6 OCTOBER 1860, Page 16



THE history of modern Europe is closely connected with thgt of the Roman Empire of the West; at least with the decline and dissolution of that empire. The study of the dark ages, and the period immediately preceding them, would shed a welcome light on some of the secrets of a past, in which we are immediately in- terested. To encourage this study, M. Amedee Thierry has written his Resits de I ilistoire Romaine au Ve. Siecle.

M. Thierry, the brother of the celebrated historian, and himself an able labourer in the same literary field, has produced, in this new work, an agreeable and intelligible narrative, which shows how Rome finally relinquished the sceptre of her supreme do- minion, till out of the wreck and ruin of an old civilization a new social state was gradually evolved.

The annals of the Lower Empire are, our historian premises, essentially wanting in unity. From the period of Constantine, two great metropolises, each havino.b its own senate, and its own centre of political action, are found face to face. One rules over the West, from the summits of the Seven Hills : the other, seated between the Mediterranean and the Euxine, regards the East. Around them are ranged two distinct aggregations of similar in- terests, principally based on community of language and on the traditions of the past. Rome owes its Eastern hemisphere to the conquests of Alexander ; its Western world to that of the Scipios and the Caesars. In each, we trace the evolution of a particular series of facts, depending on the tendencies of race, and the exi- gencies of external position. From the intermingling of these two series result two separate, yet connected, historical develop- ments, to the great embarrassment of the author and the perpetual annoyance of the reader. This want of unity becomes very con- spicuous from the early part of the fourth century, when the di- vision of the empire into two distinct States, eventually introduced a rivalry and hostility. It first appears, however, in all its formidable'proportions, at the epoch of the dismemberment of the great Roman domain, produced by the German conquests. From this time, a corresponding historical disintegration becomes ap- parent. Tile world begins to individualize itself. Gaul, Britain, Spain, Africa —each claims and exhibits a life of its own. German kingdoms are founded more or less durable, more or less barbarian, more or less Roman.

M. Thierry, in explaining the indifference with which the later history of the Roman Empire is regarded, and attributing it, in part, tq the cause already stated, and in fact, to scholastic or tra- ditional prejudice, clearly indicates his own critical position. He has no wish to constitute himself the champion of the Lower Em- pire. He would avoid all comparison between the first and the second periods of the Empire ; pronouncing the one less great, the other less miserable, than rhetorical moralists would represent. To each he assigns its characteristic merits. In the providential drama of civilization which Rome enacted, the extension or main- tenance of limits, and the diffusion of an admirable civil code, are regarded as the distinguishing benefactions of the earlier period. The promulgation of the Christian law or religion, the resistance with which the invasions from Asia were encountered, the modi- fying influence by which demi-barbarians were transformed, so to speak, into a militia for the defence of civilization, are enumerated as the characteristic services of the Lower Empire, an empire which, even in its degenerate Byzantine form, still continued a protector and a guide to the world.

It is only one chapter in the history of this empire that M. Amedee Thierry has undertaken to write. His subject is, he tells us, the fall of Imperial Rome, and the loss of Italian indepen- dence. It extends over a period of but little more than a quarter of a century, commencing with the accession of the Greek Emperor Anthemius, A. D. 467, and ending with the arrival of the Ostro- goth king Theodoric, in 493. The theatre of the drama is Italy, the seat of imperial power ; and Noricum, the inseparable appendix of Italy, during this troubled epoch. All consideration of the Empire of the East is by no means abandoned ; and occasionally we are allowed to see the progress of events in Gaul and Africa. " The immediate causes," says M. Thierry, " of the great catas- trophe which separates the ancient from the modern world are comprised within these twenty-six years ; the derangement of the springs of Roman Government; the oppression of the emperors by the barbarian patricians ; the prefects of the prsetorium of the Cmsars, during this agony of the empire; the antagonism of the East and the West; the effort of the provinces to constitute themselves in- dependent states ; the half-barbaric, half Roman dictatorship, ele- vated on the ruins of the old sovereignty ; the solemn compact between the Emperor of Constantinople and a barbarian king, to deliver Italy to the latter, and the installation of a foreign people in the middle of the Alps, are the facts which characterize this quarter of a century, the last period of Italian nationality. Scarcely touched on by historical predecessors, this period has furnished me with materials for a volume of more than five hun- dred pages, so abundant are the documents to be consulted, so minute, and I may say complete, is the use which I have made of them." Among his authorities, M. Thierry numbers his com- patriot, the poet Apollinaris Sidonius, the distinguished citizen of Auvergne, but, we believe, a native of Lyons ; Ennodius, bishop of Pavia Egippius, disciple and biographer of Saint Severinus, the • Recite de iHistoire Romaine on Pe. Siècle. Demiers Temps de PEmpire d'Oc-

