100 Best Books for an Education

A Revision and Update of Will Durant's 100 Best Books for an Education

Note 32


Parallel Lives of the World’s Thirty Greatest Statesmen


Great statesmen seem to direct and rule by a sort of power to put themselves in the place of the nation over which they are set, and may thus be said to possess the souls of poets at the same time they display the coarser sense and the more vulgar sagacity of practical men of business.” –Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) 28th President of the United States (1913-1921)


Statesmanship is the coordination of social forces and the adjustment of policy for growth of the state as opposed to mere politics, as in what a “politician” engages in: the strategy of party and the lust for spoils of office. A statesman heals the racial and religious divisions in a people and unites them in a greater cause, a politician thrives on division. A statesman provides a vision that is all encompassing, strategic and long-term, a politician is interested in the present and how he may maintain his hold, sometimes his grip, on power. The difference between the two are legion. . . .

   Plutarch arranged his biographies in pairs, but restricted himself to great Greek and Roman statesmen. Had he been writing in the 21st century he may have conceived of a totally different arrangement: below is a list of the world’s 30 greatest statesmen grouped in pairs. The similarities between the pairs is more than slight (indicated by italicized text), but the choice of statesman is always dictated by achievement directed towards the glorification of their respective states, and as such is a matter of opinion.  The foregoing is the list in chronological order starting with the first member of a pair.



1. Hammurabi (reigned 1727-1686 B.C.)


The sixth and best-known king of Babylon's First dynasty, he is credited with uniting most of Mesopotamia under one extensive empire for the first time since Sargon of Akkad did so in about 2300 B.C. Historically and ethnically Babylonia was a product of the union of the Akkadians and the Sumerians. Their mating generated the Babylonian type, in which the Akkadian Semitic strain proved dominant; their warfare ended in the triumph of Akkad, and the establishment of Babylon as the capital of all lower Mesopotamia. At the outset of this history stands the powerful figure of Hammurabi conqueror and lawgiver through a reign of forty-three years. Primeval seals and inscriptions transmit him to us partially—a youth full of fire and genius, a very whirlwind in battle, who crushes all rebels, cuts his enemies into pieces, marches over inaccessible mountains, and never loses an engagement. Under him the petty warring states of the lower valley were forced into unity and peace, and disciplined into order and security by a historic code of laws.   

   The Code of Hammurabi was unearthed at Susa in 1902, beautifully engraved upon a diorite cylinder that had been carried from Babylon to Elam (ca. 1100 B.C.) as a trophy of war, (it is now in the Louvre). Like that of Moses, this legislation was a gift from Heaven, for one side of the cylinder shows the King receiving the laws from Shamash, the Sun-god himself. The Prologue is almost in Heaven:


   When the lofty Anu, King of the Anunaki and Bel, Lord of Heaven and Earth, he who determines the destiny of the land, committed the rule of all mankind to Marduk; . . . when they pronounced the lofty name of Babylon; when they made it famous among the quarters of the world and in its midst established an everlasting kingdom whose foundations were firm as heaven and earth—at that time Anu and Bel called me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, the worshiper of the gods, to cause justice to prevail in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil, to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak, . . . to enlighten the land and to further the welfare of the people. Hammurabi, the governor named by Bel, am I, who brought about plenty and abundance; who made everything for Nippur and Durilu complete; . . . who gave life to the city of Uruk; who supplied water in abundance to its inhabitants; . . . who made the city of Borsippa beautiful; . . . who stored up grain for the mighty Urash; . . . who helped his people in time of need; who establishes in security their property in Babylon; the governor of the people, the servant, whose deeds are pleasing to Anunit.


   The words here arbitrarily underlined have a modem ring; one would not readily attribute them to an Oriental “despot” of 1700 B.C., or suspect that the laws that they introduce were based upon Sumerian prototypes now six thousand years old. This ancient origin combined with Babylonian circumstance to give the Code a composite and heterogeneous character. It begins with compliments to the gods, but takes no further notice of them in its astonishingly secular legislation. It mingles the most enlightened laws with the most barbarous punishments, and sets the primitive lex talionis and trial by ordeal alongside elaborate judicial procedures and a discriminating attempt to limit marital tyranny. All in all, these 285 laws, arranged almost scientifically under the headings of Personal Property, Real Estate, Trade and Business, the Family, Injuries, and Labor, form a code more advanced and civilized than that of Assyria a thousand and more years later, and in many respects “as good as that of a modem European state.” (The “Mosaic Code” apparently borrows from it, or derives with it from a common original. The habit of stamping a legal contract with an official seal goes back to Hammurabi). There are few words finer in the history of law than those with which the great Babylonian brings his legislation to a close:


   The righteous laws which Hammurabi, the wise king, established, and (by which) he gave the land stable support and pure government. . . . I am the guardian governor. . . . In my bosom I carried the people of the land of Sumer and Akkad; . . . in my wisdom I restrained them, that the strong might not oppress the weak, and that they should give justice to the orphan and the widow. . . . Let any oppressed man, who has a cause, come before my image as king of righteousness! Let him read the inscription on my monument! Let him give heed to my weighty words! And may my monument enlighten him as to his cause, and may he understand his case! May he set his heart at ease, (exclaiming:) “Hammurabi indeed is a ruler who is like a real father to his people; . . . he has established prosperity for his people for all time, and given a pure government to the land.” . . . In the days that are yet to come, for all future time, may the king who is in the land observe the words of righteousness which I have written upon my monument!



   This unifying legislation was but one of Hammurabi's accomplishments. Hammurabi effected great changes in all spheres of life. At his command a great canal was dug between Kish and the Persian Gulf, thereby irrigating a large area of land, and protecting the cities of the south from the destructive floods, which the Tigris had been wont to visit upon them. In another inscription, which has found its devious way from his time to ours, he tells us proudly how he gave water (that noble and unappreciated commonplace, which was once a luxury), security and government to many tribes. Even through the boasting (an honest mannerism of the Orient) we hear the voice of statesmanship.


   When Anu and Enlil (the gods of Uruk and Nippur) gave me the lands of Sumer and Akkad to rule, and they entrusted this scepter to me, I dug the canal Hammurabi-nukhush-nishi (Hammurabi-the-Abundance-of-the-People), which bringeth copious water to the land of Sumer and Akkad. Its banks on both sides I turned into cultivated ground; I heaped up piles of grain, I provided unfailing water for the lands. . . . The scattered people I gathered; with pasturage and water I provided them; I pastured them with abundance, and settled them in peaceful dwellings.


   Despite the secular quality of his laws Hammurabi was clever enough to gild his authority with the approval of the gods. He built temples as well as forts, and coddled the clergy by constructing at Babylon a gigantic sanctuary for Marduk and his wife (the national deities), and a massive granary to store up wheat for gods and priests. These and similar gifts were an astute investment, from which he expected steady returns in the awed obedience of the people. From their taxes he financed the forces of law and order, and had enough left over to beautify his capital. Palaces and temples rose on every hand; a bridge spanned the Euphrates to let the city spread itself along both banks; ships manned with ninety men plied up and down the river. Two thousand years before Christ Babylon was already one of the richest cities that history had yet known. (“In all essentials Babylonia, in the time of Hammurabi, and even earlier, had reached a pitch of material civilization which has never since been surpassed in Asia,” writes Christopher Dawson in Enquiries into Religion and Culture, New York, 1933, p. 107. Perhaps we should except the ages of Xerxes I in Persia, Ming Huang in China, and Akbar in India).

   It is almost a law of history that the same wealth that generates a civilization announces its decay. For wealth produces ease as well as art; it softens a people to the ways of luxury and peace, and invites invasion from stronger arms and hungrier mouths. On the eastern boundary of the new state a hardy tribe of mountaineers, the Kassites, looked with envy upon the riches of Babylon. Eight years after Hammurabi's death they inundated the land, plundered it, retreated, raided it again and again, and finally settled down in it as conquerors and rulers; this is the normal origin of aristocracies. They were of non-Semitic stock, perhaps descendants of European immigrants from Neolithic days; their victory over Semitic Babylon represented one more swing of the racial pendulum in western Asia.






      2. Umar ibn al-Khattāb (reigned 634–644) The second Islamic caliph began the transformation of the Islamic state into an empire. Next to the prophet Muhammad, Umar was the chief architect of the Islamic state. His conversion in 615, after he had been a bitter opponent of Muhammad, was an important point in the history of Islam. With Abu Bakr, an early convert and first Islamic caliph, Umar exercised a decisive influence on Muhammad’s policies. After Abu Bakr died, Umar reigned from 634 to 644. A Meccan, Umar’s ties with Muhammad were strengthened when the Prophet married his daughter. At Muhammad's death it was Abu Bakr, Umar, and another companion of Muhammad’s, Abu Ubaidah, who established the caliphate. Under Abu Bakr (reigned 632–634) the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula were brought under the sway of Islam. Like Abu Bakr, Umar maintained that he occupied the caliphal office only as a representative of the one rightful leader, the prophet Muhammad. Hence, while Abu Bakr called himself khalifah (vicar) of the Apostle of God, Umar initially declared himself khalifah of the khalifah of the Apostle of God. This cumbersome title was later replaced by the shorter forms, khalifah and Commander-of-the-Believers.

   During Umar's reign, the Arabs burst out of the Arabian Peninsula. Aided by brilliant field generals, he conducted military campaigns against the two leading empires of his time, the Sassanian Empire in Iran and Iraq and the Byzantine Empire in Syria and Egypt. Syria and Egypt fell to them and the Sassanian Empire of Persia was destroyed in 637. Umar established the Arabs as a military ruling caste garrisoned in all-Arab cities in the lands they conquered. They were to exact tribute from those conquered but were not to mix with them or seek their conversion. During the decade of his rule, Umar introduced several regulations that deeply affected the political theory of Islam. He formulated a constitution banning unbelievers from Arabia and awarding the net state revenue to the faithful. In 644, when the new state was rapidly expanding, Umar was assassinated by a Persian slave known as Abu-Lu’lu’ah.

         Some modern historians have presented Umar as a model democratic leader. He established the political and social structure that enabled the rapidly growing state to become an empire. He created many of the Muslim community’s defining characteristics, including the Islamic calendar; the office of judge; rules about prayer, pilgrimage, and fasting; and the diwan (a register for assigning payment to soldiers partly based on when they converted to Islam). Importantly, Umar was the founder of Fiqh, the Islamic jurisprudence. He is regarded by Sunni Muslims to be one of the greatest Faqih, or persons trained in Islamic jurisprudence. Umar as a jurist started the process of codifying Islamic Law.      __________________________________________________________________________


3. Moses (Judged c. 1301 B.C.–1287 B.C.)

Revered as a prophet but even more importantly as a lawgiver, Moses was the leader of the Israelite people 3,300 years ago during their journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom as a nation in the land of Canaan. Moses led the people through the desert on their way to Canaan and helped shape them into a nation that could live under the laws of God. Moses was a political organizer, a military chief, a diplomat, a lawmaker, and a judge as well as a religious leader and as such he oversaw the creation and development of the first Israelite systems of worship, the anointing of the family line of his brother Aaron as priests, and the creation of a legal system of governance for the community. He kept the Israelite nation united during its years of wandering in the desert between Egypt and Canaan. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions revere Moses for his central role in communicating the Ten Commandments and much of the Torah (the Pentateuch) directly from God to the Jewish people soon after their escape from Egypt. 

   Ancient Israel had a long oral tradition of laws and legends, and it is probable that parts of the story of Moses were written long after his lifetime. Modern scholarship recognizes that while the core of the biblical story of Moses contains real history, there is disagreement as to the accuracy of every action and every word attributed to him by the biblical writers. The first five books of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—are called the Five Books of Moses, or the Pentateuch. However, the books do not mention Moses as the author. Biblical scholars believe that the stories in the Five Books of Moses were passed orally from generation to generation until they were redacted between about 1000 and 400 B.C. 

   According to the Pentateuch interpreted using modern scholarship, he was born in Goshen, a part of ancient Egypt where the hated Hyksos had once founded their capital of Avaris. At that time the Egyptian ruler, Pharaoh (Amenhotep III?) oppressed the Hebrews. Amenhotep III feared the growing numbers of the Israelites (about 2,020 individuals at this time), despite their enslavement, hated them for their defying of his apotheosis, and ordered their male children drowned. Hebrew tradition equates Jochebed with Shiphrah the mid-wife that dealt with pharaoh. Moses was born to Amenhotep III and Jochebed/Shiphrah and was adopted by Aset aka Isis (aka Asiya? a descendant of Yuya and therefore a Hebrew monotheist) daughter/wife of Amenhotep III and raised at the royal Egyptian court. To save her child, Jochebed placed him in a basket made of papyrus and set it floating on the Nile River in the view of his sister, Miriam (Exodus 2:4; Numbers 26:59). Aset rescued the child and brought the infant up as her own. 

   Amenhotep III having died, his son Akhenaten succeeded him. Akhenaten was a grandson of the Hebrew monotheist Yuya and brother of Aset. Shortly after coming to power he took decisive steps to establish Aten as the exclusive, monotheistic God of Egypt, dropped his birth name of Amenhotep IV, and attempted to convert all of Egypt to the monotheism of the Israelites perhaps at the instigation of Jochebed the mother of his half-brother Moses, his mother Tiye/his sister Aset. Akhenaten established his capital at Akhetaten (Amarna) at approximately the mid-point of Egypt. During the Amarna Revolution Gen. Horemheb made a tacit show of support by adopting the name “Paatenemheb.” Tutankhaten was born to Akhenaten and Nefertiti in Amarna, and buoyed by the birth of a male heir, Akhenaten ordered the defacing of Amun’s temples throughout Egypt; he ordered the removal of the plural “gods” everywhere, banned images of the universal deity, and made Egypt officially monotheistic. Psalm 104 composed by Pharaoh Akhenaten as the Great Hymn to the Aten was used by these monotheists and brought out of Egypt by Moses. 

   Akhenaten died about 1342 B.C.; his eldest daughter Meritaten succeeded him, the co-regency that her by now deceased mother Nefertiti had exercised having devolved upon her. She married the Hittite prince Zannanza who became Ankhkheprure Smenkhkare Djeserkheperu. They were deposed perhaps because they heeded Moses’ advice and attempted to free the Israelites from slavery, and Horemheb’s aide Gen. Ramesses most likely murdered them (these events became known as the “Dakhamuzu affair”). Ramesses may have acted alone, or with the tacit approval of Horemheb, and placed Tutankhaten, her brother, on the throne. Horemheb was made regent/crown prince/Great Army Commander. Ramesses was made governor of Avaris and was on alert for a possible Hittite reprisal. He intensified the oppression of the Israelites who now numbered approximately 2,601. Moses was sent to take part in a campaign in Kush, perhaps to remove him from spreading monotheism, and to garner aide from Kush. There he defeated the Kushites who were in league against Kikianus, (See the apocryphal Book of Jasher). He took a Kushite wife briefly, and shortly thereafter returned to Egypt perhaps at the death (from Sickle Cell Anemia?) of the now renamed Tutankhamen; Moses was seen as a possible pretender to the throne, but the son of Yuya, Ay, wrested the throne away from Horemheb and began to reign instead. He supported Atenism/monotheism, and for the time being Moses was secure. Shortly thereafter Nakhtmin, pharoah Ay’s son, died and Horemheb married Mutnedjmet, daughter of Ay, to secure his right of succession. About 1329 B.C. Ay died and Horemheb succeeded to the throne. The 19th dynasty considered him its founder and the beginner of a new era. Gen. Ramesses, a high priest of Amun, was elevated to Great Army Commander/Vizier. 

   On 13 March 1313 B.C. (this date corresponds to 15 Nisan 2448 in the Hebrew calendar—the traditional Exodus date) Moses was exiled from Egypt. From this chronology, it is more logical to infer that this date is actually the date of Moses’ exile from Egypt. The Qur’an seems to strongly imply that Moses’ exile before the Exodus was about 10 to 12 years; therefore, the 40-40-40 (or 20-20-20 fractional) pattern of his life found in the Bible is probably legendary. If we posit that the Israelite wanderings lasted from the moment of Moses’ exile until the “conquest” of Canaan, then the number of “40” years can best be explained) Moses, a vocal opponent of the regime, who represented a threat to Horemheb/Ramesses’ polytheistic counter-reforms, as well as being a pretender to the throne, went into exile. Opposition to him had become apparent when he was marked for death by enemies of both he and Akhenaten, perhaps members of the Amunite priesthood favored by Horemheb/Ramesses. After a confrontation with an Egyptian in which the Egyptian is killed (again perhaps a member of the Amunite priesthood), he was forced to flee for Midian after being warned that members of the powerful Amunite priesthood imminently plan to kill him. According to the Old Testament, Moses became a shepherd in the “Sinai” wilderness. Sometime later (1302 B.C.) Horemheb died and Mt. Sinai (Harrat Ar Raha? on the NW coast of Arabia) had begun to erupt causing many of the “signs and wonders” and plagues in Egypt. According to the Old Testament, at this time the God of the Hebrews, Yahweh, appeared to him in a burning bush and commanded him to go back to Egypt and deliver his people from their bondage; he was to lead them out of Egypt to the land of Canaan, in what was later Palestine, where they were to settle permanently. To assist him in this project Yahweh gave him the power to perform miracles. Moses (whose name means “The rightful son and heir” of the throne) met his half brother Aaron at Midian. They returned and confronted Pharaoh, perhaps because Ramesses I had become sole ruler, a man of no royal ties whatsoever.  

   In spite of the miracles Moses worked, such as changing the water of the Nile to blood and bringing plagues upon the Egyptians, Pharaoh Ramesses I would not release the Hebrew people. At last, he consented; a Near Eastern plague (bubonic?) was still raging at this time (see Qur’an 7:134-5) and the initial inclination of Ramesses I to let the Israelites depart is motivated by a desire to free the land of the plague and its perceived progenitors (See Collins and Ogilvie-Herald, Tutankhamen, p. 263). The followers are a mixture of biblical Israelites of approximately 4,789 in all (assuming a 1.5% growth rate, a rather fast pace by ancient standards, or approximately 18.75 times the Egyptian growth rate!) and native Egyptian converts to monotheism (Hebrew = geirim). Ramesses I changes his mind and in his role as army commander pursues them to the Sea of Reeds i.e. Lake Ballah (see Ahmed Osman, Moses and Akhenaten, p. 110). As they neared the Reed Sea, Moses stretched out his arm, whereupon the Reed Sea rose up in two walls, leaving dry land between them. The Hebrews crossed on the land, but when the Egyptians tried to pursue them, the walls of water broke upon them, and they drowned. Possibly the effects of a tsunami or a very strong wind blowing and causing the water to part before coming together again. 

   In any case, the Song of Miriam (Ex. 15:21) was composed as a celebration of victory shortly thereafter. Moses proceeded to Mt. Sinai [Harrat Ar Raha], which was still erupting. When the Hebrews reached it Moses ascended the mountain to speak with Yahweh. He spent 40 days and nights with Yahweh, from whom he received two tablets of stone on which were inscribed the Ten Commandments, which thereafter constituted the fundamental laws of the Hebrews, and received the covenant between Israel and Yahweh. There the Decalogue (Ex. 20:2-17, 21:12, 15-17, 22:19, Lev. 20:10-13, 27, 24:16, and Deut. 5:6-21) was formulated and redacted largely derived from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. He then took Israel to Petra (see Collins and Ogilvie-Herald, Tutankhamen, pp. 214-29, passim) and “judged” them from the wilderness east of the Jordan River. The Israelites were condemned to wander in the Trans-Jordan for 40 civil (not fractional) years (see Qur’an 5:26; “The account of the forty years’ wandering in the desert, once looked upon as incredible, now seems reasonable enough in a traditionally nomadic people; and the conquest of Canaan was but one more instance of a hungry nomad horde falling upon a settled community. The conquerors killed as many as they could, and married the rest.”—Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, p. 302). About this time The Song of Lamech was composed (Gen. 4:23–24) and Num. 21:14-15 and 17–18. After 40 years (starting with Moses’ exile) of wandering in the wilderness and desert under his leadership and the endurance of many hardships, such as earthquakes, plagues, fires, thirst, and wars with the native people of Palestine, the Hebrews at last came to Canaan. Moses was permitted by Yahweh to see Canaan, the Promised Land, from the top of Mount Pisgah (now in Jordan), and then he died shortly following the conquest of Hesbon (although the dates of Moses’ birth and death are hard to establish, almost all contemporary authorities believe that the exodus took place about the beginning of the 13th century B.C.; rather than the biblically assigned age of “120” years at which Moses died this chronology has assigned him 72 years, which is very old by relative standards). Before he died, however, he turned the leadership of the people over to Joshua. Besides the Pentateuch, Moses is believed to be the reputed author also of other parts of the Old Testament, including possibly the Book of Job. Scholars agree almost unanimously, however, that these books (the Pentateuch) are the interwoven work of many authors, and that Job is a much later work.  

   Moses is also well known to Christians and Muslims; he is mentioned frequently in the New Testament. At Christ's transfiguration, he represents the Law (Matthew 17:3), and the role he plays in the Old Testament is pointed out in the Epistle to the Hebrews, so as to offer a comparison with that of Christ (Hebrews 3:1-6). He is also mentioned in the Gospel of John, again to underscore the role of Christ as the fulfillment of the Scriptures (John 1:17). The Qur’an is replete with his narrative, and he is a revered figure in the Islamic faith.



4. Muhammad (fl. 609-632)






Amina was delivered on May 17, 569 of the most influential human in history. His ancestry was distinguished, his patrimony modest: Abdullah, having predeceased his birth, left him five camels, a flock of goats, a house, and a slave who nursed him in his infancy. His name, meaning “highly praised,” lent itself well to certain biblical passages as predicting his advent. His mother died when he was six; he was taken over by his grandfather, then seventy-six, and later by his uncle Abu Talib. They gave him affection and care, but no one seems to have bothered to teach him how to read or write; this feeble accomplishment was held in low repute by the Arabs of the time; only seventeen men of the Quraish tribe condescended to it. Muhammad was never known to write anything himself; he used an amanuensis. His apparent illiteracy did not prevent him from composing almost all of the most famous and eloquent book in the Arabic tongue, or from acquiring such understanding of the management of men as seldom comes to highly educated persons. 

   Of his youth we know almost nothing, though fables about it have filled ten thousand volumes. At the age of twelve, says a tradition, he was taken by Abu Talib on a caravan to Bostra in Syria; perhaps on that journey he picked up some Jewish and Christian lore. Another tradition pictures him, a few years later, as going to Bostra on mercantile business for the rich widow Khadijah. Then suddenly we find him, aged twenty-five, marrying her. Until her death twenty-six years later Muhammad lived with Khadijah in a monogamous condition highly unusual for a Muslim of means, but perhaps natural in their recipient. She bore him some daughters, of whom the most famous was Fatima, and two sons who died in infancy. He consoled his grief by adopting Ali, the orphan son of Abu Talib. Khadijah was a good woman, a good wife, a good merchant; she remained loyal to Muhammad through all his spiritual vicissitudes; and amid all his wives he remembered her as the best. 

   Ali, who married Fatima, fondly describes his adoptive father at forty-five as


of middle stature, neither tall nor short. His complexion was rosy white; his eyes black; his hair, thick, brilliant, and beautiful, fell to his shoulders. His profuse beard fell to his breast. . . . There was such sweetness in his visage that no one, once in his presence, could leave him. If I hungered, a single look at the Prophet’s face dispelled the hunger. Before him all forgot their griefs and pains.


He was a man of dignity, and seldom laughed; he kept his keen sense of humor under control, knowing its hazards for public men. Of a delicate constitution, he was nervous, impressionable, given to melancholy pensiveness. In moments of excitement or anger his facial veins would swell alarmingly; but he knew when to abate his passion, and could readily forgive a disarmed and repentant foe. 

   There were many Christians in Arabia, some in Mecca; with at least one of these Muhammad became intimate—Khadijah’s cousin Waraqah ibn Nawfal, “who knew the Scriptures of the Hebrews and the Christians.” Muhammad frequently visited Medina, where his father had died; there he may have met some of the Jews who formed a large part of the population. Many a page of the Qur’an proves that he learned to admire the morals of the Christians, the monotheism of the Jews, and the strong support given to Christianity and Judaism by the possession of Scriptures believed to be a revelation from God. Compared with these faiths the polytheistic idolatry, loose morality, tribal warfare, and political disunity of Arabia may have seemed to him shamefully primitive. He felt the need of a new religionperhaps of one that would unify all these factious groups into a virile and healthy nation; a religion that would give them a morality not earth-bound to the Bedouin law of violence and revenge, but based upon commandments of divine origin and therefore of indisputable force. Others may have had similar thoughts; we hear of several “prophets” arising in Arabia about the beginning of the seventh century. Many Arabs had been influenced by the Messianic expectations of the Jews; they, too, eagerly awaited a messenger from God. One Arab sect, the Hanifs, already rejected the heathen idolatry of the Kaaba, and preached a universal God, of whom all mankind should be willing slaves. Like every successful preacher, Muhammad gave voice and form to the need and longing of his time. 

   As he approached forty he became more and more absorbed in religion. During the holy month of Ramadan he would withdraw, sometimes with his family, to a cave at the foot of Mt. Hira, five kilometers from Mecca, and spend many days and nights in fasting, meditation, and prayer. One night in the year 609, as he was alone in the cave, the pivotal experience of all Islamic history came to him. According to a tradition reported by his chief biographer, Muhammad ibn Ishaq, Muhammad related the event as follows:


   Whilst I was asleep, with a coverlet of silk brocade whereon was some writing, the angel Gabriel appeared to me and said, ‘Read!’ I said, ‘I do not read.’ He pressed me with the coverlets so tightly that methought ‘twas death. Then he let me go, and said, ‘Read!’ . . . so I read aloud, and he departed from me at last. And I awoke from my sleep, and it was as though these words were written on my heart. I went forth until, when I was midway on the mountain, I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘O Muhammad! thou art the messenger of Allah, and I am Gabriel. I raised my head toward heaven to see, and lo, Gabriel in the form of a man, with feet set evenly on the rim of the sky, saying, ‘O Muhammad! thou art the messenger of Allah, and I am Gabriel.’


Returning to Khadijah, he informed her of the visions. We are told that she accepted them as a true revelation from heaven, and encouraged him to announce his mission. 

   Thereafter he had many similar visions. Often, when they came, he fell to the ground in a convulsion or swoon; perspiration covered his brow; even the camel on which he was sitting felt the excitement, and moved fitfully. Muhammad later attributed his gray hairs to these experiences. When pressed to describe the process of revelation, he answered that the entire text of the Qur’an existed in heaven, and Gabriel communicated one fragment at a time to him. Asked how he could remember these divine discourses, he explained that the archangel made him repeat every word. Others who were near the Prophet at the time neither saw nor heard the angel. 

   During the next four years Muhammad more and more openly announced himself as the prophet of Allah, divinely commissioned to lead the Arab people to a new morality and a monotheistic faith. Difficulties were many. New ideas are welcomed only if promising early material advantage; and Muhammad lived in a mercantile, skeptical community, which derived some of its revenues from pilgrims coming to worship the Kaaba’s many gods. Against this handicap he made some progress by offering to believers an escape from a threatened hell into a joyous and tangible paradise. He opened his house to all who would hear him—rich and poor and slaves, Arabs and Christians and Jews; and his impassioned eloquence moved a few to belief. His first convert was his aging wife; the second his cousin Ali; the third his servant Zaid, whom he had bought as a slave and had immediately freed; the fourth was his kinsman Abu Bekr, a man of high standing among the Quraish. Abu Bekr brought to the new faith five other Meccan leaders; he and these became the Prophet’s six “Companions,” whose memories of him would later constitute the most revered traditions of Islam. Muhammad went often to the Kaaba, accosted pilgrims, and preached the one god. The Quraish heard him at first with smiling patience, called him a half-wit, and proposed to send him, at their own expense, to a physician who might cure him of his madness. But when he attacked the Kaaba worship as idolatry they rose to the protection of their income, and would have done him injury had not his uncle Abu Talib shielded him. Abu Talib would by his very fidelity to the old ways defend any member of his clan. 

   Fear of a blood feud deterred the Quraish from using violence upon Muhammad or his freemen followers. Upon converted slaves, however, they might employ dissuasive measures without offending tribal law. Several of these were jailed; some were exposed for hours, without head covering or drink, to the glare of the sun. Abu Bekr had by years of commerce saved 40,000 pieces of silver; now he used 35,000 to buy the freedom of as many converted slaves as he could. The Quraish were more disturbed by Muhammad’s welcome to slaves than by his religious creed. Persecution of the poorer converts continued, and with such severity that the Prophet permitted or advised their emigration to Abyssinia. The refugees were well received there by the Christian king (615). 

   The defenders of the Kaaba gods formed a league pledged to renounce all intercourse with members of the Hashimite clan who still felt obligated to shield Muhammad. To avert conflict, many Hashimites, including Muhammad and his family, withdrew to a secluded quarter of Mecca, where Abu Talib could provide protection (615). For over two years this separation of the clans continued, until some members of the Quraish, relenting, invited the Hashimites to return to their deserted homes, and pledged them peace. A year later an event occurred which was almost as significant for Islam as the conversion of Paul had been for Christianity. Umar ibn al-Khattab, hitherto a most violent opponent, was won over to the new creed. He was a man of great physical strength, social power, and moral courage. His allegiance brought timely confidence to the harassed believers, and new adherents to the cause. Instead of hiding their worship in private homes they now preached it boldly in the streets. 

   The little group of converts rejoiced, but the year 619 brought triple misfortune to Muhammad. Khadijah, his most loyal supporter, and Abu Talib, his protector, died. Feeling insecure in Mecca, and discouraged by the slow increase of his followers there, Muhammad moved to Taif (620), a pleasant town one hundred kilometers east. But Taif rejected him. Its leaders did not care to offend the merchant aristocracy of Mecca; its populace, horrified by any religious innovation, hooted him through the streets, and pelted him with stones until blood flowed from his legs. Back in Mecca, he married the widow Sauda, and betrothed himself, aged fifty, to Aisha, the pretty and petulant seven year-old daughter of Abu Bekr.


   There was no impropriety in Muhammad’s betrothal to ‘A’isha . . . marriages conducted in abstentia to seal an alliance were often contracted at this time between adults and minors who were even younger than ‘A’isha. This practice continued in Europe well into the early modern period. There was no question of consummating the marriage until ‘A’isha reached puberty, when she would have been married like any other girl. (Renowned religious scholar Karen Armstrong in Muhammad: A Prophet For Our Time, p. 105).


   Meanwhile his visions continued. One night, it seemed to him, he was miraculously transported in his sleep to Jerusalem; there a winged horse, Buraq, awaited him at the Wailing Wall of the Jewish Temple ruins, flew him to heaven, and back again; and by another miracle the Prophet found himself, the next morning, safe in his Mecca bed. The legend of this flight made Jerusalem a third holy city for Islam. 

   In the year 620 Muhammad preached to merchants who had come from Medina on pilgrimage to the Kaaba; they heard him with some acceptance, for the doctrine of monotheism, a divine messenger, and the Last Judgment were familiar to them from the creed of the Medina Jews. Returning to their city, some of them expounded the new gospel to their friends; several Jews, seeing little difference between Muhammad’s teaching and their own, gave it a tentative welcome; and in 622 some seventy-three citizens of Medina came privately to Muhammad and invited him to make Medina his home. He asked would they protect him as faithfully as their own families; they vowed they would, but asked what reward they would receive should they be killed in the process. He answered, paradise. 

   About this time Abu Sufyan, grandson of Umayya, became the head of the Meccan Quraish. Having been brought up in an odor of hatred for all descendants of Hashim, he renewed the persecution of Muhammad’s followers. Possibly he had heard that the Prophet was meditating flight, and feared that Muhammad, once established in Medina, might stir it to war against Mecca and the Kaaba cult. At his urging, the Quraish commissioned some of their number to apprehend Muhammad, perhaps to kill him. Apprised of the plot, Muhammad fled with Abu Bekr to the cave of Thaur, five kilometers distant. The Quraish emissaries sought them for three days, but failed to find them—the cave the two had taken refuge in miraculously and very rapidly developed cobwebs, and the Quraish thought that no one was inside. The children of Abu Bekr brought camels, and the two men rode northward through the night, and through many days for 320 kilometers, until, on September 27, 622, they arrived at Medina. Two hundred Meccan adherents had preceded them in the guise of departing pilgrims, and stood at the city’s gates, with the Medina converts, to welcome the Prophet. Seventeen years later the Caliph Umar designated the first day—July 19, 622—of the Arabian year in which this Hegira (hijra—flight) took place as the official beginning of the Islamic era i.e. the first year of the Islamic state.




The city hitherto called Yathrib, later renamed Medinat al-Nabi or “City of the Prophet,” was situated on the western edge of the central Arabian plateau. Compared with Mecca it was a climatic Eden, with hundreds of gardens, palm groves, and farms. As Muhammad rode into the town one group after another called to him, “Alight here, O Prophet! . . . Abide with us!”—and with Arab persistence some caught the halter of his camel to detain him. His answer was perfect diplomacy: “The choice lies with the camel; let him advance freely;” the advice quieted jealousy, and hallowed his new residence as chosen by God. Where his camel stopped, Muhammad built a mosque and two adjoining homes—one for Sauda, one for Aisha; later he added new apartments as he took new wives. 

   In leaving Mecca he had snapped many kinship ties; now he tried to replace bonds of blood with those of religious brotherhood in a theocratic state. To mitigate the jealousy already rampant between the Refugees (Muhajirin) from Mecca and the Helpers (Ansar) or converts in Medina, he coupled each member of the one group with a member of the other in adoptive brotherhood, and called both groups to worship in sacred union in the mosque. In the first ceremony held there he mounted the pulpit and cried in a loud voice, “Allah is most great!” The assembly burst forth in the same proclamation. Then, still standing with his back to the congregation, he bowed in prayer. He descended the pulpit backward, and at its foot he prostrated himself thrice, while continuing to pray. In these prostrations were symbolized that submission of the soul to Allah which gave to the new faith its name Islam—”to surrender,” “to make peace”—and to its adherents the kindred name of Muslimin or Muslims—“the surrendering ones,” “those who have made their peace with God.” Turning then to the assembly, Muhammad bade it observe this ritual to the end of time; and to this day it is the form of prayer that Muslims follow, whether at the mosque, or traveling in the desert, or mosque-less in alien lands. A sermon completed the ceremony, often announcing, in Muhammad’s case, a new revelation, and directing the actions and policies of the week. 

   For the authority of the Prophet was creating a civic rule for Medina; and more and more he was compelled to address his time and inspirations to the practical problems of social organization, daily morals, even to intertribal diplomacy and war. As in Judaism, no distinction was made between secular and religious affairs; all alike came under religious jurisdiction; he was both Caesar and Christ. Many consider his pact with the Medinans to be the world’s first constitution. But not all Medinites accepted his authority. A majority of the Arabs stood aside as “the Disaffected,” viewed the new creed and its ritual skeptically, and wondered whether Muhammad was destroying their traditions and liberties, and involving them in war. Most of the Medina Jews clung to their own faith, and continued to trade with the Meccan Quraish. Muhammad drew up with these Jews a subtle concordat:


   The Jews who attach themselves to our commonwealth shall be protected from all insults and vexations; they shall have an equal right with our own people to our assistance and good offices; they . . . shall form with the Muslims one composite nation; they shall practice their religion as freely as the Muslims. . . . They shall join the Muslims in defending Yathrib against all enemies. . . . All future disputes between those who accept this charter shall be referred, under God, to the Prophet.


This agreement was soon accepted by all the Jewish tribes of Medina and the surrounding country: the Banu-Nadhir, the Banu-Kuraiza, the Banu-Kainuka. . . . 

   The immigration of two hundred Meccan families created a food shortage in Medina. Because he was now technically at war with the Meccans, Muhammad solved the problem of these starving people by taking food where it could be had. In commissioning his lieutenants to raid the caravans that passed Medina, he was adopting the morals of most Arab tribes in his time. When the raids succeeded, four fifths of the spoils went to the raiders, one fifth to the Prophet for religious and charitable uses; the share of a slain raider went to his widow, and he himself at once entered paradise. So encouraged, raids and raiders multiplied, while the merchants of Mecca, whose economic life depended on the security of the caravans, plotted revenge. One raid scandalized Medina as well as Mecca, for it took place—and killed a man—on the last day of Rajab, one of the sacred months when Arab morality laid a moratorium on violence. In 623 Muhammad himself organized a band of 300 armed men to waylay a rich caravan coming from Syria to Mecca. Abu Sufyan, who commanded the caravan, got wind of the plan, changed his route, and sent to Mecca for help. The Quraish came 900 strong. The miniature armies met at the Wadi (a river bed or valley usually dry in summer) Bedr, thirty-two kilometers south of Medina. If Muhammad had been defeated his career might have ended there and then. He personally led his men to victory, ascribed it to Allah as a miracle confirming his leadership, and returned to Medina with rich booty and many prisoners (January, 624). Some of these, who had been especially active in the persecution at Mecca, were put to death; the rest were freed for lucrative ransoms. But Abu Sufyan survived, and promised revenge. “Weep not for your slain,” he told mourning relatives in Mecca, “and let no bard bewail their fate. . . . Haply the turn may come, and ye may obtain vengeance. As for me, I will touch no oil, neither approach my wife, until I shall have gone forth again to fight Muhammad.”  

   The Jews of Medina betrayed him claiming to no longer like this faith, which had once seemed so flatteringly kindred to their own. They laughed at Muhammad’s interpretations of their Scriptures, and his claim to be the Apostle promised by their prophets—the paraclete. He retaliated with revelations in which Allah charged the Jews with corrupting the Scriptures, killing the prophets, and rejecting the Messiah. Originally the Muslims had arbitrarily made Jerusalem the qiblathe point toward which Muslims should turn in prayer; in 624 he changed this to Mecca and the Kaaba. The Jews accused him of returning to idolatry. About this time a Muslim girl visited the market of the Banu-Kainuka Jews in Medina; as she sat in a goldsmith’s shop a mischievous Jew pinned her skirt behind her to her upper dress. When she arose she cried out in shame at her exposure. A Muslim slew the offending Jew, whose brothers then slew the Muslim. Muhammad marshaled his followers, blockaded the Banu-Kainuka Jews in their quarter for fifteen days, accepted their surrender, and bade them, 700 in number, depart from Medina, and leave all their possessions behind.  

   We must admire the restraint of Abu Sufyan, who, after his unnatural vow, waited a year before going forth to battle Muhammad again. Early in 625 he led an army of 3000 men to the hiIl of Ohod, five kilometers north of Medina. Fifteen women, including Abu Sufyan’s wives, accompanied the army, and stirred it to fervor with wild songs of sorrow and revenge. Muhammad could muster only a thousand warriors, and even these did not fully follow his lead. The Muslims were routed; Muhammad fought bravely, received many wounds, and was carried half unconscious from the field. Abu Sufyan’s chief wife Hind, whose father, uncle, and brother had been slain at Bedr, chewed the liver of the fallen Hamza who had slain her father—and made anklets and bracelets for herself from Hamza’s skin and nails. Thinking Muhammad safely dead, Abu Sufyan returned in triumph to Mecca. Six months later the Prophet was sufficiently recovered to attack the Banu-Nadhir Jews, charging them with helping the Quraish and plotting against his life. After three weeks’ siege they were allowed to emigrate, each family taking with it as much as a camel could carry. Muhammad appropriated some of their rich date orchards for the support of his household, and distributed the remainder among the Refugees. He considered himself at war with Mecca, and felt justified in removing hostile fifth-column groups from his flanks.  

   In 626 Abu Sufyan and the Quraish resumed the offensive, this time with 10,000 men, and with material aid from the Banu-Kuraiza Jews. Unable to meet such a force in battle, Muhammad defended Medina by having a trench dug around it. The Quraish laid siege for twenty days; then, disheartened by wind and rain, they returned to their homes. Muhammad at once led 3000 men against the Banu-Kuraiza Jews. On surrendering, they were given a choice of Islam or death. They chose death. Their 600 fighting men were slain and buried in the market place of Medina; their women and children were sold into slavery. This serves as another example of the treachery of these Jewish clans vis-à-vis the Prophet. 

   The Prophet had by this time become an able general. During his ten years in Medina he planned sixty-five campaigns and raids, and personally led twenty-seven. But he was also a diplomat, and knew when war should be continued by means of peace. He shared the longings of the Refugees to see their Meccan homes and families, and of both Refugees and Helpers to visit again the Kaaba that had in their youth been the hearth of their piety. As the first apostles thought of Christianity as a form and reform of Judaism, so the Muslims thought of Islam as a change and development of the ancient Meccan ritual—hanifism. In 628 Muhammad sent the Quraish an offer of peace, pledging the safety of their caravans in return for permission to fulfill the rites of the annual pilgrimage. The Quraish replied that a year of peace must precede this consent. Muhammad shocked his followers by agreeing; a ten years’ truce was signed; and the Prophet consoled his raiders by attacking and plundering the Khaibar Jews, allies of the Meccans, in their settlement six days’ journey northeast of Medina. The Jews defended themselves as well as they could; ninety-three of them died in the attempt; the rest at last surrendered. They were allowed to remain and cultivate the soil, but on condition of yielding all their property, and half their future produce, to the conqueror. All the survivors were spared except Kinana, their chieftain, and his cousin, who were beheaded for hiding some of their wealth. Muhammad as an added wife took Safiya, a seventeen-year-old Jewish damsel, betrothed to Kinana. 

   In 629 the Medina Muslims, to the number of 2000, entered Mecca peacefully; and while the Quraish, to avoid mutual irritations, retired to the hills, Muhammad and his followers made seven circuits of the Kaaba. The Prophet touched the Black Stone reverently with his staff, but led the Muslims in shouting, “There is no god but Allah alone!” Meccans were impressed by the orderly behavior and patriotic piety of the exiles; several influential Quraish, including the future generals Khalid and Amr, adopted the new faith; and some tribes in the neighboring desert offered Muhammad the pledge of their belief for the support of his arms. When he returned to Medina it was obvious that he was now strong enough to take Mecca by force. 

   The ten years’ truce had eight years to run; but Muhammad knew that a tribe allied with the Quraish had attacked a Muslim tribe, and thereby voided the truce (630). He gathered 10,000 men, and marched to Mecca. Abu Sufyan, perceiving the strength of Muhammad’s forces, allowed him to enter unopposed. Muhammad responded handsomely by declaring a general amnesty for all but two or three of his enemies. He destroyed the idols in and around the Kaaba, but spared the Black Stone, and sanctioned the kissing of it. He proclaimed Mecca the Holy City of Islam, and decreed that no unbeliever should ever be allowed to set foot on its sacred soil. The Quraish abandoned direct opposition; and the buffeted preacher who had fled from Mecca eight years before was now master of all its life.




His two remaining years—spent mostly at Medina—were a continuing triumph. After some minor rebellions all Arabia submitted to his authority and creed. The most famous Arabian poet of the time, Kab ibn Zuhair, who had written a diatribe against him, came in person to Medina, surrendered himself to Muhammad, proclaimed himself a convert, received pardon, and composed so eloquent a poem in honor of the Prophet that Muhammad bestowed his mantle upon him. (It was later sold to Muawiyah for 40,000 dirhems, and is still preserved by the Turks, and sometimes used as a national standard). In return for a moderate tribute the Christians of Arabia were taken under Muhammad’s protection, and enjoyed full liberty of worship, but they were forbidden to charge interest on loans. We are told that he sent envoys to the Greek emperor, the Persian king, and the rulers of Hira and Ghassan, inviting them to accept the new faith; apparently there was no reply. He observed with philosophic resignation the mutual destruction in which Persia and Byzantium were engaged; but he does not seem to have entertained any thought of extending his governance outside of Arabia. 

   His days were filled with the chores of government. He gave himself conscientiously to details of legislation, judgment, and civil, religious, and military organization. One of his least inspired acts was his regulation of the calendar. This had consisted among the Arabs, as among the Jews, of twelve lunar months, with an intercalary month every three years to renew concord with the sun. Muhammad ruled that the Muslim year should always consist of twelve lunar months, of alternately thirty and twenty-nine days; as a result the Muslim calendar lost all harmony with the seasons, but was nearly as accurate with respect to the moon as the later Gregorian was with respect to the sun. The Prophet was not a scientific legislator; he drew up no code or digest, had no system; he issued edicts according to the occasion. Even his most prosaic directives might be presented as revelations from Allah. Harassed by the necessity of adapting this lofty method to mundane affairs, his style lost something of its former eloquence and poetry; but perhaps he felt that this was small price to pay for having all his legislation bear the awesome stamp of deity. At the same time he could be charmingly modest. More than once he admitted his ignorance. He protested against being taken for more than a fallible and mortal man. He claimed no power to predict the future or to perform miracles. However, he was not above using the method of revelation for very human and personal ends, as when a special message from Allah sanctioned his desire to marry the pretty wife of Zaid, his adopted son. 

   His ten wives and two concubines have been a source of marvel, merriment, and envy to the Western world. We must continually remind ourselves that the high death rate of the male among the ancient and early medieval Semites lent to polygamy, in Semitic eyes, the aspect of a biological necessity, almost a moral obligation. Muhammad took polygamy for granted, and indulged himself in marriage with a clear conscience and no morbid sensuality. Aisha, in a tradition of uncertain authority, quoted him as saying that the three most precious things in this world are women, fragrant odors, and prayers. Some of his marriages were acts of kindness to the destitute widows of followers or friends, as in the case of Umar’s daughter Hafsa; some were diplomatic marriages, as in the case of Hafsa—to bind Umar to him—and the daughter of Abu Sufyan—to win an enemy. Some may have been due to a perpetually frustrated hope for a son. All his wives after Khadijah were barren, which subjected the Prophet to much raillery. Of the children borne to him by Khadijah only one survived him—Fatima. Mary, a Coptic slave presented to him by the Negus of Abyssinia, rejoiced him, in the last year of his life, with a son; but Ibrahim died after fifteen months. 

   His crowded harem troubled him with quarrels, jealousies, and demands for pin money. He refused to indulge the extravagance of his wives, but for a time he dutifully spent a night with each of them in rotation; the master of Arabia had no apartment of his own. The alluring and vivacious Aisha, however, won so many attentions out of her turn that the other wives rebelled, until the matter was settled by a special revelation:


Thou canst defer whom thou wilt of them, and receive of them whom thou wilt; and whomsoever thou desirest of those whom thou hast set aside, it is no sin for thee; that is better, that they may be comforted and not grieve, and may all be pleased with what thou givest them.


   Women and power were his only indulgence; for the rest he was a man of unassuming simplicity. The apartments in which he successively dwelt were cottages of unburnt brick, three and half to four meters square, two and half meters high, and thatched with palm branches; the door was a screen of goat or camel hair; the furniture was a mattress and pillows spread upon the floor. He was often seen mending his clothes or shoes, kindling the fire, sweeping the floor, milking the family goat in his yard, or shopping for provisions in the market. He ate with his fingers, and licked them thriftily after each meal. His staple foods were dates and barley bread; milk and honey were occasional luxuries; and he obeyed his own interdiction of wine. Courteous to the great, affable to the humble, dignified to the presumptuous, indulgent to his aides, kindly to all but his foes—so his friends and followers describe him. He visited the sick, and joined any funeral procession that he met. He put on none of the pomp of power, rejected any special mark of reverence, accepted the invitation of a slave to dinner, and asked no service of a slave that he had time and strength to do for himself. Despite all the booty and revenue that came to him, he spent little upon his family, less upon himself, much in charity. 

   But, like all men, he was vain. He gave considerable time to his personal appearance—perfumed his body, painted his eyes, dyed his hair, and wore a ring inscribed “Muhammad the Messenger of Allah;” perhaps this was for signing documents. His voice was hypnotically musical. His senses were painfully keen; he could not bear evil odors, jangling bells, or loud talk. “Be modest in thy bearing,” he taught, “and subdue thy voice. Lo, the harshest of all voices is that of the ass.” He was nervous and restless, subject to occasional melancholy, then suddenly talkative and gay. He had a sly humor. To Abu Horairah, who visited him with consuming frequency, he suggested: “O Abu Horairah! let me alone every other day, that so affection may increase.” He was a passionate warrior, and a just judge. He could be harsh, but his acts of mercy were numberless. He stopped many barbarous superstitions, such as blinding part of a herd to propitiate the evil eye, or tying a dead man’s camel to his grave, or stopping the branding of animals on their heads instead mandating that it be done on their haunches. His friends loved him to idolatry. His followers collected his spittle, or his cut hair, or the water in which he had washed his hands, expecting from these objects magic cures for their infirmities. 

   His own health and energy had borne up well through all the tasks of love and war. But at the age of fifty-nine he began to fail. A year previously, the people of Khaibar had served him poisonous meat; since then he had been subject to strange fevers and spells; in the dead of night, Aisha reported, he would steal from the house, visit a graveyard, ask forgiveness of the dead, pray aloud for them, and congratulate them on being dead. Now, in his sixty-third year, these fevers became more exhausting. One night Aisha complained of a headache. He complained of one also, and asked playfully would she not prefer to die first, and have the advantage of being buried by the Prophet of Allah—to which she replied, with her customary tartness, that he would doubtless, on returning from her grave, install a fresh bride in her place. For fourteen days thereafter the fever came and went. Three days before his death he rose from his sickbed, walked into the mosque, saw Abu Bekr leading the prayers in his stead, and humbly sat beside him during the ceremony. On June 10, 632, after a long agony, he passed away, his head on Aisha’s breast.  

   If we judge greatness by influence, he was one of the giants of history. He undertook to raise the spiritual and moral level of a people harassed into barbarism by heat and foodless wastes, and he succeeded more completely than any other reformer; seldom has any man so fully realized his dream. He accomplished his purpose through religion not only because he himself was religious, but because no other medium could have moved the Arabs of his time; he appealed to their imagination, their fears and hopes, and spoke in terms that they could understand. When he began, Arabia was a desert flotsam of idolatrous tribes; when he died it was a nation. He restrained fanaticism and superstitions, rather letting his flawless exemplary life show the way for humankind. Upon Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and his native Hanafi creed he built a religion simple and clear and strong, and a morality of ruthless courage and racial pride, which in a generation marched to a hundred victories, in a century to empire, and remains to this day a growing and virile force through half the world.



5. Solon (governed 594-570 B.C.). As the seventh century B.C. drew to a close in Attica the bitterness of the helpless poor against the legally entrenched rich had brought Athens to the edge of revolution. It seems incredible that at this juncture in Athenian affairs, so often repeated in the history of nations, a man should have been found who, without any act of violence or any bitterness of speech, was able to persuade the rich and the poor to a compromise that not only averted social chaos but established a new and more generous political and economic order for the entire remainder of Athens’ independent career. Solon’s peaceful revolution is one of the encouraging miracles of history.

   His father was a Eupatrid of purest blood, related to the descendants of King Codrus and, indeed, tracing his origin to Poseidon himself. His mother was cousin to the mother of Peisistratus, the dictator who would first violate and then consolidate the Solonian constitution. In his youth Solon participated lustily in the life of his time: he wrote poetry, sang the joys of “Greek friendship,” and, like another Tyrtaeus, stirred the people with his verses to conquer Salamis. In middle age his morals improved in inverse ratio to his poetry; his stanzas became dull, and his counsel excellent. “Many undeserving men are rich,” he tells us, “while their betters are poor. But we will not exchange what we are for what they have, since the one gift abides while the other passes from man to man.” The riches of the rich “are no greater than his whose only possessions are stomach, lungs and feet that bring him joy, not pain; the blooming charms of lad or maid; and an existence ever in harmony with the changing seasons of life.” Once, when a sedition occurred in Athens, he remained neutral, luckily before his own reputed legislation making such caution a crime. But he did not hesitate to denounce the methods by which the wealthy had reduced the masses to a desperate penury. 

   If we may believe Plutarch, Solon’s father “ruined his estate in doing benefits and kindnesses to other men.” Solon took to trade, and became a successful merchant with far-flung interests that gave him wide experience and travel. His practice was as good as his preaching, for he acquired among all classes an exceptional reputation for integrity. He was still relatively youngforty-four or forty-five—when, in 594 B.C., representatives of the middle classes asked him to accept election nominally as archon eponymos, but with dictatorial powers to soothe the social war, establish a new constitution, and restore stability to the state. The upper classes, trusting to the conservatism of a moneyed man, reluctantly consented. His first measures were simple but drastic economic reforms. He disappointed the extreme radicals by making no move to re-divide the land; such an attempt would have meant civil war, chaos for a generation, and the rapid return of inequality. But by his famous Seisachtheia, or Removal of Burdens, Solon canceled, says Aristotle, “all existing debts, whether owing to private persons or to the state;” (probably this did not apply to commercial debts in which personal servitude was not involved) and at one blow cleared Attic lands of all mortgages. All persons enslaved or attached for debt were released; those sold into servitude abroad were reclaimed and freed; and such enslavement was forbidden for the future. It was characteristic of humanity that certain of Solon’s friends, getting wind of his intention to cancel debts, bought on mortgage large tracts of land, and later retained these without paying the mortgages; this, Aristotle tells us with a rare twinkle in his style, was the origin of many fortunes, that were later “supposed to be of immemorial antiquity.” Solon was under suspicion of having connived at this and of having profited by it, until it was discovered that as a heavy creditor he himself had lost by his law. The rich protested unanswerably that such legislation was confiscation; but within a decade opinion became almost unanimous that the act had saved Attica from revolution. 

   Of another Solonian reform it is difficult to speak with clearness or certainty. Solon, says Aristotle, “superseded the Pheidonian measures”—that is, the Aeginetan coinage theretofore used in Attica—”by the Euboic system on a larger scale, and made the mina, which had contained seventy drachmas, now contain a hundred.” According to Plutarch’s fuller account, Solon “made the mina, which before passed for seventy-three drachmas, go for a hundred, so that, though the number of pieces in a payment was equal, the value was less; which proved a considerable benefit to those that were to discharge great debts, and no loss to the creditors.” Only the genial and generous Plutarch could devise a form of inflation that would relieve debtors without hurting creditors—except that doubtless in some cases half a loaf is better than none. (Grote and many others interpreted Plutarch’s statement to mean that Solon had depreciated the currency by twenty-seven per cent and had thereby given relief to landlords who, themselves debtors to others, were deprived of the mortgage returns upon which they had depended for meeting their obligations. Such inflation, however, would have fallen as a second blow upon those landlords who had lent sums to merchants; if it helped any class, it helped these merchants rather than the landlords or the peasants whose mortgages had already been forgiven. Possibly Solon had no thought of debasing the currency, but wished merely to substitute, for a monetary standard that had been found convenient in trading with the Peloponnesus another that would facilitate trade with the rich and growing markets of Ionia, where the Euboic standard was in common use). 

   More lasting than these economic reforms were those historic decrees that created the Solonian constitution. Solon prefaced them with an act of amnesty freeing or restoring all persons who had been jailed or banished for political offenses short of trying to usurp the government. He went on to repeal, directly or by implication, most of Draco’s legislation; the law concerning murder remained. It was in itself a revolution that the laws of Solon were applied without distinction to all freemen; rich and poor were now subject to the same restraints and the same penalties. Recognizing that his reforms had been made possible by the support of the mercantile and industrial classes and signified their accession to a substantial share in the government, Solon divided the free population of Attica into four groups according to their wealth: first, the pentacosiomedimni, or five-hundred-bushel men, whose annual income reached five hundred measures of produce, or the equivalent thereof (a medimmu—about one and a half bushels—was considered equivalent to one drachma in money); second, the hippes, whose income was between three and five hundred measures; third, the zeugitai, with incomes between two and three hundred measures; and fourth, the thetes, all other freemen. Honors and taxes were determined by the same rating, and the one could not be enjoyed without paying the other; furthermore, the first class was taxed on twelve times, the second class on ten times, the third class on only five times, the amount of its annual income; the property tax was in effect a graduated income tax. The fourth class was exempt from direct taxation. Only the first class was eligible to the archonship or to military commands; the second class was eligible to lower offices and to the cavalry; the third was privileged to join the heavy-armed infantry; the fourth was expected to provide the common soldiers of the state. This peculiar classification weakened the kinship organization upon which the oligarchy had rested its power, and established the new principle of “timocracy”—government by honor or prestige as frankly determined by taxable wealth. A similar “plutocracy” prevailed, throughout the sixth and part of the fifth century B.C., in most of the Greek colonies. 

   At the head of the new government Solon’s code left the Areopagus, the oldest and most respected council of ancient Athens, a little shorn of its exclusiveness and powers, open now to all members of the first class, but still with supreme authority over the conduct of the people and the officers of the state. Next below it he created a new boule, a Council of Four Hundred, to which each of the four tribes elected a hundred members; this Council selected, censored, and prepared all business that could be brought before the Assembly. Beneath this oligarchic superstructure, ingratiating to the strong, Solon, perhaps with good will aforethought, placed fundamentally democratic institutions. The old ekklesia of Homer’s day was brought back to life, and all citizens were invited to join in its deliberations. This Assembly annually elected from among the five-hundred-bushel men, the archons who heretofore had been appointed by the Areopagus; it could at any time question these officers, impeach them, punish them; and when their terms expired it scrutinized their official conduct during the year, and could debar them, if it chose, from their usual graduation into the Areopagus. More important still, though it did not seem so, was the admission of the lowest class of the citizens to full parity with the higher classes in being eligible to selection by lot to the heliaea—a body of six thousand jurors that formed the various courts before which all matters except murder and treason were tried, and to which appeal could be made from any action of the magistrates. “Some believe,” says Aristotle, “that Solon intentionally introduced obscurity into his laws, to enable the commons to use their judicial power for their own political aggrandizement;” for since, as Plutarch adds, “their differences could not be adjusted by the letter, they would have to bring all their causes to the judges, who were in a manner masters of the laws.” This power of appeal to popular courts was to prove the wedge and citadel of Athenian democracy. 

   To this basic legislation, the most important in Athenian history, Solon added a miscellany of laws aimed at the less fundamental problems of the time. First he legalized that individualization of property which custom had already decreed. If a man had sons he was to divide his property among them at his death; if he died childless he might bequeath to anyone the property that in such cases had heretofore reverted automatically to the clan. With Solon begins, in Athens, the right and law of wills. Himself a businessman, Solon sought to stimulate commerce and industry by opening citizenship to all aliens who had a skilled trade and came with their families to reside permanently at Athens. He forbade the export of any produce of the soil except olive oil, hoping to turn men from growing surplus crops to practicing an industry. He enacted a law that no son should be obliged to support a father who had not taught him some specific trade. To Solon—not to the later Athenians—the crafts had their own rich honor and dignity. 

   Even into the dangerous realm of morals and manners Solon offered laws. Persistent idleness was made a crime, and no man who lived a life of debauchery was permitted to address the Assembly. He legalized and taxed prostitution, established public brothels licensed and supervised by the state, and erected a temple to Aphrodite Pandemos from the revenues. “Hail to you, Solon!” sang a contemporary Lecky. “You bought public women for the benefit of the city, for the benefit of the morality of a city that is full of vigorous young men who, in the absence of your wise institution, would give themselves over to the disturbing annoyance of the better women.” He enacted the un-Draconian penalty of a hundred drachmas for the violation of a free woman, but anyone who caught an adulterer in the act was allowed to kill him there and then. He limited the size of dowries, wishing that marriages should be contracted by the affection of mates and for the rearing of children; and with childlike trustfulness he forbade women to extend their wardrobes beyond three suits. He was asked to legislate against bachelors, but refused, saying that, after all, “a wife is a heavy load to carry.” He made it a crime to speak evil of the dead, or to speak evil of the living in temples, courts, or public offices, or at the games; but even he could not tie the busy tongue of Athens, in which, as with us, gossip and slander seemed essential to democracy. He laid it down that those who remained neutral in seditions should lose their citizenship, for he felt that the indifference of the public is the ruin of the state. He condemned pompous ceremonies, expensive sacrifices, or lengthy lamentations at funerals, and limited the goods that might be buried with the dead. He established the wholesome law—a source of Athenian bravery for generations—that the sons of those who died in war should be brought up and educated at the expense of the government.  

   To all of his laws Solon attached penalties, milder than Draco’s but still severe; and he empowered any citizen to bring action against any person whom he might consider guilty of crime. That his laws might be the better known and obeyed he wrote them down in the court of the archon basileus upon wooden rollers or prisms that could be turned and read. Unlike Lycurgus, Minos, Hammurabi, and Numa, he made no claim that a god had given him these laws; this circumstance, too, revealed the temper of the age, the city, and the man. Invited to make himself a permanent dictator he refused, saying that dictatorship was “a very fair spot, but there was no way down from it.” Radicals criticized him for failing to establish equality of possessions and power; conservatives denounced him for admitting the commons to the franchise and the courts; even his friend Anacharsis, the whimsical Scythian sage, laughed at the new code, saying that now the wise would plead and the fools would decide. Besides, added Anacharsis, no lasting justice can be established for men, since the strong or clever will twist to their advantage any laws that are made; the law is a spider’s web that catches the little flies and lets the big bugs escape. Solon accepted all this criticism genially, acknowledging the imperfections of his code; asked had he given the Athenians the best laws, he answered, “No, but the best that they could receive”—the best that the conflicting groups and interests of Athens could at that time be persuaded conjointly to accept. He followed the mean and preserved the state; he was a good pupil of Aristotle before the Stagirite was born. Tradition attributed to him the motto that was inscribed upon the temple of Apollo at Delphi—meden agan, nothing in excess; and all Greeks agreed in placing him among the Seven Wise Men. 

   The best proof of his wisdom was the lasting effect of his legislation. Despite a thousand changes and developments, despite intervening dictatorships and superficial revolutions, Cicero could say, five centuries later, that the laws of Solon were still in force at Athens. Legally his work marks the end of government by incalculable and changeable decrees, and the beginning of government by written and permanent law. Asked what made an orderly and well-constituted state, he replied, “When the people obey the rulers, and the rulers obey the laws.” To his legislation Attica owed the liberation of its farmers from serfdom, and the establishment of a peasant proprietor class whose ownership of the soil made the little armies of Athens suffice to preserve her liberties for many generations. When, at the close of the Peloponnesian War, it was proposed to limit the franchise to freeholders, only five thousand adult freemen in all Attica failed to satisfy this requirement. At the same time trade and industry were freed from political disabilities and financial inconveniences, and began that vigorous development which was to make Athens the commercial leader of the Mediterranean. The new aristocracy of wealth put a premium upon intelligence rather than birth, stimulated science and education, and prepared, materially and mentally, for the cultural achievements of the Golden Age. 

   In 572 B.C., at the age of sixty-six, and after serving as archon for twenty-two years, Solon retired from office into private life; and having bound Athens, through the oath of its officials, to obey his laws unchanged for ten years, he set out to observe the civilizations of Egypt and the East. It was now, apparently, that he made his famous remark—“I grow old while always learning.” At Heliopolis, says Plutarch, he studied Egyptian history and thought under the tutelage of the priests; from them, it is said, he heard of the sunken continent Atlantis, whose tale he told in an unfinished epic which two centuries later would fascinate the imaginative Plato. From Egypt he sailed to Cyprus and made laws for the city that in his honor changed its name to Soli. (Diogenes Laertius tells this story rather of Soli in Cilicia—“the town whose preservation of old Greek speech into Alexander’s day led to the word solecism). Herodotus and Plutarch describe with miraculous memory his chat at Sardis with Croesus, the Lydian king: how this paragon of wealth, having arrayed himself in all his paraphernalia, asked Solon did he not account him, Croesus, a happy man; and how Solon, with Greek audacity, replied:


   The gods, O King, have given the Greeks all other gifts in moderate degree; and so our wisdom, too, is a cheerful and a homely, not a noble and kingly, wisdom; and this, observing the numerous misfortunes that attend all conditions, forbids us to grow insolent upon our present enjoyment, or to admire any man’s happiness that may yet, in course of time, suffer change. For the uncertain future has yet to come, with every possible variety of fortune; and him only to whom the divinity has continued happiness unto the end do we call happy; to salute as happy one that is still in the midst of life and hazard we think as little safe and conclusive as to crown and proclaim as victorious the wrestler that is yet in the ring. 



   This admirable exposition of what the Greek dramatists mean by hybris—insolent prosperity—has the ring of Plutarch’s eclectic wisdom; we can only say that it is better phrased than Herodotus’ report, and that both accounts belong, presumably, to the realm of imaginary conversations. Certainly both Solon and Croesus, in the manner of their deaths, justified the skepticism of this homily. Croesus was dethroned by Cyrus in 546 B.C., and (if we may rephrase Herodotus with Dante) knew the bitterness of remembering, in his misery, the happy time of his splendor, and the stern warning of the Greek. And Solon, returning to Athens to die, saw in his last years the overthrow of his law code, the establishment of a dictatorship, and the apparent frustration of all his work. But eventually the democratic principles embodied in Solon’s laws were reestablished in Athens.



6. Pericles (governed 460-429 B.C.). The man who acted as commander-in-chief of all the physical and spiritual forces of Athens during her greatest age was born some three years before Marathon. His father, Xanthippus, had fought at Salamis, had led the Athenian fleet in the battle of Mycale, and had recaptured the Hellespont for Greece. Pericles’ mother, Agariste, was a granddaughter of the reformer Cleisthenes; on her side, therefore, he belonged to the ancient family of the Alcmaeonids. “His mother being near her time,” says Plutarch, “fancied in a dream that she was brought to bed of a lion, and a few days after was delivered of Periclesin other respects perfectly formed, only his head was somewhat longish and out of proportion;” his critics were to have much fun with this very dolicocephalic head. The most famous music teacher of his time, Damon, gave him instruction in music, and Pythocleides in music and literature; he heard the lectures of Zeno the Eleatic at Athens, and became the friend and pupil of the philosopher Anaxagoras. In his development he absorbed the rapidly growing culture of his epoch, and united in his mind and policy all the threads of Athenian civilization—economic, military, literary, artistic, and philosophical. He was, so far as we know, the most complete man that Greece produced. 

   Seeing that the oligarchic party was out of step with the time, he attached himself early in life to the party of the demosi.e. the free population of Athens; then, as even in Jefferson’s day in America, the word “people” carried certain proprietary reservations. He approached politics in general, and each situation in it, with careful preparation, neglecting no aspect of education, speaking seldom and briefly, and praying to the gods that he might never utter a word that was not to the point. Even the comic poets, who disliked him, spoke of him as “the Olympian,” who wielded the thunder and lightning of such eloquence as Athens had never heard before; and yet by all accounts his speech was unimpassioned, and appealed to enlightened minds. His influence was due not only to his intelligence but to his probity; he was capable of using bribery to secure state ends, but was himself “manifestly free from every kind of corruption, and superior to all considerations of money;” and whereas Themistocles had entered public office poor and left it rich, Pericles, we are told, added nothing to his patrimony by his political career. It showed the good sense of the Athenians in this generation that for almost thirty years, between 467 and 428 B.C., they elected and re-elected him, with brief intermissions, as one of their ten strategoi or commanders; and this relative permanence of office not only gave him supremacy on the military board, but enabled him to raise the position of strategos autokrator to the place of highest influence in the government. Under him Athens, while enjoying all the privileges of democracy, acquired also the advantages of aristocracy and dictatorship. The good government and cultural patronage that had adorned Athens in the age of Peisistratus were continued now with equal unity and decisiveness of direction and intelligence, but also with the full and annually renewed consent of a free citizenship. History through him illustrated again the principle that liberal reforms are most ably executed and most permanently secured by the cautious and moderate leadership of an aristocrat enjoying popular support. Greek civilization was at its best when democracy had grown sufficiently to give it variety and vigor, and aristocracy survived sufficiently to give it order and taste. 

   The reforms of Pericles substantially extended the authority of the people. Though the power of the heliaea had grown under Solon, Cleisthenes, and Ephialtes, the lack of payment for jury service had given the well to do a predominating influence in these courts. Pericles introduced (451 B.C.) a fee of two obols, later raised to three, for a day’s duty as juror, an amount equivalent in each case to half a day’s earnings of an average Athenian of the time. The notion that these modest sums weakened the fiber and corrupted the morale of Athens is hardly to be taken seriously, for by the same token every state that pays its judges or its jurymen would long since have been destroyed. Pericles seems also to have established a small remuneration for military service. He crowned this scandalous generosity by persuading the state to pay every citizen two obols annually as the price of admission to the plays and games of the official festivals; he excused himself on the ground that these performances should not be a luxury of the upper and middle classes, but should contribute to elevate the mind of the whole electorate. It must be confessed, however, that Plato, Aristotle, and Plutarchconservatives allwere agreed that these pittances injured the Athenian character. His policy at home was to place the state in the hands of the whole body of citizens under the rule of law. 

   Continuing the work of Ephialtes, Pericles transferred to the popular courts the various judicial powers that had been possessed by the archons and magistrates, so that from this time the archonship was more of a bureaucratic or administrative office than one that carried the power of forming policies, deciding cases, or issuing commands. In 457 B.C. eligibility to the archonship, which had been confined to the wealthier classes, was extended to the third class, or zeugitai; soon thereafter, without any legal form, the lowest citizen class, the thetes, made themselves eligible to the office by romancing about their income; and the importance of the thetes in the defense of Athens persuaded the other classes to wink at the fraud. Moving for a moment in the opposite direction, Pericles (451 B.C.) carried through the Assembly a restriction of the franchise to the legitimate offspring of an Athenian father and an Athenian mother. No legal marriage was to be permitted between a citizen and a non-citizen. It was a measure aimed to discourage intermarriage with foreigners, to reduce illegitimate births, and perhaps to reserve to the jealous burghers of Athens the material rewards of citizenship and empire. Pericles himself would soon have reason to regret this exclusive legislation. 

   Since any form of government seems good that brings prosperity, and even the best seems bad that hinders it, Pericles, having consolidated his political position, turned to economic statesmanship. He sought to reduce the pressure of population upon the narrow resources of Attica by establishing colonies of poor Athenian citizens upon foreign soil. To give work to the idle, he made the state an employer on a scale unprecedented in Greece: ships were added to the fleet, arsenals were built, and a great corn exchange was erected at the Piraeus. To protect Athens effectively from siege by land, and at the same time to provide further work for the unemployed, Pericles persuaded the Assembly to supply funds for constructing thirteen kilometers of “Long Walls,” as they were to be called, connecting Athens with the Piraeus and Phalerum; the effect was to make the city and its ports one fortified enclosure, open in wartime only to the seaon which the Athenian fleet was supreme. In the hostility with which un-walled Sparta looked upon this program of fortification the oligarchic party saw a chance to recapture political power. Its secret agents invited the Spartans to invade Attica and, with the aid of an oligarchic insurrection, to put down the democracy; in this event the oligarchs pledged themselves to level the Long Walls. The Spartans agreed, and dispatched an army that defeated the Athenians at Tanagra (457 B.C.); but the oligarchs failed to make their revolution. The Spartans returned to the Peloponnesus empty-handed, dourly awaiting a better opportunity to overcome the flourishing rival that was taking from them their traditional leadership of Greece. 

   Pericles rejected the temptation to retaliate upon Sparta, and instead, devoted his energies now to the beautification of Athens. Hoping to make his city the cultural center of Hellas, and to rebuild the ancient shrines which the Persians had destroyedon a scale and with a splendor that would lift up the soul of every citizen, he devised a plan for using all the genius of Athens’ artists, and the labor of her remaining unemployed, in a bold program for the architectural adornment of the Acropolis. “It was his desire and design,” says Plutarch, “that the undisciplined mechanic multitude . . . should not go without their share of public funds, and yet should not have these given them for sitting still and doing nothing; and to this end he brought in these vast projects of construction.” To finance the undertaking he proposed that the treasury accumulated by the Delian League, a confederation of Greek city-states that had been formed to resist Xerxes and the Persians, should be removed from Delos, where it lay idle and insecure, and that such part of it as was not needed for common defense should be used to beautify what seemed to Pericles the legitimate capital of a beneficent empire. 

   The transference of the Delian treasury to Athens was quite acceptable to the Athenians, even to the oligarchs. But the voters were loath to spend any substantial part of the fund in adorning their citywhether through some qualm of conscience, or through a secret hope that the money might be appropriated more directly to their needs and enjoyment. The oligarchic leaders played upon this feeling so cleverly that when the matter neared a vote in the Assembly the defeat of Pericles’ plan seemed certain. Plutarch tells a delightful story of how the subtle leader turned the tide. “Very well,” said Pericles; “let the cost of these buildings go not to your account but to mine; and let the inscription upon them stand in my name.” When they heard him say this, whether it were out of a surprise to see the greatness of his spirit, or out of emulation of the glory of the works, they cried aloud, bidding him spend on . . . and spare no cost till all were finished.” 

   While the work proceeded, and Pericles’ especial protection and support were given to Pheidias, Ictinus, Mnesicles, and the other artists who labored to realize his dreams, he lent his patronage also to literature and philosophy; and whereas in the other Greek cities of this period the strife of parties consumed much of the energy of the citizens, and literature languished, in Athens the stimulus of growing wealth and democratic freedom was combined with wise and cultured leadership to produce the Golden Age. When Pericles, Aspasia, Pheidias, Anaxagoras, and Socrates attended a play by Euripides in the Theater of Dionysus, Athens could see visibly the zenith and unity of the life of Greecestatesmanship, art, science, philosophy, literature, religion, and morals living no separate career as in the pages of chroniclers, but woven into one many-colored fabric of a nation’s history. 

   The affections of Pericles wavered between art and philosophy, and he might have found it hard to say whether he loved Pheidias or Anaxagoras the more; perhaps he turned to Aspasia as a compromise between beauty and wisdom. For Anaxagoras he entertained, we are told, “an extraordinary esteem and admiration." It was the philosopher, says Plato who deepened Pericles into statesmanship; from long intercourse with Anaxagoras, Plutarch believes, Pericles derived “not merely elevation of purpose and dignity of language, raised far above the base and dishonest buffooneries of mob eloquence, but, besides this, a composure of countenance, and a serenity and calmness in all his movements, which no occurrence whilst he was speaking could disturb.” When Anaxagoras was old, and Pericles was absorbed in public affairs, the statesman for a time let the philosopher drop out of his life; but later, hearing that Anaxagoras was starving, Pericles hastened to his relief, and accepted humbly his rebuke, that “those who have occasion for a lamp supply it with oil.” 

