François Pierre Guillaume Guizot.

A Popular History of France from the Earliest Times, Volume 1 online

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Produced by David Widger


By M. Guizot

Volume 1 (of 6)


Every history, and especially that of France, is one vast, long drama, in
which events are linked together according to defined laws, and in which
the actors play parts not ready made and learned by heart, parts
depending, in fact, not only upon the accidents of their birth, but also
upon their own ideas and their own will. There are, in the history of
peoples, two sets of causes essentially different, and, at the same time,
closely connected; the natural causes which are set over the general
course of events, and the unrestricted causes which are incidental. Men
do not make the whole of history it has laws of higher origin; but, in
history, men are unrestricted agents who produce for it results and
exercise over it an influence for which they are responsible. The fated
causes and the unrestricted causes, the defined laws of events and the
spontaneous actions of man's free agency - herein is the whole of history.
And in the faithful reproduction of these two elements consist the truth
and the moral of stories from it.

Never was I more struck with this two-fold character of history than in
my tales to my grandchildren. When I commenced with them, they,
beforehand, evinced a lively interest, and they began to listen to me
with serious good will; but when they did not well apprehend the
lengthening chain of events, or when historical personages did not
become, in their eyes, creatures real and free, worthy of sympathy or
reprobation, when the drama was not developed before them with clearness
and animation, I saw their attention grow fitful and flagging; they
required light and life together; they wished to be illumined and
excited, instructed and amused.

At the same time that the difficulty of satisfying this two-fold desire
was painfully felt by me, I discovered therein more means and chances
than I had at first foreseen of succeeding in making my young audience
comprehend the history of France in its complication and its grandeur.
When Corneille observed, -

"In the well-born soul Valor ne'er lingers till due seasons roll," -

he spoke as truly for intelligence as for valor. When once awakened and
really attentive, young minds are more earnest and more capable of
complete comprehension than any one would suppose. In order to explain
fully to my grandchildren the connection of events and the influence of
historical personages, I was sometimes led into very comprehensive
considerations and into pretty deep studies of character. And in such
cases I was nearly always not only perfectly understood but keenly
appreciated. I put it to the proof in the sketch of Charlemagne's reign
and character; and the two great objects of that great man, who succeeded
in one and failed in the other, received from my youthful audience the
most riveted attention and the most clear comprehension. Youthful minds
have greater grasp than one is disposed to give them credit for, and,
perhaps, men would do well to be as earnest in their lives as children
are in their studies.

In order to attain the end I had set before me, I always took care to
connect my stories or my reflections with the great events or the great
personages of history. When we wish to examine and describe a district
scientifically, we traverse it in all its divisions and in every
direction; we visit plains as well as mountains, villages as well as
cities, the most obscure corners as well as the most famous spots; this
is the way of proceeding with the geologist, the botanist, the
archeologist, the statistician, the scholar. But when we wish
particularly to get an idea of the chief features of a country, its fixed
outlines, its general conformation, its special aspects, its great roads,
we mount the heights; we place ourselves at points whence we can best
take in the totality and the physiognomy of the landscape. And so we
must proceed in history when we wish neither to reduce it to the skeleton
of an abridgment nor extend it to the huge dimensions of a learned work.
Great events and great men are the fixed points and the peaks of history;
and it is thence that we can observe it in its totality, and follow it
along its highways. In my tales to my grandchildren I sometimes lingered
over some particular anecdote which gave me an opportunity of setting in
a vivid light the dominant spirit of an age or the characteristic manners
of a people; but, with rare exceptions, it is always on the great deeds
and the great personages of history that I have relied for making of them
in my tales what they were in reality - the centre and the focus of the
life of France.

December, 1869.