cident. Par St. AuiddEe Thierry, Heroine de FInstitut. Published by Williams and Norgate.

Chancellor of Theodoric, Cassiodorus, the Goth Jornandes, bishop of Ravenna, and what he calls " les tresors de l'histoire Byzantine," documents which he regards as almost official, or at least the pro- ductions of well-informed men, accustomed to public business. In such a historical picture as M. Thierry undertakes to repro- duce, we can hardly fail to remark the contrasts which the con- tinuous life of a people, that in twelve hundred years, spread from the banks of the Tiber, to the extremities of the known world, must necessarily present. We see nationalities replaced by an ideal fatherland ; we see populations, violently aggregated to its empire, become brothers under its law: we see Carthage ex- ulting in its title of the Rome of Africa ; we see those whom Caesar conquered deliberating in the capitol ; we see Gaul, Spain, Pannonia, Africa, Syria, devoting their genius to the service of the "city which had become the world : " we see them producing

illustrious generals, orators, lawyers, poets, emperors ; we see Germany, in the fifth century, taking its turn ; we see her sons in the senate, in literature, in the army ; they call themselves Ro- mans; they even fight under the banners of Rome ; while by the strangest of contradictions, adds M. Thierry, the christianity which Rome wished to stifle in its cradle as an enemy of her power, remains for two centuries her most effectual safeguard, and her most energetic agent of assimilation. Our historian introduces us not only to representative men among the barbarians, but to various original types of Roman character. In this epoch of confusion, we see Romans become barbarians, as barbarians become Romans; bishops, generals ; offi- cers, bishops ; monks, in some sort, soldiers. While, on the fron- tiers of the empire, independence is asserted in a tentative form ; in the centre of Italy, the old administrative machinery continues to work with its usual regularity. The senate deliberates, con- suls decree, poets read their verses in the forum, in the curia, in the imperial palace, or under the porticos of Fronto ; letters and arts are cultivated ; able political negotiators are found ; and the imperious and menacing masters of the world are superseded by

Christian bishops, the heralds of peace and concord. The heart of the old Roman," says our historian, "still beats, but it is under the chasuble of the priest." Epiphanies, one of the great citizens of the agonizing empire, would have done no discredit to the age of the Scipios.