   It seems hardly credible, and yet on second thought most natural, that the stern “Olympian” should have been keenly susceptible to the charms of woman; his self-control fought against a delicate sensibility, and the toils of office must have heightened in him the normal male longing for feminine tenderness. He had been many years married when he met Aspasia. She belonged toshe was helping to createthe type of hetaira that was about to play so active a part in Athenian life: a woman rejecting the seclusion that marriage brought to the ladies of Athens, and preferring to live in unlicensed unions, even in relative promiscuity, if thereby she might enjoy the same freedom of movement and conduct as men, and participate with them in their cultural interests. We have no testimony to Aspasia’s beauty, though ancient writers speak of her “small, high-arched foot,” “her silvery voice,” and her golden hair. Aristophanes, an unscrupulous political enemy of Pericles, describes her as a Milesian courtesan who had established a luxurious brothel at Megara, and had now imported some of her girls into Athens; and the great comedian delicately suggests that the quarrel of Athens with Megara, which precipitated the Peloponnesian War, was brought about because Aspasia persuaded Pericles to revenge her upon Megarians who had kidnaped some of her personnel. But Aristophanes was not a historian, and may be trusted only where he himself is not concerned. 

   Arriving in Athens about 450, Aspasia opened a school of rhetoric and philosophy, and boldly encouraged the public emergence and higher education of women. Many girls of good family came to her classes, and some husbands brought their wives to study with her. Men also attended her lectures, among them Pericles and Socrates, and probably Anaxagoras, Euripides, Alcibiades, and Pheidias. Socrates said that he had learned from her the art of eloquence, and some ancient gossips would have it that the statesman inherited her from the philosopher. Pericles now found it admirable that his wife had formed an affection for another man. He offered her freedom in return for his own, and she agreed; she took a third husband, while Pericles brought Aspasia home. By his own law of 451 he could not make her his wife, since she was of Milesian birth; any child he might have by her would be illegitimate, and ineligible to Athenian citizenship. He seems to have loved her sincerely, even uxoriously, never leaving his home or returning to it without kissing her, and finally willing his fortune to the son that she bore him. From that time onward he forewent all social life outside his home, seldom going anywhere except to the agora or the council hall; the people of Athens began to complain of his aloofness. For her part Aspasia made his home a French Enlightenment salon, where the art and science, the literature, philosophy, and statesmanship of Athens were brought together in mutual stimulation. Socrates marveled at her eloquence, and credited her with composing the funeral oration that Pericles delivered after the first casualties of the Peloponnesian War that ends up in the work of Thucydides. Aspasia became the uncrowned queen of Athens, setting fashion’s tone, and giving to the women of the city an exciting example of mental and moral freedom. 

   The conservatives were shocked at all this, and turned it to their purposes. They denounced Pericles for leading Greeks out to war against Greeks, as in Aegina and Samos; they accused him of squandering public funds; finally, through the mouths of irresponsible comic dramatists abusing the free speech that prevailed under his rule, they charged him with turning his home into a house of ill fame, and having relations with the wife of his son. Not daring to bring any of these matters to open trial, they attacked him through his friends. They indicted Pheidias for embezzling, as they alleged, some of the gold assigned to him for his chryselephantine Athena, and apparently succeeded in convicting him; they indicted Anaxagoras on the ground of irreligion, and the philosopher, on Pericles’ advice, fled into exile; they brought against Aspasia a like writ of impiety (graphe asebeias), complaining that she had shown disrespect for the gods of Greece. The comic poets satirized her mercilessly as a Deianeira who had ruined Pericles, (Deianira, wife of Heracles, caused his death by presenting him with a poisoned robe. Cf. Sophocles’ Trachinium Women) and called her, in plain Greek, a concubine; one of them, Hermippus, doubtless in turn a dishonest penny, accused her of serving as Pericles’ procuress, and of bringing freeborn women to him for his pleasure. At her trial, which took place before a court of fifteen hundred jurors, Pericles spoke in her defense, using all his eloquence, even to tears; and the case was dismissed. From that moment (432 B.C.) Pericles began to lose his hold upon the Athenian people; and when, three years later, death came to him, he was already a broken man.






7. Cyrus the Great (reigned 559-529 B.C.) was one of those natural rulers at whose coronation, as Emerson said, all men rejoice. Royal in spirit and action, capable of wise administration as well as of dramatic conquest, generous to the defeated and loved by those who had been his enemies—no wonder the Greeks made him the subject of innumerable romances, and—to their minds—the greatest hero before Alexander, and Muslims believed him to be the heroic Dhul-Qarnayn. It is a disappointment to us that we cannot draw a reliable picture of him from either Herodotus or Xenophon. These delightful stories being put aside, the figure of Cyrus becomes merely an attractive ghost. We can only say that he was handsome—since the Persians made him their model of physical beauty to the end of their ancient art; that he established the Achaemeniad Dynasty of “Great Kings,” which ruled Persia through the most famous period of its history; and that he organized the soldiery of Media and Persia into an invincible army, captured Sardis and Babylon, and absorbed the former realms of Assyria, Babylonia, Lydia and Asia Minor into the Persian Empire, the largest political organization of pre-Roman antiquity, and one of the best-governed in history.  

   So far as we can visualize him through the haze of legend, he was the most amiable of conquerors, and founded his empire upon generosity. His enemies knew that he was lenient, and they did not fight him with that desperate courage which men show when their only choice is to kill or die. According to Herodotus, he rescued Croesus from the funeral pyre at Sardis, and made him one of his most honored counselors; and he magnanimously treated the Jews after his conquest of Babylon. The first principle of his policy was that the various peoples of his empire should be left free in their religious worship and beliefs, for he fully understood the first principle of statesmanshipthat religion is stronger than the state but urged all his subject peoples to monotheism by his example nevertheless. Instead of sacking cities and wrecking temples he showed a courteous respect for the deities of the conquered, and contributed to maintain their shrines; even the Babylonians, who had resisted him so long, warmed towards him when they found him preserving their sanctuaries and honoring their pantheon. Wherever he went in his unprecedented career he offered pious sacrifice to the local divinities. Like Napoleon he accepted indifferently all religions, and—with much better grace—humored all the gods. Like Napoleon, too, he died of excessive ambition. Having won all the Near East, he began a series of campaigns aimed to free Media and Persia from the inroads of central Asia’s nomadic barbarians. He seems to have carried these excursions as far as the Jaxartes on the north and India on the east. Suddenly, at the height of his curve, he was slain in battle with the Massagetre, an obscure tribe that peopled the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. Like Alexander he conquered an empire, but did not live to organize it. 



8. Darius I (reigned 522-486 BC) Following the death of Cyrus’ son a usurper seized the Persian throne only to have another revolution soon depose him in turn; the seven aristocrats who had organized it raised one of their number, Darius, son of Hystaspes, to the throne. In this bloody way began the reign of Persia’s greatest king. Succession to the throne, in Oriental monarchies, was marked not only by palace revolutions in strife for the royal power, but by uprisings in subject colonies that grasped the chance of chaos, or an inexperienced ruler, to reclaim their liberty. The usurpation and assassination of the usurper gave to Persia’s vassals an excellent opportunity: the governors of Egypt and Lydia refused submission, and the provinces of Susiana, Babylonia, Media, Assyria, Armenia, Sacia and others rose in simultaneous revolt. Darius subdued them with a ruthless hand. Taking Babylon after a long siege, he crucified three thousand of its leading citizens as an inducement to obedience in the rest; and in a series of swift campaigns he “pacified” one after another of the rebellious states. Then, perceiving how easily the vast empire might in any crisis fall to pieces, he put off the armor of war, became one of the wisest administrators in history, and set himself to reestablish his realm in a way that became a model of imperial organization till the fall of Rome. His rule gave western Asia a generation of such order and prosperity as that quarrelsome region had never known before. Under Darius I the Persian Empire was an achievement in political organization; only Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines would equal it

   He had hoped to govern in peace, but it is the fatality of empire to breed repeated war. For the conquered must be periodically reconquered—and the conquerors must keep the arts and habits of camp and battlefield; and at any moment the kaleidoscope of change may throw up a new empire to challenge the old. In such a situation wars must be invented if they do not arise of their own accord; each generation must be inured to the rigors of campaigns, and taught by practice the sweet decorum of dying for one’s country. Perhaps it was in part for this reason that Darius led his armies into southern Russia, across the Bosphorus and the Danube to the Volga, to chastise the marauding Scythians; and again across Afghanistan and a hundred mountain ranges into the valley of the Indus, adding thereby extensive regions and millions of souls and rupees to his realm. More substantial reasons must be sought for his expedition into Greece. Herodotus would have us believe that Darius entered upon this historic faux pas because one of his wives, Atossa, teased him into it in bed; but it is more dignified to believe that the King recognized in the Greek city-states and their colonies a potential empire, or an actual confederacy, dangerous to the Persian mastery of western Asia. When Ionia revolted and received aid from Sparta and Athens, Darius reconciled himself reluctantly to war. The world knows the story of his passage across the Aegean, the defeat of his army at Marathon, and his gloomy return to Persia. There, amid far-flung preparations for another attempt upon Greece, he suddenly grew weak, and died.



9. Alexander the Great (reigned 336-323 B.C.)



The intellectual career of Aristotle, after he left his royal pupil, paralleled the military career of Alexander; both lives were expressions of conquest and synthesis. Perhaps it was the philosopher who instilled into the mind of the youth that ardor for unity, which gave some grandeur to Alexander’s victories; more probably that resolve descended to him from his father’s ambitions, and was fused into a passion by his maternal blood. If we would understand Alexander we must always remember that he bore in his veins the drunken vigor of Philip and the barbaric intensity of Olympias. Furthermore, Olympias claimed descent from Achilles. Therefore the Iliad had a special fascination for Alexander; when he crossed the Hellespont he was, in his interpretation, retracing the steps of Achilles; when he conquered Hither Asia he was completing the work that his ancestor had begun at Troy. Through all his campaigns he carried with him a copy of the Iliad annotated by Aristotle; often he placed it under his pillow at night beside his dagger, as if to symbolize the instrument and the goal. 

   Leonidas, an austere Molossian, trained the boy’s body, Lysimachus taught him letters, Aristotle tried to form his mind. Philip was anxious that Alexander should study philosophy, “so that,” he said, “you may not do a great many things of the sort that I am sorry to have done.” To some extent Aristotle made a Hellene of him; through all his life Alexander admired Greek literature, and envied Greek civilization. To two Greeks sitting with him at the wild banquet at which he slew Cleitus he said, “Do you not feel like demigods among savages when you are sitting in company with these Macedonians?” 

   Physically, Alexander was an ideal youth. He was good in every sport: a swift runner, a dashing horseman, a brilliant fencer, a practiced bowman, a fearless hunter. His friends wished him to enter the foot races at Olympia; he answered that he would be willing, if his opponents were kings. When all others had failed to tame the giant horse Bucephalus, Alexander succeeded; seeing which, says Plutarch, Philip acclaimed him with prophetic words: “My son, Macedonia is too small for you; seek out a larger empire, worthier of you.” Even on the march his wild energy found vent in shooting arrows at passing objects, or in alighting from, and remounting, his chariot at full speed. When a campaign lagged he would go hunting and, unaided and on foot, face any animal in combat; once, after an encounter with a lion, he was pleased to hear it said that he had fought as though it had been a duel to decide which of the two should be king. He liked hard work and dangerous enterprises, and could not bear to rest. He laughed at some of his generals, who had so many servants that they themselves could find nothing to do. “I wonder,” he told them, “that you with your experience do not know that those who work sleep more soundly than those for whom other people work. Have you yet to learn that the greatest need after our victories is to avoid the vices and the weaknesses of those whom we have conquered?” He grudged the time given to sleep, and said that “sleep and the act of generation chiefly made him sensible that he was mortal.” He was abstemious in eating, and, until his last years, in drinking, though he loved to linger with his friends over a goblet of wine. He despised rich foods, and refused the famous chefs who were offered him, saying that a night march gave him a good appetite for breakfast, and a light breakfast gave him an appetite for dinner. Perhaps in consequence of these habits his complexion was remarkably clear, and his body and breath, says Plutarch, “were so fragrant as to perfume the clothes that he wore.” Discounting the flattery of those who painted or carved or engraved his likeness, we know from his contemporaries that he was handsome beyond all precedents for a king, with expressive features, soft blue eyes, and luxuriant auburn hair. He helped to introduce into Europe the custom of shaving the beard, on the ground that whiskers offered too ready a handle for an enemy to grasp. In this little item, perhaps, lay his greatest influence upon history. 

   Mentally he was an ardent student, who was too soon consumed with responsibilities to reach maturity of mind. Like so many men of action, he mourned that he could not be also a thinker. “He had,” says Plutarch, “a violent thirst and passion for learning, which increased as time went on. . . . He was a lover of all kinds of reading and knowledge,” and it was his delight, after a day of marching or fighting, to sit up half the night conversing with scholars and scientists. “For my part,” he wrote to Aristotle, “I had rather surpass others in the knowledge of what is excellent, than in the extent of my power and dominion.” Possibly at Aristotle’s suggestion he sent a commission to explore the sources of the Nile, and he gave funds generously for a variety of scientific inquiries. Whether a longer life would have brought him to Caesar’s clear intelligence, or the subtle understanding of Napoleon, is to be doubted. Royalty found him at twenty, after which warfare and administration absorbed him; in consequence he remained uneducated to the end. He could talk brilliantly, but fell into a hundred errors when he wandered from politics and war. With all his campaigns he seems never to have gained such acquaintance with geography as the science of his time could have given him. He rose at times above the narrowness of dogma, but remained to the last a slave to superstition. He put great confidence in the soothsayers and astrologers that crowded his court; before the battle of Arbela he spent the night performing magic ceremonies with the magician Aristander, and offered sacrifices to the god Fear; he who faced all men and beasts with a very ecstasy of courage was “easily alarmed by portents and prodigies,” even to changing important plans. He could lead many thousands of men, could conquer and rule millions, but he could not control his own temper. He never learned to recognize his own faults or limitations, but allowed his judgment to be soaked and drowned in praise. He lived in a frenzy of excitement and glory, and so loved war that his mind never knew an hour of peace. 

   His moral character hovered between similar contradictions. He was at bottom sentimental and emotional, and had, we are told, “melting eyes;” he was moved sometimes beside himself by poetry and music; he played the harp with great feeling in his early youth. Teased about this by Philip, he abandoned the instrument, and thereafter, as if to overcome himself, refused to listen to any but martial airs. Sexually he was almost virtuous, not so much on principle as by preoccupation. His incessant activity, his long marches and frequent battles, his complex plans and administrative burdens, used up his resources, and left him little appetite for love. He took many wives, but as a sacrifice to statesmanship; he was gallant to ladies, but preferred the company of his generals. When his aides brought a beautiful woman to his tent late at night he asked her, “Why at this time?” “I had to wait,” she replied, “to get my husband to bed.” Alexander dismissed her, and rebuked his servants, saying that because of them he had narrowly escaped becoming an adulterer. He had many of the qualities of a homosexual, and loved Hephaestion to madness; but when Theodorus of Taras offered to sell him two boys of great beauty he sent the Tarentine packing, and begged his friends to tell him what baseness of soul he had shown that anyone should make such a proposal to him. He gave to friendship the tenderness and solicitude that most men give to love. No statesman known to us, much less any general, ever surpassed him in simple trustfulness and warm-heartedness, in open sincerity of affection and purpose, or in generosity even to acquaintances and enemies. Plutarch remarks “upon what slight occasions he would write letters to serve friends.” He endeared himself to his soldiers by his kindliness; he risked their lives, but not heedlessly; and he seemed to feel all their wounds. As Caesar forgave Brutus and Cicero, and Napoleon Fouche and Talleyrand, so Alexander forgave Harpalus, the treasurer who had absconded with his funds and had returned to beg forgiveness; the young conqueror reappointed him treasurer to all men’s astonishment, and apparently with good results. At Tarsus, in 333 B.C., Alexander being ill, his physician Philip offered him a purgative drink. At that moment a letter was brought to the King from Parmenio, warning him that Philip had been bribed by Darius to poison him. Alexander handed the letter to Philip, and as the latter read it, Alexander drank the draught—with no ill effect. His reputation for generosity helped him in his wars; many of the enemy allowed themselves to be taken prisoner, and cities, not fearing to be sacked, opened their gates at his coming. Nevertheless, the Molossian tigress was in him, and it was his bitter fate to be ruined by his occasional paroxysms of cruelty. Having taken Gaza by siege and assault, and infuriated by its long resistance, Alexander caused the feet of Batis, its heroic commandant, to be bored, and brazen rings passed through them; then, intoxicated with memories of Achilles, he dragged the now dead Persian, tied by cords to the royal chariot, at full speed around the city. His increasing resort to drink as a means of quieting his nerves led him more and more frequently, in his last years, to outbreaks of blind ferocity, followed by brooding fits of violent remorse. 

   One quality in him dominated all the rest—ambition. As a youth he had fretted over Philip’s victories: “Father,” he complained to his friends, “will get everything done before we are ready, and will leave me and you no chance of doing anything great and important.” In his passion for achievement he assumed every task, and faced every risk. At Chaeronea he was the first man to charge the Theban Sacred Band; at the Granicus he indulged to the full what he called his “eagerness for encountering danger.” This, too, became an uncontrollable passion; the sound and sight of battle intoxicated him; he forgot then his duties as a general, and plunged ahead into the thickest of the fight; time and again his soldiers, fearful of losing him, had to plead with him to go to the rear. He was not a great general; he was a brave soldier whose obstinate perseverance marched on, with boyish heedlessness of impossibilities, to unprecedented victories. He supplied the inspiration; probably his generals, who were able men, contributed organization, training, tactics, and strategy. He led his troops by the brilliance of his imagination, the fire of his unstudied oratory, the readiness and sincerity with which he shared their hardships and griefs. Without question he was a good administrator: he ruled with kindness and firmness the wide domain that his arms had won; he was loyal to the agreements that he signed with commanders and cities; and he tolerated no oppression of his subjects by his appointees. Amid all the excitement and chaos of his campaigns he kept clearly at the center of his thoughts the great purpose that even his death would not defeat: the unification of the entire eastern Mediterranean world into one cultural whole, dominated and elevated by the expanding civilization of Greece.




On his accession Alexander found himself at the head of a tottering empire. The northern tribes in Thrace and Illyria revolted; Aetolia, Acarnania, Phocis, Elis, Argolis renounced their allegiance; the Ambraciotes expelled the Macedonian garrison; Artaxerxes III boasted that he had instigated the killing of Philip, and that Persia now had nothing to fear from the immature stripling of twenty who had succeeded to the throne. When the glad tidings of Philip’s death reached Athens, Demosthenes donned festal garb, placed a garland of flowers upon his head, and moved in the Assembly that a crown of honor should be voted to the assassin Pausanias. Within Macedonia a dozen factions conspired against the young King’s life. 

   Alexander rose to the situation with a decisive energy that ended all internal opposition, and set the tempo of his career. Having arrested and decapitated the chief plotters at home, he marched south into Greece (336 B.C.), and within a few days reached Thebes. The Greek states hastened to renew their allegiance; Athens sent him a profuse apology, voted him two crowns, and conferred upon him divine honors. Alexander, appeased, declared all dictatorships abolished in Greece, and decreed that each city should live in freedom according to its own laws. The Amphictyonic Council confirmed him in all the rights and honors that it had given to Philip; and a congress of all Greek states except Sparta, meeting at Corinth, proclaimed him captain general of the Greeks, and promised to contribute men and supplies for the Asiatic campaign. Alexander returned to Pella, put the capital in order, and then marched north to suppress the rebellion of the barbarian tribes (335 B.C.). With Napoleonic swiftness he led his troops as far as the modern Bucharest, and planted his standards upon the northern bank of the Danube. Then, hearing that the Illyrians were advancing upon Macedonia, he marched three hundred twenty kilometers through Serbia, surprised the invaders in the rear, defeated them, and drove the remnant back to their mountains. 

   But in the meantime a rumor had stirred Athens that Alexander had been killed in fighting on the Danube. Demosthenes called for a war of independence, and felt justified in accepting large sums from Persia to further his plans. At his instigation Thebes revolted, killed the Macedonian officials left there by Alexander, and besieged the Macedonian garrison in the Cadmeia. Athens sent help to Thebes, and invited Greece and Persia to join in an alliance against Macedon. Alexander, furious over what seemed to him not a passion for freedom but the crudest ingratitude and treachery, marched his weary troops down again into Greece. Reaching Thebes after thirteen days, he defeated the army sent out against him. He left the fate of the defenseless city to her ancient enemies—Plataea, Orchomenos, Thespiae, and Phocis; they voted that Thebes should be burned to the ground, and her inhabitants sold as slaves. Hoping to give other rebels a lesson, Alexander signed the order, but stipulated that the victorious troops should spare the home of Pindar, and the lives of priests and priestesses, and of all Thebans who could prove that they had opposed the revolt. Later he looked back with shame upon this violent revenge, and “was sure to grant without the least difficulty whatsoever any Theban asked of him.” He atoned in part by his leniency with Athens; he forgave her violation of the pledges made to him a year before, and did not press his demand for the surrender of Demosthenes and the other anti-Macedonian leaders. To the end of his life he maintained an attitude of respect and affection for Athens: he dedicated on the Acropolis various spoils from his Asiatic victories, sent back to Athens the Tyrannicide statues that Xerxes had taken away, and remarked, after an arduous campaign, “O ye Athenians, will you believe what dangers I incur to merit your praise?”  

   Having received again the allegiance of all the Greek states except Sparta, Alexander returned to Macedonia, and prepared for the invasion of Asia. He found his state treasury almost empty, with a deficit of five hundred talents as a legacy from Philip’s reign. He borrowed eight hundred talents, and set out to conquer not the world but his debts. He had hoped to fight Persia as the champion of all Hellas, but he knew that half of Greece was praying that he would soon be killed. It was reported that the Persians could muster a million men; Alexander’s expeditionary force did not exceed thirty thousand infantry and five thousand cavalry. Nevertheless the new Achilles, leaving twelve thousand soldiers under Antipater to guard Macedonia and watch Greece, set out in 334 B.C. upon the most daring and romantic enterprise in the history of kings. He would live eleven years more, but would never see home or Europe again. While his army crossed the Hellespont from Sestos to Abydos, he himself chose to land at Cape Sigeum, and retrace what he believed to have been Agamemnon’s path to Troy. At every step he quoted to his comrades passages from the Iliad, which he knew almost by heart. He anointed the reputed tomb of Achilles, crowned it with garlands, and ran naked around it according to the custom of antiquity. “Happy Achilles!” he exclaimed, “to have had in life so faithful a friend, and, after his death, so famous a poet to celebrate him.” He vowed now to carry through to a successful end that long struggle, between Europe and Asia, which had begun at Troy. 

   It is not necessary to our purpose to tell again the story of his victories. He met the first Persian contingent at the river Granicus, and overwhelmed it. There Cleitus saved his life by severing the arm of the Persian who was about to strike Alexander from behind; a whimsical student might build upon such events an accidental interpretation of history. After giving his men a rest he marched down into Ionia, offering the Greek cities democratic self-government under his protectorate. Most of them opened their gates without resistance. At Issus he met the main force of the Persians, 600,000 men, under Darius III. Once more he won by using his cavalry for attack, his infantry for defense. Darius fled, leaving his purse and his family behind him, to be treated the one with gratitude, the other with chivalry. After peaceably taking Damascus and Sidon Alexander laid siege to Tyre, which was harboring a large Phoenician squadron in the pay of Persia. The ancient city resisted so long that when at last he captured it Alexander lost his head and allowed his men to massacre eight thousand Tyrians, and to sell thirty thousand as slaves. Jerusalem surrendered quietly, and was well treated; Gaza fought till every man in the city was dead and every woman raped. 

   The triumphant march of the Macedonians was resumed through the Sinai desert into Egypt, where, when he showed a tactful respect for the country’s gods, Alexander was welcomed as a divinely sent liberator from Persian rule. Knowing that religion is stronger than politics, he crossed another desert to the oasis of Siwa, and paid his respects to the god Ammon—his very father if Olympias could be believed. The pliant priests crowned him Pharaoh with the ancient rites, and so eased the way for the Ptolemaic dynasty. Returning to the Delta, Alexander conceived or approved the idea of building a new capital at one of the Nile’s many mouths; perhaps the Greek merchants at near-by Naucratis suggested it as providing a more convenient depot for the enlarged Greek trade that might now be expected between Egypt and Greece. He marked out the orbit of the walls of Alexandria, the outline of the principal streets, and the sites for temples to the Egyptian and Grecian gods; further details he left to his architect, Dinocrates. (Dinocrates had pleased Alexander by proposing to carve Mt. Athos—one thousand eight hundred and twenty nine meters high—into a figure of Alexander standing waist deep in the sea, holding a city in one hand and a harbor in the other. The project was never carried out). 

   Marching back into Asia, he met the vast polyglot army of Darius at Gaugamela, near Arbela, and was dismayed by their multitude; he knew that one defeat would cancel all his victories. His soldiers comforted him: “Be of good cheer, Sire; do not fear the great number of the enemy, for they will not be able to stand the very smell of goat that clings to us.” He spent the night in reconnoitering the ground on which he was to give battle, and in offering sacrifices to the gods. His victory was decisive. The disorderly hosts of Darius could make no headway against the phalanxes, and knew not how to defend themselves against the swift and incalculable dashes of the Macedonian cavalry; they broke and fled, and Darius was not the last to go. While Darius’ generals assassinated him as a coward, Alexander received the submission of Babylon, partook of its wealth, distributed some of it to his soldiers, but charmed the city by making obeisance to its gods, and decreeing the restoration of its sacred shrines. By the end of the year (331 B.C.) he had reached Susa, whose population, still remembering the ancient glory of Elam, welcomed him as a deliverer. He protected the city from pillage, but comforted his troops by dividing among them some of the fifty thousand talents that he found in Darius’ vaults. To the people of Plataea he sent a substantial sum because they had so bravely resisted the Persians in 480 B.C.; and to the Greek cities of Asia he appears to have remitted the “donations” that he had elicited from them at the outset of his campaign. And he announced proudly to the Greeks of the world that they were now completely free from Persian rule. 

   Hardly stopping to rest at Susa, he marched over mountains in the depth of winter to seize Persepolis; and so rapidly did he move that he was in Darius’ palace before the Persians could conceal the royal treasury. Here again his good judgment left him, and he burned the magnificent city to the ground. His soldiers looted the houses, ravaged the women, and killed the men. Perhaps they had been infuriated by seeing, on their approach to the town, eight hundred Greeks who, for various reasons, had suffered mutilation at the hands of Persians by the cutting off of legs, arms, or ears, or the gouging out of the eyes—but this was no excuse. Alexander, moved to tears by the sight, gave them lands, and assigned dependents to work for them. 

   Still insatiate, he attempted now what Cyrus the Great had failed to accomplish—the subjugation of the tribes that hovered on the eastern borders of Persia. Perhaps in his simple geography he hoped to find, beyond that mystic East, the ocean that would serve as a natural frontier for his conquered realm. Entering Sogdiana, he came upon a village inhabited by the descendants of those Branchidae who, in 480 B.C., had surrendered to Xerxes the treasures of their temple near Miletus. Fevered with the thought that he was revenging the pillaged god, he ordered all the inhabitants slain, including the women and children—visiting the sins of the fathers upon the fifth generation. His campaign in Sogdiana, Ariana, and Bactriana was bloody and bootless; he achieved some victories, found some gold, and left enemies everywhere behind him. Near Bokhara his men captured Bessus, who had slain Darius. Alexander, suddenly making himself the avenger of the Great King, had Bessus whipped almost to death, had his nose and ears cut off, and then sent him to Ecbatana, where he was executed by having his arms tied to one, and his legs to the other, of two trees that had been drawn together by ropes, so that when the ropes were cut the trees pulled the body to pieces. At every new remove from Greece Alexander was becoming less and less a Greek, more and more a barbarian king.   The year 327 B.C. found him passing over the Himalayas into India. Vanity conspired with curiosity to lead him into such distant territory; his generals advised against it, his army obeyed him unwillingly. Crossing the Indus, he defeated King Porus, and announced that he would continue to the Ganges. But his soldiers refused to go farther. He pled with them, and for three days, like a scion of Achilles, pouted in his tent; but they had had enough. Sadly he turned back, loath to face west again, and forced his way through hostile tribes with such personal bravery that his soldiers wept at their inability to realize all his dreams. He was the first to scale the walls of the Mallians; after he and two others had leaped into the city the ladders broke, and they found themselves alone amidst the enemy. Alexander fought till he sank exhausted by his wounds. Meanwhile his troops had made their way into the town, and soldier after soldier sacrificed his life to protect the fallen King. When the battle was over Alexander was carried to his tent, and his veterans kissed his garments as he passed. After three months of convalescence he renewed his march along the Indus, and at last reached the Indian Ocean. There he sent on part of his forces by water under Nearchus, who skillfully accomplished the long voyage in unfamiliar seas. Alexander himself led the rest of his army northwest along the coast of India and through the desert of Gedrosia (Baluchistan), where the sufferings of his men rivaled those of Napoleon’s army on the return from Moscow. Heat killed thousands, thirst killed more. A little water was found, and was brought to Alexander, but he deliberately poured it out upon the ground. When the remnants of his force reached Susa some ten thousand had died, and Alexander was half insane. 




He had now spent nine years in Asia, and he had changed the continent by his victories less than it had transformed him by its ways. He had been told by Aristotle to treat Greeks as freemen, “barbarians” as slaves. But he had been surprised to find among the Persian aristocrats a degree of refinement and good manners not often seen in the turbulent democracies of Greece; he admired the manner in which the Great Kings had organized their empire, and wondered how his rough Macedonians could replace such governors. He concluded that he could give some permanence to his conquests only by reconciling the Persian nobles to his leadership, and using them in administrative posts. More and more charmed by his new subjects, he abandoned the idea of ruling over them as a Macedonian, and conceived himself as a Greco-Persian emperor governing a realm in which Persians and Greeks would be on an equal footing, and would peaceably mingle their culture and their blood. The long quarrel of Europe and Asia would end in a wedding feast. 

   Already thousands of his soldiers had married native women, or were living with them; should he not do likewise, marry the daughter of Darius, and reconcile the nations by begetting a king who would unite both dynasties in his veins? He had already married Roxana, a Bactrian princess; but this was a negligible impediment. He broached the plan to his officers, and suggested that they, too, should take Persian wives. They smiled at his hopes of uniting the two nations, but they had been a long time away from home, and the Persian ladies were beautiful. So in one great nuptial at Susa (324 B.C.) Alexander married Statira, daughter of Darius III, and Parysatis, daughter of Artaxerxes III, attaching himself in this way to both branches of Persian royalty, while eighty of his officers took Persian brides. Thousands of similar marriages were soon afterward celebrated among the soldiers. Alexander gave each officer a substantial dowry, and paid the debts of the marrying soldiers—which amounted (if we may believe Arrian) to twenty thousand talents. To further this union of peoples he opened lands in Mesopotamia and Persia to Greek colonists, thereby reducing the pressure of population in some of the Greek states, and mitigating the class war; now began those Hellenized Asiatic cities which were to be a vital part of the Seleucid Empire. At the same time he drafted thirty thousand Persian youths, had them educated on Greek lines, and taught them the Greek manual of war.  

   Possibly his wives had something to do with his rapid adoption of Oriental ways; possibly it was a failure of modesty, or a part of his plan. “In Persia,” says Plutarch, “he first put on the barbaric” (i.e. foreign) “dress, perhaps with the view of making the work of civilizing the Persians easier, as nothing gains more upon men than a conformity to their customs. . . . However, he followed not the Median fashion . . . but taking a middle way between the Persian mode and the Macedonian, so contrived his habit that it was not so flaunting as the one, and yet more pompous and magnificent than the other.” His soldiers saw in this change the conquest of Alexander by the Orient; they felt that they had lost him, and they mournfully missed the signs of solicitude and affection that he had once showered upon them. The Persians made every obeisance to him, and flattered him to his heart’s content; the Macedonians, themselves softened by Oriental luxury, grumbled at the tasks that he laid upon them, forgot his beneficence, murmured of desertion, and even plotted against his life. He began to prefer the society of the Persian grandees. 

   His culminating apostasy, or diplomacy, was his announcement of his own divinity. In 324 B.C. he sent word to all the Greek states except Macedonia (where the insult to Philip might have aroused resentment) that he wished hereafter to be publicly recognized as the son of Zeus-Amon. Most of the states complied, feeling it to be merely a form; even the obstinate Spartans agreed, saying, “Let Alexander be a god if he wants to.” It was not so much for a man to be a god in the Greek sense of the term; the chasm between humanity and deity was not as wide then as it was to become in modern theology; several Greeks had overleaped it, like Hippodameia, Oedipus, Achilles, Iphigenia, and Helen. The Egyptians had always thought of their Pharaohs as gods; if Alexander had neglected to rank himself similarly the Egyptians might have been disturbed by so bold a violation of precedent. The priests at Siwa, Didyma, and Babylon, who were believed to have special sources of information in this field, had all assured him of his divine origin. That (as Grote thought) Alexander actually believed himself to be a god in a more than metaphorical sense is quite unlikely. It is true that after his self-deification he became increasingly irritable and arrogant; that he sat on a golden throne, wore sacred vestments, and sometimes adorned his head with the horns of Amon. But when he was not playing his divinity for world stakes he smiled at his own honors. Being injured by an arrow, he remarked to some friends, “This, you see, is blood, and not such ichor as flows from the wounds of the Immortals.” That he had not taken too seriously his mother’s tale of the thunderbolt appears from his flaming anger at Attalus’ imputations on his birth, and his remark about the need of sleep as distinguishing man from the gods. Even Olympias laughed when she heard that Alexander had made her legend official. “When,” she asked, “will Alexander stop slandering me to Hera?” Despite his godhead Alexander continued to offer sacrifice to the gods—an unheard-of thing for a divinity. Plutarch and Arrian, able to judge the matter as Greeks, took it for granted that Alexander deified himself as a means to easier rule over a superstitious and heterogeneous population. Doubtless he felt that the task of unifying two hostile worlds would be facilitated by the reverence that the common people would give him if his claims to divinity were accepted by the upper classes. Perhaps, indeed, he thought to overcome the disruptive diversity of faiths in his empire by providing, in his own person, the beginning of a sacred myth and a common unifying faith. (Lucian gives the ancient view in one of his Dialogues of the Dead: “Philip. You cannot deny that you are my son, Alexander; if you had been Amon’s son you would not have died. Alex. I knew all the time that you were my father. I only accepted the statement of the oracle because I thought it was good policy. . . . When the barbarians thought they had a god to deal with, they gave up the struggle; which made their conquest an easy matter.” 

   The Macedonian officers could not fathom Alexander’s policy. The Greek spirit had touched them to the point of mental emancipation, but not to the point of philosophical toleration; they found it humiliating to prostrate themselves, as he now demanded, in approaching the King. One of his bravest officers, Philotas, son of his ablest and most favored general, Parmenio, entered into a conspiracy to kill the new god. Alexander got wind of it, had Philotas arrested, and wrung from him by torture a confession implicating his own father. Philotas was forced to repeat the confession before the soldiers, who, in accord with their custom in such cases, at once stoned him to death; Parmenio was executed by messenger as probably guilty, and in any case a presumptive enemy. From that moment to the end, the relations between Alexander and his army became increasingly strained—the troops ever more discontent, the King ever more suspicious, severe, and lonely. 

   His solitary exaltation and the growing multitude of his cares inclined him to seek forgetfulness in heavy draughts of wine. At a banquet in Samarkand Cleitus, who had saved his life at the Granicus, drank himself into such candor as to tell Alexander that his victories had been won by his soldiers rather than by him, and that Philip’s achievement had been much greater. Alexander, equally drunk, rose to strike him, but Ptolemy Lagus (soon to be ruler of Egypt) hurried Cleitus away. Cleitus, however, had more to say; he escaped from Ptolemy, and went back to finish his tirade. Alexander hurled a lance at him and killed him. Overcome with remorse, the King secluded himself for three days, refused to eat, fell into hysteria, and tried to end his own life. Soon afterward Hermolaus, a page whom Alexander had unjustly punished, formed another conspiracy against him. The boy was apprehended, and under torture made a confession incriminating Aristotle’s nephew Callisthenes. The latter, who was accompanying the expedition as official historian, had already offended the King by refusing to prostrate himself before him, openly criticizing him for his Oriental ways, and boasting that Alexander would be known to posterity only through Callisthenes the historian. Alexander had him put in prison, where, seven months later, he died. (There are conflicting stories about his guilt and his death. He left three main works: Hellenica, a history of Greece from 387 to 337 B.C.; a History of the Sacred War, and a History of Alexander). This incident put an end to the friendship between Alexander and Aristotle, who had for years been risking his life to defend Alexander’s cause in Athens. 

   In the end the discontent in the army verged on open mutiny. When the King announced that he would send back to Macedon the oldest of the soldiers, each richly paid for his services, (each of them, Arrian assures us, received a talent in addition to his pay—which continued till he reached his home) he was shocked to hear many muttering that they wished he would dismiss them all, since, being a god, he had no need of men to realize his purposes. He ordered the leaders of the sedition executed, and then addressed to his troops an affecting (but probably apocryphal) speech in which he reminded them of all that they had done for him, and he for them, and asked which of them could show more scars than he, whose body bore the marks of every weapon used in war. Finally he gave them all permission to go home: “Go back and report that you deserted your king and left him to the protection of conquered foreigners.” Then he retired to his rooms, and refused to see anyone. His soldiers, stricken with remorse, came and lay down before the palace, saying that they would not leave till he had forgiven them and reaccepted them into his army. When at last he appeared they broke into tears and insisted on kissing him; and after being reconciled with him they went back to their camp shouting a song of thanksgiving. 

   Deceived by this show of affection, Alexander dreamed now of further campaigns and victories; he planned the subjugation of hidden Arabia, sent a mission to explore the Caspian regions, and thought of conquering Europe to the Pillars of Hercules. But his strong frame had been weakened by exposure and drink, and his spirit by the conspiracies of his officers and the mutinies of his men. While the army was in Ecbatana his dearest companion, Hephaestion, fell sick and died. Alexander had loved him so much that when Darius’ queen, entering the conqueror’s tent, bowed first to Hephaestion, thinking him Alexander, the young King said, graciously, “Hephaestion is also Alexander”—as if to say that he and Hephaestion were one. The two often shared one tent, and drank from one cup; in battle they fought side by side. Now the King, feeling that half of him had been torn away, broke down in uncontrolled grief. He lay for hours upon the corpse, weeping; he cut off his hair in mourning, and for days refused to take food. He sentenced to death the physician who had left the sick youth’s side to attend the public games. He ordered a gigantic funeral pile to be erected in Hephaestion’s memory, at a cost, we are told, of ten thousand talents, and sent to inquire of the oracle of Amon whether it was permitted to worship Hephaestion as a god. In his next campaign a whole tribe was slain, at his orders, as a sacrifice to Hephaestion’s ghost. The thought that Achilles had not long survived Patroclus haunted him like a sentence of death. 

   Back in Babylon, he abandoned himself more and more to drink. One night, reveling with his officers, he proposed a drinking match. Promachus quaffed eleven liters of wine, and won the prize, a talent; three days later he died. Shortly afterward, at another banquet, Alexander drained a goblet containing five and a half liters of wine. On the next night he drank heavily again; and cold weather suddenly setting in, he caught a fever, (perhaps brought about by bacterial poisoning in water from the river Styx) and took to his bed. The fever raged for ten days, during which Alexander continued to give orders to his army and his fleet. On the eleventh day he died, being in the thirty-third year of his age [June 6, 323 B.C. (Gregorian)]. When his generals asked him to whom he left his empire he answered, “To the strongest.” 

   Like most great men he had been unable to find a successor worthy of him, and his work fell unfinished from his hands. Even so his achievement was not only immense, but also far more permanent than has usually been supposed. Acting as the agent of historical necessity, he put an end to the era of city-states, and, by sacrificing a substantial measure of local freedom, created a larger system of stability and order than Europe had yet known. His conception of government as absolutism using religion to impose peace upon diverse nations dominated Europe until the rise of nationalism and democracy in modern times. He broke down the barriers between Greek and “barbarian,” and prepared for the cosmopolitanism of the Hellenistic age; he opened Hither Asia to Greek colonization, and established Greek settlements as far east as Bactria; he united the eastern Mediterranean world into one great web of commerce, liberating and stimulating trade. He brought Greek literature, philosophy, and art to Asia, and died before he could realize that he had also made a pathway for the religious victory of the East over the West. His adoption of Oriental dress and ways was the beginning of Asia’s revenge, but the three centuries after his death are called the Hellenistic Age and during this period Greek language and culture spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean world. 

   It was just as well that he died at his zenith; added years would almost surely have brought him disillusionment. Perhaps if he had lived he might have been deepened by defeat and suffering, and might have learned—as he was beginning—to love statesmanship more than war. But he had undertaken too much; the strain of holding his swollen realm together, and watching all its parts, was probably disordering his brilliant mind. Energy is only half of genius; the other half is harness; and Alexander was all energy. We miss in him—though we have no right to expect—the calm maturity of Caesar, or the subtle wisdom of Augustus. We admire him as we admire Napoleon, because he stood alone against half the world, and because he encourages us with the thought of the incredible power that lies potential in the individual soul. And we feel a natural sympathy for him, despite his superstitions and his cruelties, because we know that he was at least a generous and affectionate youth, as well as incomparably able and brave; that he fought against a maddening heritage of barbarism in his blood; and that through all battles and all bloodshed he kept before his eyes the dream of bringing the light of Greece to a larger world.


10. Julius Caesar (reigned 59-44 BC)









Caius Julius Caesar traced his pedigree to Iulus Ascanius, son of Aeneas, son of Venus, daughter of Jupiter: he began and ended as a god. The Julian gens, though impoverished, was one of the oldest and noblest in Italy. A Caius Julius had been consul in 489 B.C., another in 482, a Vopiscus Julius in 473, a Sextus Julius in 157, another in 91 B.C..  From his uncle-in-law Marius he derived by a kind of avuncular heredity an inclination toward radical politics. His mother Aurelia was a matron of dignity and wisdom, frugally managing her small home in the unfashionable Subura—a district of shops, taverns, and brothels. There Caesar was born 100 B.C., allegedly by the operation that bears his name. (It was already an ancient mode of birth, being mentioned in the laws ascribed to Numa. Caesar’s cognomen was not derived from the operation [caesus ab utero matris]; long before him there had been Caesars among the Julii). 

   “Now was this Caesar,” says Holland’s Suetonius, “wondrous docible and apt to learn.” His tutor in Latin, Greek, and rhetoric was a Gaul; with him Caesar unconsciously began to prepare himself for his greatest conquest. The youth took readily to oratory and almost lost himself in juvenile authorship. Being made military aide to Marcus Thermus in Asia saved him. Nicomedes, ruler of Bithynia, took such a fancy to him that Cicero and other gossips later taunted him with having “lost his virginity to a king.” Returning to Rome in 84 B.C., he married Cossutia to please his father; when, soon afterward, his father died, he divorced her and married Cornelia, daughter of that Cinna who had taken over the revolution from Marius. When Sulla came to power he ordered Caesar to divorce Cornelia; when Caesar refused, Sulla confiscated his patrimony and Cornelia’s dowry, and listed him for death. 

   Caesar fled from Italy and joined the army in Cilicia. On Sulla’s death he returned to Rome (78 B.C.), but finding his enemies in power he left again for Asia. Pirates captured him on the way, took him to one of their Cilician lairs, and offered to free him for twenty talents; he reproached them for underestimating his value, and volunteered to give them fifty. Having sent his servants to raise the money, he amused himself by writing poems and reading them to his captors. They did not like them. He called them dull barbarians and promised to hang them at the earliest opportunity. When the ransom came he hurried to Miletus, engaged vessels and crews, chased and caught the pirates, recovered the ransom, and crucified them; but being a man of great clemency, he had their throats cut first. Then he went to Rhodes to study rhetoric and philosophy. 

   Back again in Rome, he divided his energies between politics and love. He was handsome, though already worried about his thinning hair. When Cornelia died (68 B.C.) he married Pompeia, granddaughter of Sulla. As this was a purely political marriage, he did not scruple to carry on liaisons in the fashion of his time; but in such number and with such ambigendered diversity that Curio (father of his later general) called him onmium mulierum vir et omnium virorum mulier—“the husband of every woman and the wife of every man.” He would continue these habits in his campaigns, dallying with Cleopatra in Egypt, with Queen Eunoe in Numidia, and with so many ladies in Gaul that his soldiers in fond jest called him moechus calvus, the “bald adulterer;” in his triumph after conquering Gaul they sang a couplet warning all husbands to keep their wives under lock and key as long as Caesar was in town. The aristocracy hated him doubly—for undermining their privileges and seducing their wives. Pompey divorced his wife for her intimacy with Caesar. Cato’s passionate hostility was not all philosophical: his half sister Servilia was the most devoted of Caesar’s mistresses. When Cato, suspecting Caesar’s complicity with Catiline, challenged him in the Senate to read aloud a note just brought to him, Caesar passed it to Cato without comment; it was a love letter from Servilia. Her passion for him continued throughout his life, and merciless gossip, in her later years, charged her with surrendering her daughter Tertia to Caesar’s lust. During the Civil War, at a public auction, Caesar “knocked down” some confiscated estates of irreconcilable aristocrats to Servilia at a nominal price; when some expressed surprise at the low figure, Cicero remarked, in a pithy pun that might have cost him his life, Tertia deducta, which could either mean “a third off,” or refer to the rumor that Servilia had brought her daughter to Caesar. Tertia became the wife of Caesar’s prime assassin, Cassius. So the amours of men mingle with the commotions of states. 

   Probably these diversified investments helped Caesar’s rise as well as his fall. Every woman he won was an influential friend, usually in the enemy’s camp; and most of them remained his devotees even when his passion had cooled to courtesy. Crassus, though his wife Tertulla was reported to be Caesar’s mistress, lent him vast sums to finance his candidacies with bribes and games; at one time Caesar owed him 800 talents. Such loans were not acts of generosity or friendship; they were campaign contributions, to be repaid with political favors or military spoils. Crassus, like Atticus, needed protection and opportunities for his millions. Most Roman politicians of the time incurred similar “debts”: Mark Antony owed 40,000,000 sesterces, Cicero 60,000,000, Milo 70,000,000—though these figures may be conservative slanders. We must think of Caesar as at first an unscrupulous politician and a reckless rake, slowly transformed by growth and responsibility into one of history’s most profound and conscientious statesmen. We must not forget, as we rejoice at his faults, that he was a great man notwithstanding. We cannot equate ourselves with Caesar by proving that he seduced women, bribed ward leaders, and wrote books.  




Caesar began as the secret ally of Catiline and ended as the remaker of Rome. Hardly a year after Sulla’s death he prosecuted Gnaeus Dolabella, a tool of the Sullan reaction; the jury voted against Caesar, but the people applauded his democratic offensive and his brilliant speech. He could not rival Cicero’s verve and wit, passionate periods, and rhetorical flagellations; indeed, Caesar disliked this “Asianic” style and disciplined himself to the masculine brevity and stern simplicity that were to distinguish his Commentaries on the Gallic and Civil Wars. Nevertheless, he was soon ranked as second only to Cicero in eloquence. 

   In 68 B.C. he was chosen quaestor and was assigned to serve in Spain. He led military expeditions against the native tribes, sacked towns, and collected enough plunder to payoff some of his debts. At the same time he won the gratitude of Spanish cities by lowering the interest charges on the sums that had been lent them by the Roman bankers. Coming at Gades upon a statue of Alexander, he reproached himself for having accomplished so little at an age when the Macedonian had conquered half the Mediterranean world. He returned to Rome and plunged again into the race for office and power. In 65 B.C. he was elected aedile, or commissioner of public works. He spent his moneyi.e. the money of Crassusin adorning the Forum with new buildings and colonnades, and courted the populace with unstinted games. Sulla had removed from the Capitol the trophies of Mariusbanners, pictures, and spoils representing the features and victories of the old radical; Caesar had these restored, to the joy of Marius’ veterans; and by that act alone he announced his rebel policy. The conservatives protested and marked him out as a man to be broken.  

   In 64 B.C., as president of a commission appointed to try cases of murder, he summoned to his tribunal the surviving agents of Sulla’s proscriptions and sentenced several of them to exile or death. In 63 B.C. he voted in the Senate against the execution of Catiline’s accomplices and remarked casually, in his speech, that human personality does not outlive death; it was apparently the only part of his speech that offended no one. In that same year he was elected pontifex maximus, head of the Roman religion. In 62 B.C. he was chosen praetor, and prosecuted a leading conservative for embezzling public funds. In 61 B.C. he was appointed propraetor for Spain, but his creditors prevented his departure. He admitted that he needed 25,000,000 sesterces in order to have nothing. Crassus came to his rescue by underwriting all his obligations. Caesar proceeded to Spain, led militarily brilliant campaigns against tribes with a passion for independence, and came back to Rome with spoils enough to payoff his debts and yet so enrich the Treasury that the Senate voted him a triumph. Perhaps the optimates (the optimates, or “best people,” made nobilitas their creed; not in the sense of noblesse oblige, but on the theory that good government required the restriction of major magistracies to men whose ancestors had held high office. Anyone who ran for office without such forebears was scorned as novus homo—a “new man,” or upstart; such were Marius and Cicero. The populares demanded “career open to talent,” all power to the assemblies, and free land for veterans and the poor. Neither party believed in democracy; both aspired to dictatorship, and both practiced intimidation and corruption without conscience or concealment) were subtle; they knew that Caesar wished to stand for the consulate, that the law forbade candidacy in absence, and that the triumphator was required by law to remain outside the city until the day of his triumph—which the Senate had set for after the election. But Caesar forewent his triumph, entered the city, and campaigned with irresistible energy and skill. 

   His victory was obtained by his clever attachment of Pompey to the liberal cause. Pompey had just returned from the East after a succession of military and diplomatic achievements. By clearing the sea of pirates he had restored security to Mediterranean trade, and prosperity to the cities it served. He had pleased the capitalists of Rome by conquering Bithynia, Pontus, and Syria; he had deposed and set up kings and had lent them money from his spoils at lush rates of interest; he had accepted a huge bribe from the king of Egypt to come and quell a revolt there, and then had refrained from carrying out the compact on the ground that it was illegal; he had pacified Palestine and made it a client state of Rome; he had founded thirty-nine cities and had established law, order, and peace; all in all he had behaved with judgment, statesmanship, and profit. Now he had brought back to Rome such wealth in taxes and tribute, goods captured and slaves ransomed or sold, that he was able to contribute 200,000,000 sesterces to the Treasury, add 350,000,000 to its annual revenues, distribute 384,000,000 among his soldiers, and yet keep enough for himself to rival Crassus as one of the two richest men in Rome. 

   The Senate was more frightened than pleased at these accomplishments. It trembled when it heard that Pompey had landed at Brundisium (62 B.C.) with an army personally devoted to him and capable at his word of making him dictator. He magnanimously relieved its fears by disbanding his troops and entering Rome with no other retinue than his personal staff. His triumph lasted two days, but even that time proved insufficient for all the floats that pictured his victories and displayed his garnerings. The ungrateful Senate rejected his request that state lands be given his soldiers, refused to ratify his agreements with conquered kings, and restored those arrangements that Lucullus had made in the East and which Pompey had ignored. The effect of these actions was to break down Cicero’s concordia ordinum, or alliance of the higher classes, and throw Pompey and the capitalists into a flirtation with the populares. Taking full advantage of the situation, Caesar formed with Pompey and Crassus the First Triumvirate (60 B.C.), by which each pledged himself to oppose legislation unsatisfactory to anyone of them. Pompey agreed to support Caesar for the consulate, and Caesar promised, if elected, to carry through the measures in which the Senate had rebuffed Pompey. 

   The campaign was bitter, and bribery flourished on both sides. When Cato, leader of the conservatives, heard that his party was buying votes, he unbent and approved the procedure as in a noble cause. The populares elected Caesar, the optimates Bibulus. Caesar had hardly entered upon his consulate (59 B.C.) when he proposed to the Senate the measures asked for by Pompey: a distribution of land to 20,000 of the poorer citizens, including Pompey’s soldiers; the ratification of Pompey’s arrangements in the East; and a one-third reduction of the sum which the publicans had pledged themselves to raise from the Asiatic provinces. As the Senate opposed each of these measures by every means, Caesar, like the Gracchi, offered them directly to the Assembly. The conservatives induced Bibulus to use his veto power to forbid a vote, and had omens declared unfavorable. Caesar ignored the omens and persuaded the Assembly to impeach Bibulus; and an enthusiastic popularis emptied a pot of ordure upon Bibulus’ head. Caesar’s bills were carried. As in the case of the Gracchi, they combined an agrarian policy with a financial program pleasing to the business class. Pompey was impressed by Caesar’s performance of his pledges. He took Caesar’s daughter Julia as his fourth wife, and the entente between plebs and bourgeoisie became a feast of love. The Triumvirs promised the radical wing of their following that they would support Publius Clodius for the tribunate in the fall of 59 B.C.. Meanwhile they kept the voters in good humor with profuse amusements and games. 

   In April Caesar submitted his second land bill, by which the areas owned by the state in Campania were to be distributed among poor citizens who had three children. The Senate was again ignored, the Assembly passed the bill, and, after a century of effort, the Gracchan policy triumphed. Bibulus kept to his house and contented himself with periodical announcements that the omens were unpropitious to legislation. Caesar administered public affairs without consulting him, so that the town wits referred to the year as “the consulate of Julius and Caesar.” To bring the Senate under public scrutiny, he established the first newspaper by having clerks make a record of Senatorial and other public proceedings and news, and post these Acta Diurna, or “Daily Doings,” on the walls of the forums. From these walls the reports were copied and sent by private messengers to all parts of the Empire. 

   Toward the end of this historic consulate Caesar had himself appointed governor of Cisalpine and Narbonese Gaul for the ensuing five years. As no troops could lawfully be stationed in Italy, the command over the legions stationed in north Italy gave its possessor military power over the whole peninsula. To guarantee the maintenance of his legislation, Caesar secured the election of his friends Gabinius and Piso as consuls for 58 B.C. and married Piso’s daughter Calpurnia. To ensure continued support from the plebs he lent his decisive aid to the election of Clodius as tribune for 58 B.C.. He did not let his plans be influenced by the fact that he had recently divorced his third wife, Pompeia, on suspicion of adultery with Clodius. 




Publius Clodius Pulcher (the Handsome) was a scion of the Claudian gens, a young aristocrat whose courage knew no fear and his morals no restraint. Like Catiline and Caesar he descended from his rank to lead the poor against the rich. To be eligible as a tribune of the people he had himself adopted into a plebeian family. To redistribute the concentrated wealth of Rome and to destroy Cicerowho had abused his sister Clodia and stood for the sanctity of propertyhe served as a subaltern to Caesar until he could take power into his own hands. He admired Caesar’s policies and loved Caesar’s wife. To gain access to her he disguised himself as a woman, entered the house of Caesar, then (62 B.C.) high priest, took part in the ceremonies offered by women alone to the Bona Dea, was detected, accused, and publicly tried (61 B.C.) for having violated the mysteries of the Good Goddess. Caesar, called as a witness, said that he had no charge to make against Clodius. Why, then, asked the prosecutor, had he divorced Pompeia? “Because,” said Caesar, “my wife must be above suspicion.” It was a clever answer, which neither exonerated nor condemned a valuable political aid. Various witnessesperhaps bribedtold the court that Clodius had had relations with Clodia and had seduced his sister Tertia after her marriage to Lucullus. Clodius protested that he had been away from Rome on the day of the alleged sacrilege; Cicero, however, testified that Clodius had on that day been with him in Rome. The populace thought the whole affair a Senatorial plot to destroy a populares leader and cried out for acquittal. Crassussome say at Caesar’s behestbribed a number of judges for Clodius. The radicals for once had the more money, and Clodius was freed. Caesar took advantage of the situation to exchange an inconveniently conservative wife for the daughter of a senator allied to the popular cause. 

   He had hardly retired from office when some conservatives proposed the complete annulment of his legislation. Cato did not conceal his opinion that these “Julian laws” should be wiped off the statute books. The Senate hesitated to fling so open a challenge to Caesar armed with legions and to Clodius wielding the tribunate. In 63 B.C. Cato had wooed the populace for the conservatives by renewing the state distribution of cheap corn; now (58 B.C.) Clodius countered by making the dole completely free to all who came for it. He passed bills through the Assembly forbidding the use of religious vetoes against legislative procedures and restoring the legality of the collegia, which the Senate had tried to disband. He reorganized these guilds into voting blocs and won such fealty from them that they provided him with an armed guard. Fearing that after his year as tribune had expired Cato or Cicero might attempt to undo Caesar’s work, Clodius persuaded the Assembly to send Cato as commissioner to Cyprus, and to pass a decree banishing any man who had put Roman citizens to death without securing, as law required, the Assembly’s consent. Cicero saw that the measure was aimed at him and fled to Greece, where cities and dignitaries rivaled one another in offering him hospitality and honors. The Assembly decreed that Cicero’s property should be confiscated, and his house on the Palatine was razed to the ground. 

   It was Cicero’s good fortune that Clodius, overcome with success, now attacked both Pompey and Caesar, and planned to make himself sole leader of the plebs. Pompey retaliated by supporting the petition of Cicero’s brother Quintus for the orator’s recall. The Senate appealed to all Roman citizens in Italy to come to the capital and vote on the proposal. Clodius brought an armed gang into the Field of Mars to supervise the balloting, and Pompey engaged a needy aristocrat, Annius Milo, to organize a rival band. Riot and bloodshed ensued, many men were killed, and Quintus barely escaped with his life. But his measure carried, and after months of exile Cicero returned in triumph to Italy (57 B.C.). Multitudes greeted him as he passed from Brundisium to Rome; there the welcoming crowd was so great that Cicero feigned fear that he would be accused of having contrived his banishment for the sake of this glorious restoration. 

   Apparently he had pledged himself to Pompey, and perhaps to Caesar, as the price of his recall. Caesar lent him large sums to recoup his finances and refused to take interest. For several years now Cicero became the advocate of the Triumvirs in the Senate. When a dearth of grain threatened Rome (57 B.C.), he secured for Pompey an extraordinary commission with full power for six years over all the food supply of Rome and over all ports and trade. Pompey again acquitted himself well, but the constitution of the Republic suffered another blow, and government by men continued to replace government by laws. In 56 B.C. Cicero persuaded the Senate to vote a substantial amount for the payment of Caesar’s troops in Gaul. In 54 B.C. he unsuccessfully defended the extortionate provincial administration of Aulus Gabinius, a friend of the Triumvirs. In 55 B.C. he canceled all the favor he had gained with Caesar by an abusive attack upon another provincial governor, Calpurnius Piso. He remembered too vividly that Piso had voted for his banishment; he forgot that Piso’s daughter was Caesar’s wife. 

   Upon Cato’s return (57 B.C.) from his brilliant reorganization of Cyprian affairs, the conservatives re-formed their lines. Clodius, now the enemy of Pompey, accepted the invitation of the aristocracy to lend it the assistance of his popularity and his thugs. Literature took on an anti-Caesarian tint; the epigrams of Calvus and Catullus flew like poisoned darts into the camp of the Triumvirs. As Caesar moved farther and farther into Gaul, and news came of the many dangers that he faced, hope sprung anew in noble breasts; after all, said Cicero, there are many ways in which a man may die. If we may believe Caesar, several conservatives opened negotiations with Ariovistus, the German leader, for the assassination of Caesar. Domitius, running for the consulate, announced that if elected he would at once move for Caesar’s recall—which meant Caesar’s indictment and trial. Veering with the wind, Cicero proposed that on May 23, 56 B.C., the Senate should consider the abrogation of Caesar’s land laws.




In the spring of 58 B.C. Caesar took up his duties as governor of Cisalpine and Narbonese Gaul-i.e. northern Italy and southern France. In 71 B.C. Ariovistus had led 15,000 Germans into Gaul at the request of one Gallic tribe seeking assistance against another. He had provided the desired aid and then had remained to establish his rule over all the tribes of northeastern Gaul. One of these, the Aedui, appealed to Rome for help against the Germans (61 B.C.); the Senate authorized the Roman governor of Narbonese Gaul to comply, but almost at the same time it listed Ariovistus among rulers friendly to Rome. Meanwhile 120,000 Germans crossed the Rhine, settled in Flanders, and so strengthened Ariovistus that he treated the native population as subject peoples and dreamed of conquering all Gaul. At the same time the Helvetii, centering about Geneva, began migrating westward, 368,000 strong, and Caesar was warned that they planned to cross his province of Narbonese Gaul on their way to southwestern France. “From the sources of the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean,” says Mommsen, “the German tribes were in motion; the whole line of the Rhine was threatened by them; it was a movement like that when the Alemanni and the Franks threw themselves upon the falling empire of the Caesars . . . five hundred years afterward.” While Rome plotted against him, Caesar plotted to save Rome. 

   At his own expense, and without the authority he should have sought from the Senate, he raised and equipped four extra legions besides the four already provided him. He sent a peremptory invitation to Ariovistus to come and discuss the situation; as he had expected, Ariovistus refused. Deputations came now to Caesar from many Gallic tribes, asking for his protection. Caesar declared war against both Ariovistus and the Helvetii, marched northward, and met the Helvetian avalanche in a bloody battle at Bibracte, capital of the Aedui, near the modern Autun. Caesar’s legions won, but by a narrow margin; in these matters we must for the most part follow his own account. The Helvetii offered to return to their Swiss homeland; Caesar agreed to give them safe passage, but on condition that their territory should accept the rule of Rome. All Gaul now sent him thanks for its deliverance, and begged his aid in expelling Ariovistus. He met the Germans near Ostheim, (sixteen kilometers west of the Rhine, 257 kilometers south of Cologne) and slew or captured (he tells us) nearly all of them (58 B.C.). Ariovistus escaped, but died soon afterward. 

   Caesar took it for granted that his liberation of Gaul was also a conquest of it: he began at once to reorganize it under Roman authority, with the excuse that in no other way could it be protected against Germany. Some Gauls, unconvinced, rebelled, and invoked the aid of the Belgae, a powerful tribe of Germans and Celts inhabiting north Gaul between the Seine and the Rhine. Caesar defeated their army on the banks of the Aisne; then, with a celerity of movement that never allowed his foes to unite, he moved in succession against the Suessiones, Ambiani, Nervii, and Aduatici, conquered them, despoiled them, and sold the captives to the slave merchants of Italy. Somewhat prematurely he announced the conquest of Gaul; the Senate proclaimed it a Roman province (56 B.C.), and the common people of Rome, as imperialistic as any general, shouted the praises of their distant champion. Caesar re-crossed the Alps into Cisalpine Gaul, busied himself with its internal administration, replenished his legions, and invited Pompey and Crassus to meet him at Luca to plan a united defense against the conservative reaction. 

   To forestall Domitius they agreed that Pompey and Crassus should run against him for the consulate for 55 B.C.; that Pompey should be made governor of Spain, and Crassus of Syria, for five years (54-50 B.C.); that Caesar should be continued for another five years (53-49 B.C.) as governor of Gaul; and that at the end of this term he should be allowed to seek a second consulate. He furnished his colleagues and friends, from the booty of Gaul, with funds to finance their campaigns; he sent great sums to Rome to provide work for the unemployed, commissions for his supporters, and prestige for himself, by an extensive program of public buildings; and he so oiled the palms of the senators who came to sample his loot that the movement to repeal his laws collapsed. Pompey and Crassus were elected consuls after the usual bribery, and Caesar returned to the task of persuading the Gauls that peace is sweeter than freedom. 

   Trouble was brewing on the Rhine below Cologne. Two German tribes had crossed into Belgic Gaul as far as Liége, and the nationalist party in Gaul was seeking their help against the Romans. Caesar met the invaders near Xanten (55 B.C.), drove them back to the Rhine, and slew such of themwomen and children as well as menas were not drowned in the river. His engineers then built in ten days a bridge over the great stream, there 427 meters wide; Caesar’s legions crossed, and fought long enough on German soil to establish the Rhine as a secure frontier. After two weeks he retraced his steps into Gaul. 

   We do not know why he now invaded Britain. Possibly he was lured by rumors that gold or pearls abounded there; or he wished to capture the tin and iron deposits of Britain for Roman exportation; or he resented the aid that Britons had sent to the Gauls, and thought that Roman power in Gaul must be made secure in every direction. He led a small force across the Channel at its narrowest point, defeated the unprepared Britons, took a few notes, and returned (55 B.C.). A year later he crossed again, overcame the British under Cassivelaunus, reached the Thames, exacted promise of tribute, and sailed back to Gaul. 

   Perhaps he had heard that revolt was once more agitating the Gallic tribes. He suppressed the Eburones and marched again into Germany (53 B.C.). Returning, he left his main army in northern Gaul, while with his remaining troops he went to winter in north Italy, hoping to devote a few months to mending his fences in Rome. But early in 52 B.C. word came to him that Vercingetorix, the ablest of the Gallic chieftains, had united nearly all the tribes in a war for independence. Caesar’s situation was precarious in the extreme. Most of his legions were in the north, and the country between them and himself was in rebel hands. He led a small detachment over the snow-covered Cevennes against Auvergne; when Vercingetorix brought up his forces to defend it, Caesar left Decimus Brutus in command and, with a few horsemen, rode in disguise across all Gaul from south to north, rejoined his main army, and at once led them to the attack. He besieged, captured, and sacked Avaricum (Bourges) and Cenabum (Orléans), massacred their populations, and replenished his depleted supplies with their treasuries. He moved on to assail Gergovia; there, however, the Gauls resisted so resolutely that he was compelled to withdraw. The Aedui, whom he had rescued from the Germans, and who heretofore had remained his allies, now deserted him, captured his base and stores at Soissons, and prepared to drive him back into Narbonese Gaul. 

   It was the lowest ebb of Caesar’s fortunes, and for a time he considered himself lost. He staked everything upon a siege of Alesia (Alise Ste.-Reine), where Vercingetorix had gathered 30,000 troops. Caesar had hardly distributed a like number of soldiers around the city when word came that 250,000 Gauls were marching down upon him from the north. He ordered his men to raise two concentric walls of earth around the city, one before them, the other behind them. Against these walls and the desperate Romans the armies of Vercingetorix and his allies threw themselves in repeated vain attacks. After a week the army of relief broke up in disorder for lack of discipline and supplies, and melted into ineffectual bands at the very moment when the Romans had reached the end of their stores. Soon thereafter the starving city sent Vercingetorix at his own suggestion as a prisoner to Caesar, and then surrendered to the Roman’s mercy (51 B.C.). The town was spared, but all its soldiers were given to the legionaries as slaves. Vercingetorix was led in chains to Rome; there he later graced Caesar’s triumph and paid with his life for his devotion to liberty. 

   The siege of Alesia decided the fate of Gaul and the character of French civilization. It added to the Roman Empire a country twice the size of Italy and opened the purses and markets of 5,000,000 people to Roman trade. It saved Italy and the Mediterranean world for four centuries from barbarian invasion; and it lifted Caesar from the verge of ruin to a new height of reputation, wealth, and power. After another year of sporadic revolts, which the angry general put down with uncharacteristic severity, all Gaul accepted subjection to Rome. Once his victory was certain Caesar became again the generous conqueror; he treated the tribes with such lenience that in all the ensuing Civil War, when he and Rome would have been helpless to retaliate, they made no move to throw off the yoke. For three hundred years Gaul remained a Roman province, prospered under the Roman peace, learned and transformed the Latin language, and became the channel through which the culture of classic antiquity passed into northern Europe. Doubtless neither Caesar nor his contemporaries foresaw the immense consequences of his bloody triumph. He thought he had saved Italy, won a province, and forged an army; he did not suspect that he was the creator of French civilization. 

   Rome, which had known Caesar only as a spendthrift, rake, politician, and reformer, was amazed to find him also a tireless administrator and a resourceful general. At the same time it discovered in him a major historian. In the midst of his campaigns, disturbed by the attacks upon him in Rome, he had recorded and defended his conquest of Gaul in Commentaries whose military conciseness and artful simplicity raised them, despite a thousand milia passuum, from a partisan pamphlet to a high place in Latin literature. Even Cicero, shifting again, sang a paean in his praise, and anticipated the verdict of history:


   It is not the ramparts of the Alps, nor the foaming and flooding Rhine, but the arms and generalship of Caesar which I account our true shield and barrier against the invasion of the Gauls and the barbarous tribes of Germany. It is to him we owe it that, should the mountains be leveled with the plain and the rivers be dried up, we should still hold our Italy fortified not by nature’s bulwarks but by the exploits and victories of Caesar.


To which should be added the tribute of the great German historian Mommsen:


              That there is a bridge connecting the past glory of Hellas and Rome with      the prouder fabric of modern history, that western Europe is Romanic, and Germanic Europe classic . . . all this is the work of Caesar; and while the creation of his great predecessor in the East has been almost wholly reduced to ruin by the tempests of the Middle Ages, the structure of Caesar has outlasted those thousands of years which have changed religions and states.     




During the second quinquennium of Caesar in Gaul, Roman politics had become an unparalleled chaos of corruption and violence. Pompey and Crassus, as consuls, pursued their policies by the bribery of votes, the intimidation of juries, and occasional murder. When their year of office ended, Crassus recruited and conscripted a large army and sailed for Syria. He crossed the Euphrates and met the Parthians at Carrhae. Their superior cavalry defeated him, and his son fell in the battle. Crassus was withdrawing his forces in good order when the Parthian general invited him to a conference. He went and was treacherously slain. His head was sent to play the part of Pentheus in a performance of Euripides’ Bacchae at the Parthian court; and his leaderless army, long wearied of the campaign, disappeared in a disorderly rout (53 B.C.). 

   Meanwhile Pompey too had levied an army, presumably to complete the conquest of Spain. Had Caesar’s plans matured, Pompey would have brought Farther Spain, and Crassus Armenia and Parthia, within the orbit of Roman power at the same time that Caesar was extending the frontier to the Thames and the Rhine. Instead of leading his legions to Spain, Pompey kept them in Italy, except for one that he lent to Caesar in the crisis of the Gallic revolt. In 54 B.C. the strongest tie that held him to Caesar was cut by the death of his wife Julia in childbirth. Caesar offered him his grandniece Octavia, now Caesar’s nearest female relative, and asked for the hand of Pompey’s daughter; but Pompey refused both proposals. The debacle of Crassus and his army in the following year removed another balancing force, for a victorious Crassus would have opposed the dictatorship of either Caesar or Pompey. Henceforth Pompey openly allied himself with the conservatives. His plan to secure supreme power through legal forms had now only one obstaclethe ambition and army of Caesar. Knowing that Caesar’s command would expire in 49 B.C., Pompey secured decrees continuing his own command to the end of 46 B.C., and requiring all Italians capable of bearing arms to take an oath of military fealty to him personally; in this way, he trusted, time itself would make him master of Rome. 

   While the potential dictators maneuvered for position, the capital filled with the odor of a dying democracy. Verdicts, offices, provinces, and client kings were sold to the highest bidders. In the year 53 B.C. the first voting division in the Assembly was paid 10,000,000 sesterces for its vote. When money failed, murder was available; or a man’s past was raked over, and blackmail brought him to terms. Crime flourished in the city, brigandage in the country; no police force existed to control it. Rich men hired bands of gladiators to protect them, or to support them in the comitia. The lowest elements in Italy were attracted to Rome by the smell of money or the gift of corn, and made the meetings of the Assembly a desecration. Any man who would vote as paid was admitted to the rolls, whether citizen or not; sometimes only a minority of those who cast ballots were entitled to vote. The privilege of addressing the Assembly had on several occasions to be won by storming the rostrum and holding it by main force. Legislation came to be determined by the fluctuating superiority of rival gangs; those who voted the wrong way were, now and then, beaten to within a centimeter of their lives, after which their houses were set afire. Following one such meeting Cicero wrote: “The Tiber was full of the corpses of citizens, the public sewers were stuffed with them, and slaves had to mop up with sponges the blood that streamed from the Forum.” 

   Clodius and Milo were Rome’s most distinguished experts in this brand of parliament. They organized rival bands of ruffians for political purposes, and hardly a day passed without some test of their strength. One day Clodius assaulted Cicero in the street; another day his warriors burned down Milo’s house; at last Clodius himself was caught by Milo’s gang and killed (52 B.C.). The proletariat, not privy to all his plots, honored Clodius as a martyr, gave him a mighty funeral, carried the body to the senate house, and burned the building over him as his funeral pyre. Pompey brought in his soldiers and dispersed the mob. As reward he asked from the Senate, and received, appointment as “consul without colleague,” a phrase that Cato recommended as more pleasant than “dictator.” Pompey then put through the Assembly—cowed by his troops—several measures aimed at political corruption, and another repealing the right (which his bill of 55 B.C. had granted to Caesar) to stand for the consulate while absent from Rome. He impartially supervised, with military force, the operation of the courts; Milo was tried for the murder of Clodius, was condemned despite Cicero’s defense, (the speech as it has come down to us was much revised. It differed so much from the actual address—which had been confused by hostile disturbances—that when Milo read it he exclaimed: “O Cicero! If you had only spoken as you have written I should not now be eating the very excellent fish of Marseilles”) and fled to Marseilles. Cicero went off to govern Cilicia (51 B.C.), and acquitted himself there with a degree of competence and integrity that surprised and offended his friends. All the elements of wealth and order in the capital resigned themselves to the dictatorship of Pompey, while the poorer classes hopefully awaited the coming of Caesar. 