I. GAUL 13



















[Illustration: FROM LA CROIX ROUSSE - - 86]

[Illustration: BATTLE OF TOLBIACUM - - 144]

[Illustration: THE BATTLE OF TOURS - - 193]

[Illustration: THE SUBMISSION OF WITTIKIND - - 218]

[Illustration: PARIS BESIEGED BY THE NORMANS - - 259]

[Illustration: NOTRE DAME - - 310]

[Illustration: Ideal Landscape of Ancient Gaul - - 13]

[Illustration: Gyptis presenting the Goblet to Euxenes - - 17]

[Illustration: A Tribe of Gauls on an Expedition - - 27]

[Illustration: The Gauls in Rome - - 39]

[Illustration: The Women defending the Cars - - 58]

[Illustration: The Roman Army invading Gaul - - 61]

[Illustration: Divitiacus before the Roman Senate - - 63]

[Illustration: Mounted Gauls - - 66]

[Illustration: Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar - - 81]

[Illustration: Gaul subjugated by the Romans - - 83]

[Illustration: Eponina and Sabinus hidden in a Vault - - 97]

[Illustration: Christianity established in Gaul - - 111]

[Illustration: Druids offering Human Sacrifices - - 111]

[Illustration: Germans invading Gaul - - 129]

[Illustration: The Huns at the Battle of Chalons - - 135]

[Illustration: "Thus didst thou to the Vase of Soissons." - - 139]

[Illustration: The Sluggard King Journeying - - 156]

[Illustration: "Thrust him away, or thou diest in his stead." - - 160]

[Illustration: The Execution of Brunehaut - - 175]

[Illustration: "The Arabs had decamped silently in the night." - - 195]

[Illustration: Charlemagne at the Head of his Army - - 212]

[Illustration: Charlemagne inflicting Baptism upon the Saxons - - 215]

[Illustration: A Battle between Franks and Saxons - - 216]

[Illustration: Death of Roland at Roncesvalles - - 227]

[Illustration: Charlemagne and the General Assembly - - 239]

[Illustration: Charlemagne presiding at the School of the Palace - - 246]

[Illustration: Northmen on an Expedition - - 254]

[Illustration: "He remained there a long while, and his eyes were filled
with tears." - - 255]

[Illustration: The Barks of the Northmen before Paris - - 260]

[Illustration: Count Eudes re-entering Paris right through the Besiegers-
- -262]

[Illustration: Ditcar the Monk recognizing the Head of Morvan - - 273]

[Illustration: Hugh Capet elected King - - 300]

[Illustration: "Who made thee King?" - - 302]

[Illustration: Gerbert, afterwards Pope Sylvester II - - 304]

[Illustration: Knights returning from Foray - - 311]

[Illustration: Knights and Peasants - - 312]

[Illustration: Robert had a Kindly Feeling for the Weak and Poor - - 313]

[Illustration: "The Accolade." - - 324]

[Illustration: Normans landing on English Coast - - 353]

[Illustration: William the Conqueror reviewing his Army - - 357]

[Illustration: Edith discovers the Body of Harold - - 360]

[Illustration: "God willeth it!" - - 383]

[Illustration: The Four Leaders of the First Crusade - - 385]

[Illustration: Crusaders on the March - - 386]

[Illustration: The Assault on St. Jean d'Acre - - 386]




The Frenchman of to-day inhabits a country, long ago civilized and
Christianized, where, despite of much imperfection and much social
misery, thirty-eight millions of men live in security and peace, under
laws equal for all and efficiently upheld. There is every reason to
nourish great hopes of such a country, and to wish for it more and more
of freedom, glory, and prosperity; but one must be just towards one's own
times, and estimate at their true value advantages already acquired and
progress already accomplished. If one were suddenly carried twenty or
thirty centuries backward, into the midst of that which was then called
Gaul, one would not recognize France. The same mountains reared their
heads; the same plains stretched far and wide; the same rivers rolled on
their course. There is no alteration in the physical formation of the
country; but its aspect was very different. Instead of the fields all
trim with cultivation, and all covered with various produce, one would
see inaccessible morasses and vast forests, as yet uncleared, given up to
the chances of primitive vegetation, peopled with wolves and bears, and
even the _urns_, or huge wild ox, and with elks, too - a kind of beast
that one finds no longer nowadays, save in the colder regions of
north-eastern Europe, such as Lithuania and Courland. Then wandered
over the champaign great herds of swine, as fierce almost as wolves,
tamed only so far as to know the sound of their keeper's horn. The
better sort of fruits and of vegetables were quite unknown; they were
imported into Gaul - the greatest part from Asia, a portion from Africa
and the islands of the Mediterranean; and others, at a later period,
from the New World. Cold and rough was the prevailing temperature.
Nearly every winter the rivers froze sufficiently hard for the passage
of cars. And three or four centuries before the Christian era, on that
vast territory comprised between the ocean, the Pyrenees, the
Mediterranean, the Alps, and the Rhine, lived six or seven millions of
men a bestial life, enclosed in dwellings dark and low, the best of them
built of wood and clay, covered with branches or straw, made in a single
round piece, open to daylight by the door alone, and confusedly heaped
together behind a rampart, not inartistically composed of timber, earth,
and stone, which surrounded and protected what they were pleased to call
a town.

