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SUPERIOR LITERATURE AND KNOWLEDGE BOTH OF THE GREEK AND
LATIN CLERGY, WHENCE-BARBARITY AND IGNORANCE OF THE LAITY, WHENCE-SAMPLES OF LAY-MANNERS, IN A STORY FROM ANNA COMNENA'S HISTORY CHURCH AUTHORITY INGENIOUSLY EMPLOYED TO CHECK BARBARITY-THE SAME AUTHORITY EMPLOYED FOR OTHER GOOD PURPOSESTO SAVE THE POOR JEWSTO STOP
TRIALS BY BATTLE MORE SUGGESTED CONCERNING LAY-MANNERS
FEROCITY OF THE NORTHERN LAYMEN, WHENCE-DIFFERENT CAUSES ASSIGNED INVENTIONS DURING THE DARK AGES-GREAT, THOUGH THE INVENTORS OFTEN UNKNOWN-INFERENCE ARISING FROM THESE INVENTIONS.
BEFORE I quit the Latins, I shall subjoin two or three observations on the Europeans in general.
The superior characters for literature here enumerated, whether in the western or eastern Christendom, (for it is of Christendom only we are now speaking,) were by far the greater part of them ecclesiastics.
In this number we have selected from among the Greeks the patriarch of Constantinople, Photius; Michael Psellus; Eustathius and Eustratius, both of episcopal dignity; Planudes; cardinal Bessario. From among the Latins, Venerable Bede; Gerbertus, afterwards pope Sylvester the Second ; Ingulphus, abbot of Croyland; Hildebert, archbishop of Tours; Peter Abelard ; John of Salisbury, bishop of Chartres; Roger Bacon; Francis Petrarch; many monkish historians; Æneas Sylvius, afterwards pope Pius the Second, &c.
Something has been already said concerning each of these, and other ecclesiastics. At present we shall only remark, that it was necessary, from their very profession, that they should read and write; accomplishments at that time usually confined to themselves.
Those of the western church were obliged to acquire some knowledge of Latin; and for Greek, to those of the eastern church it was still (with a few corruptions) their native language.
If we add to these preparations their mode of life, which, being attended mostly with a decent competence, gave them immense leisure; it was not wonderful that, among such a multitude, the more meritorious should emerge, and soar, by dint of genius, above the common herd. Similar effects proceed from similar causes.
© Those who wish to see more particulars may consult the third part of these Inconcerning these learned men, may recur to quiries, in chapters iv. ix. x. xi. xiv. their names in the Index; or, if he please,
The learning of Egypt was possessed by their priests; who were likewise left from their institution to a life of leisure.d
For the laity, on the other side, who, from their mean education, wanted all these requisites, they were in fact no better than what Dryden calls them, “a tribe of Issachar;" a race from their adle bred in barbarity and ignorance.
A sample of these illustrious laymen may be found in Anna Comnena's History of her father Alexius, who was Grecian emperor in the eleventh century, when the first crusade arrived at Constantinople. So promiscuous a rout of rude adventurers could not fail of giving umbrage to the Byzantine court, which was stately and ceremonious, and conscious withal of its internal debility.
After some altercation, the court permitted them to pass into Asia through the imperial territories, upon their leaders taking an oath of fealty to the emperor.
What happened at the performance of this ceremonial, is thus related by the fair historian above mentioned.
“All the commanders being assembled, and Godfrey of Bulloign himself among the rest, as soon as the oath was finished, one of the counts had the audaciousness to seat himself beside the emperor upon his throne. Earl Baldwin, one of their own people, approaching, took the count by the hand, made him rise from the throne, and rebuked him for his insolence.
The count rose, but made no reply, except it was in his own unknown jargon to mutter abuse upon the emperor.
