth, who was certainly the stronger monarch of the two, prays for a renewal of his friendship, we may perhaps suspect either that the "illiteratus Rex" did not comprehend the full meaning of the document to which he attached his signature, or that Cassiodorus himself, in his later years, when, after the death of his master, he republished his "Various Letters", somewhat modified their diction so as to make them more Roman, more diplomatic, more slavishly subservient to the Emperor, than Theodoric himself would ever have permitted.
One other act of this Emperor must be noticed, as illustrating the subject of the last chapter. When Clovis returned in triumph from the Visigothic war (508) he found messengers awaiting him from Anastasius, who brought to him some documents from the Imperial chancery which are somewhat obscurely described as "Codicils of the Consulship". Then, in the church of St. Martin at Tours he was robed in a purple tunic and chlamys, and placed apparently on his own head some semblance of the Imperial diadem. At the porch of the basilica he mounted his horse and rode slowly through the streets of the city to the other chief church, scattering largesse of gold and silver to the shouting multitude. "From that day", we are told, "he was saluted as Consul and Augustus".
The name of Clovis does not, like that of Theodoric, appear in the Fasti of Imperial Rome, and what the precise nature of the consulship conferred by the "codicils" may have been, it is not easy to discover. But there is no doubt that the authority which Clovis up to this time had exercised by the mere right of the stronger, over great part of Gaul, was confirmed and legitimised by this spontaneous act of the Augustus at Constantinople, nor that this eager recognition of the royalty of the slayer of Alaric was meant in some degree as a demonstration of hostility against Alaric's father-in-law, with whom Anastasius had not then been reconciled.
[Footnote 110: Perhaps the simplest explanation is that Clovis was not "Consul ordinarius", but "Consul suffectus". Junghans suggests that he was Proconsul of one or more of the Gaulish provinces, and Gaudenzi, accepting this idea, is inclined to call him Proconsul of Narbonese Gaul.]
The coalition of Eastern Emperor and Frankish King boded no good to Italy. Perhaps could the eye of Anastasius have pierced through the mists of seven future centuries, could he have foreseen the insults, the extortions, the cruelties which a Roman Emperor at Constantinople was to endure at the hands of "Frankish" invaders, he would not have been so eager in his worship of the new sun which was rising over Gaul from out of the marshes of the Scheldt.
[Footnote 111: In the Fourth Crusade, 1203.]
The remainder of the life of Clovis seems to have been chiefly spent in removing the royal competitors who were obstacles to his undisputed sway over the Franks. Doubtless these were kings of a poor and barbarous type, with narrower and less statesmanlike views than those of the founder of the Merovingian dynasty; but the means employed to remove them were hardly such as we should have expected from the eldest Son of the Church, from him who had worn the white robe of a catechumen in the baptistery at Rheims. His most formidable competitor was Sigebert, king of the Ripuarian Franks, that is the Franks dwelling on both banks of the Rhine between Maintz and Koln, in the forest of the Ardennes and along the valley of the Moselle. But Sigebert, who had sent a body of warriors to help the Salian king in his war against the Visigoths, was now growing old, and among these barbarous peoples age and bodily infirmity were often considered as to some extent disqualifications for kingship. Clovis accordingly sent messengers to Cloderic, the son of Sigebert, saying: "Behold thy father has grown old and is lame on his feet. If he were to die, his kingdom should be thine and we would be thy friends". Cloderic yielded to the temptation, and when his father went forth from Koln on a hunting expedition in the beech-forests of Hesse, assassins employed by Cloderic stole upon him in his tent, as he was taking his noon-tide slumber, and slew him. The deed being done, Cloderic sent messengers to Clovis saying: "My father is dead and his treasures are mine. Send me thy messengers to whom I may confide such portion of the treasure as thou mayest desire". "Thanks", said Clovis, "I will send my messengers, and do thou show them all that thou hast, yet thou thyself shalt still possess all". When the messengers of Clovis arrived at the palace of the Ripuanan, Cloderic showed them all the royal hoard. "And here", said he, pointing to a chest, "my father used to keep his gold coins of the Empire". (In hanc arcellolam solitus erat pater meus numismata auri congerere.) "Plunge thy hand in", said the messenger, "and search them down to the very bottom". The King stooped low to plunge his hand into the coins, and while he stooped the messenger lifted high his battle-axe and clove his skull. "Thus", says the pious Gregory, who tells the story, "did the unworthy son fall into the pit which he had digged for his own father".
