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The Persian Empire
Persia Proper
Origin of the Persians
The Religion of the Iranians
Persian Civilization
Persian rulers
Youth and education of Cyrus
Political Union of Persia and Media
The Median Empire
Early Conquests of Cyrus
The Lydian Empire
Croesus, King of Lydia
War between Croesus and Cyrus
Fate of Croesus
Conquest of the Ionian Cities
Conquest of Babylon
Assyria and Babylonia
Subsequent conquests of Cyrus
His kindness to the Jews
Character of Cyrus
Cambyses; Darius Hystaspes
Fall of the Persian Empire



Caesar an instrument of Providence
His family and person
Early manhood; marriage; profession; ambition
Curule magistrates; the Roman Senate
Only rich men who control elections ordinarily elected
Venality of the people
Caesar borrows money to bribe the people
Elected Quaestor
Gains a seat in the Senate
Second marriage, with a cousin of Pompey
Caesar made Pontifex Maximus; elected Praetor
Sent to Spain; military services in Spain
Elected Consul; his reforms; Leges Juliae
Opposition of the Aristocracy
Assigned to the province of Gaul
His victories over the Gauls and Germans
Character of the races he subdued
Amazing difficulties of his campaigns
Reluctance of the Senate to give him the customary honor
Jealousy of the nobles; hostility between them and Caesar
The Aristocracy unfit to govern; their habits and manners
They call Pompey to their aid
Neither Pompey nor Caesar will disband his forces; Caesar recalled
Caesar marches on Home; crosses the Rubicon
Ultimate ends of Caesar; the civil war
Pompey's incapacity and indecision; flies to Brundusi
Caesar defeats Pompey's generals in Spain
Dictatorship of Caesar
Battle of Pharsalia
Death of Pompey in Egypt
Battles of Thapsus and of Munda
They result in Caesar's supremacy
His services as Emperor
His habits and character
His assassination, - its consequences
Causes of Imperialism, - its supposed necessity when Caesar
arose; public rebuke of Caesar by Cicero
An historical puzzle



Remarkable character of Marcus Aurelius
His parentage and education
Adopted by Antoninus Pius
Subdues the barbarians of Germany
Consequences of the German Wars
Mistakes of Marcus Aurelius; Commodus
Persecutions of the Christians
The "Meditations," - their sublime Stoicism
Epictetus, - the influence of his writings
Style and value of the "Meditations"
Necessities of the Empire
Its prosperity under the Antonines; external glories
Its internal weakness; seeds of ruin
Gibbon controverted by Marcus Aurelius



Constantine and Diocletian
Influence of martyrdoms
Influence of Asceticism, - its fierce protest
Rise of Constantine
His civil wars for the supremacy of the Roman world
The rival Emperors and their fate: Maximinian, Galerius,
Maxentius, Maximin, Licinius
Constantine sole Emperor over the West and East
Foundation of Constantinople, - its great advantage
The pomp and ceremony of the imperial Court
Crimes of Constantine; his virtues
Conversion of Constantine
His Christian legislation; edict of Toleration
Patronage of the Clergy; union of Church and State
Council of Nice
Theological discussion
Doctrine of the Trinity
Athanasius and Arius
The Nicene Creed
Effect of philosophical discussions on theological truths
Constantine's work; the uniting of Church with State
Death of Constantine
His character and services



Female friendship
Paganism unfavorable to friendship
Character of Jewish women
Great Pagan women
Paula, her early life
Her conversion to Christianity
Her asceticism
Asceticism the result of circumstances
Virtues of Paula
Her illustrious friends
Saint Jerome and his great attainments
His friendship with Paula
His social influence at Rome
His treatment of women
Vanity of mere worldly friendship
^Esthetic mission of woman
Elements of permanent friendship
Necessity of social equality
Illustrious friendships
Congenial tastes in friendship
Necessity of Christian graces
Sympathy as radiating from the Cross
Necessity of some common end in friendship
The extension of monastic life
Virtues of early monastic life
Paula and Jerome seek its retreats
Their residence in Palestine
Their travels in the East
Their illustrious visitors
Peculiarities of their friendship
Death of Paula
Her character and fame
Elevation of woman by friendship