“When all things were despatched, the emperor sent for this man, and demanded, 'who he was, whence he came, and of what lineage? His answer was as follows: 'I am a genuine Frank, and in the number of their nobility. One thing I know, which is, that in a certain part of the country I came from, and in a place where three ways meet, there stands an ancient church, where every one who has a desire to engage in single combat, having put himself into
fighting order, comes, and there implores the assistance of the Deity, and then waits in expectation of some one that will dare attack him. On this spot I myself waited a long time, expecting and seeking some one that would arrive and fight me.
But the man that would dare this was no where to be found.'e
Aristotle, speaking of Egypt, informs us, Chevalerie, will perceive that the much-adΕκεί γαρ ήφείθη σχολάζειν το των ιερέων mired Don Quixote is not an imaginary čovos, “For there (meaning in Egypt) the character, but a character drawn after the tribe of priests were left to lead a life of real manners of the times. It is true, inleisure." Arist. Metaph. l i. c. l.
deed, the character is somewhat heightened; e Those who attend to this story, and but even here the witty author has conwho have perused any of the histories of trived to make it probable, by ingeniously chivalry, in particular an ingenious French adding a certain mixture of insanity. treatise upon the subject, in two small These romantic heroes were not wholly volumes, 8vo. published at Paris in the year extinct even in periods far later than the 1759, entitled, Mémoires sur l'ancienne crusades. The Chevalier Bayard flourished
“The emperor, having heard this strange narrative, replied pleasantly, “If at the time when you sought war, you could not find it, a season is now coming in which you will find wars enough. I therefore give you this advice : not to place yourself either in the rear of the army, or in the front, but to keep among those who support the centre; for I have long had knowledge of the Turkish method in their wars.
This was one of those counts, or barons, the petty tyrants of western Europe; men, who, when they were not engaged in general wars, (such as the ravaging of a neighbouring kingdom, the massacring of infidels, heretics, &c.) had no other method of filling up their leisure, than, through help of their vassals, by waging war upon one another.
And here the humanity and wisdom of the church cannot enough be admired, when by her authority (which was then mighty) she endeavoured to shorten that scene of bloodshed, which she could not totally prohibit. The truce of God (a name given it purposely to render the measure more solemn) enjoined these ferocious beings, under the terrors of excommunication, not to fight from Wednesday evening to Monday morning, out of reverence to the mysteries accomplished on the other four days; the ascension on Thursday, the crucifixion on Friday, the descent to hell on Saturday, and the resurrection on Sunday.
I hope a further observation will be pardoned, when I add, that the same humanity prevailed during the fourteenth century, and that the terrors of church power were then held forth with an intent equally laudable. A dreadful plague at that period desolated all Europe. The Germans, with no better reason than their own senseless superstition, imputed this calamity to the Jews, who then lived among them in great opulence and splendour. Many thousands of these unhappy people were inhumanly massacred, till the pope benevolently interfered, and prohibited by the severest bulls so mad and sanguinary a proceeding."
I could not omit two such salutary exertions of church power, as they both occur within the period of this inquiry. I might add a third, I mean the opposing and endeavouring to check that absurdest of all practices, the trial by battle, which Spelman expressly tells us that the church in all ages condemned.
It must be confessed, that the fact just related concerning the unmannered count, at the court of Constantinople, is rather under Francis the First of France, and lord and having the several years marked in the Herbert of Cherbury under James and course of the narrative. Go to the years Charles the First of England.
1027, 1031, 1041, 1068, 1080. * See Anna Comnena's History of her b See the church histories about the Father, fol. Gr. Lat. p. 300.
middle of the fourteenth century, and Pe& See any of the church histories of the trarch's Life. time, in particular an ingenious French Truculentum morem in omni ævo acriter book, entitled Histoire Ecclesiastique, in insectarunt theologi, &c. See before, p. 455. two volumes, 12mo. digested into annals,
against the order of chronology, for it happened during the first crusades. It serves however to shew the manners of the Latin, or Western laity, in the beginning of that holy war. They did not, in a succession of years, grow better, but worse.
It was a century after, that another crusade, in their march against infidels, sacked this very city, deposed the then emperor, and committed devastations which no one would have committed, but the most ignorant as well as cruel barbarians. If we descend not at present to particulars, it is because we have already quoted so largely from Nicetas in a former chapter."