A century of revolution had broken down a selfish and narrow aristocracy, but had put no other government in its place. Unemployment, bribery, bread and circuses had corrupted the Assembly into an ill-informed and passion-ridden mob obviously incapable of ruling itself, much less an empire. Democracy had fallen by Plato’s formula: liberty had become license, and chaos begged an end to liberty. Caesar agreed with Pompey that the Republic was dead; it was now, he said, “a mere name, without body or form;” dictatorship was unavoidable. But he had hoped to establish a leadership that would be progressive, that would not freeze the status quo, but would lessen the abuses, inequities, and destitution that had degraded democracy. He was now fifty-four, and surely weakened by his long campaigns in Gaul; he did not relish a war against his fellow citizens and his former friends. But he saw the snares that had been prepared for him, and resented them as an ill-reward for one who had saved Italy. His term as governor of Gaul would end on Februay 28 (March 1 O.S.) 49 B.C.; he could not run for the consulship until the fall of that year; in the interval he would lose the immunity of an officeholder, and could not enter Rome without subjecting himself to those proscriptions which were among the favorite weapons of party warfare in Rome. Already Marcus Marcellus had proposed to the Senate that Caesar should be deposed from his governorship before its expirationwhich meant self-exile or trial. The tribunes of the plebs had saved him by their veto, but the Senate clearly favored the motion. Cato frankly expressed the hope that Caesar would be accused, tried, and banished from Italy. 

   Caesar made every effort at conciliation. When, at Pompey’s suggestion, the Senate asked both generals to release to it a legion for use against Parthia, Caesar at once complied, though his force was small; and when Pompey asked Caesar for the return of the legion sent him a year before, Caesar dispatched it to him without delay. His friends informed him, however, that instead of being sent to Parthia these legions were being kept at Capua. Through his supporters in the Senate Caesar requested a renewal of the Assembly’s earlier decree permitting him to stand for the consulship in absence. The Senate refused to submit the motion and demanded that Caesar dismiss his troops. Caesar felt that his legions were his only protection; perhaps he had nourished their personal loyalty with a view to just such a crisis as this. Nevertheless, he proposed to the Senate that both he and Pompey should lay down their commissionsan offer which seemed to the people of Rome so reasonable that they garlanded his messenger with flowers. The Senate favored the plan, 370 to 22, but Pompey balked at it. In the last days of the year 50 B.C. the Senate declared Caesar a public enemy unless he should abandon his command by June 29 (July 1 O.S.). On the first day of 49 B.C. Curio read to the Senate a letter in which Caesar agreed to disband all but two of his ten legions if he might retain the governorship till 48 B.C.; but he spoiled the offer by adding that he would look upon its rejection as a declaration of war. Cicero spoke for the proposal, and Pompey agreed to it; but the consul Lentulus intervened and drove Caesar’s lieutenants, Curio and Antony, from the senate house. After a long debate the reluctant Senate, persuaded by Lentulus, Cato, and Marcellus, gave Pompey orders and powers to “see that no harm should come to the state”the Roman phrase for dictatorship and martial law. 

   Caesar hesitated more than was his wont. Legally the Senate was right, he had no authority to name the conditions under which he would resign his command. He knew that civil war might bring Gaul to revolt and Italy to ruin. But to yield was to surrender the Empire to incompetence and reaction. Amid his deliberations he learned that one of his nearest friends and ablest lieutenants, Titus Labienus, had gone over to Pompey. He summoned the soldiers of his favorite Thirteenth Legion and laid the situation before them. His first word won them: “Commilitones!—fellow soldiers.” They who had seen him share their hardships and perils, who had had to complain that he risked himself too readily, recognized his right to use this word; he had always addressed them so rather than with the curt Milites! of less gracious commanders. Most of his men came from Cisalpine Gaul, to which he had extended Roman citizenship; they knew that the Senate had refused to recognize this grant and that one senator had flogged a Cisalpine Gaul just to show his contempt for Caesar’s enfranchisement; it was illegal to flog a Roman citizen. They had learned to respect Caesareven, in their rough mute way, to love himduring their many campaigns. He had been severe with cowardice and indiscipline, but he had been lenient with their human faults, had winked at their sexual escapades, had spared them unnecessary dangers, had saved them by skillful generalship, had doubled their pay, and had spread his spoils among them handsomely. He told them of his proposals to the Senate and how these had been received; he reminded them that an idle and corrupt aristocracy was unfit to give Rome order, justice, and prosperity. Would they follow him? Not one refused. When he told them that he had no money with which to pay them they emptied their savings into his treasury. 

   On January 8, 49 B.C., he led one legion across the Rubicon, a small stream, near Ariminum, that marked the southern boundary of Cisalpine Gaul. lacta est alea, he is reported to have said—”the die is cast.” It seemed an act of folly, for the remaining nine legions of his army were still distant in Gaul and could not reach him for weeks to come; while Pompey had ten legions, or 60,000 troops, authority to levy as many more as he pleased, and funds to arm and feed them. Caesar’s Twelfth Legion joined him at Picenum, the Eighth at Corfinium; he formed three legions more from prisoners, volunteers, and levies upon the population. He had little difficulty in getting recruits; Italy had not forgotten the Social War (88 B.C.), and saw in Caesar a champion of Italian rights; one by one its cities opened their gates to him, some turned out en masse to welcome him; “the towns,” wrote Cicero, “salute him as a god.” Corfinium resisted briefly, then surrendered; Caesar protected it from sack by his soldiers, freed all captured officers, and sent to Pompey’s camp the money and baggage that Labienus had left behind. Though almost penniless, he refrained from confiscating those estates of his opponents that fell into his handsa characteristically wise measure, which won to neutrality most of the middle class. It would be his policy, he announced, to consider all neutrals his friends. At every new advance he tried again for reconciliation. He sent a message to Lentulus begging him to use his consular influence for peace. In a letter to Cicero he offered to retire to private life and leave the field to Pompey, provided he should be allowed to live in security. Cicero labored to effect a compromise, but found his logic helpless before the rival dogmatisms of revolution. 

   Though his forces still far outnumbered Caesar’s, Pompey withdrew with them from the capital, and a disorderly stream of aristocrats followed him, leaving their wives and children to Caesar’s mercy. Rejecting every overture of peace, Pompey declared that he would consider as an enemy any senator who did not abandon Rome and join his camp. The majority of the Senate remained in Rome, and vacillating Cicero, despising Pompey’s vacillations, divided himself among his rural estates. Pompey marched to Brundisium and ferried his troops across the Adriatic. He knew that his undisciplined army needed further training before it could stand up to Caesar’s legions; meanwhile, he hoped, the Roman fleet under his control would starve Italy into destroying his rival.  

   Caesar entered Rome (March 14) unresisted and unarmed, having left his troops in near-by towns. He proclaimed a general amnesty and restored municipal administration and social order. The tribunes convoked the Senate; Caesar asked it to name him dictator, but it refused; he asked it to send envoys to Pompey to negotiate peace, but it refused. He sought funds from the national Treasury; the tribune Lucius Metellus barred his way, but yielded when Caesar remarked that it was harder for him to utter threats than to execute them. Henceforth he made free use of the state’s money; but with unscrupulous impartiality he deposited in the Treasury the booty from his later campaigns. Then he returned to his soldiers, and prepared to meet the three armies that the Pompeians were organizing in Greece, Africa, and Spain. 

   To secure the grain supply upon which Italy’s life depended, he sent the impetuous Curio with two legions to take Sicily. Cato surrendered the island and withdrew to Africa; Curio pursued him with the recklessness of Regulus, gave battle prematurely, was defeated, and died in action, mourning not his own death, but the injury he had done to Caesar. Meanwhile Caesar had led an army to Spain, partly to ensure the renewal of its grain exports to Italy, partly to forestall a rear attack when he marched to meet Pompey. In Spain, as in Gaul, he made serious blunders in strategy. For a time his outnumbered army faced starvation and defeat; but, as usual, he redeemed himself by brilliant improvisation and personal bravery. By altering the course of a river he turned blockade into counter-blockade; he waited patiently for the entrapped army to surrender, though his troops fretted for action; at last the Pompeians gave in, and all Spain came over to Caesar (August, 49 B.C.). Returning toward Italy by land, he found his way blocked at Marseilles by an army under Lucius Domitius, whom he had captured and released at Corfinium. Caesar took the town after, a hard siege, reorganized the administration of Gaul, and by December was back in Rome.  

   His political position had been strengthened by this campaign, which had reassured the worried bellies of the capital. The Senate now named him dictator, but he surrendered that title after being elected one of the two consuls for 48 B.C.. Finding Italy in a credit crisis due to the fact that the hoarding of currency had depressed prices, and debtors were refusing to pay in dear money what they had borrowed in cheap money, he decreed that debts might be paid in goods valued by state arbitrators at prewar prices; this, he thought, was “the most suitable way both of maintaining the honor of the debtors and of removing or diminishing the fear of that general repudiation of debts which is apt to follow war.” It is a revelation of how slowly reform had moved in Rome that he was compelled again to forbid enslavement for debt. He permitted the interest already paid on debts to be deducted from the principal, and limited interest to one per cent per month. These measures satisfied most creditors, who had feared confiscation; correspondingly they disappointed the radicals, who had hoped that Caesar would continue Catiline by abolishing all debts and re-dividing the land. He distributed corn to the needy, canceled all sentences of banishment except Milo’s, and pardoned all returning aristocrats. No one thanked him for his moderation. The forgiven conservatives resumed their plotting against his life; and while he was facing Pompey in Thessaly the radicals abandoned him for Caelius, who promised them a complete abolition of debts, the confiscation of large properties, and the re-allotment of all land. 

   Near the end of 49 Caesar joined the troops and fleet that his aides had collected at Brundisium. A winter crossing of the Adriatic by an army was in those days unheard of; the twelve vessels at his disposal could carry over only a third of his 60,000 men at one time; and Pompey’s superior squadrons patrolled all islands and harbors along the opposite coast. Nevertheless, Caesar set sail and crossed to Epirus with 20,000 men. On their way back to Italy his ships were wrecked. Wondering what delayed the remainder of his army, Caesar tried to re-cross in a small skiff. The sailors rowed out against the surf and were nearly drowned. Caesar, dauntless amid their terror, encouraged them with the possibly legendary exhortation: “Fear not; you carry Caesar and his fortune.” But wind and wave tossed the boat back upon the shore, and Caesar had to abandon the attempt. Meanwhile Pompey, with 40,000 men, seized Dyrrhachium and its rich stores; then, with the indecision that marked his obese years, he failed to attack Caesar’s depleted and starving force. During this delay Mark Antony gathered another fleet and brought over the rest of Caesar’s army. 

   Ready now to join battle, but still loath to turn Roman against Roman, Caesar sent an envoy to Pompey proposing that both leaders should lay down their commands. Pompey gave no reply. (Our only authority for this embassy is Caesar). Caesar attacked and was repulsed; but Pompey failed to follow his victory with pursuit. Against Pompey’s advice his officers put all captives to death, while Caesar spared hisa contrast that raised the morale of Caesar’s troops and lowered that of Pompey’s. Caesar’s men begged him to punish them for the cowardice they had shown in this their first fight against Roman legions. When he refused, they besought him to lead them back to battle; but he thought it wiser to retreat into Thessaly and let them rest. 

   Pompey now made the decision that cost him his life. Afranius advised him to return and recapture undefended Italy; but the majority of his counselors urged him to pursue and destroy Caesar. The aristocrats in Pompey’s camp exaggerated the victory at Dyrrhachium and supposed that the great issue had there been decided. Cicero, who had finally joined them, was shocked to hear them dispute as to their respective shares in the coming restoration, and to see with what luxury they lived in the midst of wartheir meals served on silver plate, their tents comfortable with carpets, brilliant with hangings, garlanded with flowers.


   Excepting Pompey himself [Cicero wrote], the Pompeians carried on the war with such rapacity, and breathed such principles of cruelty in their conversation, that I could not contemplate even their success without horror. . . . There was nothing good among them but their cause. . . . A proscription was proposed not only individually but collectively. . . . Lentulus had promised himself Hortensius’ house, Caesar’s gardens, and Baiae.


Pompey would have preferred a more Fabian strategy, but taunts of cowardice prevailed upon him, and he gave orders to march. 

   At Pharsalus, August 7, 48 B.C., the decisive battle was fought to the bitter end. Pompey had 48,000 infantry, 7000 horse; Caesar had 22,000 and 1000. “Some few of the noblest Romans,” says Plutarch, “standing as spectators outside the battle . . . could not but reflect to what a pass private ambition had brought the Empire. . . . The whole flower and strength of the same city, meeting here in collision with itself, offered plain proof how blind and mad a thing human nature is when passion is aroused.” Near relatives, even brothers, fought in the opposed armies. Caesar bade his men spare all Romans who should surrender; as to the young aristocrat Marcus Brutus, he said, they were to capture him without injuring him, or, if this proved impossible, they were to let him escape. Superior leadership, training, and morale overwhelmed the Pompeians; 15,000 of them were killed or wounded, 20,000 surrendered, the remainder fled. Pompey tore the insignia of command from his clothing and took flight like the rest. Caesar tells us that he lost but 200 menwhich casts doubt upon all his books. His army was amused to see the tents of the defeated so elegantly adorned, and their tables laden with the feast that was to celebrate their victory. Caesar ate Pompey’s supper in Pompey’s tent. 

   Pompey rode all night to Larissa, thence to the sea, and took ship to Alexandria. At Mytilene, where his wife joined him, the citizens wished him to stay; he refused courteously, and advised them to submit to the conqueror without fear, for, he said, “Caesar was a man of great goodness and clemency.” Brutus also escaped to Larissa, but there he dallied and wrote to Caesar. The victor expressed great joy on hearing that he was safe, readily forgave him, and at his request forgave Cassius. To the nations of the East, whichcontrolled by the upper classeshad supported Pompey, he was likewise lenient. He distributed Pompey’s hoards of grain among the starving population of Greece, and to the Athenians asking pardon he replied with a smile of reproof: “How often will the glory of your ancestors save you from self-destruction?” 

   Probably he had been warned that Pompey hoped to resume the contest with the army and resources of Egypt, and the forces that Cato, Labienus, and Metellus Scipio were organizing at Utica. But when Pompey reached Alexandria, Pothinus, eunuch vizier of young Ptolemy XII, ordered his servants to kill Pompey, presumably in expectation of reward from Caesar. The general was stabbed to death as he stepped upon the shore, while his wife looked on in helpless terror from the ship in which they had come. When Caesar arrived, Pothinus’ men presented him with the severed head. Caesar turned away in horror and wept at this new proof that by diverse means men come to the same end. He established his quarters in the royal palace of the Ptolemies and set himself to regulate the affairs of the ancient kingdom. 




Since the death of Ptolemy VI (145 B.C.) Egypt had rapidly decayed. Her kings were no longer able to maintain social order or national freedom; the Roman Senate increasingly dictated their policy, and garrisoned Alexandria with Roman troops. By the will of Ptolemy XI, whom Pompey and Gabinius had established on the throne, the government had descended to his son Ptolemy XII and his daughter Cleopatra, who were to marry each other and reign together. 

   Cleopatra was a Macedonian Greek by origin, and more probably blonde than brunette. She was not particularly beautiful; but the grace of her carriage, the vivacity of her body and her mind, the variety of her accomplishments, the suavity of her manners, the very melody of her voice, combined with her royal position to make her a heady wine even for a Roman general. She was acquainted with Greek history, literature, and philosophy; she spoke Greek, Egyptian, Syrian, and allegedly other languages, well; she added the intellectual fascination of an Aspasia to the seductive abandon of a completely uninhibited woman. Tradition credits her with a treatise on cosmetics and another on the alluring subject of Egyptian measures, weights, and coins. She was an able ruler and administrator, effectively promoted Egyptian commerce and industry, and was a competent financier even when making love. With these qualities went an Oriental sensuality, an impetuous brutality that dealt out suffering and death, and a political ambition that dreamed of empire and honored no code but success. If she had not borne the intemperate blood of the later Ptolemies in her veins she might have achieved her purpose of being the queen of a unified Mediterranean realm. She saw that Egypt could no longer be independent of Rome and knew no reason why she should not dominate their union. 

   Caesar was not pleased to learn that Pothinus had banished Cleopatra and now ruled as regent for young Ptolemy. Secretly he sent for her, and secretly she came. To reach him she had herself concealed in some bedding which her attendant Apollodorus carried into Caesar’s apartment. The amazed Roman, who never let his victories in the field outnumber his conquests in love, was captivated by her courage and wit. He reconciled her with Ptolemy, and re-established her with her brother on the throne of Egypt. Learning from his barber that Pothinus and the Egyptian general Achillas were plotting to kill him and slaughter the small force that he had brought with him, he delicately arranged the assassination of Pothinus. Achillas escaped to the Egyptian army and roused it to insurrection; soon all Alexandria was alive with soldiers vowing death to Caesar. The Roman garrison which had been stationed in the city by the Senate was inspired by its officers to join in rising against this treasonable interloper who presumed to settle the succession to the throne of the Ptolemies, and even to beget an heir for its future. 

   In this emergency Caesar acted with his customary resourcefulness. He turned the royal palace and the near-by theater into fortresses for himself and his men, and sent for reinforcements from Asia Minor, Syria, and Rhodes. When he saw that his defenseless fleet would soon fall into the hands of his enemies, he ordered it burned; in the fire an uncertain portion of the Alexandrian library was consumed. By desperate sallies he captured, lost, and recaptured the island of Pharos, as being essential to the entry of the relief he awaited; in one of these engagements he swam for his life, amid a storm of arrows, when the Egyptians drove him and 400 of his men off the connecting mole into the sea. Thinking the rebels victorious, Ptolemy XII left the royal palace, joined them, and disappeared from history. When reinforcements arrived, Caesar routed the Egyptians and the Senatorial garrison in the Battle of the Nile. He rewarded Cleopatra for her fidelity to him in this crisis by making her younger brother Ptolemy XIII coregent with her, which left her in effect the supreme ruler of Egypt. 

   It is hard to understand why Caesar remained nine months in Alexandria while hostile armies were being organized against him near Utica, and while Rome, stirred to radical revolt by Caelius and Milo, longed for his fine administrative hand. Perhaps he felt that he deserved a little rest and play after ten years of war. He “often feasted with Cleopatra till daybreak,” says Suetonius, “and would have gone through Egypt with her in her royal barge almost to Ethiopia, had not his soldiers threatened mutiny;” they had not all found queans. Perhaps he gallantly waited to share the pains of her confinement. A child was born to her in 47 B.C. and was named Caesarion; according to Mark Antony, Caesar acknowledged the boy as his son. It is not impossible that she whispered to him the pleasant thought of making himself king, marrying her, and uniting the Mediterranean world under one bed. 

   This, however, is conjectural as well as scandalous; nothing but circumstantial evidence supports it. Certainly Caesar flew to action when he learned that Pharnaces, son of Mithridates, had recaptured Pontus, Lesser Armenia, and Cappadocia, and was inviting the East to rise once more against divided Rome. His wisdom in “pacifying” Spain and Gaul before meeting Pompey was now apparent; had the West revolted at one time with the East the Empire would probably have broken up, the “barbarians” would have moved southward, and Rome might never have known an Augustan age. Re-forming his three legions, Caesar set out in June of 47 B.C., marched with characteristic speed along the coast of Egypt through Syria and Asia Minor into Pontus, defeated Pharnaces at Zela (July 31), and sent to a friend at Rome the laconic report, Veni, vidi, vici—”I came, I saw, I conquered.”  

   At Tarentum (September 24) he was met by Cicero, who asked forgiveness for himself and other conservatives. Caesar consented amiably. He was shocked to find that during his twenty months’ absence from Rome the Civil War had become a social revolution: that Cicero’s son-in-law Dolabella had joined forces with Caelius, and had proposed to the Assembly a bill canceling all debts; that Antony had let loose his soldiers upon Dolabella’s armed proIétaires, and 800 Romans had been killed in the Forum. Caelius, as praetor, had recalled Milo; together they had organized an army in southern Italy and had invited the slaves to unite with them in a thoroughgoing revolution. They had met with small success, but their spirit was in the air. At Rome the radicals were celebrating the memory of Catiline and again garlanding his tomb. Meanwhile the Pompeian army in Africa had grown as large as the one that had been beaten at Pharsalus. Pompey’s son Sextus had organized a new army in Spain, and the grain supply of Italy was once more hanging in the balance. Such was the situation in October 47 B.C., when Caesar reached Rome and Calpurnia, bringing with him Cleopatra, her boy husband-brother, and Caesarion. 

   In the few months permitted him between campaigns he set about restoring order. Having been reappointed dictator, he appeased the radicals for a moment by repealing the last of Sulla’s laws and canceling for a year all rents below 2000 sesterces in Rome; at the same time he tried to comfort the conservatives by making Marcus Brutus governor of Cisalpine Gaul, assuring Cicero and Atticus that he would abet no war against property, and ordering the re-erection of the statues of Sulla, which the prolétaires had knocked down. When he turned his thoughts to the Pompeians he was discouraged to hear that his most trusted legions were in revolt because of long-overdue pay and were refusing to embark for Africa. As the Treasury was nearly empty, he raised funds by confiscating and selling the property of rebel aristocrats; he had learned, he said, that soldiers depend upon money, money upon power, and power upon soldiers. He suddenly appeared among the rebellious legions, called them together, and quietly told them that they were released from service and might go to their homes; he added that he would make up all arrears to them when he had triumphed in Africa “with other soldiers.” “At this expression,” says Appian, “shame seized upon them all, that they were abandoning their commander in this moment when enemies surrounded him on every side. . . . They cried out that they repented of their revolt, and besought him to keep them in his service.” He yielded with charming reluctance, and sailed with them for Africa. 

   At Thapsus, on April 4, 46 B.C., he met the combined forces of Metellus Scipio, Cato, Labienus, and Juba I, the Numidian king. Again he lost the first encounter; again he re-formed his lines, attacked, and won. His blood-crazed soldiers, blaming his clemency at Pharsalus for having to fight this second battle, slaughtered 10,000 of the 80,000 Pompeians, giving no quarter; they did not propose to meet these men again. Juba committed suicide; Scipio fled and died in an engagement at sea; Cato with a small division escaped to Utica. When the officers wished to defend the city against Caesar, Cato persuaded them that it was impossible. He provided funds for those who planned flight, but advised his son to submit to Caesar. He himself rejected both courses. He spent the evening in philosophical discussion; then he retired to his room and read Plato’s Phaedo. Suspecting that he would kill himself, his friends took his sword from his bedside. When they had relaxed their vigil he compelled his servant to bring back the weapon. For a while he feigned sleep; then suddenly he took the sword and plunged it into his abdomen. His friends rushed in; a physician put back the extruding intestines and sewed and bandaged the wound. As soon as they had left the room Cato removed the bandage, tore open the wound, pulled out his entrails, and died. 

   When Caesar came he mourned that he had no chance to pardon Cato; he could only pardon the son. The Uticans gave the dead Stoic a magnificent funeral, as if knowing that they were burying a republic almost five centuries old.




After appointing Sallust governor of Numidia, and reorganizing the provinces of Africa, Caesar in the fall of 46 B.C. returned to Rome. The frightened Senate, recognizing the advent of monarchy, voted him the dictatorship for ten years, and such a triumph as Rome had never seen before. He paid each of his soldiers 5000 Attic drachmas, much more than he had promised them. He feasted the citizens at 11,000 tables, and for their amusement provided a sham sea battle involving 10,000 men. Early in 45 B.C. he left for Spain, and at Munda defeated the last Pompeian army. When, in October, he reached Rome, he found all Italy in chaos. Oligarchic misrule and a century of revolution had disordered agriculture, industry, finance, and trade. The exhaustion of the provinces, the hoarding of capital, and the precariousness of investment had disturbed the flow of money. Thousands of estates had fallen into ruin; 100,000 men had been drawn from production into war; peasants beyond number had been driven by the competition of foreign grain or latifundia slaves to join the proletariat in the towns and listen hungrily to promising demagogues. The surviving aristocracy, un-melted by Caesar’s clemency, plotted against him in their clubs and palaces. He appealed to them in the Senate to recognize the necessity of dictatorship, and to co-operate with him in a healing reconstruction. They scorned the advances of the usurper, denounced the presence of Cleopatra as his guest in Rome, and whispered that he was planning to make himself king and move the seat of the Empire to Alexandria or Ilium. 

   Caesar alone, therefore, though prematurely old at fifty-five, set himself with Roman energy to remake the Roman state. He knew that his victories would be meaningless if he could not build something better than the wreckage that he had cleared away. When, in 44 B.C., his dictatorship for ten years was extended for life, he did not much exaggerate the difference, though he could hardly foresee that in five months he would be dead. The Senate heaped adulation and titles upon him, perhaps to make him odious to a people that hated the very name of king. It let him wear the laurel wreath, with which he hid his baldness, and carry even in peace the imperator’s powers. Through these he controlled the Treasury, and as pontifex maximus, the priesthoods; as consul he could propose and execute laws; as tribune his person was inviolable; as censor he could make or unmake senators. The assemblies kept the right to vote on proposed measures, but Caesar’s lieutenants, Dolabella and Antony, managed the assemblies, which in general favored his policies. Like other dictators he sought to base his power upon popularity with the people. 

   He subordinated the Senate almost to the role of an advisory council. He enlarged it from 600 to 900 members and permanently transformed it with 400 new appointees. Many of these were Roman businessmen; many were leading citizens of Italian or provincial cities; some had been centurions, soldiers, or sons of slaves. The patricians were alarmed to see the chieftains of conquered Gaul enter the Senate and join the rulers of the Empire; even the wags of the capital resented this and circulated a satiric couplet:


Gallos Caesar in triumphum ducit, idem in curiam;

Galli braccas deposuerunt, latum clavum sumpserunt—


Caesar leads Gauls in his triumph, then into the Senate; the Gauls have removed their breeches, and put on the broad-rimmed toga” of the senators. 

   Perhaps Caesar purposely made the new Senate too cumbersome a body for effective deliberation or unified opposition. He chose a group of friendsBalbus, Oppius, Matius, and othersas an informal executive cabinet, and inaugurated the bureaucracy of the Empire by delegating the clerical details of his government, and the minutiae of administration, to his household of freedmen and slaves. He allowed the Assembly to elect half the city magistrates; he chose the rest by “recommendations” that the Assembly regularly approved. As tribune he could veto the decisions of other tribunes or consuls. He increased the praetors to sixteen, and the quaestors to forty, to expedite municipal and judicial business. He kept a personal eye on every aspect of the city’s affairs, and tolerated no incompetence or waste. In the city charters that he granted he placed severe injunctions and penalties against electoral corruption and official malfeasance. To end the domination of politics by organized vote buying, and perhaps to secure his power against proletarian revolt, he abolished the collegia, except some of ancient origin and the essentially religious associations of the Jews. He restricted jury service to the two upper classes and reserved for himself the right to try the most vital cases; frequently he sat as judge, and none could deny the wisdom and impartiality of his decisions. He proposed to the jurists of his time an orderly codification of existing Roman law, but his early death frustrated the plan. 

   Resuming the work of the Gracchi, he distributed lands to his veterans and the poor; this policy, continued by Augustus, for many years pacified the agrarian agitation. To forestall the rapid re-concentration of landownership he ruled that the new lands could not be sold within twenty years; and to check rural slavery he passed a measure requiring that a third of the laborers on ranches should be freemen. Having turned many idle proIétaires into soldiers and then into peasant proprietors, he further diminished their ranks by sending 80,000 citizens as colonists to Carthage, Corinth, Seville, Arles, and other centers. To provide work for the remaining unemployed in Rome he spent 160,000,000 sesterces in a great building program. He had a new and more spacious meeting place for the assemblies set up in the Field of Mars, and relieved the congestion of business in the Forum by adding, near it, a Forum Iulium. He embellished likewise many cities in Italy, Spain, Gaul, and Greece. Having so eased the pressure of poverty, he required a means test for eligibility to the state dole of grain. At once the number of applicants fell from 320,000 to 15,000. 

   So far he had remained true to his role as a champion of the populares. But since the Roman revolution was more agrarian than industrial, and was aimed chiefly at the landed slave-driving aristocracy, then at the moneylenders, and only mildly at the business classes, Caesar continued the Gracchan policy of inviting businessmen to support the agrarian and fiscal revolution. Cicero sought to unite the middle classes with the aristocracy; Caesar sought to unite them with the plebs. Many of the great capitalists, from Crassus to Balbus, helped to finance him, as similar men helped the American and French Revolutions. Nevertheless, Caesar ended one of the richest sources of financial profiteeringthe collection of provincial taxes through corporations of publicans. He scaled down debts, enacted severe laws against excessive interest rates, and relieved extreme cases of insolvency by establishing the law of bankruptcy essentially as it stands today. He restored the stability of the currency by basing it upon gold and issuing a golden aureus, equivalent in purchasing power to the British pound sterling in the nineteenth century. The coins of his government were stamped with his own features and were designed with an artistry new to Rome. A novel order and competence entered the administration of the Empire’s finances, with the result that when Caesar died the Treasury contained 700,000,000 sesterces, and his private treasury 100,000,000. 

   As a scientific basis for taxation and administration, he had a census taken of Italy, and planned a like census of the Empire. To replenish a citizenry decimated by war, he granted the Roman franchise widelyamong others, to physicians and teachers in Rome. Long disturbed by the fall in the birth rate, he had in 59 B.C. given precedence in land allotments to fathers of three children; now he promulgated rewards for large families and forbade childless women under forty-five to ride in litters or wear jewelrythe weakest and most futile part of his varied legislation. 

   Still an agnostic, though not quite free from superstitions, Caesar remained high priest of the state religion and provided it with the usual funds. He restored old temples and built new ones, honoring above all his alma mater Venus. But he allowed full liberty of conscience and worship, withdrew old prohibitions against the Isis cult, and protected the Jews in the exercise of their faith. Noting that the calendar of the priests had lost all concord with the seasons, he commissioned the Alexandrian Greek Sosigenes to devise, on Egyptian models, the “Julian calendar”: henceforth the year was to consist of 365 days, with an added day in every fourth February. Cicero complained that Caesar, not content with ruling the earth, was now regulating the stars; but the Senate accepted the reform graciously, and gave the dictator’s family name, Julius, to the month Quinctiliswhich had been fifth when March opened the year. 

   As impressive as these things done are the works begun or planned by Caesar but postponed by his assassination. He laid the foundations of a great theater, and of a temple to Mars proportioned to that god’s voracity. He appointed Varro to head an organization for the establishment of public libraries. He designed to free Rome from malaria by draining Lake Fucinus and the Pontine marshes, and reclaiming these hectares for tillage. He proposed to raise dykes to control the Tiber’s floods; by diverting the course of that stream he hoped to improve the harbor at Ostia, periodically ruined by the river’s silt. He instructed his engineers to prepare plans for building a road across central Italy and for cutting a canal at Corinth. 

   The most resented of his undertakings was to make the freemen of Italy equal citizens with those of Rome, and the provinces ultimately equal with Italy. In 49 B.C. he had enfranchised Cisalpine Gaul; now (44 B.C.) he drew up a municipal charter, apparently for all the cities of Italy, equalizing their rights with Rome’s; probably he was planning some representative government by which they would have had a democratic share in his constitutional monarchy. He took the appointment of provincial governors out of the hands of the corrupt Senate and himself named to these posts men of proved ability, who remained at every moment subject to recall at his will. He reduced provincial taxes by a third, and entrusted their collection to special officials responsible to himself. He overrode ancient curses to restore Capua, Carthage, and Corinthcompleting again the work of the Gracchi. To the colonists whom he sent to found or people a score of cities from Gibraltar to the Black Sea, he gave Roman or Latin rights, and evidently hoped to extend Roman citizenship to all free adult males in the Empire; the Senate was then to represent not a class in Rome, but the mind and will of every province. This conception of government, and Caesar’s reorganization of Rome and Italy, completed the miracle whereby the youthful spendthrift and roisterer had become one of the ablest, bravest, fairest, and most enlightened men in all the sorry annals of politics. 

   Like Alexander he did not know where to stop. Contemplating his reordered realm, he resented its exposure to attack at the Euphrates, the Danube, and the Rhine. He dreamed of a great expedition to capture Parthia and avenge his old pocketbook Crassus; of a march around the Black Sea and the pacification of Scythia; of the exploration of the Danube and the conquest of Germany. Then, having made the Empire secure, he would return to Rome laden with honor and spoils, rich enough to end economic depression, powerful enough to ignore all opposition, free at last to name his successor, and to die with the pax Romana as his supreme legacy to the world.




When news of this plan trickled through Rome the common people, who love glory, applauded; the business classes, smelling war orders and provincial loot, licked their chops; the aristocracy, foreseeing its extinction on Caesar’s return, resolved to kill him before he could go. 

   He had treated these bluebloods with such generosity as to stir Cicero’s eloquence in his praise. He had forgiven all surrendering foes and had condemned to death only a few officers who, defeated and pardoned, had fought against him again. He had burned unread the correspondence he had found in the tents of Pompey and Scipio. He had sent the captured daughter and grandchildren of Pompey to Pompey’s son Sextus, who was still in arms against him; and he had restored the statues of Pompey that his followers had thrown down. He had given provincial governorships to Brutus and Cassius, and high office to many others of their class. He bore silently a thousand slanders, and instituted no proceedings against those whom he suspected of plotting against his life. To Cicero, who had trimmed his wind to every sale, he offered not only pardon but honor, and refused nothing that the orator asked for himself or his Pompeian friends; he even forgave, at Cicero’s urging, the unrepentant Marcus Marcellus. In a pretty speech For Marcellus (46 B.C.) Cicero acclaimed Caesar’s “unbelievable liberality,” and admitted that Pompey, victorious, would have been more vengeful. “I have heard with regret,” he said, “your celebrated and highly philosophical remark, Iam satis vixi, ‘I have lived enough, whether for nature or for fame.’ . . . Put aside, I beg you, that wisdom of the sage; do not be wise at the cost of our peril. . . . You are still far from the completion of your greatest labors; you have not yet laid their foundations.” And he solemnly promised Caesar, in the name of all the Senate, that they would watch over his safety and oppose with their own bodies any attack upon him. Cicero now prospered so well that he planned to buy still another palaceno less than that of Sulla himself. He enjoyed the dinners to which he was invited by Antony, Balbus, and others of Caesar’s aides; never before had his letters been so happy. Caesar was not deceived; he wrote to Matius: “If anyone is gracious, it is Cicero; but I doubt not that he hates me bitterly.” When reassured Pompeians resumed their opposition, this unctuous Talleyrand of the pen fell in with their hopes and wrote a eulogy of the younger Cato that should have put Caesar on his guard. Caesar contented himself with writing a reply, the Anti-Cato, which did not show the dictator at his best; in this duel he had given Cicero the choice of weapons, and the orator had won. Public opinion praised Cicero’s style, and the mildness of a ruler who composed a pamphlet when he might have signed a death warrant. 

   Pardoning their resistance cannot mollify men who have been deprived of wonted power; it is as difficult to forgive forgiveness as it is to forgive those whom we have injured. The aristocrats fretted in a Senate that dared not reject the proposals that Caesar so constitutionally submitted to them. They patriotically denounced the destruction of a liberty that had fattened their purses, and would not admit that the restoration of order required the limitation of their freedom. They looked with horror upon the presence of Cleopatra and Caesarion in Rome; it was true that Caesar was living with his wife Calpurnia apparently in mutual affection; but who could saywho would not saywhat happened on his frequent visits to the gorgeous queen? Rumors persisted that he would make himself king, marry her, and place the capital of their united empires in the East. Had he not ordered his statue to be erected on the Capitol next to those of Rome’s ancient kings? Had he not stamped his own image upon Roman coinsan unprecedented insolence? Did he not wear robes of purple, usually reserved for kings? At the Lupercalia, on February 13 (15 OS), 44 B.C., the consul Antony, sacerdotally naked and impiously drunk, tried thrice to place a royal crown upon Caesar’s head. Thrice Caesar refused; but was it not because the crowd murmured disapproval? Did he not dismiss from office the tribunes who removed from his statue the royal diadem placed upon it by his friends? When the Senate approached him as he sat in the Temple of Venus, he did not rise to receive them. Some explained that he had been overcome by an epileptic stroke; others, that he was suffering from diarrhea and had remained seated to avoid a movement of his bowels at so unpropitious a moment. But many patricians feared that any day might see him proclaimed a king. 

   Shortly after the Lupercalia, Gaius Cassius, a sickly man—“pale and lean,” as Plutarch describes him—approached Marcus Brutus and suggested the assassination of Caesar. He had already won to his plan several senators, some capitalists whose provincial pillage had fallen with Caesar’s restriction of the publicans, even some of Caesar’s generals, who felt that the spoils and offices awarded them had not quite equaled their deserts. Brutus was needed as the front of the conspiracy, for he had won a wide reputation as the most virtuous of men. He was supposedly descended from the Brutus who had expelled the kings 464 years before. His mother Servilia was Cato’s half sister; his wife Portia was Cato’s daughter and the widow of Caesar’s enemy Bibulus. “It was thought,” says Appian, “that Brutus was Caesar’s son, as Caesar was the lover of Servilia about the time of Brutus’ birth;” Plutarch adds that Caesar believed Brutus to be his son. Possibly Brutus himself shared this opinion, and hated the dictator for having seduced his mother and made him, in the gossip of Rome, a bastard instead of a Brutus. He had always been moody and taciturn, as if brooding over a secret wrong; at the same time he carried himself proudly, as one who in any case bore noble blood in his veins. He was a master of Greek and a devotee of philosophy; in metaphysics a follower of Plato, in ethics, of Zeno. It was not lost upon him that Stoicism, like Greek and Roman opinion, approved tyrannicide. “Our ancestors,” he wrote to a friend, “thought that we ought not to endure a tyrant even if he were our own father.” He composed a treatise on Virtue and was later confused with that abstraction. Through intermediaries he lent money at forty-eight per cent to the citizens of Cyprian Salamis; when they balked at paying the accumulated interest he urged Cicero, then proconsul in Cilicia, to enforce the collection with Roman arms. He governed Cisalpine Gaul with integrity and competence and, returning to Rome, was made urban praetor by Caesar (45 B.C.). 

   Every generous element in his nature rebelled against Cassius’ proposal. Cassius reminded him of his rebel ancestry, and perhaps Brutus felt challenged to prove it by imitation. The sensitive youth blushed when he saw, affixed to statues of the older Brutus, such inscriptions as “Brutus, are you dead?”or, “Your posterity is unworthy of you.” Cicero dedicated to him several treatises written in these years. Meanwhile it was whispered among the patricians that at the next meeting of the Senate, on March 13 (15 OS), Lucius Cotta would move that Caesar be made king, on the ground that according to the Sibylline oracle the Parthians would be conquered only by a king. A Senate half filled with Caesar’s appointees, said Cassius, would pass the measure, and all hope of restoring the Republic would be lost. Brutus yielded, and the conspirators then made definite plans. Portia drew the secret from her husband by stabbing her thigh to show that no physical injury could make her speak against her will. In a moment of un-prophetic sentiment Brutus insisted that Antony should be spared. 

   On the evening of March 12 (14 OS), to a gathering at his home, Caesar proposed as topic of conversation, “What is the best death?” His own answer was, “A sudden one.” The next morning his wife begged him not to go to the Senate, saying that she had dreamed of seeing him covered with blood. A like-minded servant sought to provide a deterrent omen by causing an ancestral picture to fall from the wall. But Decimus Brutus, who was one of his closest friends and was also one of the conspiratorsurged him to attend the Senate if only to adjourn it courteously in person. A friend who had learned of the plot came to warn him, but Caesar had already left. On his way to the Senate he met a soothsayer who had once whispered to him, “Beware the ides of March;” Caesar remarked, smiling, that the ides had come and all was well. “But they have not passed,” answered Spurinna. While Caesar was offering the usual pre-session sacrifice before Pompey’s theater, where the Senate was to meet, a tablet informing him of the conspiracy was put into his hands. He ignored it, and tradition says that it was found in his hand after his death. (These stories of the ides of March appear in Suetonius, Plutarch, and Appian; but they may be legend nevertheless). 

   Trebonius, a conspirator who had been a favored general of Caesar, detained Antony from the meeting by conversation. When Caesar entered the theater and took his seat, the “Liberators” flung themselves upon him without delay. “Some have written,” reports Suetonius, “that when Marcus Brutus rushed at him he said, in Greek, kai su teknon—‘You, too, my child?’” When Brutus struck him, says Appian, Caesar ended all resistance; drawing his robe over his face and head, he submitted to the blows and fell at the foot of Pompey’s statue. One wish had been granted to the most complete man that antiquity produced. Yet Caesar’s murderers failed to save the republic; fourteen years later, after civil war to determine his successor, Caesar’s grandnephew Octavian became emperor of Rome as Augustus Caesar.





11. Shihuangdi (reigned 246–210 BC), was king of the Chinese State of Qin from 246 to 221 B.C. at which time he became the first emperor of a unified China. Shihuangdi is a pivotal figure in Chinese history, ushering in nearly two millennia of imperial rule. The man who unified China had the most disreputable origin that the Chinese historians could devise. Shihuangdi, we are informed, was the illegitimate son of the Queen of Qin (one of the western states) by the noble minister Lü, who was wont to hang a thousand pieces of gold at his gate as a reward to any man who should better his compositions by so much as a single word: (His son did not inherit these literary tastes.) Shih, reports Sima Qian, forced his father to suicide, persecuted his mother, and ascended the ducal throne when he was twelve years of age. When he was twenty-five he began to conquer and annex the petty states into which China had so long been divided. In 230 B.C. he conquered Han; in 228, Cao; in 225, Wei; in 223, Ch’u; in 222, Yan; finally, in 221, the important state of Qi. For the first time in many centuries, perhaps for the first time in history, China was under one rule. The conqueror took the title of Shihuangdi, and turned to the task of giving the new empire a lasting constitution.

   “A man with a very prominent nose, with large eyes, with the chest of a bird of prey, with the voice of a jackal, without beneficence, and with the heart of a tiger or a wolf”—this is the only description that the Chinese historians have left us of their favorite enemy. The man who founded the empire was a robust and obstinate soul, recognizing no god but himself, and pledged, like some Nietzschean Bismarck, to unify his country by blood and iron. Having forged and mounted the throne of China, one of his first acts was to protect the country from the barbarians on the north by building the Great Wall, and he found the multitude of his domestic opponents a convenient source of recruits for this heroic symbol of Chinese grandeur and patience; it stretches 8,850 kilometers, is adorned at intervals with massive gateways in the Assyrian style, and is the largest structure ever reared by man. It “was the ruin of one generation,” as the Chinese say, “and the salvation of many,” but did not quite keep out the barbarians; it delayed and reduced their attacks. The Huns, barred for a time from Chinese soil, moved west into Europe and down into Italy; Rome fell because China built a wall. 

   Meanwhile Shihuangdi, like Napoleon, turned with pleasure from war to administration, and created the outlines of the future Chinese state. He accepted the advice of his Legalist chancellor Li Si, and resolved to base Chinese society not, as heretofore, upon custom and local autonomy, but upon explicit law and a powerful central government. To this end he introduced uniform laws and regulations, simplified official ceremonies, issued a state coinage, divided most of the feudal estates, established peasant proprietorship of the soil, and paved the way for a completer unity by building great highways in every direction from his capital at Xianyang.

   He encouraged science and discouraged letters, for the men of lettersthe poets, the critics, the historians, the philosophers, above all the Confucian scholars—were his sworn foes. When they complained Chancellor Li Si, who was at that time engaged in reforming the Chinese script into approximately the form that it retains, met these criticisms with a historic speech that did no service to Chinese letters:


   The Five Sovereigns did not repeat each other's actions, the Three Royal Dynasties did not imitate each other; . . . for the times had changed. Now your Majesty has for the first time accomplished a great work and has founded a glory which will last for ten thousand generations. The stupid mandarins are incapable of understanding this. . . . In ancient days China was divided up and troubled; there was no one who could unify her. That is why all the nobles flourished. In their discourses the mandarins all talk of the ancient days, in order to blacken the present. . . . They encourage the people to forge calumnies. This being so, if they are not opposed, among the upper classes the position of the sovereign will be depreciated, while among the lower classes associations will flourish. . . .

   I suggest that the official histories, with the exception of the Memoirs of Shihuangdi, be all burnt, and that those who attempt to hide the Shijing, the Shujing, and the Discourses of the Hundred Schools, be forced to bring them to the authorities to be burnt.


   The Emperor liked the idea considerably, and issued the order; scientific books, and the works of Mencius, seem to have been exempted from the conflagration, but many of the forbidden books were preserved in the Imperial Library, where such students as might consult them had to obtain official permission. 

   Like Alexander he sought to strengthen his dynasty by spreading the notion that he was a god; but like Alexander, failed. He decreed that his dynastic successors should number themselves from him as “First Emperor,” down to the ten thousandth of their line; but the line ended with his son. As he aged, if we credit the historians who hated him, he became superstitious, and went to much expense to find an elixir of immortality—to no avail. He also constructed the now famous city-sized mausoleum guarded by a life-sized Terracotta Army. Several hundred maidens (we are told) were buried alive to keep him company. The roof was studded with constellations, a map of the empire was traced in quicksilver on the floor of bronze, and machines were erected in the vault for the automatic slaughter of intruders; huge candles were lit in the hope that they would for an indefinite period illuminate the doings of the dead emperor and his queens. The workmen who brought the coffin into the tomb were buried alive with their burden, lest they should live to reveal the secret passage to the grave. It was an inauspicious start to China’s imperial dynasties.


 12. Augustus Caesar (reigned 31 B.C.-14 A.D.), or Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, the grandnephew and adopted son/heir of Julius Caesar, became the first emperor of Rome in 27 B.C.  


Marc Antony controlled Rome after Caesar’s death; Octavian raised an army of Caesar’s veterans and defeated him in northern Italy in 43 B.C. In 32 B.C., he went to war against Antony for control of the Roman world. Marcus Agrippa, one of Octavian’s generals, defeated the combined forces of Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium off the west coast of Greece on Sept. 2, 31 B.C.. The pair fled to Alexandria where they both committed suicide. Egypt then became a Roman province the following year. The battle of Actium made Octavian master of Rome and its provinces. He kept up a show of republican government, with himself as first citizen (princeps civitatis).

   However, historians consider the date 31 B.C. to mark the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire. Step by step he graciously permitted, or persuaded, the Senate and the assemblies to grant him powers that in their total made him in all but name a king. He kept alwaysthe title of imperator, as commander in chief of all the armed forces of the state. As the army remained for the most part outside the capital and usually outside Italy, the citizens could forget, while they went through all the forms of the dead Republic, that they were living under a military monarchy in which force was hidden so long as phrases could rule. Octavian was chosen consul in 43 B.C. and 33 B.C., and in every year from 31 to 23 B.C. By the tribunician authority conferred upon him in 36, 30, and 23, he had for life the inviolability of a tribune, the right to initiate legislation in the Senate or the Assembly, and the power to veto the actions of any official in the government. None protested against this amiable dictatorship. The businessmen who were making hay under the sun of peace, the senators who sniffed Octavian’s Egyptian spoils, the soldiers who held their lands or status by his bounty, the beneficiaries of Caesar’s laws, appointments, and will—all were now agreed with Homer that the rule of one man is best, at least if he should be so free with his funds as Octavian, so industrious and competent, and so visibly devoted to the good of the state. In 28 B.C., as co-censor with Agrippa, he took a census of the people, revised the membership of the Senate, reduced it to 600, and was himself named permanently princeps senatus. The title had meant “first on the roll call of the Senate;” soon it would mean “prince” in the sense of ruler, just as imperator, through Octavian’s life tenure of the name, would come to mean “emperor.” History rightly calls his government, and that of his successors for two centuries, a “principate” rather than strictly a monarchy; for until the death of Commodus all the “emperors” recognized, at least in theory, that they were only the leaders (principes) of the Senate. To make the facade of his authority more imposing, Octavian in 27 B.C. surrendered all his offices, proclaimed the restoration of the Republic, and expressed his desire (at thirty-five) to retire to private life. Perhaps the drama had been arranged; Octavian was one of those cautious men who believe that honesty is the best policy, but that it must be practiced with discrimination. The Senate countered his abdication with its own, returned to him nearly all his powers, implored him to continue his guidance of the state, and conferred upon him the title of Augustus which history has mistaken as his name. Hitherto the word had been applied only to holy objects and places, and to certain creative or augmenting divinities (augere, to increase); applied to Octavian it clothed him with a halo of sanctity, and the protection of religion and the gods.

   The people of Rome seem to have thought for a while that the “restoration” was real, and that they were receiving back the Republic in return for an adjective. Did not the Senate and the assemblies still make the laws, still elect the magistrates? It was so; Augustus or his agents merely “proposed” the laws and “nominated” the more important candidates. As imperator and consul he ruled the army and the Treasury and administered the laws; and by his tribunician privileges he controlled all other activities of the government. His powers were not much greater than those of Pericles or Pompey, or any energetic American president; the difference lay in their permanence. In 23 B.C. he resigned the consulate, but received from the Senate a “proconsular authority” that gave him control of all officials in all provinces. Again no one objected; on the contrary, when a scarcity of grain threatened, the people besieged the Senate with demands that Augustus be made dictator. They had fared so ill under the Senatorial oligarchy that they were inclined toward a dictatorship, which would presumably cultivate their favor as a foil to the power of wealth. Augustus refused; but he took charge of the annona, or food supply, quickly ended the shortage, and earned such gratitude that Rome looked on with complacency as he remolded its institutions in his image.   







Let us study this principate government in some detail, for in many ways it was one of the subtlest political achievements in history. 

   The powers of the prince were at once legislative, executive, and judicial: he could propose laws or decrees to assemblies or Senate, he could administer and enforce them, he could interpret them, and he could penalize their violation. Augustus, says Suetonius, regularly sat as a judge, sometimes till nightfall, “having a litter placed upon the tribunal if he was indisposed. . . . He was highly conscientious and very lenient.” Bearing the duties of so many offices, Augustus organized an informal cabinet of counselors like Maecenas, executives like Agrippa, generals like Tiberius, and an incipient clerical and administrative bureaucracy chiefly composed of his freedmen and slaves. 

   Caius Maecenas was a wealthy businessman who devoted half his life to helping Augustus in war and peace, in politics and diplomacy, at last, unwillingly, in love. His palace on the Esquiline was famous for its gardens and its swimming pool of heated water. His enemies described him as an effeminate epicurean, for he flaunted silks and gems and knew all the lore of a Roman gourmet. He enjoyed and generously patronized literature and art, restored Virgil’s farm to him and gave another to Horace, inspired the Georgics and the Odes. He refused public office, though he might have had almost any; he labored for years over principles and details of administration and foreign policy; he had the courage to reprove Augustus when he thought him seriously wrong; and when he died (8 B.C.) the Prince mourned his loss as beyond repair. 

   Perhaps it was on his advice that Augustus—himself of middle-class origin, and free from the aristocrat’s contempt of trade—named so many businessmen to high administrative posts, even to provincial governorships. To a Senate offended by this innovation he made amends by many obeisances, by giving exceptional powers to Senatorial commissions, and by gathering about him a concilium principis of some twenty men, nearly all senators. In the course of time the decisions of this council acquired the force of senatusconsulta, or decrees of the Senate; its powers and functions grew as those of the Senate waned. However he might lavish courtesies upon it, the Senate was merely his highest instrument. As censor he four times revised its membership; he could, and did, eject individuals from it for official incompetence or private immorality; he nominated most of its new members; and the quaestors, praetors, and consuls who entered it after their term of office had been chosen by him or with his consent. The richest businessmen of Italy were enrolled in the Senate, and the two orders were in some measure brought together in that concordia of united domination that Cicero had proposed. The power of wealth checked the pride and privilege of birth, and a hereditary aristocracy checked the abuses and irresponsibility of wealth. 

   At the suggestion of Augustus the meetings of the Senate were confined to the first and fifteenth of each month and usually lasted but a day. As the princeps senatus presided, no measure could be submitted without his consent; and in fact he himself or his aides had prepared all measures presented. The judicial and executive functions of the Senate now outweighed its lawmaking. It served as a supreme court, governed Italy through commissions, and directed the performance of various public works. It ruled those provinces that required no extensive military control, but the Prince now controlled foreign relations. Shorn in this way of its ancient authority, the Senate grew negligent in even its limited functions, and yielded ever more responsibility to the Emperor and his staff. 

   The assemblies still met, though with decreasing frequency; they still voted, but only on measures or nominations approved by the Prince. The right of the plebs to hold office was practically ended in 18 B.C. by a law restricting office to men having a fortune of 400,000 sesterces or more. Augustus ran for the consulate thirteen times and canvassed for votes like the rest; it was a gracious concession to dramatic technique. Requiring every candidate to deposit, before election, a financial guarantee that he would abstain from bribery, hindered corruption. Augustus himself, however, once distributed a thousand sesterces to each voting member of his tribe to make sure that its vote would be correct. Tribunes and consuls continued to be elected till the fifth century AD; but as their major powers had fallen to the Prince, these offices were administrative rather than executive and finally became mere dignities. Augustus placed the actual government of Rome in the hands of salaried regional officials, equipped with a force of 3000 police under a praefectus urbi, or municipal police commissioner. Further to assure order of the desired kind, and support his own power, Augustus, seriously violating precedent, kept six cohorts of a thousand soldiers each near Rome and three cohorts within it. These nine cohorts became the Praetorian Guard—i.e., guard of the praetorium, or headquarters of the commander in chief. It was this body that in 41 AD made Claudius emperor and began the subjection of the government to the army. 

   From Rome the administrative care of Augustus passed to Italy and the provinces. He conferred Roman citizenship, or the limited franchise of “Latin rights,” upon all Italian communities that had borne their share in the war against Egypt. He helped the Italian cities with gifts, embellished them with new buildings, and devised a plan whereby their local councilors might vote by mail in the assembly elections at Rome. He divided the provinces into two classes: those that required active defense, and those that did not. The latter (Sicily, Baetica, Narbonese Gaul, Macedonia, Achaea, Asia Minor, Bithynia, Pontus, Cyprus, Crete and Cyrene, and north Africa) he allowed the Senate to rule; his own legates, procurators, or prefects governed the others i.e. (imperial provinces). This pleasant arrangement allowed him to keep control of the army, which was mostly quartered in the “endangered” provinces; it gave him the lush revenue of Egypt; and it enabled him to keep an eye on the Senatorial governors through the procurators whom he appointed to collect the tribute in all the provinces. Each governor now received a fixed salary, so that his temptation to mulct his subjects was moderately reduced; furthermore, a body of civil servants provided a continuing administration and a check upon the malfeasance of their temporary superiors. The kinglets of client states were treated with wise courtesy and gave Augustus full allegiance. He persuaded most of them to send their sons to live in his palace and receive a Roman education; by this generous arrangement the youths served as hostages until their accession, and then as unwitting vehicles of Romanization. 

   In the flush aftermath of Actium, and possessed of an enormous army and navy, Augustus apparently planned to extend the Empire to the Atlantic, the Sahara, the Euphrates, the Black Sea, the Danube, and the Elbe; the pax Romana was to be maintained not by passive defense but by an aggressive policy on every frontier. The Emperor in person completed the conquest of Spain and so ably reorganized the administration of Gaul that it remained at peace for nearly a century. In the case of Parthia he contented himself with the return of the standards and surviving captives taken from Crassus in 53 B.C.; but he restored to the throne of Armenia a Tigranes favorable to Rome. He sent abortive expeditions to conquer Ethiopia and Arabia. In the decade from 19 to 9 B.C. his stepsons Tiberius and Drusus subjugated Illyria, Pannonia, and Raetia. Agreeably provoked by German invasions of Gaul, Augustus ordered Drusus to cross the Rhine, and rejoiced to learn that the brilliant youth had fought his way to the Elbe. But Drusus suffered internal injuries from a fall, lingered in pain for thirty days, and died. Tiberius, who loved Drusus with all the intensity of a restrained but passionate nature, rode 640 kilometers on horseback from Gaul into Germany to hold his brother in his arms in the final hours; then he conveyed the body to Rome, walking before the cortege all the way (9 B.C.). Returning to Germany, Tiberius in two campaigns (8-7 B.C., 4-5 A.D.) forced the submission of the tribes between the Elbe and the Rhine. 

   Two disasters, coming almost together, changed this fever of expansion into a policy of peace. In 6 AD the lately won provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia revolted, massacred all the Romans in their territory, organized an army of 200,000 men, and threatened to invade Italy. Tiberius quickly made peace with the German tribes and led his depleted forces into Pannonia. With patient and ruthless strategy he captured or destroyed the crops that could supply the enemy, and by guerrilla warfare prevented new plantings, while he saw to it that his own troops were well fed. For three years he persisted in this policy despite universal criticism at home; at last he had the satisfaction of seeing the starving rebels disband, and of re-establishing the Roman power. But in that same year (9 A.D.) Arminius organized a revolt in Germany, lured the three legions of Varus, the Roman governor, into a trap, and killed every man of them except those who, like Varus, fell upon their own swords. When Augustus heard of this he was “so deeply affected,” says Suetonius, “that for several months he cut neither his beard nor his hair; and sometimes he would dash his head against a door, and cry out, ‘QuintiIius Varus, give me back my legions!’” Tiberius hastened to Germany, reorganized the army there, stood off the Germans, and, by Augustus’ orders, withdrew the Roman boundary to the Rhine. 

   It was a decision costly to the Emperor’s pride but creditable to his judgment. Germany was surrendered to “barbarism”—i.e., to a non-classic culture—and was left free to arm its growing population against Rome. However, the same reasons that had argued for the conquest of Germany would have demanded the subjection of Scythia—southern Russia. Somewhere the Empire had to stop; and the Rhine was a better frontier than any other west of the Urals. Having annexed northern and western Spain, Raetia, Noricum, Pannonia, Moesia, Galatia, Lycia, and Pamphylia, Augustus felt that he had sufficiently earned his title of “the increasing god.” At his death the Empire covered 8,650,560 square kilometers, more than the mainland of the United States, and over a hundred times the area of Rome before the Punic Wars. Augustus advised his successor to be content with this, the greatest empire yet seen; to seek rather to unite and strengthen it within than to extend it without, and to this end he enlarged Rome’s highway system to the remotest parts of the empire. He expressed his surprise “that Alexander did not regard it as a greater task to set in order the empire that he had won than to win it.” The Pax Romana had begun.




It could not be said that Augustus had made a desert and called it peace. Within a decade after Actium the Mediterranean knew such economic quickening as no tradition could parallel. The restoration of order was in itself a stimulus to recovery. The renewed safety of the seas, the stability of government, the conservatism of Augustus, the consumption of Egypt’s hoarded treasure, the opening of new mines and mints, the reliability and accelerated circulation of the currency, the easing of congested population into agricultural allotments and colonial settlements—how could prosperity resist so unanimous an invitation? A group of Alexandrian sailors, landing at Puteoli when Augustus was nearby, approached him in festal dress and offered him incense as to a deity. It was because of him, they said, that they could voyage in safety, trade in confidence, and live in peace. 

   Augustus was convinced, as became the grandson of a banker, that the best economy was one that united freedom with security. He protected all classes with well-administered laws, guarded the highways of trade, lent money without interest to responsible landowners, and mollified the poor with state grain, lotteries, and occasional gifts; for the rest he left enterprise, production, and exchange freer than before. Even so, the works directed by the state were now of unprecedented magnitude, and played some part in restoring economic life. Eighty-two temples were built; a new forum and basilica were added to facilitate the operations of finance and the courts; a new senate house replaced the one that had incinerated Clodius; colonnades were erected to temper the sun; the theater that Caesar had begun was completed and named after Marcellus, son-in-law of Augustus; and rich men were prodded by the Emperor into spending part of their fortunes in adorning Italy with basilicas, temples, libraries, theaters, and roads. “Those that celebrated triumphs,” says Dio Cassius, “he commanded to erect out of their spoils some public work to commemorate their deeds.” Augustus hoped to make the majesty of Rome enhance and symbolize her power and his own. Toward the close of his life he remarked that he had found Rome a city of brick and had left it a city of marble. It was a forgivable exaggeration: there had been much marble there before, and much brick remained. But seldom had any man done so much for a city. 

   His indispensable aide in the reconstruction of Rome was Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. This perfect friend had shared with Maecenas the guidance of Augustus’ policy. In his year as aedile (33 B.C.) Agrippa had won the public to Octavian by opening 170 public baths, distributing free oil and salt, presenting games for fifty-five successive days, and providing free barbers for all citizens for a year—apparently all at his own expense. His ability might have made him another Caesar; he preferred to serve Augustus for a generation. So far as we know, his life was unstained by public or private scandal; Roman gossip, which sooner or later besmirched everyone else, left him untouched. He was the first Roman to realize the importance of sea power. He planned, built, and commanded the fleet, defeated Sextus Pompey, suppressed piracy, and won a world for Augustus at Actium. After these victories and his pacification of Spain, Gaul, and the Bosporan kingdom, he was thrice offered a triumph and always refused. Enriched by a grateful prince, he continued to live without luxury, and devoted himself as ardently to public works as he had done to the preservation of the state. Out of his own purse he hired hundreds of laborers to repair roads, buildings, and sewers, and reopen the Marcian aqueduct. He constructed a new aqueduct, the Julian, and further improved the water supply of Rome with 700 wells, 500 fountains, and 130 reservoirs. When the people complained of the high price of wine Augustus slyly remarked, “My son-in-law Agrippa has seen to it that Rome shall not go thirsty.” This greatest of Roman engineers created a spacious harbor and shipbuilding center by connecting the Lucrine and Avernian lakes with the sea. He built the first of the imposing public baths that were to distinguish Rome among the cities. He constructed, again out of his own funds, a temple to Venus and Mars, which was rebuilt by Hadrian, is known to us as the Pantheon, and still bears on its portico the words, M. AGRIPPA . . . FECIT. He organized a thirty-year survey of the Empire, wrote a treatise on geography, and made in painted marble a map of the world. Like Leonardo he was a scientist, an engineer, an inventor of military projectiles, and an artist. His early death at the age of fifty (12 B.C.) was among the many sorrows that darkened the later years of Augustus, who had given him his daughter Julia in marriage, and had hoped to bequeath the Empire to him as the man best fitted to govern it honestly and well. 

   Costly public works combined with extended governmental services to raise state expenditures beyond precedent. Salaries were now paid to provincial and municipal officials, bureaucrats and police; a large army and navy were maintained; buildings were put up or restored without number; corn and games bribed the populace to peace. Since expenses were met out of current revenue, and no national debt was laid upon the future, taxation under Augustus became a science and an unremitting industry. Augustus was not relentless; often he forgave taxes to harassed individuals and cities or paid them out of his personal funds. He returned to the municipalities 35,000 pounds of gold offered him as a “coronation gift” on the occasion of his fifth consulate; and he refused many other donations. He abolished the land tax laid upon Italy in the Civil War; in its stead he levied upon all citizens in the Empire a five per cent tax on bequests to any persons except near relatives and the poor. A tax of one per cent was placed upon auction sales, four per cent upon the sale of slaves, five per cent upon their manumission; and custom dues from two and a half to five per cent were collected on nearly all ports of entry. All citizens were subject also to municipal taxes, and Roman realty did not share in Italy’s exemption from the tax on land. Taxes were paid for water supplied from the public mains. Considerable revenue came from the leasing of public lands, mines, and fisheries, from the state monopoly of salt, and the fines imposed by the courts. The provinces paid a tributum soli, or land tax, and a tributum capitisliterally a head or poll tax, actually a tax on personal property. Taxes flowed into two coffers at Rome, both stored in temples: the national Treasury (aerarium) controlled by the Senate, and the imperial Treasury (fiscus) owned and managed by the Emperor. (The fisci were, in the Republic, the sealed baskets in which the provincial money tribute was brought to Rome). To the latter came the income not only from his vast personal properties, but bequests from well-wishers and friends. Such legacies, in the lifetime of Augustus, amounted to 1,400,000,000 sesterces. 

   All in all, taxation under the Principate was not oppressive, and until Commodus the results were worth the cost. The provinces prospered and raised altars of gratitude or expectation to Augustus the god; even in sophisticated Rome he had to censure the people for the extravagance of their eulogies. One enthusiast ran through the streets calling upon men and women to “devote” themselves to Augustus—i.e., promise to kill themselves when he died. In 2 B.C. Messala Corvinus, who had captured Octavian’s camp at Philippi proposed that the title of pater patriae should be conferred upon Augustus. The Senate, pleased to have so little responsibility while retaining honors and wealth, gladly heaped upon the Emperor this and other titles of praise. The business classes, now richer than ever, celebrated his birthday with a two-day festival year after year. “All sorts and conditions of men,” says Suetonius, “brought him gifts on the kalends of January—New Year’s Day. When fire destroyed his old palace every city, apparently every tribe and guild, in the Empire sent him a contribution to rebuild it; he refused to take more than a denarius from any individual, but nevertheless he had more than enough. The entire Mediterranean world, after its long ordeal, seemed happy; and Augustus might believe that his patience and labor had accomplished his great task.





He destroyed his own happiness by trying to make people good as well as happy; it was an imposition that Rome never forgave him. Moral reform is the most difficult and delicate branch of statesmanship; few rulers have dared to attempt it; most rulers have left it to hypocrites and saints. 

   Augustus began modestly enough by seeking to check the racial transformation of Rome. Population there was not declining; on the contrary, it was growing by mass and dole attraction and the import of wealth and slaves. Since freedmen were included in the dole, many citizens freed old or sickly slaves to have them fed by the state; kinder motives freed more, and many slaves saved enough to buy their liberty. As the sons of freedmen automatically became citizens, the emancipation of slaves and the fertility of aliens combined with the lower birth rate of the native stocks to change the ethnic character of Rome. Augustus wondered what stability there could be in so heterogeneous a population, and what loyalty to the Empire might be expected of men in whose veins ran the blood of subject peoples. By his urging, the lex Fufia Caninia (2 B.C.) and later measures enacted that an owner of not more than two slaves might free them all, the owner of from three to ten slaves might free half of them, the owner of from eleven to thirty one-third, the owner of from thirty-one to one hundred one-fourth, the owner of from 101 to 300 one-fifth; and no master might free more than a hundred. 

   One might wish that Augustus had limited slavery instead of freedom. But antiquity took slavery for granted, and would have contemplated with horror the economic and social effects of a wholesale emancipation, just as the employers of our time fear the sloth that might come from security. Augustus was thinking in terms of race and class; he could not conceive a strong Rome without the character, courage, and political ability that had marked the old Roman; above all, the old aristocracy. The decay of the ancient faith among the upper classes had washed away the supernatural supports of marriage, fidelity, and parentage; the passage from farm to city had made children less of an asset, more of a liability and a toy; women wished to be sexually rather than maternally beautiful; in general the desire for individual freedom seemed to be running counter to the needs of the race. To accentuate the evil, legacy hunting had become the most profitable occupation in Italy. Men without children were sure to be courted in their declining years by expectant ghouls; and so large a number of Romans relished this esurient courtesy that it became an added cause of childlessness. Protracted military service drew a considerable proportion of young men from marriage in their most nubile years. A large number of native-stock Romans avoided wedlock altogether, preferring prostitutes or concubines even to a varied succession of wives. Of those who married, a majority appears to have limited their families by abortion, infanticide, coitus interruptus, and contraception. 

   These insignia of civilization disturbed Augustus. He began to feel that a movement backward to the old faith and morals was necessary. Respect for the mos maiorum revived in him as the years cleared his vision and tired his frame. It was not good, he felt, for the present to break too sharply with the past; a nation must have a continuity of traditions to be sane, as a man must have memory. He read with aging seriousness the historians of Rome, and envied the virtues they ascribed to the ancients. He relished the speech of Quintus Metellus on marriage, read it to the Senate, and recommended it to the people by imperial proclamation. A large part of the older generation agreed with him; it formed a kind of puritan party eager to reform morals by law; and probably Livia lent them her influence. By his powers as censor and tribune Augustus promulgated—or passed through the Assembly—a series of laws of now uncertain date and sequence, aimed at restoring morals, marriage, fidelity, parentage, and a simpler life. They forbade adolescents to attend public entertainments except in the company of an adult relative; excluded women from athletic exhibitions, and restricted them to the upper seats at gladiatorial games; limited expenditure on homes, servants, banquets, weddings, jewels, and dress. The most important of these “Julian laws” (so named from the clan to which Augustus belonged by adoption) was the lex lulia de pudicitia et de coercendis adulteriis (18 B.C.)—“The Julian law of chastity and repressing adultery.” Here for the first time in Roman history marriage was brought under the protection of the state, instead of being left to the patria potestas. The father retained the right to kill an adulterous daughter and her accomplice as soon as he discovered them; the husband was allowed to kill his wife’s paramour if caught in the husband’s house, but he might kill his wife only if he found her sinning in his own home. Within sixty days of detecting a wife’s adultery, the husband was required to bring her before the court; if he failed to do this, the woman’s father was required to indict her; if he too failed, any citizen might accuse her. The adulterous woman was to be banished for life, was to lose a third of her fortune and half her dowry, and must not marry again. Like penalties were decreed for a husband conniving at his wife’s adultery. A wife, however, could not accuse her husband of adultery, and he might with legal impunity have relations with registered prostitutes. The law applied only to Roman citizens. 

   Probably at the same time Augustus passed another law, usually named lex lulia de meritandis ordinibus, from its chapter on marriage in the “orders”—i.e. the two upper classes. Its purpose was threefold: to encourage and yet restrict marriage, to retard the dilution of Roman with alien blood, and to restore the old conception of marriage as a union for parentage. Marriage was to be obligatory upon all marriageable males under sixty and women under fifty. Bequests conditional on the legatee remaining unmarried were made void. Penalties were imposed upon celibates: they could not inherit, except from relatives, unless they were married within a hundred days after the testator’s death; and they could not attend public festivals or games. Widows and divorcees might inherit only if remarried within six months after the death or divorce of the husband. Spinsters and childless wives could not inherit after fifty, nor before if they possessed 50,000 sesterces. Men of the Senatorial class could not marry a freedwoman, an actress, or a prostitute; and no actor or freedman could marry a senator’s daughter. Women owning above 20,000 sesterces were to pay a one per cent annual tax till married; after marriage this tax decreased with each child until the third, with whose coming it ceased. Of the two consuls the one with more children was to have precedence over the other. In appointments to office the father of the largest family was as far as feasible to be preferred to his rivals. The mother of three children acquired the ius trium liberorum—the right to wear a special garment, and freedom from the power of her husband. 

   These laws offended every class, even the puritans—who complained that the “right of three children” dangerously emancipated the mother from male authority. Others excused their celibacy on the score that the “modem woman” was too independent, imperious, capricious, and extravagant. The exclusion of bachelors from public shows was considered too severe and impossible to enforce; Augustus had the clause rescinded in 12 B.C.. In 9 A.D. the lex Papia Poppaea further softened the Julian laws by easing the conditions under which celibates might inherit, doubling the period in which widows and divorcees must remarry to inherit, and increasing the amount that childless heirs could receive. Mothers of three children were freed from those limits that the lex Voconia (169 B.C.) had placed upon bequests to women. The age at which a citizen might stand for the various offices was lowered in proportion to the size of his family. After the law was passed men noted that the consuls who had framed it and given it their names were childless celibates. Gossip added that the reform laws had been suggested to Augustus, who had only one child, by Maecenas, who had none; and that while the laws were being enacted Maecenas was living in sybaritic luxury, and Augustus was seducing Maecenas’ wife. 

   It is difficult to estimate the effectiveness of this, the most important social legislation in antiquity. The laws were loosely drawn, and recalcitrants found many loopholes. Some men married to obey the law and divorced their wives soon afterwards; others adopted children to secure offices or legacies and then “emancipated”—i.e. dismissed—them. Tacitus, a century later, pronounced the laws a failure; “marriages and the rearing of children did not become frequent, so powerful are the attractions of a childless state.” Immorality continued, but was more polite than before; in Ovid we see it becoming a fine art, the subject of careful instructions from experts to apprentices. Augustus himself doubted the efficacy of his laws, and agreed with Horace that laws are vain when hearts are unchanged. He struggled heroically to reach people’s hearts: in his box at the games he displayed the numerous children of the exemplary Germanicus; gave a thousand sesterces to parents of large families; raised a monument to a slave girl who (doubtless without patriotic premeditation) had borne quintuplets; and rejoiced when a peasant marched into Rome with eight children, thirty-six grandchildren, and nineteen great-grandchildren in his train. Dio Cassius pictures him making public addresses denouncing “race suicide.” He enjoyed, perhaps inspired, the moral preface of Livy’s history. Under his influence the literature of the age became didactic and practical. Through Maecenas or in person he persuaded Virgil and Horace to lend their muses to the propaganda of moral and religious reform; Virgil tried to sing the Romans back to the farm in the Georgics, and to the old gods in the Aeneid; and Horace, after a large sampling of the world’s pleasures, tuned his lyre to stoic themes. In 17 B.C. Augustus presented the ludi saeculares (literally, century games, because given only at long intervals)—three days of ceremonies, contests, and spectacles, celebrating the return of Saturn’s Golden Age; and Horace was commissioned to write the carmen saeculare to be chanted in procession by twenty-seven boys and as many girls. Even art was used to point a moral: the lovely Ara Pacis showed in relief the life and government of Rome; magnificent public buildings rose to represent the strength and glory of the Empire; scores of temples were erected to stir again a faith that had almost died. 

   In the end Augustus, skeptic and realist, became convinced that moral reform awaited a religious renaissance. The agnostic generation of Lucretius, Catullus, and Caesar had run its course, and its children had discovered that the fear of the gods is the youth of wisdom. Even the cynical Ovid would soon write, Voltaireanly: expedit esse deos, et ut expedit esse putemus: “it is convenient that there should be gods, and that we should think they exist.” Conservative minds traced the Civil War, and the sufferings it had brought, to neglect of religion and the consequent anger of Heaven. Everywhere in Italy a chastened people were ready to turn back to its ancient altars and thank the deities who, it felt, had spared it for this happy restoration. When, in 12 B.C., Augustus, having waited patiently for the tepid Lepidus to die, succeeded him as pontifex maximus, “such a multitude from all Italy assembled for my election,” the Emperor tells us, “as is never recorded to have been in Rome before.” He both led and followed the revival of religion, hoping that his political and moral reconstruction would win readier acceptance if he could entwine it with the gods. He raised the four priestly colleges to unprecedented dignity and wealth, chose himself to each of them, took upon himself the appointment of new members, attended their meetings faithfully, and took part in their solemn pageantry. He banned Egyptian and Asiatic cults from Rome, but he made an exception in favor of the Jews, and permitted religious freedom in the provinces. He lavished gifts upon the temples and renewed old religious ceremonies, processions, and festivals. The ludi saeculares were not secular; every day of them was marked with religious ritual and song; their chief significance was the return of a happy friendship with the gods. Nourished with such sovereign aid, the ancient cult took on fresh life, and touched again the dramatic impulses and supernatural hopes of the people. Amid the chaos of competing faiths that flowed in upon Rome after Augustus, it held its own for three centuries more; and when it died it was at once a reborn, under new symbols and new name. 