The power of the Pulpit
Eloquence always a power
The superiority of the Christian themes to those of Pagan antiquity
Sadness of the great Pagan orators
Cheerfulness of the Christian preachers
Society of the times
Chrysostom's conversion, and life in retirement
Life at Antioch
Characteristics of his eloquence; his popularity as orator
His influence
Shelters Antioch from the wrath of Theodosius
Power and responsibility of the clergy
Transferred to Constantinople, as Patriarch of the East
His sermons, and their effect at Court
Quarrel with Eutropius
Envy of Theophilus of Alexandria
Council of the Oaks; condemnation to exile
Sustained by the people; recalled
Wrath of the Empress
Exile of Chrysostom
His literary labors in exile
His more remote exile, and death
His fame and influence



Dignity of the Episcopal office in the early Church
Growth of Episcopal authority, - its causes
The See of Milan; election of Ambrose as Archbishop
His early life and character; his great ability
Change in his life after consecration
His conservation of the Faith
Persecution of the Manicheans
Opposition to the Arians
His enemies; Faustina
Quarrel with the Empress
Establishment of Spiritual Authority
Opposition to Temporal Power
Ambrose retires to his cathedral; Ambrosian chant
Rebellion of Soldiers; triumph of Ambrose
Sent as Ambassador to Maximus; his intrepidity
His rebuke of Theodosius; penance of the Emperor
Fidelity and ability of Ambrose as Bishop
His private virtues
His influence on succeeding ages



Lofty position of Augustine in the Church
Parentage and birth
Education and youthful follies
Influence of the Manicheans on him
Teacher of rhetoric
Visits Rome
Teaches rhetoric at Milan
Influence of Ambrose on him
Conversion; Christian experience
Retreat to Lake Como
Death of Monica his mother
Return to Africa
Made Bishop of Hippo; his influence as Bishop
His greatness as a theologian; his vast studies
Contest with Manicheans, - their character and teachings
Controversy with the Donatists, - their peculiarities
Tracts: Unity of the Church and Religious Toleration
Contest with the Pelagians: Pelagius and Celestius
Principles of Pelagianism
Doctrines of Augustine: Grace; Predestination; Sovereignty of God;
Servitude of the Will
Results of the Pelagian controversy
Other writings of Augustine: "The City of God;" Soliloquies; Sermons
Death and character
Eulogists of Augustine
His posthumous influence



The mission of Theodosius
General sense of security in the Roman world
The Romans awake from their delusion
Incursions of the Goths
Battle of Adrianople; death of Valens
Necessity for a great deliverer to arise; Theodosius
The Goths, - their characteristics and history
Elevation of Theodosius as Associate Emperor
He conciliates the Goths, and permits them to settle in the Empire
Revolt of Maximus against Gratian; death of Gratian
Theodosius marches against Maximus and subdues him
Revolt of Arbogastes, - his usurpation
Victories of Theodosius over all his rivals; the Empire once
more united under a single man
Reforms of Theodosius; his jurisprudence
Patronage of the clergy and dignity of great ecclesiastics
Theodosius persecutes the Arians
Extinguishes Paganism and closes the temples
Cements the union of Church with State
Faults and errors of Theodosius; massacre of Thessalonica
Death of Theodosius
Division of the Empire between his two sons
Renewed incursions of the Goths, - Alaric; Stilicho
Fall of Rome; Genseric and the Vandals
Second sack of Rome
Reflections on the Fall of the Western Empire



Leo the Great, - founder of the Catholic Empire
General aim of the Catholic Church
The Church the guardian of spiritual principles
Theocratic aspirations of the Popes
Origin of ecclesiastical power; the early Popes
Primacy of the Bishop of Rome
Necessity for some higher claim after the fall of Rome
Early life of Leo
Elevation to the Papacy; his measures; his writings
His persecution of the Manicheans
Conservation of the Faith by Leo
Intercession with the barbaric kings; Leo's intrepidity
Desolation of Rome
Designs and thoughts of Leo
The _jus divinum_ principle; state of Rome when this principle
was advocated
Its apparent necessity
The influence of arrogant pretensions on the barbarians
They are indorsed by the Emperor
The government of Leo
The central power of the Papacy
Unity of the Church
No rules of government laid down in the Scriptures
Governments the result of circumstances
The Papal government the need of the Middle Ages
The Papacy in its best period
Greatness of Leo's character and aims
Fidelity of his early successors, and perversions of later Popes



The Conversion of Paula by St. Jerome.
_After the painting by L. Alma-Tadema_.