[Illustration: Ideal Landscape of Ancient Gaul - - 13]

Of even such towns there were scarcely any as yet, save in the most
populous and least uncultivated portion of Gaul; that is to say, in the
southern and eastern regions, at the foot of the mountains of Auvergne
and the Cevennes, and along the coasts of the Mediterranean. In the
north and the west were paltry hamlets, as transferable almost as the
people themselves; and on some islet amidst the morasses, or in some
hidden recess of the forest, were huge intrenchments formed of the trees
that were felled, where the population, at the first sound of the
war-cry, ran to shelter themselves with their flocks and all their
movables. And the war-cry was often heard: men living grossly and idly
are very prone to quarrel and fight. Gaul, moreover, was not occupied by
one and the same nation, with the same traditions and the same chiefs.
Tribes very different in origin, habits, and date of settlement, were
continually disputing the territory. In the south were Iberians or
Aquitanians, Phoenicians and Greeks; in the north and north-west,
Kymrians or Belgians; everywhere else, Gauls or Celts, the most numerous
settlers, who had the honor of giving their name to the country. Who
were the first to come, then? and what was the date of the first
settlement? Nobody knows. Of the Greeks alone does history mark with
any precision the arrival in southern Gaul. The Phoenicians preceded
them by several centuries; but it is impossible to fix any exact time.
The information is equally vague about the period when the Kymrians
invaded the north of Gaul. As for the Gauls and the Iberians, there is
not a word about their first entrance into the country, for they are
discovered there already at the first appearance of the country itself in
the domain of history.

The Iberians, whom Roman writers call Aquitanians, dwelt at the foot of
the Pyrenees, in the territory comprised between the mountains, the
Garonne, and the ocean. They belonged to the race which, under the same
appellation, had peopled Spain; but by what route they came into Gaul is
a problem which we cannot solve. It is much the same in tracing the
origin of every nation, for in those barbarous times men lived and died
without leaving any enduring memorial of their deeds and their destinies;
no monuments; no writings; just a few oral traditions, perhaps, which are
speedily lost or altered. It is in proportion as they become enlightened
and civilized, that men feel the desire and discover the means of
extending their memorial far beyond their own lifetime. That is the
beginning of history, the offspring of noble and useful sentiments, which
cause the mind to dwell upon the future, and to yearn for long
continuance; sentiments which testify to the superiority of man over all
other creatures living upon our earth, which foreshadow the immortality
of the soul, and which are warrant for the progress of the human race by
preserving for the generations to come what has been done and learned by
the generations that disappear.

By whatever route and at whatever epoch the Iberians came into the
south-west of Gaul, they abide there still in the department of the Lower
Pyrenees, under the name of Basques; a people distinct from all its
neighbors in features, costume, and especially language, which resembles
none of the present languages of Europe, contains many words which are to
be found in the names of rivers, mountains, and towns of olden Spain, and
which presents a considerable analogy to the idioms, ancient and modern,
of certain peoples of northern Africa. The Phoenicians did not leave, as
the Iberians did, in the south of France distinct and well-authenticated
descendants. They had begun about 1100 B.C. to trade there. They went
thither in search of furs, and gold and silver, which were got either
from the sand of certain rivers, as for instance the Allege (in Latin
Aurigera), or from certain mines of the Alps, the Cevennes, and the
Pyrenees; they brought in exchange stuffs dyed with purple, necklaces and
rings of glass, and, above all, arms and wine; a trade like that which is
nowadays carried on by the civilized peoples of Europe with the savage
tribes of Africa and America. For the purpose of extending and securing
their commercial expeditions, the Phoenicians founded colonies in several
parts of Gaul, and to them is attributed the earliest origin of Nemausus
(Nimes), and of Alesia, near Semur. But, at the end of three or four
centuries, these colonies fell into decay; the trade of the Phoenicians
was withdrawn from Gaul, and the only important sign it preserved of
their residence was a road which, starting from the eastern Pyrenees,
skirted the Gallic portion of the Mediterranean, crossed the Alps by the
pass of Tenda, and so united Spain, Gaul, and Italy. After the
withdrawal of the Phoenicians this road was kept up and repaired, at
first by the Greeks of Marseilles, and subsequently by the Romans.