   Augustus himself became one of the chief competitors of his gods. His great-uncle had set the example: two years after being murdered, Caesar had been recognized by the Senate as a deity, and his worship spread throughout the Empire. As early as 36 B.C. some Italian cities had given Octavian a place in their pantheon; by 27 B.C. his name was added to those of the gods in official hymns at Rome; his birthday became a holy day as well as a holiday; and after his death the Senate decreed that his genius, or soul, was thereafter to be worshiped as one of the official divinities. All this seemed quite natural to antiquity; it had never recognized an impassable difference between gods and men; the gods had often taken human form, and the creative genius of a Heracles, a Lycurgus, an Alexander, a Caesar, or an Augustus seemed, especially to the religious East, miraculous and divine. The Egyptians had thought of the Pharaohs, of the Ptolemies, even of Antony, as deities; they could hardly think less of Augustus. The ancients were not in these cases such simpletons as their modem counterparts would like to believe. They knew well enough that Augustus was human; in deifying his genius, or that of others, they used deus or theos as equivalent to our “canonized saint;” indeed, canonization is a descendant of Roman deification; and to pray to such a deified human being seemed no more absurd then than prayer to a saint seems now. 

   In Italian homes the worship of the Emperor’s genius became associated with the adoration given to the Lares of the household and the genius of the paterfamilias; there was nothing difficult in this for a people who through centuries had deified their dead parents, built altars to them, and given the name of temples to the ancestral tombs. When Augustus visited Greek Asia in 21 B.C. he found that his cult had made rapid headway there. Dedications and orations hailed him as “Savior,” “Bringer of Glad Tidings,” “God the Son of God”; some men argued that in him the long-awaited Messiah had come, bringing peace and happiness to mankind. The great provincial councils made his worship the center of their ceremonies; a new priesthood, the Augustales, was appointed by provinces and municipalities for the service of the new divinity. Augustus frowned upon all this, but finally accepted it as a spiritual enhancement of the Principate, a valuable cementing of church and state, a uniting common worship amid diverse and dividing creeds. The moneylender’s grandson consented to become a god.





What sort of man was this who was heir to Caesar at eighteen, master of the world at thirty-one, ruler of Rome for half a century, and architect of the greatest empire in ancient history? He was at once dull and fascinating; no one more prosaic, yet half the world adored him; a physical weakling not particularly brave, but able to overcome all enemies, regulate kingdoms, and fashion a government that would give the vast realm an unexampled prosperity for two hundred years. 

   Sculptors spent much marble and bronze in making images of him: some showing him in the timid pride of a refined and serious youth, some in the somber pose of a priest, some half covered with the insignia of power, some in military garb—the philosopher unwillingly and uneasily playing the general. These effigies do not reveal, though sometimes they suggest, the ailments that made his war against chaos depend precariously at every step upon his fight for health. He was unprepossessing. He had sandy hair, a strangely triangular head, merging eyebrows, clear and penetrating eyes; yet his expression was so calm and mild, says Suetonius, that a Gaul who came to kill him changed his mind. His skin was sensitive and intermittently itched with a kind of ringworm; rheumatism weakened his left leg and made him limp a bit; a stiffness akin to arthritis occasionally incapacitated his right hand. He was one of many Romans attacked in 23 B.C by a plague resembling typhus; he suffered from stones in the bladder, and found it hard to sleep; he was troubled each spring by “an enlargement of the diaphragm; and when the wind was in the south he had catarrh.” He bore cold so poorly that in winter he wore “a woolen chest protector, wraps for his thighs and shins, an undershirt, four tunics (blouses), and a heavy toga.” He dared not expose his head to the sun. Horseback riding tired him, and he was sometimes carried in a litter to the battlefield. At thirty-five, having lived through one of the most intense dramas in history, he was already old—nervous, sickly, easily tired; no one dreamed that he would live another forty years. He tried a variety of doctors, and richly rewarded one, Antonius Musa, for curing an uncertain illness (abscess of the liver?) with cold fomentations and baths; in Musa’s honor he exempted all Roman physicians from taxation. But for the most part he doctored himself. He used hot salt water and sulfur baths for his rheumatism; he ate lightly and only the plainest food—coarse bread, cheese, fish, and fruit; he was so careful of his diet that “sometimes he ate alone either before a dinner party or after it, taking nothing during its course.” In him, as in some medieval saints, the soul bore its body like a cross. 

   His essence was nervous vitality, inflexible resolution, a penetrating, calculating, resourceful mind. He accepted an unheard-of number of offices, and took upon himself responsibility only less than Caesar’s. He fulfilled the duties of these positions conscientiously, presided regularly over the Senate, attended innumerable conferences, judged hundreds of trials, suffered ceremonies and banquets, planned distant campaigns, governed legions and provinces, visited nearly everyone of them, and attended to infinite administrative detail. He made hundreds of speeches, and prepared them with proud attention to clarity, simplicity, and style; he read them instead of speaking extemporaneously, lest he should utter regrettable words. Suetonius would have us believe that for the same reason he wrote out in advance, and read, important conversations with individuals, even with his wife. 

   Like most skeptics of his time, he retained superstitions long after losing his faith. He carried a sealskin about him to protect against lightning; he respected omens and auspices and sometimes obeyed warnings derived from dreams; he refused to begin a journey on what he reckoned to be unlucky days. At the same time he was remarkable for the objectivity of his judgment and the practicality of his thought. He advised young men to enter soon upon an active career, so that the ideas they had learned from books might be tempered by the experience and necessities of life. He kept to the end his bourgeois good sense, conservatism, parsimony, and caution. Festina lente—“make haste slowly”—was his favorite saw. Far more than most men of such power, he could take advice and bear reproof humbly. Athenodorus, a philosopher who was returning to Athens after living with him for years, gave him some parting counsel: “Whenever you get angry do not say or do anything before repeating to yourself the twenty-four letters of the alphabet.” Augustus was so grateful for the caution that he begged Athenodorus to stay another year, saying, “No risk attends the reward that silence brings.” 

   Even more surprising than Caesar’s development from a roistering politician into a great general and statesman was the transformation of the merciless and self-centered Octavian into the modest and magnanimous Augustus. He grew. The man who had allowed Antony to hang Cicero’s head in the Forum, who had moved without scruple from one faction to another, who had run the gamut of sexual indulgence, who had pursued Antony and Cleopatra to the death unmoved by friendship or chivalry—this tenacious and unlovable youth, instead of being poisoned by power, became in his last forty years a model of justice, moderation, fidelity, magnanimity, and toleration. He laughed at the lampoons that wits and poets wrote about him. He advised Tiberius to be content with preventing or prosecuting hostile actions and not seek to suppress hostile words. He did not insist upon others living as simply as himself; when he invited guests to dinner he would retire early to leave their appetite and merriment unrestrained. He had no pretentiousness; he buttonholed voters to ask their suffrages; he substituted for his lawyer friends in court; he left or entered Rome secretly, abhorring pomp; in the reliefs of the Ara Pacis he is not set apart from the other citizens by any mark of distinction. His morning receptions were open to all citizens, and all were affably received. When one man hesitated to present a petition he jokingly chided him for offering the document “as if he were giving a penny to an elephant.” 

   In his senile years, when disappointments had embittered him, and he had grown accustomed to omnipotence, even to being a god, he lapsed into intolerance, prosecuted hostile writers, suppressed histories of too critical a stamp, and gave no ear to Ovid’s penitent verse. Once, it is said, he had the legs of his secretary Thallus broken for taking 500 denarii to reveal the contents of an official letter; and he forced one of his freedmen to kill himself when found guilty of adultery with a Roman matron. All in all, it is hard to love him. We must picture the frailty of his body and the sorrows of his old age before our hearts can go out to him as to the murdered Caesar or the beaten Antony.




His failures and his tragedies were almost all within his home. By his three wives—Claudia, Scribonia, Livia—he had but one child: Scribonia unwittingly avenged her divorce by giving him Julia. He had hoped that Livia would bear him a son whom he might train and educate for government; but though she had rewarded her first husband with two splendid children—Tiberius and Drusus—her marriage with Augustus proved disappointingly sterile. Otherwise their union was a happy one. She was a woman of stately beauty, firm character, and fine understanding; Augustus rehearsed his most vital measures with her and valued her advice as highly as that of his maturest friends. Asked how she had acquired such influence over him, she replied, “by being scrupulously chaste . . . never meddling with his affairs, and pretending neither to hear of nor to notice the favorites with whom he had amours.” She was a model of the old virtues, and perhaps expounded them too persistently. In her leisure she devoted herself to charity, helping parents of large families, providing dowries for poor brides, and maintaining many orphans at her own expense. Her palace itself was almost an orphanage; for there, and in the home of his sister Octavia, Augustus supervised the education of his grandsons, nephews, nieces, and even the six surviving children of Antony. He sent the boys off early to war, saw to it that the girls should learn to spin and weave, and “forbade them to do or say anything except without concealment, and such as might be recorded in the household diary.” 

   Augustus learned to love Livia’s son Drusus, adopted and reared him, and would gladly have left him his wealth and power; the youth’s early death was one of the Emperor’s first bereavements. Tiberius he respected but could not love, for his future successor was a positive and imperious character, inclined to sullenness and secrecy. But the comeliness and vivacity of his daughter Julia must have given Augustus many happy moments in her childhood. When she had reached the age of fourteen he persuaded Octavia to allow the divorce of her son Marcellus, and induced the youth to marry Julia. Two years later Marcellus died; and Julia, after brief mourning, set out to enjoy a freedom she had long coveted. But soon the matchmaking Emperor, craving a grandson as heir, coaxed the reluctant Agrippa to divorce his wife and marry the merry widow (21 B.C.). Julia was eighteen, Agrippa forty-two; but he was a good and great man and agreeably rich. She made his town house a salon of pleasure and wit, and became the soul of the younger and gayer set in the capital as against the puritans who took their lead from Livia. Rumor accused Julia of deceiving her new husband, and ascribed to her an incredible reply to the incredible question why, despite her adulteries, all the five children she gave Agrippa resembled him: Numquam nisi nave plena tollo vectorem i.e she took on new passengers only when the boat was already full (meaning that she only took lovers when she knew she was already pregnant by her husband). When Agrippa died (12 B.C.) Augustus turned his hopes to Julia’s oldest sons, Gaius and Lucius, overwhelmed them with affection and education, and had them promoted to office far sooner than was legally warranted by their years. 

   Again a widow, Julia, richer and lovelier than ever, entered with saucy abandon upon a succession of amours, which became at once the scandal and the joy of a Rome that fretted under the “Julian laws.” To quiet this gossip, and perhaps to reconcile his daughter with his wife, Augustus made a third match for Julia. Livia’s son Tiberius was compelled to divorce his pregnant wife, Vipsania Agrippina, daughter of Agrippa, and to marry the equally reluctant Julia (9 B.C.). The young old Roman did his best to be a good husband; but Julia soon gave up the effort to adjust her epicurean to his stoic ways, and resumed her illicit loves. Tiberius bore the infamy for a time in furious silence. The lex lulia de adulteriis required the husband of an adulteress to denounce her to the courts; Tiberius disobeyed the law to protect its author, and perhaps himself, for he and Livia had hoped that Augustus would adopt him as his son and transmit to him the leadership of the Empire. When it became clear that the Emperor favored, instead, Julia’s children by Agrippa, Tiberius resigned his official posts and retired to Rhodes. There for seven years he lived as a simple private citizen, devoting himself to solitude, philosophy, and astrology. Freer than ever, Julia passed from one lover to another, and the revels of her set filled the Forum with turmoil at night. 

   Augustus, now (2 B.C.) an invalid of sixty, suffered all that a father and ruler could bear from the simultaneous collapse of his family, his honor, and his laws. By these laws the father of an adulteress was bound to indict her publicly if her husband had failed to do so. Proofs of her misconduct were laid before him, and the friends of Tiberius let it be known that unless Augustus acted they would accuse Julia before the court. Augustus decided to anticipate them. While the merrymaking was at its height, he issued a decree banishing his daughter to the island of Pandateria, a barren rock off the Campanian coast. One of her lovers, a son of Antony, was forced to kill himself, and several others were exiled. Julia’s freedwoman Phoebe hanged herself rather than testify against her; the distraught Emperor, hearing of the act, said, “I would rather have been Phoebe’s father than Julia’s.” The people of Rome begged him to forgive his daughter, Tiberius added his request to theirs, but pardon never came. Tiberius, enthroned, merely changed her place of residence to a less narrow confinement at Rhegium. There, broken and forgotten after sixteen years of imprisonment, Julia died. 

   Her sons Gaius and Lucius had long preceded her in death: Lucius of an illness in Marseilles (2 A.D.), Gaius of a wound received in Armenia (4 A.D.). Left without aide or successor at a time when Germany, Pannonia, and Gaul were threatening revolt, Augustus reluctantly recalled Tiberius (2 A.D.), adopted him as son and coregent, and sent him off to put down the rebellions. When he returned (9 A.D.), after five years of arduous and successful campaigning, all Rome, which hated him for his stern puritanism, resigned itself to the fact that though Augustus was still prince, Tiberius had begun to rule. 

   Life’s final tragedy is unwilling continuance—to outlive one’s self and be forbidden to die. When Julia went into exile Augustus was not in years an old man; others were still vigorous at sixty. But he had lived too many lives, and died too many deaths, since he had come to Rome, a boy of eighteen, to avenge Caesar’s murder and execute his will. How many wars and battles and near-defeats, how many pains and illnesses, how many conspiracies and perils, and bitter miscarriages of noble aims, had befallen him in those crowded forty-two years—and the snatching away of one hope and helper after another, until at last only this dour Tiberius remained! Perhaps it had been wiser to die like Antony, at the peak of life and in the arms of love. How sadly pleasant must have seemed, in retrospect, the days when Julia and Agrippa were happy, and grandchildren frolicked on the palace floor. Now another Julia, daughter of his daughter, had grown up and was following her mother’s morals as if resolved to illustrate all the amatory arts of her friend Ovid’s verse. In 8 A.D., having received proofs of her adultery, Augustus exiled her to an isle in the Adriatic, and at the same time banished Ovid to Tomi on the Black Sea. “Would that I had never married,” mourned the feeble and shrunken Emperor, “or that I had died without offspring!” Sometimes he thought of starving himself to death. 

   All the great structure that he had built seemed to be in ruins. The powers that he had assumed for order’s sake had weakened into degeneration the Senate and the assemblies from which he had taken them. Tired of ratifications and adulations, the senators no longer came to their sessions, and a mere handful of citizens gathered in the comitia. Offices that had once stirred creative ambition by the power they brought were now shunned by the able as empty and expensive vanities. The very peace that Augustus had organized, and the security that he had won for Rome, had loosened the fiber of the people. No one wanted to enlist in the army, or recognize the inexorable periodicity of war. Luxury had taken the place of simplicity, sexual license was replacing parentage; by its own exhausted will the great race was beginning to die.

   All these things the old Emperor keenly saw and sadly felt. No one then could tell him that despite a hundred defects and half a dozen idiots on the throne, the strange and subtle principate that he had established would give the Empire the longest period of prosperity ever known to mankind; and that the Pax Romana, which had begun as the Pax Augusta, would in the perspective of time be accounted the supreme achievement in the history of statesmanship. Like Leonardo, he thought that he had failed. Death came to him quietly at Nola in the seventy-sixth year of his age (14 A.D.). To the friends at his bedside he uttered the words often used to conclude a Roman comedy: “Since well I’ve played my part, clap now your hands, and with applause dismiss me from the stage.” He embraced his wife, saying, “Remember our long union, Livia; farewell;” and with this simple parting he passed away (Aug. 19, 14 A.D.). Some days later his corpse was borne through Rome on the shoulders of senators to the Field of Mars, and there cremated while children of high degree chanted the lament for the dead. His remains were placed inside a great tomb called the Mausoleum. __________________________________________________________________________

13. Saladin (reigned 1174–1193)


I. 1174-1188


Saladin was born in 1138 in Takrit, Mesopotamia, but grew up in Aleppo, Baalbek, and Damascus. As a teenager he showed more inclination in becoming a Muslim scholar than a soldier. However, his military career began in the army of Nur al-Din, the governor of northern Syria, when he joined the staff of his army commander uncle Asad ad-Din Shirkuh. In 1164, Nur al-Din sent Saladin with an army to settle a struggle between members of the government of Egypt. The army returned to Egypt in 1168 to help defend the country against Christian crusaders, after which it took control, and Saladin became vizier then sultan. 

   In the forty years of peace that followed the Second Crusade, the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem continued to be torn with internal strife, while its Muslim enemies moved toward unity. Nur-ud-din spread his power from Aleppo to Damascus (1164); when he died, Saladin brought Egypt and Muslim Syria under one rule (1175). Genoese, Venetian, and Pisan merchants disordered the Eastern ports with their mortal rivalry. Knights quarreled for the royal power in Jerusalem; and when Guy de Lusignan maneuvered his way to the throne (1186), disaffection spread among the aristocracy; “if this Guy is a king,” said his brother Geoffrey, “I am worthy to be a god.” Reginald of Chatillon made himself sovereign in the great castle of Karak beyond the Jordan, near the Arabian frontier, and repeatedly violated the truce arranged between the Latin king and Saladin. He announced his intention to invade Arabia, destroy the tomb of “the accursed camel driver” at Medina, and smash the Kaaba at Mecca in fragments to the ground. His small force of knightly adventurers sailed down the Red Sea, landed at el-Haura, and marched to Medina; they were surprised by an Egyptian detachment, and all, were cut down except a few who escaped with Reginald, and some prisoners who were taken to Mecca and slaughtered instead of goats at the annual pilgrimage sacrifice (1183). 

   Saladin had heretofore contented himself with minor forays against Palestine; now, offended to the depths of his piety, he re-formed the army that had won him Damascus, and met the forces of the Latin kingdom in an indecisive battle on the historic plain of Esdraelon (1183). A few months later he attacked Reginald at Karak, but failed to enter the citadel. In 1185 he signed a four-year truce with the Latin kingdom. But in 1186 Reginald, bored with peace, waylaid a Muslim caravan, and took rich booty and several prisoners, including Saladin’s sister. “Since they trusted in Muhammad,” said Reginald, “let Muhammad come and save them.” Muhammad did not come; but Saladin, infuriated, sounded the call for a holy war against the Christians, and swore to kill Reginald with his own hand. 

   The crucial engagement of the Crusades was fought at Hittin, near Tiberias, on July 11, 1187. Saladin, familiar with the terrain, took up positions controlling all the wells; the heavily armored Christians, having marched across the plain in midsummer heat, entered battle gasping with thirst. Taking advantage of the wind, the Saracens started a brush fire whose smoke further harassed the Crusaders. In the blind confusion the Frank footmen were separated from the cavalry, and were cut down; the knights, fighting with desperation against weapons, smoke, and thirst, at last fell exhausted to the ground, and were captured or slain. Apparently by Saladin’s orders, no mercy was shown to Templars or Hospitalers. He directed that King Guy and Duke Reginald be brought before him; to the King he gave drink as a pledge of pardon; to Reginald he gave the choice of death or acknowledging Muhammad as a prophet of God; when Reginald refused, Saladin slew him. Part of the booty taken by the victors was the True Cross, which had been borne as a battle standard by a priest; Saladin sent it to the caliph at Baghdad. Seeing that no army remained to challenge him, he proceeded to capture Acre, where he freed 4000 Muslim prisoners, and paid his troops with the wealth of the busy port. For a few months nearly all Palestine was in his hands. 

   As he approached Jerusalem the leading citizens came out to bid for peace. “I believe,” he told them, “that Jerusalem is the home of God, as you also believe; and I will not willingly lay siege to it, or put it to assault.” He offered it freedom to fortify itself, and to cultivate unhindered the land for twenty-four kilometers around, and promised to supply all deficiencies of money and food, until Pentecost; if, when that day came, they saw hope of being rescued, they might keep the city and honorably resist him; if no such prospect appeared, they were to yield peaceably, and he would spare the lives and property of the Christian inhabitants. The delegates refused the offer, saying that they would never surrender the city where the Savior had died for mankind. The siege lasted only twelve days. When the city capitulated, Saladin required a ransom of ten gold pieces for each man, five for each woman, one for each child; the poorest 7000 were to be freed on the surrender of the 30,000 gold bezants which had been sent to the Hospitalers by Henry II of England. These terms were accepted, says a Christian chronicler, “with gratitude and lamentation;” perhaps some learned Christians compared these events of 1187 with those of 1099. Saladin’s brother al-Adil asked for the gift of a thousand slaves from the still un-ransomed poor; it was granted, and he freed them. Balian, leader of the Christian resistance, asked a like boon, received it, and freed another thousand; the Christian primate asked and received and did likewise. Then Saladin said: “My brother has made his alms, and the patriarch and Balian have made theirs; now I would make mine;” and he freed all the old who could not pay. Apparently some 15,000 of the 60,000 captured Christians remained un-ransomed, and became slaves. Among the ransomed were the wives and daughters of the nobles who had been killed or captured at Hittin. Softened by their tears, Saladin released to them such husbands and fathers (including King Guy) as could be “found in Muslim captivity, and (relates Ernoul, squire to Balian) to “the dames and damsels whose lords were dead he distributed from his own treasure so much that they gave praise to God, and published abroad the kindness and honor that Saladin had done them.”  

   The freed King and nobles took an oath never to bear arms against him again. Safe in Christian Tripoli and Antioch, they were “released by the sentence of the clergy from the enormity of their promise,” and laid plans of vengeance against Saladin. The Sultan allowed the Jews to dwell again in Jerusalem, and gave Christians the right to enter, but unarmed; he assisted their pilgrimage, and protected their security. The Dome of the Rock, which had been converted into a church, was purified from Christian taint by sprinkling with rose water, and the golden cross that had surmounted the cupola was cast down amid Muslim cheers and Christian groans. Saladin led his wearied troops to the siege of Tyre, found it impregnable, dismissed most of his army, and retired ill and worn to Damascus (1188), in the fiftieth year of his age.





The retention of Tyre, Antioch, and Tripoli left the Christians some strands of hope. Italian fleets still controlled the Mediterranean, and stood ready to carry fresh Crusaders for a price. William, Archbishop of Tyre, returned to Europe, and recounted to assemblies in Italy, France, and Germany the fall of Jerusalem. At Mainz his appeal so moved Frederick Barbarossa that the great Emperor, sixty-seven years old, set out almost at once with his army (1189), and all Christendom applauded him as the second Moses who would open a way to the Promised Land. Crossing the Hellespont at Gallipoli, the new host, on a new route, repeated the errors and tragedies of the First Crusade. Turkish bands harassed its march and cut off its supplies; hundreds starved to death; Frederick was drowned ignominiously in the little river of Salef in Cilicia (1190); and only a fraction of his army survived to join in the siege of Acre. 

   Richard I of the Lion Heart, recently crowned King of England at the age of thirty-one, resolved to try his hand on the Muslims. Fearing French encroachment, in his absence, upon English possessions in France, he insisted that Philip Augustus should accompany him; the French king—a lad of twenty-three—agreed; and the two youthful monarchs received the cross from William of Tyre in a moving ceremony at Vezelay. Richard’s army of Normans (for few Englishmen took part in the Crusades) sailed from Marseille, Philip’s army from Genoa, for a rendezvous in Sicily (1190). There the kings quarreled and otherwise amused themselves for half a year. Tancred, King of Sicily, offended Richard, who seized Messina “quicker than a priest could chant matins,” and restored it for 40,000 ounces of gold. So solvent, he embarked his army for Palestine. Some of his ships were wrecked on the coast of Cyprus; the Greek governor imprisoned the crews; Richard paused for a moment, conquered Cyprus, and gave it to Guy de Lusignan, the homeless king of Jerusalem. He reached Acre in June of 1191, a year after leaving Vezelay. Philip had preceded him; the siege of Acre by the Christians had already lasted nineteen months, and had cost thousands of lives. A few weeks after Richard’s arrival the Saracens surrendered. The victors asked, and were promised, 200,000 gold pieces, 1600 selected prisoners, and the restoration of the True Cross. Saladin confirmed the agreement, and the Muslim population of Acre, excepting the 1600, were allowed to depart with such provisions as they could carry. Philip Augustus, ill with fever, returned to France, leaving behind him a French force of 10,500 men. Richard became sole leader of the Third Crusade. 

   Now began a confused and unique campaign in which blows and battles alternated with compliments and courtesies, while the English King and the Kurd Sultan illustrated some of the finest qualities of their civilizations and creeds. Neither was a saint: Saladin could dispense death with vigor when military purposes seemed to him to require it; and the romantic Richard permitted some interruptions in his career as a gentleman. When the leaders of besieged Acre delayed in carrying out the agreed terms of surrender, Richard had 2500 Muslim prisoners beheaded before the walls as a hint to hurry. When Saladin learned of this he ordered the execution of all prisoners thereafter taken in battle with the English King. Changing his tune, Richard proposed to end the Crusades by marrying his sister Joan to Saladin’s brother al-Adil. The Church denounced the scheme, and it was dropped.  

   Knowing that Saladin would not stay quiet in defeat, Richard reorganized his forces and prepared to march ninety-seven kilometers southward along the coast to relieve Jaffa, which, again in Christian hands, was under Muslim siege. Many nobles refused to go with him, preferring to stay behind in Acre and intrigue for the kingship of the Jerusalem, which they trusted Richard would take. The German troops returned to Germany, and the French army repeatedly disobeyed the orders, and frustrated the strategy, of the British King. Nor were the rank and file ready for renewed effort. After the long siege, says the Christian chronicler of Richard’s crusade, the victorious Christians,


given up to sloth and luxury, were loath to leave a city so rich in comforts—to wit, the choicest of wines and the fairest of damsels. Many, by a too intimate acquaintance with these pleasures, became dissolute, till the city was polluted by their luxury, and their gluttony and wantonness put wise men to the blush.


Richard made matters more difficult by ordering that no women should accompany the army except washerwomen, who could not be an occasion of sin. He atoned for the defects of his troops by the excellence of his generalship, the skill of his engineering, and his inspiring valor on the field; in these respects he excelled Saladin, as well as all other Christian leaders of the


   His army met Saladin’s at Arsuf, and won an indecisive victory (1191). Saladin offered to renew battle, but Richard withdrew his men within Jaffa’s walls. Saladin sent him an offer of peace. During the negotiations Conrad, Marquis of Montferrat, who held Tyre, entered into separate correspondence with Saladin, proposing to become his ally, and retake Acre for the Muslims, if Saladin would agree to his appropriating Sidon and Beirut. Despite this offer, Saladin authorized his brother to sign with Richard a peace yielding to the Christians all the coastal cities that they then held, and half of Jerusalem. Richard was so pleased that he ceremoniously conferred knighthood upon the son of the Muslim ambassador (1192). A while later, hearing that Saladin was faced with revolt in the East, he rejected Saladin’s terms, besieged and took Darum, and advanced to within nineteen kilometers of Jerusalem. Saladin, who had dismissed his troops for the winter, called them back to arms. Meanwhile dissension broke out in the Christian camp, scouts reported that the wells on the road to Jerusalem had been poisoned, and the army would have nothing to drink. A council was held to decide strategy; it voted to abandon Jerusalem and march upon Cairo, four hundred kilometers away. Richard, sick, disgusted, and despondent, retired to Acre, and thought of returning to England. 

   But when he heard that Saladin had again attacked Jaffa, and had taken it in two days, Richard’s pride revived him. With such troops as he could muster he sailed at once for Jaffa. Arrived in the harbor, he cried, “Perish the hindmost!” and leaped to his waist into the sea. Swinging his famous Danish ax, he beat down all who resisted him, led his men into the city, and cleared it of Muslim soldiery almost before Saladin could learn what had occurred (1192). The sultan summoned his main army to his rescue. It far outnumbered Richard’s 3000, but the reckless courage of the King carried the day. Seeing Richard unmounted, Saladin sent him a charger, calling it a shame that so gallant a warrior should have to fight on foot. Saladin’s soldiers soon had enough; they reproached him for having spared the Jaffa garrison, which was now fighting again.  

   On the next day fortune changed. Reinforcements reached Saladin; and Richard, sick again, and unsupported by the knights at Acre and Tyre, once more sued for peace. In his fever he cried out for fruit and a cooling drink; Saladin sent him pears and peaches and snow, and his own physician. On September 9, 1192, the two heroes signed a peace for three years, and partitioned Palestine: Richard was to keep all the coastal cities he had conquered, from Acre to Jaffa; Muslims and Christians were to pass freely into and from each other’s territory, and pilgrims would be protected in Jerusalem; but that city was to remain in Muslim hands. (Perhaps the Italian merchants, interested chiefly in controlling the ports, had persuaded Richard to yield the Holy City in return for the coastal area.) The peace was celebrated with feasts and tournaments; “God alone,” says Richard’s chronicler, “knoweth the measureless delight of both peoples;” for a moment men ceased to hate. Boarding his ship for England, Richard sent a last defiant note to Saladin, promising to return in three years and take Jerusalem. Saladin replied that if he must lose his land he had liefer lose it to Richard than to any other man alive. 

   Saladin’s moderation, patience, and justice had defeated Richard’s brilliance, courage, and military art; the relative unity and fidelity of the Muslim leaders had triumphed over the divisions and disloyalties of the feudal chiefs; and a short line of supplies behind the Saracens proved of greater advantage than Christian control of the seas. The Christian virtues and faults were better exemplified in the Muslim sultan than in the Christian king. Saladin was religious to the point of persecution, and allowed himself to be unreasonably bitter against the Templars and Hospitalers. Usually, however, he was gentle to the weak, merciful to the vanquished, and so superior to his enemies in faithfulness to his word that Christian chroniclers wondered how so wrong a theology could produce so fine a man. He treated his servants with gentleness, and himself heard all petitions. He “esteemed money as little as dust,” and left only one dinar in his personal treasury. Not long before his death he gave his son ez-Zahir instructions that no Christian philosopher could surpass: “My son, I commend thee to the most high God. . . . Do His will, for that way lies peace. Abstain from shedding blood . . . for blood that is spilt never sleeps. Seek to win the hearts of thy people, and watch over their prosperity; for it is to secure their happiness that thou art appointed by God and me. Try to gain the hearts of thy ministers, nobles, and emirs. If I have become great it is because I have won men’s hearts by kindness and gentleness. He died in 1193, aged only fifty-five. 

   Muslims regard Saladin as a saintly hero, for all wrongs that came to his knowledge were speedily redressed, taxes were lowered at the same time that public works were extended, and the functions of government were carried on with efficiency and zeal. Rather than becoming a hated figure in Europe, he became a celebrated example of the principles of chivalry. Although the Ayyubid dynasty that he founded would only outlive him by 57 years, the legacy of Saladin within the Arab World continues to this day. Many modern nationalist Arabs have rightly portrayed him as a hero of the struggle against the West, have sought to commemorate him through various measures, and have seen his heroism and leadership gain a new significance. Saladin’s liberation of Palestine from the European Crusaders was put forth as the inspiration for the modern-day Arabs’ opposition to Zionism. Moreover, the glory and comparative unity of the Arab World under Saladin was seen as the perfect symbol for the new unity sought by Arab nationalists, such as Gamal Abdel Nasser. For this reason, the Eagle of Saladin became the symbol of revolutionary Egypt, and was subsequently adopted by several other Arab states (Iraq, Palestine, and Yemen).




      14. George Washington (governed 1789-1797) achieved lasting fame as the Father of His Country. Washington was commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, chairman of the convention that wrote the United States Constitution, and the first president of the United States. He led the people who transformed the United States from a British colony into a self-governing nation. His ideals of liberty and democracy set a standard for future presidents and for the entire country. From the American Revolution on, his birthday was celebrated each year throughout the country. Most Americans of his day loved him, and his army officers would have tried to make him king if he had let them. Washington sternly suppressed all such attempts on his behalf by his officers and continued to obey the weak and divided Continental Congress. However, he never ceased to work for the union of the states under a strong central government, and became a leading influence in persuading the states to participate in the Constitutional Convention, over which he presided. He used his immense prestige to help gain ratification of its product, the Constitution of the United States. John Marshall, who served Washington at Valley Forge, quoted part of a eulogy for him by the American Revolutionary officer Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee. The quote exemplified Washington’s place in American history: “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” In many respects he can be viewed as an American icon. 

   Washington was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia in 1732 and lived an exciting life. He went to school only until he was about 14 or 15, but learned to make the most of all his abilities and opportunities. As a boy, he explored the wilderness, and when he grew older, helped the British fight the French and Indians. Several times, he was nearly killed. Rising in his military career, he displayed extraordinary gifts for leadership. His patience and understanding of others helped him win people to his side. Laboring against great difficulties, he created the Continental Army, which fought and won the American Revolution (1775-1783), out of what was little more than an armed mob. As a general, he suffered hardships with his troops: perhaps the worst were the cold winters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and Morristown, New Jersey during the American Revolution. Though he lost many battles, he led the American army to final victory at Yorktown, Virginia. Although worn out by years of service to his country, Washington reluctantly accepted the presidency of the United States. Probably no other man could have succeeded in welding the states into a lasting union. Washington fully understood the significance of his presidency. “I walk on untrodden ground,” he said. “There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn in precedent.” During eight years in office, Washington laid down the guidelines for future presidents. 

   For these achievements no other American has been honored more than Washington. In 1800 the United States capital was moved from Philadelphia to the newly developed city of Washington, D.C., named in his honor. He had helped design the layout of the city while in office, and there, the giant Washington Monument stands today. The state of Washington is the only state named after a president, and many counties, cities, towns, streets, bridges, lakes, parks, and schools bear his name. Washington’s portrait appears on the $1 bill and on the quarter. He has appeared on more U.S. postage stamps than any other person. At his death, Washington held the title of lieutenant general, then the highest U.S. military rank. But through the years many U.S. Army officers outranked him until in 1976 when Congress granted Washington the nation’s highest military title, General of the Armies of the United States. After the siege of Boston in 1776, the Massachusetts legislature in a resolution said: “. . . may future generations, in the peaceful enjoyment of that freedom, the exercise of which your sword shall have established, raise the richest and most lasting monuments to the name of Washington.” The legislators foresaw the place he would hold forever in the hearts of Americans. Perhaps he succeeded in becoming a great statesman by stepping down from power—a lesson not always learned by leaders.



15. Charles V (reigned 1506-1556) was emperor of the Holy Roman Empire as it reached its zenith, and is especially notable for his widespread territorial holdings and eventful reign.

I. Youth


The future Emperor Charles V began with a royal but tarnished heredity. His paternal grandparents were the Emperor Maximilian and Mary of Burgundy, daughter of Charles the Bold; his maternal grandparents were Ferdinand and Isabella; his father was Philip the Handsome, King of Castile at twenty-six, dead at twenty-eight; his mother was Juana la Loca, who went insane when Charles was six, and survived till he was fifty-five. He was born in Ghent (March 5, 1500), was brought up in Brussels, and remained Flemish in speech and character till his final retirement in Spain; neither Spain nor Germany forgave him. But in time he learned to speak German, Spanish, Italian, and French, and could be silent in five languages. Adrian of Utrecht tried to teach him philosophy, with inconsiderable success. From this good bishop he received a strong infusion of religious orthodoxy, yet he probably imbibed, in middle age, a secret skepticism from his Flemish advisers and courtiers, among whom an Erasmian indifference to dogma was smilingly popular. Some priests complained of the freedom allowed to religious opinion in Charles’ entourage. He made a point of piety, but studied carefully the art of war. He read the historian Comines, and learned almost in childhood the tricks of diplomacy and the amorality of states. 

   On his father’s death (1506) he inherited Flanders, Holland, Franche-Comte, and a claim to Burgundy. When he was fifteen, he was declared of age (1515) assumed the government, and devoted himself to administration. The Netherlands then became part of a vast Hapsburg empire under one of the craftiest and most ambitious rulers in history. Thereby would hang a tale. At sixteen he became Charles I, King of Spain, Sicily, Sardinia, Naples, and Spanish America. At nineteen he aspired to be emperor. Francis I of France sought the same honor at the same time, and the Imperial Electors were pleased with his douceurs; but Charles spent 850,000 florins on the contest, and won (1519). To assemble this heavy Trinkgelt he borrowed 543,000 florins from the Fuggers; from that time Charles was for the Fuggers and the Fuggers were for Charles. When he dallied in repaying the loan, Jakob Fugger II sent him a sharp reminder:


   It is well known that your Majesty without me might not have acquired the Imperial honor, as I can attest with the written statements of all the delegates. . . . And in all this I have looked not to my own profit. . . . My respectful request is that you will graciously . . . order that the money which I have paid out, together with the interest on it, shall be returned without further delay.


Charles met part of his obligation by giving the Fuggers a lien on the port duties of Antwerp. When the Fuggers were almost ruined by Turkish conquests in Hungary, he came to their rescue by turning over to them control of Spanish mines. Henceforth the key to much political history would be Cherchez Ie banquier—search for the banker.    

   Personally, Charles had great military skill and displayed great courage, which he demonstrated in both land warfare and naval expeditions. Once when his aides rebuked him for exposing himself to danger, he replied, “We were short of men, and I could not set a bad example.” The French king claimed Charles’ possessions in Italy, and between 1522 and 1544 Spanish armies defeated French forces three times before Francis gave up his claim. Muslim forces posed another threat: the armies of Süleyman the Magnificent, sultan of the Ottoman Turks, pressed up the Danube River into central Europe, and Charles led a defense of Vienna in 1532. He later sailed to northern Africa to fight the Muslim pirates who raided his coast towns in Spain and Italy.   

   In intervals of peace, he turned to forming alliances through royal marriages in order to stabilize his realm. He married Isabella, the daughter of the king of Portugal, arranged for his sister Mary to marry the king of Hungary, his brother Ferdinand to marry the sister of the Hungarian king, and his son Philip to marry the English queen Mary I. The last marriage failed to further Charles’ cause as the English Parliament refused to crown a Catholic king. Across the Atlantic, Charles’ Spanish armies were conquering the rich empires of Mexico and Peru, and by the 1550s gold and silver were brought back from the New World in large quantities though his treatment of the American Indians was tolerant.    

   The youth who at nineteen found himself titular head of all Central and Western Europe except England, France, Portugal, and the Papal States was already marked by the feeble health that was to multiply his vicissitudes. Pale, short, homely, with aquiline nose and sharp, challenging chin, feeble in voice and grave of mien, he was kindly and affable by nature, but he soon learned that a ruler must maintain distance and bearing, that silence is half of diplomacy, and that an open sense of humor dims the aura of royalty. Italian Cardinal Jerome Aleander, meeting him in 1520, reported to Leo X: “This prince seems to me well endowed with . . . prudence beyond his years, and to have much more at the back of his head than he carries on his face.” He was not mentally keen, except in judging menwhich is half the battle; he barely rose to the crises that confronted him—but that was much indeed. A conserving indolence of body and mind kept him inert until the situation demanded decision; then he met it with sudden resolution and resourceful pertinacity. Wisdom came to him not by nature but by trials.    

   On November 2, 1520, Charles V, no older than the century, went to Charlemagne’s Aachen to be crowned. Elector Frederick started out to attend the ceremony, but was stopped at Cologne by gout. There Aleander presented to him another plea for the arrest of Luther. Frederick called in Erasmus and asked his advice. Erasmus defended Luther, pointed out that there were crying abuses in the Church, and argued that efforts to remedy them should not be suppressed. When Frederick asked him what were Luther’s chief errors, he replied: “Two: he attacked the pope in his crown and the monks in their bellies.” He questioned the authenticity of the papal bull; it seemed to him irreconcilable with the known gentleness of Leo X. Frederick informed the nuncio that Luther had lodged an appeal, and that until its results were known, Luther should remain free.   

   The Emperor gave the same answer; he had promised the electors, as a condition of his election, that no German would be condemned without a fair trial in Germany. However, his position made orthodoxy imperative. He was more firmly established as King of Spain than as Emperor in a Germany that resented centralized government; and the clergy of Spain would not long bear with a monarch lenient to heretics. Besides, war loomed with France; it would be fought over Milan as the prize; there the support of the pope would be worth an army. The Holy Roman Empire was tied to the papacy in a hundred ways; the fall of one would profoundly injure the other; how could the Emperor rule his scattered and diverse realm without the aid of the Church in moral discipline and political administration? Even now his chief ministers were clergymen. And he needed ecclesiastical funds and influence to protect Hungary from the Turks.   

   On March 13, 1521, Aleander presented to the Diet a proposal for the immediate condemnation of Luther. The Diet protested that the monk should not be condemned without a hearing. Charles thereupon invited Luther to come to Worms and testify concerning his teaching and his books. “You need fear no violence or molestation,” he wrote, “for you have our safe-conduct.” Luther’s friends begged him not to go, and reminded him of the safe-conduct that the Emperor Sigismund had given Huss. Adrian of Utrecht, now Cardinal of Tortosa, soon to be pope Adrian VI, sent a plea to his former pupil, the Emperor, to ignore the safe-conduct, arrest Luther, and send him to Rome.     On April 27 Luther, in his monastic garb, appeared before the Diet: the Emperor, six electors, an awesome court of princes, nobles, prelates, and burghers, and Jerome Aleander armed with papal authority, formal documents, and forensic eloquence. On a table near Luther stood a collection of his books. Johann Eck—an official of the archbishop of Trier—asked him were these his compositions, and would he retract all heresies contained in them? For a moment, standing before the assembled dignity of the Empire and the delegated power and majesty of the Church, Luther’s courage failed him. He replied in a low and diffident voice that the books were his, but as to the second question he begged time to consider. Charles granted him a day. Back in his lodging he received a message from Hutten beseeching him to stand fast; and several members of the Diet came privately to encourage him. Many seemed to feel that his final answer would mark a turning point in history.   On April 28 he faced the Diet with fuller confidence. Now the chamber was so crowded that even the electors found it difficult to reach their seats, and most of those present stood. Eck asked him would he repudiate, in whole or in part, the works that he had written. He replied that those portions that dealt with ecclesiastical abuses were by common consent just. The Emperor interrupted him with an explosive “No!”—but Luther went on, and hit at Charles himself: “should I recant at this point, I would open the door to more tyranny and impiety, and it will be all the worse should it appear that I had done so at the instance of the Holy Roman Empire.” As to the doctrinal passages in his books, he agreed to retract any that should be proved contrary to Scripture. To this Eck, in Latin, made an objection that well expressed the view of the Church:


              Martin, your plea to be heard from Scripture is the one always made by  heretics. You do nothing but renew the errors of Wyclif and Huss. . . . How can you assume that you are the only one to understand the sense of Scripture? Would you put your judgment above that of so many famous men and claim that you know more than all of them? You have no right to call into question the most holy orthodox faith, instituted by Christ the perfect Lawgiver, proclaimed throughout the world by the Apostles, sealed by the red blood of martyrs, confirmed by the sacred councils, and defined by the Church . . . and which we are forbidden by the Pope and the Emperor to discuss, lest there be no end to debate. I ask you, Martin—answer candidly and without distinctions—do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?


Luther made his historic response in German  



             Since your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without distinctions. . . . Unless I am convicted by the testimony of Sacred Scripture or by evident reason (I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other), my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against my conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.




Eck countered that no error could be proved in the doctrinal decrees of the councils; Luther answered that he was prepared to prove such errors, but the Emperor intervened peremptorily: “It is enough; since he has denied councils, we wish to hear no more.” Luther returned to his lodging weary with the strife, but confident that he had borne good testimony in what Carlyle was to call “the greatest moment in the modern history of man.”  

   The Emperor was as shaken as the monk. Born to the purple, and already accustomed to authority, he thought it self-evident that the right of each individual to interpret Scripture, and to accept or reject civil or ecclesiastical decrees according to private judgment and conscience, would soon erode the very foundations of social order, for this seemed to him based on a moral code that in turn derived its strength from the supernatural sanctions of religious belief. On April 29 he called the leading princes to a conference in his own chambers, and presented to them a declaration of faith and intent, written in French, and apparently by himself:


               I am descended from a long line of Christian emperors of this noble German nation, of the Catholic kings of Spain, the archdukes of Austria, and the dukes of Burgundy. They were all faithful to the death to the Church of Rome, and they defended the Catholic faith and the honor of God. I have resolved to follow in their steps. A single friar who goes counter to all Christianity for a thousand years must be wrong. Therefore I am resolved to stake my lands, my friends, my body, my blood, my life, and my soul. . . . After having heard yesterday the obstinate defense of Luther, I regret that I have so long delayed in proceeding against him and his false teaching. I will have no more to do with him. He may return under his safe-conduct, but without preaching or making any tumult. I will proceed against him as a notorious heretic, and I ask you to declare yourselves as you promised me.


Four electors agreed to this procedure; Frederick of Saxony and Ludwig of the Palatinate abstained.   

   On May 16 the Emperor presented to the Diet—now thinned by many departures—the draft that Aleander had prepared of the “Edict of Worms.” It charged that Luther


              has sullied marriage, disparaged confession, and denied the body and blood of Our Lord. He makes the sacraments depend upon the faith of the recipient. He is pagan in his denial of free will. This devil in the habit of a monk has brought together ancient errors into one stinking puddle, and has invented new ones. He denies the power of the keys, and encourages the laity to wash their hands in the blood of the clergy. His teaching makes for rebellion, division, war, murder, robbery, arson, and the collapse of Christendom. He lives the life of a beast. He has burned the decretals. He despises alike the ban and the sword. He does more harm to the civil than to the ecclesiastical power. We have labored with him, but he recognizes only the authority of Scripture, which he interprets in his own sense. We have given him twenty-one days, dating from April 15 (O.S. April 25 N.S.). . . . When the time is up, no one is to harbor him. His followers also are to be condemned. His books are to be eradicated from the memory of man.


Two days after the presentation of this edict Leo X transferred his political support from Francis I to Charles V. The rump Diet agreed to the edict, and on June 5 Charles promulgated it formally. Aleander praised God, and ordered that the books of Luther should be burned wherever found.   









In the Flanders of Charles’ maturity a thriving commerce was more than making up for sporadic industrial decline. Bruges and Ghent were depressed, but Brussels survived by being the Flemish capital, Louvain was brewing theology and beer, and Antwerp was becoming—would be by 1550—the richest, busiest city in Europe. To that hectic port on the broad and navigable Scheldt international trade and finance were drawn by low import and export dues, by the political connection with Spain, and by a bourse dedicated, its inscription said, ad usum mercatorum cuiusque gentis ac linguae—“to the use of merchants of every land and tongue.” Business enterprise was here free from the guild restrictions and municipal protectionism that had kept medieval industry happily unprogressive. Here Italian bankers opened agencies, English “merchant adventurers” established a depot, the Fuggers centered their commercial activities, the Hanse built its lordly House of the Easterlings (1564). The harbor saw 500 ships enter or leave on any day, and 5,000 traders trafficked on the exchange. A bill on Antwerp was now the commonest form of international currency. In this period Antwerp gradually replaced Lisbon as the chief European port for the spice trade; cargoes sailing into Lisbon were bought afloat by Flemish agents there, and were sailed directly to Antwerp for distribution through northern Europe. “I was sad at the sight of Antwerp,” wrote a Venetian ambassador, “for I saw Venice surpassed;” he was witnessing the historic transfer of commercial hegemony from the Mediterranean to the North Atlantic. Spurred on by this commerce, Flemish industry revived, even in Ghent; and the Lowlands provided Charles V with 1,500,000 livres a year, half his total revenue. 

   He responded by giving Flanders and Holland reasonably good government except in religious liberty—a boon hardly conceived by his friends or his foes. His authority was constitutionally limited by his sworn pledge to observe the charters and local laws of the cities and provinces; by personal and domiciliary rights stoutly maintained by the burghers; by councils of state and finance, and a court of appeal, established as part of the central administration. Generally Charles ruled the Netherlands by indirection, through regents acceptable to the citizens: first his aunt, nurse, and tutor, Margaret of Austria, then his sister Mary, ex-queen of Hungary, both women of competence, humanity, and tact. But Charles became more imperious with more Empire. He stationed Spanish garrisons in the proud cities, and suppressed with severity any serious contravention of his international policies. When Ghent refused to vote the military funds demanded by him and granted by the other cities, Charles put down the revolt by a show of indisputable force, exacted the subsidy and an indemnity, abolished the traditional liberties of the municipality, and substituted Imperial appointees for the locally chosen government (1540). But this was hardly typical. Despite such occasional harshness Charles remained popular with his Lowland subjects; he received credit for the political stability and social order that supported the economic prosperity; and when he announced his abdication nearly all citizens mourned. 

   Accepting the current theory that national peace and strength required unity of religious belief, and fearing that Protestantism in the Netherlands would endanger his flank in his strife with France and Lutheran Germany, Charles fully supported the Church in prosecuting heresy in Flanders and Holland. The reform movement there was mild before Luther; after 1517 it entered as Lutheranism and Anabaptism from Germany, as Zwinglianism and Calvinism from Switzerland, Alsace, and France. Luther’s writings were soon translated into Dutch, and were expounded by ardent preachers in Antwerp, Ghent, Dordrecht, Utrecht, Zwolle, and The Hague. Dominican friars led a vivacious rebuttal; one said he wished he could fasten his teeth on Luther’s throat, and would not hesitate to go to the Lord’s Supper with that blood on his mouth. The Emperor, still young, thought to stop the agitation by publishing (1521), at the Pope’s request, a “placard” forbidding the printing or reading of Luther’s works. In the same year he ordered the secular courts to enforce throughout the Netherlands the Edict of Worms against all proponents of Lutheran ideas. On July 11, 1523, Henry Voes and Johann Eck, two Augustinian friars, were sent to the stake at Brussels as the first Protestant martyrs in the Lowlands. Henry of Zutphen, friend and pupil of Luther’s, and prior of the Augustinian monastery at Antwerp, was imprisoned, escaped, was caught in Holstein, and was there burned (1524). These executions advertised the Reformers’ ideas. 

   Despite censorship Luther’s translation of the New Testament was widely circulated, more fervently in Holland than in rich Flanders. A longing for the restoration of Christianity to its pristine simplicity generated a millenarian hope for the early return of Christ and the establishment of a New Jerusalem in which there would be no government, no marriage, and no property; and with these notions were mingled communistic theories of equality, mutual aid, and even “free love.” Anabaptist groups formed at Antwerp, Maastricht, and Amsterdam. Melchior Hofmann came from Emden to Amsterdam in 1531, and in 1534 John of Leyden returned the visit by carrying the Anabaptist creed from Haarlem to Munster. In some Dutch towns it was estimated that two thirds of the population were Anabaptists; in Deventer even the burgomaster was converted to the cause. Fanned by famine, the movement became a social revolt. “In these provinces,” wrote a friend to Erasmus in 1534, “we are made extremely anxious by the Anabaptist conflagration, for it is mounting up like flames. There is hardly a spot or town where the torch of insurrection does not secretly glow.” Mary of Hungary, then Regent, warned the Emperor that the rebels planned to plunder all forms of property among the nobility, clergy, and mercantile aristocracy, and to distribute the spoils to every man according to his need. In 1535 John of Leyden sent emissaries to arrange a simultaneous uprising of Anabaptists at several Dutch centers. The rebels made heroic efforts; one group captured and fortified a monastery in West Friesland; the governor besieged them with heavy artillery; 800 died in a hopeless defense (1535). On May 21 some armed Anabaptists stormed and captured the city hall of Amsterdam; the burghers dislodged them, and wreaked upon the leaders the frightful vengeance of frightened men: tongues and hearts were torn from living bodies and flung into the faces of the dying or dead. 

   Thinking the whole social structure challenged by a communistic revolution, Charles imported the Inquisition into the Netherlands, and gave its officials power to stamp out the movement, and all other heresies, at whatever cost to local liberties. Between 1521 and 1555 he issued placard after placard against social or religious dissent. The most violent of these (October 5, 1550) revealed the deterioration of the Emperor, and laid the foundations for the revolt of the Netherlands against his son.


   No one shall print, write, copy, keep, conceal, sell, buy, or give, in churches, streets, or other places, any book or writing made by Martin Luther, John Oecolampadius, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, John Calvin, or other heretics reprobated by the Holy Church . . . nor break or otherwise injure the images of the Holy Virgin or canonized saints . . . nor hold conventicles, or illegal gatherings, or be present at any such in which the adherents of the above-mentioned heretics teach, baptize, and form conspiracies, against the Holy Church and the general welfare. . . . We forbid all laypersons to converse or dispute concerning the Holy Scriptures, openly or secretly . . . or to read, teach, or expound the Scriptures, unless they have duly studied theology, or have been approved by some renowned university . . . or to entertain any of the opinions of the above-mentioned heretics . . . on pain of being . . . punished as follows . . . the men [to be beheaded] with the sword, and the women to be buried alive, if they do not persist in their errors; if they persist in them they are to be executed with fire; all their property in both cases to be confiscated to the Crown. . . .

   We forbid all persons to lodge, entertain, furnish with food, fire, or clothing, or otherwise to favor, anyone holden or notoriously suspected of being a heretic; and anyone failing to denounce any such we ordain shall be liable to the above-mentioned punishments. . . . All who know of any person tainted with heresy are required to denounce and give them up. . . . The informer, in case of conviction, shall be entitled to one half the property of the accused. . . . To the end that the judges and officers may have no reason—under pretext that the penalties are too great and heavy and only devised to terrify delinquents—to punish them less severely than they deserve, [we ordain] that the culprits really be punished by the penalties above declared; we forbid all judges to alter or moderate the penalties in any manner; we forbid anyone, of whatever condition, to ask of us, or of anyone having authority, to grant pardon to, or to present any petition in favor of, such heretics, exiles, or fugitives, on penalty of being declared forever incapable of civil or military office, and of being arbitrarily punished.


In addition, any person entering the Low Countries was required to sign a pledge of loyalty to the full orthodox creed. 

   Through these desperate edicts the Netherlands were made a major battleground between the old and the new forms of Christianity. The Venetian ambassador at Charles’ court estimated in 1546 that 30,000 persons, nearly all Anabaptists, perished in this prolonged Imperial pogrom; a less excited estimate reduced the victims to 1,000. So far as the Dutch Anabaptists were concerned, the Caroline Inquisition succeeded; a remnant survived in Holland by adopting non-resistance; some fled to England, where they became active supporters of Protestantism under Edward VI and Elizabeth. The communistic movement in the Netherlands collapsed, frightened by prosecution and stifled by prosperity.  

   But as the Anabaptists wave subsided, a stream of hunted Huguenots poured into the Lowlands from France, bringing the gospel of Calvin. The stem and theocratic fervor of the new heresy appealed to those who inherited the traditions of the mystics and the Brethren of the Common Life; and the Calvinist acceptance of work as a dignity instead of a curse, of wealth as a blessing instead of a crime, of republican institutions as more responsive than monarchy to the political ambitions of the business class, contained ingredients diversely welcome to many elements in the population. By 1555 there were Calvinist congregations in Ypres, Tournai, Valenciennes, Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp, and the movement was spreading into Holland. It was with Calvinism, not Lutheranism or Anabaptism, that Charles’ son would be locked, through a bitter generation, in the conflict that would break the Netherlands in two, liberate Holland from the Spanish domination, and make her one of the major homes and havens of the modem mind.  

   However, over time Charles’ attitude toward Protestantism was somewhat moderated and more tolerant, for he perceived weaknesses in the affairs of the Roman Catholic Church that made him press for general Catholic reform as a way of healing the breach, and at the Emperor’s instigation the Council of Trent opened on Dec. 23, 1545. He subsequently was forced to allow the Peace of Augsburg, which acknowledged the legitimacy of Lutheranism within the Holy Roman Empire. 

   In 1555 Charles V put aside all dreams except that of dying in sanctity. He relinquished his hope of either suppressing Protestantism in Germany and the Netherlands, or reconciling it with Catholicism at the Council of Trent. He abandoned his aspiration to lead Protestants and Catholics, Germans and French, in a magnificent march against Suleiman, Constantinople, and the Turkish threat to Christendom. His excesses in eating, drinking, and sex, his exhausting campaigns, the burdens of an office that bore the brunt of revolutionary change, had ruined his body, dulled his statesmanship, and broken his will. Suffering from ulcers at thirty-three, old at thirty-five, afflicted at forty-five with gout, asthma, indigestion, and stammering, he was now half his waking time in pain, and found it hard to sleep; often his difficulty in breathing kept him sitting upright all the night through. His fingers were so distorted with arthritis that he could hardly grasp the pen with which he signed the Peace of Crepy. When Coligny presented a letter from Henry II, Charles could hardly open it. “What think you of me, Sir Admiral?” he asked. “Am I not a fine knight to charge and break a lance, I who can only open a letter after so much trouble?” Perhaps his occasional cruelty, and something of the savagery with which he attacked Protestantism in the Netherlands, came from the exhaustion of his patience by his pains. He ordered the amputation of the feet of captured German mercenaries who had fought for France, though his son, the future inexorable Philip II, begged mercy for them. He had mourned long and bitterly the death of his beloved wife Isabella (1539); but in time he allowed helpless maidens to be brought to his bed. 

   In the fall of 1555 he called a meeting of the States-General of the Netherlands for November 4, and summoned Philip to it from England. In the great tapestried hall of the dukes of Brabant at Brussels, where the Knights of the Golden Fleece were wont to hold their assemblies, the deputies, nobles, and magistrates of the seventeen provinces gathered within a guard of armed soldiery. Charles entered leaning on the shoulder of his son’s future enemy, William of Orange. Philip followed with the Regent Mary of Hungary; then Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy, and the Emperor’s councilors, and the Knights of the Fleece, and many other notables around whom the world once turned before forgetting them. When all had been seated Philibert rose and explained, too lengthily and vividly for Charles’ enjoyment, the medical, mental, and political reasons why the Emperor wished to abdicate his rule in the Netherlands to his son. Then Charles himself stood up, leaning again on the tall and handsome Prince of Orange, and spoke simply and to the point. He summarized his rise to successively wider powers, and the absorption of his life in government. He recalled that he had visited Germany nine times, Spain six, Italy seven, France four, England and Africa twice, and had made eleven voyages by sea. He continued:


   This is the fourth time that I am setting out hence for Spain. . . . Nothing that I have ever experienced has given me so much pain . . . as that which I feel in parting from you today without leaving behind me that peace and quiet which I so much desired. . . . But I am no longer able to attend to my affairs without great bodily fatigue and consequent detriment to the state. . . . The cares which so great a responsibility involves, the extreme dejection which it causes, my health already ruined—all these leave me no longer the vigor necessary for governing. . . . In my present state I should have to render a serious account to God and man if I did not lay aside authority. . . . My son, King Philip, is of an age sufficiently advanced to be able to govern you, and he will be, I hope, a good prince to all my beloved subjects. . . .


   When Charles sank painfully into his chair the audience forgot his sins, his persecutions, and his defeats in pity for a man who for forty years had labored according to his lights under the heaviest obligations of the time. Many auditors wept. Philip was formally installed as ruler of the Netherlands, and took a solemn oath (as he would be later reminded) to observe all the laws and traditional rights of the provinces. Early in 1556 Charles surrendered to him the crown of Spain, with all its possessions in the Old World and the New. Charles reserved the Imperial title, hoping to transmit that too to his son; but Ferdinand protested, and in 1558 the Emperor resigned it to his brother. On September 27, 1556, Charles sailed from Flushing to Spain.



III. SPAIN: 1516-58



1. The Revolt of the Comuneros: 1520-22


It was a questionable boon for Spain that her King Charles I (1516-56) became the Emperor Charles V (1519-58). Born and reared in Flanders, he acquired Flemish ways and tastes, until in his final years the spirit of Spain conquered him. The King could be only a small part of the Emperor who had his hands full with the Reformation, the papacy, Suleiman, Barbarossa, and Francis I; the Spaniards complained that he gave them so little of his time and spent so much of their human and material resources on campaigns apparently foreign to Spanish interests. And how could an emperor sympathize with the communal institutions that had made Spain half a democracy before the coming of Ferdinand the Catholic, and that she so longed to restore? 

   Charles’ first visit to his kingdom (1517) earned him no love. Though king for twenty months past, he still knew no Spanish. His curt dismissal of the devoted Ximenes shocked Spanish courtesy. He came surrounded by Flemings who thought Spain a barbarous country waiting to be milked; and the seventeen-year-old monarch appointed these leeches to the highest posts. The various provincial Cortes, dominated by the hidalgos or lower nobility, did not conceal their reluctance to accept so alien a king. The Cortes of Castile refused him the title, and then grudgingly recognized him as co-ruler with his demented mother Juana; and it let him understand that he must learn Spanish, live in Spain, and name no more foreigners to office. Other Cortes laid down similar demands. Amid these humiliations Charles received the news that he had been elected emperor, and that Germany was summoning him to show himself and be crowned. When he asked the Cortes at Valladolid (then the capital) to finance the trip, he was rebuffed, and a public tumult threatened his life. Finally he secured the money from the

Cortes of Corunna, and hurried off to Flanders. To make matters trebly perilous he sent corregidores to protect his interests in the cities, and left his former tutor, Cardinal Adrian of Utrecht, as regent of Spain. 

   Now one after another of the Spanish municipalities rose in the “Revolt of the Comuneros” or commune members. They expelled the corregidores, murdered a few of the delegates who had voted funds to Charles, and leagued themselves in a Santa Comunidad pledged to control the King. Nobles, ecclesiastics, and burghers alike joined the movement, and organized at Avila (August 1520) the Santa Junta, or Holy Union, as a central government. They demanded that the Cortes should share with the royal council in choosing the regent, that no war should be made without the consent of the Cortes, and that the town should be ruled not by corregidores but by alcaldes or mayors chosen by the citizens. Antonio de Acuna, Bishop of Zamora, openly advocated a republic, turned his clergy into revolutionary warriors, and gave the resources of his diocese to the revolt. Juan de Padilla, a Toledo noble, was made commander of the rebel forces. He led them to the capture of Tordesillas, took Juana la Loca as a hostage, and urged her to sign a document deposing Charles and naming herself queen. Wise in her madness, she refused. 

   Adrian, having no soldiery strong enough to suppress the uprising, appealed to Charles to return, and frankly blamed the revolt on the King’s arbitrary and absentee government. Charles did not come, but either he or his councilors found a way to divide and conquer. The nobles were warned that the rebellion was a threat to the propertied classes as well as to the Crown. And indeed the working classes, long oppressed with fixed wages, forced labor, and prohibition of unions, had already seized power in several towns. In Valencia and its neighborhood a Germania or Brotherhood of guildsmen took the reins, and ruled the committees of workingmen. This proletarian dictatorship was unusually pious; it imposed upon the thousands of Moors who still remained in the province the choice of baptism or death; hundreds of the obstinate were killed. In Majorca the commons, whose masters had treated them as slaves, rose in arms, deposed the royal governor, and slew every noble who could not elude them. Many towns renounced their feudal ties and dues. In Madrid, Siguenza, and Guadalajara the new municipal administration excluded all nobles and gentry from office; here and there aristocrats were slain; and the Junta assessed for taxation noble properties formerly exempt. Pillage became general; commoners burned the palaces of nobles, nobles massacred commoners. Class war spread through Spain. 

   The revolt destroyed itself by extending its aims beyond its powers. The nobles turned against it, raised their own forces, co-operated with those of the King, captured Valencia, and overthrew the proletarian government after days of mutual slaughter (1521). At the height of the crisis the rebel army divided into rival groups under Padilla and Don Pedro Giron; the Junta also split into hostile factions; and each province carried on its revolution without coordination with the rest. Giron went over to the royalists, who recaptured Tordesillas and Juana. Padilla’s dwindling army was routed at Villalar, and he was put to death. When Charles returned to Spain (July 1522) with 4,000 German troops, the nobles had already won victory, and nobles and commoners had so weakened each other that he was able to subdue the municipalities and the guilds, tame the Cortes, and establish an almost absolute monarchy. The democratic movement was so completely suppressed that the Spanish commons remained cowed and obedient till the nineteenth century. Charles tempered his power with courtesy, surrounded himself with grandees, and learned to talk good Spanish; Spain was pleased when he remarked that Italian was the proper language to use to women, German to enemies, French to friends, Spanish to God.




2. The Spanish Protestants


Only one power could now challenge Charles in Spain—the Church. He was pro-Catholic but anti-papal. Like Ferdinand the Catholic he sought to make the Spanish Church independent of the popes, and he so far succeeded that during his rule ecclesiastical appointments and revenues were in his control, and were used to promote governmental policies. In Spain, as in France, no Reformation was needed to subordinate the Church to the state. Nonetheless, during the half of his reign that Charles spent in his kingdom, the fervor of Spanish orthodoxy so worked upon him that in his later years nothing (except the power of the Hapsburgs) seemed more important to him than the suppression of heresy. While the popes tried to moderate the Inquisition, Charles supported it till his death. He was convinced that heresy in the Netherlands was leading to chaos and civil war, and was resolved to circumvent such a development in Spain. 

   The Spanish Inquisition abated its fury, but extended its jurisdiction, under Charles. It undertook the censorship of literature, had every bookstore searched, and ordered bonfires of books charged with heresy. It investigated and punished sexual perversions. It instituted rules of limpieza (purity of blood), which closed all avenues of distinction to descendants of Conversos and to all who had ever been penanced by the tribunal. It looked upon mystics with a stern eye, for some of these claimed that their direct intercourse with God exempted them from attending church, and others gave their mystical ecstasies a suspiciously sexual flavor. The lay preacher Pedro Ruiz de Alcaraz announced that coitus was really union with God; and Friar Francisco Ortiz explained that when he lay with a pretty fellow mystic—even when he embraced her naked body—it was not a carnal sin but a spiritual delight. The Inquisition dealt leniently with these Alumbrados (Enlightened Ones), and kept its severest measures for the Protestants of Spain. 

   As in northern Europe, an Erasmian skirmish preceded the Protestant battle. A few liberal churchmen applauded the humanist’s strictures on the faults of the clergy; but Ximenes and others had already reformed the more palpable abuses before the coming of Charles. Perhaps Lutheranism had seeped into Spain with Germans and Flemings in the royal entourage. A German was condemned by the Inquisition at Valencia in 1524 for avowing Lutheran sympathies; a Flemish painter was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1528 for questioning purgatory and indulgences. Francisco de San Roman, the first-known Spanish Lutheran, was burned at the stake in 1542, while fervent onlookers pierced him with their swords. Juan Diaz of Cuenca imbibed Calvinism at Geneva; his brother Alfonso rushed up from Italy to reconvert him to orthodoxy; failing, Alfonso had him killed (1546). At Seville a learned canon of the cathedral, Juan Gil or Egidio, was imprisoned for a year for preaching against image worship, prayer to the saints, and the efficacy of good works in earning salvation; after his death his bones were exhumed and burned. His fellow canon, Constantino Ponce de la Fuente, continued his propaganda, and died in the dungeons of the Inquisition. Fourteen of Constantino’s followers were burned, including four friars and three women; a large number were sentenced to diverse penalties; and the house in which they had met was razed to the ground. 

   Another semi-Protestant group developed in Valladolid; and here influential nobles and high ecclesiastics were involved. They were betrayed to the Inquisition; nearly all were arrested and condemned; some, trying to leave Spain, were caught and brought back. Charles V, then in retirement at Yuste, recommended that no mercy be shown them, that the repentant should be beheaded, and the unrepentant burned. On Trinity Sunday, May 31, 1559, fourteen of the condemned were executed before a cheering crowd. All but one recanted, and were let off with beheading; Antonio de Herrezuelo, impenitent, was burned alive. His twenty-three-year-old wife, Leonor de Cisneros, repentant, was allowed life imprisonment. After ten years of confinement she retracted her recantation, proclaimed her heresy, and asked to be burned alive like her husband; her request was granted. Twenty-six more of the accused were displayed in an auto-da-fe on October 18, 1559, before a crowd of 200,000, presided over by Philip II. Two victims were burned alive, and ten were strangled.


3. The Emperor Passes: 1556-58


On October 8, 1556, Charles V made his final entry into Spain. At Burgos he dismissed with rewards most of those who had attended him, and took leave of his sisters, Mary of Hungary and Eleonora, widow of Francis I. They wished to share his monastic retreat, but the rules forbade it, and they took up their residence not too far from this brother whom they alone now seemed to love. After suffering many ceremonies en route, he reached the village of Juandilla in the valley of Plasencia, some 193 kilometers west of Madrid. There he tarried several months while workmen completed and furnished the accommodations that he had ordered in the monastery of Yuste (St. Justus), ten kilometers away. When he made the last stage of his journey (February 13, 1557) it was not to a monastic cell but to a mansion spacious enough to house the more intimate of his fifty servitors. The monks rejoiced to have so distinguished a guest, but were chagrined to find that he had no intention of sharing their regimen. He ate and drank as abundantly as before—i.e., excessively. Sardine omelets, Estremadura sausages, eel pies, pickled partridges, fat capons, and rivers of wine and beer disappeared into the Imperial paunch; and his physicians were obliged to prescribe large quantities of senna and rhubarb to carry off the surplusage. 

   Instead of reciting rosaries, litanies, and psalms, Charles read or dictated dispatches from or to his son, and offered him advice on every aspect of war, theology, and government. In his final year he became a merciless bigot; he recommended ferocious penalties to “cut out the root” of heresy, and he regretted that he had allowed Luther to escape him at Worms. He ordered that a hundred lashes should be laid upon any woman who should approach within two bowshots of the monastery walls. He revised his will to provide that 30,000 Masses should be said for the repose of his soul. We should not judge him from those senile days; some taint of insanity may have come down to him with his mother’s blood. 

   In August 1558, his gout developed into a burning fever. This returned intermittently, and with rising intensity. For a month he was racked with all the pains of death before he was allowed to die (October 1, 1558). In 1574 Philip had the remains removed to the Escorial, where they lie under a stately monument. 

   Charles V was the most impressive failure of his age, and even his virtues were sometimes unfortunate for mankind. He gave peace to Italy, but only after a decade of devastation, and by subjecting it and the papacy to Spain; and the Italian Renaissance withered under that somber mastery. He defeated and captured Francis, but he lost at Madrid a royal opportunity to make with him a treaty that could have saved all faces and a hundred thousand lives. He helped to turn back Suleiman at Vienna, and checked Barbarossa in the Mediterranean. He strengthened the Hapsburgs but weakened the Empire; he lost Lorraine and surrendered Burgundy. The princes of Germany frustrated his attempt to centralize authority there, and from his time the Holy Roman Empire was a decaying tissue waiting for Napoleon to pronounce it dead. He failed in his efforts to crush Protestantism in Germany, and his method of repressing it in the Netherlands left a tragic legacy to his son. He had found the German cities flourishing and free; he left them ailing under a reactionary feudalism. When he came to Germany it was alive with ideas and energy beyond any other nation in Europe; when he abdicated it was spiritually and intellectually exhausted, and would lie fallow for two centuries. In Germany and Italy his policies were a minor cause of decline, but in Spain it was chiefly his action that crushed municipal liberty and vigor. He might have saved England for the Church by persuading Catherine to yield to Henry’s need for an heir; instead he forced Clement into a ruinous vacillation. 

   And yet it is our hindsight that sees his mistakes and their enormity; our historical sense can condone them as rooted in the limitations of his mental environment and in the harsh delusions of the age. He was the ablest statesman among his contemporaries, but only in the sense that he dealt courageously with the profoundest issues in their widest range. He was a great man dwarfed and shattered by the problems of his time—yet he was the wisest Christian ruler of his age. 

   Two fundamental movements pervaded his long reign. The most fundamental was the growth of nationalism under centralized monarchies; in this he did not share. The most dramatic was a religious revolution rising out of national and territorial divisions and interests. Northern Germany and Scandinavia accepted Lutheranism; southern Germany, Switzerland, and the Lowlands divided into Protestant and Catholic sections; Scotland became Calvinist Presbyterian, England became Anglican Catholic or Calvinist Puritan. Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal remained loyal to a distant or chastened papacy. Yet amid that double fragmentation a subtle integration grew: the proudly independent states found themselves interdependent as never before, increasingly bound in one economic web, and forming a vast theater of interrelated politics, wars, law, literature, and art. Modern Europe was taking form.


16. Henry VIII (reigned 1509-1547)



No one, beholding the youth who mounted the throne of England in 1509, would have foreseen that he was to be both the hero and the villain of the most dramatic reign in English history. Still a lad of eighteen, his fine complexion and regular features made him almost girlishly attractive; but his athletic figure and prowess soon canceled any appearance of femininity. Foreign ambassadors vied with native eulogists in praising his auburn hair, his golden beard, and his “extremely fine calf.” “He is extremely fond of tennis,” reported Giustiniani to the Venetian Senate; “it is the prettiest thing in the world to see him play, his fair skin glowing through a shirt of finest texture.” In archery and wrestling he equaled the best in his kingdom; at the hunt he never seemed to tire; two days a week he gave to jousts—and there only the Duke of Suffolk could match him. But he was also an accomplished musician, “sang and played all kinds of instruments with rare talent” (wrote the papal nuncio), and composed two Masses, which are still preserved. He loved dancing and masquerades, pageantry and fine dress. He liked to drape himself in ermine or purple robes, and the law gave him alone the right to wear purple, or gold brocade. He ate with gusto, and sometimes prolonged state dinners to seven hours, but in the first twenty years of his reign his vanity curbed his appetite. Everybody liked him, and marveled at his genial ease of manners and access, his humor, tolerance, and clemency. His accession was hailed as the dawn of a golden age. 

   The intellectual classes rejoiced too, for in those halcyon days Henry aspired to be a scholar as well as an athlete, a musician, and a king. Originally destined for an ecclesiastical career, he became something of a theologian, and could quote Scripture to any purpose. He had good taste in art, collected with discrimination, and wisely chose Holbein to immortalize his paunch. He took an active part in works of engineering, shipbuilding, fortification, and artillery. Sir Thomas More said of him that he “has more learning than any English monarch ever possessed before him”—no high praise. “What may we not expect,” More continued, “from a king who has been nourished by philosophy and the nine Muses?” Baron Mountjoy wrote ecstatically to Erasmus, then in Rome:


   What may you not promise yourself from a prince with whose extraordinary talent and almost divine character you are well acquainted? But when you know what a hero he now shows himself, how wisely he behaves, what a lover he is of justice and goodness, what affection he bears to the learned, I venture to swear that you will need no wings to make you fly to behold this new and auspicious star. Oh, my Erasmus, if you could see how all the world here is rejoicing in the possession of so great a prince, how his life is all their desire, you would not contain your tears for joy. The heavens laugh, the earth exults.