Another of the eminent men of the new religion, and one who splendidly illustrates this period of decay was St. Severinus, the great Apostle of Noricum, whose name still designates the two villages and churches which lie on the Western side of Mount Halenberg, the Cetius of the ancients, while not far off are the ruins of an old hermitage, the traditionary retreat of the reform- ing hermit. The year after the death of Attila, and the terrific battles which were fought by the sons and captains of the great conqueror, on the right bank of the Danube, an unknown person- age appeared in Pannonia, selecting for a residence the little vil- lage of Astures, an important commercial entrepot on the Danube, almost in the centre of the most ferocious barbarism. He ar- rived a beggar, he remained to become the equal of princes, a saint of the Church, and an object of historical respect. The mission which St. Severinus believed himself intrusted by heaven was the political and religious reconstruction of society, in the most wretched and disorganized country of the West. This im- mediate object was to supply the old legal bonds which secure order, and which had been rent asunder, by those of Christian obligation ; to replace human government by a divine govern- ment ; to found a theocracy. In the midst of the horrible demo- ralization that prevailed in the Roman Empire, the cannibalism of some cities of Spain, the frantic epicureanism of the nobles and magistrates of Treves, the deliberate return to human sacrifices in a city or district of Noricum ; in the centre of outrageous crimes and extravagant follies, Severinus appeared as a social re- former, with no means of regenerating men, but by appealing to those universal sympathies, from which all moral life emanates and coercing them into order, peace, and justice, by proclaiming the sanctions of celestial legislation. Unable, however, to im- press favourably the minds of the inhabitants of Astures, he de- termined to quit that town, and after predicting its approaching fate at the hands of the barbarians, he directed his steps towards Commagenes, a fortified city, at the foot of Mount Cetius. The verification of his prophecy, (for Astures was soon after taken and

sacked by the barbarians,) obtained for Severinus that personal ascendency and superstitious veneration, without which he

would have perhaps succeeded as little in his new field of mis- sionary enterprise as in that which he had first attempted to cul- tivate. The old porter of the Church, who had accorded shelter to Severinus, in his extreme destitution, and who, persuaded of

his infallibility', had been induced by his prediction to exercise particular vigilance, contrived in the hour of his danger to effect his escape. He recounted the good works of Severinus ; he spoke of the contempt with which his prophecy was received, of its fatal confirmation, of the saintly and prophetic character of the new Apostle. The enthusiasm and artless faith of the first convert infected others till the inhabitants of Commagenes began to listen to the instructions which they had hitherto disdained. The news of the mysterious prophet who had arrived from the East, spread far and wide. Not only was he consulted at a dis- tance, but invited by the civil authorities, to reside within the

precincts of their jurisdiction. The Magistrates of Favianes, in particular, entreated him to visit their city. The winter of the year, in which they made this application, was both premature and severe. The Inn was frozen ; the cornships were jammed fast in the ice. There was no actual want of grain but the anarchy in the city, the disorder in the markets, the foolish waste of the supplies exposed for sale or discovered by the people, ag- gravated the existing scarcity. Severinus was summoned. To repress pillage and restore tranquillity to the markets, he ordered a return of the corn-stores to be made, and established something like a common partition of food. He induced the rich widow Procula to sell or distribute her large accumulations of grain, assuring her that if she refused to give it to men, the time would soon come when she would have no choice but to give it to the fishes of the Danube. Some days after this prediction was uttered, the frost broke up, the corn transports descended the river, plenty succeeded to scarcity, and Sevennus was rewarded with the grateful affection of the people of Favianes, who re- garded him as their preserver. Situated on the Danube at the distance of about forty leagues from Passau ; communicating through the great river and its affiuents with nearly all the other cities in the important pro- vinces of Noricum and Rhtetia, Favianes, which Severinus now chosen as a permanent residence, offered a nearly central point for combinations, embracing Commagenes, Passau, Laureactim„ Tiburnie, and Joppia. To connect all these points, and so or- ganize one general system of common defence and benefaction, was the noble work that Severinus aspired to accomplish. The description which M. Thierry gives of the political and social state of Noricum and Rhtetia is striking and informing. Everywhere there was more or less of violent anarchy to be seen. The machinery of government was everywhere suspended or de- stroyed. Functionaries, civil and military, imperial legates, pre- sidents of provinces, dukes of boundaries, fled into Italy before the invasion of the barbarians, leaving the administration of the government in the hands of the municipal magistrates. In the military order, it was still worse. The soldiers, left without pay, were distributed among the enclosed towns and castles. To pre- vent their military defenders from perishing by famine, the towns themselves had to provide their rations and furnish their pay. Hence new difficulties ! The soldiers, dissatisfied with the re- muneration accorded them, indemnified themselves by plunder. Enrolling the starving peasants and the floating vagabondage of every nation in their ranks, they were known as the Scatnari, organized robbers who set at defiance the regular soldiery, and compelled Roman generals to treat with them, as power with power. Thus, according to our historian, were formed those ter- rible bands of Pannonian peasantry, usually regarded as consti- tuting a new variety of barbarians, born in the very bosom of civilization.