Archery Practice of a Persian King.
_After the painting by F.A. Bridgman_.

Tomyris Plunges the Head of the Dead Cyrus into a Vessel of Blood.
_After the painting by A. Zick_.

Julius Caesar.
_From the bust in the National Museum, Rome_.

Surrender of Vercingetorix, the Last Chief of Gaul.
_After the painting by Henri Motte_.

Marcus Aurelius.
_From a photograph of the statue at the Capitol, Rome_.

Persecution of Christians in the Roman Arena.
_After the painting by G. Mantegazza_.

St. Jerome in His Cell.
_After the painting by J.L. Gérôme_.

St. Chrysostom Condemns the Vices of the Empress Eudoxia.
_After the painting by Jean Paul Laurens_.

St. Ambrose Refuses the Emperor Theodosius Admittance to His Church.
_After the painting by Gebhart Fügel_.

St. Augustine and His Mother.
_After the painting by Ary Scheffer_.

Invasion of the Goths into the Roman Empire.
_After the painting by O. Fritsche_.

Invasion of the Huns into Italy.
_After the painting by V. Checa_.


* * * * *


* * * * *

559-529 B.C.


One of the most prominent and romantic characters in the history of the
Oriental world, before its conquest by Alexander of Macedon, is Cyrus
the Great; not as a sage or prophet, not as the founder of new religious
systems, not even as a law-giver, but as the founder and organizer of
the greatest empire the world has seen, next to that of the Romans. The
territory over which Cyrus bore rule extended nearly three thousand
miles from east to west, and fifteen hundred miles from north to south,
embracing the principal nations known to antiquity, so that he was
really a king of kings. He was practically the last of the great Asiatic
emperors, absorbing in his dominions those acquired by the Assyrians,
the Babylonians, and the Lydians. He was also the first who brought Asia
into intimate contact with Europe and its influences, and thus may be
regarded as the link between the old Oriental world and the Greek

It is to be regretted that so little is really known of the Persian
hero, both in the matter of events and also of exact dates, since
chronologists differ, and can only approximate to the truth in their
calculations. In this lecture, which is in some respects an introduction
to those that will follow on the heroes and sages of Greek, Roman, and
Christian antiquity, it is of more importance to present Oriental
countries and institutions than any particular character, interesting as
he may be, - especially since as to biography one is obliged to sift
historical facts from a great mass of fables and speculations.

Neither Herodotus, Xenophon, nor Ctesias satisfy us as to the real life
and character of Cyrus. This renowned name represents, however, the
Persian power, the last of the great monarchies that ruled the Oriental
world until its conquest by the Greeks. Persia came suddenly into
prominence in the middle of the seventh century before Christ. Prior to
this time it was comparatively unknown and unimportant, and was one of
the dependent provinces of Media, whose religion, language, and customs
were not very dissimilar to its own.