Erasmus came, and for a moment shared the delirium. “Heretofore,” he wrote, “the heart of learning was among such as professed religion. Now, while these for the most part give themselves up to the belly, luxury, and money, (but Erasmus’ ecclesiastical friends, Dean Colet, Bishop Fisher of Rochester, and Archbishop Warham of Canterbury, were generous and devoted friends of learning) the love of learning is gone from them to secular princes, the court, and the nobility. . . . The King admits not only such men as More to his court, but he invites them—forces them—to watch all that he does, to share his duties and his pleasures. He prefers the companionship of men like More to that of silly youths or girls or the rich.” More was one of the King’s Council, Colet was the King’s preacher at St. Paul’s.




Henry, who was to become the incarnation of Machiavelli’s Prince, was as yet an innocent novice in international politics. He recognized his need for guidance, and sampled the men around him. More was brilliant, but only thirty-one, and inclined to sanctity. Thomas Wolsey was a mere three years older, and was a priest, but his whole turn was for statesmanship, and religion was for him a part of politics. Born at Ipswich, “of low extraction and despicable blood” (so the proud Guicciardini described him), Thomas had covered the baccalaureate course at Oxford by the age of fifteen; at twenty-three he was bursar of Magdalen College, and showed his quality by applying adequate funds, beyond his authority, for the completion of that hall’s most majestic tower. He knew how to get along. Displaying a flair for management and negotiation, he rose through a succession of chaplainships to serve Henry VII in that capacity and in diplomacy. Henry VIII, on accession, made him almoner-director of charities. Soon the priest was a member of the Privy Council, and shocked Archbishop Warham by advocating a military alliance with Spain against France. Louis XII was invading Italy, and might again make the papacy a dependency of France; in any case France must not become too strong. Henry yielded in this matter to Wolsey and his own father-in-law, Ferdinand of Spain; he himself was at this time inclined to peace. “I content myself with my own,” he told Giustiniani; “I wish to command only my own subjects; but on the other hand I do not choose that anyone shall have it in his power to command me;” this almost sums up Henry’s political career. He had inherited the claim of the English kings to the crown of France, but he knew that this was an empty pretense. The war petered out quickly in the Battle of the Spurs (1513). Wolsey arranged the peace, and persuaded Louis XII to marry Henry’s sister Mary. Leo X, pleased with being rescued, made Wolsey Archbishop of York (1514) and Cardinal (1515); Henry, triumphant, made him Chancellor (1515). The King prided himself on having protected the papacy; and when a later pope refused him a marriage easement he deemed it gross ingratitude. 

   The first five years of Wolsey’s chancellorship were among the most successful in the record of English diplomacy. His aim was to organize the peace of Europe by using England as a makeweight to preserve a balance of power between the Holy Roman Empire and France; presumably it also entered into his purview that he would thus become the arbiter of Europe, and that peace on the Continent would favor England’s vital trade with the Netherlands. As a first step, he negotiated an alliance between France and England (1518), and betrothed Henry’s two-year-old daughter Mary (later queen) to the seven-month-old son of Francis I. Wolsey’s taste for lavish entertainment revealed itself when French emissaries came to London to sign the agreements; he feted them in his Westminster palace with a dinner “the like of which,” reported Giustiniani, “was never given by Cleopatra or Caligula, the whole banqueting hall being decorated with huge vases of gold and silver.” But the worldly Cardinal could be forgiven; he was playing for high stakes, and he won. He insisted that the alliance should be open to Emperor Maximilian I, King Charles I of Spain, and Pope Leo X; they were invited to join; they accepted; and Erasmus, More, and Colet thrilled with the hope that an era of peace had dawned for all Western Christendom. Even Wolsey’s enemies congratulated him. He took the opportunity to bribe English agents in Rome to secure his appointment as papal legate a latere in Britain; the phrase meant “on the side,” confidential, and was the highest designation of a papal emissary. Wolsey was now supreme head of the English Church, and—with strategic obeisances to Henry—ruler of England. 

   The peace was clouded a year later by the rivalry of Francis I and Charles I for the Imperial throne; even Henry thought of flinging his beret into the ring, but he had no Fugger. The winner, as now Charles V, briefly visited England (May 1520), paid his respects to his aunt Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s Queen, and offered to marry Princess Mary (already betrothed to the Dauphin) if England would promise to support Charles in any future conflict with France; so unnatural is peace. Wolsey refused, but accepted a pension of 7,000 ducats from the Emperor, and drew from him a pledge to help him in becoming pope. 

   The brilliant Cardinal achieved his most spectacular triumph in the meeting of the French and English sovereigns on the Field of the Cloth of Gold (June 1520). Here, in an open space between Guines and Ardres near Calais, medieval art and chivalry displayed themselves in sunset magnificence. Four thousand English noblemen, chosen and placed by the Cardinal and dressed in the silks, flounces, and lace of late medieval costume, accompanied Henry as the young red-bearded King rode on a white palfrey to meet Francis I; and not last or least came Wolsey himself, clad in crimson satin robes rivaling the splendor of the Kings. An impromptu palace had been built to receive their Majesties, their ladies, and their staffs; a pavilion covered with gold-threaded cloth and hung with costly tapestries shaded the conference and the feasts; a fountain ran wine; and space was cleared for a royal tournament. The political and marital alliance of the two nations was confirmed. The happy monarchs jousted, even wrestled; and Francis risked the peace of Europe by throwing the English King. With characteristic French grace he repaired his faux pas by going, early one morning, unarmed and with a few unarmed attendants, to visit Henry in the English camp. It was a gesture of friendly trust, which Henry understood. The monarchs exchanged precious gifts and solemn vows. 

   In truth neither could trust the other, for it is a lesson of history that men lie most when they govern states. From seventeen days of festivities with Francis, Henry went to three days of conference with Charles at Calais (July 1520). There King and Emperor, chaperoned by Wolsey, swore eternal friendship, and agreed to proceed no further with their plans to marry into the royal family of France. These separate alliances were a more precarious basis for European peace than the multilateral entente that Wolsey had arranged before Maximilian’s death, but it still left England in the position of mediator and, in effect, arbiter—position far loftier than any that could be based on English wealth or power. Henry was satisfied. To reward his Chancellor he ordered the monks of St. Albans to elect Wolsey as their abbot and dower him with their net revenue, for “my Lord Cardinal has sustained many charges in this his voyage.” The monks obeyed, and Wolsey’s income neared his needs. 

   Sometimes, however, he forgot that Henry was king. “On my first arrival in England,” Giustiniani wrote to the Venetian Senate, “the Cardinal used to say to me, His Majesty will do so and so. Subsequently, by degrees, he forgot himself, and commenced saying, We shall do so and so. At present he . . . says, I shall do so and so. And again the ambassador wrote: “If it were necessary to neglect either King or Cardinal, it would be better to pass over the King; the Cardinal might resent precedence conceded to the King.” Peers and diplomats seldom obtained audience with the Chancellor until their third request. With each passing year the Cardinal ruled more and more openly as a dictator; he called Parliament only once during his ascendancy; he paid little attention to constitutional forms; he met opposition with resentment and criticism with rebuke. The historian Polydore Vergil wrote that these methods would bring Wolsey’s fall; Vergil was sent to the Tower; and only repeated intercession by Leo X secured his release. Opposition grew. 

   Perhaps those whom Wolsey superseded or disciplined secured the ear of history, and transmitted his sins un-absolved. But no one questioned his ability or his assiduous devotion to his many tasks. “He transacts as much business,” Giustiniani told the proud Venetian Senate, “as that which occupies all the magistracies, offices, and councils of Venice, both civil and criminal; and all state affairs are likewise managed by him, let their nature be what they may.” He was loved by the poor and hated by the powerful for his impartial administration of justice; almost beyond any precedent in English history after Alfred, he opened his court to all who complained of oppression, and he fearlessly punished the guilty, however exalted. He was generous to scholars and artists, and began a religious reform by replacing several monasteries with colleges. He was on the way to a stimulating improvement of English education when all the enemies he had made in the haste of his labors and the myopia of his pride conspired with a royal romance to engineer his fall.




Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, came to England in 1501, aged sixteen, and married (November 24) Arthur, aged fifteen, oldest son of Henry VII. Arthur died on April 12, 1502. It was generally assumed that the marriage had been consummated; the Spanish ambassador dutifully sent “proofs” thereof to Ferdinand; and Arthur’s title, Prince of Wales, was not officially transferred to his younger brother Henry till two months after Arthur’s death. But Catherine denied the consummation. She had brought with her a dowry of 200,000 ducats. Loath to let Catherine go back to Spain with these ducats, and anxious to renew a marital alliance with the powerful Ferdinand, Henry VII proposed that Catherine should marry Prince Henry, though she was the lad’s elder by six years. A biblical passage (Lev. 20:21) forbade such a marriage: “If a man shall take his brother’s wife it is an unclean thing . . . they shall be childless.” Another passage, however, ruled quite the contrary: “If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child . . . her husband’s brother . . . shall take her to him to wife” (Deut. 25: 5). Archbishop Warham condemned the proposed union; Bishop Fox of Winchester defended it if a papal dispensation could be obtained from the impediment of affinity. Henry VII applied for the dispensation; Pope Julius II granted it (1503). Some canonists questioned, some affirmed, the papal power to dispense from a biblical precept, and Julius himself had some doubts. The betrothalin effect a legal marriage—was made formal (1503), but as the bridegroom was still only twelve, cohabitation was postponed. In 1505 Prince Henry asked to have the marriage annulled as having been forced upon him by his father, but he was prevailed upon to confirm the union as in the interest of England; and in 1509, six weeks after his accession, the marriage was publicly celebrated. 

   Seven months later (February 10, 1510) Catherine bore her first child, which died at birth. A year thereafter she bore a son; Henry rejoiced in a male heir who would continue the Tudor line; but in a few weeks the infant died. A second and third son succumbed soon after birth (1513, 1514). Henry began to think of a divorceor, more precisely, an annulment of his marriage as invalid. Poor Catherine tried again, and in 1516 she gave birth to the future Queen Mary. Henry relented; “if it was a daughter this time,” he told himself, “by the grace of God the sons will follow.” In 1518 Catherine was delivered of another stillborn child. The disappointment of King and country was sharpened by the fact that Mary, aged two, had already been betrothed to the dauphin of France; if no son came to Henry, Mary would inherit the English throne, and her husband, becoming King of France, would in effect be King of England too, making Britain a province of France. The dukes of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Buckingham had hopes of displacing Mary and securing the crown; Buckingham talked too much, was accused of treason, and was beheaded (1521). Henry expressed fear that his sonlessness was a divine punishment for having used a papal dispensation from a biblical command. He took a vow that if the Queen would bear him a son he would lead a crusade against the Turks. But Catherine had no further pregnancies. By 1525 all hope of additional offspring by her was abandoned. 

   Henry had long since lost taste for her as a woman. He was now thirty-four, in the prime of lusty manhood; she was forty, and looked older than her years. She had never been alluring, but her frequent illnesses and misfortunes had deformed her body and darkened her spirit. She excelled in culture and refinement, but husbands have seldom found erudition charming in a wife. She was a good and faithful spouse, loving her husband only next to Spain. She thought of herself asfor a time she wasSpanish envoy, and she argued that England should always side with Ferdinand or Charles. About 1518 Henry took his first-known post-marriage mistress, Elizabeth Blount, sister of Erasmus’ friend Mountjoy. She gave him a son in 1519; Henry made the boy Duke of Richmond and Somerset, and thought of entailing the succession to him. About 1524 he took another mistress, Mary Boleyn; indeed, Sir George Throckmorton accused him to his face of adultery with Mary’s mother, too. It was an unwritten law of the times that royalty, if married for reasons of state rather than choice, might seek outside of marriage the romance that had missed the legal bed. 

   In or before 1527 Henry turned his charm upon Mary’s sister Anne. Their father was Sir Thomas Boleyn, a merchant and diplomat long favored by the King; their mother was a Howard, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk. Anne was sent to Paris as a finishing school; there she was made a lady-in-waiting to Queen Claude, then to Marguerite of Navarre, from whom she may have imbibed some Protestant leanings. Henry could have seen her as a vivacious girl of thirteen at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Returning to England at fifteen (1522), she became lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine. She was not strikingly beautiful; she was short, with dark complexion, broad mouth, and long neck; but her flashing black eyes, her flowing brown hair, her grace and wit and gaiety lured Henry and others. She had some ardent lovers, including Thomas Wyatt the poet, and Henry Percy, future Earl of Northumberland; her enemies later charged that she had been clandestinely married to Percy before she set her sights on the King; the evidence is inconclusive. We do not know when Henry began to court her; the earliest of his extant love letters to her is conjecturally assigned to July 1527. 

   What was the relation of this romance to Henry’s petition for the annulment of his marriage? Unquestionably he had thought of this as far back as 1514, when Anne was a girl of seven. He seems to have put the notion aside till 1524 when, according to his own account, he ceased to have conjugal relations with Catherine. The earliest recorded proceedings for an annulment were taken in March 1527, long after Henry’s acquaintance with Anne, and about the time that she replaced her sister in the bosom of the King. Wolsey was apparently unaware of any royal intention to marry Anne when, in July 1527, he went to France partly to arrange a union between Henry and Renee, that daughter of Louis XII who was soon to make a Protestant stir in Italy. The first known reference to Henry’s intention is in a letter sent on August 26, 1527, by the Spanish ambassador informing Charles V of a general belief in London that if the King obtained a “divorce” he would marry “a daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn;” this could hardly have meant Mary Boleyn, for by the end of 1527 Henry and Anne were living in neighboring apartments under the same roof in Greenwich. We may conclude that Henry’s suit for annulment was accelerated, though hardly caused, by his infatuation with Anne. The basic cause was his desire for a son, to whom he might transmit the throne with some confidence in a peaceful succession. Practically all England shared that hope. The people remembered with horror the many years (1454-85) of war between the houses of York and Lancaster for the crown. The Tudor dynasty was but forty-two years old in 1527; its title to the throne was dubious; only a legitimate and direct male heir to the King could continue the dynasty unchallenged. If Henry had never met Anne Boleyn he would still have desired and deserved a divorce and an adequately fertile wife. 

   Wolsey agreed with the King on this point, and assured him that a papal annulment could be readily obtained; the papal power to grant such separations was generally accepted as a wise provision for precisely such national needs, and many precedents could be adduced. But the busy Cardinal had reckoned without two disagreeable developments: Henry wanted not Renee but Anne, and the annulment would have to come from a pope who, when the problem reached him, was a prisoner of an emperor who had plentiful cause for hostility to Henry. Probably Charles would have opposed the annulment as long as his aunt resisted it, and all the more if a new marriage, such as Wolsey planned, would ally England firmly with France. The proximate cause of the English Reformation was not the climbing beauty of Anne Boleyn but the obstinate refusal of Catherine and Charles to see the justice of Henry’s desire for a son; the Catholic Queen and the Catholic Emperor collaborated with the captive Pope to divorce England from the Church. But the ultimate cause of the English Reformation was not Henry’s suit for annulment so much as the rise of the English monarchy to such strength that it could repudiate the authority of the pope over English affairs and revenues. 

   Henry affirmed that Gabriel de Grammont, who came to England in February 1527 to discuss the proposed marriage of Princess Mary with French royalty, occasioned his active desire for an annulment. Grammont, according to Henry, raised a question as to Mary’s legitimacy, on the ground that Henry’s marriage with Catherine might have been invalid as violating a Scriptural ban irremovable by a pope. Some have thought that Henry invented the story, but Wolsey repeated it, it was reported to the French government (1528), it was not (so far as is known) denied by Grammont, and Grammont labored to persuade Clement that Henry’s suit for annulment was just. Charles informed his ambassador in England (August 8, 1527) that he was advising Clement to deny Henry’s plea. 

   While he was in France Wolsey was definitely informed that Henry wished to marry not Renee but Anne. He continued to work for the annulment, but he did not hide his chagrin over Henry’s choice. By-passing his Chancellor, the King, in the fall of 1527, sent his secretary, William Knight, to present two requests to the captive Pope. The first was that Clement, recognizing the doubtful validity of Henry’s marriage, its lack of male issue, and Catherine’s unwillingness to be divorced, should allow Henry to have two wives. A last-minute order from Henry deterred Knight from presenting this proposal; Henry’s audacity had abated; and he must have marveled when, three years later, he received from Giovanni Casale, one of his agents in Rome, a letter dated September 28, 1530, saying, “A few days ago the Pope secretly proposed to me that your Majesty might be allowed two wives.” Henry’s second request was quite as strange: that the Pope should grant him a dispensation to marry a woman with whose sister the King had had sexual relations. The Pope agreed to this on condition that the marriage with Catherine should be annulled; but as to this annulment he was not yet ready to decide. Clement was not only fearful of Charles; he was reluctant to rule that a previous pope had made a serious error in validating the marriage. At the end of 1527 he received a third requestthat he should appoint Wolsey and another papal legate to sit as a court in England, to hear evidence, and to pass judgment on the validity of Henry’s marriage with Catherine. Clement complied (April 23, 1528), named Cardinal Campeggio to sit with Wolsey in London, and promisedin a bull to be shown only to Wolsey and Henryto confirm whatever decision the legates should render. Probably the fact that Henry had joined Francis (January 1528) in declaring war on Charles and pledging themselves to liberate the Pope affected Clement’s compliance. 

   Charles protested, and sent to Clement a copy of a document, which he claimed had been found in Spanish archives, and in which Julius II confirmed as valid the dispensation that Henry and Wolsey proposed to void. At his wits’ end the Pope, still a prisoner of Charles, rushed instructions to Campeggio “not to pronounce sentence without express commission hence. . . . If so great an injury be done to the Emperor, all hope is lost of universal peace, and the Church cannot escape utter ruin, as it is entirely in the power of the Emperor’s servants. . . . Delay as much as possible.” 

   On Campeggio’s arrival in England (October 1528) he tried to secure Catherine’s consent to retire to a nunnery. She agreed, on condition that Henry should take monastic vows. But nothing could be further from Henry’s mind than poverty, obedience, and chastity; however, he suggested that he would take these vows if the Pope would promise to release him from them on demand. Campeggio refused to transmit this proposal to the Pope. Instead he reported (February 1529) the King’s determination to marry Anne. “This passion,” he wrote, “is a most extraordinary thing. He sees nothing, he thinks of nothing, but his Anne; he cannot be without her for an hour. It moves me to pity to see how the King’s life, the stability and downfall of the whole country hang upon this one question.”  

   Changes in the military situation turned the Pope more and more against Henry’s proposal. The French army that Henry had helped to finance failed in its Italian campaign, leaving the Pope completely dependent upon the Emperor. Florence expelled its ruling Mediciand Clement was as devoted to that family as Charles to the Hapsburgs. Venice took advantage of the Pope’s impotence to snatch Ravenna from the Papal States. Who now could rescue the papacy except its captor? “I have quite made up my mind,” said Clement (June 17, 1529), “to become an Imperialist, and to live and die as such.” On July 9 he signed the Treaty of Barcelona, by which Charles promised to restore Florence to the Medici, Ravenna to the papacy, and liberty to Clement; but one condition was that Clement would never agree to the annulment of Catherine’s marriage without Catherine’s free consent. On August 15 Francis I signed the Treaty of Cambrai, which in effect surrendered Italy and the Pope to the Emperor. 

   On June 10 Campeggio, having delayed as long as possible, opened with Wolsey the legatine court to hear Henry’s suit. Catherine, having appealed to Rome, refused to acknowledge the competence of the court. On July 1, however, both King and Queen attended. Catherine threw herself on her knees before him, and made a moving plea for the continuance of their marriage. She reminded him of their many labors, her complete fidelity, and her patience with his extramural sports; she took God to witness that she had been a maid when Henry married her; and she asked, in what had she offended him? Henry raised her up, and assured her that he wished nothing so earnestly as that their marriage had been successful; he explained that his reasons for separation were not personal but dynastic and national; and he rejected her appeal to Rome on the ground that the Emperor controlled the Pope. She withdrew in tears, and refused to take further part in the proceedings. Bishop Fisher spoke in her defense, thereby earning the enmity of the King. Henry demanded a clear decision from the court. Campeggio procrastinated skillfully, and finally (August 2, 1529) adjourned the court for the summer vacation. To make indecision more decisive Clement “revoked” the case to Rome. 

   Henry raged. Feeling that Catherine had been unreasonably obstinate, he refused to have anything more to do with her, and spent his pleasure hours openly with Anne. Probably to this period belong most of the seventeen love letters that Cardinal Campeggio spirited away from England, and which the Vatican Library preserves among its literary treasures. Anne, wise in the ways of men and kings, had apparently given him as yet only encouragement and titillation; now she complained that her youth was passing while cardinals, who could not understand the desire of a maid for a well-to-do man, dallied over Henry’s right to adorn desire with a marriage tie. She blamed Wolsey for not pressing Henry’s appeal with more resolution and dispatch; and the King shared her resentment. 

   Wolsey had done his best, though his heart was not in the matter. He had sent money to Rome to bribe the cardinals, but Charles had sent money too, and an army to boot. The Cardinal had even connived at the idea of bigamy, as Luther would do a few years afterward. Yet Wolsey knew that Anne and her influential relatives were maneuvering for his fall. He tried to appease her with dainty viands and costly gifts, but her hostility grew as the annulment issue dragged on. He spoke of her as “the enemy that never slept, both studied and continually imagined, both sleeping and waking, his utter destruction.” He foresaw that if the annulment should be granted Anne would be queen and would ruin him; and that if it were not granted Henry would dismiss him as a failure, and would demand an account of his stewardship, in painful financial detail. 

   The King had many reasons for dissatisfaction with his Chancellor. The foreign policy had collapsed, and the turn from friendship with Charles to alliance with France had proved disastrous. Hardly a man in England now had a good word to say for the once omni-competent Cardinal. The clergy hated him for his absolute rule; the monks feared more dissolution of monasteries; the commons hated him for taking their sons and money to fight futile wars; the merchants hated him because the war with Charles obstructed their trade with Flanders; the nobles hated him for his exactions, his upstart pride, his proliferating wealth. Some nobles, reported the French ambassador (October 27, 1529), “intend, when Wolsey is dead or destroyed, to get rid of the Church, and spoil the goods of the Church and Wolsey both.” Kentish clothiers suggested that the Cardinal should be installed in a leaking boat and set adrift in the sea. 

   Henry was subtler. On October 19, 1529, one of his attorneys issued a writ summoning Wolsey to answer, before the King’s judges, a charge that his acts as legate had violated the Statute of Praemunire (1392), which imposed forfeiture of goods upon any Englishman who brought papal bulls into England. It made no difference that Wolsey had secured the legatine authority at the King’s request, and had used it chiefly in the King’s behalf. Wolsey knew that the King’s judges would convict him. He sent in to Henry a humble submission, confessing his failures, but begging him to remember also his services and his loyalty. Then he left London by a barge on the Thames. At Putney he received a kindly message from the King. In abject gratitude he knelt in the mud and thanked God. Henry appropriated the rich contents of the Cardinal’s palace at Whitehall, but allowed him to retain the archbishopric of York, and enough personal goods to require 160 horses and 72 carts to haul them to his episcopal seat. The Duke of Norfolk succeeded Wolsey as prime minister; Thomas More succeeded him as chancellor (November 1529). 

   For almost a year the fallen Cardinal served as a pious and exemplary archbishop, visiting his parishes regularly, arranging the repair of churches, and acting as a trusted court of arbitration. “Who was less loved in the north than my Lord the Cardinal before he was amongst them?” asked a Yorkshireman, “and who better beloved after he had been there awhile?” But ambition reawaked in him as the fear of death subsided. He wrote letters to Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador to England; they are lost, but a report from Chapuys to Charles reads: “I have a letter from the Cardinal’s physician, in which he tells me that his master . . . thought the Pope should proceed to weightier censures, and should call in the secular arm” i.e., excommunication, invasion, and civil war. Norfolk got wind of these exchanges, arrested Wolsey’s physician, and drew from him, by means uncertain, a confession that the Cardinal had advised the Pope to excommunicate the King. We do not know if the Ambassador or the Duke honestly reported the physician, or if the physician truthfully reported the Cardinal. In any case Henry, or the Duke, ordered Wolsey’s arrest. 

   He submitted peaceably (November 14, 1530), bade farewell to his household, and set out for London. At Sheffield Park severe dysentery confined him to bed. There the King’s soldiers came with orders to conduct him to the Tower. He resumed the journey, but after two more days of riding he was so weak that his escort allowed him to take to bed in Leicester Abbey. To the King’s officer, Sir William Kingston, he uttered the words reported by Cavendish and adapted by Shakespeare: “If I had served my God as diligently as I have done my King, He would not have given me over in my gray hairs.” In Leicester Abbey, December 9, 1530, Wolsey, aged fifty-five, died.




In the Parliament that assembled at Westminster on November 13, 1529, the controlling groups—the nobles in the Upper House, the merchants in the Commons—agreed on three policies: the reduction of ecclesiastical wealth and power, the maintenance of trade with Flanders, and support of the King in his campaign for a male heir. This did not carry with it approval of Anne Boleyn, who was generally condemned as an adventuress, nor did it prevent an almost universal sympathy with Catherine. The lower classes, politically impotent, were as yet unfavorable to the divorce, and the northern provinces, intensely Catholic, sided wholeheartedly with the Pope. Henry kept this opposition temporarily quiet by remaining orthodox in everything but the right of the popes to govern the English Church. On that point the national spirit, even stronger in England than in Germany, upheld the hand of the King; and the clergy, though horrified at the thought of making Henry their master, were not averse to independence from a papacy so obviously subject to a foreign power. 

   About 1528 one Simon Fish published a six-page pamphlet that Henry read without known protest, and many read with frank delight. It was called The Supplication of the Beggars, and asked the King to confiscate, in whole or part, the wealth of the English Church:


   In the times of your noble predecessors past, [there] craftily crept into your realm . . . holy and idle beggars and vagabonds . . . bishops, abbots, deacons, archdeacons, suffragans, priests, monks, canons, friars, pardoners, and summoners. And who is able to number this idle, ruinous sort, which (setting all labor aside) have begged so importunately that they have gotten into their hands more than a third part of all your Realm? The goodliest lordships, manors, lands, and territories are theirs. Besides this, they had the tenth part of all corn, meadow, pasture, grass, wool, colts, calves, lambs, pigs, geese, and chickens. . . . Yea, and they look so narrowly upon their profits that the poor wives must be countable to them of every tenth egg, or else she getteth not her rights at Easter. . . . Who is she that will set her hand to work to get 3d. a day, and may have at least 20d. a day to sleep an hour with a friar, a monk, or a priest?


   The nobles and merchants might have admitted some exaggeration in the indictment, but they thought it led to a charming conclusion—the secularization of Church property. “These lords,” wrote the French ambassador Jean du Bellay, “intend . . . to impeach . . . the Church and take all its goods; which it is hardly needful for me to write in cipher, for they proclaim it openly. . . . I expect the priests will never have the Great Seal”—i.e. never head the government—“again, and that in this Parliament they will have terrible alarms.” Wolsey had held off this attack on Church property, but his fall left the clergy powerless except through the (declining) faith of the people; and the papal authority that might have protected them by its prestige, its interdicts, or its allies, was now the main object of royal wrath, and the football of Imperial politics. Custom required that legislation affecting the Church in England should be passed, or require confirmation, by the Convocation of the clergy under the archbishops of Canterbury and York. Could this assembly assuage the anger of the King and check the anticlericalism of Parliament? 

   The Commons opened the battle. It drew up an address to the King, professing doctrinal orthodoxy, but strongly criticizing the clergy. This famous Act of Accusation charged that Convocation made laws without the consent of King or Parliament, seriously limiting the liberty of laymen, and subjecting them to heavy censures or fines; that the clergy exacted payment for the administration of the sacraments; that the bishops gave benefices to “certain young folks, calling them their nephews,” and despite the youth or ignorance of such appointees; that the episcopal courts greedily exploited their right to levy fees and fines; that these courts arrested persons, and imprisoned them, without stating the charges against them; that they indicted and severely punished laymen upon suspicion of the slightest heresy; and the document concluded by begging the King for the “reformation” of these ills. Henry, who may have been privy to the composition of this address, submitted its main points to the Convocation, and asked for an answer. The bishops admitted some abuses, which they attributed to occasional individuals; they affirmed the justice of their courts; and they looked to the pious King, who had so nobly rebuked Luther, to aid them in suppressing heresy. Then, grievously mistaking the royal temper, they added warlike words:


   Forasmuch as we repute and take our authority of making the laws to be grounded upon the Scriptures of God and the determination of Holy Church . . . we may not submit the execution of our charges and duty, certainly prescribed to us by God, to your Highness’ assent. . . . With all humility we therefore beseech your Grace . . . to maintain and defend such laws and ordinances as we . . . by the authority of God, shall for His honor make to the edification of virtue and the maintaining of Christ’s faith.


   The issue was joined. Henry did not meet it at once. His first interest was to get Parliament’s approval for a strange request—that he be excused from repaying the loans that had been made to him by his subjects (depreciation of the currency now exempts governments from such honest burglary). The Commons protested and consented. Three other bills were introduced, which aimed to check the authority of the clergy over the probate of wills, their exaction of death taxes, and their holding of plural benefices. The Commons passed these bills; the bishops and abbots sitting in the Upper House passionately opposed them; they were amended, but in essence they were made law. Parliament adjourned on December 27. 

   During the summer of 1530 the King received some costly encouragement. Thomas Cranmer, a doctor of divinity at Cambridge, suggested to Henry that the major universities of Europe should be polled on the question whether a pope could permit a man to marry his brother’s widow. A merry game of rival bribery ensued: Henry’s agents scattered money to induce negative judgments; Charles’ agents used money or threats to secure affirmative replies. The Italian answers were divided; the Lutheran universities refused any comfort to the Defender of the [Catholic] Faith; but the University of Paris, under pressure by Francis, gave the answer so doubly dear to the King. Oxford and Cambridge, after receiving stern letters from the government, approved Henry’s right to have his marriage annulled. 

   So strengthened, he issued through his attorney general (December 1530) a notice that the government intended to prosecute, as violators of the Praemunire Statute, all clergymen who had recognized Wolsey’s legatine power. When Parliament and Convocation reassembled (January 26, 1531), the King’s agents happily announced to the clergy that the prosecution would be withdrawn if they would confess their guilt and pay a fine of £118,000. They protested that they had never wanted Wolsey to have such power, and had recognized him as legate only because the King had done so in the trial of his suit before Wolsey and Campeggio. They were quite right, of course, but Henry sorely needed money. They mournfully agreed to raise the sum from their congregations. Feeling his oats, the King now demanded that the clergy should acknowledge him as “the protector and only supreme head of the Church and clergy of England”—i.e. that they should end their allegiance to the Pope. They offered a dozen compromises, tried a dozen ambiguous phrases; Henry was merciless, and insisted on Yes or No. Finally (February 20, 1531) Archbishop Warham, now eighty-one, reluctantly proposed the King’s formula, with a saving clause—“so far as the law of Christ permits.” The Convocation remained silent; the silence was taken as consent; the formula became law. Mollified, the King now allowed the bishops to prosecute heretics. 

   Parliament and Convocation adjourned again (April 9, 1531). In July Henry left Catherine at Windsor, never to see her again. Soon thereafter she was removed to Ampthill, while Princess Mary was lodged at Richmond. The jewels that Catherine had worn as Queen were required of her by Henry, who gave them to Anne Boleyn. Charles V protested to Clement, who addressed a brief to the King (February 4, 1532) rebuking him for adultery, and exhorting him to dismiss Anne and keep Catherine as his lawful queen until decision should be given on his application for annulment. Henry ignored the rebuke, and pursued his romance. About this time he wrote one of his tender missives to Anne:


   Myne awne Sweetheart, this shall be to advertise you of the great ellingness [loneliness] that I find here since your departing; for, I ensure you, me thinketh the Tyme longer since your departing now last than I was wont to do a whole Fortnight; I think your Kindness and my Fervence of love causeth it. . . . But now that I am coming toward you, me thinketh my Pains by half released . . . in wishing my self (especially an evening) in my Sweethearts Armes whose pretty Duckys [breasts] I trust shortly to kysse. Writne with the Hand of him that was, is, and shall be yours by his will, H.R.


   When Parliament and Convocation reconvened (January 25, 1532) Henry secured from all four houses further anticlerical legislation: that clerics under the degree of sub-deacon, when charged with felony, should be tried by civil courts; that fees and fines in ecclesiastical courts should be reduced; that ecclesiastical death dues and probate fees should be lowered or abolished; that the annates (the first year’s revenues of a newly appointed prelate) should no longer be paid to the Pope; and that the transfer of English funds to Rome for dispensations, indulgences, and other papal services should cease. A sly hint was sent to the Curia that the annates would be restored to the Pope if the marriage with Catherine should be annulled. 

   By this time a majority of the bishops had been won over to the view that they would not lose in authority or revenue if the English Church were independent of Rome. In March 1532, the Convocation announced its readiness to separate from the papacy: “May it please your Grace to cause the said unjust exactions to cease. . . . And in case the Pope will make process against this realm for the attaining these annates . . . may it please your Highness to ordain in the present Parliament that the obedience of your Highness and of the people be withdrawn from the See of Rome.” And on May 25 the Convocation presented to the King a pledge to submit all its subsequent legislation to a committeehalf laymen, half clergymen—empowered to veto any ordinances that it should judge injurious to the realm. So, in this epochal “Reformation Parliament” and Convocation the Church of England was born, and became an arm and subject of the state. 

   On May 26 Thomas More, having failed to stem the anticlerical tide, resigned as chancellor, and retired to his home. In August Archbishop Warham died, after dictating a deathbed repudiation of the Convocation’s submission to the King. Henry replaced More with Thomas Audley, and Warham with Thomas Cranmer. The revolution proceeded. In February 1533, Parliament enacted a Statute of Appeals, by which all litigation that had formerly been sent for judgment to Rome was henceforth to be decided “in the spiritual and temporal courts within the Realm, without regard to any . . . foreign . . . inhibition, excommunication, or interdict.”  

   On January 25, 1533, Henry married Anne, who was already pregnant. The King had now urgent reasons for the annulment of his union with Catherine. Having made, without result, another appeal to the Pope, he secured from Convocation an approval of his “divorce” (April 1533); on June 2 Cranmer, as Archbishop of Canterbury, declared the marriage with Catherine unlawful and void; and on June 7 he pronounced Anne to be Henry’s lawful wife. Three days later Anne, in brocade and jewels, rode to her coronation as Queen of England in a stately pageant designed by tradition and Hans Holbein the Younger. Amid the exaltation she noticed the disapproving silence of the crowd, and she may have wondered how long her uneasy head would wear the crown. Pope Clement pronounced the new marriage null, and its future offspring illegitimate, and excommunicated the King (July 21, 1533). On September 17 Elizabeth was born. Charles’ ambassador reported to him that the King’s mistress had given birth to a bastard. 

   Parliament, which had adjourned on May 14, resumed its sittings on January 25, 1534. Annates and other papal revenues were now definitely appropriated to the Crown, and the appointment of bishops became in law, as already in practice, a prerogative of the King. Indictments for heresy were removed from clerical to civil jurisdiction. 

   In 1533 Elizabeth Barton, a nun of Kent, announced that she had received orders from God to condemn the King’s remarriage, and had been allowed to see the place that was being prepared for Henry in hell. The royal court put her through a severe examination, and drew from her a confession that her divine revelations were impostures, and that she had permitted others to use them in a conspiracy to overthrow the King. She and six “accomplices” were tried by the House of Lords, were judged guilty, and were executed (May 15, 1534). Bishop Fisher was accused of having known of the conspiracy and of having failed to warn the government; it was also charged that he and Catherine had been privy to a plan, conceived by Chapuys and discouraged by Charles, for an invasion of England to coincide with an insurrection of Catherine’s supporters. Fisher denied the charges, but remained under suspicion of treason. 

   It was probably at Thomas Cromwell’s suggestion and through his manipulation that Henry, disturbed by increasing hostility among the people, persuaded Parliament to pass an Act of Succession (April 9, 1534) which declared the marriage with Catherine invalid, transformed Mary into a bastard, named Elizabeth heiress to the throne unless Anne should have a son, and made it a capital crime for any person to question the validity of Anne’s marriage to Henry, or the legitimacy of their offspring. All Englishmen and women were by the Act required to take an oath of loyalty to the King. Royal commissioners, supported by soldiery, rode through the country, entered homes, castles, monasteries, and convents, and exacted the oath. Only a few refused it; among these were Bishop Fisher and Thomas More. They offered to swear to the succession, but not to the other contents of the Act. They were committed to the Tower. Finally the Parliament voted the decisive Statute of Supremacy (November 21, 1534); this reaffirmed the King’s sovereignty over Church and state in England, christened the new national Church Ecclesia Anglicana, and gave the King all those powers over morals, organization, heresy, creed, and ecclesiastical reform which had heretofore belonged to the Church. The Act made it treason to speak or write of the King as a usurper, tyrant, schismatic, heretic, or infidel. A new oath was required of all bishops, that they would accept the civil and ecclesiastical supremacy of the King without the reservation “so far as the law of Christ allows,” and would never in the future consent to any resumption of papal authority in England. 

   All the forces of the government were deployed to paralyze the opposition to these unprecedented decrees. The secular clergy generally pretended to submit. Many monks and friars, owning a direct allegiance to the Pope, shied away from the oaths, and their resistance shared in the King’s later decision to close the monasteries. Henry and Cromwell were especially incensed by the obstinacy of the friars in the Charterhouse, a Carthusian monastery in London. Three Carthusian priors came to Cromwell to explain their reluctance to acknowledge any layman as head of the Church in England; Cromwell sent them to the Tower. On May 6, 1535, the King’s judges, who were for pardoning them, tried them, with another friar and a secular priest, but Cromwell, fearing that lenience would encourage wider resistance, demanded a verdict of guilty, and the judges yielded. On May 13 all five men, still refusing to accept the Act of Supremacy, were dragged on hurdles to Tyburn, and one after another was hanged, cut down alive, disemboweled, and dismembered. One severed arm was hung over the entrance arch of the Charterhouse to instruct the remaining friars, but none withdrew his refusal. Three were put in the Tower; they were fastened to uprights by irons around their necks and feet, and were forced to stand in that position for seventeen days, fed, but never loosed for any natural need. The remaining Carthusians, still obdurate, were dispersed among other monasteries, with the exception of ten who were imprisoned in Newgate; nine of these died of “prison fever and filth.”  

   Henry was now the sole judge of what, in religion and politics, the English people were to believe. Since his theology was still Catholic in every respect except the papal power, he made it a principle to persecute impartially Protestant critics of Catholic dogma, and Catholic critics of his ecclesiastical supremacy. Indeed, the prosecution of heresy had continued, and would continue, all through his reign. In 1531, by order of Chancellor More, Thomas Bilney was burned for speaking against religious images, pilgrimages, and prayers for the dead. James Bainham was arrested for holding that Christ was only spiritually present in the Eucharist; he was tortured to draw from him the names of other heretics; he held fast, and was burned at Smithfield in April 1532. Two others were burned in that year, and the Bishop of Lincoln offered an indulgence of forty days to good Christians who would carry a faggot to feed the fire. 

   This reign of terror reached its apex in the prosecution of Fisher and More. Erasmus had described the Bishop of Rochester as “a person loaded with every virtue.” But Fisher had himself been guilty of persecution, and he had joined the Spanish ambassador in urging Charles to invade England and depose Henry. In law he had committed treason to the state, which could not excuse him on the plea that he had been loyal to the Church. The new pontiff, Paul III, made the mistake of naming the imprisoned Bishop a cardinal. Though Fisher declared that he had not sought the honor, Henry interpreted the appointment as a challenge. On June 27 1535, the Bishop, now in his eightieth year, was given a final trial, and again refused to sign the oath acknowledging Henry as head of the English Church. On July 1 he was led to a block on Tower Hill; “a long, lean body,” an eyewitness described him, “nothing in a manner but skin and bones, so that the most part that there saw him marveled to see any man, bearing life, to be so far consumed.” On the scaffold he received an offer of pardon if he would take the oath; he refused. His severed head was hung upon London Bridge; it might now, if it could, said Henry, go to Rome and get its cardinal’s hat. 

   But a more troublesome recusant remained.





How did it come about that a man with such idealistic ideas seething in his head should have been appointed to Henry VIII’s council in the year after the publication of Utopia? Probably the King, despite his reputation for learning, could not bear to read the book in Latin, and died before it was Englished. More kept his radical fancies for his friends. Henry knew him as a rare synthesis of ability and integrity, valued him as a tie with the House of Commons, knighted him, made him Under-Treasurer (1521), and entrusted him with delicate tasks of diplomacy. More opposed the foreign policy by which Wolsey led England into war with Charles V; the Emperor, in More’s view, was not only dangerously resourceful, he was also the heroic defender of Christendom against the Turks. When Wolsey fell More so far forgot his manners as to review, in Parliament, the faults and errors that had caused the fall. As leader of the opposition he was the logical successor of the Cardinal, and for thirty-one months he served as Chancellor of England. 

   But the real successor to Wolsey was the King. Henry had discovered his own power and capacity, and was resolved, he said, to free himself from an unfriendly and obstructive papacy, and to legitimate his union with the woman whom he loved, and who could give him an heir to the throne. More found himself no guide of policy, but a servant of aims that ran counter to his deepest loyalties. He consoled himself by writing books against Protestant theology, and prosecuting Protestant leaders. In A Dialogue Concerning Heresies (1528), and in later works, he agreed with Ferdinand II, Calvin, and the Lutheran princes on the necessity of religious unity for national strength and peace. He feared the division of Englishmen into a dozen or a hundred religious sects. He who had defended Erasmus’ Latin translation of the New Testament protested against Tyndale’s English version as distorting the text to prove Lutheran points; translations of the Bible, he felt, should not be turned into weapons for tavern philosophers. In any case, he held, the Church was too precious a vehicle of discipline, consolation, and inspiration to be torn to pieces by the hasty reasoning of vain disputants.  

   The time came when More thought Henry the most dangerous heretic of all. He refused to approve the marriage with Anne Boleyn, and he saw in the anticlerical legislation of 1529-32 a ruinous assault upon a Church that to his mind stood as an indispensable base of social order. When he retired from office to the privacy of his Chelsea home (1532), he was still in his prime at fifty-four, but he suspected that he had not much longer to live. He tried to prepare his family for tragedy by talking (so reports his son-in-law William Roper)


of the lives of holy martyrs, and of . . . their marvelous patience, and of their passions [sufferings] and deaths, that they suffered rather than they would offend God, and what an happy and a blessed thing it was, for the love of God, to suffer loss of goods, imprisonment, loss of lands, and life also. He would further say unto them that upon his faith, if he might perceive his children would encourage him to die in a good cause, it should so comfort him that for the very joy thereof it would make him merrily to run to death.










   His expectations were fulfilled. Early in 1534 he was indicted on a charge of having been privy to the conspiracy connected with the Nun of Kent. He admitted having met her, and having believed her to be inspired, but he denied any knowledge of conspiracy. Cromwell recommended, Henry granted, forgiveness. But on April 27 More was committed to the Tower for refusing to take oath to the Act of Succession, which, as presented to him, involved a repudiation of papal supremacy over the Church in England. His favorite daughter Margaret wrote to him begging him to take the oath; he replied that her plea gave him more pain than his imprisonment. His (second) wife visited him in the Tower, and (according to Roper) berated him for obstinacy:


   What the good year, Mr. More, I marvel that you, that have always been hitherunto taken for a wise man, will now so play the fool to lie here in this close, filthy prison, and be content to be shut up among mice and rats, when you might be abroad at your liberty, and with the favor and good will of the King and his Council, if you would but do as all the bishops and best learned of this realm have done. And seeing you have at Chelsea a right fair house, your library, your books, your gallery, your garden, your orchards, and all other necessaries so handsomely about you, where you might, in the company of me, your wife, your children, and your household, be merry, I muse what a God’s name you mean here still thus fondly to tarry.


Other efforts were made to move him, but he smilingly resisted them all.   

   On July 10, 1535, he was given a final trial. He defended himself well, but he was pronounced guilty of treason. While he was returning from Westminster to the Tower his daughter Margaret twice broke through the guard, embraced him, and received his last blessing. On the day before his execution he sent his hairshirt to Margaret, with a message that “tomorrow were a day very meet” to “go to God. . . . Farewell, my dear child; pray for me, and I shall pray for you and all your friends, that we may merrily meet in heaven.” When he mounted the scaffold (July 17), and found it so weak that it threatened to collapse, he said to an attendant, “I pray you, Mr. Lieutenant, see me safe up, and for my coming down let me shift for myself.” The executioner asked his forgiveness; More embraced him. Henry had given directions that only a few words should be allowed the prisoner. More begged the spectators to pray for him, and to “bear witness that he . . . suffered death in and for the faith of the Holy Catholic Church.” He then asked them to pray for the King, that God might give him good counsel; and he protested that he died being the King’s good servant, but God’s first. He repeated the Fifty-first Psalm. Then he laid his head upon the block, carefully arranging his long gray beard that it should take no harm; “pity that should be cut,” he said, “that hath not committed treason.” His head was affixed to London Bridge.  

   A wave of terror passed through an England that now realized the resolute mercilessness of the King, and a shudder of horror ran through Europe. Erasmus felt that he himself had died, for “we had but one soul between us;” he said that he had now no further wish to live, and a year later he too was dead. Charles V, apprised of the event, told the English ambassador: “If I had been master of such a servant, of whose doing I myself have had these many years no small experience, I would rather have lost the best city in my dominions than lose such a worthy councilor.” Pope Paul III formulated a bull of excommunication outlawing Henry from the fellowship of Christendom, interdicting all religious services in England, forbidding all trade with it, absolving all British subjects from their oaths of allegiance to the King, and commanding them, and all Christian princes, to depose him forthwith. As neither Charles nor Francis would consent to such measures, the Pope withheld issuance of the bull till 1538. When he did promulgate it Charles and Francis forbade its publication in their realms, unwilling to sanction papal claims to power over kings. The failure of the bull signalized again the decline of papal authority and the rise of the sovereign national state.   

   Dean Swift thought More the man “of the greatest virtue”—perhaps using this word in its old sense of courage—“this kingdom ever produced.” On the four hundredth anniversary of their execution the Church of Rome enrolled Thomas More and John Fisher among her saints.
















Within some thirty months of More’s death Henry lost three of his six queens. Catherine of Aragon wasted away in her northern retreat, still claiming to be Henry’s only lawfully wedded wife and England’s rightful queen. Her faithful maids continued to give her that title. In 1535 she was removed to Kimbalton Castle, near Huntingdon, and there she confined herself to one room, leaving it only to hear Mass. She received visitors, and “used them very obligingly.” Mary, now nineteen, was kept at Hatfield, only thirty-two kilometers away; but mother and daughter were not allowed to see each other, and were forbidden to communicate. They did nevertheless, and Catherine’s letters are among the most touching in all literature. Henry offered them better quarters if they would acknowledge his new queen; they would not. Anne Boleyn had her aunt made governess to Mary, and bade her keep “the bastard” in place by “a box on the ears now and then.” In December 1535, Catherine sickened, made her will, wrote to the Emperor asking him to protect her daughter, and addressed a moving farewell to her “most dear lord and husband” the King:


   The hour of my death now approaching, I cannot choose but, out of the love I bear you, advise you of your soul’s health, which you ought to prefer above all considerations of the world or flesh whatsoever; for which yet you have cast me into many calamities, and yourself into many troubles. But I forgive you all, and pray God to do likewise. For the rest I commend unto you Mary our daughter, beseeching you to be a good father to her. . . . Lastly I make this vow, that my eyes desire you above all things. Farewell.”


Henry wept on receiving the letter; and when Catherine died (January 17, 1536), aged fifty, he ordered the court to go into mourning. Anne refused.   Anne could not know that within five months she too would be dead; but she knew that she had already lost the King. Her hot temper, her imperious tantrums, her importunate demands, wearied Henry, who contrasted her railing tongue with Catherine’s gentleness. On the day of Catherine’s burial Anne was delivered of a dead child; and Henry, who still yearned for a son, began to think of another divorceor, as he would put it, an annulment; his second marriage, he was quoted as saying, had been induced by witchcraft and was therefore void. From October 1535 he began to pay special attention to one of Anne’s maids, Jane Seymour. When Anne reproached him he bade her bear with him patiently, as her betters had done. Perhaps following ancient tactics, he accused her of infidelity. It seems incredible that even a flighty woman should have risked her throne for a moment’s dalliance, but the King appears to have sincerely believed in her guilt. He referred the rumors of her amours to his Council; it investigated, and reported to the King that she had committed adultery with five members of the court—Sir William Brereton, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Mark Smeton, and her brother Lord Rochford. The five men were sent to the Tower, and on May 12,1536, Anne followed them. 

   Henry wrote to her holding out hopes of forgiveness or lenience if she would be honest with him. She replied that she had nothing to confess. Her attendants in prison alleged that she had admitted receiving proposals of love from Norris and Weston, but that she claimed to have repulsed them. On May 21 the grand jury of Middlesex, having been asked to make local inquiries into offenses allegedly committed by the Queen in that county, reported that it found her guilty of adultery with all five of the accused men, and gave specific names and dates. On May 22 a jury including Anne’s father, the Earl of Wiltshire, tried four of the men at Westminster. Smeton confessed himself guilty as charged; the others pleaded not guilty; all four were convicted. On May 25 Anne and her brother were tried by a panel of twenty-six peers under the presidency of the Duke of Norfolk, her uncle but political enemy. Sister and brother affirmed their innocence, but each member of the panel announced himself convinced of their guilt, and they were sentenced to be “burned or beheaded, as shall please the King.” On May 27 Smeton was hanged; the other four men were beheaded as befitted their rank. On that day Archbishop Cranmer was required by royal commissioners to declare the marriage with Anne invalid, and Elizabeth a bastard; he complied. The grounds for this judgment are not known, but presumably Anne’s alleged prior marriage with Lord Northumberland was now pronounced real. 

   On the eve of her death Anne knelt before Lady Kingston, wife of the warden, and asked a last favor: that she should go and kneel before Mary and beseech her, in Anne’s name, to forgive the wrongs that had come to her through the pride and thoughtlessness of a miserable woman. On May 29 she begged that her execution should take place soon. She appeared to derive some comfort from the thought that “the executioner I have heard to be very good, and I have a little neck”—whereupon she laughed. That noon she was led to the scaffold. She asked the spectators to pray for the King, “for a gentler and more merciful prince was there never; and to me he was ever a good, a gentle, and sovereign lord.” No one could be sure of her guilt, but few regretted her fall. 

   On the day of her death Cranmer gave the King a dispensation to marry again in renewed quest for a son; on the morrow Henry and Jane Seymour were secretly betrothed; on June 9, 1536, they were married; and on June 14 she was proclaimed queen. She was of royal lineage, being descended from Edward III; she was related to Henry in the third or fourth degree of consanguinity, which called for another dispensation from the obedient Cranmer. She was of no special beauty, but she impressed all with her intelligence, kindness, even modesty; Cardinal Pole, Henry’s most thoroughgoing enemy, described her as “full of goodness.” She discouraged the King’s advances while Anne lived, refused his gifts, returned his letters unopened, and asked him never to speak to her except in the presence of others. 

   One of her first acts after marriage was to effect reconciliation between Henry and Mary. He did it in his own way. He had Cromwell send her a paper entitled The Confession of the Lady Mary: it acknowledged the King as supreme head of the Church in England, repudiated “the Bishop of Rome’s pretended authority,” and recognized the marriage of Henry with Catherine as “incestuous and unlawful.” Mary was required to sign her name to each clause. She did, and never forgave herself. Three weeks later the King and Queen came to see her, and gave her presents and 1,000 crowns. She was again called Princess; and at Christmas, 1536, she was received at court. There must have been something good in Henry—and in “Bloody Mary—for in his later years she almost learned to love him. 

   When Parliament met again (June 18, 1536) it drew up at the King’s request a new Act of Succession, by which both Elizabeth and Mary were declared illegitimate, and the crown was settled on the prospective issue of Jane Seymour. In July Henry’s bastard son, the Duke of Richmond, died; now all the hopes of the King lay in Jane’s pregnancy. England rejoiced with him when (October 22, 1537) she was delivered of a boy, the future Edward VI. But poor Jane, to whom the King was now as deeply attached as his self-centered spirit allowed, died twelve days after her son’s birth. Henry was for some time a broken man. Though he married thrice again, he asked, at his death, to be buried beside the woman who had given her life in bearing his son. 

   What were the reactions of the English people to the events of this world-shaking reign? It is difficult to say; the testimony is prejudiced, ambiguous, and sparse. Chapuys reported in 1533 that, in the opinion of many Englishmen, “the last King Richard was never so much hated by his people as this King.” Generally the people sympathized with Henry’s desire for a son, condemned his severity to Catherine and Mary, shed no tears over Anne, but were deeply shocked by the execution of Fisher and More. The nation was still overwhelmingly Catholic, and the clergy—now that the government had appropriated the annates—were hoping for reconciliation with Rome. But hardly any man dared raise his voice in criticism of the King. Criticism he received, and from an Englishman, but one with the Channel between him and the King’s practiced arm. 

   Reginald Pole was the son of Margaret Plantagenet, Countess of Salisbury, herself the niece of Edward IV and Richard III. He was educated at Henry’s expense, received a royal pension of 500 crowns a year, and was apparently destined for the highest offices in the English Church. He studied in Paris and Padua, and returned to England in high favor with the King. But when Henry insisted on hearing his opinion of the divorce, Reginald frankly replied that he could not approve of it unless the Pope should sanction it. Henry continued the youth’s pension, and permitted him to return to the Continent. There Pole remained twenty-two years, rose in papal esteem as scholar and theologian, and was made a cardinal at the age of thirty-six (1536). In that year he composed in Latin a passionate attack upon Henry—Pro ecclesiasticae unitatis defensione (In Defense of Church Unity). He argued that Henry’s assumption of ecclesiastical supremacy in England invited the division of the Christian religion into national varieties, and that the resultant clash of creeds would bring social and political chaos to Europe. He charged Henry with egomania and autocracy. He scored the English bishops for yielding to the enslavement of the Church by the state. He denounced the marriage with Anne as adultery, and predicted (not too wisely) that the English nobility would forever rank Elizabeth as “a harlot’s bastard.” He called upon Charles V to waste no ammunition on the Turks, but to turn the Imperial forces against England’s impious King. It was a powerful invective, spoiled by youthful pride in eloquence. Cardinal Contarini advised the author not to publish it, but Pole insisted, and sent a copy to England. When Paul III made Pole a cardinal Henry took it as an act of war. The King abandoned all thought of compromise, and agreed with Cromwell that the monasteries of England should be dissolved, and their property added to the Crown.










In 1535 Henry, too busy with love and war to play pope in retail as well as gross, appointed the agnostic Cromwell “viceregent of the King in all his ecclesiastical jurisdiction.” Cromwell now guided foreign policy, domestic legislation, the higher judiciary, the Privy Council, the intelligence service, the Star Chamber, and the Church of England; Wolsey at apogee had never had so many long and grasping fingers in so many juicy pies. He kept an eye, too, on all printing and publication; he persuaded the King to forbid the printing, sale, or importation of books except after approval by agents of the Crown; and he had anti-papal literature published at the government’s expense. Cromwell’s innumerable spies kept him informed on all movements or expressions of opposition to Henry or himself. A remark of pity for Fisher or More, a jest about the King, could bring a secret trial and long imprisonment; and to predict the date of the King’s death was to incur one’s own. In special cases, to make conclusions certain, Cromwell acted as prosecutor, jury, and judge. Nearly everyone in England feared and hated him. 

   His chief difficulty was that Henry, though omnipotent, was bankrupt. The King was anxious to enlarge the navy, to increase or improve his harbors and ports; his court and personal expenses were extravagant; and Cromwell’s system of government required a broad stream of funds. How to raise money? Taxes were already high to the point where resistance made further collection more costly than lucrative; the bishops had drained their parishes to appease the King; and no gold poured in from America such as daily succored England’s enemy, the Emperor. Yet one institution in England was wealthy, suspect, decrepit, and defenseless: the monasteries. They were suspect because their ultimate allegiance was to the pope, and their subscription to the Act of Supremacy was considered insincere and incomplete; they were, in the eyes of the government, a foreign body in the nation, bound to support any Catholic movement against the King. They were decrepit because they had in many cases ceased to perform their traditional functions of education, hospitality, and charity. They were defenseless because the bishops resented their exemption from episcopal control; because the nobility, impoverished by civil war, coveted their wealth; because the business classes looked upon monks and friars as idling wasters of natural resources; and because a large section of the commonalty, including many good Catholics, no longer believed in the efficacy of the relics that the monks displayed, or in the Masses that the monks, if paid, offered for the dead. And there were excellent precedents for closing monasteries; Zwingli had done it in Zurich, the Lutheran princes in Germany, Wolsey in England. Parliament had already (1533) voted authority to the government to visit the monasteries and compel their reform. 

   In the summer of 1535 Cromwell sent out a trio of “visitors,” each with a numerous staff, to examine and report on the physical, moral, and financial condition of the monasteries and nunneries of England, and, for good measure, the universities and episcopal sees as well. These “visitors” were “young, impetuous men, likely to execute their work rather thoroughly than delicately;” they were not immune to “presents;” “the object of their mission was to get up a case for the Crown, and they probably used every means in their power to induce the monks and the nuns to incriminate themselves.” It was not difficult to find, among the 600 monasteries of England, an impressive number that showed sexualsometimes homosexual—deviations, loose discipline, acquisitive exploitation of false relics, sale of sacred vessels or jewelry to add to monastic wealth and comforts, neglect of ritual, hospitality, or charity. But the reports usually failed to state the proportion of offending to meritorious monks, and to discriminate clearly between gossip and evidence. 

   To the Parliament that met on February 14, 1536, Cromwell submitted a “Black Book,” now lost, revealing the faults of the monasteries, and recommending, with strategic moderation, that monasteries and convents having an income of £200 or less per year should be closed. The Parliament, whose members had been largely chosen by Cromwell’s aides, consented. The King, to receive for the royal treasury the property and revenues of these 376 “lesser monasteries,” appointed a Court of Augmentations. Two thousand monks were released to other houses or to the world—in the latter case with a small sum or pension to tide them over till they found work. Of the 130 nunneries only eighteen had an income over £200, but only half were now closed. 

   The drama of dissolution was interrupted by a triple rebellion in the north. Just as Christianity had been born in the cities and had reached the villagers—pagani—last, so, in Switzerland, Germany, and England the Reformation rose in the towns and was long resisted in the countryside. Protestantism in England and Scotland decreased as distance from London or Edinburgh increased; it reached Wales and northern England tardily, and found scant welcome in Ireland. In the northern shires of England the spoliation of the lesser monasteries kindled a fire of resentment that had long been prepared by mounting taxation, the royal dictatorship over the clergy, and clandestine priestly exhortations. Dispossessed monks who found it hard to collect their pensions or to get work joined the already numerous and plaintive unemployed; dispossessed nuns, wandering from shelter to shelter, stirred public anger against the government; and the aides of Cromwell’s visitors fed the fury by decking themselves in the spoils of the monastic chapels, making copes into doublets, priestly tunics into saddlecloths, and relic cases into dagger sheaths. 

   On October 12, 1536, a crowd in neighboring Louth attacked a visitor who had just closed a convent in Legbourne; his records and credentials were seized and burned, and, with a sword at his breast, he was compelled to swear loyalty to the commons. All in the crowd took an oath to be faithful to the King and the Roman Catholic Church. On the morrow a rebel army gathered at Caistor, a few kilometers away; priests and homeless monks exhorted them; the local gentry were forced—some were willing—to join. On the same day a larger muster of villagers took place at Horncastle, another town in Lincolnshire. The chancellor of the bishop of Lincoln was accused of being an agent of Cromwell; he was taken from his bed and beaten to death with staves. The rebels designed a banner picturing a plow, a chalice, a horn, and the five “last words” of Christ, and they drew up demands which were dispatched to the King: the monasteries should be restored, taxes should be remitted or eased, the clergy should no more pay tithes or annates to the Crown, “villein blood” (namely, Cromwell) should be removed from the Privy Council, and heretic bishops—chiefly Cranmer and Latimer—should be deposed and punished. Recruits for the rebellion came in from the northern and eastern counties. Some 60,000 men assembled at Lincoln, and awaited the answer of the King. 

   His answer was furious and uncompromising. He charged the rebels with ingratitude to a gracious ruler; insisted that the closing of the lesser monasteries was the will of the nation expressed through Parliament; and bade the insurgents surrender their leaders and disperse to their homes on pain of death and confiscation of goods. At the same time Henry ordered his military aides to collect their forces and march under the Earl of Suffolk to the assistance of Lord Shrewsbury, who had already organized his retainers to withstand attack; and he wrote privately to the few nobles who had joined the revolt. These, now perceiving that the King could not be awed, and that the poorly armed insurgents would soon be overwhelmed, persuaded so many of them to return to their villages that the rebel army, over the protests of the priests, rapidly melted away. Louth gave up fifteen leaders; a hundred more were captured, and a royal pardon was declared for the rest. The captives were taken to London and the Tower; thirty-three, including seven priests and fourteen monks, were hanged; the rest were leisurely freed. 

   Meanwhile a still more serious uprising had developed in Yorkshire. A young barrister, Richard Aske, found himself caught, physically and emotionally, in the movement; another lawyer, William Stapleton, was frightened into the captaincy of a rebel division at Beverley; Lord Darcy of Templehurst, an ardent Catholic, lent the revolt his secret support; two Percys joined, and most of the northern nobility followed suit. On October 25,1536, the main army of some 9,000 men, under Aske, laid siege to York. The citizens of the city compelled the mayor to open the gates. Aske kept his men from pillage, and in general maintained remarkable order in his untrained host. He proclaimed the reopening of the monasteries; the monks joyfully returned to them, and gladdened the hearts of the pious with the new ardor of their chants. Aske advanced and captured Pomfret, and Stapleton took Hull, without shedding blood. To the demands presented by the Lincolnshire men others were added and sent to the King: to suppress all heretics’ and their literature, to resume ecclesiastical ties with Rome, to legitimize Mary, to dismiss and punish Cromwell’s visitors, and to annul all enclosures of common lands since 1489. 

   This was the most critical point in Henry’s reign. Half the country was in arms against his policies; Ireland was in revolt; and Paul III and Cardinal Pole were urging Francis I and Charles V to invade England and depose the King. With a last burst of his declining energy, he sent out orders in all directions for the mustering of loyal troops, and meanwhile instructed the Duke of Norfolk to bemuse the rebellious leaders with negotiations. The Duke arranged a conference with Aske and several nobles, and won them over by a promise of pardon to all. Henry invited Aske to a personal conference, and gave him a safe-conduct. He came to the King, was charmed by the aura of royalty, and returned meek and unharmed to Yorkshire (January 1537); there, however, he was arrested, and was sent to London as a prisoner. Shorn of its captains, the insurgent host fell into angry divisions and wild disorder; defections multiplied; and as the united levies of the King approached, the rebel army disappeared like a vanishing mirage (February 1537). 

   When Henry was assured that the revolt and invasion had both collapsed, he repudiated Norfolk’s promise of a general pardon, ordered the arrest of such disaffected leaders as could be found, and had several of them, including Aske, put to death. To the Duke he wrote:


   Our pleasure is that before you close up our banner again you shall cause such dreadful execution to be done upon a good number of the inhabitants of every town, village, and hamlet that have offended, as they may be a fearful spectacle to all others hereafter that would practice any like matter. . . . Forasmuch as all these troubles have ensued by the solicitation and traitorous conspiracies of the monks and canons of these parts, we desire you, at such places as have conspired and kept their houses with force . . . you shall, without pity or circumstance, cause all the monks and canons that be in any wise faulty to be tied up without further delay or ceremony.







   With the opposition so sternly terrified, Cromwell proceeded to close the remaining religious houses in England. All the monasteries and nunneries that had joined the revolt were dissolved forthwith, and their property was confiscated to the state. Visitations were extended, and yielded reports of indiscipline, immorality, treason, and decay. Many monks, anticipating closure, sold relics and valuables from their houses to the highest bidder; a finger of St. Andrew fetched £40.15 The monks at Walsingham were convicted of faking miracles, and their lucrative image of the Virgin was cast into the fire. The historic tomb of St. Thomas a Becket at Canterbury was demolished; Henry VIII proclaimed the victor over Henry II to have been no real saint; the relics that had offended Colet and amused Erasmus were burned; the precious objects donated by the piety of pilgrims during 150 years were carted away to the royal treasury (1538); and thereafter Henry wore on his thumb a great ruby taken from the shrine. Some monasteries sought to fool fate by sending Cromwell money or gifts; Cromwell accepted everything and closed all. By 1540 all monasteries, and all monastic property except cathedral abbey churches, had passed to the King. 

   All in all 578 monasteries were closed, some 130 convents; 6,511 monks or friars were dispersed, 1,560 nuns. Among these some fifty monks and two nuns willingly abandoned the religious habit; but many more pleaded to be allowed to continue somewhere their conventual life. Some 11,000 persons formerly employed by, or dependent upon, the religious houses lost their places or alms. The confiscated lands and buildings had enjoyed annual revenue of some £200,000, but quick sales reduced the annual income of the properties after nationalization to some £37,000. To this should be added £85,000 in confiscated precious metal, so that the total spoils in goods and income accruing to Henry during his life may have been some £1,423,500. 

   The King was generous with these spoils. Some of the properties he gave—most of them he sold at bargain prices—to minor nobles or major burgesses—merchants or lawyers—who had supported or administered his policies. Cromwell received or bought six abbeys, with annual revenue of £2,293; his nephew Sir Richard Cromwell received seven, with an income of £2,552; this was the origin of the fortune that made Richard’s great-grandson Oliver a man of substance and influence in the next century. Some of the spoils went to build ships, forts, and ports; some helped to finance war; some went into the royal palaces at Westminster, Chelsea, and Hampton Court; some the King lost at dice. Six monasteries were returned to the Anglican Church as episcopal sees; and a small sum was assigned to continue the most urgent of the charities formerly provided by the monks and nuns. The new aristocracy created by Henry’s gifts and sales became a powerful support to the Tudor throne, and a bulwark of economic interest against any Catholic restoration. The old feudal aristocracy had decimated itself; the new one, rooted in commerce and industry, changed the nature of the English nobility from static conservatism to dynamic enterprise, and poured fresh blood and energy into the upper classes of England. This—and the spoils—may have been one source of the Elizabethan exuberance. 

   The effects of the dissolution were complex and interminable. The liberated monks may have shared modestly or not in the increase of England’s population from about 2,500,000 in 1485 to some 4,000,000 in 1547. A temporary increase in the unemployed helped to depress the earnings of the lower classes for a generation, and the new landlords proved more grasping than the old. Politically the effect was to augment still further the power of the monarchy; the Church lost the last stronghold of resistance. Morally the results were a growth of crime, pauperism, and beggary, and a diminished provision of charity. Over a hundred monastic hospitals were closed; municipal authorities rehabilitated a few. The sums that fearful or reverent souls had bequeathed to priests as insurance against infernal or purgatorial fire were confiscated in expectation that no harm would come to the dead; 2,374 chantries, with their endowments for Masses, were appropriated by the King. The severest effects were in education. The convents had provided schools for girls, the monasteries and the chantry priests had maintained schools and ninety colleges for boys; all these institutions were dissolved. 





Henry in 1540 was the most absolute monarch that England had ever known. The old Norman nobility, whose ancestors had checked even William the Conqueror, were now timidly obedient, and almost forgot the Magna Charta of their prerogatives. The new nobility, enriched by commerce and endowed by the King, served as a barrier to aristocratic or religious revolts. The House of Commons, once the jealous protector of English liberties but now hand-picked by agents of the King, yielded to him almost unprecedented powers: the right to confiscate property, to name anyone his successor, to determine orthodoxy and heresy, to send men to death after only a mock trial, and to issue proclamations that were to have the authority of acts of Parliament. “In Henry’s reign the English spirit of independence burned low in its socket, and love of freedom grew cold.” The English people accepted this absolutism partly through fear, partly because it seemed the alternative to another War of the Roses. Order was more important than liberty. 

   The same alternatives persuaded Englishmen to suffer Henry’s ecclesiastical supremacy. With Catholics and Protestants ready to fly at each other’s throats, with Catholic citizens, ambassadors, and potentates conspiring against him almost to invasion, Henry believed that order could be secured in the religious life of England only by royal determination of faith and ritual; implicitly he accepted the case that the Church had made for authority in religion. He tried to dictate who should read the Bible. When the bishops suppressed Tyndale’s translation he bade them prepare a better one; when they dallied too long he allowed Cromwell to commission a new translation by Miles Coverdale. This first complete British version appeared in Zurich in 1535. In 1539 a revised edition was printed, and Cromwell ordered this Great Bible placed in every English church. Henry, “of the royal liberality and goodness,” granted the citizens the privilege of reading the Bible in their homes; and soon it became a daily influence in nearly every English family. But it was a fountain of discord as well as of inspiration; every village sprouted amateur exegetes who proved anything or its opposite by Scripture; fanatics wrangled over it in churches, and came to blows over it in taverns. Some ambitious men gave their wives writs of divorce, or kept two wives at once, on the plea that this was sound biblical practice. The King regretted the liberty of reading that he had allowed, and reverted to the Catholic stand. In 1543 he induced Parliament to rule that only nobles and property owners might legally possess the Bible, and only priests might preach on it, or discuss it publicly. 

   It was difficult for the peopleeven for the King—to know the King’s mind. Catholics continued to go to the stake or the block for denying his ecclesiastical supremacy, Protestants for questioning Catholic theology. Prior Forest of the Observant Franciscans at Greenwich, who refused to disown the pope, was suspended in chains over a fire, and was slowly roasted to death (June 10, 1537). John Lambert, a Protestant, was arrested for denying the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; he was tried by Henry himself, was by Henry condemned to die, and was burned at Smithfield (November 26, 1538). Under the growing influence of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, Henry veered more and more toward orthodoxy. In 1539 King, Parliament, and Convocation, by the Act of the Six Articles, proclaimed the Roman Catholic position on the Real Presence, clerical celibacy, monastic vows, Masses for the dead, the necessity of auricular confession to a priest, and the sufficiency of communion in one kind. Whoever, by spoken or written word, denied the Real Presence should suffer death by burning, without opportunity to abjure, confess, and be absolved; whoever denied any of the other articles should for the first offense forfeit his property, for the second his life. All marriages hitherto contracted by priests were declared void, and for a priest thereafter to retain his wife was to be a felony. The people, still orthodox, generally approved these Articles, but Cromwell did his best to moderate them in practice; and in 1540 the King, tacking again, ordered prosecution under the Act to cease. Nevertheless Bishops Latimer and Shaxton, who disapproved of the Articles, were deposed and jailed. On August 9, 1540, three Protestants and three Catholic priests suffered death at Smithfield in unwilling unison, the Protestants for questioning some Catholic doctrines, the Catholics for rejecting the ecclesiastical sovereignty of the King. 

   Henry was as forceful in administration as in theology. Though he maintained an extravagant court, and spent much time in eating, he toiled heavily in the tasks of government. He chose competent aides as ruthless as himself. He reorganized the army, equipped it with new weapons, and studied the latest fashions in tactics and strategy. He built the first permanent royal navy, which cleared the coasts and Channel of pirates and prepared for the naval victories of Elizabeth. But he taxed his people to the limit of tolerance, repeatedly debased the currency, confiscated private property on flimsy pretexts, demanded “contributions,” repudiated his debts, borrowed from the Fuggers, and promoted the English economy in the hope that it would yield him added revenue. 

   Agriculture was in depression. Serfdom was still widespread. Enclosures for sheep pasturage continued; and the new landlords, unhindered by feudal traditions, doubled or quadrupled the rents of their tenants on the ground of rising prices, and refused to renew expiring leases. “Thousands of dispossessed tenants made their way to London, and clamored at the doors of the courts of law for redress which they could not obtain.” Catholic More drew a pitiful picture of the beggared peasantry, and Protestant Latimer denounced the “rent-raiser steplords,” and, like Luther, idealized a Catholic past when “men were full of pity and compassion.” Parliament laid ferocious penalties upon vagabondage and beggary. By an act of 1530-31 any able-bodied mendicant, whether man or woman, was to be “tied to the end of a cart naked, and be beaten with whips throughout the town till his body be bloody;” for a second offense an ear was to be cut off; for a third, another ear; in 1536, however, the third offense incurred death. Gradually the displaced peasants found work in the cities, and poor relief mildly mitigated pauperism. In the end large-scale farming raised the productivity of the land, but the inability of the government to ease the transition was a criminal and heartless failure of statesmanship. 

   The same government protected industry with tariffs, and manufacturers profited from the cheap labor made available by the migration of peasants to the towns. Capitalistic methods reorganized the textile industry, and raised a new class of wealthy men to stand beside the merchants in support of the King; cloth now replaced wool as England’s chief export. Most exports were of necessaries produced by the lower classes; most imports were of luxuries available only to the rich. A law of 1536 legalizing interest rates of 10 per cent benefited commerce and industry; and the rapid rise of prices favored enterprise while it penalized workers, peasants, and old-style feudal lords. Rents rose 1,000 per cent between 1500 and 1576; food prices rose 250 to 300 per cent; wages rose 150 per cent. “Such poverty reigneth now,” wrote Thomas Starkey about 1537, “that in no case may stand with a very true and flourishing common weal.” Guild members found some relief in the insurance and mutual aid provided them against poverty and fire; but in 1545 Henry confiscated the property of the guilds.





