Edward Augustus Freeman.

The chief periods of European history; six lectures read in the University of Oxford in Trinity term, 1885, with an essay on Greek cities under Roman rule online

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Online LibraryEdward Augustus FreemanThe chief periods of European history; six lectures read in the University of Oxford in Trinity term, 1885, with an essay on Greek cities under Roman rule → online text (page 1 of 17)
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THESE are the Lectures referred to in the last paragraph
of the Preface to the course on the " Methods of Historical
Study," lately published. I have added to them the second
of two articles which appeared in the Contemporary
Review for 1884. The former of them, "Some Neglected
Periods of European History," I have not reprinted, as its
substance will be found in the present course. The second,
" Greek Cities under Roman Rule," as dealing somewhat
more in detail with some points which are barely glanced
at in the present course, seemed to make a fitting Appendix
to it.

I find that the same thought as to the political result
of modern scientific inventions which is brought out at
pp. 184, 185 of these Lectures is also brought out in the
Lecture at Edinburgh, reprinted in my little took "Greater
Greece and Greater Britain," published last May. This
kind of thing is always likely to happen in lectures given
in different places. It seemed to me that the thought
came naturally in both lectures, and that either would
lose something by its being struck out. As for those who
may be so unlucky as to read both, I can only say that

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a thought which is worth suggesting once is worth sug-
gesting twice. At least I have often found it so in the
writings of others, specially in those of Mr. Grote.

The two courses of Oxford lectures which have now
been printed are both introductory. In this present
course the division into periods which is attempted is, on
the face of it, only one among many which might be made.
Another man might divide on some principle altogether
different; I might myself divide on some other principle
in another course of lectures. My present object was to
set forth as strongly as possible, at the beginning of my
teaching here, the main outlines of European history, as
grouped round its central point, the Roman power. The
main periods suggested by such a view of things are those
which concern the growth and the dying-out of that power
Europe before the growth of Rome Europe with Rome,
in one shape or another, as her centre Europe since Rome
has practically ceased to be. When this main outline, a
somewhat formal one, has once been established, it is easy
at once to fill in and to subdivide in an endless number of
ways and from an endless number of points of view. Thus
I have at present little to do with the political develope-
ment of particular nations. Of some branches of that
subject I have treated at some length in other shapes ; I
may, in the course of my work here, have to treat of others.
But they are not my subject now. Nor have I now to
deal with the great events and the great institutions of
Europe, except so far as they helped to work out the one
main outline which I have tried to draw. The power of
the Popes may be looked at in a thousand ways ; it con-


cerns me now only in its strictly Roman aspect, as one, and
the greatest, of the survivals of Roman power. The great
French Revolution again may be looked on in a thousand
ways. It concerns me now as having led to the sweeping
away of the last relics of the old Roman tradition, and as
having set up for a while the most memorable of conscious
imitations of the Roman power. I say all this, that no one
may be disappointed if he fails to find in this thin volume
even a summary of all European history, much less a
philosophical discussion of all European history. My
business now is simply to draw an outline, ready either
for myself or for others to fill up in various ways.

These two introductory courses make up the result of my
public work as Professor during my first year of office,
1884-5. Besides these, there was the minute study of
Gregory of Tours with a smaller class, followed by the like
study of Paul the Deacon. In my second year, 1885-6, I
have, besides this study of texts, been engaged, as I said in
my former Preface, with public lectures of a much more
minute kind, on the history of the Teutonic nations in
Gaul. These I do not design to publish as lectures. If I
li ve long enough, I trust to make my way through them to
an older subject of mine, the Teutonic settlements in Britain.
Neither the history of Gaul nor the history of Britain in
the fifth century A.D. can be fully understood it follows
that the whole later history of the two lands cannot be
fully understood without comparing it with the history
of the other land. In dealing with Goths, Burgundians,
and Franks, the comparison and contrast with Angles,
Saxons, and Jutes, if it sometimes passes out of the imme-


diate sight, must never be allowed to pass out of the mind's
eye. The broad light of the history of Gaul is the best
comment on the yet more instructive darkness of the
history of Britain.

This subject brings me at once within the range of con-
troversy. I believe that the doctrine for which I have
struggled so long, the doctrine, as I have somewhere put
it epigramatically, that we, the English people, are our-
selves and not somebody else, is now often held to be alto-
gether set aside. Only a few old-fashioned people like
myself are thought likely to maintain it. Yet, whenever
I come across these new lights, I always begin to doubt
whether those who kindle them have ever minutely con-
trasted the circumstances or the results of the Teutonic
settlements in Britain with those of the better known
Teutonic settlements in Gaul. Now this is the very root
of the matter; in discoursing of the phsenomena of Gaul,
I have always had an eye to the phsenomena of Britain,
and I trust some day, if I am ever able to work through
my materials, to set forth the contrast in full. To this
object the lectures which I am now gradually giving will,
I hope, serve ; but it will be best to put no essential part
of them forth to the world till I can deal with the subject
as a whole. Till then I will simply put on record, for the
benefit of those who may have heard statements attributed
to me which they have certainly not read in my writings,
that I have nowhere said, because I never thought, that
every one Briton was necessarily killed, even in those
parts of Britain which became most thoroughly Teutonic.
At the same time, I think, that every one who really reads


