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nations were sanguinary and barbarous like the Tartars-or meek and patient like the Hindoos ? If they all had the thirst for conquest of the Grand Army—or the rage for transplanting their institutions like the English? We boast, and in some respects with reason, of our greatness, our power, our civilisation.
Is there any man amongst us who would wish to see that civilisation universal, with its accompaniments of nearly a seventh * of the whole population of the empire paupers ;—of Chartists, Socialists, Repealers, Anti-Corn-Law Leaguers, and landed selfishness?
As a specimen of Michelet's powers of description, we extract his account of the battle of Azincour :
“The two armies presented a strange contrast. On the side of the French were three enormous squadrons, three forests of lances, who formed in the narrow plain, and drew up as they successively emerged from the defiles in their rear. In front were the Constables, the Princes, the Dukes of Orleans, Bar, and Alençon, the Counts of Nevers, D'Eu, Richemont, and Vendome, amidst a crowd of barons, dazzling in gold and steel, with their banners floating in the air, their horses covered with scales of armour. The French had archers also, but composed of the commons only; the baughty seigneurs would not give them a place in their proud array. Every place was fixed; no one would surrender his own; the plebeians would have been a stain on that noble assembly. They had cannons also, but made no use of them : probably no one would surrender his place to them.
“The English army was less brilliant in appearance. The archers, 10,000 in number, had no armour, often no shoes; they were rudely equipped with boiled skins, tied with osier wands, and strengthened by a bar of iron on their feet. Their hatchets and axes suspended from their girdles gave them the appearance of carpenters. They all drew the bow with the left arm—those of France with the right. Many of these sturdy workmen had stript to the shirt, to be the more at ease-first, in drawing the bow, and at last in wielding the hatchet, when they issued from their hedge of stakes to hew away at those immovable masses of horses."
“ It is an extraordinary but well authenticated fact, that the French army was so closely wedged together, and in great part so stuck in the mud, that they could neither charge nor retreat; but just stood still to be cut to pieces. At the decisive moment, when the old Thomas of Erpingham arranged the English army, he threw his staff in the air, exclaiming, · Now strike!' The shont of ten thousand voices was raised at once; but to their great surprise, the French army stood still. Men and horses seemed alike enchained or dead in their armour. In truth, these weighty war-horses, oppressed with the load of their armour and riders, were unable to move. The French were thirty-two deep-the English only four.f That enormous depth rendered the great bulk of the French army wholly useless. The front ranks alone combated, and they were all killed. The remainder, unable either to advance or retreat, served only as a vast target to the unerring English arrows, which never ceased to rain down on the deep array. On the other hand, every Englishman wielded either his lance, his bow, or his hatchet, with effect. So
* Viz.—1,446,000 in England and Wales ; 76,000 in Scotland; and 2,000,000 in Ireland. In all, 3,522,000, out of 27,000,000.-Census of 1841.
+ This formation was the same on both sides, when Napoleon's Imperial Guard attacked the British Guards at Waterloo.
thick was the storm of arrows which issued from the English stakes, that the French horsemen bent their heads to their saddle-bows, to avoid being pierced through their visors. Twelve hundred horse, impatient of the discharge, broke from the flanks, and charged. Hardly a tenth part reached the stakes, where they were pierced through, and soon fell beneath the English axes. Then those terrible archers issued from their palisade, and hewed to pieces the confused mass of wounded horses, dismounted men, and furious steeds, which, galled by the incessant discharge of arrows, was now turmoiling in the bloody mud in which the chivalry of France was engulfed.”Vol. iv. p. 307, 311.
We take leave of M. Michelet, at least for the present, as his work is only half finished, with admiration for his genius, respect for his erudition, and gratitude for the service he has rendered to history ; but we cannot place him in the first rank of historians. He wants the art of massing objects and the spirit of general observation. His philosophy consists rather in drawing visions of the sequence of events, or speculations on an inevitable progress in human affairs, than an enlightened and manly recognition of a Supreme superintendence. He unites two singularly opposite sets of principles—a romantic admiration for the olden time, though with a full and just appreciation of its evils, with a devout belief in the advent of a perfect state of society, the true efflorescence of the nation, in the equality produced by the Revolution. Yet is his work a great addition to European literature, and the writers of England would do well to look to their laurels, if they wish, against the able phalanx now arising on the other side of the Channel, to maintain the ancient place of their country in historic literature.