Bad as was the position of the towns, that of the country was still worse. The rural population, flying before danger, took re- fuge, with their cattle and moveable property, in fortified enclo- sures, returning to their work, when the hour of peril had passe& Often the barbarians reaped what they had sowed, plundered their stores, or reduced their dwellings to ashes. Legally insti- tuted government, even in the towns, was unknown. Common sense or popular caprice supplied its place. Sometimes, the chief authority devolved on the military chief who represented the material power ; sometimes, on the bishop who represented the moral power ; while, sometimes, the same person administered both powers, a bishop girding on his sword, or a tribune, as in the case of the brave and pious Mamertinus, assuming the crosier.

It was in vain that Severinus was solicited to accept the episco- pate. He refused even to assume the the priestly office. Univer- sally consulted, he appears invariably to have fallen back on the remedies suggested by the Christian religion. His first care was for the proletary and the prisoner. To replace the pitiless egotism, which was the characteristic evil of his age, by the instincts of a general benevolence ; to unite men, for the purpose of mutual

self-defence ; to watch over the interests of the poor and protect them against the selfishness of the rich ; to secure food and cloth- ing for the indigent, and thus to wrest from their hand the sword

of the bandit, which they had seized in their despair, were among the aims and the measures of this primitive Christian socialist and successful political reformer.

Severinus is said to have possessed an eminently practical in- telligence. He invented a tax ; he had magazines for corn and

clothes, placed under the protection of God ; he could arrange a military ambuscade, or prepare a coup de main with the same skill with which he conducted the exercises of a cloister. With

his power of prevision and capacity of supervision, Severinus could hardly fail, in a superstitious age, to acquire a kind of pre- ternatural sanctity. Almost in his lifetime, he became a mythical

hero. The popular imagination surrounded with the halo of a divine approval the life of noble and saintly charity which he led. Tales of marvel grew up around him, to encourage the good and

intimidate the bold or the lukewarm. The clergy, whether from

jealousy of his power or from indignation at his rebukes, were unfavourable to the mission of Severinus. When the prophet foretold a fresh incursion of the barbarians, and warned the in- habitants of a neighbouring town to remove without delay to some place of refuge, a priest derided alike the prediction and the

predictor. Ere long, the Heruli arrived. The incredulous priest fell into their hands, and suffered death by hanging, as the con- sequence of his incredulity.

Severinus had a double duty to accomplish. The work of in- ternal reform was one half of that duty. The protection of the Roman provincials against the barbarians was the remaining moiety. Attila was dead. The victory of Netad, in which his eldest son Ellao lost both life and crown, had transferred the superiority from the Huns to the Germans. The Germans now possessed the entire territory between the Carpathian Mountains and the Alps. A frightful medley of nations, a moving chaos of barbarian life, rolled in perpetual and turbulent action through- out the valleys of the Danube and its affluents. On the higher Danube, the Alemans, the Sueves, and the Heroli; on the middle Danube, the Rugians, the Scyrri, the Turoilingi, and more rarely the Ostrogoths, called into requisition the intellectual and practi- cal abilities of the apostle of 'Noricum. By his kind services, his happy cures (for our saint was a herbalist), and his wise counsel, Severinus obtained great influence over the barbarian tribes. Even the robber and the Scanlon sought and procured relief from the tender-hearted " Man of God." Fava, Frederic, Ghisa, of the royal family of the Rugians, name within the circle of his influence. A troop of Raglan soldiers one day turned from their route to visit the cell of the saint. One of them was young, mar- tial-looking, bold, and intelligent. He was clad in dirty and torn sheep-skins—a costume that was in strange contrast with his fine personal appearance. " Great as thou art, thou shalt become greater," said the prophet, fixing on this visitor a look that seemed to penetrate into futurity ; " pursue thy path, go to Italy, with thy clothing of ;coarse skins ; the time will come, and that soon, when thy smallest gift shall be worth more than all the baggage which now constitutes thy wealth." The young warrior, to whom this fortune was announced was Odoacer, the son of Edecon, afterwards the conqueror of Italy, and nominally king, -though he forebore to wear the insignia of royalty, and is desig- nated only, in contemporary writers, King of the Heruli, King of the Itugians, the Torching', and the Scyrri, or King of Nations ; never King of Italy.