his Gregory and his Baeda, every one who carefully
compares the map of Gaul with the map of Britain, every
one who stops to think over the history of the French
and the English tongues and the history of the Welsh
tongue too will not do him any harm may possibly
come to the conclusion that the doctrine that Englishmen
after all are Englishmen has really some little to be said
for it.

October 1 8, 1886.







SURVIVALS OF EMPIRE . . . . . . l ^

THE WORLD ROMELESS . . . . . . !*,




IN my first course of public lectures I did my best
to speak in a general way of the nature of historical
study, of its kindred pursuits, of the difficulties by
which it is beset and of the most hopeful means of
overcoming them. I spoke of the nature of the evi-
dence with which we have to deal in the search after
historic truth, and of the nature of the witnesses by
whom that evidence is handed down to us. In future
courses I trust to apply the principles which I then
strove to lay down to the study of some of the most
memorable periods since the point at which, if at
any point, the special business of this chair begins.
That we have ruled to be the point at which the Teu-
tonic and Slavonic nations first began to play a chief
part in the great drama of the history of Western man.
In the present term I ask your attention to a course
which will attempt to fill a place intermediate between
these two, and which may naturally serve as a link be-
tween them. Now that we have laid down rules for
the general guidance of our studies, while we are look-
ing forward to a more minute dealing with the history
of some specially memorable lands and times, we may,
as the intermediate stage, do our best to part off the



history of man, such parts of it at least as concern us,
into a few great and strongly-marked periods. In my
former course, while taking a very general view of my
whole subject, I did not feel myself bound to keep
within any artificial limits, whether of my own fixing
or of any other man's. When speaking of evidence and
of authorities, I drew my illustrations as freely from
centuries before our aera as from centuries after it.
In my present course I must make a yet more direct
and open raid into the territories of my ancient
brother. The history of the Teuton and the Slave,
since the days when those races came to the forefront


of the nations in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh
centuries of our aera, will be simply unintelligible if
we do not attempt at least a general picture of that
elder world into which they made their way, and of
the course of events which gave that world the shape
in which they found it. But my sojourn in the lands
which are ruled to belong to another will not be a
long one ; before a ^evrfKaa-la or an Alien Act can be
hurled at me, I shall be gone. It will be only for
the space of about a thousand years that I need tarry
bevond the frontier which after all is a frontier of


my own choosing. And I shall always welcome my
ancient brother on a return visit of at least the same
length. If I claim to walk lightly at his side through
the ages between the first Olympiad and the great
Teutonic invasion of Gaul, I bid him walk more
steadily, more abidingly, at my side through the ages
between the Teutonic invasion of Gaul and the Otto-
man conquest of Trebizond. In my next academic


year I shall not need to ask leave to play truant
even for so short a space as I have spoken of. My
main subject will then lie fully within the barrier.
We shall cross the Ehine and the Channel with the
Vandal and the Saxon of the fifth century. And if
it may still be sometimes needful to look back to
Anninius and Ariovistus, to remember that men of
our own stock fought against Gaius Julius and Gaius
Marius, we can in return again call on our elder
brethren to look forward for a far longer space, to
assure them that we hold them thoroughly at home,
not only in the Eome, Western or Eastern, of any
age, but in the Aquae Grani of Frankish Caesars and
in the Jerusalem of Lotharingian Kings.

There is one truth which in one sense I need not
set forth again it has been my lot to set it forth
so often but which I must none the less set forth
almost every time that I open ray mouth among you,
for it must be the groundwork of my whole teaching,
as it is the groundwork of all sound historic teaching.
This is the truth that the centre of our studies, the
goal of our thoughts, the point to which all paths
lead and the point from which all paths start again,
is to be found in Kome and her abiding power. It
is, as I said the first time I came before you, one of
the greatest of the evils which spring from our arti-
ficial distinctions where there are no distinctions in
nature, from our formal barriers where there are no
barriers in fact, that this greatest and simplest of
historic truths is thereby wholly overshadowed. He