Persia was a small, rocky, hilly, arid country about three hundred miles
long by two hundred and fifty wide, situated south of Media, having the
Persian Gulf as its southern boundary, the Zagros Mountains on the west
separating it from Babylonia, and a great and almost impassable desert
on the east, so that it was easily defended. Its population was composed
of hardy, warlike, and religious people, condemned to poverty and
incessant toil by the difficulty of getting a living on sterile and
unproductive hills, except in a few favored localities. The climate was
warm in summer and cold in winter, but on the whole more temperate than
might be supposed from a region situated so near the tropics, - between
the twenty-fifth and thirtieth degrees of latitude. It was an elevated
country, more than three thousand feet above the sea, and was favorable
to the cultivation of the fruits and flowers that have ever been most
prized, those cereals which constitute the ordinary food of man growing
in abundance if sufficient labor were spent on their cultivation,
reminding us of Switzerland and New England. But vigilance and incessant
toil were necessary, such as are only found among a hardy and courageous
peasantry, turning easily from agricultural labors to the fatigues and
dangers of war. The real wealth of the country was in the flocks and
herds that browsed in the valleys and plains. Game of all kinds was
abundant, so that the people were unusually fond of the pleasures of the
chase; and as they were temperate, inured to exposure, frugal, and
adventurous, they made excellent soldiers. Nor did they ever as a nation
lose their warlike qualities, - it being only the rich and powerful among
them who learned the vices of the nations they subdued, and became
addicted to luxury, indolence, and self-indulgence. Before the conquest
of Media the whole nation was distinguished for temperance, frugality,
and bravery. According to Herodotus, the Persians were especially
instructed in three things, - "to ride, to draw the bow, and to speak the
truth." Their moral virtues were as conspicuous as their warlike
qualities. They were so poor that their ordinary dress was of leather.
They could boast of no large city, like the Median Ecbatana, or like
Babylon, - Pasargadae, their ancient capital, being comparatively small
and deficient in architectural monuments. The people lived chiefly in
villages and hamlets, and were governed, like the Israelites under the
Judges, by independent chieftains, none of whom attained the rank and
power of kings until about one hundred years before the birth of Cyrus.
These pastoral and hunting people, frugal from necessity, brave from
exposure, industrious from the difficulty of subsisting in a dry and
barren country, for the most sort were just such a race as furnished a
noble material for the foundation of a great empire.

Whence came this honest, truthful, thrifty race? It is generally
admitted that it was a branch of the great Aryan family, whose original
settlements are supposed to have been on the high table-lands of Central
Asia east of the Caspian Sea, probably in Bactria. They emigrated from
that dreary and inhospitable country after Zoroaster had proclaimed his
doctrines, after the sacred hymns called the Gathas were sung, perhaps
even after the Zend-Avesta or sacred writings of the Zoroastrian priests
had been begun, - conquering or driving away Turanian tribes, and
migrating to the southwest in search of more fruitful fields and fertile
valleys, they found a region which has ever since borne a
name - Iran - that evidently commemorated the proud title of the Aryan
race. And this great movement took place about the time that another
branch of their race also migrated southeastwardly to the valleys of the
Indus. The Persians and the Hindus therefore had common ancestors, - the
same indeed, as those of the Greeks, Romans, Sclavonians, Celts, and
Teutons, who migrated to the northwest and settled in Europe. The Aryans
in all their branches were the noblest of the primitive races, and have
in their later developments produced the highest civilization ever
attained. They all had similar elements of character, especially love of
personal independence, respect for woman, and a religious tendency of
mind. We see a considerable similarity of habits and customs between
the Teutonic races of Germany and Scandinavia and the early inhabitants
of Persia, as well as great affinity in language. All branches of the
Aryan family have been warlike and adventurous, if we may except the
Hindus, who were subjected to different influences, - especially of
climate, which enervated their bodies if it did not weaken their minds.

When the migration of the Iranians took place it is difficult to
determine, but probably between fifteen hundred and two thousand years
before our era, although it may have been even five hundred years
earlier than that. All theories as to their movements before their
authentic history begins are based on conjecture and speculation, which
it is not profitable to pursue, since we can settle nothing in the
present state of our knowledge.

It is very singular that the Iranians should have had, after their
migrations and settlements, religious ideas and systems so different
from those of the Hindus, considering that they had common ancestors.
The Iranians, including the Medes as well as Persians, accepted
Zoroaster as their prophet and teacher, and the Zend-Avesta as their
sacred books, and worshipped one Supreme Deity, whom they called
Ahura-Mazda (Ormazd), - the Lord Omniscient, - and thus were monotheists;
while the Hindus were practically poly-theists, governed by a
sacerdotal caste, who imposed gloomy austerities and sacrifices,
although it would seem that the older Vedistic hymns of the Hindus were
theistic in spirit. The Magi - the priests of the Iranians - differed
widely in their religious views from the Brahmans, inculcating a higher
morality and a loftier theological creed, worshipping the Supreme Being
without temples or shrines or images, although their religion ultimately
degenerated into a worship of the powers of Nature, as the recognition
of Mithra the sun-god and the mysterious fire-altars would seem to
indicate. But even in spite of the corruptions introduced by the Magi
when they became a powerful sacerdotal body, their doctrine remained
purer and more elevated than the religions of the surrounding nations.