THE FALL OF ROME
(BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE, JUNE 1846]
The Rise and Fall of the Roman empire is by far the most remarkable and memorable event which has occurred in the whole history of mankind. It is hard to say whether the former or the latter is most worthy of profound study and anxious examination. The former has hitherto most strongly attracted the attention of men, from the extraordinary spectacle it exhibited of human fortitude triumphing over every obstacle, and human perseverance at length attaining universal dominion. It was the spectacle most likely to rivet the attention of strenuous and growing nations-of men in that stage of existence when national ambition is strong and the patriotic passions ardent, and the selfish interests have not yet become so powerful as to have generally extinguished the generous affections. But it may be doubted whether the events that occurred in the later stages of the Roman empire, are not fraught with more valuable and important information than those of its earlier annals. Less interesting to the soldier, less animating to the citizen, less heart-stirring to the student, they are more instructive to the philosopher, more pregnant with warning to the statesman. They contain the only instance yet exhibited among men of a nation sinking from no external shock, but from the mere influence of internal decay; and point alone, of all passages in the annals of the species, to the provision made by nature, in the passions and selfishness of men, against the possibility of long-continued and universal dominion.
To any one who attentively considers this all-important subject, two things must be apparent, of the very highest
consequence in arriving at correct ideas on it. The first is, that the Roman empire did not sink under the external violence of the barbarians, but under the weakness and decline which had arisen in its own bosom. The second, that the causes hitherto assigned by historians and philosophers for this internal decay, are either vague generalities, having no definite meaning, and incapable of any practical application, or can be easily shown, even to the most superficial reader, not to have been the real causes of the phenomenon.
There can be no doubt that some of the irruptions of the barbarians particularly those of the Goths into Romelia, which led to the fatal battles of Thessalonica and Adrianople; and of Alaric into Italy, which terminated in the capture of the Eternal City—were very formidable inroads, and might, in the best days of the empire, have taxed its strength and required all its resolution to repel. But a little consideration must be sufficient to show that, formidable as these invasions were, they could without much difficulty have been withstood, if the empire had possessed the strength which it did in the days of the republic, or in the first two centuries of the Cæsars. The Cimbri and Teutones, whom Marius combated and destroyed on the Rhone and in the north of Italy, were at least as formidable a body of barbarians as those which four centuries afterwards overturned the Western Empire. The forces whom Cæsar conquered in Gaul, Trajan on the Danube, were to the full as powerful as those which carried the standards of the Goths and Vandals to Athens and Carthage. Ætius, in the decline of the empire, and with the mingled Roman and barbarian force of Gaul alonema mere fraction of the united strength of the empire-defeated Attila in the plenitude of his power, at the head of three hundred thousand men, on the field of Chalons.
Belisarius, with fifteen thousand men, recovered Africa from the Vandals; and there remains a most curious letter of his to the emperor at Constantinople, describing the deplorable want of soldiers which he experienced when he landed in Italy
“We are arrived,” says he, “in Italy, destitute of all the necessary implements of war-men, horses, arms, and money. We have collected, with extreme difficulty, in our late circuit through Thrace, about four thousand
recruits, naked, and unskilled in the use of weapons."* Thirty thousand legionary soldiers did the same by Italy under Narses, and overthrew the whole power of the Goths. So high did the Roman soldiers still stand even in the estimation of their enemies, that Totila, the warlike monarch of that warlike people, strove to bribe them into his service by offers of high pay. None had yet been approved equal to these legionary soldiers in battle ; and the manner in which, with infinitely inferior forces, they repelled the barbarians on all sides, decisively demonstrates this superiority. The vigour and ability of Heraclius so restored the empire, when wellnigh sinking under the might of its enemies, that for a century it was regarded with awe by the barbarous nations all round its immense frontier. The five provinces beyond the Euphrates were conquered by the Romans from the Parthians during the decline of the empire. Nothing is so remarkable, in the last three centuries of Roman history, as the small number of the forces which combated around the eagles, and the astonishing victories which, when led by ability, they gained over prodigious bodies of their enemies. The legions had dwindled into battalions, the battalions into cohorts. The four hundred and fifty thousand men who under Augustus guarded the frontiers of the empire, had sunk to one hundred and fifty thousand in the time of Justinian. + But this hundred and fifty thousand upheld the Eastern Empire for a thousand years. So feeble were the assaults of the barbarians, that for above two centuries of that time the single city of Constantinople, with the aid of the Greek fire, defended itself with scarce any territory from which to draw support. “ The nine bands of Honorius, says Gibbon, " did not exceed the number of five thousand men; yet this inconsiderable force was sufficient to terminate a war which had threatened the power and safety of Constantine. Such were the feeble arms which decided the possession of the Western provinces, from the wall of Antoninus to the columns of Hercules.” I It was not the strength of its enemies, therefore, but the weakness of itself, which, after an existence in the West and East of two
PROCOPIUS, book iii., chap. 12. GIBBON, vol. iv. chap. 43, p. 126. Milman's Edition. + Gibson's Rome, vol. iv. chap. 42, p. 71. Milman's Edition.
Ibid. chap. 30, p. 86, 47.