As merchants and colonists, the Greeks were, in Gaul, the successors of
the Phoenicians, and Marseilles was one of their first and most
considerable colonies. At the time of the Phoenicians' decay in Gaul, a
Greek people, the Rhodians, had pushed their commercial enterprises to a
great distance, and, in the words of the ancient historians, held the
empire of the sea. Their ancestors had, in former times, succeeded the
Phoenicians in the island of Rhodes, and they likewise succeeded them in
the south of Gaul, and founded, at the mouth of the Rhone, a colony
called Rhodanusia or Rhoda, with the same name as that which they had
already founded on the north-east coast of Spain, and which is nowadays
the town of Rosas, in Catalonia. But the importance of the Rhodians on
the southern coast of Gaul was short-lived. It had already sunk very low
in the year 600 B.C., when Euxenes, a Greek trader, coming from Phocea,
an Ionian town of Asia Minor, to seek his fortune, landed from a bay
eastward of the Rhone. The Segobrigians, a tribe of the Gallic race,
were in occupation of the neighboring country. Nann, their chief, gave
the strangers kindly welcome, and took them home with him to a great
feast which he was giving for his daughter's marriage, who was called
Gyptis, according to some, and Petta, according to other historians. A
custom which exists still in several cantons of the Basque country, and
even at the centre of France in Morvan, a mountainous district of the
department of the Nievre, would that the maiden should appear only at the
end of the banquet, and holding in her hand a filled wine-cup, and that
the guest to whom she should present it should become the husband of her
choice. By accident, or quite another cause, say the ancient legends,
Gyptis stopped opposite Euxenes, and handed him the cup. Great was the
surprise, and, probably, anger amongst the Gauls who were present. But
Nann, believing he recognized a commandment from his gods, accepted the
Phocean as his son-in-law, and gave him as dowry the bay where he had
landed, with some cantons of the territory around. Euxenes, in
gratitude, gave his wife the Greek name of Aristoxena (that is, "the best
of hostesses"), sent away his ship to Phocea for colonists, and, whilst
waiting for them, laid in the centre of the bay, on a peninsula hollowed
out harbor-wise, towards the south, the foundations of a town, which he
called Massilia - thence Marseilles.

[Illustration: Gyptis presenting the Goblet to Euxenes - - 17]

Scarcely a year had elapsed when Euxenes' ship arrived from Phocea, and
with it several galleys, bringing colonists full of hope, and laden with
provisions, utensils, arms, seeds, vine-cuttings, and olive-cuttings,
and, moreover, a statue of Diana, which the colonists had gone to fetch
from the celebrated temple of that goddess at Ephesus, and which her
priestess, Aristarche, accompanied to its new country.

The activity and prosperity of Marseilles, both within and without, were
rapidly developed. She carried her commerce wherever the Phoenicians and
the Rhodians had marked out a road; she repaired their forts; she took to
herself their establishments; and she placed on her medals, to signify
dominion, the rose, the emblem of Rhodes, beside the lion of Marseilles.
But Nann, the Gallic chieftain, who had protected her infancy, died; and
his son, Conran, shared the jealousy felt by the Segobrigians and the
neighboring peoplets towards the new corners. He promised and really
resolved to destroy the new city. It was the time of the flowering of
the vine, a season of great festivity amongst the Ionian Greeks, and
Marseilles thought solely of the preparations for the feast. The houses
and public places were being decorated with branches and flowers. No
guard was set; no work was done. Conran sent into the town a number of
his men, some openly, as if to take part in the festivities, others
hidden at the bottom of the cars which conveyed into Marseilles the
branches and foliage from the outskirts. He himself went and lay in
ambush in a neighboring glen, with seven thousand men, they say, but the
number is probably exaggerated, and waited for his emissaries to open the
gates to him during the night. But once more a woman, a near relation of
the Gallic chieftain, was the guardian angel of the Greeks, and revealed
the plot to a young man of Marseilles, with whom she was in love. The
gates were immediately shut, and so many Segobrigians as happened to be
in the town were massacred. Then, when night came on, the inhabitants,
armed, went forth to surprise Conran in the ambush where he was awaiting
the moment to surprise them. And there he fell with all his men.