While the Iranians worshipped a supreme deity of goodness, they also
recognized a supreme deity of evil, both ruling the world - in perpetual
conflict - by unnumbered angels, good and evil; but the final triumph of
the good was a conspicuous article of their faith. In close logical
connection with this recognition of a supreme power in the universe was
the belief of a future state and of future rewards and punishments,
without which belief there can be, in my opinion, no high morality, as
men are constituted.

In process of time the priests of the Zoroastrian faith became unduly
powerful, and enslaved the people by many superstitions, such as the
multiplication of rites and ceremonies and the interpretation of dreams
and omens. They united spiritual with temporal authority, as a powerful
priesthood is apt to do, - a fact which the Christian priesthood of the
Middle Ages made evident in the Occidental world.

In the time of Cyrus the Magi had become a sort of sacerdotal caste.
They were the trusted ministers of kings, and exercised a controlling
influence over the people. They assumed a stately air, wore white and
flowing robes, and were adept in the arts of sorcery and magic. They
were even consulted by kings and chieftains, as if they possessed
prophetic power. They were a picturesque body of men, with their mystic
wands, their impressive robes, their tall caps, appealing by their long
incantations and frequent ceremonies and prayers to the eye and to the
ear. "Pure Zoroastrianism was too spiritual to coalesce readily with
Oriental luxury and magnificence when the Persians were rulers of a vast
empire, but Magism furnished a hierarchy to support the throne and add
splendor and dignity to the court, while it blended easily with
previous creeds."

In material civilization the Medes and Persians were inferior to the
Babylonians and Egyptians, and immeasurably behind the Greeks and
Romans. Their architecture was not so imposing as that of the Egyptians
and Babylonians; it had no striking originality, and it was only in the
palaces of great monarchs that anything approached magnificence. Still,
there were famous palaces at Ecbatana, Susa, and Persepolis, raised on
lofty platforms, reached by grand staircases, and ornamented with
elaborate pillars. The most splendid of these were erected after the
time of Cyrus, by Darius and Xerxes, decorated with carpets, hangings,
and golden ornaments. The halls of their palaces were of great size and
imposing effect. Next to palaces, the most remarkable buildings were the
tombs of kings; but we have no remains of marble statues or metal
castings or ivory carvings, not even of potteries, which at that time in
other countries were common and beautiful. The gems and signet rings
which the Persians engraved possessed much merit, and on them were
wrought with great skill the figures of men and animals; but the nearest
approach to sculpture were the figures of colossal bulls set to guard
the portals of palaces, and these were probably borrowed from the

Nor were the Persians celebrated for their textile fabrics and dyes. "So
long as the carpets of Babylon, the shawls of India, the fine linen of
Egypt, and the coverlets of Damascus poured continually into Persia in
the way of tribute and gifts, there was no stimulus to manufacture." The
same may be said of the ornamental metal-work of the Greeks, and the
glass manufacture of the Phoenicians. The Persians were soldiers, and
gloried in being so, to the disdain of much that civilization has
ever valued.

It may as well be here said that the Iranians, both Medes and Persians,
were acquainted with the art of writing. Harpagus sent a letter to Cyrus
concealed in the belly of a hare, and Darius signed a decree which his
nobles presented to him in writing. In common with the Babylonians they
used the same alphabetic system, though their languages were
unlike, - namely, the cuneiform or arrow-head or wedge-shaped characters,
as seen in the celebrated inscriptions of Darius on the side of a high
rock thirty feet from the ground. We cannot determine whether the Medes
and Persians brought their alphabet from their original settlements in
Central Asia, or derived it from the Turanian and Semitic nations with
which they came in contact. In spite of their knowledge of writing,
however, they produced no literature of any account, and of science they
were completely ignorant. They made few improvements even in military
weapons, the chief of which, as among all the nations of antiquity, were
the bow, the spear, and the sword. They were skilful horsemen, and made
use of chariots of war. Their great occupation, aside from agriculture,
was hunting, in which they were trained by exposure for war. They were
born to conquer and rule, like the Romans, and cared for little except
the warlike virtues.

Such were the Persians and the rugged country in which they lived, with
their courage and fortitude, their love of freedom, their patriotism,

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Online LibraryJohn LordBeacon Lights of History, Volume 04 Imperial Antiquity → online text (page 1 of 20)