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who ends his work in 476 and he who begins his
work in 476 can neither of them ever understand in
its fulness the abiding life of Rome, neither can fully
grasp the depth and power of that truest of proverbial
sayings which speaks of Rome as the Eternal City.
And none but those who have thoroughly grasped the
place of Rome in the history of the world can ever
fully understand the most notable historic feature of
the age in which we ourselves live. We live in an
age from which Rome has passed away, an age at
least in which Rome has lost her headship. And, by
one of the wonderful cycles of history, the Romeless
world from which Rome has passed away is in not a
few points a return to the elder Romeless world on
which Rome had not yet risen. In both alike the
European world lacks a centre ; in both alike, each
city or nation does what is right in its own eyes,
without even the theory of a controlling power.
The fuller carrying out of this analogy I keep for
the last lecture of the present course. I have now
only to divide my subject into three great and marked
periods. We have Europe before the headship of
Rome arose. We have Europe under the headship
of Rome, even if that headship was sometimes disputed
and divided. Lastly, we have Europe since the head-
ship of Rome has altogether passed away. It is the
first of these three periods of which I wish to give
such a sketch to-day as may at least put it in its
right relation to the periods which follow it.

But there is one aspect in which all those periods
form one whole ; there is one tie which binds ail


three together ; there has been one abiding duty
which has been laid on Aryan Europe in all her
phases, before Rome, under Rome, and after Rome.
One "question" has, in the cant of the day, been
"awaiting its solution," from the beginning of re-
corded history, and from a time long before recorded
history. That is the question on which a shallow
sneerer, in the lucky wisdom of his blindness, be-
stowed the epithet of " Eternal." Happily indeed
did he transfer to that abiding strife the epithet of
the city whose sons bore so long and mighty a part
in it. It is the " Eternal Eastern Question," the
imdying question between the civilization of the
West and the barbarism of the East, a question
which has here and there taken into its company
such side issues as the strife between freedom and
bondage, between Christendom and Islam, but which
is in its essence simply that yet older strife of whose
earlier stages Herodotus so well grasped the meaning.
It is a strife which has, as far as we can look back,
put on the familiar shape of a strife between East
and West. And in that abiding strife, that Eternal
Question, the men of the Eternal City, Scipio and
Sulla, Trajan and Julian, played their part well indeed;
but it was waged before them and after them as far
back as the days of Agamemn6n and Achilleus, as
near to the present moment as the days of Codring-
ton and Skobeleff. In all ages, from the earliest to
the latest, before the championship passed to Rome
and after it had passed away from Rome, two great
and abiding duties have been laid on Aryan Europe


and on the several powers of Aryan Europe. They
have been called on to develope the common institu-
tions of the great family within its own borders ;
and they have been called on to defend those borders
and those institutions against the inroads of the bar-
barian from without.

When our historic scene first opens, those twofold
duties were laid on a small branch of the European
family, and that the branch that dwelled nearest to
the lands of the enemy. It is not without a cause
that those lands of Europe which lie nearest to
Asia we might almost add, those lands of Asia
which are historically part of Europe are in their
physical construction the most European of Euro-
pean lands. Europe is the continent of islands,
peninsulas, and inland seas ; the lands round the
./Egaean, its Asiatic as well as its European shore,
form more thoroughly a world of islands, peninsulas,
and inland seas than any other part of Europe or of
the world. The Greek land was made for its people,
and the Greek people for their land. I remember well
the saying of one in this place with whom geographical
insight is an instinct, that neither the Greeks in any
other land nor any other people in Greece could have
been what the Greeks in Greece actually were. The
mission of the Greek race was to be the teachers, the
lights, the beacons, of mankind, but not their rulers.
They were to show what man could be, in a narrow
space and in a short space of time ; they were to
show every faculty developed to its highest point, to
give models of every form of political constitution, of


every form of intellectual life, to bring to perfection
among themselves and to hand on to all future ages
that most perfect form of human speech, a living
knowledge of which is still the one truest test of the
highest culture. Greece was given to be the mistress
of the world in the sense of being the world's highest
intellectual teacher ; it was not hers to be the
mistress of the world in the sense in which that
calling fell to another of the great peninsulas of
southern Europe. Deep and abiding as has been the
influence of old Greece on every later age, her in-
fluence has been almost wholly indirect ; it has been
an influence of example, of precept, of warning ; it
has not been an influence of direct cause and effect.
In one sense the world could never have been what
it now is if the men of old Hellas had not lived and
fought and thought and sung. But it is in another
sense from that in which we say that the world could
not be what it now is if the men of old Borne had
not lived and fought, and we will not say thought
and sung, but ruled and judged the nations. It is
indeed no small thought, it is one of the most
quickening and ennobling of thoughts, that those
men of Hellas were our kinsfolk, men of the same
great family as ourselves, men whose institutions and
whose -Nsneech are simply other and older forms of
the speech and institutions of our own folk. The
ancient lore alike of Greece and of England puts on
a keener charm when we see in the Agore before
Ilios the same gathering under well nigh the same
forms as we see in the Marzfeld beneath the walls of