When Clovis heard that both father and son were slain, he came to the same place (probably Colonia) where all these things had come to pass and called together a great assembly of the Ripuarian people. "Hear", he said, "what hath happened. While I was quietly sailing down the Scheldt, Cloderic, my cousin's son, practised against his father's life, giving forth that I wished him slain, and when he was fleeing through the beech-forests he sent robbers against him, by whom he was murdered. Then Cloderic himself, when he was displaying his treasures, was slain by some one, I know not whom. But in all these things I am free from blame. For I cannot shed the blood of my relations: that were an unholy thing to do. But since these events have so happened, I offer you my advice if it seem good to you to accept it. Turn you to me that you may be under my defence". Then they, when they heard these things, shouted approval and clashed their spears upon their shields in sign of assent, and raising Clovis on a buckler proclaimed him their king. And he receiving the kingdom and the treasures of Sigebert added the Ripuanans to the number of his subjects. "For", concludes Gregory, Bishop of Tours, to whom we owe the story of this enlargement of the dominions of his hero, "God was daily laying low the enemies of Clovis under his hand and increasing his kingdom, because he walked before him with a right heart and did those things which were pleasing in his eyes".
This ideal champion of orthodoxy in the sixth century then proceeded to clear the ground of the little Salian kings, his nearer relatives and perhaps more dangerous competitors. Chararic had failed to help him in his early days against Syagrius. He was deposed: the long hair of the Merovingians was shorn away from his head and from his son's head, and they were consecrated as priest and deacon in the Catholic Church. Chararic wept and wailed over his humiliation, but his son, to cheer him, said, alluding to the loss of their locks: "The wood is green, and the leaves may yet grow again. Would that he might quickly perish who has done these things!" The words were reported to Clovis, who ordered both father and son to be put to death, and added their hoards to his treasure, their warriors to his host.
Chararic had not gone forth to the battle against Syagrius, but Ragnachar of Cambray had given Clovis effectual help in that crisis of his early fortunes. However Ragnachar, by his dissolute life and his preposterous fondness for an evil counsellor named Farro, had given great offence to the proud Franks, his subjects. Just as James I. said of the forfeited estates of Raleigh: "I maun hae the land, I maun hae it for Carr", so Ragnachar said whenever anyone offered him a present, or whenever a choice dish was brought to table: "This will do for me and Farro". Clovis learned and fomented the secret discontent. He sent to the disaffected nobles amulets and baldrics of copper-gilt—which they in their simplicity took for gold,—inviting them to betray their master. The secret bargain being struck, Clovis then moved his army towards Cambray. The anxious Ragnachar sent scouts to discover the strength of the advancing host. "How many are they?" said he on their return. "Quite enough for thee and Farro", was the discouraging and taunting reply: and in fact the soldiers of Ragnachar seem to have been beaten as soon as the battle was set in array. With his hands bound behind his back, Ragnachar and his brother Richiar were brought into the presence of Clovis. "Shame on thee", said the indignant king, "for humiliating our race by suffering thy hands to be bound. It had been better for thee to die—thus", and the great battle-axe descended on his head. Then turning to Richiar, he said: "If thou hadst helped thy brother, he would not have been bound"; and his skull too was cloven with the battle-axe. Before many days the traitorous chiefs discovered the base metal in the ornaments which had purchased their treason, and complained of the fraud. "Good enough gold", said Clovis, "for men who were willing to betray their lord to death"; and the traitors, trembling for their lives under his frown and fierce rebuke, were glad to leave the matter undiscussed.
Thus in all his arguments with the weaker creatures around him the Frankish king was always right. It was always they, not he, who had befouled the stream. In this, shall I say, shameless plausibility of wrong, the founder of the Frankish monarchy was a worthy prototype of Louis XIV. and of Napoleon.
Having slain these and many other kings, and extended his dominions over the whole of Gaul, he once, in an assembly of his nobles, lamented his solitary estate. "Alas, I am but a stranger and a pilgrim, and have no kith or kin who could help me if adversity came upon me". But this he said, not in real grief for their death, but in guile, in order that if there were any forgotten relative lurking anywhere he might come forth and be killed. None, however, was found to answer to the invitation.
[Footnote 112: We are reminded of the well-known story of Marshal Narvaez on his death-bed. "My son", said the confessor, "it is necessary that you should with all your heart grant forgiveness to your enemies". "Ah, that is easy", said the dying man, "I have shot them all".]
Like all his family, Clovis was short-lived, though not so conspicuously short-lived as many of his descendants. He died at forty-five, in the year 511, five years after the battle of the Campus Vogladensis. He was buried (511) in the Church of the Holy Apostles at Paris, and his kingdom, consolidated with so much labor and at the price of so many crimes, was partitioned among his four sons. The aged Emperor Anastasius survived his Frankish ally seven years, and died in the eighty-ninth year of his age, 8th July, 518. His death was sudden, and some later writers averred that it was caused by a thunderstorm, of which he had always had a peculiar and superstitious fear. Others declared that he was inadvertently buried alive, that he was heard to cry out in his coffin, and that when it was opened some days after, he was found to have gnawed his arm. But these facts are not known to earlier and more authentic historians, and the invention of them seems to be only a rhetorical way of putting the fact that he died at enmity with the Holy See.