What sort of a man was this ogre of a king? Holbein the Younger, coming to England about 1536, painted portraits of Henry and Jane Seymour. The gorgeous costume almost conceals the royal corpulence; the gems and ermine, the hand on the jeweled sword, reveal the pride of authority, the vanity of the uncontradicted male; the broad fat face bespeaks a hearty sensualism; the nose is a pillar of strength; the tight lips and stern eyes warn of a despot quick to anger and cold to cruelty. Henry was now forty-six, at the top of his political curve, but entering physical decline. He was destined to marry thrice again, and yet to have no further progeny. From all his six wives he had but three children who outlived infancy. One of these three—Edward VI—was sickly and died at fifteen; Mary remained desolately barren in marriage; Elizabeth never dared marry, probably through consciousness of some physical impediment. The curse of semi-sterility or bodily defect lay upon the proudest dynasty in English history.    

   Henry’s mind was keen, his judgment of men was penetrating, and his courage and will power were immense. His manners were coarse, and his scruples disappeared with his youth. To his friends, however, he remained kind and generous, jovially amiable, and capable of winning affection and devotion. Born to royalty, he was surrounded from birth with obeisance and flattery; only a few men dared withstand him, and they were buried without their heads. “Surely,” wrote More from the Tower, “it is a great pity that any Christian prince should by a flexible [knee-bending] council ready to follow his affections [desires], and by a weak clergy . . . be with flattery so shamefully abused.” This was the external source of Henry’s retrogression in character—that the absence of resistance to his will, after the death of More, made him as flabby in moral sense as in physique. He was not more lax in sex than Francis I, and after the passing of Anne Boleyn he seems to have been more monogamous, seriatim, than Charles V; sexual looseness was not his worst failing. He was greedy for money as well as for power, and seldom allowed considerations of humanity to halt his appropriations. His ungrateful readiness to kill women whom he had loved, or men who, like More and Cromwell, had served him loyally for many years, is despicable; yet in result he was not one tenth as murderous as the well-meaning Charles IX sanctioning the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, or Charles V condoning the sack of Rome, or German princes fighting through thirty years for their right to determine the religious beliefs of their subjects.





   The inner source of his deterioration was the repeated frustration of his will in love and parentage. Long disappointed in his hope for a son, dishonestly checked in his reasonable request for an annulment of his first marriage, deceived (he believed) by the wife for whom he had risked his throne, bereaved so soon of the only wife who gave him an heir, tricked into marriage by a woman utterly alien to him in language and temperament, cuckolded (he thought) by the wife who seemed to promise him at last the happiness of a home—here was a king possessing all England but denied the domestic joys of the simplest husband in his realm. Suffering intermittent agony from an ulcer in his leg, buffeted with revolts and crises throughout his reign, forced at almost every moment to arm against invasion, betrayal, and assassination—how could such a man develop normally, or avoid degeneration into suspicion, craft, and cruelty? And how shall we, who fret at the pinpricks of private tribulation, understand a man who bore in his mind and person the storm and stress of the English Reformation, weaned his people by perilous steps from a deeply rooted loyalty, and yet must have felt in his divided soul an erosive wonder—had he freed a nation or shattered Christendom? 

   Danger, as well as power, was the medium in which he lived. He could never tell how far his enemies would go, or when they would succeed. In 1538 he ordered the arrest of Sir Geoffrey Pole, brother to Reginald. Fearing torture, Geoffrey confessed that he, another brother, Lord Montague, Sir Edward Neville, and the Marquis and Marchioness of Exeter had had treasonable correspondence with the Cardinal. Geoffrey was pardoned; Exeter, Montague, and several others were hanged and quartered (1538-39); Lady Exeter was imprisoned; and the Countess of Salisbury, mother of the Poles, was placed under guard. When the Cardinal visited Charles V in Toledo (1539), bearing a futile request from Paul III that the Emperor would join with Francis in outlawing all commerce with England, Henry retaliated by arresting the Countess, who was now seventy years old; perhaps he hoped that by keeping her in the Tower he could check the Cardinal’s enthusiasm for invasion. All was fair in the game of life and death. 

   Having remained for two years unmarried, Henry bade Cromwell seek for him a marital alliance that would strengthen his hand against Charles. Cromwell recommended Anne, sister-in-law of the Elector of Saxony, and sister of the Duke of Cleves, who was then at odds with the Emperor. Cromwell set his heart on the marriage, by which he hoped ultimately to form a league of Protestant states, and thereby compel Henry to repeal the anti-Lutheran Six Articles. Henry dispatched Holbein to paint a likeness of the lady; possibly Cromwell added some instructions to the artist; the picture came, and Henry judged the Princess bearable. She looks discouragingly sad in the Holbein portrait that hangs in the Louvre, but not less plain of feature than the Jane Seymour who had for a moment softened the heart of the King. When Anne came in body, and Henry laid eyes on her (January 11, 1540), love died at first sight. He shut his eyes, married her, and prayed again for a son to strengthen the Tudor succession now that Prince Edward was revealing his physical frailty. But he never forgave Cromwell. 

   Four months later, alleging malfeasance and corruption, he ordered the arrest of his most profitable minister. Hardly anyone objected; Cromwell was the most unpopular subject in England—for his origin, his methods, his venality, his wealth. In the Tower he was required to sign statements impugning the validity of the new marriage. Henry announced that he had not given his “inward consent” to the union, and had never consummated it. Anne, confessing that she was still a maid, agreed to an annulment in return for a comfortable pension. Loath to face her brother, she chose a lonely life in England; and it was small comfort to her that when she died (1557) she was buried in Westminster Abbey. Cromwell was beheaded on August 7, 1540. 

   On the same day Henry married Catherine Howard, twenty years old, of a strictly Catholic house; the Catholic party was gaining. The King ceased to flirt with Continental Protestants, and made his peace with the Emperor. Feeling himself at last safe in that quarter, he turned his fancy northward in the hope of annexing Scotland and thereby rounding out the geographical boundaries and security of Britain. He was distracted by another rebellion in the north of England. Before leaving to suppress it, and to discourage conspiracy at his back, he ordered all the political prisoners in the Tower, including the Countess of Salisbury, to be put to death (1541). The rebellion collapsed, and Henry, distraught with cares, returned to Hampton Court to seek solace from his new Queen. 

   The second Catherine was the fairest of his mates. More dependent than before on wifely ministrations, the King learned almost to love her, and he gave thanks to God for “the good life he was leading and hoped to lead” under her supervision. But on the day after this Te Deum (November 12, 1541), Archbishop Cranmer handed him documents indicating that Catherine had had premarital relations with three successive suitors. Two of these confessed; so did the Queen. Henry “took such grief,” the French ambassador reported, “that it was thought he had gone mad;” the fear haunted him that God had cursed all his marriages. He was inclined to pardon Catherine, but evidence was given him that she had, since her royal marriage, committed adultery with her cousin. She admitted having received her cousin in her private apartment late at night, but only in the presence of Lady Rochford; she denied any misdeed then or at any time since her marriage; and Lady Rochford testified to the truth of these statements so far as her own knowledge went. But the royal court pronounced the Queen guilty; and on February 23, 1542, she was beheaded on the same spot where Anne Boleyn’s head had fallen six years before. Her paramours were sentenced to life imprisonment. 

   The King was now a broken man. His ulcer baffled the medical science of his time, and syphilis, never quite cured, was spreading its ravages through his frame. Losing the zest of life, he had allowed himself to become an unwieldy mass of flesh, his cheeks overlapping his jaws, his narrowed eyes half lost in the convolutions of his face. He could not walk from one room to another without support. Realizing that he had not many years to live, he issued (1543) a new decree fixing the succession to his throne: first on Edward, then on Mary, then on Elizabeth; he went no further, for next in line was Mary Stuart of Scotland. In a final effort to beget a healthy son, and after repeated urging from his Council, he married a sixth wife (July 22, 1543). Catherine Parr had survived two previous husbands, but the King no longer insisted on virgins. She was a woman of culture and tact; she nursed her royal invalid patiently, reconciled him with his long-neglected daughter Elizabeth, and tried to soften his theology and his persecuting zeal. 

   Theological bonfires continued to the end of the reign: twenty-six persons were burned for heresy in its final eight years. In 1543 spies reported to Bishop Gardiner that Henry Filmer had said, “If God is really present [in the consecrated Host], then in my lifetime I have eaten twenty gods;” that Robert Testwood, at the elevation of the Host, had jocularly warned the priest not to let God fall; and that Anthony Pierson had called any priest a thief who preached anything but “the Word of God”—i.e. the Scriptures. All these men, by the Anglican Bishop’s orders, were burned in a meadow before the royal palace at Windsor. The King was disturbed to find that the evidence given by a witness in these cases was perjury; the culprit was sent to the Tower. In 1546 Gardiner condemned four more to the stake for denying the Real Presence. One was a young woman, Anne Askew, who kept to her heresy through five hours of questioning. “That which you call your God,” she said at her trial, “is a piece of bread; for proof thereof let it lie in a box three months, and it will be moldy.” She was tortured till nearly dead to elicit from her the names of other heretics; she remained silent in her agony, and went to her death, she said, “as merry as one that is bound toward heaven.” The King was not active in these persecutions, but the victims appealed to him without result.  

   In 1543 he fell into war with Scotland and his “beloved brother” Francis I, and soon found himself allied with his old enemy Charles V. To finance his campaigns he demanded new “loans” from his subjects, repudiated payment on the loans of 1542, and confiscated the endowments of the universities. He was carried to the war in person, and supervised the siege and capture of Boulogne. His armies invaded Scotland and wrecked the abbeys of Melrose and Dryburgh, and five other monasteries, but were routed at Ancrum Moor (1545). A profitable accord was signed with France (1546), and the King could die in peace. 

   He was now so weak that noble families openly contended as to which should have the regency for young Edward. A poet, the Earl of Surrey, was so confident that his father, the Duke of York, would be regent that he adopted a coat of arms suitable only to an heir-apparent to the throne. Henry arrested both; they confessed their guilt; the poet was beheaded on January 19, 1547, and the Duke was scheduled for execution soon after the sixth. But on the seventh of February the King died. He was fifty-five years old, but he had lived a dozen lives in one. He left a large sum to pay for Masses for the repose of his soul. 

   The thirty-seven years of his reign transformed England more deeply than perhaps he imagined or desired. He thought to replace the pope while leaving unchanged the old faith that had habituated the people to moral restraints and obedience to law; but his successful defiance of the papacy, his swift dispersal of monks and relics, his repeated humiliation of the clergy, his appropriation of Church property, and his secularization of the government so weakened ecclesiastical prestige and authority as to invite the theological changes that followed in the reigns of Edward and Elizabeth. The English Reformation was less doctrinal than the German, but one outstanding result was the same—the victory of the state over the Church. The people escaped from an infallible pope into the arms of an absolute king. 

   In a material sense they had not benefited. They paid church tithes as before, but the net surplus went to the government. Many peasants now tilled their tenancies for “steplords” more ruthless than the abbots whom Carlyle was to idealize in Past and Present. William Cobbett thought that “viewed merely in its social aspect, the English Reformation was in reality the rising of the rich against the poor.” Records of prices and wages indicate that the agricultural and town workers were better off at Henry’s accession than at his death. 

   The moral aspects of the reign were bad. The King gave the nation a demoralizing example in his sexual indulgence, his callous passing in a few days from the execution of one wife to the bed of the next, his calm cruelty, fiscal dishonesty, and material greed. The upper classes disordered the court and government with corrupt intrigues; the gentry emulated Henry in grasping at the wealth of the Church; the industrialists mulcted their workers and were mulcted by the King. The decay of charity did not complete the picture, for there remained the debasing subservience of a terrified people to a selfish autocrat. Only the courage of the Protestant and Catholic martyrs redeemed the scene, and Fisher and More, the noblest of them, had persecuted in their turn. 

   In a large perspective even those bitter years bore some good fruit. The Reformation had to be; we must repeatedly remind ourselves of this while we record the deviltry of the century that gave it birth. The break with the past was violent and painful, but only a brutal blow could shake its grip on the minds of men. When that incubus was removed, the spirit of nationalism, which at first permitted despotism, became a popular enthusiasm and a creative force. The elimination of the papacy from English affairs left the people for a time at the mercy of the state; but in the long run it compelled them to rely on themselves in checking their rulers and claiming, decade after decade, a measure of freedom commensurate with their intelligence.   

   The government would not always be as powerful as under Henry the Terrible; it would be weak under a sickly son and an embittered daughter; then, under a vacillating but triumphant queen, the nation would rise in a burst of liberated energy, and lift itself to the leadership of the European mind. Perhaps Elizabeth and Shakespeare could not have been had not England been set free by her worst and strongest king.



17. Elizabeth I (reigned 1558-1603)




On November 27, 1558, a courier galloped into the court of the royal palace at Hatfield, fifty-eight kilometers north of London, and announced to Elizabeth Tudor that she was Queen of England. Her half-sister Queen Mary, of pitiful fame, had died in the dark of that morning. In London the Parliament, receiving the news, cried out, “God save Queen Elizabeth! Long may she reign over us!”not dreaming that it would be forty-five years. The churches, though foreboding trouble, thrilled the air with the clangor of their bells. The people of England, as they had done for Mary, spread festive tables in the streets, and that evening they colored the sky with bonfires of eternal hope. 

   By Saturday the twenty-ninth the leading lords, ladies, and commoners of the realm had gathered at Hatfield to vow their allegiance and feather their nests. To them, on the thirtieth, Elizabeth spoke right royally:


   My Lords: The laws of nature move me to sorrow for my sister; the burden that has fallen upon me maketh me amazed; and yet, considering I am God’s creature ordained to obey His appointment, I will thereto yield; desiring from the bottom of my heart that I may have assistance of His grace to be the minister of His heavenly will in the office now committed to me. And as I am but one body materially considered, though by His permission a body politic to govern, so shall I desire you all, my lords, chiefly you of the nobility, every one in his degree and power, to be assistant to me; that I with my ruling, and you with your service, may make a good account to Almighty God, and leave some comfort to our posterity on earth. 



















































   On December 8, clad in purple velvet, Elizabeth rode through London in public procession to that same Tower where, four years earlier, she had been a prisoner awaiting death. Now, on her route, the populace acclaimed her, choruses chanted her glory, children tremblingly recited to her the little speeches of homage they had memorized, and “such shooting of guns as never was heard afore” heralded a reign destined to abound, beyond any English precedent, in splendor of men and minds. 

   Twenty-five years of trials had tempered Elizabeth to mastery. It seemed, in 1533, good fortune to have been fathered by Henry VIII, but it was dangerous to have been born of Anne Boleyn. The disgrace and execution of the mother fell within the child’s forgetful years (1536); yet the pain of that somber heritage outlived her youth and yielded only to the balm of sovereignty. An act of Parliament (1536) declared Anne’s marriage null, making Elizabeth illegitimate; coarse gossip debated the girl’s paternity; in any case, to most Englishmen she was the daughter of adultery. Her legitimacy was never re-established in law, but another act of Parliament (1544) confirmed her right, after her half-brother Edward and her half-sister Mary, to succeed to the throne. During Edward’s rule (1547-53) she adhered to the Protestant worship; but when Catholic Mary acceded, Elizabeth, preferring life to consistency, conformed to the Roman ritual. After Wyatt’s Rebellion (1554) had failed to unseat Mary, Elizabeth was accused of complicity and was sent to the Tower; but Mary judged her guilt unproved, and released her to live under surveillance at Woodstock. Before Mary died she recognized her sister as her successor and sent her the jewels of the Crown. We owe Elizabeth’s reign to the kindliness of the “bloody” Queen. 

   Elizabeth’s more formal education was overwhelming. Her famous tutor, Roger Ascham, boasted that “she talks French and Italian as well as she does English, and has often talked to me readily and well in Latin, moderately in Greek.” She had a daily stint of theology and became expert in Protestant dogma; but her Italian teachers seem to have transmitted to her something of the skepticism they had imbibed from Pomponazzi, Machiavelli, and Renaissance Rome. 

   She was never sure of her crown. Parliament (1553) had reaffirmed the invalidity of her mother’s marriage to her father; state and Church agreed that she was a bastard; and English law, ignoring William the Conqueror, excluded bastards from the throne. The whole Catholic world—and England was still largely Catholic—believed that the legal heir to the English scepter was Mary Stuart, great-granddaughter of Henry VII. It was intimated to Elizabeth that if she made her peace with the Church the Pope would wash her free of bastardy and recognize her right to rule. She was not so inclined. Thousands of Englishmen held property that had been expropriated from the Church by Parliament under Henry VIII and Edward VI. These influential possessors, fearing that a continued Catholic restoration might enforce restitution, were prepared to fight for a Protestant queen; and the Catholics of England preferred her to civil war. On January 25, 1559, amid the acclamation of Protestant London, Elizabeth was crowned in Westminster Abbey as “Queen of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith.” For English monarchs, since Edward III, had regularly claimed the throne of France. Nothing had been left undone to provide the Queen with problems. 

   She was now twenty-five, in all the charm of maturing womanhood. She was moderately tall, with a good figure, fair features, olive complexion, flashing eyes, auburn hair, and beautiful hands which she knew how to display. It seemed impossible that such a lass should cope successfully with the chaos that encompassed her. Hostile creeds divided the land, playing for power and wielding arms. Pauperism was endemic, and vagrancy had survived the terrible penalties laid upon it by Henry VIII. Domestic trade was clogged by a dishonest currency; half a century of false coinage had left the credit of the fisc so low that the government had to pay 14 per cent for loans. Mary Tudor, absorbed in religion, had skimped on national defense, the fortresses were neglected, the coasts unprotected, the navy unfit, the army ill paid and ill fed, and its cadres unfilled. England, which under Wolsey had held the balance of power in Europe, was now a political cripple bandied about between Spain and France; French troops were in Scotland, and Ireland was inviting Spain. The Pope was holding over the Queen’s head the threat of excommunication and interdict and of invasion by the Catholic states. Invasion definitely loomed in 1559, and fear of assassination was part of Elizabeth’s life from day to day. The disunion of her enemies, the wisdom of her counselors, and the courage of her soul saved her. The Spanish ambassador was shocked by “the spirit of the woman . . . She is possessed of the Devil, who is dragging her to his place.” Europe had not expected to find the spirit of an emperor behind the smiles of a girl.





Her penetration proved itself at once in her choice of aides. Like her embattled fatherand despite her politic speech at Hatfield—she chose men of untitled birth, for most of the older nobles were Catholic, and some thought themselves fitter than she to wear the crown. As her secretary and principal adviser she named William Cecil, whose genius for prudent policy and assiduous detail became so outstanding a factor in her success that those who did not know her thought him king. His grandfather was a prosperous yeoman become country gentleman; his father was yeoman of the wardrobe to Henry VIII; his mother’s dowry raised the family to a comfortable estate. William left Cambridge without a degree, took law at Gray’s Inn, sowed his wild oats in London’s common fields, entered the House of Commons at twenty-three (1543), and married, as his second wife, Mildred Cooke, whose grim Puritanism helped him toe the Protestant line. He served Protector Somerset, then Somerset’s enemy Northumberland. He supported Lady Jane Grey to succeed Edward VI, but switched to Mary Tudor in the nick of time; he became a conforming Catholic at her suggestion, and was appointed by her to welcome Cardinal Pole into England. He was a man of affairs, who did not allow his theological somersaults to disturb his political equilibrium. When Elizabeth made him her secretary she addressed him with her usual sagacity:


   I give you this charge that you shall be of my Privy Council, and content to take pains for me and my realm. This judgment I have of you that you will not be corrupted by any manner of gift, and that you will be faithful to the state; and that without respect of my private will you will give me that counsel which you think best; and if you shall know anything necessary to be declared to me of secrecy, you shall show it to myself only. And assure yourself I will not fail to keep taciturnity therein. And therefore herewith I charge you.


   The test of his fidelity and competence is that she kept him as secretary for fourteen years, then as Lord Treasurer for twenty-six more, till his death. He presided over the Council, managed foreign relations, directed public finance and national defense, and guided Elizabeth in the definitive establishment of Protestantism in England. Like Richelieu, he thought the safety and stability of his country required the unifying absolutism of the monarch as against the divisive ambitions of contentious nobles, covetous merchants, and fratricidal faiths. He had some Machiavellian ways, rarely cruel, but relentless against opposition; once he thought of having the Earl of Westmorland assassinated; but that was an impatient moment in a half century of patient tenacity and personal rectitude. He had eyes and spies for everything, but eternal vigilance is the price of power. He was acquisitive and thrifty, but Elizabeth pardoned his wealth for his wisdom and loved the parsimony that accumulated the means for defeating the Armada. Without him she might have been misled by such lighter lights and spendthrift peacocks as Leicester, Hatton, and Essex. Cecil, reported the Spanish ambassador, “has more genius than the rest of the Council put together, and is therefore envied and hated on all sides.” Elizabeth sometimes listened to his enemies, and now and then treated him so harshly that he left her presence broken and in tears; but she knew, when out of her tantrums, that he was the steadiest pillar of her reign. In 1571 she made him Lord Burghley, head of the new aristocracy that, in the face of hostile nobles, upheld her throne and made her kingdom great. 

   Her minor aides deserve a line even in hurried history, for they served her with competence, courage, and scant remuneration, to the exhaustion of their lives. Sir Nicholas Bacon, father of Francis, was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal from the outset of the reign till his death (1579); Sir Francis Knollys was a privy councilor from 1558 and treasurer of the royal household till his end (1596); Sir Nicholas Throckmorton was her skillful ambassador in France, and Thomas Randolph in Scotland, Russia, and Germany. Only next to Cecil in devotion and craft was Sir Francis Walsingham, a Secretary of State from 1573 to his death (1590); a man of sensitive refinement, whom Spenser called “the great Maecenas of his age;” so shocked by repeated plots against the Queen’s life that he formed for her protection a web of espionage that stretched from Edinburgh to Constantinople, and caught in its skein the tragic Queen of Scots. Seldom has a ruler had servitors so able, so loyal, and so poorly paid. 

   For the English government itself was poor. Private fortunes outshone public funds. The revenue in 1600 totaled £500,000. Elizabeth seldom levied direct taxes, and she took in only £36,000 in customs dues. Ordinarily she relied on income from Crown lands, on grants in aid from the English Church, and on “loans” from the rich, which were practically compulsory but punctually repaid. She honored the debts left by her father, her brother, and her sister, and acquired such a reputation for solvency that she could borrow money at Antwerp at 5 per cent, while Philip II of Spain at times could not borrow at all. She was extravagant, however, in her expenditure for dresses and finery, and in gifts of economic privileges to her favorites. 

   Rarely, and reluctantly, she summoned Parliament to her financial aid, for she did not patiently bear opposition, criticism, or surveillance. She put no stock in theories of popular or parliamentary sovereignty; she believed with Homer and Shakespeare that only one head should rule—and why not hers, in which ran the blood and burned the pride of Henry VIII? She held to the divine right of kings and queens. She imprisoned persons at her own sharp will, without trial or stated cause; and her Privy Council, acting as the Court of Star Chamber to try political offenders, suspended without appeal the rights of habeas corpus and jury trial. She punished M.P.s who obstructed her purposes. She suggested to the local magnates who manipulated elections to Parliament that it would facilitate matters if they chose candidates with no boyish notions about free speech; she wanted pounds without palaver. Her early Parliaments yielded gracefully; her middle Parliaments yielded angrily; her later Parliaments neared revolt. 

   She got her will because the nation preferred her judicious absolutism to the fury of factions competing for power. No one thought of letting the people rule; politics was—as always—a contest of minorities to determine which should rule the majority. Half of England resented Elizabeth’s religious policy, nearly all England resented her celibacy; but by and large the people, grateful for low taxes, flourishing trade, domestic order, and prolonged peace, returned the affection offered them by the Queen. She gave them pageants and “progresses,” listened to them without visible boredom, shared in their public games, and in a hundred other ways “fished for men’s souls.” The Spanish ambassador, while bemoaning her Protestantism, wrote to Philip: “she is much attached to the people, and is confident that they are all on her side, which is indeed true.” The attempts that were made on her life strengthened her popularity and power; even the Puritans whom she persecuted prayed for her safety; and the anniversary of her accession became a day of national thanksgiving and festival. 

   Was she the actual ruler, or only a popular front for the lower nobility of England and the mercantile oligarchy of London? Her aides, though fearing her temper, often corrected her mistakes of policy—but she often corrected theirs. They told her disagreeable truths, gave her their contradictory counsels, and obeyed her decisions; they governed, but she ruled. “She gives her orders,” reported the Spanish ambassador, “and has her way as absolutely as her father.” Cecil himself seldom knew how she would decide, and he fretted over her frequent rejection of his laborious and meticulous advice. When he urged her not to treat with France, but to rely solely on Protestant support, she pulled him up with some asperity: “Mr. Secretary, I mean to have done with this business; I shall listen to the proposals of the French King. I am not going to be tied any longer to you and your brethren in Christ.” 

   Her statesmanship drove both friends and enemies to tears. She was maddeningly slow and irresolute in determining policy; but in many cases her indecision paid. She knew how to ally herself with time, which dissolves more problems than men solve; her procrastination allowed the complex factors in a situation to settle themselves into focus and clarity. She admired the fabled philosopher who, when importuned for an answer, silently recited the alphabet before replying. She took as her motto Video et taceo—“I see and am silent.” She discovered that in politics, as in love, he who does not hesitate is lost. If her policy often fluctuated, so did the facts and forces to be weighed. Surrounded by perils and intrigues, she felt her way with forgivable caution, trying now one course, now another, and making no claim to consistency in so fluid a world. Her vacillation stumbled into some serious errors, but it kept England at peace until it was strong enough for war. Inheriting a nation politically in chaos and militarily in decay, her only practicable policy was to keep England’s enemies from uniting against it, to encourage the Huguenot revolt against the French monarchy, the Netherlands revolt against Spain, the Protestant revolt against a Scottish Queen too closely bound to France. It was an unscrupulous policy, but Elizabeth believed with Machiavelli that scruples are not becoming in rulers responsible for states. By whatever means her subtle weakness could devise she preserved her country from foreign domination, maintained peace—with some brief intervals—for thirty years, and left England richer than ever before in matter and mind. 

   As a diplomat she could give the foreign secretaries of the age many a lesson in alert information, resourceful expedients, and incalculable moves. She was the ablest liar of her time. Of the four women—Mary Tudor, Mary Stuart, Catherine de Medicis, and Elizabeth—who illustrated Knox’s “monstrous regiment [rule] of women” in the second half of the sixteenth century, Elizabeth was unquestionably supreme in political acumen and diplomatic skill. Cecil thought her “the wisest woman that ever was, for she understood the interest and dispositions of all the princes in her time, and was so perfect in the knowledge of her own realm that no councilor she had could tell her anything she did not know before”—which, of course, requires a grain of salt. She had the advantage of conferring directly with ambassadors in French, Italian, or Latin, and was thereby independent of interpreters and intermediaries. “This woman,” said the Spanish ambassador, “is possessed with a hundred thousand devils; yet she pretends to me that she would like to be a nun, live in a cell, and tell her beads from morning till night.” Every Continental government condemned and admired her. “If she were not a heretic,” said Pope Sixtus V, “she would be worth a whole world.” 





The secret weapon of her diplomacy was her virginity. This condition, of course, is a recondite detail on which historians must not pretend to certainty; let us be as trustful as Raleigh naming a colony. Cecil, watching Elizabeth’s long flirtation with Leicester, had some passing doubts, but two Spanish ambassadors, not loath to dishonor the Queen, concluded to her honor. The gossip of the court, as reported by Ben Jonson to Drummond of Hawthornden, held that “she had a membrane on her which made her incapable of man, though for her delight she tried many. . . . A French surgeon undertook to cut it, yet fear stayed her.” “The people,” wrote Camden in his Annales (1615), “cursed Huic, the Queen’s physician, as having dissuaded the Queen from marrying on account of some impediment and defect in her.” Yet Parliament, repeatedly begging her to marry, assumed her capacity to bear. Something went wrong, in this regard, with most of Tudor royalty: probably the misfortunes of Catherine of Aragon in childbirth were due to Henry VIII’s syphilis; his son Edward died in youth of some ill-described disease; his daughter Mary tried fervently to have a child, only to mistake dropsy for pregnancy; and Elizabeth, though she flirted as long as she could walk, never ventured on marriage. “I have always shrunk from it,” she said; and as early as 1559 she declared her intention to remain a virgin. In 1566 she promised Parliament, “I will marry as soon as I can conveniently . . . and I hope to have children.” But in that same year, when Cecil told her that Mary Stuart had borne a son, Elizabeth almost wept, and said, “The Queen of Scots is the mother of a fair son, and I am but a barren stock.” There for a moment she revealed her lasting grief—that she could not fulfill her womanhood. 

   The political implications deepened the tragedy. Many of her Catholic subjects believed her sterility a proper punishment for her father’s sins and a promise that Catholic Mary Stuart would inherit the crown. But Parliament and the rest of Protestant England dreaded such a prospect and importuned her to find a mate. She tried, but began by losing her heart to a married man. Lord Robert Dudley, tall, handsome, accomplished, courtly, brave, was the son of that Duke of Northumberland who had died on the scaffold for trying to disinherit Mary Tudor and make Jane Grey queen. Dudley was married to Amy Robsart, but was not living with her, and rumor called him an unprincipled philanderer. He was with Elizabeth at Windsor when his wife fell downstairs at Cumnor Hall and died of a broken neck (1560). He and the Queen were suspected, by the Spanish ambassador and others, of having arranged this clumsy annulment; the suspicion was unjust, but it ended for a while Dudley’s hopes of becoming consort to Elizabeth. When she thought she was dying (1562), she begged that he might be appointed protector of the realm; she confessed that she had long loved him, but called God to witness that “nothing unseemly” had ever passed between them. Two years later she offered him to the Queen of Scots and made him Earl of Leicester to enhance his charms, but Mary was loath to have her rival’s lover in her bed. Elizabeth comforted him with monopolies, and favored him till his death (1588). 

   Cecil had borne this romance with dignified hostility. For a time he thought of resigning in protest, for his own plan contemplated a marriage that would strengthen England with the friendship of some powerful state. For a quarter of a century a succession of foreign suitors danced about the Queen. “There are twelve ambassadors of us,” wrote one of them, “all competing for her Majesty’s hand; and the Duke of Holstein is coming next, as a suitor for the King of Denmark. The Duke of Finland, who is here for his brother the King of Sweden, threatens to kill the Emperor’s man, and the Queen fears they will cut each other’s throat in her presence.” She must have felt some satisfaction when Philip II, the greatest potentate in Christendom, offered her his seasoned hand (1559), but she rejected this device for making England a Catholic dependency of Spain. She took more time in answering a proposal from Charles IX of France, for France was meanwhile kept on good behavior. The French ambassador complained that “the world had been made in six days, and she had already spent eighty days and was still undecided;” she artfully replied that the world “had been made by a greater artist than herself.” Two years later she allowed English agents to propose her marriage to Charles, Archduke of Austria; but at Leicester’s urging she withdrew the plan. When the international situation favored humoring France (1570), the Duke of Alençon (son of Henri II and Catherine de Medicis) was encouraged to think of becoming the sixteen-year-old husband of the thirty-seven-year-old Queen; but the negotiations were wrecked on three obstacles—the Duke’s Catholic faith, his tender youth, and his pockmarked nose. Five years softened one of these deterrents, and Alençon, now Duke of Anjou, was considered again; he was invited to London, and for five years more Elizabeth played with him and France. After a final flurry (1581) this gay courtship petered out, and Anjou retired from the field waving as a trophy a garter of the Queen. Meanwhile she had kept him from marrying the Infanta and thereby allying her two enemies, France and Spain. Rarely has a woman derived so much advantage from barrenness, or so much pleasure from virginity. 





There was more satisfaction in being courted by virile Elizabethans than in being bedded by a poxy youth, and the courtship could last as long as marriage did not stifle it. Hence Elizabeth enjoyed perennial adulation and savored it insatiably. Lords ruined themselves to entertain her; masques and pageants allegorized her glory; poets smothered her with sonnets and dedications; musicians strummed her praise. A madrigal celebrated her eyes as war-subduing orbs, and her breast as “that fair hill where virtue dwells and sacred skill.” Raleigh told her that she walked like Venus, hunted like Diana, rode like Alexander, sang like an angel, and played like Orpheus. She almost believed it. She was as vain as if all the merits of her England were the blessed fruit of her mothering; and to a degree they were. Distrustful of her physical charms, she robed herself in costly dresses, varying them almost every day; at her death she left two thousand. She wore jewelry in her hair, on her arms and wrists and ears and gowns; when a bishop reproved her love of finery she had him warned not to touch on that subject again, lest he reach heaven aforetime. 

   Her manners could be alarming. She cuffed or fondled courtiers, even foreign emissaries. She tickled the back of Dudley’s neck when he knelt to receive his earldom. (Aubrey tells a naughty story: Edward de Vere, “Earle of Oxford, making his low obeisance to Queen Elizabeth, happened to let a Fart, at which he was so abashed and ashamed that he went to Travell, 7 yeares. On his returne the Queen welcomed him home, and sayd, “My Lord, I had forgott the Fart”). She spat as she list—once upon a costly coat. She was usually amiable and easy of access, but she talked volubly, and she could be an unanswerable shrew. She swore like a pirate (which, by proxy, she was); “by God’s death” was among her milder oaths. She could be cruel, as in playing cat and mouse with Mary Stuart, or letting Lady Catherine Grey languish and die in the Tower; but she was basically kind and merciful, and she mingled tenderness with her blows. She often lost her temper, but she soon regained control of herself. She roared with laughter when amused, which was often. She loved to dance, and pirouetted till she was sixty-nine. She gamboled and gambled and hunted, and was fond of masques and plays. She kept her spirits up even when her fortunes were low, and in the face of danger she was all courage and intelligence. She was abstemious in food and drink, but covetous of money and jewelry; with relish she confiscated the property of rich rebels; and she managed to get and to hold the crown jewels of Scotland, Burgundy, and Portugal, besides a hoard of gems presented by expectant lords. She was not renowned for gratitude or liberality; sometimes she tried to pay her servants in fair words; but there was a certain patriotism in her parsimony and her pride. When she acceded there was hardly a nation so poor as to do England reverence; when she died England controlled the seas and challenged the intellectual hegemony of Italy or France. 

   What sort of mind did she have? She had all the learning that a queen could carry gracefully. While ruling England she continued her study of languages; corresponded in French with Mary Stuart, bandied Italian with a Venetian ambassador, and berated a Polish envoy in virile Latin. She translated Sallust and Boethius, and knew enough Greek to read Sophocles and translate a play of Euripides. She claimed to have read as many books as any prince in Christendom, and it was likely. She studied history almost every day. She composed poetry and music, and played forgivably on the lute and the virginal. But she had sense enough to laugh at her accomplishments, and to distinguish between education and intelligence. When an ambassador complimented her on her languages she remarked that “it was no marvel to teach a woman to talk; it were far harder to teach her to hold her tongue.” Her mind was as sharp as her speech, and her wit kept pace with the time. Francis Bacon reported that “she was wont to say of her instructions to great officers that they were like to garments, strait at the first putting on, but did by and by wear loose enough.” Her letters and speeches were composed in an English all her own, devious, involved, and affected, but rich in quaint turns, fascinating in eloquence and character. 

   She excelled in intelligence rather than intellect. Walsingham pronounced her “inapt to embrace any matter of weight;” but perhaps he spoke in the bitterness of unrequited devotion. Her skill lay in feminine delicacy and subtlety of perception, not in laborious logic, and sometimes the outcome revealed more wisdom in her feline tentatives than in their reasoning. It was her indefinable spirit that counted, that baffled Europe and enthralled England, that gave spur and color to her country’s flowering. She re-established the Reformation, but she represented the Renaissance—the lust to live this earthly life to the full, to enjoy and embellish it every day. She was no exemplar of virtue, but she was a paragon of vitality. Sir John Hayward, whom she sent to the Tower for giving rebellious notions to the younger Essex, forgave her enough to write of her, nine years after she could reward him:


   Now, if ever any person had eyther the gift or the stile to winne the hearts of people, it was this Queene; if ever she did expresse the same, it was . . . in coupling mildness with majesty as she did, and in stately stouping to the meanest sort. All her facultyes were in motione, and every motione seemed a well-guided actione; her eyes were set upon one, her ears listened to another, her judgment ran upon a third, to a fourth she addressed her speech; her spirit seemed to be everywhere, and yet so intyre in her selfe, as it seemed to bee noe where else. Some she pityed, some she commended, some she thanked, at others she pleasantly and wittingly jested, contemning no person, neglecting no office; and distributing her smiles, lookes, and graces so artificially [artfully] that thereupon the people again redoubled the testimonyes of their joyes.


   Her court was her character—loving the things she loved, and raising her flair for music, games, plays, and vivid speech to an ecstasy of poems, madrigals, dramas, and masques, and such prose as England has never known again. In her palaces at Whitehall, Windsor, Greenwich, Richmond, and Hampton Court lords and ladies, knights and ambassadors, entertainers and servitors moved in an exciting alternation of regal ceremony and gallant gaiety. A special Office of the Revels prepared amusements that ranged from “riddles” and backgammon to complex masques and Shakespeare’s plays. Ascension Day, Christmas, New Year’s, Twelfth Night, Candlemas, and Shrovetide were regularly celebrated with pastimes, athletic contests, jousts, mummings, plays, and masques. The masque was one of many Italian importations into Elizabethan England—a gaudy mixture of pageantry, poetry, music, allegory, buffoonery, and ballet, put together by playwrights and artists, presented at court, or on rich estates, with complex machinery and evolutions, and performed by masked ladies and gentlemen burdened with costly costumes and simple lines. Elizabeth was fond of drama, especially of comedy; who knows how much of Shakespeare would have reached the stage, or posterity, if she and Leicester had not supported the theater through all the attacks of the Puritans? 

   Not content with her five palaces, Elizabeth sallied out almost every summer on cross-country “progresses” to see and be seen, to keep an eye on her vassal lords, and to enjoy their reluctant homage. Part of the court followed her, delighted with the change and grumbling at the accommodations and the beer. Towns dressed their gentry in velvet and silk to welcome her with speeches and gifts; nobles bankrupted themselves to entertain her; hard-pressed lords prayed that she would not come their way. The Queen rode on horseback or in an open litter, greeting happily the crowds that gathered along the road. The people were thrilled by the sight of their invincible sovereign, and bewitched to fresh loyalty by her gracious compliments and infectious happiness. 

   The court took on her gaiety, her freedom of manners, her luxury of dress, her love of ceremony, and her ideal of the gentleman. She liked to hear the rustle of finery, and the men around her rivaled the women in molding Oriental stuffs to Italian styles. Pleasure was the usual program, but one had to be ready at any moment for martial exploits beyond the seas. Seductions had to be circumspect, for Elizabeth felt responsible to the parents of her maids of honor for their honor; hence she banished the Earl of Pembroke from the court for making Mary Fitton pregnant. As at any court, intrigue wove many entangling webs; the women competed unscrupulously for the men, the men for the women, and all for the favor of the Queen and the perquisites dependent thereon. Those same gentlemen who exalted in poetry the refinements of love and morality itched in prose for sinecures, took or gave bribes, grasped at monopolies, or shared in piratical spoils; and the avid Queen looked indulgently upon a venality that eked out the inadequate pay of her servitors. Through her grants, or by her permission, Leicester became the richest lord in England; Sir Philip Sidney received vast tracts in America; Raleigh acquired forty thousand acres in Ireland; the second Earl of Essex enjoyed a “corner” on the importation of sweet wines; and Sir Christopher Hatton rose from the Queen’s lapdog to Lord Chancellor. Elizabeth was no more sensitive to industrious brains than to handsome legs—for these pillars of society were not yet shrouded in pantaloons. Despite her faults she set a pace and a course to elicit the reserve energies of England’s worthies; she raised their courage to high enterprise, their minds to brave thinking, their manners to grace and wit and the fostering of poetry, drama, and art. Around that dazzling court and woman gathered nearly all the genius of England’s greatest age.





But within the court, and through the nation, the bitter battle of the Reformation raged, and created a problem that many thought would baffle and destroy the Queen. She was a Protestant; the country was two-thirds, perhaps three-quarters, Catholic. Most of the magistrates, all of the clergy, were Catholic. The Protestants were confined to the southern ports and industrial towns; they were predominant in London, where refugees from oppression on the Continent swelled their number; but in the northern and western counties—almost entirely agricultural—they were a negligible few. The spirit of the Protestants, however, was immeasurably more ardent than the Catholic. In 1559 John Foxe published his Rerum in ecclesia gestarum . . . commentarii, describing with passion the sufferings of Protestants under the preceding reign; the volumes were translated (1563) as Actes and Monuments; popularly known as The Book of Martyrs, they had an arousing influence on English Protestants for over a century. Protestantism in the sixteenth century had the feverish energy of a new idea fighting for the future; Catholicism had the strength of traditional beliefs and ways deeply rooted in the past. 

   In a spreading minority the religious turmoil had generated skepticism even, here and there, atheism. The conflict of creeds, their mutual criticism, their bloody intolerance, and the contrast between the professions and the conduct of Christians, had made some matter-of-fact minds doubtful of all theologies. Hear Roger Ascham’s Scholemaster (1563):


   That Italian that first invented the Italian Proverb against our Englishmen Italianate, meant no more their vanity in living than their lewd opinion in Religion . . . They make more account of Tully’s offices [Cicero’s De officiis] than St. Paul’s epistles; of a tale in Boccaccio than a story of the Bible. Then they count as fables the holy mysteries of the Christian Religion. They make Christ and his Gospel only serve civil policy; then neither religion [Protestantism or Catholicism] cometh amiss to them. In time they be promoters of both openly; in place again mockers of both privily . . . For where they dare, in company where they like, they boldly laugh to scorn both Protestant and Papist. They care for no Scripture . . . they mock the Pope; they rail on Luther . . . The heaven they desire is only their personal pleasure and private profit; whereby they plainly declare of whose school . . . they be: that is, Epicures in living, and atheoi in doctrine.


   Cecil complained (1569) that “deriders of religion, Epicureans, and atheists are everywhere;” John Strype declared (1571) that “many were wholly departed from the communion of the church, and came no more to hear divine service;” John Lyly (1579) thought “there never were such sects among the heathens . . . such misbelief among infidels, as is now among scholars.” Theologians and others wrote books against “atheism”—which, however, could mean belief in God but disbelief in Christ’s divinity. In 1579, 1583, and 1589 men were burned for denying the divinity of Christ. Several dramatists—Greene, Kyd, Marlowe—were reputed atheists. The Elizabethan drama, which otherwise so widely pictures life, contains remarkably little about the strife of faiths, but makes a great play of pagan mythology.

   In Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost (IV, iii, 250) are two obscure lines:


O paradox! black is the badge of hell,

The hue of dungeons and the school of night.


   Many have interpreted the last phrase as referring to the evening assemblies of Walter Raleigh, the astronomer Thomas Harriot, the scholar Lawrence Keymis, probably the poets Marlowe and Chapman, and some others, in Raleigh’s country house at Sherborne, for the study of astronomy, geography, chemistry, philosophy, and theology. Harriot, apparently the intellectual leader of the group, “had strange thoughts of the Scriptures,” reported the antiquary Anthony à Wood, “and always undervalued the old story of the creation . . . He made a Philosophical Theology, wherein he cast off the Old Testament;” he believed in God, but rejected revelation and the divinity of Christ. Robert Parsons, the Jesuit, wrote in 1592 of “Sir Walter Rawleigh’s school of Atheisme . . . wherein both Moyses and our Saviour, the olde and Newe Testamentes are jested at, and the schollers taught . . . to spell God backwards.” Raleigh was accused of having listened to Marlowe’s reading of an essay on “atheism.” In March 1594 a government commission sat at Cerne Abbes, Dorset, to investigate rumors of a set of atheists in the vicinity—which included Raleigh’s home. The inquiry led to no action now known to us, but charges of atheism were brought against Raleigh during his trial (1603). In the preface to his History of the World he made it a point to enlarge upon his belief in God. 

   Some suspicion of freethinking clings to Elizabeth herself. “No woman,” said John Richard Green, “ever lived who was so totally destitute of the sentiment of religion.” “Elizabeth,” in scholar J. A. Froude’s judgment, “was without distinct emotional conviction . . . Elizabeth, to whom the Protestant creed was as little true as the Catholic . . . had a latitudinarian contempt for theological dogmatism.” She called upon God—with terrible oaths that horrified her ministers—to destroy her if she did not keep her promise to marry Alençon, while in private she jested over his pretensions to her hand. She declared to a Spanish envoy that the difference between the warring Christian creeds was “a mere bagatelle”—whereupon he concluded that she was an atheist. 

   Nevertheless she took it for granted, like almost all governments before 1789, that some religion, some supernatural source and sanction of morality, was indispensable to social order and the stability of the state. For a time, till she had consolidated her position, she appeared to hesitate, and she played upon the hopes of Catholic potentates that she might be won to their public faith. She liked the Catholic ceremony, the celibacy of the clergy, the drama of the Mass, and she might have made her peace with the Church had not this involved submission to the papacy. She distrusted Catholicism as a foreign power that might lead Englishmen to put loyalty to the Church above allegiance to the Queen. She had been reared in the Protestantism of her father, which was Catholicism minus the papacy; and this is essentially what she decided to re-establish in England. She hoped that the semi-Catholic liturgy of her Anglican Church would mollify the Catholics of the countryside, while the rejection of the papacy would satisfy the Protestants of the towns; meanwhile state control of education would form the new generation to this Elizabethan settlement, and the disruptive religious strife would be quieted into peace. She made her hesitations in religion, as in marriage, serve her political purposes; she kept potential enemies bemused and divided until she could face them with an accomplished fact. 

   Many forces urged her to complete the Reformation. Continental reformers wrote to thank her in advance for restoring the new worship, and their letters touched her. Holders of formerly Church property prayed for a Protestant settlement. Cecil urged Elizabeth to make herself the leader of all Protestant Europe. London Protestants indicated their sentiments by beheading a statue of St. Thomas and casting it into the street. Her first Parliament (February 2 to May 18, 1559) was overwhelmingly Protestant. The funds she asked for were voted without reservation or delay, and to raise them a tax was laid upon all persons, ecclesiastical or secular. A new Act of Uniformity (May 8, 1559) made Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer, revised, the law of English liturgy, and forbade all other religious ritual. The Mass was abolished. All Englishmen were required to attend the Sunday service of the Anglican Church or forfeit a shilling for the succor of the poor. A new Act of Supremacy (May 9) declared Elizabeth to be the Supreme Governor of England in all matters, spiritual or temporal. An oath of supremacy acknowledging the religious sovereignty of the Queen was required of all clergymen, lawyers, teachers, university graduates, and magistrates, and all employees of the Church or the Crown. All major ecclesiastical appointments and decisions were to be made by an ecclesiastical Court of High Commission chosen by the government. Any defense of papal authority over England was to be punished by life imprisonment for the first offense, by death for the second (1563). By 1590 all English churches were Protestant. 

   Elizabeth pretended that she was not persecuting opinion; any man, she said, might think and believe as he pleased, provided he obeyed the laws; all she asked was external conformity for the sake of national unity. Cecil assured her that “that state could never be in safety where there was toleration of two religions”—which did not deter Elizabeth from demanding toleration of French Protestants in Catholic France. She had no objection to peaceful hypocrisy, but freedom of opinion was not to be freedom of speech. Preachers who disagreed with her views on any important subject were silenced or dismissed. The laws against heresy were redefined and enforced; Unitarians and Anabaptists were outlawed; five heretics were burned during the reign—which seemed a modest number in its day. 

   In 1563 a convocation of theologians defined the new creed. All were agreed on predestination; God of His own free will, before the creation of the world, and without regard to individual human merit or demerit, had chosen some of mankind to be elect and saved, leaving all the rest to be reprobate and damned. They accepted Lutheran justification (salvation) by faith—that is, the elect were saved not by their good works but by belief in the grace of God and the redeeming blood of Christ; however, they interpreted the Eucharist in Calvin’s sense as a spiritual, rather than a physical, communion with Christ. By an act of Parliament (1566) the “Thirty-nine Articles” embodying the new theology were made obligatory on all the clergy of England; and they still express the official Anglican creed. 

   The new ritual too was a compromise. The Mass was abolished, but, to the horror of the Puritans, the clergy were instructed to wear white surplices in reading the service, and copes in administering the Eucharist. Communion was to be received kneeling, in the two forms of bread and wine. The invocation of saints was replaced by annual commemoration of Protestant heroes. Confirmation and ordination were retained as sacred rites, but were not viewed as sacraments instituted by Christ; and confession to a priest was encouraged only in expectation of death. Many of the prayers kept Roman Catholic forms, but took on English dress and became a noble and formative part of the nation’s literature. For four hundred years those prayers and hymns, recited by congregation and priest in the spacious splendor of cathedrals or the simple dignity of the parish church, have given English families inspiration, consolation, moral discipline, and mental peace.




It was now the turn of the Catholics to suffer persecution. Though still in the majority, they were forbidden to hold Catholic services or possess Catholic literature. Religious images in the churches were destroyed by government order, and altars were removed. Six Oxford students were sent to the Tower for resisting the removal of a crucifix from their college chapel. Most Catholics submitted sadly to the new regulations, but a considerable number preferred to pay the fines for nonattendance at the Anglican ritual. The royal Council calculated some fifty thousand such “recusants” in England (1580). Anglican bishops complained to the government that Mass was being said in private homes, that Catholicism was emerging into public worship, and that in some ardent localities it was unsafe to be a Protestant. Elizabeth rebuked Archbishop Parker for laxity (1565), and thereafter the laws were more rigorously enforced.

Catholics who had heard Mass in the chapel of the Spanish ambassador were imprisoned; houses in London were searched; strangers found there were ordered to give an account of their religion; magistrates were commanded to punish all persons possessing books of Roman Catholic theology (1567). 

   We must not judge this legislation in terms of the relative religious toleration earned for us by the philosophers and revolutions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The faiths were then at war, and were entangled with politics—a field in which toleration has always been limited. All parties and governments in the sixteenth century agreed that theological dissent was a form of political revolt. The religious conflict became explicitly political when Pope Pius V, after what he felt had been a long and patient delay, issued a bull (1570) that not only excommunicated Elizabeth, but absolved her subjects from allegiance to her, and forbade them “to obey her monitions, mandates, and laws.” The bull was suppressed in France and Spain, which were then seeking friendship with England, but a copy of it was clandestinely posted on the door of the episcopal residence in London. The culprit was discovered and was put to death. Faced by this declaration of war, the Queen’s ministers asked Parliament for stricter anti-Catholic laws. Statutes were passed making it a capital crime to call the Queen a heretic, schismatic, usurper, or tyrant, or to introduce a papal bull into England, or to convert a Protestant to the Roman Church. The Court of High Commission was authorized to examine the opinions of any suspected person and to punish any of his unpunished offenses against any law, including fornication or adultery. 

   The Catholic monarchs of Europe could not with much face protest against these oppressive measures, which so resembled their own. Most English Catholics continued to submit peaceably, and Elizabeth’s government hoped that habit would generate acceptance, and, in time, belief. It was to prevent this that William Allen, an émigré Englishman, founded at Douai, then in the Spanish Netherlands, a college and seminary to train English Catholics for missionary service in England. He expounded his purpose fervently:


   We make it our first and foremost study . . . to stir up . . . in the minds of Catholics . . . zeal and just indignation against the heretics. This we do by setting before the eyes of the students the exceeding majesty of the ceremonial of the Catholic Church in the place where we live . . . At the same time we recall the mournful contrast that obtains at home: the utter desolation of all things sacred which there exists . . . our friends and kinsfolk, all our dear ones, and countless souls besides, perishing in schism and godlessness; every jail and dungeon filled to overflowing, not with thieves and villains but with Christ’s priests and servants, nay, with our parents and kinsmen. There is nothing, then, that we ought not to suffer, rather than to look on at the ills that affect our nation.


   The college functioned at Douai till 1578, when the Calvinists captured the town; then at Reims, then again at Douai (1593). The Douay Bible—an English translation of the Latin Vulgate—was produced at Reims and Douai (1582-1610), and reached publication a year before the King James version. Between 1574 and 1585 the college ordained 275 graduates and sent 268 to labor in England. Allen was called to Rome and made a cardinal, but the work went on; 170 additional priests were dispatched to England before Elizabeth’s death in 1603. Of the 438 total, ninety-eight suffered the capital penalty. 

   The leadership of the missionaries passed to a Jesuit, Robert Parsons, a man of enthusiasm and courage, a firebrand of polemics, and a master of English prose. He frankly announced that the bull deposing Elizabeth justified her assassination. Many English Catholics were shocked, but Tolomeo Galli, secretary of state to Pope Gregory XIII, gave the idea his approval. (Catholic historian Ludwig Pastor adds: “If the Secretary of State approved of the killing of Elizabeth, this was in conformity with the principles of law then in force. Gregory, too, with whom the Secretary of State undoubtedly consulted before he sent his letter . . . concurred in this view”). Parsons urged the Catholic powers to invade England; the Spanish ambassador in England condemned the plan as “criminal folly,” and Everard Mercurian, general of the Jesuit order, forbade Parsons to meddle in politics. Undeterred, he decided on a personal invasion. He disguised himself as an English officer returning from service in the Netherlands; his martial swagger, gold-lace coat, and feathered hat carried him through the frontier officials (1580); he even smoothed the way for another Jesuit, Edmund Campion, to follow him in the guise of a jewel merchant. They were secretly housed in the heart of London. 

   They visited imprisoned Catholics, and found them leniently treated. Recruiting lay and sacerdotal aides, they began their work of inspiring Catholics to remain faithful to the Church, and reconverting recent “apostates” to the Protestant creed. Secular priests hiding in England, alarmed at the boldness of the missionaries, warned them that they would soon be caught and arrested, and that their detection would make matters worse for the Catholics, and they begged them to return to the Continent. But Parsons and Campion persisted. They moved from town to town, holding secret assemblies, hearing confessions, saying Mass, and giving their benediction to the whispering worshipers who looked upon them as messengers from God. Within a year of their coming they made—it was claimed—twenty thousand converts. They set up a printing press and scattered propaganda; tracts declaring that Elizabeth, having been excommunicated, was no longer the lawful queen of England were found in London streets. A third Jesuit was sent to Edinburgh to urge the Scottish Catholics to invade England from the north. The Earl of Westmorland answered a summons from the Vatican; he brought back from Rome to Flanders a mass of bullion to finance an invasion from the Netherlands; by the summer of 1581, many Catholics believed, the Spanish troops of Alva would cross into England. 

   Warned by its spies, the English government doubled its efforts to capture the Jesuits. Parsons found his way across the Channel, but Campion was caught (July 1581). He was carried through sympathetic villages and hostile London to the Tower. Elizabeth sent for him and tried to save him. She asked, did he consider her his lawful sovereign? He replied that he did. But to her next question, could the Pope lawfully excommunicate her?, he answered that he could not decide an issue on which learned men were divided. She sent him back to the Tower, with instructions that he be kindly treated; but Cecil ordered him to be tortured into naming his fellow conspirators. After two days of agony he yielded a few names, and more arrests were made. Recovering his audacity, Campion challenged Protestant divines to a public debate. By permission of the Council a debate was staged in the chapel of the Tower; courtiers, prisoners, and public were admitted; and the Jesuit stood for hours on weakened legs to plead for the Catholic theology. Neither side convinced the other; but when Campion was brought to trial the charge was not heresy but conspiracy to overthrow the government by internal subversion and external attack. He and fourteen others were convicted, and on December 11, 1581, they were hanged. 

   Those Catholics proved right who had predicted that the Jesuit mission would exasperate the government into further persecution. Elizabeth issued an appeal to her subjects to judge between her and those who sought her throne or her life. Parliament decreed (1581) that conversion to Catholicism should be punished as high treason; that any priest who said Mass should be fined two hundred marks and be imprisoned for a year; and that those who refused to attend Anglican services should pay twenty pounds a month—enough to bankrupt any but the richest Catholics. Failure to pay the fine incurred arrest and confiscation of property. Soon the prisons were so crowded with Catholics that old castles had to be used as jails. Tension rose on all sides, heightened by the imminent execution of Mary Stuart and the intensified conflict with Spain and Rome. In June 1583 a papal nuncio offered Gregory XIII a detailed plan for the invasion of England by three armies at once from Ireland, France, and Spain. The Pope gave sympathetic consideration to this disegno per l’impresa d’Inghilterra and specific measures were prepared; but English spies got wind of them, England made counter-preparations, and the invasion was postponed. 

   Parliament retaliated with more repressive legislation. All priests ordained since June 1559 and still refusing the oath of supremacy were required to leave the country within forty days or suffer death as treasonous conspirators; and all who harbored them were to be hanged. On the basis of this and other laws, 123 priests and sixty laymen were executed during the reign of Elizabeth, and probably another two hundred died in jail. Some Protestants protested against the severity of this legislation; some were converted to Catholicism; Cecil’s grandson William fled to Rome (1585) and pledged obedience to the Pope. 

   Most English Catholics were opposed to any violent action against the government. One faction among them addressed an appeal to Elizabeth (1585), affirmed their loyalty, and asked for “a merciful consideration of their sufferings.” But as if to bear out the government’s claim that its measures were justified by war, Cardinal Allen issued (1588) a tract designed to rouse the English Catholics to support the approaching attack on England by Spain. He called the Queen “an incestuous bastard, begotten and born in sin of an infamous courtesan,” charged that “with Leicester and divers others she hath abused her body . . . by unspeakable and incredible variety of lust,” demanded that the Catholics of England should rise against this “depraved, accursed, excommunicate heretic,” and promised a plenary indulgence to all who should aid in deposing the “chief spectacle of sin and abomination in this age.” The Catholics of England answered by fighting as bravely as the Protestants against the Spanish Armada. 

   After that victory the persecution continued as part of the continuing war. Sixty-one priests and forty-nine laymen were hanged between 1588 and 1603; and many of these were cut down from the gibbet and were drawn and quartered—i.e. they were disemboweled and torn limb from trunk—while still alive. In a remarkable address presented to the Queen in the year of her death, thirteen priests petitioned her to be allowed to remain in England. They repudiated all attacks on her right to the throne and denied the authority of the Pope to depose her, but could not in conscience acknowledge anyone but the Pope as head of the Christian Church. The document reached the Queen only a few days before her death, and no result of it is recorded; but unwittingly it outlined the principles on which, two centuries later, the problem would be solved. The Queen died a victor in the greatest struggle of a reign stained with no darker blot than this victory. 





Against an apparently weaker enemy, a handful of Puritans, she did not prevail. They were men who had felt the influence of Calvin; some of them had visited Calvin’s Geneva as Marian refugees; many of them had read the Bible in a translation made and annotated by Genevan Calvinists; some had heard or read the blasts of John Knox’s trumpet; some may have heard echoes of Wyclif’s Lollard “poor priests.” Taking the Bible as their infallible guide, they found nothing in it about the episcopal powers and sacerdotal vestments that Elizabeth had transferred from the Roman to the Anglican Church; on the contrary, they found much about presbyters’ having no sovereign but Christ. They acknowledged Elizabeth as head of the Church in England, but only to bar the pope; in their hearts they rejected any control of religion by the state, and aspired to control of the state by their religion. Toward 1564 they began to be called Puritans—as a term of abuse—because they demanded the purification of English Protestantism from all forms of faith and worship not found in the New Testament. They took the doctrines of predestination, election, and damnation deeply to heart, and felt that hell could be escaped only by subordinating every aspect of life to religion and morality. As they read the Bible in the solemn Sundays of their homes, the figure of Christ almost disappeared against the background of the Old Testament’s jealous and vengeful Jehovah. 

   The Puritan attack on Elizabeth took form (1569) when the lectures of Thomas Cartwright, professor of theology at Cambridge, stressed the contrast between the presbyterian organization of the early Christian Church and the episcopalian structure of the Anglican Establishment. Many of the faculty supported Cartwright, but John Whitgift, headmaster of Trinity College, denounced him to the Queen and secured his dismissal from the teaching staff (1570). Cartwright emigrated to Geneva, where, under Theodore de Beze, he imbibed the full ardor of Calvinist theocracy. Returning to England, he shared with Walter Travers and others in formulating the Puritan conception of the Church. Christ, in their view, had arranged that all ecclesiastical authority should be vested in ministers and lay elders elected by each parish, province, and state. The consistories so formed should determine creed, ritual, and moral code in conformity with Scripture. They should have access to every home, power to enforce at least outward observance of “godly living,” and the right to excommunicate recalcitrants and condemn heretics to death. The civil magistrates were to carry out these disciplinary decrees, but the state was to have no spiritual jurisdiction whatever. 

   The first English parish organized on these principles was set up at Wandsworth in 1572, and similar “presbyteries” sprang up in the eastern and middle counties. By this time the majority of the London Protestants, and of the House of Commons, were Puritans. The artisans of London, powerfully infiltrated by Calvinist refugees from France and the Netherlands, applauded the Puritan attack on episcopacy and ritual. The businessmen of the capital looked upon Puritanism as the bulwark of Protestantism against a Catholicism traditionally unsympathetic to “usury” and the middle classes. Calvin was a bit too strict for them, but he had sanctioned interest and had recognized the virtues of industry and thrift. Even men close to the Queen had found some good in Puritanism; Cecil, Leicester, Walsingham, and Knollys hoped to use it as a foil to Catholicism if Mary Stuart reached the English throne. 

   But Elizabeth felt that the Puritan movement threatened the whole settlement by which she had planned to ease the religious strife. She thought of Calvinism as the doctrine of John Knox, whom she had never forgiven for his scorn of women rulers. She despised the Puritan dogmatism even more heartily than the Catholic. She had a lingering fondness for the crucifix and other religious images, and when an iconoclastic fury destroyed paintings, statuary, and stained glass early in her reign, she awarded damages to the victims and forbade such actions in the future. She was not finicky in her own language, but she resented the description which some Puritan had given of the Prayer Book as “culled and picked out of that popish dunghill, the Mass Book,” and of the Court of High Commission as a “little stinking ditch.” She saw in the popular election of ministers, and in the government of the Church by presbyteries and synods independent of the state, a republican threat to monarchy. Only her monarchical power, she thought, could keep England Protestant; popular suffrage would restore Catholicism. 

   She encouraged bishops to trouble the troublemakers. Archbishop Parker suppressed their publications, silenced them in the churches, and obstructed their assemblies. Puritan clergymen had organized groups for the public discussion of Scriptural passages; Elizabeth bade Parker put an end to these “prophesyings;” he did. His successor, Edmund Grindal, tried to protect the Puritans; Elizabeth suspended him; and when he died (1583) she advanced to the Canterbury see her new chaplain, John Whitgift, who dedicated himself to the silencing of the Puritans. He demanded of all English clergymen an oath accepting the Thirty-nine Articles, the Prayer Book, and the Queen’s religious supremacy; he subpoenaed all objectors before the High Commission Court; and there they were subjected to such detailed and insistent inquiry into their conduct and belief that Cecil compared the procedure to the Spanish Inquisition. 

   The Puritan rebellion was intensified. A determined minority openly seceded from the Anglican Communion, and set up independent congregations that elected their own ministers and acknowledged no Episcopal control. In 1581 Robert Browne, a pupil (later an enemy) of Cartwright, and chief voice of these “Independents,” “separatists,” or “Congregationalists,” crossed over to Holland, and he published there two tracts outlining a democratic constitution for Christianity. Any group of Christians should have the right to organize itself for worship, formulate its own creed on the basis of Scripture, choose its own leaders, and live its religious life free from outside interference, acknowledging no rule but the Bible, no authority but Christ. Two of Browne’s followers were arrested in England, were judged in contempt of the Queen’s religious sovereignty, and were hanged (1583). 

   In the campaign for election to the Parliament of 1586 the Puritans waged oratorical war upon any candidate unsympathetic to their cause. One such was branded as a “common gamester and pot companion;” another was “much suspect of popery, cometh very seldom to his church, and is a whoremaster;” those were days of virile speech. When Parliament convened, John Penry presented a petition for reform of the Church, and charged the bishops with responsibility for clerical abuses and popular paganism. Whitgift ordered his arrest, but he was soon released. Antony Cope introduced a bill to abolish the entire episcopal establishment and reorganize English Christianity on the presbyterian plan. Elizabeth ordered Parliament to remove the bill from discussion. Peter Wentworth rose to a question of parliamentary freedom, and four members supported him; Elizabeth had all five lodged in the Tower. 

   Frustrated in Parliament, Penry and other Puritans took to the press. Eluding Whitgift’s severe censorship of publications, they deluged England (1588-89) with a succession of privately printed pamphlets, all signed “Martin Marprelate, Gentleman,” and attacking the authority and personal character of the bishops in terms of satirical abuse. Whitgift and the High Commission deployed all the machinery of espionage to find the authors and printers; but the printers moved from town to town, and public sympathy helped them to escape detection until April 1589. Professional writers like John Lyly and Thomas Nash were engaged to answer “Martin” and gave him good competition in scurrility. Finally, as billingsgate ran out, the controversy subsided, and moderate men mourned the degradation of Christianity into an art of vituperation. 

   Stung by these pamphlets, Elizabeth gave Whitgift a free hand to check the Puritans. The Marprelate printers were found, arrests multiplied, executions followed. Cartwright was sentenced to death, but was pardoned by the Queen. Two leaders of the “Brownian Movement,” John Greenwood and Henry Barrow, were hanged in 1593, and soon thereafter John Penry. Parliament decreed (1593) that anyone who questioned the Queen’s religious supremacy, or persistently absented himself from Anglican services, or attended “any assemblies, conventicles, or meetings under cover or pretense of any exercise of religion” should be imprisoned and unless he gave a pledge of future conformity—should leave England and never return, on pain of death. 

   At this juncture, and amid the turmoil and fury, a modest parson raised the controversy to the level of philosophy, piety, and stately prose. Richard Hooker was one of two clergymen assigned to conduct services in the London Temple; the other was Walter Travers, Cartwright’s friend. In the morning sermon Hooker expounded the ecclesiastical polity of Elizabeth; in the afternoon Travers criticized that church government from the Puritan view. Each developed his sermons into a book. As Hooker was writing literature as well as theology, he begged his bishop to transfer him to a quiet rural parsonage. So at Boscombe in Wiltshire he completed the first four books of his great work Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1594); three years later, at Bishopsbourne, he sent Book V to the press; and there, in 1600, age forty-seven, he died. 

   His Laws astonished England by the calm and even-tempered dignity of its argument and the sonorous majesty of its almost Latin style. Cardinal Allen praised it as the best book that had yet come out of England; Pope Clement VIII lauded its eloquence and learning; Queen Elizabeth read it gratefully as a splendid apology for her religious government; the Puritans were mollified by the gentle clarity of its tone; and posterity received it as a noble attempt to harmonize religion and reason. Hooker astonished his contemporaries by admitting that even a pope could be saved; he shocked the theologians by declaring that “the assurance of what we believe by the Word of God is to us not so certain as that which we perceive by sense;” man’s reasoning faculty is also a divine gift and revelation. 

   Hooker based his theory of law on medieval philosophy as formulated by St. Thomas Aquinas, and he anticipated the “social contract” of Hobbes and Locke. After showing the need and boon of social organization, he argued that voluntary participation in a society implies consent to be governed by its laws. But the ultimate source of the laws is the community itself: a king or a parliament may issue laws only as the delegate or representatives of the community. “Law makes the king; the king’s grant of any favor contrary to the law is void . . . For peaceable contentment on both sides, the assent of those who are governed seemeth necessary . . . Laws are not which public approbation has not made so.” And Hooker added a passage that might have warned Charles I:


   The Parliament of England, together with the [ecclesiastical] Convocation annexed thereunto, is that whereupon the very essence of all government within this kingdom doth depend; it is even the body of the whole realm; it consisteth of the king and of all that within the land are subject to him, for they are all there present, either in person, or by such as they voluntarily have derived [delegated] their power unto.


   To Hooker religion seemed an integral part of the state, for social order and therefore even material prosperity depend on moral discipline, which collapses without religious inculcation and support. Consequently every state should provide religious training for its people. The Anglican Church might be imperfect, but so would be all institutions made and manned by the children of Adam. “He that goeth about to persuade a multitude that they are not so well off as they ought to be, shall never want attentive and favorable hearers; because they know the manifold defects whereunto every kind of regiment [government] is subject, but the secret lets and difficulties, which in public proceedings are innumerable and inevitable, they have not ordinarily the judgment to consider.” 

   Hooker’s logic was too circular to be convincing, his learning too scholastic to meet the issues of his time, his shy spirit too thankful for order to understand the longing for liberty. The Puritans acknowledged his eloquence, but went on their way. Compelled to choose between their country and their faith, many of them emigrated, reversing the movement of Continental Protestants into England. Holland welcomed them, and English congregations rose at Middelburg, Leiden, and Amsterdam. There the exiles and their offspring labored, taught, preached, and wrote, preparing with quiet passion for their triumphs in England and their fulfillment in America.





Ireland had been conquered by the English in 1169-71 and had been held ever since on the ground that otherwise it would be used by France or Spain as a base for attacks on England. At Elizabeth’s accession direct English rule in Ireland was confined to the eastern coast—”the Pale”—around and south of Dublin; Irish chieftains only nominally acknowledging English sovereignty governed the rest of the island. The perennial conflict with the English disrupted the tribal administration that had given Ireland chaos and violence, but also poets, scholars, and saints. Most of the land was left to woods and bogs; transport and communication were heroic enterprises, and the native Celtic population of some 800,000 souls lived in a half-lawless misery on the edge of barbarism. The English in the Pale were almost as poor, and they made Elizabeth’s problem worse by debauchery, peculation, and crime; they robbed the London government as sedulously as they plundered the Irish peasantry. Throughout the reign English settlers drove Irish proprietors and tenants from “clearances;” the dispossessed fought back with assassinations; and life for conquerors and conquered alike became a persisting fever of force and hate. Cecil himself thought that “the Flemings had not such cause to rebel against the oppression of the Spaniards” as the Irish against English rule. 

   Elizabeth’s Irish policy was based on the conviction that a Catholic Ireland would be a peril to a Protestant England. She ordered a full enforcement of Protestantism throughout the island. Mass was prohibited, the monasteries were closed; public worship ceased outside the narrow Pale. Priests survived in hiding, and administered the sacraments furtively to a few. Morality, deprived of both religion and peace, almost disappeared; murder, theft, adultery, and rape flourished, and men changed wives without grudge or qualm. Irish leaders appealed to the popes and Philip II for protection or aid. Philip feared to invade Ireland, lest the English should invade and help the rebellious Netherlands, but he established centers and colleges for Irish refugees in Spain. Pius IV sent to Ireland an Irish Jesuit, David Wolfe (1560); with the courage and devotion characteristic of his order, Wolfe established clandestine missions, brought in other disguised Jesuits, and restored Catholic piety and hope. The chieftains took heart, and one after another rose in revolt against English rule. 

   The most powerful of them was Shane (i.e., John) O’Neill of Tyrone. Here was such a man as legend could sing of and Irishmen could fight for. He fiercely defended his title of the O’Neill against a usurping brother. He ignored the Commandments and adored the Church. He foiled all English efforts to subdue him, risked his head to visit London and win Elizabeth’s alliance and support, and returned in triumph to rule Ulster as well as Tyrone. He fought the rival O’Donnell clan ferociously, was finally defeated by it (1567), and was killed when he took refuge with the MacDonnells, Scottish immigrants whose settlement at Antrim he had formerly attacked. 

   The history of Ireland after his death was a parade of rebellions, massacres, and lords deputy. Sir Henry Sidney, father of Sir Philip, served Elizabeth faithfully in that ungrateful office for nine years. He joined in defeating O’Neill, hunted Rory O’More to the death, and was recalled (1578) because of the high cost of his victories. In two years as Lord Deputy, Walter Devereux, first Earl of Essex, distinguished himself by a massacre on the island of Rathlin, off the Antrim coast. Thither the rebel MacDonnells had sent for safety their wives and children, their aged and ailing, with a protective guard. Essex dispatched a force to capture the island. The garrison offered to surrender if they might be allowed to sail for Scotland; the offer was refused; they surrendered unconditionally; they and the women and children, the sick and the old, numbering six hundred, were put to the sword (1575). 

   The great revolt of the reign was that of the Geraldine clan in Munster. After many captivities and escapes, James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald crossed to the Continent, raised a troop of Spaniards, Italians, Portuguese, Flemings, and English Catholic emigres, and landed them on the coast of Kerry (1579), only to lose his life in an incidental war with another clan. His cousin Gerald Fitzgerald, fifteenth Earl of Desmond, carried on the revolt, but the neighboring Butler clan, under the Protestant Earl of Ormonde, declared for England. The Catholics of the Pale organized an army and defeated the levies of the new Lord Deputy, Arthur, Lord Grey (1580). Reinforced, Grey besieged Desmond’s main force by land and sea on a promontory in Smerwick Bay. Finding themselves defenseless against Grey’s artillery, the six hundred surviving rebels surrendered and begged for mercy; all were slaughtered, women and men, except for officers who could promise substantial ransoms. The war of English against Irish, and of clan against clan, so ravaged Munster that (said an Irish chronicler) “the lowing of a cow, or the voice of a plowman, was not to be heard that year from Dingle to the Rock of Cashel;” and an Englishman wrote (1582) that “there hath died by famine . . . thirty thousand in Munster in less than half a year, besides others that are hanged and killed.” For “to kill an Irishman in that province,” wrote the great English historian J. A Froude, “was thought no more of than to kill a mad dog.” Almost denuded of Irish, Munster was divided into plantations for English settlers (1586)—one of them Edmund Spenser, who there completed The Faerie Queene. 

   The desperate Irish rose again in 1593. Hugh O’Donnell, Lord of Tyrconnel, joined forces with Hugh O’Neill, second Earl of Tyrone. Spain, now at open war with England, promised help. In an interregnum between lords deputy, O’Neill routed an English army at Armagh, captured Blackwater, an English stronghold in the north (1598), and sent a force to renew the Munster revolt. The English colonists fled, abandoning their plantations. Hope and joy spread in Ireland, and even the English expected that Dublin itself would fall. 

   It was in this crisis that Elizabeth appointed the youthful Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, as her Lord Deputy in Ireland (March 1599). She gave him an army of 17,500 men—the greatest that England had ever sent to the island. She bade him attack O’Neill in Tyrone, make no peace without consulting her, and not return without her permission. Arrived in Dublin, he dallied through the spring, undertook a few skirmishes, let his army waste away with disease, signed an unauthorized truce with O’Neill, and returned to England (September 1599) to explain his failure to the Queen. Quickly replacing him, Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, faced with courage and skill a combination of tricky O’Neill, fearless O’Donnell, and a fleet landing at

Kinsale with troops and arms from Spain and indulgences from Clement VIII for all who would defend Ireland and the faith. Mountjoy rushed south to meet the Spaniards, and defeated them so decisively that O’Neill submitted; the revolt collapsed, and a general amnesty brought a precarious peace (1603). Meanwhile Elizabeth had died. 