We have scarcely dwelt too long on the history of Severinus, since it serves as a picture in little of the age. Making every allowance for mythical exaggeration, and the advantages which a hero in an age of faith is supposed to command, Severinus must have been a brave, good, sagacious, ready-witted man ; unsuited to an age of scepticism and stereotyped social arrangements, per- haps, though not certainly, he was well qualified to coerce men into order, by preaching the terrors of God, or persuade them into benevolence and loving action, by proclaiming his mercies. Such a man might possibly find work suited to him even in a less cre- dulous age ; for it can hardly be doubted that the divine goodness and wisdom of the man, showing themselves ever in practical forms, prepossessed and attracted all hearts to him, no less, it may be, than the faith in that prophetic splendour with which the popular fancy loved to invest him. A nineteenth century St. Severinus need not be an anomaly or an impossibility.

The social dissolution as described by Thierry shows us, if we mistake not, how the old Roman civilization gradually prepared the way for that of the dark and middle ages. It may be said that feudalism, however, in its matured form, the immediate re- sult of the German invasions, was the natural, if remote conse- quence of the entire situation of the Roman world. The Roman mission of conquest completed, the empire had now to hold what it had won. A defensive regime succeeded to an offensive one. The inhabitants of towns sheltered themselves within their walls ; the rural population took refuge within fortified enclosures ; Ro- man soldiers were employed in protecting peaceful communities against ferocious barbarians. It may be well, in this connexion, to cite the words of Gibbon in The Decline and Full—" The lands bestowed on the veterans, as the free reward of their valour were henceforward granted under a condition which contains the first rudiments of the feudal tenures : that their sons who suc- ceeded to the inheritance should devote themselves to the pro- fession of arms, as soon as they attained the age of manhood ; and their cowardly refusal was punished by the loss of honour, of fortune, or even of life." The attempts to assert a provincial inde- pendence, too, must not be entirely overlooked, in estimating the tendencies towards that armed individualism which was charac- teristic of the feudal regime properly so called. This view, we are aware, is not a novel one, but it is little known. We claim no credit for originality ; the doctrine was first promulgated, we believe, by that much-abused yet much admired thinker, Auguste Comte.

This volume of Roman history, including as we have seen a period of twenty-six years, is divided into twelve chapters. The Emperor Anthemius and his son-in-law Ricimer, by whose instru- mentality Olybrius and after him Severus, assumed the imperial purple ; the voyage of Sidonius Apollinaris to Italy ; his pre- fecture and his poetry are the subjects of the first two chapters ; in a third chapter we have the expedition against Generic ; the fourth contains the fall of Anthemius ; the fifth, on which we have drawn so largely, a sketch of a Roman province on the Danube ; the sixth comprises among its topics the reign of Gly- oerius and the emigration of the Ostrogoths ; the seventh de- acribes the administration of Julius Nepos and deposition of Ro- mulus Augustus ; the eighth and ninth treat of Odoacer and his government, and record the invasion of Noricum, the struggles, death and funeral of Severinus ; the tenth relates the fortunes of Theodoric in the East ; the eleventh, the march of the Ostrogoths across the Alps, the battle of Inca, and the arrival of the Goths in Venice ; while, in the twelfth, we read of the victory over Odo- acer ; the reconciliation of this king with his great rival ; his death by the hands of Theodorio ; and the proclamation of that successful and able chief as King of Italy.