Delivered as they were from this danger, the Massilians nevertheless
remained in a difficult and disquieting situation. The peoplets around,
in coalition against them, attacked them often, and threatened them
incessantly. But whilst they were struggling against these
embarrassments, a grand disaster, happening in the very same spot whence
they had emigrated half a century before, was procuring them a great
accession of strength and the surest means of defence. In the year 542
B.C., Phocea succumbed beneath the efforts of Cyrus, King of Persia, and
her inhabitants, leaving to the conqueror empty streets and deserted
houses, took to their ships in a body, to transfer their homes elsewhere.
A portion of this floating population made straight for Marseilles;
others stopped at Corsica, in the harbor of Alalia, another Phocean
colony. But at the end of five years they too, tired of piratical life
and of the incessant wars they had to sustain against the Carthaginians,
quitted Corsica, and went to rejoin their compatriots in Gaul.

Thenceforward Marseilles found herself in a position to face her enemies.
She extended her walls all round the bay, and her enterprises far away.
She founded on the southern coast of Gaul and on the eastern coast of
Spain, permanent settlements, which are to this day towns: eastward of
the Rhone, Hercules' harbor, Moncecus (Monaco), Niccea (Nice), Antipolis
(Antibes); westward, Heraclea Cacabaria (Saint-Gilles), Agaththae
(Agdevall), Emporia; (Ampurias in Catalonia), &c., &c. In valley of the
Rhone, several towns of the Gauls, Cabellio were (Cavaili like on), Greek
Avenio (Avignon), Arelate (Arles), for instance, colonies, so great there
was the number of travellers or established merchants who spoke Greek.
With this commercial activity Marseilles united intellectual and
scientific activity; her grammarians were among the first to revise and
annotate the poems of Homer; and bold travellers from Marseilles,
Euthymenes and Pytheas by name, cruised, one along the western coast of
Africa beyond the Straits of Gibraltar, and the other the southern and
western coasts of Europe, from the mouth of the Tanais (Don), in the
Black Sea, to the latitudes and perhaps into the interior of the Baltic.
They lived, both of them, in the second half of the fourth century B.C.,
and they wrote each a Periplus, or tales of their travels, which have
unfortunately been almost entirely lost.

But whatever may have been her intelligence and activity, a single town
situated at the extremity of Gaul and peopled with foreigners could have
but little influence over so vast a country and its inhabitants. At
first civilization is very hard and very slow; it requires many
centuries, many great events, and many years of toil to overcome the
early habits of a people, and cause them to exchange the pleasures, gross
indeed, but accompanied with the idleness and freedom of barbarian life,
for the toilful advantages of a regulated social condition. By dint of
foresight, perseverance, and courage, the merchants of Marseilles and her
colonies crossed by two or three main lines the forests, morasses, and
heaths through the savage tribes of Gauls, and there effected their
exchanges, but to the right and left they penetrated but a short
distance. Even on their main lines their traces soon disappeared; and at
the commercial settlements which they established here and there they
were often far more occupied in self-defence than in spreading their
example. Beyond a strip of land of uneven breadth, along the
Mediterranean, and save the space peopled towards the south-west by the
Iberians, the country, which received its name from the former of the
two, was occupied by the Gauls and the Kymrians; by the Gauls in the
centre, south-east and east, in the highlands of modern France, between

Online LibraryFrançois Pierre Guillaume GuizotA Popular History of France from the Earliest Times, Volume 1 → online text (page 1 of 35)