   Her record in Ireland subtracted from her glory. She underestimated the difficulty of conquering, in an almost roadless country, a people whose love of their land and their faith was their only bond to life and decency. She scolded her deputies for failures that were due in part to her own parsimony; they were unable to pay their troops, who found it more profitable to rob the Irish than to fight them. She vacillated between truce and terror, and never followed one policy to a decision. She founded Trinity College and Dublin University (1591), but she left the people of Ireland as illiterate as before. After the expenditure of £10,000,000, the peace achieved was a desert of desolation over half the lovely isle, and, over all of it, a spirit of unspeakable hatred that only bided its time to kill and devastate again.





The Queen was at her best in her management of Spain. She allowed Philip to think she might marry him or his son; and in his hopes of winning England with a wedding ring, he played the game of patience till his friends were alienated and Elizabeth was strong. Pope and Emperor and a hapless Scottish Queen might beg him to invade England, but he was too doubtful of France, too troubled in the Netherlands, to venture upon so incalculable a throw of the political dice. He had no assurance that France would not pounce upon the Spanish Netherlands the moment he became embroiled with England. He was loath to encourage revolution anywhere. He trusted, in his heavy procrastinating way, that Elizabeth would in due time find one or another of the many exits that an ingenious nature has provided from our life; and yet he was in no haste to give the throne of England to a Scottish lass in love with France. For years he held back the Pope from promulgating the excommunication of Elizabeth. He bore in somber silence her treatment of Catholics in England, and her protests against the treatment of English Protestants in Spain. For almost thirty years he kept the peace while English privateers made war upon Spanish colonies and trade. 

   The nature of man confesses itself in the conduct of states, for these are but ourselves in gross, and behave, for the most part, as men presumably did before morals and laws were laid upon them by religion and force. Conscience follows the policeman, but there were no police for states. On the seas there were no Ten Commandments, and trade existed by permission of piracy. Small pirate craft used the inlets of the British coast as lairs and thence sallied forth to seize what they could; if the victims were Spanish the English could enjoy the religious fervor of plundering a papist. Bold men like John Hawkins and Francis Drake fitted out substantial privateers and took all the oceans for their province. Elizabeth disowned but did not disturb them, for she saw in the privateers the makings of a navy, and in these buccaneers her future admirals. The Huguenot port of La Rochelle became a favorite rendezvous of English, Dutch, and Huguenot vessels, which “preyed on Catholic commerce under whatever flag it sailed,” and, in need, on Protestant commerce too. 

   From such piracy the buccaneers passed to that lucrative trade in slaves, which the Portuguese had opened up a century before. In the Spanish colonies of America the natives were dying out from toil too arduous for their climate and constitutions. A demand arose for a sturdier breed of laborers. Las Casas himself, defender of the natives, suggested to Charles I of Spain that African Negroes, stronger than the Caribbean Indians, should be transported to America, to do the heavy work for the Spaniards there. Charles consented, but Philip II condemned the trade and instructed the Spanish-American governors to prevent the importation of slaves except under license—costly and rare—by the home administration. Aware that some governors were evading these restrictions, Hawkins led three ships to Africa (1562), captured three hundred Negroes, took them to the West Indies, and sold them to Spanish settlers in exchange for sugar, spices, and drugs. Back in England, he induced Lord Pembroke and others to invest in a second venture, and persuaded Elizabeth to put one of her best vessels at his disposal. In 1564 he headed south with four ships, seized four hundred African Negroes, sailed for the West Indies, sold them to Spaniards under threat of his guns if they refused to buy, and returned home to be hailed as a hero and share his spoils with his backers and the Queen, who made 60 per cent on her investment. In 1567 she lent him her ship the Jesus; with this and four other vessels he sailed to Africa, captured all the Negroes his holds could stow, sold them in Spanish America at £160 a head, and was homeward bound with loot valued at £100,000 when a Spanish fleet caught him off the Mexican coast at San Juan de Ulúa, and destroyed all of his fleet but two small tenders, in which Hawkins, after a thousand perils, returned empty-handed to England (1569). 

   Among the survivors of that voyage was Hawkins’ young kinsman Francis Drake. Educated at Hawkins’ expense, Drake became, so to speak, a native of the sea. At twenty-two he commanded a ship on Hawkins’ futile expedition; at twenty-three, having lost everything but his reputation for bravery, he vowed vengeance against Spain; at twenty-five he received a privateer’s commission from Elizabeth. In 1573, aged twenty-eight, he captured a convoy of silver bullion off the coast of Panama and returned to England rich and revenged. Elizabeth’s councilors kept him in hiding for three years while Spain cried out for his death. Then Leicester, Walsingham, and Hatton fitted out for him four small vessels, totaling 375 tons; with these he sailed from Plymouth on November 25, 1577, on what turned out to be the second circumnavigation of the globe. As his fleet issued from the Straits of Magellan into the Pacific, it ran into a heavy storm; the ships were scattered and never reunited; Drake alone, in the Pelican, moved up the west coast of the Americas to San Francisco, raiding Spanish vessels on the way. Then he turned boldly westward to the Philippines, sailed through the Moluccas to Java, across the Indian Ocean to Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope, and up the Atlantic to reach Plymouth on October 6, 1580, thirty-four months after leaving it. He brought with him £600,000 of booty, of which £275,000 was handed over to the Queen. England hailed him as the greatest seaman and pirate of the age. Elizabeth dined on his ship and dubbed him knight. 

   All this time England had been technically at peace with Spain. Philip lodged repeated protests with the Queen; she made excuses, hugged her spoils, and pointed out that Philip also was violating international “law” by sending help to the rebels in Ireland. When the Spanish ambassador threatened war she threatened marriage with Alençon and alliance with France. Philip, busy conquering Portugal, ordered his envoy to keep the peace. As usual, good luck supplemented the vacillating genius of the Queen. What would have happened to her if Catholic France had not been cut in two by civil war, if Catholic Austria and the Emperor had not been harassed by the Turks, if Spain had not been embroiled with Portugal, France, the papacy, and its rebellious subjects in the Netherlands? 

   For years Elizabeth played fast and loose with the Netherlands, shifting her policy with fluid circumstance, and no charges of irresolution or treachery could make her move in blinders on one course. She had no more liking for Dutch Calvinism than for English Puritanism, and no more liking than Philip for abetting revolution. She recognized the importance, to the English economy, of uninterrupted trade with the Netherlands. She planned to support the revolt of the Netherlands sufficiently to keep them from surrendering to Spain or bequeathing themselves to France. For as long as the revolt continued Spain would stay out of England. 

   A blessed windfall allowed the Queen to help the rebels at a delectable profit to her treasury. In December 1568 English privateers drove several Spanish vessels, carrying £150,000 to pay Alva’s troops in the Netherlands, into Channel ports. Elizabeth, who had just heard of Hawkins’ disaster at San Juan de Ulúa, recognized a providential opportunity to make up for what England had lost in that defeat. She asked Bishop Jewel whether she had a right to the Spanish treasure; he judged that God, being surely a Protestant, would be pleased to see the papists plundered. Moreover, the Queen learned, Philip had borrowed the money from Genoese bankers, and Philip had refused to take title to it until its safe delivery in Antwerp. Elizabeth had the money transferred to her vaults. Philip complained; Alva seized all English nationals and goods that he could lay hands upon in the Netherlands; Elizabeth arrested all Spaniards in England. But the necessities of trade gradually restored normal relations. Alva refused to prod Elizabeth into alliance with the rebels. Philip kept his temper. Elizabeth kept the money. 

   The uneasy peace dragged on until continued English raids on Spanish shipping, and the appeals of the imprisoned Mary Stuart’s friends, involved Philip in a plot to assassinate the Queen. Convinced of his participation, Elizabeth expelled the Spanish ambassador (1584) and gave open aid to the Netherlands. English troops entered Flushing, Brill, Ostend, and Sluys; Leicester was sent to command them; the Spaniards defeated them at Zutphen (1586). But now at last the issue was drawn. Both Philip and Elizabeth prepared with all their resources for the war that would decide the mastery of the seas and the religion of England, perhaps of Europe, perhaps of the New World. 

   Spain had risen to wealth by grace of Columbus and Pope Alexander VI, whose arbitration decrees of 1493 had awarded nearly all of the Americas to his native Spain. With those voyages and bulls the Mediterranean ceased to be the center of the white man’s civilization and power, and the Atlantic age began. Of Europe’s three great Atlantic nations France was debarred by civil war from the contest for oceanic dominion. England and Spain remained, jutting out like grasping promontories toward the promised land. It appeared impossible to dislodge Spain from her preeminence in America; by 1580 she had hundreds of colonies there, England none; and each year immense riches passed from the mines of Mexico and Peru to Spain. It seemed manifest destiny that Spain should rule all the Western Hemisphere, and make both the Americas in her political and religious image. 

   Drake was not content with this prospect. For a time the war for the world was between himself and Spain. In 1585, financed by his friends and the Queen, he fitted out thirty vessels and sallied forth against the Spanish Empire. He entered the Estuary of Vigo in northwest Spain, plundered the port of Vigo, disrobed a statue of the Virgin, and carried away the precious metals and costly vestments of the churches. He sailed on to the Canary and Cape Verde islands, pillaged the largest of them, crossed the Atlantic, raided Santo Domingo, took £30,000 as a douceur not to destroy the Colombian city of Cartagena, plundered and burned the town of St. Augustine in Florida, and returned to England (1586) only because yellow fever had killed a third of his crew. 

   This was war without its name. On February 18, 1587, the English government put to death the Scottish Queen. Philip informed Sixtus V that he was now ready to invade England and dethrone Elizabeth. He asked the Pope to contribute 2,000,000 gold crowns; Sixtus offered 600,000, to be paid to Spain only if the invasion actually occurred. Philip bade his best admiral, the Marquis of Santa Cruz, to prepare the largest armada so far known in history. Ships were gathered or built at Lisbon, and stores were assembled at Cadiz. 

   Drake urged Elizabeth to give him a fleet to destroy the Armada before it could take irresistible form. She consented, and on April 12, 1587, with thirty ships, he hurried out from Plymouth before she could change her mind. She did, but too late to reach him. On April 26 he ran his fleet into Cadiz harbor, maneuvered out of range of the batteries on the shore, sank a Spanish man-of-war, raided the transports and storeships, captured their cargoes, set all enemy vessels on fire, and departed unharmed. He anchored off Lisbon and challenged Santa Cruz to come out and fight. The Marquis refused, for his ships were not yet armed. Drake moved north to La Coruña and seized great stores collected there; then to the Azores, where he took a Spanish galleon. With it in tow he returned to England. Even the Spaniards marveled at his audacity and seamanship, and said that “were it not that he was a Lutheran, there was not the like man in the world.” 

   Philip patiently rebuilt his fleet. The Marquis of Santa Cruz died (January 1588); Philip replaced him with the Duke of Medina-Sidonia, a grandee with more pedigree than competence. When finally the Armada was complete, it numbered 130 vessels, averaging 445 tons; half the ships were cargo carriers, half were men-of-war; 8,050 sailors manned them, 19,000 soldiers sailed. Philip and his admirals thought of naval warfare in ancient terms—to grapple and board the enemy and fight man to man; the English plan was to sink the enemy’s ships, with their crowded crews, by broadside fire. Philip instructed his fleet not to seek out and attack the English squadrons, but to seize some English beachhead, cross to Flanders, and take on board the 30,000 troops that the Duke of Parma had ready there; so reinforced, the Spanish were to march on London. Meanwhile a letter composed by Cardinal Allen (April 1588) was smuggled into England, bidding the Catholics join the Spanish in deposing their “usurping, heretic, prostitute” Queen. To help restore Catholicism in England, hundreds of monks accompanied the Armada, under the vicar general of the Inquisition. A devout religious spirit moved the Spanish sailors and their masters; they sincerely believed they were on a sacred mission; prostitutes were sent away, profanity subsided, gambling ceased. On the morning when the fleet sailed from Lisbon (June 8, 1588), every man on board received the Eucharist, and all Spain prayed. 

   The winds favored Elizabeth; the Armada ran into a damaging storm; it took refuge in the harbor of La Coruña, healed its wounds, and set forth again (July 22). England awaited it in a feverish mixture of divided counsels, hurried preparations, and desperate resolve. Now the time had come for Elizabeth to spend the sums that she had saved through thirty years of skimping and deviltry. Her people, Catholic as well as Protestant, came manfully to her rescue; volunteer militia trained in the towns; London merchants financed regiments and, asked to fit out fifteen ships, provided thirty. For ten years now Hawkins had been building men-of-war for the Queen’s navy; Drake was now a vice-admiral. Privateers brought their own vessels to the fateful rendezvous. Early in July 1588 the full complement of eighty-two ships, under command of Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham, as Lord High Admiral of England, gathered at Plymouth to greet the advancing foe. 

   On July 29 the vanguard of the Armada was sighted in the mouth of the Channel. The defending fleet sailed out of Plymouth, and on the thirty-first the action began. The Spaniards waited for the English to come close enough for grappling; instead, the light English vessels—built to low lines and narrow beam—scurried around the heavy Spanish galleons, firing broadsides as they went. The Spanish decks were too high; their guns fired too far above the English vessels, doing only minor damage; the English boats ran beneath the fire, and their maneuverability and speed left the Spaniards helpless and confused. As night fell they fled before the wind, leaving one of their ships to be taken by Drake. A mutinous German gunner blew another up, reportedly, and the wreck fell into English hands. Luckily, both ships contained ammunition, which was soon transferred to the Queen’s fleet. On the third more ammunition came, but still the English had only enough for a day’s fighting. On the fourth, near the Isle of Wight, Howard led an attack; his flagship sailed into the center of the Armada, exchanging broadsides with every galleon that it passed; and the superior accuracy of the English fire broke the Spanish morale. “The enemy pursue me,” wrote Medina-Sidonia that night to the Duke of Parma; “they fire on me from morn till dark, but they will not grapple . . . There is no remedy, for they are swift and we are slow.” He begged Parma to send him ammunition and reinforcements, but Dutch ships blockaded Parma’s ports. 

   On the sixth the Armada anchored in Calais roads. On the seventh Drake set fire to eight small and dispensable vessels and placed them in the wind to sail amid the Spanish fleet. Fearing them, Medina-Sidonia ordered his ships to put out to sea. On the eighth Drake attacked them off the French coast at Gravelines, in the main action of the war. The Spaniards fought bravely, but with poor seamanship and gunnery. At noon Howard’s squadron came up, and the full English fleet poured such fire into the Armada that many of its ships were disabled and some were sunk; their wooden hulls, though three feet thick, were penetrated by the English shot; thousands of Spaniards were killed; blood could be seen flowing from the decks into the sea. At the close of that day the Armada had lost four thousand men; four thousand more were wounded, and the surviving vessels were with difficulty kept afloat. Seeing that his crews could bear no more, Medina-Sidonia gave orders to withdraw. On the ninth the wind carried the broken fleet into the North Sea. The English followed them as far north as the Firth of Forth; then, lacking food and ammunition, they returned to port. They had lost sixty men and not one ship. 

   For the remnants of the Armada there was no haven nearer than Spain itself. Scotland was hostile, and Irish ports were held by English troops. Desperately the injured ships and starving men made their way around the British Isles. The water was rough and the wind was wild; masts were shattered and sails were torn; day after day some vessel sank or was abandoned, dead men were dropped into the sea. Seventeen ships were wrecked on the rugged Irish shores; at Sligo alone 1,100 drowned Spaniards were washed up on the beach. Some of the crews made landings in Ireland and begged for food and drink; they were refused, and hundreds, too weak to fight, were massacred by the half-savage denizens of the coasts. Of the 130 vessels that had left Spain, 54 returned; of 27,000 men, 10,000, most of them wounded or sick. Philip, learning of the prolonged disaster day by day, shut himself up in his Escorial cell, and none dared speak to him. Sixtus V, pleading that no invasion of England had occurred, sent not one ducat to bankrupt Spain. 

   Elizabeth was as careful with ducats as the Pope. Wary of peculation in the navy, she demanded account of every shilling spent by navy and army before, during, and after the battle; Howard and Hawkins made up out of their own pockets whatever discrepancies they could not explain. Elizabeth, expecting a long war, had kept the crews and troops on short rations and low pay. Now a violent disease, akin to typhus, ran through the returning men; on some vessels half the crew died or were disabled; and Hawkins wondered what England’s fate would have been had the epidemic preceded the enemy. 

   The naval war continued till Philip’s death (1598). Drake took a fleet and fifteen thousand men to help the Portuguese in their revolt against Spain (1589); but the Portuguese hated Protestants more than Spaniards, the English drank themselves drunk on captured wine, and the expedition ended in failure and disgrace. Lord Thomas Howard led a fleet to the Azores to intercept the Spanish flota bringing silver and gold to Spain; but Philip’s new Armada put Howard’s ships to flight—except the Revenge, which, caught lagging behind the rest, fought fifteen Spanish ships heroically until overcome (1591). Drake and Hawkins made another sally to the West Indies (1595), but they quarreled and died on the way. In 1596 Elizabeth sent still another fleet to destroy ships in Spanish ports; at Cadiz it found nineteen men-of-war and thirty-six merchantmen; but these escaped to the open sea while Essex plundered the town. This expedition too was a failure, but it demonstrated again the English mastery of the Atlantic. 

   The defeat of the Armada affected almost everything in modern European civilization. It marked a decisive change in naval tactics; grappling and boarding gave way to cannonading from shipside and deck. The weakening of Spain helped the Dutch to win their independence, advanced Henri IV to the throne of France, and opened North America to English colonies. Protestantism was preserved and strengthened, Catholicism waned in England, and James VI of Scotland ceased to flirt with the popes. Had the Armada been more wisely built and led, Catholicism might have recovered England, the Guises might have prevailed in France, Holland might have succumbed; the great burst of pride and energy that raised up Shakespeare and Bacon as the symbols and fruit of a triumphant England might never have been; and the Elizabethan ecstasy would have had to meet the Spanish Inquisition. So wars determine theology and philosophy, and the ability to kill and destroy is a prerequisite for permission to live and build.





Though Cecil and Walsingham, Drake and Hawkins had been the immediate instruments of glory and victory, Elizabeth personified triumphant England, and at sixty she was at the top of her fame and power. Her face was a bit wrinkled, her hair was detachable, some teeth were missing and some were black, but in her awesome finery of lacy headdress, flying ruff, padded sleeves, and hoopskirt, all asparkle with encrusted gems, she stood proud and straight and undeniably a queen. Parliament grumbled at her royal ways, but submitted; old councilors offered advice with the timidity of young suitors; and young suitors fluent with adoration surrounded the throne. Leicester and Walsingham paid their debt to nature, the sea they had thought to rule would soon swallow Drake and Hawkins. Cecil—the “Atlas of this commonwealth,” Bacon called him was now old, and he creaked with gout; presently Elizabeth would nurse him in his final illness and feed him his last food with her own hand. She grew sad with these amputations, but she did not let them darken the splendor of her progresses or the vivacity of her court. 

   New faces shone about her, bringing her some vicarious youth. Christopher Hatton was so handsome that she made him Chancellor (1587). She waited nine years before accepting Burghley’s advice to make his sagacious hunchbacked son, Robert Cecil, her Secretary of State. She relished more the fine features and rattling sword of Walter Raleigh, and did not mind his private theological doubts; she had some of her own. 

   Raleigh was almost the complete Elizabethan man: gentleman, soldier, mariner, adventurer, poet, philosopher, orator, historian, martyr; here was the uomo universale of Renaissance dreams, who touched genius at every point, but never let the part become the whole. Born in Devonshire in 1552, entered at Oxford in 1568, he fled from books into life and joined a gallant group of pedigreed volunteers who crossed to France to fight for the Huguenots. Six years in those wars may have taught him some of the unscrupulous violence of action and reckless audacity of speech that molded his later fate. Back in England (1575), he forced himself to study law, but in 1578 he went off again as a volunteer to help the Dutch against Spain. Two years later he was in Ireland as a captain in the army that put down Desmond’s rebellion, and he played no hesitant part in the Smerwick massacre. Elizabeth rewarded him with twelve thousand acres in Ireland and favor at her court. Pleased with his figure, his compliments, (the tale of his coat in the mud beneath her feet is a legend) and his wit, she listened with less than her customary skepticism to his proposal for English colonies in America; she gave him a charter, and in 1584 he sent out, but did not accompany, the first of several expeditions that tried—and failed—to establish a settlement in Virginia; only the name survived, as a lasting memorial to the Queen’s inaccessibility. Elizabeth Throckmorton, a maid of honor, proved more approachable; she accepted Raleigh as her lover, and secretly married him (1593). As no member of the court might marry without the Queen’s consent, the ardent couple received an unexpected honeymoon in the Tower. Raleigh earned release—with banishment from the court—by writing to Burghley a letter describing the Queen as an amalgam of all the perfections in history. 

   He retired to his Sherborne estate, planned voyages and discoveries, played with atheism, and wrote poetry whose every line had a characteristic tang and sting. But two years of quiet exhausted his stability. With the help of Lord Admiral Howard and Robert Cecil, he fitted out five vessels and headed for South America, seeking El Dorado—a fabled land of golden palaces, rivers running gold, and Amazons with undiminished charms. He sailed a hundred and sixty kilometers up the Orinoco, but found no female warriors and no gold. Baffled by rapids and falls, he returned to England empty-handed; but he told how the American natives had marveled at the beauty of the Queen when he showed them her portrait; and soon he was readmitted to the court. His eloquent account The Discovery of the Large, Rich, and Beautiful Empire of Guiana reaffirmed his faith that “the sun covereth not so much riches in any part of the world” as the region of the Orinoco. Tirelessly he preached the desirability of getting America’s wealth out of Spanish into English hands; and he phrased the doctrine of sea power perfectly: “Whoever commands the sea commands the trade; Whoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself.” 

   In 1596 he joined the expedition to Cadiz, fought as vigorously as he wrote, and received a wound in the leg. The Queen now “used him graciously” and made him captain of the guard. In 1597 he commanded part of the fleet that Essex led to the Azores. Separated from the rest by a storm, Raleigh’s squadron encountered and defeated the enemy. Essex never forgave him for pre-empting victory. 

   Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, surpassed even Raleigh in fascination. He had Walter’s ambition and verve and pride, a little more of his hot temper, a little less of his wit, much more of generosity and noblesse oblige. He was a man of action enamored of intellect—victor in jousts and on the athletic field, distinguished for bravery and audacity in war, yet also the helpful and appreciative friend of poets and philosophers. When his mother became Leicester’s second wife, Leicester advanced him at court to offset Raleigh’s ingratiating charm. The Queen, fifty-three, fell maternally in love with the high-strung, handsome lad of twenty (1587); here was a son to console her childlessness. They talked, rode, heard music, played cards together, and “my Lord,” said a gossip, “cometh not to his own lodging till birds sing in the morning.” Her aging heart suffered when he secretly married Philip Sidney’s widow; but she soon forgave him, and by 1593 he was a member of the Privy Council. However, he was poorly fitted for court life or statesmanship; “he carried his love and hate always on his face,” said his servant Cuffe, “and knew not how to hide them.” He made enemies of Raleigh, William Cecil, Robert Cecil, finally of the ungrateful Bacon and the reluctant Queen. 

   Francis Bacon, who was destined to have more influence on European thought than any other Elizabethan, had been born (1561) in the very aura of the court, at York House, official residence of the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, who was his father, Sir Nicholas; Elizabeth called the boy “the young Lord Keeper.” His frail constitution drove him from sports to studies; his agile intellect grasped knowledge hungrily; soon his erudition was among the wonders of those “spacious times.” After three years at Cambridge he was sent to France with the English ambassador to let him learn the ways of state. While he was there his father unexpectedly died (1579) before buying an estate that he had intended for Francis, who was a younger son; and the youth, suddenly reduced to meager means, returned to London to study law at Gray’s Inn. Being a nephew of William Cecil, he appealed to him for some political place; after four years of waiting, he sent him a whimsical reminder that “the objection of my years will wear away with the length of my suit.” Somehow, in that year 1584, he was elected to Parliament, though still but twenty-three. He distinguished himself by favoring more toleration of the Puritans (his mother was one). The Queen ignored his arguments, but he restated them bravely in a privately circulated Advertisement Touching the Controversies of the Church of England (1589). He proposed that no man should be molested for his religious faith who promised to defend England against any foreign power—including the papacy—that threatened England’s full sovereignty and freedom. Elizabeth and Cecil thought the young philosopher a bit forward; and in truth he was ahead of his times. 

   Essex relished the keenness of Bacon’s mind and invited his advice. The young sage counseled the young noble to seem, if he could not be, modest; to moderate his expenditures; to seek civil rather than military office, since setbacks in politics could be sooner redeemed than defeats in war; and to regard his popularity with the populace as a danger with the Queen. Bacon hoped that Essex would mature into a statesman and give his mentor some opportunity to rise. In 1592 he appealed again to Cecil in famous lines:


   I wax now somewhat ancient; one-and-thirty years is a great deal of sand in the hourglass . . . The meanness of my estate doth somewhat move me . . . I confess that I have as vast contemplative ends as I have moderate civil ends: for I have taken all knowledge to be my province . . . This, whether it be curiosity, or vainglory, or nature . . . is so fixed in my mind as it cannot be removed.


   When Essex importuned the Cecils and Elizabeth to give Bacon the vacant office of attorney general, his appeals were in vain; Edward Coke, older and technically more fit, was chosen instead. Essex took the blame handsomely, and gave Bacon an estate at Twickenham with £1,800. Before Bacon could use this he suffered a brief and genteel imprisonment for debt. In 1597 he was appointed to the “Learned Council” of lawyers who advised the Privy Council. 

   Despite Bacon’s advice, Essex joined the war party, and planned to make himself head of the army. His dashing bravery at Cadiz made him too popular for the Council’s taste; failure at the Azores and his undiminished pride, extravagance, and sharp tongue alienated the court and irritated the Queen. When she flatly rejected his recommendation of Sir George Carew for office in Ireland, he turned his back on her with a gesture of contempt. Furious, she boxed his ears and cried, “Go to the Devil!” He grasped his sword and shouted at her, “This is an outrage that I will not put up with. I would not have borne it from your father’s hands.” He rushed in anger from the room, and all the court expected him to be clapped into the Tower (1598). Elizabeth did nothing. On the contrary—or was it to get rid of him?—a few months later she appointed him Lord Deputy for Ireland. 

   Bacon had cautioned him not to seek that ungrateful task of countering a faith by force; but Essex wanted an army. On April 6, 1599, he left for Dublin amid the acclamations of the populace, the misgivings of his friends, and the satisfaction of his enemies. Six months later, having failed in his mission, he hurried back to England without permission of the Queen, rushed unannounced into her dressing room, and tried to explain his actions in Ireland. She listened to him with patient wrath, and had him committed to the custody of the Lord Keeper at York House until the charges against him could be heard.  

   The people of London murmured, for they were ignorant of his failure and remembered his victories. The Privy Council ordered a semipublic trial, and commissioned Bacon—as a member of the Learned Council and as a lawyer pledged to defend the Queen—to draw up a statement of the charges. He asked to be excused; they insisted; he consented. The indictment he formulated was moderate; Essex acknowledged its truth and offered humble submission. He was suspended from his offices and was told to remain in his own home till the Queen should be pleased to free him (June 15, 1600). Bacon pleaded for him, and on September 5 Essex was restored to liberty. 

   Now in his own Essex House, he continued his search for power. One of his intimates was Shakespeare’s patron, Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton; him Essex sent to Ireland to propose that Mountjoy, now Lord Deputy there, should return to England with the English army and help Essex take control of the government. Mountjoy refused. Early in 1601 Essex wrote to James VI of Scotland, asking his aid and promising to support him as successor to Elizabeth; James sent him a letter of encouragement. Wild rumors spread through the excited capital: that Robert Cecil was planning to make the Spanish Infanta queen of England; that Essex was to be immured in the Tower; that Raleigh had vowed to kill him. Perhaps to force Essex to show his hand, the younger Cecil induced the Queen to send Essex a message requiring him to attend the Council. His friends warned him that this was a ruse to seize him. One friend, Sir Gilly Merrick, paid the Chamberlain’s company to stage, that evening in Southwark, Shakespeare’s Richard II, showing a sovereign justly deposed. 

   The next morning (February 17, 1601) some three hundred supporters of Essex, fervent and armed, gathered in the courtyard of his home. When the Lord Keeper and three other dignitaries came to ask the cause of this illegal assembly, the crowd locked them up and swept the hesitant Earl on with them to London and revolution. He had hoped that the people would rise to his cause, but the preachers bade them stay indoors, and they obeyed. The forces of the government were on guard and routed the rebels. Essex was captured and lodged in the Tower. 

   He was quickly brought to trial on a charge of treason. The Council bade Bacon help Coke in preparing the government’s case. His refusal would have ruined his political career; his consent ruined his posthumous reputation. When Coke faltered in presenting the indictment, Bacon rose and stated the matter with convincing, convicting clarity. Essex confessed his guilt and named his accomplices. Five of these were arrested and beheaded. Southampton was sentenced to life imprisonment; James I later released him. Legend told how Essex sent the Queen a ring once given him by her with a promise to come to his aid if he should ever return it in his hour of need. If sent, it did not reach her. On March 7, 1601, aged thirty-five, Essex went gallantly to the fate that was the seal of his character. Raleigh, his enemy, wept when the blow fell. For a year the Tower displayed the severed and decaying head. 




The sight of that head, or the knowledge that it was staring down upon her night and day, must have shared in the somber mood of Elizabeth’s final years. She sat alone for hours in silent, pensive melancholy. She maintained the amusements of her court and made at times a brave pretense of gaiety, but her health was gone and her heart was dead. England had ceased to love her; it felt that she had outlived herself and should make room for younger royalty. The last of her Parliaments rebelled more vigorously than any before against her infringement of parliamentary freedom, her persecution of Puritans, her rising demands for funds, her gifts of trade monopolies to her favorites. To everyone’s surprise, the Queen yielded on the last point and promised to end the abuse. All the members of the Commons went to thank her, and they knelt as she gave what proved to be her last address to them, her wistful “Golden Speech”

(November 30, 1601):


   There is no jewel, be it of never so rich a price, which I prefer before . . . your love. For I do esteem it more than any treasure . . . And though God has raised us high, yet this I count the glory of my crown, that I have reigned with your loves . . .


She bade them rise and then continued:


   To be a king and wear a crown is a thing more glorious to them that see it than it is pleasant to them that bear it . . . For my own part, were it not for conscience’ sake to discharge the duty that God hath laid upon me, and to maintain His glory, and keep you in safety, in mine own disposition I should be willing to resign the place I hold to any other, and glad to be freed of the glory with the labors; for it is not my desire to live or to reign longer than my life and reign shall be for your good. And though you have had and may have many mightier and wiser princes sitting in this seat, yet you never had, nor shall have, any love you better.


   She had postponed as long as she could the question of a successor, for while the Queen of Scots lived, as legal heir to her throne, Elizabeth could not reconcile herself to letting Mary undo the Protestant settlement. Now that Mary was dead, and Mary’s son, James VI of Scotland, was heir apparent, it was some comfort to know that, however vacillating and devious, he was Protestant. She knew that Robert Cecil and others of her court were secretly negotiating with James to ease his accession and feather their nests, and were counting the days when she should die. 

   Rumors moved across Europe that she was dying of cancer. But she was dying of too much life. Her frame could not bear any more the joys and sorrows, the burdens and blows of the relentless years. When her godson, Sir John Harington, tried to amuse her with witty verses, she sent him off, saying, “When thou dost feel creeping time at thy gate, these fooleries will please thee less.” In March 1603, having exposed herself too boldly to the winter cold, she caught a fever. Through three weeks it consumed her. She spent them mostly in a chair or reclining on cushions. She would have no doctors, but she asked for music, and some players came. Finally she was persuaded to take to her bed. Archbishop Whitgift expressed a hope for her longer life; she rebuked him. He knelt beside the bed and prayed; when he thought it was enough, he tried to rise, but she bade him continue; and again, when “the old man’s knees were weary,” she motioned to him to pray some more. He was released only when, late at night, she fell asleep. She never woke. The next day, April 3, John Manningham wrote in his diary: “This morning, about three o’clock, her majesty departed this life, mildly like a lamb, easily like a ripe apple from a tree.” So it seemed. 

   England, which had long awaited her passing, felt the blow nevertheless. Many men realized that a great age had ended, a powerful hand had fallen from the helm, and some, like Shakespeare, feared a chaotic interlude. Bacon thought her such a great queen that


   if Plutarch were now alive to write lives by parallels, it would trouble him . . . to find for her a parallel among women. This lady was endued with learning in her sex singular, and rare even among masculine princes . . . As for her government . . . this part of the island never had forty-five years of better times; and yet not through the calmness of the season, but through the wisdom of her regiment. For if there be considered, of the one side, the truth of religion established, the constant peace and security; the good administration of justice; the temperate use of the prerogative . . . the flourishing state of learning . . . and if there be considered, on the other side, the differences of religion, the troubles of neighbor countries, the ambition of Spain, and opposition of Rome; and then that she was solitary and of herself: these things I say considered, as I could not have chosen an[other] instance so recent and so proper, so I suppose I could not have chosen one more remarkable or eminent . . . concerning the conjunction of learning in the prince with felicity in the people.  


   Looking back now in the hindsight of time, we should shade the portrait a little, noting and forgiving the faults of the incomparable Queen. She was no saint or sage, but a woman of temper and passion, lustily in love with life. The “truth of religion” was not quite established, and nor all her subjects could, as Shakespeare may have thought, “eat in safety, under their own vines, what they planted, and sing the merry songs of peace.” The wisdom of her rule was partly that of her aides. The vacillations of her mind proved often fortunate, perhaps by the chance of change; sometimes they brought such weakness of policy that the internal troubles of her enemies had to help her to survive. But survive she did, and she prospered, by fair means or devious. She freed Scotland from the French and bound it with England; she enabled Henry of Navarre to balance his Mass in Paris with the Edict of Nantes; she found England bankrupt and despised, and left it rich and powerful; and the sinews of learning and literature grew strong in the wealth of her people. She continued the despotism of her father, but moderated it with humanity and charm. Denied husband and child, she mothered England, loved it devotedly, and used herself up in serving it. She was the greatest ruler that England has ever known.









      18.   Louis XIV (reigned 1643–1715)




Why is it that from 1643 France exercised an almost hypnotic dominance over Western Europe, in politics till 1763, in language, literature, and art till 1815? Not since Augustus had any monarchy been so adorned with great writers, painters, sculptors, and architects, or so widely admired and imitated in manners, fashions, ideas, and arts, as the government of Louis XIV from 1643 to 1715. Foreigners came to Paris as to a finishing school for all graces of body and mind. Thousands of Italians, Germans, even Englishmen, preferred Paris to their native lands. 

   One reason for French domination was manpower. France had a population of 20,000,000 in 1660, while Spain and England had 5,000,000 each, Italy 6,000,000, the Dutch Republic 2,000,000. The Holy Roman Holy Roman Empire, which included Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary, had some 21,000,000; but it was an empire only in name, recently impoverished by the Thirty Years’ War, and divided into over four hundred jealously “sovereign” states, nearly all small and weak, each with its own ruler, army, currency, and laws, and none with more than 2,000,000 inhabitants. France, after 1660, was a geographically compact nation, united under one strong central government; so Richelieu’s painful midwifery had helped the birth of Ie grand siècle. 

   In the long duel between the Hapsburgs and the French kings the Bourbons won where the Valois had lost. Decade after decade some portion of the Holy Roman Empire fell to France, and Hapsburg Spain surrendered her pride and leadership at Rocroi (1643) and the Peace of the Pyrenees (1659). Thereafter the French state was the strongest in Christendom, confident in its natural resources, the skills and loyalty of its people, the strategy of its generals, the destiny of its King. It was of some moment, too, that this youth was to reign for almost three quarters of a century, adding unity of government and policy to unity of race and soil. Now for fifty years France would support and import geniuses in science and letters, build colossal palaces, equip immense armies, frighten and inspire half the world. It was to be a picture of almost unprecedented glory, painted in all the forms and colors of art, and in the blood of men. 

   When Louis XIV, aged five, came to the throne (1643), France was not yet unified, and another cardinal had to complete the work of Richelieu. In Italy Jules Mazarin had been Guilio Mazarini, born in the Abruzzi of poor Sicilian parentage, educated by the Jesuits in Rome, serving the popes as a diplomatic agent, and suddenly catching the eye of Europe by negotiating, at a critical moment, an end to the Mantuan War (1630). Sent as papal nuncio to Paris, he tied his fortunes to the commanding genius of Richelieu, who rewarded his fidelity with a cardinal’s hat. When Richelieu heard the summons of death, he “assured the King that he knew of no one more capable than Mazarin of filling his place.” Louis XIII took the advice. 

   On the death of this obedient sovereign (1643), Mazarin remained in the background while the Queen Mother, Anne of Austria, took the regency for her son, and Louis de Condé and Gaston d’Orléans, princes of the blood, maneuvered to be the power behind the throne. They never forgave her for passing them by and calling the handsome Italian, now forty-one, to be her chief minister. On the day after his appointment Paris hailed the news of the epochal victory at Rocroi; Mazarin’s rule began auspiciously, and was buttressed by many successes in diplomacy and war. His choice of policies, generals, and negotiators proved his intelligence. It was under his guidance that the Peace of Westphalia (1648) confirmed to France the supremacy that her arms had won. 

   Not dowered with Richelieu’s unity and strength of will, Mazarin had to rely on patience, craft, and charm. He had the disadvantage of foreign birth. He assured France that though his tongue was Italian his heart was French, but he was never quite believed; his head was Italian, and his heart was his own. We do not know how much of it he gave to the Queen; he served her and his ambition zealously, and won her affection, perhaps her love. He knew that his safety and hers lay in continuing Richelieu’s policy of building up the power of the monarchy against the feudal lords. To feather his nest in the event of a fall, he accumulated wealth with all the greed of poverty remembered or feared; and France, which was beginning to admire measure, condemned him as a parvenu. It resented his Italian accent, his costly relatives, especially his nieces, whose beauty demanded a lavish equipage. Cardinal de Retz, himself no Grandison of virtue, scorned him as “a sordid soul . . . a complete trickster . . . a villainous heart;” but de Retz; defeated by Mazarin, was in no condition to be just. If the wily minister gathered riches without dignity, he spent them with taste, filling his rooms with books and art that he later bequeathed to France. He had a gay and courtly way that pleased the ladies and baffled the men. The judicious Mme. de Motteville described him as “full of gentleness, and far removed from the severity of” Richelieu. He readily pardoned opposition, and readily forgot benefits. All agreed that he labored tirelessly in the government of France, but even his industry could offend, for sometimes he left titled visitors waiting fretfully in his anterooms. He thought everybody corruptible, and was insensitive to integrity. His personal morals were proper enough if we set aside the gossip that he made a mistress of his Queen. Many persons at the court were shocked by his skeptical wit about religion, for such irreverence was not yet fashionable; they attributed his religious toleration to lack of religious belief. One of his first acts was to confirm the Edict of Nantes. He allowed the Huguenots to hold their synods in peace; and during his ministry no Frenchman suffered religious persecution by the central government. 

   It astonishes how long he held his power despite his unpopularity. The peasants hated him because they were bitterly burdened by the taxes with which he waged war. The merchants hated him because his imposts injured commerce. The nobles hated him because he did not agree with them about the virtues of feudalism. The parlements hated him because he set himself and the King above the law. The Queen heightened his unpopularity by forbidding criticism of his rule. She supported him because she found herself challenged by two groups that saw in the infancy of the King and the supposed weakness of the woman an opening to power: the nobles who hoped to restore their former feudal privileges at the expense of the monarchy, and the parlements that aspired to make the government an oligarchy of lawyers. Against these two forcesthe old aristocracy of the sword (noblesse d’épée) and the younger aristocracy of magistrates (noblesse de robe)—Anne sought a shield in the subtle, flexible pertinacity of Mazarin. His enemies made two violent attempts to unseat him and govern her; and these constitute the Fronde. The Parlement of Paris launched the first Fronde (1648-49), seeking to duplicate in France the movement that in England had just raised Parliament above the king as the source and judge of law. The Paris Parlement was, below the king, the supreme court of France; and by tradition no law or tax received public acceptance until these magistrates (nearly all lawyers) had registered the law or the tax. Richelieu had reduced or ignored these powers; now the Parlement was resolved to assert them. It felt that the time had come to make the French monarchy constitutional, subject to the national will as expressed by some representative assembly. The twelve parlements of France, however, were not legislative chambers chosen by the nation, like the Parliament of England; they were judiciary and administrative bodies whose members inherited their seats or magistracies from their fathers, or were appointed by the king. The success of the first Fronde would have made the French government an aristocracy of lawyers. The States-General, composed of delegates from the three états (states or classes) —nobles, clergy, and the remainder of the people—could have been developed into a representative assembly checking the monarchy; but the States-General could be summoned only by the king; no king had summoned it since 1614 none would summon it till 1789; hence the Revolution. 

   The Parlement of Paris became indirectly and momentarily representative when its members dared to speak for the nation. So Omer Talon, early in 1648, denounced the taxes that under Richelieu and Mazarin had impoverished the people:


   For ten years France has been reduced to ruin. The peasantry must sleep upon straw, for their effects have been sold to pay taxes. To enable certain people to live in luxury in Paris, countless innocent persons must survive on the meanest bread . . . owning nothing but their souls—and that merely because nobody has devised a means to put them up for sale.


On July 12 the Parlement, meeting in the Palais de Justice with other courts of Paris, addressed to the King and his mother several demands that must have seemed to them revolutionary. All personal taxes were to be reduced by one quarter; no new taxes were to be levied without the freely voted consent of the Parlement; the royal commissioners (intendants), who had been ruling the provinces over the heads of local governors and magistrates, were to be dismissed; and no person was to be kept in prison beyond twenty-four hours without being brought before the proper judges. If these demands had been met they would have made the French government a constitutional monarchy, and would have put France abreast of England in political development. 

   The Queen Mother had stronger roots in the past than vision of the future. She had never experienced any other form of government than absolute monarchy; such a surrender of royal power as was now proposed must, she felt, irreparably crack the established mold of rule, undermine its psychological support in tradition and custom, and bring it down, sooner or later, into the chaos of the sovereign crowd. And what a disgrace it would be to transmit to her son anything less than the power that his father (or Richelieu) had enjoyed! This would be a dereliction of duty, and condemn her at the bar of history. Mazarin agreed with her, seeing his own evaporation in these insolent demands from the pedants of the law. On August 26 he ordered the arrest of Pierre Broussel and other leaders of Parlement. But the aged Broussel had become popular with his motto, Pas d’impostes—“No taxes.” A mob gathered before the Palais Royal and clamored for his release. The slings or catapults that many in the crowd carried earned them the name frondeurs, throwers, and gave a name to the revolt. Jean François Paul de Gondi—Iater de Retz—coadjutor and prospective successor to the Archbishop of Paris, advised the Queen to release Broussel. When she refused he retired in anger and helped to rouse the people against the government. Meanwhile he pulled wires in an effort to obtain a cardinal’s hat, and attended to three mistresses. 

   On August 27 the members of Parlement, 160 in number, made their way to the royal palace through crowds and barricades. They were spurred on by cries of “Vive Ie roi! A mort Mazarin!” The cautious minister thought it time for discretion rather than valor; he advised the Queen to order Broussel’s release. She consented; then, furious at this concession to the crowd, she withdrew with the boy King to the suburb Rueil. Mazarin provisionally granted the demands of the Parlement, but dallied in their enforcement. The barricades remained in the streets; when the Queen ventured to return to Paris the crowd shouted its scorn at her, and she heard its jokes about her relations with Mazarin. On January 6, 1649, she again fled from the city, this time with the royal family and the court to St.-Germain, where silk slept on straw and the Queen pawned her jewels to buy food. The young King never forgave that crowd, never loved his capital. 

   On January 8 the Parlement, in full rebellion, issued a decree outlawing Mazarin, and urging all good Frenchmen to hunt him down as a criminal. Another decree ordered the seizure of all royal funds, and their use in the common defense. Many nobles saw in the revolt a chance to win the Parlement to the restoration of feudal privileges; perhaps also they feared that the uprising would get out of hand without pedigreed leadership. Great lords like the Ducs de Longueville, de Beaufort, and de Bouillon, even the Prince de Conti of royal Bourbon blood, joined the rebellion, and brought to it soldiers, funds, and romance. The Duchesse de Bouillon and the Duchesse de Longueville—beautiful despite smallpox—came with their children to live in the Hôtel de Ville as voluntary hostages guaranteeing the fidelity of their husbands to the Parlement and the people. While Paris became an armed camp, titled ladies danced in the City Hall, and the Duchesse de Longueville carried on a liaison with the Prince de Marsillac, who was not yet the Duc de La Rochefoucauld, and not yet cynical. On January 28 the Duchesse raised the morale of the revolt by giving birth to Marsillac’s son. Many Frondeurs bound themselves as chivalric servitors to highborn ladies, who bought their blood with a condescending smile. 

   The situation was saved for the Queen by a feud between the Prince de Conti and his older brother Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Condé—the “Great Condé” who had led French arms to victory at Rocroi and Lens. Turning up his powerful nose at the insurgence of lawyers and populace, he offered his services to Queen and King. Gladly she commissioned him to lead an army against rebellious Paris—against his brother, against his sister the Duchesse de Longueville—and take the royal family back in safety to the Palais-Royal. Condé gathered troops, laid siege to Paris, captured the fortified outpost of Charenton. The rebel nobles appealed for aid to Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. It was a mistake; the sentiment of patriotism was stronger in Parlement and people than the feeling of class. Most members of Parlement refused to annul the work and victories of Richelieu by restoring the Hapsburg ascendancy over France; and they began to see that they themselves were being used as pawns in an attempt to restore a feudalism that would again divide France into regions individually independent and collectively impotent. In a revulsion of humility they sent a deputation to the approaching Queen; they offered their submission, and protested that they had always loved her. She granted a general amnesty to all who would lay down their arms. Parlement dismissed its troops, and informed the people that obedience to the King was the order of the day. The barricades were removed; Anne, Louis, and Mazarin returned to the royal seat (August 28, 1649); the court reassembled, and the rebel nobles joined it as if nothing but a trifling unpleasantness had occurred. All was forgiven, nothing was forgotten. The first Fronde was ended. 

   There was a second. Condé felt that his services entitled him to subordinate Mazarin. They quarreled; Condé flirted with the discontented nobles; Mazarin, in his boldest moment, had Condé, Conti, and Longueville imprisoned at Vincennes (January 18, 1650). Mme. de Longueville rushed up to Normandy, raised rebellion there, passed on to the Belgium, and charmed Turenne into treason; the great general agreed to lead a Spanish army against Mazarin. “All parties,” said Voltaire, “came into collision with each other, made treaties, and betrayed each other in turn. . . . There was not a man who did not frequently change sides.” “We were ready to cut one another’s throats ten times every morning,” recalled de Retz; he himself was nearly killed by La Rochefoucauld. Everybody, however, professed loyalty to the King, who must have wondered what kind of monarchy this was that had fallen into pieces in his hands. 

   A royal force maneuvered Bordeaux into surrender; and Mazarin, playing Mars, led an army toward Flanders and defeated the invincible Turenne. Meanwhile de Retz, eager to replace the Queen’s minister and lover, persuaded the Parlement to renew its demand for the exile of Mazarin. Losing his nerve, the Cardinal ordered the release of the imprisoned princes (February 13, 1651), and then, fearing for his life, he fled to Brühl, near Cologne. Condé, hot for revenge against minister and Queen, brought his brother Conti, his sister Longueville, and the Ducs de Nemours and de La Rochefoucauld into a new alliance. In September they declared war, captured Bordeaux, and made it again a citadel of revolt. Condé signed an alliance with Spain, negotiated with Cromwell, and promised to establish a republic in France. 

   On September 8 Louis XIV, aged thirteen, announced that he was ending the regency of his mother, and was taking the government into his own hands. To appease the Parlement he confirmed Mazarin’s banishment; but in November, gaining courage, he recalled the minister, who came back to France at the head of an army. Gaston d’Orléans now played neutral, but Turenne came over to the royal cause. In March 1652, Louis sent Molé, keeper of the seals, to demand the allegiance of the city of Orléans. Its magistrates dispatched a message to Gaston that unless he or his daughter came to inspire the citizens to resist, they would deliver the city to the King. 

   At this point one of the most famous of France’s many famous women rode upon the scene, like another Joan rescuing Orléans. Anne Marie Louise d’Orléans had become a rebel in her childhood, when Richelieu exiled her father. Gaston, as brother of Louis XIII, was officially “Monsieur;” his wife, Marie de Bourbon, Duchesse de Montpensier, was the current “Madame;” their daughter was thereby “Mademoiselle;” and because she was strong and tall, she came to be called La Grande Mademoiselle de Montpensier. As the Montpensier fortune was immense, she grew up with the double pride of money and ancestry. “I am of a birth,” she said, “that does nothing that is not great and noble.” She aspired to marry Louis XIV, though he was her cousin; when she received no encouragement she nursed revolt. Hearing the appeal of her city, and seeing her father loath to commit himself, she won his consent to go in his place. She had long resented the limitations put upon her sex by custom; especially she recognized no reason why women should not be warriors. Now she arrayed herself in armor and helmet, gathered about her some highborn Amazons and a small force of soldiery, and led them gaily to Orléans. The magistrates refused to admit her, fearing the wrath of the King. She ordered some of her men to break a hole in the walls; through this she and two countesses entered, while the guardians napped or winked. Once within, her flaming oratory captured the citizens; Molé was sent away without his prize, and Orléans vowed fidelity to its new Maid. 

   The second Fronde reached its climax at the gates of Paris. Condé marched up from the south, defeated a royal army, and came within an ace of capturing King, Queen, and Cardinal, which would have been checkmate indeed. As his army neared Paris the populace, again Frondeurs, carried a shrine of the city’s patron St. Geneviève through the streets in processional prayer for the victory of Condé and the overthrow of Mazarin. La Grande Mademoiselle, hurrying up from Orléans to the Luxembourg Palace, where her father was still playing with pros and cons, begged him to support Condé; he refused. Turenne and the King’s army now approached, and met Condé’s forces outside the walls, near the Porte St.-Antoine (now the Place de la Bastille). Turenne was winning when Mademoiselle rushed into the Bastille and prodded its governor to turn its cannon upon the royal troops. Then, in the name of her absent father, she commanded the people within the walls to open the gates just long enough to let Condé’s army in and shut out the King’s (July 2, 1652). Mademoiselle was the heroine of the day. 

   Condé was master of Paris, but level heads were turning against him. He could not pay his troops; they began to desert, and the populace ran riot. On July 4 a mob attacked the City Hall, demanding that all supporters of Mazarin be given up to them; to indicate their temper they set fire to the building, and killed thirty citizens. Economic operations were disrupted; the food supply fell into chaos; every second family in Paris feared starvation. The propertied classes began to wonder whether royal autocracy, or even government by Mazarin, was not better than mob rule. Mazarin helped by going into voluntary exile, leaving the Frondeurs without a unifying cause. De Retz, having obtained his coveted red hat, thought it time to consolidate his gains, and now used his influence to encourage loyalty to the King. 

   On October 21 the royal family re-entered Paris peacefully. The sight of the young monarch, fourteen, handsome, and brave, charmed the Parisians; the streets resounded with “Vive Ie roi!” Almost overnight public agitation subsided, and order was restored, not by force but by the aura of royalty, the prestige of legitimacy, the half-unconscious belief of the people in the divine right of kings. By February 6, 1653, Louis felt strong enough to recall Mazarin again, and to re-establish him in all his former powers. The second Fronde was over. 

   Condé fled to Bordeaux, Parlement submitted gravely, the rebel nobles retired to their châteaux. Mme. de Longueville, no longer lovely, sought solace among the nuns of Port-Royal. La Grande Mademoiselle was banished to one of her estates, where she ate her heart out recalling the remark ascribed to Mazarin, that her cannonade from the Bastille had killed her husband—i.e. ended her chance of marrying the King. At the age of forty she fell in love with Antoine de Caumont, Comte de Lauzun, who was much younger and shorter; the King refused permission for the marriage; when they proposed to marry nevertheless, Louis imprisoned him for ten years (1670-80). Mademoiselle remained bravely loyal to him through all that time; when he was released she married him, and she lived in turmoil with him till her death (1693). De Retz was arrested, escaped, was pardoned, served the King as a diplomat in Rome, retired to a corner in Lorraine, and composed his memoirs, remarkable for their objective analysis of character, including his own:


   I did not act the devotee, because I could not be sure how long I should be able to play the counterfeit. . . . Finding I could not live without some amorous intrigue, I managed an amour with Mme. de Pommereux, a young coquette, who had so many sparks, not only in her house but at her devotions, that the apparent business of others was a cover for mine. . . . I came to a resolve to go on in my sins . . . but I was fully determined to discharge all the duties of my [religious] profession faithfully, and exert my utmost to save other souls, though I took no care of my own.


   As for Mazarin, he had landed safely on his feet, and was again master of the realm, under a King still willing to learn. To the scandal of France, the minister arranged a treaty with Protestant England and regicide Cromwell (1657), who sent six thousand troops to help fight Condé and the Spanish; together the French and the English won the “Battle of the Dunes” (June 13, 1658). Ten days later the Spanish surrendered Dunkirk; Louis entered it in state, and then, pursuant to the treaty, gave it to England. Exhausted in money and men, Spain signed with France the Peace of the Pyrenees (November 7, 1659), ending twenty-three years of one war and establishing the basis of another. Spain ceded Roussillon, Artois, Gravelines, and Thionville to France, and abandoned all claim to Alsace. Philip IV gave his daughter María Teresa in marriage to Louis XIV, on terms that later involved all Western Europe in the War of the Spanish Succession: he promised to send her a dowry of 500,000 crowns within eighteen months, but exacted from her and Louis a renunciation of her rights to succeed to the Spanish throne. The Spanish King made the pardon of Condé a condition of the Peace. Louis did not merely forgive the impetuous Prince, he restored him to all his titles and estates, and welcomed him to his court. 

   The Peace of the Pyrenees marked the fulfillment of Richelieu’s program—the reduction of the Hapsburg power, and the replacement of Spain by France as the dominant nation in Europe. Mazarin was given the credit for carrying this policy through triumphantly; though few men liked him, they recognized him as one of the ablest ministers in French history. But France, which so soon forgave Condé’s treason, never forgave Mazarin’s greed. Amid the destitution of the people he amassed a fortune reckoned by Voltaire at 200,000,000 francs. He deflected military appropriations into his personal coffers, sold crown offices for his own benefit, lent money to the King at a high rate of interest, and gave one of his nieces a necklace which is still among the most costly pieces of jewelry in the world. 

   Dying, he advised Louis to be his own chief minister, and never to leave major matters of policy to any of his aides. After his death (March 9, 1661), the hiding place of his hoard was revealed to the King by Colbert. Louis confiscated it to the general satisfaction, and became the richest monarch of his time. The wits of Paris acclaimed as a public benefactor Mazarin’s physician Guénot: “Make way for his honor! It is the good doctor who killed the Cardinal.”




The most famous of French kings was only one-quarter French. He was half Spanish by his mother, Anne of Austria; he was one-quarter Italian by his grandmother Marie de Médicis. He took readily to Italian art and love, afterward to Spanish piety and pride; in his later years he resembled his maternal grandfather, Philip III of Spain, far more than his paternal grandfather, Henri IV of France. 

   At birth (September 5, 1638) he was called Dieudonné, God-given; perhaps the French could not believe that Louis XIII had really achieved parentage without divine assistance. The estrangement between father and mother, the father’s early death, and the prolonged disorders of the Fronde hurt the boy’s development. Amid the struggles of Anne and Mazarin to maintain themselves in power Louis was often neglected; at times, in those un-royal days, he knew poverty in shabby dress and stinted food. No one seemed to bother about his education; and when tutors took him in hand their most earnest endeavor was to convince him that all France was his patrimony, which he would rule by divine right, with no responsibility except to God. His mother found time to train him in Catholic doctrine and devotion, which would return to him in force when passion was spent and glory had worn thin. Saint-Simon assures us that Louis “was scarcely taught to read or write, and remained so ignorant that the most familiar historical and other facts were utterly unknown to him”—but this is probably one of the Duke’s furious exaggerations. Certainly Louis showed little taste for books, though his patronage of authors, and his friendship with Molière, Boileau, and Racine suggest a sincere appreciation of literature. Later he regretted that he had come so tardily to the study of history. “The knowledge of the great events produced in the world through many centuries, and digested by solid and active minds,” he wrote, “will serve to fortify the reason in all important deliberations.” His mother labored to form in him not merely good manners but a sense of honor and chivalry, and much of this remained in him, sullied with a reckless will to power. He was a serious and submissive youth, apparently too good for government, but Mazarin declared that Louis “has in him the stuff to make four kings and an honorable man.” 

   On September 7, 1651, John Evelyn, from the Paris apartment of Thomas Hobbes, watched the procession that escorted the boy monarch, now thirteen, to the ceremony that was to mark the end of his minority. “A young Apollo,” the Englishman described him. “He went almost the whole way with his hat in hand, saluting the ladies and acclamators who filled the windows with their beauty, and the air with Vive Ie Roi!” Louis might then have taken over full authority from Mazarin, but he respected his minister’s suave resourcefulness, and allowed him to hold the reins for nine years more. Nevertheless, when the Cardinal died he confessed, “I do not know what I should have done if he had lived much longer.” After Mazarin’s death the heads of the departments came to Louis and asked to whom henceforth they should address themselves for instructions. He answered, with decisive simplicity, “To me.” From that day (March 9, 1661) till September 1, 1715, he governed France. The people wept with joy that now, for the first time in half a century, they had a functioning king. 

   They gloried in his good looks. Seeing him in 1660, Jean de La Fontaine, a man not easily deceived, exclaimed: “Do you think that the world has many kings of figure so beautiful, of appearance so fine? I do not think so, and when I see him I imagine I see Grandeur herself in person.” He was only one meter sixty-five centimeters tall, but authority made him seem taller. Well built, robust, a good horseman and good dancer, a skillful jouster and fascinating raconteur, he had just the combination to turn a woman’s head and unlock her heart. Saint-Simon, who disliked him, wrote: “Had he been just a private individual, he would have created the same havoc with his love affairs.” And this Duke (who could never forgive Louis for not letting dukes rule), acknowledged the royal courtesy that now became a school to the court, through the court to France, and through France to Europe:


   Never did man give with better grace than Louis XIV, or augment so much in this way the value of his benefits. . . . Never did disobliging words escape him; and if he had to blame, to reprimand, or to correct, which was rare, it was nearly always with goodness, never, except on one occasion . . . , with anger or severity. Never was a man so naturally polite. . . . Towards women his politeness was without parallel. Never did he pass the humblest petticoat without raising his hat, even to chambermaids whom he knew to be such. . . . If he accosted ladies he did not cover himself until he had quitted them.


   His mind was not as good as his manners. He almost matched Napoleon in his penetrating judgment of men, but he fell far short of Caesar’s philosophical intellect, or Augustus’ humane and farseeing statesmanship. “He had nothing more than good sense,” said Sainte-Beuve, “but he had a great deal of it,” and perhaps that is better than intellect. Hear again Saint-Simon: “He was by disposition prudent, moderate, discreet, the master of his movements and his tongue.” “He had a soul greater than his mind,” said Montesquieu, and a power of attention and will that in his heyday made up for the limitation of his ideas. We know his defects chiefly from the second period (1683-1715) of his reign, when bigotry had narrowed him, and success and flattery had spoiled him. Then we shall find him as vain as an actor and as proud as a monument—though the artists who portrayed him may have put some of this pride on, and some may have been due to his conception of his office. If he “acted the part” of Le Grand Monarque, he may have thought this necessary to the technique of rule and the support of order; there had to be a center of authority, and this authority had to be propped up with pomp and ceremony. “It seems to me,” he told his son, “that we should be at once humble for ourselves and proud for the place we hold.” But he rarely achieved humility—perhaps once, when he took no offense at Boileau’s correcting him on a point of literary taste. In his memoirs he contemplated his own virtues with great equanimity. The chief of these, he judged, was his love of glory; he “preferred to all things,” he said, “and to life itself, a lofty reputation.” This love of glory became his nemesis because of its excess. “The ardor that we feel for la gloire,” he wrote, “is not one of those feeble passions that cool with possession. Her favors, which can never be obtained except with effort, never cause disgust, and he who can refrain from longing for fresh ones is unworthy of all those he has received.” 

   Until his love of glory ruined his character and his country, he had his share of estimable qualities. His justice, lenience, generosity, and self-control impressed his court. “In this respect,” said Mme. de Motteville, who saw him almost daily in this period, “all preceding reigns . . . must yield precedence to the happy beginning of this one.” Those near him noted the fidelity with which, despite a multitude of affairs, he visited his mother’s apartments several times each day; later they saw his tenderness for his children, his solicitude for their health and rearing—no matter who their mother had been. He had more sympathy for individuals than for nations; he could make war upon the inoffensive Dutch, and order the devastation of the Palatinate, but he grieved at the death of the Dutch Admiral de Ruyter, who had inflicted defeats upon the French navy; and his pity for the dethroned queen and son of James II cost him the worst of his wars. 

   He seems seriously to have believed that he was ordained by God to govern France, and with absolute power. He could of course quote Scripture to his purpose, and Bossuet was happy to show him that both the Old and the New Testament upheld the divine right of kings. The memoirs (the Notes pour servir aux Mémoires, begun in 1661, were continued at intervals till 1679, when he added Réfiexions sur Ie métier de roiThoughts on the Business of Being a King. Despite their theory of absolutism they contain much good sense, and make the treatises of philosophers on this subject seem jejune. They were apparently dictated to secretaries, who tidied them up into literary form. They are as well worth reading as anything in the literature of the age), which he prepared for the guidance of his son informed him that “God appoints kings the sole guardians of the public weal,” and that they “are God’s vicars here below.” For the proper exercise of their divine functions they need unlimited authority; hence they should have “full and free liberty to dispose of all property, whether in the hands of the clergy or the laity.” He did not say, “L’état, c’est moi,” but he believed it in all simplicity. The people do not appear to have resented these assumptions, which Henri IV had made popular in reaction against social chaos; they even looked up to this royal youth with religious devotion, and took a collective pride in his magnificence and power; the only alternative they knew was feudal fragmentation and arrogance. After the tyranny of Richelieu, the disorder of the Fronde, and the peculations of Mazarin, the middle and lower classes welcomed the centralized power and leadership of a “legitimate” ruler who seemed to promise order, security, and peace. 

   He gave expression to his absolutism when, in 1665, the Parlement of Paris wished to discuss some of his decrees. He drove from Vincennes in hunting dress, entered the hall in top boots, whip in hand, and said, “The misfortunes that your assemblies have brought about are well known. I order you to break up this assembly which has met to discuss my decrees. Monsieur Ie Premier Président, I forbid you to allow these meetings, and any single one of you to demand them.” The function of the Parlement as a superior court was taken over by a royal Conseil Privé always subject to the King. 

   The place of the nobles in the government was radically changed. They furnished the dress and glamour of the court and the army, but they seldom held administrative posts. The leading nobles were invited to leave their estates through most of the year and live at the court—most of them in their Paris hôtels, or mansions, the greater of them in the royal palaces as royal guests; hence the hectares of apartments at Versailles. If they refused the invitation they could expect no favors from the King. The nobles were exempt from taxation, but they were required, in time of crisis, to rush back to their rural châteaux, organize and equip their retainers, and lead them to join the army. The tedium of court life made them relish war. They were expensive idlers, but their bravery in battle became a compulsion of their caste. Custom and etiquette forbade them to engage in commerce or finance—though they took tolls on trade passing through their lands, and borrowed freely from the bankers. Their estates were worked by sharecroppers (métayers), who paid them a part of the produce and rendered them various feudal services and dues. The seigneur was expected to maintain local order, justice, and charity; in some localities he did this reasonably well, and was respected by the peasants; in others he gave a poor return for his privileges, and his long absences at court undermined the humanizing intimacy of master and man. Louis forbade the private wars of feudal factions, and put an end, for a time, to dueling, which had revived during the Fronde—and had become doubly serious, since seconds as well as principals fought and killed, and cheated Mars of prey. Gramont reckoned nine hundred deaths from dueling in nine years (1643-52). Perhaps one cause of the frequent wars was the desire to provide an outlet, at the expense of foreigners, for domestic pugnacity and pride. 

   For the actual operation of the government Louis preferred those leaders of the middle class who had proved their ability by their rise, and could be depended upon to support the absolutism of the King. Administration was directed chiefly by three councils, each meeting under the King’s presidency, and serving to prepare the information and recommendations upon which he based his decisions. A Conseil d’État of four or five men met thrice weekly to deal with major questions of action or policy; a Conseil des Dépêches managed provincial affairs; and a Conseil des Finances attended to taxation, revenue, and expenditure. Additional councils dealt with war, commerce, and religion. Local government was taken out of the hands of irresponsible nobles and entrusted to royal intendants, and municipal elections were manipulated to produce mayors satisfactory to the King. Today we should consider so centralized a government to be oppressive; it was, but probably less so than the preceding rule by municipal oligarchies or feudal lords. When a royal commission entered the Auvergne district (1665) to inquire into local abuses of seignorial power, the people welcomed this grand inquest (les grands jours d’Auvergne) as their liberation from tyranny; they were delighted to see a grand seigneur beheaded for murdering a peasant, and lesser nobles punished for malfeasance or cruelty. By such procedures monarchical replaced feudal law. 

   The laws were revised into as much order and logic as comported with aristocracy, and the Code Louis so formed (1667-73) governed France till the Code Napoleon (1804-10). The new code was superior to anything of the kind since Justinian, and it “powerfully contributed to advance French . . . civilization.” A system of police was established to check the crime and filth of Paris. Marc René, Marquis de Voyer d’Argenson, serving through twenty-one years as lieutenant general of police, left a noble record for just and energetic administration of a difficult post. Under his surveillance the streets of Paris were paved, were moderately cleaned, were lighted by five thousand lamps, and were made passably safe for the citizens; in such matters Paris was now far ahead of any other city in Europe. But the code legalized much barbarism and tyranny. A net of informers was spread through France, spying on words as well as actions. Arbitrary arrests could be made by lettres de cachet—secret orders of the king or his ministers. Prisoners could be kept for years without trial, and without being told the cause of their arrest. The code forbade accusations of witchcraft, and it ended capital punishment for blasphemy, but it retained the use of torture to elicit confessions. A great variety of offenses could be punished by condemnation to the war galleys—large, low ships rowed by convicts chained to the benches. Six men were allotted to each fifteen-foot oar, and were forced to hold a pace set by an overseer’s whistle. Their bodies were naked except for a loincloth; their hair, beards, and eyebrows were shaved. Their sentences were long, and could be arbitrarily extended for inadequate submission; sometimes they were kept to their slavery for years after their sentences had expired. They knew relief only when, in port, still coupled in chains, they could sell trifles or beg for charity. 

   Louis himself was placed above the law, free to decree any punishment for anything. In 1674 he decreed that all prostitutes found with soldiers within eight kilometers of Versailles should have their noses and ears cut off. He was often humane, but often severe. “A measure of severity,” he told his son, “was the greatest kindness I could do to my people; the opposite policy would have brought in an endless series of evils. For as soon as a king weakens in that which he has commanded, authority perishes, and with it the public peace. . . . Everything falls upon the lowest ranks, oppressed by thousands of petty tyrants, instead of by a legitimate king.” 

   He labored conscientiously at what he called Ie métier de roi. He required frequent and detailed reports from his ministers, and was the best-informed man in the kingdom. He did not resent ministerial advice contrary to his own views, and sometimes yielded to his councilors. He maintained the friendliest relations with his aides, provided that they remembered who was king. “Continue to write to me whatever comes into your mind,” he told Vauban, “and do not be discouraged though I do not always do what you suggest.” He kept an eye on everything—the army, the navy, the courts, his household, the finances, the Church, the drama, literature, the arts; and though, in this first half of his reign, he was supported by devoted ministers of high ability, the major policies and decisions, and the union of all phases of the complex government into a consistent whole, were his. He was every hour a king. 

   It was hard work. He was waited on at every step, but paid for it by being watched in every move. His getting out of bed and getting into it (when unaccompanied) were public functions. After his lever, or official rising, he heard Mass, breakfasted, went to the council chamber, emerged toward one o’clock, ate a big meal, usually at a single small table, but surrounded by courtiers and servitors. Then, usually, a walk in the garden, or a hunt, attended by the favorites of the day. Returning, he spent three or four hours in council. From seven till ten in the evening he joined the court in its amusements—music, cards, billiards, flirtation, dancing, receptions, balls. At several stages in this daily routine “anyone spoke to him who wished,” though few took the liberty. “I gave my subjects, without distinction, the freedom to address me at all hours, in person or by petition.” About 10 P.M. the King supped in state with his children and grandchildren, and, sometimes, the Queen. 

   France was edified to note how punctually, seven or eight hours six days a week, the King attended to the tasks of government. “It is unbelievable,” wrote the Dutch ambassador, “with what promptness, clarity, judgment, and intelligence this young prince treats and expedites business, which he accompanies with a great agreeableness to those with whom he deals, and with a great patience in listening to that which one has to say to him: which wins all hearts.” He continued his devotion to administration through fifty-four years, even when ill in bed. He came to councils and conferences carefully prepared. He “never decided on the spur of the moment, and never without consultation.” He chose his aides with remarkable acumen; he inherited some of them, like Colbert, from Mazarin, but he had the good sense to keep them, usually till their death. He gave them every courtesy and reasonable trust, but he kept an eye on them. “After choosing my ministers I made it a point to enter their offices when they least expected it . . . In this way I learned thousands of things useful in determining my course.” 

   Despite or because of the concentration of authority and direction, despite or because all threads of rule were drawn into one hand, France, in those days of her ascendant sun, was better governed than ever before.




The first task was to reorganize finance, which under Mazarin had fallen through a sieve of embezzlements. Nicolas Fouquet, as surintendant des finances since 1653, had managed taxation and expenditure with sticky fingers and lordly hand. He had reduced the hindrances to internal trade, and had stimulated the growth of French commerce overseas; and he had dutifully shared the spoils of his office with the “farmers” of the taxes and with Mazarin. The “farmers-general” were capitalists who advanced large sums to the state, and were in return, and for a fixed sum, empowered to collect taxes. This they did with such efficient rapacity that they were the most hated persons in the kingdom; twenty-four such men were executed during the French Revolution. In collusion with these fermiers-généraux Fouquet amassed the greatest private fortune of his time. 

   In 1657 he engaged the architect Louis Le Vau, the painter Charles Le Brun, and the landscape artist André Le Nôtre to design, build, and decorate the immense and magnificent Château Vaux-Ie-Vicomte, to lay out the gardens and adorn them with statuary. The project employed eighteen thousand men at one time, cost eighteen million livres, and covered the area of three villages. There Fouquet collected paintings, sculpture, objects of art, and a library of 27,000 volumes, impartially including Bibles, Talmuds, and Qur’ans. To these elegant rooms (we are told) “women of the highest nobility went secretly to keep him company at an extravagant price.” With similar taste but at less cost he brought poets like Corneille, Molière, and La Fontaine to grace his salon. 

   Louis envied this splendor, and suspected its source. He asked Colbert to examine the Surintendant’s methods and accounts; Colbert reported that they were incredibly corrupt. On August 17, 1661, Fouquet invited the young King to a fete at Vaux. The six thousand guests were served on six thousand plates of silver or gold; Molière presented, in the gardens, his comedy Les Fâcheux. That evening cost Fouquet 120,000 livres, and his liberty. Louis felt that this man was “stealing beyond his station.” He did not like the motto Quo non ascendam?—“To what may I not ascend?”—accompanied by the figure of a squirrel climbing a tree; and he thought that one of Le Brun’s paintings contained a portrait of Mlle. de La Vallière, already a royal mistress. He would have arrested Fouquet on the spot, but his mother convinced him that it would spoil an enchanting evening. 

   The King bided his time until the evidence of the minister’s peculations was overwhelming. On September 5 he ordered the chief of his musketeers to arrest him. (This mousquetaire was Charles de Baatz, Sieur d’Anagnan, hero of Dumas père.) The trial, dragging on for three years, became the cause most célèbre in the history of the reign. Mme. de Sévigné, La Fontaine, and other friends worked and prayed for Fouquet’s acquittal, but the papers found in his château convicted him. The court condemned him to banishment and the confiscation of his property; the King changed this to life imprisonment. For sixteen years the once joyous minister languished in the fortress of Pignerol (Pinerolo) in Piedmont, consoled by the faithful comradeship of his wife. It was a harsh sentence, but it checked political corruption, and served notice that the appropriation of public funds for private pleasure was a prerogative of the king.






The King and the court helped to civilize France. The court, in 1664, comprised some six hundred persons: the royal family, the higher nobility, the foreign envoys, and the servant staff. In the fullness of Versailles it grew to ten thousand souls, but this included notables in occasional attendance, all the entertainers and servitors, and the artists and authors whom the King had singled out for reward. To be invited to the court became a passion only third to hunger and sex; even to be there for a day was a memorable ecstasy, worth half a lifetime’s savings. 

   The splendor of the court lay partly in the luxurious furnishings of the apartments, partly in the dress of the courtiers, partly in the sumptuous entertainments, partly in the fame of the men and the beauty of the women drawn there by the magnets of money, reputation, and power. Some notable women, like Mmes. de Sévigné and de La Fayette, were seldom seen there, for they had sided with the Fronde; but enough remained to please a King extremely sensitive to feminine charms. In the portraits that have come down to us these ladies seem a bit ponderous, overflowing their corsages; but apparently the men of that time liked an adipose warmth in their amours. 