But a question here occurs, easier to propose than to answer. “ To what are we to attribute this character of ferocity, which seems to have then prevailed through the laity of Europe ?"
Shall we say, it was climate, and the nature of the country? These, we must confess, have in some instances great influence.
The Indians, seen a few years since by Mr. Byron in the southern parts of South America, were brutal and savage to an enormous excess. One of them, for a trivial offence, murdered his own child, (an infant,) by dashing it against the rocks. The Cyclopes, as described by Homer, were much of the same sort; each of them gave law to his own family, without regard for one another; and besides this, they were atheists and man-eaters.
May we not suppose, that a stormy sea, together with a frozen, barren, and inhospitable shore, might work on the imagination of these Indians, so as, by banishing all pleasing and benign ideas, to fill them with habitual gloom, and a propensity to be cruel? or might not the tremendous scenes of Etna have had a like effect upon the Cyclopes, who lived amid smoke, thunderings, eruptions of fire, and earthquakes? If we may believe Fazelius, who wrote upon Sicily about two hundred years ago, the inhabitants near Etna were in his time a similar race.
If therefore these limited regions had such an effect upon their natives, may not a similar effect be presumed from the vast regions of the north? May not its cold, barren, uncomfortable climate have made its numerous tribes equally rude and savage ? If this be not enough, we may add another cause,
I mean their profound ignorance. Nothing mends the mind more than culture, to which these emigrants had no desire, either from example or education, to lend a patient ear.
We may add a further cause still, which is, that, when they had acquired countries better than their own, they settled under the same military form through which they had conquered; and were, in fact, when settled, a sort of army after a campaign, quartered upon the wretched remains of the ancient inhabitants, by whom they were attended under the different names of serfs, vassals, villains, &c.
* See part iii. chap. 5, and Abulpharagius, that nearly about the same time. See bep. 282, who describes their indiscriminate fore, p. 502. cruelty in a manner much resembling that 1 See Fazelius de Rebus seculis, l. ii. c. 4. of their brother crusaders at Bezieres, and
It was not likely the ferocity of these conquerors should abate with regard to their vassals, whom, as strangers, they were more likely to suspect than to love.
It was not likely it should abate with regard to one another, when the neighbourhood of their castles, and the contiguity of their territories, must have given occasions (as we learn from history) for endless altercation. But this we leave to the learned in feudal tenures.
We shall add to the preceding remarks one more, somewhat singular, and yet perfectly different; which is, that though the darkness in Western Europe, during the period here mentioned, was (in scripture language) a darkness that might be felt, yet is it surprising that, during a period so obscure, many admirable inventions found their way into the world; I mean such as clocks, telescopes, paper, gunpowder, the mariner's needle, printing, and a number here omitted."
It is surprising, too, if we consider the importance of these arts, and their extensive utility, that it should be either unknown, or at least doubtful, by whom they were invented.
A lively fancy might almost imagine, that every art, as it was wanted, had suddenly started forth, addressing those that sought it, as Æneas did his companions : Coram, quem quæritis, adsum.
Virg. And yet, fancy apart, of this we may be assured, that though the particular inventors may unfortunately be forgotten, the inventions themselves are clearly referable to man; to that subtle and active principle, human wit, or ingenuity.
Let me then submit the following query:
If the human mind be as truly of divine origin as every other part of the universe, and if every other part of the universe bear testimony to its Author; do not the inventions above mentioned give us reason to assert, that God, in the operations of man, never leaves himself without a witness?
OPINIONS ON PAST AGES AND THE PRESENT-CONCLUSION ARISING
FROM THE DISCUSSION OF THESE OPINIONS-CONCLUSION OF THE
And now having done with the middle age, we venture to say a word upon the present.
m See two ingenious writers on this sub- ribus ; and Pancirollus, De Rebus perditis ject, Polydore Virgil, De Rerum Invento- et inventis.