Rheirns and in the Gemot beneath the walls of
London. We seem more at home alike in either
age when we see the eraipoi, the OepaTrovres, that
fought around Achilleus rise again in the true
gesffias, the faithful }>egnas, of our own folk, in
Lilla who gave his life for Eadwine and in the men
who died, thegn-like, their lord hard by, around the
corpse of Brihtnoth at Maldon. Still all this is but
likeness, example, analogy, derivation from a common
source ; we are dealing, not with forefathers but
with elder brethren. The laws of Lykourgos and
Solon have passed away; it is the laws of Servius
and Justinian that still abide. The empire of Myke'ne',
the democracy of Athens, the league of Achaia, are
all things of the past. If the Empire of Rome is no
longer a thing of the present, if it has passed away,
if it is dead and buried, it is well to remember that
there are still men living who have seen its funeral.
I am myself not old enough to have seen its funeral ;
but I have before now seen some look amazed when
I told them that I had lived on the earth for twelve
years along with a man who had once been Emperor
of the Romans.

The days before the Roman power may be looked
on as in some sort the preface to a volume the last
page of which is not written, as the porch of a build-
ing which still stands and which architects to come
may still add to or take from. It is with Rome that
the chapters of the book itself begin ; it is Rome that
reared the first still inhabited chambers of the house.


Or we may rather say that the tale of the days
before Eome is a summary, short and brilliant, of all
that man has done or can do. The tale of Hellas
shows us a glorified ideal of human powers, held up
to the world for a moment to show what man can
be, but to show us also that such he cannot be for
long. And herein is the highest glory of Greece ;
herein is the highest value of the tongue and history
of Greece as supplying the truest and noblest teach-
ing for the mind of man. In no other study are we
so truly seeking knowledge simply to raise and
school the mind ; in none do we so sharply draw the
still abiding, line between those who have gone
through the refining furnace of those immortal
studies and the barbarians sometimes the self-con-
demned barbarians -who stand without. When we
study the tongue, the laws, the history, of our own
people, of any people of our immediate kindred, of
that people who, whether conquering or conquered,
were still the masters of us all, we are as it were
engaged in our own work, we are busy with the toil
of our own daily life ; it is still something of a
business, something of a calling. In our Hellenic
studies we stand on a loftier height, we breathe a
purer air, even as the peak of Olympos overtops the
height of Alba. We master the tongue of Latium,
because it is still the tongue of no small part of the
business of practical life, because it meets us at
every turn as an essential part of our own law, our
own history, our very daily being. We master the
tongue of Hellas as being in itself the first and


noblest form of tLe common speech, as the tongue
which, in its native and unborrowed strength,
brought forth the greatest master-pieces of every
form of lettered utterance, those master-pieces which
none can know save those who can follow the very
words of the poet, the orator, the philosopher
himself, and who are not at the mercy of some blind
guide who vainly strives to reproduce those living
words in ruder tongues. After long years of familiar
knowledge, we need hardly sigh for the days when
those deathless works were fresh to us. The tale of
Ilios and Ithake 1 , the oldest inheritance of the
common folk, the oldest picture of the common
household, is ever living, ever fresh. We can but
pity the doom of those who, by their own act or by
the act of others, are shut out from it.

The beginnings then of European history, more
strictly perhaps the beginnings of the brilliant pro-
logue to unbroken European history, will be found
in the borderlands of Europe and Asia, among the
islands and peninsulas of the ^Egaean sea. I am
speaking now of history in the narrower sense, of
the continuous political history of man. With the
strangers who lay without the great brotherhood,
ancient as may have been their power, mighty as
may have been their works, we have to deal only
when they come across the men of our own house-
hold. We begin in short with the first beginnings
of the recorded history of Greece, with the first
Olympiad as a conventional date, but not forgetting


times before the first Olympiad so far as our earliest
pictures carry us back to yet older times. I cleave
to the date which I proposed in my Inaugural
Lecture. I have to be sure come across a singular
objection from a critic in this place. I have been told
that, by beginning with the first Olympiad, I leave
out all Mahometan history. There are then, one
must think, those who believe that all Mahometan
history took place before the first Olympiad. " Felices
errore suo." I can only heartily wish that it were so,
and that the Ottoman was a thing as dead and gone
as the Hittite. I fear that, beginning with 776 B.C.,
nay even if we begin with the mystic year 476 A.D.,
we shall still have all Mahometan history in front
of us, and that the needs of our tale will drive us to
take not a few glimpses at that side of the world.
From the very beginning we have to do with powers
which filled the same place in the world which the
Mahometan powers filled in after ages, the powers
against which our eldest brethren had to wage the
earlier stages of the strife which still is waging.
With ingenious speculations as to the earliest origin,

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Online LibraryEdward Augustus FreemanThe chief periods of European history; six lectures read in the University of Oxford in Trinity term, 1885, with an essay on Greek cities under Roman rule → online text (page 1 of 17)