   The morals of the court were decorous adultery, extravagance in dress and gambling, and passionate intrigues for prestige and place, all carried on a rhythm of external refinement, elegant manners, and compulsory gaiety. The King set the fashion of costly dress, especially in ambassadorial receptions; so in receiving the envoys of Siam he wore a robe laced with gold and bordered with diamonds, the whole worth 12,500,000 livres; such display was part of the psychology of government. Nobles and their ladies consumed half the income of their estates on clothing, lackeys, and equipage; the most modest had to have eleven servants and two coaches; richer dignitaries had seventy-five attendants in their household, and forty horses in their stables. When adultery was no longer prohibited it lost its charm, and gambling at cards became the chief recreation of the court. Louis again gave the lead, bidding for high stakes, urged on by his mistress Montespan, who herself lost and won four million francs in one night’s play. The mania spread from the court to the people. “Thousands ruin themselves in gambling,” wrote La Bruyère; “a frightful game . . . in which the player contemplates the total ruin of his adversary, and is transported with the lust for gain.” 

   Competition for the royal favor, for a lucrative appointment or a place in the royal bed, led to an atmosphere of mutual suspicion, calumny, and tense rivalry. “Every time I fill a vacant post,” said Louis, “I make a hundred people discontented, and one ungrateful.” There were quarrels for precedence at table or in attending the King; even Saint-Simon worried lest the Duc de Luxembourg should walk five steps in advance of him in a procession, and Louis had to banish three dukes from court because they refused to yield precedence to foreign princes. The King laid great stress on protocol, and frowned when, at dinner, he found an untitled lady seated above a duchess. Doubtless some fixed order was necessary to keep six hundred beribboned egos from trampling upon one another’s toes, and visitors praised the external harmony of the enormous entourage. From the palaces, receptions, and entertainments of the King a code of etiquette, standards of manners and taste, spread through the upper and middle classes, and became a part of the European heritage. 

   To keep all these lords and ladies from being bored into regicide, artists of every kind were engaged to arrange amusementstournaments, hunts, tennis, billiards, bathing or boating parties, dinners, dances, balls, masques, ballets, operas, concerts, plays. Versailles seemed heaven on earth when the King led the court into boats on the canal, and voices and instruments made music, and torches helped the moon and the stars to illuminate the scene. And what could be more splendid or more suffocating than the formal balls, when the Galerie des Glaces reflected in its massive mirrors the grace and sparkle of men and women in stately dances under a thousand lights? To celebrate the birth of the Dauphin (1662) the King arranged a ballet in the square before the Tuileries, attended by fifteen thousand people. The Commune of 1871 destroyed the palace, but the site of that famous fete is still called the Place du Carrousel. 

   Louis loved dancing, praised it as “one of the most excellent and important disciplines for training the body,” and established at Paris (1661) the Académie Royale de Danse. He himself took part in ballets, and the nobility followed suit. The composers at his court were kept busy preparing music for dances and ballets; there the dance suite developed which was so skillfully used by Purcell in England and the Bachs in Germany. Not since Imperial Rome had the dance reached such graceful and harmonious forms. 

   In 1645 Mazarin imported Italian singers to establish opera in Paris. The Cardinal’s death interrupted this initiation, but when the King grew up he founded an Académie de l’Opéra (1669), and commissioned Pierre Perrin to present operas in several cities of France, beginning with Paris in 1671. When Perrin bankrupted himself through excessive outlays for scenery and machinery, Louis transferred the privilège des académies de musique to Jean Baptiste Lully, who soon made the whole court dance to his tunes.




Louis was not a rake. We must always remember, in the case of kings even to our own century, that custom required them to sacrifice their personal preferences in order to contract marriages of some political utility to the state. Consequently society—and often the Church—winked an eye when a king sought the exhilaration of sex and the romance of love outside the marriage bond. If Louis had had his way he would have begun with a marriage of love. He was deeply moved by the beauty and charm of Marie Mancini, a niece of Mazarin; he begged his mother and the Cardinal to let him marry her (1658); Anne of Austria reproved him for allowing passion to interfere with politics; and Mazarin regretfully sent Marie off to marry a Colonna. Then for a year the subtle minister pulled wires to get as Louis’ bride María Teresa, daughter of Philip IV. What if, by some failure of the male line in the Spanish kings, this Infanta should bring all Spain as her dowry to the King of France? So in 1660, with all the costly splendor that mesmerized the taxpayers, Louis married María, both of them twenty-two years old. 

   Marie Thérèse was a proud woman, pious and virtuous; her example and influence helped to improve the morals of the court, at least in her entourage. But a severe discipline had made her somber and dull, and her great appetite was amplifying her, just when the beauties of Paris were ogling her handsome mate. She gave him six children, of whom only one, the Dauphin, survived infancy. (Mme. de Montespan, who was a bit biased, related in her memoirs how an African prince presented Marie with a Negro dwarf, and how Marie gave birth to “a fine, healthy girl, black from head to toe.” The Queen ascribed the color to being frightened by the dwarf during her pregnancy. The Paris Gazette announced that the girl had died shortly after birth, but apparently she survived, was brought up by a black family, and became a nun). It was her misfortune that in the very year of their marriage Louis had discovered in his sister-in-law Henrietta Anne all the charms of young womanhood. 

   Henrietta Anne was the daughter of England’s Charles I. Her mother, Henrietta Maria (daughter of Henri IV of France), had shared with her husband the tragedy of the Civil War. When the Parliament army approached Charles’ headquarters at Oxford, the English Queen fled to Exeter, and there, so ill that she expected death, she gave birth (1644) to “a lovely little princess.” Pursued by Parliamentary agents, the ailing mother fled again, and made her way clandestinely to the coast, where a Dutch vessel, narrowly escaping English guns, took her to France. The child, left behind with Lady Anne Dalkeith, lived through two years of concealment in England before she too could be safely gotten across the Channel. Soon she had to experience the vicissitudes of the Fronde; in January 1649, she joined her mother and Anne of Austria in the flight from barricaded Paris to St.-Germain. In that month the news camedoubtless kept from her for a timethat the victorious Roundheads had beheaded her father. After the Fronde subsided, her mother brought up Princess Henrietta in comfort and piety, and both lived to see Charles II restored to the English throne (1660). A year later, aged sixteen, she married the brother of Louis XIV, “Monsieur” Philippe Duc d’Orléans, and became “Madame.” 

   Monsieur was a little round-bellied man on high-heeled shoes, who loved feminine adornments and masculine forms; as brave as any knight in battle, but as painted, perfumed, beribboned, and begemmed as the vainest woman in this vainest land. It was a grief and a shame to Henrietta that her husband preferred the company of the Chevaliers de Lorraine and de Châtillon to her own. Almost everybody else fell in love with her, not so much for her frail beautythough she was considered the fairest creature at the courtas for her gentle and kindly spirit, her almost childlike vivacity and gaiety, the fresh vernal breeze that she brought wherever she went. Racineone of the many authors whom she inspired and helpedcalled her “the arbiter of all that is beautiful.” 

   At first Louis XIV found her too weak and slender for his vigor and taste; but as he came to feel the douceur et lumière, “sweetness and light,” of her character, he found increasing pleasure in her presence, delighted to dance with her, frolic with her, plan games with her, go walking in the park at Fontainebleau or boating on the canal with her, until all Paris assumed that she had become his mistress, and thought it a just revenge on the “King of Sodom.” But probably Paris misjudged. Louis loved her this side of adultery, and she, who spent her devotion in love for her brothers Charles and James, accepted the King as another brother, and took it as her mission to bind all three in alliance or amity. 

   In 1670, at Louis’ request, she crossed to England to persuade Charles to join France against Holland, even to urge him to proclaim his Catholic faith. Charles so promised in the secret Treaty of Dover (June 1, 1670), and Henrietta returned to France loaded with gifts and victory. A few days after reaching her palace at St.-Cloud she fell violently ill. She thought she had been poisoned, and so all Paris believed. The King and his Queen hurried to her bedside, along with the penitent Monsieur, and Condé, Turenne, Mme. de La Fayette, and Mademoiselle de Montpensier; and Bossuet came to pray with her. At last, on June 30, her suffering ended. A post-mortem examination revealed that she had died not of poison but of peritonitis. Louis gave her such a funeral as was usually reserved for crowned heads, and over her remains in St.-Denis Bossuet preached a funeral sermon that has reverberated through the centuries. 

   It was Henrietta who gave the King the first of his more public mistresses. Born at Tours in 1644, Louise de La Vallière received with unquestioning faith the religious education given her by her mother and her priestly uncle, the future bishop of Nantes. She had barely reached the age of First Communion when her father died. Her mother remarried; the new husband, maître d’hotel for Gaston, Duc d’Orléans, secured a place for Louise as lady in waiting to the daughters of the Duke; and when, after Gaston’s death, his nephew and successor Philippe married, he took Louise with him as a maid of honor to Henrietta (1661). In that capacity she frequently saw the King. She was dazzled by his splendor, power, and personal fascination. Like a hundred other women she fell in love with him, but hardly dreamed of speaking to him. 

   Her beauty was more of character than of form. She was delicate in health, limped a bit, and “had no bosom to speak of,” said a critic; and she was alarmingly thin. But her frailty was itself a charm, for it engendered in her a modesty and gentleness that disarmed even women. Henrietta, to discourage the gossip that she herself was the royal mistress, had the King’s attention drawn to Louise. The scheme worked too well; Louis was attracted by this timid girl of seventeen, so different from the proud and aggressive ladies who surrounded him at the court. One day, finding her alone in the gardens at Fontainebleau, he offered himself to her, with no very honorable intentions. She surprised him by confessing that she loved him, but she long resisted his importunities. She pleaded with him not to make her betray both Henrietta and the Queen. Nevertheless, by August 1661, she was his mistress. Everything seemed good if it was the King’s will. 

   Then the King in turn fell in love, and was never so happy as with this diffident fledgling. They picnicked like children, danced at balls, and pranced in ballets; by his side in the hunt she lost her timidity and rode so impetuously that, said the Duc d’Enghien, “not even the men can keep up with her.” She took no advantage of her triumph; she refused to accept gifts or to join in intrigues; she remained modest in adultery. She was ashamed of her position, and suffered when the King introduced her to the Queen. She bore him several children; two died early; a third and a fourth, legitimized by royal decree, became the Conte de Vermandois and the very beautiful Mlle. de Blois. During these maternal crises she saw prettier faces than hers drawing the eyes of the King; by 1667 he was enamored of Mme. de Montespan; and Louise began to think of expiating her sins by spending the remainder of her life in a nunnery. 

   Sensing this mood, Louis gave her many signs of lingering affection, and thought to keep her in his world by making her a duchess. But between Montespan and war he found less and less time for her, and at the court she cared for no one but him. In 1671 she renounced her worldly possessions, put on the simplest dress she could find, slipped out of the palace on a winter morning, and fled to the convent of Ste.-Marie-de-Chaillot. Louis sent after her, protesting his love and anguish; and she, still a maid in mind, consented to return to the court. She stayed there three years more, torn between her love for the faithless King and her longing for religious cleansing and peace; already, in secret, she practiced in the palace the austerities of conventual life. Finally she persuaded the King to release her. She joined the barefoot

Carmelite nuns in the Rue d’Enfer (1674), became Sister Louise de la Miséricorde, and lived there in ascetic penitence for her remaining thirty-six years. “My soul is so content, so tranquil,” she said, “that I worship the goodness of God.” 

   Her successor in the King’s favor has not won such universal forgiveness. Françoise Athénaïs Rochechouart came to the court in 1661, served the Queen as a maid of honor, and married the Marquis de Montespan (1663). According to Voltaire she was one of the three most beautiful women in France, and the other two were her sisters. Her pearl-studded blond curls, her languorous proud eyes, her sensuous lips and laughing mouth, her caressing hands, her skin with the color and texture of liliesso her contemporaries breathlessly described her, and so Henri Gascard painted her in a famous portrait. She was pious, she fasted strictly on fast days, and attended church devoutly and frequently. She had a bad temper and a cutting wit, but that was at first a challenge. 

   Michelet quoted her as having said she had come up to Paris resolved to capture the King; but Saint-Simon reports that when she saw that she was quickening the royal pulse, she begged her husband to take her back at once to Poitou. He refused, confident of his hold on her, and loving the aura of the court. One night at Compiègne she went to sleep in a room usually assigned to the King. For a while he tried to sleep in an adjoining room; he found it difficult; at last he took possession of his room and her (1667). The Marquis, hearing of it, put on widower’s garb, draped his carriage in black, and adorned its corners with horns. Louis with his own hand wrote the bill of divorcement between the Marquis and the Marquise, sent him 100,000 écus, and bade him leave Paris. The court, quite shorn of morals, smiled. 

   For seventeen years Mme. de Montespan was mistress of the royal bed. She gave Louis what La Vallière could not give himintelligent conversation and stimulating vivacity. She boasted that she and dullness could never be in the same place at the same time; and it was so. She bore six children to the King. He loved them, and was grateful to her; but he could not resist the opportunity to sleep, now and then, with Mme. de Soubise or the young Mlle. de Scorraille de Roussilles, whom he made the Duchesse de Fontanges. Such aberrations led Mme. de Montespan to consult sorceresses for magic potions or other means to keep the King’s love; but the story that she planned to poison him or her rivals was probably a legend spread by her enemies. 

   Her children were her undoing. She needed someone to take care of them; Mme. Scarron was recommended, and was engaged; Louis, going frequently to see his brood, observed that the governess was beautiful. Mme. Scarron, nee Françoise d’ Aubigné, was the granddaughter of Theodore Agrippa d’Aubigné, Huguenot aide to Henri IV. Born in a prison at Niort in Poitou, where her father was serving one of many sentences for a variety of crimes, she was baptized a Catholic, and was brought up amid the disorder and poverty of a divided family. Some Protestants took pity on her, fed her, and made her so firm in the Reformed faith that she turned her back upon Catholic altars. When she was nine her parents took her to Martinique, where she nearly died under the harsh discipline of her mother. The father dying a year later (1645), the widow and her three children returned to France. In 1649 Françoise, aged fourteen, again a Catholic, was placed in a convent, and earned her bread with menial tasks. Probably we should never have heard of her had she not married Paul Scarron. 

   He was a famous writer, a brilliant wit, an almost complete cripple, hideously deformed. The son of a lawyer of note, he had expected a prosperous career, but his widowed father married again, the new wife rejected Paul, the father sent him off with a small pension, just enough to entertain Marion Delorme and other ladies of a night. He contracted syphilis, surrendered himself to a quack, and imbibed strong drugs that ruined his nervous system. At last he was so paralyzed that he could move hardly anything but his hands. He described himself:


   Reader, . . . I am going to tell you as nearly as possible what I am like. My figure was well made, though small. My malady has shortened it by a good foot. My head is rather large for my body. My face is full, while my body is that of a skeleton. My sight is fairly good, but eyes protrude, and one of them is lower than the other. . . . My legs and thighs formed at first an obtuse, next a right, and finally an acute, angle; my thighs and body form another; and with my head bent down on my stomach I resemble not badly the letter Z. My arms have shrunk as well as my legs, and my fingers as well as my arms. To sum up, I am a condensation of human misery.


   He solaced his misery by writing a picaresque Roman comique (1649), which had considerable success, and by staging farces hilarious in their humor and scandalous in their wit. Paris honored him for keeping his gaiety amid his pains; Mazarin and Anne of Austria gave him pensions, which he forfeited by supporting the Fronde. He earned much, spent more, and was repeatedly in debt. Propped up in a box from which his head and arms emerged, he presided with zest and erudition over one of the famous salons of Paris. As his debts multiplied, he made his guests pay for their dinner. Still they came. 

   Who would marry such a man? In 1651 Françoise d’Aubigné, now sixteen, was living with a miserly female relative, who so grudged her keep that she resolved to send Françoise back to a convent. A friend introduced the girl to Scarron, who received her with painful grace. He offered to pay her board and lodging in the convent, so exempting her from taking the vows; she refused. Finally he proposed marriage to her, making it clear that he could not claim a husband’s rights. She accepted him, served him as nurse and secretary, and played hostess at his salon, pretending not to hear the double-entendres of the guests. When she joined in the conversation they were surprised by her intelligence. She gave to Scarron’s gatherings a degree of respectability sufficient to attract Mlle. de Scudéry, and, now and then, Mme. de Sévigné; Ninon, Gramont, and Saint-Êvremond were already habitués. There is a hint in Ninon’s letters that Mme. Scarron alleviated this sexless marriage with a liaison; but Ninon also reported that she “was virtuous from weakmindedness. I wanted to cure her, but she feared God too much.” Her devotion to Scarron was the talk of a Paris that unconsciously hungered for instances of decency. As his paralysis increased, even his fingers stiffened immovably; he could not turn a page or hold a pen. She read to him, wrote at his dictation, and ministered to all his wants. Before his death (1660) he composed his epitaph:


Celui qui ici maintemmt dort           He who lies here

Fit plus de pit;e que d’envie,           Awoke more pity than envy,

Et suffrit mille fois la mort              And suffered death a thousand times

Avant que perdre la vie.                  Before losing life.

Passant, ne fais ici de bruit,            Passing, make here no noise,

Garde bien que tu ne l’éveille;        Take care not to wake him;

Car voici la première nuit.               For this is the first night

Que le pauvre Scarron sommeille     That poor Scarron sleeps.


He left nothing but creditors. The “Widow Scarron,” still a young woman of twenty-five, was again thrown destitute upon the world. She appealed to the Queen Mother to renew the canceled pension; Anne settled upon her two thousand livres annually. Françoise took a room in a convent, lived and dressed modestly, and accepted various minor employments in good homes. In 1667 Mme. de Montespan, about to give birth, sent an emissary to ask her to receive and bring up the expected child. Françoise refused, but when Louis himself seconded the request she consented, and for several years thereafter she received the royal infants as they emerged.  

   She learned to love these children, and they looked up to her as a mother. The King, who at first had laughed at her as a prude, came to admire her, and was moved by the grief she showed when one of the children, despite her constant care, died. “She knows how to love,” he said; “it would be a pleasure to be loved by her.” In 1673 he legitimized the children; Mme. Scarron had no longer to practice secrecy; she was admitted to the court as a lady in waiting to Mme. de Montespan. The King gave her a present of 200,000 livres to maintain her new status. She used them to buy an estate at Maintenon, near Chartres. She never lived there, but it gave her a new name; she became the Marquise de Maintenon. 

   It was a dizzy rise for one so lately destitute, and perhaps it turned her head for a time. She took upon herself to advise Mme. de Montespan to end her life of sin; Montespan resented the counsel, and thought that Maintenon was scheming to replace her. And indeed, by 1675, Louis was becoming more impatient with Montespan’s tantrums, and was finding pleasure in talking with the new Marquise. Perhaps with the King’s connivance Bishop Bossuet warned him that the Easter Sacrament would be refused him unless he dismissed his concubine. He bade her leave the court. She did; Louis received Communion, and remained continent for a while. Mme. de Maintenon approved his course, apparently without selfish intent, for soon she left with the sickly Duc de Maine (one of Montespan’s children) to seek the boy’s cure in the sulfur baths of Barèges in the Pyrenees. Louis went off to the wars. Returning famished, he repulsed

Bossuet, and invited Montespan to reoccupy her apartment in Versailles. There he fell into her waiting arms, and she conceived again. 

   Maintenon, returning with the cured Duke from the Pyrenees, was welcomed by the King and his mistress, but was alarmed to see him in the full swing of several simultaneous liaisons. In 1679 he ended his adulteries with Montespan by appointing her surintendante of the Queen’s householdone of the many indelicacies to which he subjected Marie Thérèse. Montespan raged and wept, but was comforted by great gifts. A year later Maintenon received a similar postlady of the bedchamber to the Dauphine, the wife of Louis’ one surviving legitimate child. The King now frequently visited the Dauphine, to converse with Maintenon. There seems no doubt that he wished to make the Marquise his mistress, and that she refused. On the contrary, she urged him to abandon his irregularities and return penitent to the Queen. He yielded to her and Bossuet, and in 1681, after twenty years of philandering, he became a model husband. The Queen, who had long since reconciled herself to his infidelities, and even to his mistresses, enjoyed the royal favor for only two years, dying in 1683. 

   Louis thought that Maintenon would now consent to be his mistress, but he found in her a politic restraint: it must be marriage or nothing. At some date not precisely known, but probably in 1684, he married her, he forty-seven, she fifty. It was a morganatic union, whereby the mate of lower status acquired no new rank, and no hereditary rights. The King’s councilors had difficulty in dissuading him from giving his wife full rights, and crowning her as queen; they pointed out how discontent the royal family and the court would be to find themselves curtsying to a governess. So the marriage was not made public, and there are some who think it never took place. Saint-Simon, always a stickler for caste, thought it “a frightful marriage;” but it was the King’s best and happiest union, the only one whose vows he appears to have kept. It had taken him almost half a century to discover that to be loved is worth monogamy.





The successes of Richelieu and Mazarin had left France the strongest power in Europe. The Holy Roman Empire was weakened by the exhaustion and division of Germany, and by renewed danger from the Turks. Spain was weakened by the exhaustion of her gold and men in eighty years of futile war in the Netherlands. England, after 1660, was bound to France by secret subsidies to its King. France too had been divided and weakened, but by 1667 the wounds of the Fronde had healed, and France was one. Meanwhile first-rate men had been found to rebuild the French armies: Louvois, a genius of military organization and discipline, Vauban, a genius of fortification, trench warfare, and siege, and two superlative generalsCondé and Turenne. Now, it seemed to the young and adulated King, was the time for France to reach to her natural geographical boundaries—the Rhine, the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the sea. 

   First, then, to the Rhine. The Dutch controlled it; they must be subdued; and soon thereafter they must be brought back to the faith that for a thousand years had been the helpful ally of kings. Once the many mouths of the great river were under French control, all the Rhineland, and therefore half of German commerce, would be in the power of France. The Spanish Netherlands (“Belgium”) was in the way; they must be conquered. Philip IV, dying in 1665, left Belgium to Charles II, his son by his second marriage. Louis saw a diplomatic opening. He quoted the old custom of Hainaut and Brabant, by which the children of a first marriage inherited in preference to those of a second; Louis’ wife was the daughter of Philip IV’s first marriage; therefore, by this ius devolutionisthe right or law of devolution or transmissionBelgium belonged to Marie Thérèse. It was true that Marie, at her marriage, had renounced her right of succession; but this renunciation had been made conditional upon the payment of her dowry500,000 gold crownsby Spain to France; this dowry had not been paid; ergo . . . Spain denied the syllogism, Louis declared the “War of Devolution.” Let his own memoirs reveal the motives of the royal chess player:


   The death of the King of Spain and the war of the English against the Dutch (1665) offered me at once two important occasions for making war: one against Spain for the pursuance of rights which had fallen to me; the other against England for the defense of the Dutch. I saw with pleasure the plan of these two wars as a vast field where great occasions might arise for distinguishing myself. Many brave men whom I saw devoted to my service seemed always to be begging me to offer them an opportunity for valor. . . . Moreover, since I was obliged in any case to maintain a large army, it was more expedient for me to throw it into the Low Countries than to feed it at my expense. . . . Under pretext of a war with England I would dispose of my forces and my information [espionage] service to begin more successfully my enterprise in Holland.


This was the royal view of war; it might make one’s country greater in extent, security, or revenue; it would open roads to renown and power; it would provide outlets for combative impulses; it would let the costly army feed on alien food; it would improve the position of the state for the next war. As for the human lives that would be lost, men must die in any case; how absurd to die of some lingering disease in bed!how better could men die than in the anesthesia of battle, on the field of glory, and for their fatherland? 

   On May 24, 1667, French troops crossed into Belgium. There was no effectual resistance; the French had 55,000, the Spanish 8,000, men; soon the King entered Charleroi, Tournai, Courtrai, Douai, Lille, as if in a triumphal procession; and Vauban fortified the conquered towns. Louvois had supplies ready at every step, even to silver service for the officers in camp or trench. Artois, Hainaut, Walloon Flanders were annexed to France. Spain appealed to the Emperor Leopold I for help; Louis proposed to Leopold to divide the Spanish empire with him; Leopold agreed, and gave no help to Spain. The conquest of Flanders had been so easy that Louis hurried to take also Franche-Comtéthe region around Besançon, between Burgundy and Switzerland. It was a dependency of Spain, and yet a thorn in the very side of France. In February 1668, a French army, twenty thousand strong, descended upon Franche-Comté under the lead of Condé; it was everywhere victorious, for French bribes had softened local commanders. Louis himself led the siege of Dôle; it fell in four days; and in three weeks all Franche-Comté submitted. He returned to Paris in glory. 

   But he had overreached himself. The Dutch Republic persuaded Sweden and England to join them in a Triple Alliance against France (January 1668); all three states recognized that their political or commercial freedom would wither if the power of France should extend to the Rhine. Louis saw that he had moved too precipitately toward his goal. The secret agreement with Leopold had stipulated that on the death of Charles II of Spain all the Netherlands and Franche-Comté were to go to France; it seemed only a matter of a year or so when the sickly Charles would die; perhaps it was better for France to wait and let the fruit fall peacefully into her lap. Louis offered terms to the Alliance; his trained diplomats worked on England and Sweden; at the Treaty of Aix-Ia-Chapelle (May 2, 1668) the War of Devolution was ended. France returned Franche-Comté to Spain, but she retained Charleroi, Douai, Tournai, Audenaarde, Lille, Armentières, and Courtrai. Louis had kept half the spoils. 

   In 1672 he resumed his march to the Rhine, and now his real goal appearednot Flanders but Holland. In summary, the attack reached almost to Amsterdam and The Hague before the opening of the dykes checked it. But again Europe rose against the new threat to the balance of power. In October 1672, Emperor Leopold joined the Dutch Republic and Brandenburg in a “Great Coalition;” Spain and Lorraine entered it in 1673; Denmark, the Palatinate, and the duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg, in 1674; and in that year the English Parliament compelled its Francophile King to make peace with the Dutch. 

   Louis faced bravely this nemesis of his pride. Despite his minister Colbert’s complaints that he was impoverishing France, he raised more taxes, built a navy, and expanded his armies to 180,000 men. In June 1674, he directed one force to a second siege of Besançon; in six weeks Franche-Comté was again conquered. Meanwhile Turenne, in the most brilliant and ruthless of his campaigns, led twenty thousand soldiers to victory over seventy thousand Imperial troops; to prevent the enemy from feeding itself, he laid waste the Palatinate, Lorraine, and part of Alsace; along the Rhine the desolation of the Thirty Years’ War was renewed. On July 27, 1675, Turenne was killed while reconnoitering near Sulzbach in Baden. Louis had him buried in St.-Denis with almost royal honors, knowing that that one death equaled a dozen defeats. The Great Condé, after bloody victories in the Netherlands, replaced Turenne, and drove the Imperials from Alsace; then the Prince, worn out by years of passion and war, retired to a life of philosophy and government at Chantilly. Louis now took charge of the campaign in the Netherlands; he besieged and captured Valenciennes, Cambrai, St.-Omer, Ghent, and Ypres (1677-78). France acclaimed the King as a general. 

   But the drain upon his people had become unbearable. Revolts broke out in Bordeaux and Brittany; in south France the peasantry neared starvation; in the Dauphiné the populace was living on bread made of acorns and roots. When the Dutch offered peace, Louis signed with them (August 11, 1678) a treaty restoring to the Dutch Republic all the territory that France had taken from them, and lowering the tariffs that had kept Dutch products out of France. He made up for these surrenders by forcing Spain, now in disintegration, to yield to him Franche-Comté, and a dozen towns that advanced the northeastern frontier of France into the Belgium. A treaty with the Emperor kept for France the strategic cities of Breisach and Freiburg-im-Breisgau; Alsace and Lorraine remained in French hands. These treaties of Nijmegen (1678-79) and St.Germain-en-Laye (1679) were a triumph for the Dutch Republic, but not a defeat for Louis; he had prevailed over the Holy Roman Empire and Spain, and, here and there, he had reached the coveted Rhine.  

   Despite the peace he kept up his immense army, knowing that an army in being is a force in diplomacy. With that power behind him, and taking scandalous advantage of the Emperor’s preoccupation with the advancing Turks, he established in Alsace, Franche-Comté, and Breisgau “Chambers of Reunion” to reclaim certain frontier districts that had formerly belonged to them; these were occupied by French troops; and the great city of Strasbourg was induced, by the lavish lubrication of its officials, to acknowledge Louis as its sovereign (1681). In the same year, by like means, the Duke of Milan was led to cede to France the town and fortress of Casale, which controlled the road between Savoy and Milan. (The Man in the Iron Mask was probably the Count Mattioli who sold to Spain (1679) the secret of the negotiations between Louis and the Duke of Milan. Speculation has identified him with a mysterious prisoner Marchioli, whose face was hidden behind a velvet (not iron) mask, and who died in the Bastille in 1703). When Spain dallied in handing over the Netherland cities, Louis again sent his armies into Flanders and Brabant, overcame resistance with indiscriminate bombardment, and absorbed the duchy of Luxembourg en route (June 1684). In the Truce of Regensburg (August 15) these conquests were provisionally recognized by Spain and the Emperor, for the Turks were besieging Vienna. By an alliance with the Elector of Cologne Louis in effect extended French power to the Rhine. Part of the Gallic aspiration to reach natural boundaries was realized. 

   This was the zenith of the Roi Soleil. Not since Charlemagne had France been so extended or so powerful. Immense and costly spectacles celebrated the successes of the Sun King. The Council of Paris officially declared him Louis Ie Grand (1680). Le Brun painted him as a god on the vaults of Versailles; and a theologian argued that Louis’ victories proved the existence of God. The populace, amid its destitution, idealized its ruler, and took pride in his apparent invincibility. Even foreigners praised him, seeing some geographical logic in his campaigns; the philosopher Leibniz hailed him as “that great prince who is the acknowledged glory of our time, and for whom succeeding ages will long in vain.” North of the Alps and the Pyrenees, west of the Vistula, all educated Europe began to speak his language and imitate his court, his arts, and his ways. The sun was high.





Taxes rose even as prosperity declined. Colbert’s massive system of state-regulated commerce and industry had begun to collapse before his death (1683). Partly it died through the drain of men from farms and factories to camps and battlefields. Chiefly it died through self-strangulation: governmental regulations stifled the growth that might have come under less supervision and restraint, more liberty to breathe, to experiment, and to err. Enterprise found itself bound by a maze of orders and penalties; the complex mechanism of economic activity, moved by the toilsome hunger of the many and the inventive greed of the few, groaned and stumbled under a mountain of rules, and threatened to halt. So soon as 1685 we hear the cry of laissez-faire, sixty-five years before Quesnay and Turgot, ninety-one before Adam Smith. “The supreme secret,” said one of Louis XIV’s intendants, “is to allow complete freedom of trade. Never had manufacturers and commerce so wasted away in this realm as since we have taken it into our heads to build them up by the decrees of the state.” Other factors contributed to decay. Huguenots fleeing from persecution took with them their economic skills, and sometimes their savings too. Commerce suffered from the King’s desire to conquer rather than to trade. Exports were balked by foreign tariffs retaliating against French import dues. The English and the Dutch proved to be better seamen and colonizers than the proud and impatient Gauls; the Compagnie des Indes failed. Taxes discouraged agriculture, and a dishonest currency confused and palsied finance. 

   The ministers who served Louis after the death of Colbert could not compare in ability with those whom the King had inherited from Richelieu and Mazarin. Colbert’s son Jean Baptiste, the Marquis de Seignelay, received the ministries of commerce and marine; Claude Le Peletier took charge of finance, but was soon succeeded by Louis PhéIypeaux, Seigneur de Pontchartrain; Louvois remained minister of war. Louis XIV’s accumulated glory and authority awed the new men; they feared to make decisions, and the machine of state waited upon the burdened mind of the King. Only Louvois had a will of his own, and it was all for war against the Huguenots, against the Netherlands, against any prince or people that stood in the path of expanding France. For Louvois had built the finest army in Europe; he had trained it to discipline and bravery, had equipped it with the latest weapons, and had taught it the gentle art of the bayonet. (The baïonette was manufactured at Bayonne as early as 1500, but seems to have had its first large-scale use at Ypres in 1647). How could such a force be fed, or keep its morale, unless it fought and won? 

   France looked upon that army with pride, all the rest of Europe heard of it with anger and dread. When, in May 1685, Louis claimed part of the Elector Palatine’s estate as the inheritance of the dead Elector’s sister Charlotte Elisabeth, now Duchesse d’Orléans, the princes of the Holy Roman Empire wondered what demands would come next from the aggressive King. The tension rose when Louis in effect bound Cologne, Hildesheim, and Münster to France by securing the election of his nominees as their episcopal princes (1686). On July 6 the Catholic Emperor Leopold I and the Catholic Elector Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria joined the Protestant Great Elector of Brandenburg, the Protestant King Charles XI of Sweden, and the Protestant Stadholder William III of the Dutch Republic in forming the League of Augsburg for defense against any attack upon their territories or their powers. The Emperor was still busy with the retreating Turks, but their defeat at the “second Mohács” (1687) and at Belgrade (1688) freed the Imperial troops for action on the Holy Roman Empire’s western front. 

   The King of France now made the pivotal mistake of his military career. The Stadholder had expected him to renew the assault upon Holland; instead, Louis decided to invade Germany before the Imperial forces could be assembled on his frontier. On September 22, 1688, he dispatched his main divisions toward the Rhine, with a characteristic speech to the twenty seven-year-old Dauphin: “My son, in sending you to command my armies, I give you opportunities of making your merit known; show it to all Europe, so that when I come to die, no one will perceive that the King is dead.” On September 25 the French army swept into Germany. Within a month it took Kaiserslautern, Neustadt, Worms, Bingen, Mainz, and Heidelberg; on October 29 the strategic fortress of Philippsburg fell; on November 4 the triumphant Dauphin advanced to attack Mannheim. 

   Perhaps it was these victories that began the downfall of the King. For they committed him to a long war with a swelling host of foes; they freed Holland from fear of an early invasion; they induced the States-General of the Dutch Republic to give its consent and support to the conquest of England by William III. As soon as he had certified his power, William turned England from a dependency into an enemy of France, and pleaded with his new subjects to take their part in defending the political and religious liberty of Europe. Parliament hesitated; it suspected that William’s main interest was to save Holland; and Holland was England’s greatest commercial competitor. But again the victories of France strengthened William’s plea. 

   Louvois had urged Louis to let him devastate the Palatinate in order to deprive the oncoming enemy of any local means of subsistence. Louis reluctantly agreed. In March 1689, the French army sacked and burned Heidelberg and Mannheim, then Speyer, Worms, Oppenheim, parts of the archbishopric of Trier and the margraviate of Baden; nearly all the German Rhineland was ruined. Voltaire described the atrocity with the conscience of a good European:


   It was in the heart of winter. The French generals could not but obey; and accordingly they announced to the citizens of those flourishing and well-ordered towns, to the inhabitants of the villages, and to the masters of more than fifty castles, that they would have to leave their homes, which were to be destroyed by fire and sword. Men, women, old people, and children departed in haste. Some went wandering about the countryside; others sought refuge in neighboring territory, while the soldiery . . . burnt and sacked the country. They began with Mannheim and Heidelberg, the seats of the Electors; their palaces, as well as the houses of the common citizens, were destroyed. . . . For the second time this beautiful country was ravaged by Louis XIV; but the flames of the two towns and twenty villages which Turenne had burned in [the 1674 devastation of] the Palatinate were but sparks compared with this conflagration.



















   From all Germany, the Netherlands, and England a cry rose for vengeance against the King of France. German pamphleteers denounced the French soldiers as Huns dead to any human feelings; they described Louis as a monster, a blasphemer, and a barbarian worse than any Turk. German historians taunted the French people with having received their civilization from the Franks (i.e. Germans) and their universities from the Holy Roman emperors (i.e. Germans). Pierre Jurieu, Huguenot exile in Holland, had already published there a powerful diatribe, Les Soupirs de la France esclave (The Sighs of a France Enslaved), branding Louis as a bigoted tyrant, and calling upon the French people to depose him and establish a constitutional monarchy. The French press replied with appeals to the citizens to hurl back these insults into the face of the enemy, and come to the rescue of their brave, beleaguered, beloved King. On May 12, 1689, England joined the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, the Dutch Republic, Denmark, and Savoy in the first Grand Alliance, which pledged itself to defend each of its members against external aggression. The war was now of Europe against France. 

   Louis responded by raising his armies to 450,000 men, his navy to 100,000 personnel; Europe had never seen such armed hosts before. The King melted down his silverware to help taxation pay the cost of these multitudes; he ordered all private individuals, and many churches, to do the same; and he allowed Pontchartrain to re-mint and depreciate the currency by ten per cent. The minister created new offices, restored old ones that had lapsed, and sold them to place-seekers infatuated with titles. “Every time your Majesty creates an office,” he said to Louis, “God creates a fool to purchase it.” 

   Seignelay advised the King to order his fleet to cut off Ireland from England. It might have been done, for on June 30, 1690, Admiral de Tourville, with seventy-five ships, defeated a combined Dutch and English fleet at Beachy Head, off the East Sussex coast. But Louis sent only two thousand men to support James II in Ireland; a larger force might have won the battle of the Boyne (July 1, 1690), and might have kept England and its Dutch King too busy in Ireland to fight on the Continent. William III, by the victory; was free to go to Holland (1691) and lead English and Dutch troops against the French. In 1692 Louis attempted an invasion of England; a fleet from Toulon was ordered to sail north and join a fleet under Tourville at Brest; together they were to beat down any English resistance, and carry thirty thousand troops across the Channel. The squadron from Toulon, checked by a storm at Gibraltar, failed to reach Tourville, who had to fight unaided the united Dutch and English fleets; he was defeated in a decisive engagement off La Hogue, near Cherbourg (May 19, 1692), and the invasion was turned back. After this victory England remained mistress of the seas, free to capture from France one after another of her colonies. The Channel protected England till our time. 

   On land the French continued their victories, though at enormous cost in materials and men. In April 1691, proud to anesthesia under the eyes of their King, they besieged and took strategic Mons. Louvois died on July 7, but Louis was not quite displeased at being freed from his aggressive minister of war; he proposed henceforth to guide all military policy himself. He observed an old French custom when he gave Louvois’ post to Louvois’ son, the amiable and tractable twenty-four-year-old Marquis de Barbezieux. In June 1692, Louis led his troops in person to the capture of Namur; then, leaving the command to the Duc de Luxembourg, he returned to sip his glory at Versailles. William III surprised the Duke at Steenkerke in July; the French, at first routed, recovered order and courage under the direction and example of their ill but invincible general; once more the victory was French but dearly bought. There Philippe II d’Orléans, future regent of France but not yet fifteen, fought in the van, was wounded, and returned to fight again. There young Louis, Duc de Bourbon-Condé (grandson of the Great Condé), veteran of three sieges, and François Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Conti, and Louis Joseph Duc de Vendôme (great-grandson of Henri IV), and many others of the French nobility displayed the gallant bravery that made them, despite their idle extravagance in peace, the idols of their people in war, and exemplars even to the enemy. “What a nation you are!” exclaimed Count Salm, one of their prisoners. “There are no foes more to be feared in battle, and no more generous friends in victory.” 

   A year later the same French army, under the same general, defeated William at Neerwinden, near Brussels; here too the slaughter was immensetwenty thousand of the Allies, eight thousand of the French. No matter how often William was beaten, he soon appeared with a new army and fresh funds. In August 1694, he recaptured Namur, and France discovered that after five years of bloodshed it had failed to conquer even Belgium. Other French armies won victories in Italy and Spain, but found it hard to hold their gains against foes and supplies rising replenished on every side. In July 1694, an English fleet sailed to attack Brest; some friends in England (including, it was said, Marlborough himself) had betrayed the plan to James II; so forewarned, the French lined the coast at Brest with guns, and the English were repulsed with heavy losses. In January 1695, the Maréchal de Luxembourg died, and Louis was left with only second-rate generals. Though its soil had been hardly touched by the Allies, France was feeling the burden of a new kind of war, in which no hired mercenaries fought the battles, but whole nations were conscripted for competitive massacre. Even while they acclaimed their generals, their heroes, and their victories, the French people, taxed as never before, were nearing exhaustion in body and spirit. In 1694 famine was added to destitution; in one diocese alone there were 450 deaths from starvation. The national economy verged on collapse. Transportation was in chaos, for the repair of bridges and roads had almost stopped during the war. Internal trade was choked by tolls exacted at a hundred places on rivers or land. Foreign commerce, already hampered by import and export dues, was made almost impossible by enemy fleets and privateers. Those who had lived by coastal fishing or trade were ruined. Hundreds of towns were depleted of their resources by their support of troops quartered upon them. Poverty, famine, disease, and war reduced the population of France from some 23,000,000 in 1670 to some 19,000,000 in 1700. The province of Touraine lost a fourth of its people; its capital, Tours, had only 33,000 left of the 80,000 who had peopled it under Colbert. Hear the reports of intendants from various parts of France toward the end of the seventeenth century:


   This town, formerly rich and flourishing, is today without any industry. . . . There were formerly manufactures in this province, but today they have been abandoned. . . . The inhabitants formerly obtained much more from the soil than they do at present; agriculture was infinitely more flourishing twenty years ago. . . . Population and production have diminished by one fifth these last thirty years . . .  


















   In 1694 Fénelon, soon to be archbishop of Cambrai, addressed to Louis XIV an anonymous letter which is one of the high-water marks of the French spirit:


   Sire, he who takes the liberty to write you this letter has no worldly interest. He writes through neither disappointment nor ambition, nor through desire to mingle in great affairs. He loves you without being known to you; he sees God in your person. . . . There is no evil that he would not gladly suffer to make you recognize the truths necessary to your salvation. If he speaks strongly to you, do not be surprised; it is only because truth is free and strong. You are not used to hearing it. People accustomed to be flattered mistake for resentment, bitterness, or excess that which is only pure truth. It would be treason to the truth not to show it to you. . . . God is witness that he who now speaks to you does so with a heart full of zeal, of respect, of fidelity and devotion for everything that concerns your real interest. . . .   

   For some thirty years past your chief ministers have overturned all the ancient maxims of state to raise your authority to the utmost, because it was in their hands. No one spoke any more of the state and its laws; they spoke only of the King and his good pleasure. They have extended your revenues and your expenditure without limit. They have raised you to the skies in order, they say, to efface the grandeur of all your predecessors combined, but actually they have impoverished all France to establish at the court a monstrous and incurable luxury. They have wished to elevate you upon the ruin of every class in the state—if you could be great while ruining all the subjects upon whom your greatness depends. True, you have been jealous of authority, . . . but in reality each minister has been master within the scope of his administration. . . . They have been hard, haughty, unjust, violent, and of bad faith. In domestic and foreign affairs they have known no rule but to threaten, remove, or destroy everything that opposed them. . . . They have accustomed you constantly to receive extreme praises verging upon idolatry, which, for your own honor, you should have rejected with indignation. They have made your name hateful—and the whole French nation unbearable—to neighboring peoples. They have retained none of our old allies, because they wanted only slaves. They have been the cause, through twenty years, of bloody wars . . . whose only motives were glory and vengeance. . . . All the frontiers that have been extended by war have been unjustly acquired. You have always wished to dictate peace, to impose conditions, instead of arranging them with moderation; that is why no peace has endured. Your enemies, shamefully struck down, have only one thought: to stand up again and unite themselves against you. Is it surprising? You have not even stayed within the limits of the peace terms that you so proudly dictated. In time of peace you have made war and immense conquests. . . . Such conduct has aroused and united all Europe against you.

   Meanwhile your people, whom you should have loved as your children, and who have till now been so devoted to you, are dying of hunger. The cultivation of the earth is almost abandoned; the towns and the countryside are depopulated; all industry languishes, and no longer supports the workers. All commerce is destroyed. You have consumed half the wealth and vitality of the nation to make and defend vain conquests abroad. . . . All France is now but a vast hospital, desolate and without provisions. The magistrates are worn out and despised. . . . Popular uprisings, so long unknown, increase in frequency. Paris itself, so near you, is not exempt; its officials must tolerate the insolence of rebels, and spread money to appease them. You are reduced to the sad and disgraceful extremity of letting sedition go unpunished and therefore grow, or to slaughter without pity people whom you have driven to despair by snatching from them, through taxes for war, the bread that they toil to earn by the sweat of their brows. . . .    

   For a long time now the arm of God has been raised above you, but He is slow to strike because He pities a prince who all his life has been surrounded by sycophants, and because, also, your enemies are His. . . . You do not love God, you only fear Him, and with a slavish fear. . . . Your only religion consists in superstitions, in petty superficial observances . . . You love only your glory and your gain. You bring back everything to yourself, as if you were the god of the earth, and everything else were made to be sacrificed to you. On the contrary, God has put you in this world only for your people. . . .

   We have hoped, Sire, that your Council would draw you away from the wrong road; but it has neither the courage nor the strength. At least Mme. de M. [Maintenon] and M. Ie D. de B. [Beauvilliers] might use the confidence you place in them to undeceive you; but their weakness and timidity are a disgrace and scandal before the world. . . . You ask, perhaps, Sire, what it is they should do. This: they should show you that you must humble yourself under the powerful hand of God, if you do not wish Him to humble you; that you must ask for peace, and expiate by that humiliation all the glory which you have made your idol . . . ; that to save the state you must as soon as possible restore to your enemies all that you cannot with justice retain.

   Sire, he who tells you these truths, far from opposing your interests, would give his life to see you such as God wishes you to be; and he will not cease to pray for you.” (From the French text in Fellows and Torrey, The Age of Enlightenment, 91-95. The letter was first published by d’Alembert in 1787. Its authenticity remained doubtful until 1825, when a copy of it was found in Fénelon’s own hand).


































   Fénelon did not dare send this letter directly to the King; he had it delivered to Mme. de Maintenon, perhaps hoping that though she might not show it to Louis, she would be moved by it, as reflecting the mood of the people, to use her influence for peace. She turned it over to Archbishop de Noailles, with this comment: “It is well written, but such truths only irritate or discourage the King. . . . We must lead him gently in the way he should go.” She had written in 1692: “The King knows the sufferings of his people, and he seeks all means of relieving them.” Doubtless she knew what reply he would have made to Fénelon: that the maxims of Christianity could not be used in dealing with states; that a generation of Frenchmen might justly be sacrificed if thereby the future of France could be ensured by natural and more defensible boundaries; and that an attempt to secure peace from the united and vengeful allies would open France to invasion and dismemberment. Caught in the conflict between the religion of brotherhood and the philosophy of war, Maintenon went more and more frequently to St.-Cyr, and sought in the fellowship of the young nuns the happiness that she had not found in power. 

   Toward the close of the war Pierre Le Pesant, Sieur de Boisguillebert, lieutenant general of the region around Rouen, brought to Pontchartrain a plan to mitigate the economic chaos and public destitution. “Listen to me patiently,” he urged the finance minister; “you will at first take me for a fool; then you will see that I deserve attention; finally you will be satisfied with my ideas.” Pontchartrain laughed at him and sent him away. The angry magistrate published his rejected manuscript as Le Détail de la France (1697). It denounced the multiplicity of taxes, which fell heavily upon the poor, lightly upon the rich; it condemned the Church for absorbing so much land and wealth; it excoriated the financiers whose sticky fingers clung to the taxes they collected for the King. The argument was weakened by exaggerations, careless statistics, and erroneous views of French economic history before Colbert; but it was sharpened by insights that a government accustomed to regulate everything was not equipped to understand. Boisguillebert was among the first to reject the mercantilist delusion that the precious metals are in themselves wealth, and that the purpose of trade is to accumulate gold. Wealth, he held, is an abundance of goods and of the power to produce them. The ultimate wealth is land; the farmer is the base of the economy, and his ruin involves the ruin of all; ultimately all classes are bound in a community of interests. Every producer is a consumer, and any advantage that he secures as a producer is sooner or later annulled by his disadvantage as a consumer. Colbert’s regulatory system was a mistake; it was hampering production and hardening the arteries of trade. The wisest way is to let men produce, sell, and buy freely within the state. Let the natural ambition and acquisitiveness of men operate with a minimum of legal restraint; so freed, they will invent new methods, enterprises, uses, tools; they will multiply the fertility of land, the products of industry, and the range and activity of commerce; and the resultant increase of wealth will provide new revenue for the state. Inequities will arise, but the economic process itself will remedy them. Here again was laissez-faire, two centuries before the heyday of free enterprise capitalism in the Western world. 

   The King and his ministers might be forgiven if they felt that a war against half of Europe was no time to attempt so far-reaching an economic revolution. Instead of reforming the economy they raised taxes. In 1695 a poll or head tax was decreed, supposedly for every male adult in France; it was excused as temporary, it continued till 1789. In theory nobles, priests, and magistrates were to be subject to it; actually the clergy bought exemption with a moderate subsidy, while nobles and financiers found loopholes in the law. Every device was used to elicit money from the people. Lotteries were organized, offices were sold, the currency was debased, and rich men were courted and prodded for loans. The King himself entertained the banker Samuel Bernard, luring millions from him by the hypnotism of the royal aura and charm. Despite taxes and devices old and new, the total revenue of the state in 1697 was 81,000,000 livres; the expenses were 219,000,000. 

   At last Louis confessed that his victories were bleeding the life from France. He bade his diplomats come to terms with his enemies. Their skill in a measure rescued him. In 1696 they persuaded the Duke of Savoy to sign a separate peace. Louis let it be whispered that he would end his support of the Stuarts and would recognize William III as King of England. William himself was finding that money was dearer than blood. “My poverty is incredible,” he complained, but Parliament grew more and more reluctant to pour out pounds to supply his troops. He required, as a preliminary to peace, the expulsion of James II from France. Louis refused, but he offered to restore nearly all the cities and terrain that his armies had won during the war. On September 20, 1697, the Peace of Ryswick (near The Hague) ended the “War of the Palatinate” with England, Holland, and Spain. France kept Strasbourg and Franche-Comté, and regained Pondicherry in India and Nova Scotia in America, but French tariffs were lowered to Dutch trade. On October 30 a supplementary peace was signed with the Holy Roman Empire. Both the Emperor and the King of France expected the early death of Charles II of Spain; and the chancelleries of Europe understood quite well that what had been signed was only a truce in preparation for a greater war, in which the prize would be the richest empire in the world.





Charles II, childless, was nearing death; who would inherit his possessions, ranging from the Philippines through Italy and Sicily to North and South America? Louis claimed them, not only as the son of the eldest daughter of Philip III of Spain, but through the rights of his dead wife, Marie Thérèse, eldest daughter of Philip IV. True enough, Marie Thérèse at her marriage had renounced all claim to the Spanish throne; but that renunciation had been made on condition that the Spanish government pay 500,000 gold crowns to France as her dowry. Those crowns had never been paid, for Spain was bankrupt. 

   The Emperor Leopold I had counterclaims. He was the son of Maria Anna, younger daughter of Philip III; in 1666 he had married Margaret Theresa, younger daughter of Philip IV; and neither of these ladies had renounced her rights of possible succession to the Spanish crown. Always harassed by the Turks, Leopold, for the sake of peace with France, compromised his claims by signing with Louis XIV (January 19, 1668) a secret treaty for the eventual partition of the Spanish Empire. By this pact, says a British historian (Cambridge Modern History, 1907, V: 349), “he virtually admitted the force of Louis XIV’s contention that the French Queen’s renunciation of her claims was invalid.” When, by a second marriage, Leopold had a second son, he renewed his claims, but offered to resign them in favor of this new Archduke Karl. 

   England, the Dutch Republic, and the German principalities saw with dread the possibility that the vast realm of Spain would fall to France or to Austria, in either case toppling the balance of power: if Louis won, he would dominate Europe and imperil Protestantism; if Leopold won, the Emperor, holding Belgium, would threaten the Dutch Republic, and would soon reduce the autonomy of the German states. Commercial as well as dynastic interests were involved: English and Dutch exporters supplied most of the market for industrial goods in Spain and her colonies, and received considerable gold and silver in exchange; they were loath to let that trade become a French monopoly. “The preservation of the commerce between the kingdom of Great Britain and Spain,” the British government stated in 1716, “was one of the chief motives that induced our two royal predecessors to enter the late, long, expensive war.” 

   Anxious to satisfy the merchants of both his native and his adopted lands, and to preserve the balance of power on the Continent, William III proposed to Louis that France waive her claim and agree with England that Spain, the Indies, Sardinia, and Belgium should be resigned to Joseph Ferdinand, Electoral Prince of Bavaria, grandson of Leopold; that the Dauphin of France should receive the Tuscan ports and the “Two Sicilies” (Italy south of the Papal States); while the Archduke Karl should be appeased, with the duchy of Milan. Louis accepted the proposal, and signed with William (October 11, 1698) the First Treaty for the Partition of Spain. Leopold angrily rejected the plan. Hoping to keep the Spanish empire from such fragmentation, Charles II drew up a will (November 14, 1698) making the Electoral Prince of Bavaria his universal heir. The Prince confused the situation by dying (February 5). 

   Louis offered William a new division: the Dauphin to receive the Tuscan ports, the “Two Sicilies,” and the duchy of Lorraine; the Duke of Lorraine to be compensated with Milan; all the rest of the Spanish empire, including America and Belgium, to go to the Archduke Karl. William and Louis signed this Second Partition Treaty on June 11, 1699. The Dutch Republic agreed to it, but Charles II protested against any dismemberment of his possessions, and the Emperor, hoping to win all for his son, supported the Spanish position and refused to accept the partition. Charles, as a Hapsburg, was inclined to leave all to the Archduke; as a Spaniard, however, he hated the Austrians, and as a Latin he preferred the French. As a fervent Catholic he asked the advice of the Pope; Innocent XII replied (September 27, 1700) that the best plan would be to bequeath the Spanish empire to a Bourbon prince, who should renounce any right to the throne of France; so Spain would retain its integrity. Apparently the French diplomats outwitted the Austrians in Madrid as well as in Rome. Public opinion in Spain, alienated by the arrogant manners of its German Queen, agreed with the Pope. “The general inclination,” reported the English ambassador at Madrid, “is altogether French.” On October 1 Charles signed the fateful will that bequeathed all Spain and its territories to the seventeen-year-old Philip, Duke of Anjou, second son of the Dauphin, with the proviso that the crowns of France and Spain should never be united under one head. On November 1 Charles died. 

   When news of the will reached Paris Louis was pleased but hesitant. He knew that the passage of Spain from the Hapsburgs to the Bourbons would be violently opposed by the Emperor, and that England and Holland would join in resistance. German historian Professor Wolfgang Michael gives Louis credit, at this juncture, for pacific aims:


   It would be unjust to say of Louis XIV that his intention had been from the beginning to throw over the Partition Treaty so soon as a will favorable to his House should be in his hands. Even when he was sure of such a will, while King Charles was still alive, he ordered his ambassador in Holland to assure the Pensionary that it was his intention to adhere to his engagements, rather than accept any offers that might be made to him. In addition to this, he still continued his efforts to obtain the accession of the Court of Vienna to the Treaty of Partition.


On October 6 Louis sent an urgent appeal to the Emperor to accept that Second Treaty of Partition. Leopold refused. Louis henceforth considered the treaty void.        

   Immediately after the death of Charles, the Spanish Junta, or Regency, dispatched a courier to Paris to notify Louis that his grandson would be accepted as King of Spain as soon as he came and took the oath to observe the laws of the realm. The Spanish ambassador at Paris was instructed, in case of a French refusal, to bid the courier hasten to Vienna and submit the same offer to the Archduke; in any case the Spanish empire must not be partitioned. On November 9 Louis called the Dauphin, his Chancellor Pontchartrain, the Duc de Beauvilliers, and the Marquis de Torcy, foreign minister, to a council in the apartment of Mme. de Maintenon, and asked their advice. Beauvilliers pleaded for a rejection of the Spanish offer as sure to lead to war with the Holy Roman Empire, England, and the Dutch Republic, and he reminded the King that France was in no condition to face such a coalition. Torcy argued for acceptance; war, he held, was inevitable in any event; Leopold would fight both the Partition Treaty and the will; besides, if the offer should be rejected by the King it would certainly be welcomed by the Emperor, and France would again be surrounded by that same cordonSpain, north Italy, Austria, and Belgium—which during the last two hundred years it had cost France so much blood to break. Better go to war for a just cause—the will—than in an attempt to enforce the partition of Spain against the desire of its government and its people.   

   After three days of further deliberation, Louis announced to the Spanish envoys his acceptance of the will. On November 16, 1700, he presented the Duke of Anjou to the court assembled at Versailles. “Gentlemen,” he said, “you see here the King of Spain. His descent called him to that crown; the deceased King so ordered it in his testament; the whole [Spanish] nation desired it, and earnestly entreated me to give my assent. Such was the will of Heaven; I have fulfilled it with joy.” And to the young monarch he added, “Be a good Spaniard—that is now your first duty; but remember that you were born a Frenchman, and maintain unity between the two nations; this is the way to make them happy, and to preserve the peace of Europe.” The Spanish Regency proclaimed Philip at Madrid, and all sections of Spain and her dominions soon declared their consent. One government after another recognized the new King: Savoy, Denmark, Portugal, the Dutch Republic, England, several Italian and German states; even the Elector of Bavaria—who thought his son had been poisoned by the Emperor—was among the first princes to offer recognition. The crisis seemed surmounted, and the century-long enmity between Spain and France seemed peacefully healed. The Spanish ambassador at Versailles knelt in homage to his new sovereign, and uttered famous words that Voltaire mistakenly attributed to Louis XIV: “Il n’y a plus de Pyrénées” (There are no more Pyrenees).









Philip V, beginning the Spanish Bourbons, was “quietly and cheerfully received in Spain,” wrote Lord Chesterfield, “and was acknowledged as king of it by most of those powers who afterwards joined in an alliance to dethrone him.” But the Emperor Leopold felt that this virtual union of France and Spain, if allowed to continue, would be a disaster for the house of Hapsburg, so long accustomed to rule both the “Holy Roman” and the Spanish empires. Reflecting his resentment, pamphleteers roused and expressed public sentiment in Austria by pointing out that Charles II had not been of sound mind when he bequeathed Spain to her ancient foe; indeed, they claimed, a post-mortem showed the King’s brain and heart grievously infected with disease; therefore his testament was null and void, and the Spanish dominions belonged to Leopold by the un-renounced rights of his mother and his wife. Leopold urged his former allies—Holland and England—to join him in denying or withdrawing recognition of Philip V, even if this meant war. 

   The leader of the Dutch Republic at this time was Antonius Heinsius, who had been chosen grand pensionary after William’s departure for England. In earlier days, as Dutch envoy to France, Louvois had threatened him with arrest in violation of diplomatic immunity, and he had never forgotten that indignity. Now aged fifty-nine, he lived in a modest house at The Hague, cherished books, walked daily to his office, worked ten hours a day, and served as a living challenge of bourgeois simplicity and republican government to luxurious aristocrats and absolute kings. In November 1700, under instruction by the States-General, he sent to Louis XIV a memorial entreating him to reject the will of Charles II as vitally injurious to the Emperor, and to return to a policy of partition. Louis replied (December 4, 1700) that his acceptance of the will had been made necessary by the Emperor’s repeated rejection of a partition plan, and by the certainty that if France refused the Spanish offer the Emperor would accept it. 

   The actions of Louis heightened Europe’s fear of French power. On February 1, 1701, he caused the Paris Parlement to register a royal decree reserving the eventual rights of Philip and his line to the crown of France. This did not necessarily mean that Louis looked toward the union of France and Spain under one king; it was probably intended to ensure an orderly succession to the French throne in case all prior heirs to it should be deceased; in that emergency Philip could surrender the Spanish crown for that of his native land, and so continue the Bourbon line without interruption. But a further procedure of the King justified a hostile interpretation. A treaty with Spain had confirmed the right of the Dutch to guard against the invasion of Holland by maintaining armed garrisons in some “barrier towns” of Belgium. On February 5, by an understanding between Louis and the Elector of Bavaria, who was then governing Belgium, French troops entered these towns and ordered the Dutch garrisons to depart. The Spanish ambassador at The Hague informed the States-General that this had been done by the desire of the Spanish government. The States-General, protesting, submitted, but Heinsius agreed with William III that the Grand Alliance against France must be renewed. 

   William took the position that the Second Partition Treaty had been an agreement between himself and Louis; that it had remained valid whether Leopold signed it or not; and that French acceptance of the Spanish bequest had broken a solemn pact. Parliament, however, was loath to resume the expensive struggle with France. When the French government notified England of Philip V’s succession to the Spanish throne, William resigned himself to congratulating his “very dear brother the King of Spain” on his “happy accession”thus giving formal recognition to the new Bourbon regime (April 17, 1701). But as the immense consequences of the Franco-Spanish union came more clearly into viewas the occupation of Flanders by French troops brought Louis XIV closer to Holland, and his possession of Antwerp gave him control over English commerce using that portthe English began to realize that the issue was not merely between Bourbon and Hapsburg, nor only between Catholicism resurgent and Protestantism at bay, but between English and French domination of the seas, of Europe’s colonies, and of world trade. In June 1701, without declaring war, Parliament engaged to sustain William in all alliances that he might contract for the purpose of limiting the exorbitant power of France. To implement this aim it sanctioned the recruiting of 30,000 seamen and voted £2,700,000. In response to an appeal from the States-General William ordered twenty ships and 10,000 men to Holland, and in July he himself crossed to The Hague. 

   The Emperor, claiming the entire Spanish dominion, was already at war. In May 1701, he sent an army of 6,000 horse and 16,000 foot to seize the possessions of Spain in north Italy. He placed in command a young prince who was destined to rival Marlborough himself as a generalEugene of Savoy. Eugene’s grandfather was Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy; his father, Prince Eugene Maurice, settled in France as Count of Soissons; his mother was Olympe Mancini, one of the alluring nieces of Mazarin. Eugene himself, aged twenty (1683), asked Louis XIV to give him command of a regiment; refused as too young, he renounced France and entered the

Imperial service. He joined with Sobieski in the relief of Vienna and the pursuit of the Turks; he was wounded in the capture of Buda, and again in the siege of Belgrade; he led the Imperial army to its decisive victory over the Turks at Senta (1697). He had every charm except those of features and physique. An unsympathetic Gaul described him as “this ugly little man with a turned-up nose over an upper lip too short to conceal his teeth;” but Voltaire recognized in him “the qualities of a hero in war and a great man in peace, a mind imbued with a high sense of justice and pride, and a courage unshaken in the command of armies.” Now, aged thirty-eight, he guided his forces over the Alps, outmaneuvered the French detachments there, and, with successive victories over Catinat and Villeroi, won for the Emperor nearly the whole duchy of Mantua (September 1701), long before the War of the Spanish Succession had been declared. 

   Meanwhile diplomacy had prepared a decade of massacre. In August Spain granted to France the lucrative asientothe “contract” to supply slaves to the Spanish colonists in America; evidently France intended to use her overriding influence in Spain to capture the commerce of its possessions on three continents. On September 7 the representatives of England, the Dutch Republic, and the Holy Roman Empire signed the Treaty of The Hague, forming a second Grand Alliance. Article Two declared it essential to the peace of Europe that the Emperor obtain satisfaction for his rights to the Spanish succession, and that England and the Dutch Republic be made secure in their dominions, navigation, and trade. The treaty promised to the Emperor the Spanish possessions in Italy and the Low Countries, but it left open the possibility that Philip V might be recognized as King of Spain. The contracting states pledged themselves to undertake no separate negotiations, to sign no separate peace, to prevent the union of the French and Spanish crowns, to bar French trade from the Spanish colonies, and to defend and maintain any conquests that England or the Dutch Republic should make in the Spanish Indies. Two months were granted France to accept these terms; failing this, the signatories would declare war. 

   Louis met the challenge with characteristic pride. He proclaimed himself in honor bound to defend the will of Charles II, and the resolve of the Spanish people that their Empire should not be dismembered. Too confident in the power and righteousness of his cause, he appeared at the bedside of the dying James II, and comforted him with the promise that he would recognize and uphold James III as King of England. When the father died Louis kept the promise; we do not know whether this was a “magnanimous action” (as a magnanimous English historian called it in the Camb. Mod. History, 1907, VI, 9), or a surrender to the tearful pleas of the widow, or a military measure designed to divide England into supporters of William and Jacobite supporters of a second Stuart restoration. In any case the “War of the Spanish Succession” was also a war for the English succession, even for the English soul; for a restored Stuart might resume the attempt to make England Catholic. Though France felt that the action of the allies violated the recognition that nearly all of them had given to Philip V as King of Spain, most of England felt that Louis had violated the Treaty of Ryswick, in which he had recognized William III as King of England; and the recognition of James III was resented as a presumptuous interference in English affairs. A clause was added to the terms of the Grand Alliance binding its signatories to make no peace with France till William should have received satisfaction for the insult offered him by Louis’ action. In January 1702, Parliament attainted James IIIi.e. declared him a traitor and an outlaw. At the same time, by a majority of one, it passed an Abjuration Act requiring all Englishmen to repudiate the “Pretender,” and to swear fealty to William III and his heirs. On March 8, 1702, William died, aged fifty-two, too soon to know that he had welded an alliance that for half a century would determine the map of Europe. On May 15 the Emperor, the States-General of the Dutch Republic, and the Parliament of England simultaneously declared war upon France.





Practically all of Europe west of Poland and the Ottoman Empire was involved. The Alliance was joined by Denmark, Prussia, Hanover, the episcopate of Münster, the elecorates of Mainz and the Palatinate, and some minor German states; to these in 1703 were added Savoy and Portugal. Together they mustered 250,000 men, and assembled a navy far superior to the French in numbers, equipment, and leadership. France had now 200,000 men in her armies, but these were distributed along many fronts in the Rhine region, Italy, and Spain. Her only allies were Spain, Bavaria, Cologne, and, for a year, Savoy. Spain was a liability, requiring French armies to defend it; and the Spanish colonies were at the mercy of the Dutch and English fleets.

   We must not lose ourselves in the royal game of human chess that ensued, sanguinary almost beyond precedent. Now came the masterly and gory campaigns of Marlborough and Eugene of Savoy. Perhaps never since Caesar had the genius of war been so combined with the art of diplomacy as in Marlborough: skilled in the strategy of planning operations and moving armies, in the tactics of manipulating infantry, cavalry, and artillery with rapidity of perception and decision, as the needs of battle changed; and yet also patient and tactful in dealing with the governments behind him, the personalities around him, even with the enemies that looked to him as a statesman conscious of realities and possessed of authority. He was sometimes merciless, and often unscrupulous; he poured out the blood of his soldiers in any quantity needed for success; and he communicated with James II and III to gild his own fate should the Stuarts return to power. But he was the organizer of victory.

   Louis XIV, perceiving that the whole splendor of his reign now hung in the balance, and that the dispute over Spain had become a contest for continents, called upon France to send him her sons and her gold. By 1704 he had 450,000 men under arms—as many as all his foes combined. Hoping to bring the costly conflict to an early issue, he ordered his main force to march through friendly Bavaria and attack the final citadel of the enemy, Vienna itself, which even the Turkish army had failed to take. An insurrection in Hungary occupied Imperial forces in the east, and left their capital almost denuded of defense. While a French army under Villeroi was supposed to chain Marlborough to the Low Countries, French troops under Marsin and Tallard joined those of the Bavarian Elector and pressed farther and farther into Austria. The Emperor again, as in 1683, fled from Vienna, knowing that his capture by the enemy would be a disaster to the allies’ cause.

   In this crisis Marlborough, against the pleas of the Dutch States-General, but with the secret consent of Heinsius, decided to risk the invasion of Holland by Villeroi, and march night and day from the North Sea to the Danube (May to June, 1704) to save Vienna. Pretending to seek a crossing of the Moselle, he moved southward along the river, luring Villeroi into a parallel movement on the other side. Then suddenly, at Coblenz, he turned east, crossed the Rhine on a floating bridge, marched down to Mainz, crossed the Main to Heidelberg, and crossed the Neckar to Rastadt. Now he effected critical junctions with reinforcements from Holland, with an Imperial army under Eugene of Savoy, and with another under Margrave Louis William I of Baden-Baden. The French and the Bavarians were astonished to find Marlborough so far from the positions where Villeroi had been expected to contain him. Marsin, Tallard, and the Elector of Bavaria gathered 35,000 infantry and 18,000 cavalry between Lutzingen and Blindheim (Blenheim) on the left bank of the Danube. There, on August 13, 1704, Marlborough and Eugene, with 33,000 foot and 29,000 horse, engaged them in what France tries to forget as the battle of Höchstädt, and what England celebrates as the victory of Blenheim. Marlborough’s superior cavalry overwhelmed the French center and drove Tallard’s routed army into Blenheim, where its surviving 12,000 men surrendered, Tallard himself being captured; then Marlborough’s horsemen rode to the support of hard-pressed Eugene on the right, and helped him force Marsin into an orderly retreat. The human loss was heavy: 12,000 casualties on the allied side, 14,000 on the Franco-Bavarian. The surrender of twenty-seven battalions of infantry and twelve squadrons of mounted men shattered the reputation of French arms. The Elector of Bavaria fled to Brussels; an Imperial army occupied Bavaria; nearly seven hundred and seventy-six square kilometers of terrain were cleared of French troops. Leopold returned in safety to his capital.

   On August 4 an Anglo-Dutch fleet marked another date in history by capturing the barren Rock of Gibraltar. The English turned it into a fortress that for two centuries made them masters of the Mediterranean. Not knowing that it had been decided by these two victories, the war continued for nine more years. An English fleet took Barcelona (October 9, 1705); an allied army protected a revolt of Catalonia against Philip V, and established the Archduke Karl at Madrid as Charles III (June 25, 1706). But the sight of Austrians and Englishmen ruling the country roused the Spanish from their unworldly torpor; even the ecclesiastics urged them on to resistance. The peasants armed themselves as best they could, and cut the allied line of communications between Barcelona and Madrid; the English Duke of Berwick, James Fitzjames, natural son of James II, led a Franco-Spanish force from the west, recovered Madrid for Philip V (September 22), and drove the Archduke and his English “heretics” back to Catalonia.

   Meanwhile Marlborough, after overcoming political obstacles in London and The Hague, assembled an army of 60,000 English, Dutch, and Danes, and marched into Belgium. On May 23, 1706, he met the main French army of 58,000 men under Villeroi at Ramillies, near Namur. In the ecstasy of battle, and forgetting that generals must die in bed, he dashed to the front, and was knocked from his horse. His aide, while helping the Duke to another mount, had his head blown off by a cannon ball. Marlborough recovered, realigned his troops, and led them to another bloody victory; his army suffered 5,000 casualties, the French 15,000. He advanced through negligible resistance to the capture of Antwerp, Bruges, and Ostend; there he had a direct line of communications with England, and was only thirty-two kilometers from France. Marshal Villeroi, sixty-two, retired to his estate in grief, but with no reproof from the King, who told him sadly, “There is no more luck at our age.”

   Everywhere now, except in Spain, the French were in peril or retreat. In Vienna Joseph I, twenty-seven, succeeded (1705) his father as emperor, and gave vigorous support to his generals. Eugene of Savoy drove the French from Turin (1706), then from all Italy (1707). By the Convention of Milan the duchies of Milan and Mantua became parts of the Austrian Empire, and the rule of the Mantuan Gonzagas, begun in 1328, came to an end. The kingdom of Naples, so long a viceroyalty of Spain, fell in its turn to Austrian arms, though it continued to be formally a papal fief. The Papal States remained papal by permission of the Emperor, whose German troops had marched through them against the will of the helpless Pope. Venice and Tuscany preserved a precarious independence.

   Louis XIV was a changed man. The pride of power had almost left him, but he maintained the calm dignity of his state. In 1706 he offered the allies terms of peace that five years earlier they might have been glad to accept: Spain to be surrendered to Archduke Karl; Philip to be content with Milan, Naples, and Sicily; barrier towns and fortresses to be restored to Dutch control in Belgium. The Dutch were disposed to negotiate; the English and the Emperor refused. Louis turned wearily to recruiting new armies and levying new taxes; even baptisms and marriages, to be legal, had now to pay a tax. The population of France, desperate in poverty, baptized its own children and married without priestly aid, though the offspring of such unions were officially branded as illegitimate.

   Revolts broke out at Cahors, in Quercy, in Périgord; peasant mobs seized town offices and seignorial châteaux. Living skeletons (squelettes) of starving people clamored at the gates of Versailles for bread; the Swiss Guard drove them away. Placards appeared on Paris walls warning Louis that there were still Ravaillacs in Francei.e. men willing to kill a king. The new taxes were abandoned.

   Early in 1707 the Marquis de Vauban, whose military engineering had been a vital element in French victories a generation earlier, published in his seventy-fourth year a proposal for a more just taxProjet d’une dîme royale. He described the misery of France: “Nearly a tenth of the people are reduced to beggary, and of the other nine tenths the majority are more in a condition to receive charity than to give it. . . . It is certain that the evil has been pushed to excess, and that if no remedy is applied the people will fall into such destitution that they will never recover.” He reminded the King that “it is the lower class of the people which, by their labor and industry, and their contributions to the royal treasury, enrich the sovereign and his realm;” yet “it is that class which now, through the demands of war and the taxation of its savings, is reduced to living in rags and crumbling cottages while its lands lie fallow” in the absence of its recruited sons. To relieve these most productive classes Vauban, adopting some ideas from Boisguillebert, proposed to abolish all existing taxes and replace them with a graduated income tax, exempting no class; landowners to pay five to ten per cent, workers not more than three and a half per cent. The state should maintain its monopoly on salt, but custom dues were to be charged only at national frontiers.

   Saint-Simon describes the book and its reception:


   It was full of information and figures, all arranged with the utmost clearness, simplicity, and exactitude. But it had a grand fault. It described a course which, if followed, would have ruined an army of financiers, of clerks, of functionaries of all kinds: it would have forced them to live at their own expense, instead of at the expense of the people, and it would have sapped the foundation of those immense fortunes that are seen to grow up in such short time. This was enough to cause its failure. All the people interested in opposing the work set up a cry. . . . What wonder, then, that the King, who was surrounded by these people, listened to their reasons, and received with very ill grace Maréchal Vauban when he presented his book to him.


Louis reproached him as a dreamer whose plan would have upset the finances of the kingdom in the crisis of war. A decree in council (February 14, 1707) ordered the book to be seized and exposed in a pillory. Six weeks later, disheartened by his disgrace, the old Marshal died.