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Career of Charlemagne, by Guizot, Francois P. G.

Life of Charlemagne

World History Center

Holy Roman Empire, The
Book: Chapter III: The Barbarian Invasions.
Author: Bryce, James
Date: 1901
 

 

Page Three


Chapter III: The Barbarian Invasions.

Upon a world so constituted did the barbarians of the North descend. From
the dawn of history they shew as a dim background to the warmth and light of
the Mediterranean coast, changing little while kingdoms rise and fall in the
South: only thought on when some hungry swarm comes down to pillage or to
settle. It is always as foes that they are known. The Romans never forgot
the invasion of Brennus; and their fears, renewed by the irruption of the
Cimbri and Teutones, could not let them rest till the extension of the
frontier to the Rhine and the Danube removed Italy from immediate danger. A
little more perseverance under Tiberius, or again under Hadrian, would
probably have reduced all Germany as far as the Baltic and the Oder. But the
politic or jealous advice of Augustus ^1 was followed, and it was only along
the frontiers that Roman arts and culture affected the Teutonic races.
Commerce was brisk; Roman envoys penetrated the forests to the courts of rude
chieftains; adventurous barbarians entered the provinces, sometimes to admire,
oftener, like the brother of Arminius ^2, to take service under the Roman
flag, and rise to a distinction in the legion which some feud denied them at
home. This was found even more convenient by the hirer than by the employed;
till by degrees barbarian mercenaries came to form the largest, or at least
the most effective, part of the Roman armies. The body-guard of Augustus had
been so composed; the praetorians were generally selected from the bravest
frontier troops, most of them German; the practice could not but increase with
the extinction of the free peasantry, the growth of villenage, and the
effeminacy of all classes. Emperors who were, like Maximin, themselves
foreigners, encouraged a system by whose means they had risen, and whose
advantages they knew. After Constantine, the barbarians form the majority of
the troops; after Theodosius, a Roman is the exception. The soldiers of the
Eastern Empire in the time of Arcadius are almost all Goths, vast bodies of
whom had been settled in the provinces; while in the West, Stilicho ^3 can
oppose Rhodogast only by summoning the German auxiliaries from the frontiers.
Along with this practice there had grown up another, which did still more to
make the barbarians feel themselves members of the Roman state. The pride of
the old republic had been exclusive, but under the Empire the maxim was
accepted that birth and race should exclude no subject from any post which his
abilities deserved. This principle, which had removed all obstacles from the
path of the Spaniard Trajan, the Pannonian Maximin, the Numidian Philip, was
afterwards extended to the conferring of honour and power on persons who did
not even profess to have passed through the grades of Roman service, but
remained leaders of their own tribes. Ariovistus had been soothed by the
title of Friend of the Roman People; in the third century the insignia of the
consulship ^4 were conferred on a Herulian chief: Crocus and his Alemanni
entered as an independent body into the service of Rome; along the Rhine whole
tribes received, under the name of Laeti, lands within the provinces on
condition of military service; and the foreign aid which the Sarmatian had
proffered to Vespasian against his rival, and Marcus Aurelius had indignantly
rejected in the war with Cassius, became the usual, at last the sole support
of the Empire, in civil as well as in external strife.

[Footnote 1: 'Addiderat consilium coercendi intra terminos imperii.' - Tac.
Ann, i. 2.]

[Footnote 2: Tac. Ann. ii. 9.]

[Footnote 3: Stilicho, the bulwark of the Empire, seems to have been himself a
Vandal by extraction.]

[Footnote 4: Of course not the consulship itself, but the ornamenta
consularia.]

Thus in many ways was the old antagonism broken down - Romans admitting
barbarians to rank and office, barbarians catching something of the manners
and culture of their neighbours. And thus when the final movement came, and
the Teutonic tribes slowly established themselves through the provinces, they
entered not as savage strangers, but as colonists knowing something of the
system into which they came, and not unwilling to be considered its members;
despising the degenerate provincials who struck no blow in their own defence,
but full of respect for the majestic power which had for so many centuries
confronted and instructed them.

Great during all these ages, but greatest when they were actually
traversing and settling in the Empire, must have been the impression which its
elaborate machinery of government and mature civilization made upon the minds
of the Northern invaders. With arms whose fabrication they had learned from
their foes, these dwellers in the forest conquered well-tilled fields, and
entered towns whose busy workshops, marts stored with the productions of
distant countries, and palaces rich in monuments of art, equally roused their
wonder. To the beauty of statuary or painting they might often be blind, but
the rudest mind must have been awed by the massive piles with which vanity or
devotion, or the passion for amusement, had adorned Milan and Verona, Arles,
Treves, and Bordeaux. A deeper awe would strike them as they gazed on the
crowding worshippers and stately ceremonial of Christianity, most unlike their
own rude sacrifices. The exclamation of the Goth Athanaric, when led into the
market-place of Constantinople, may stand for the feelings of his nation:
'Without doubt the Emperor is a God upon earth, and he who attacks him is
guilty of his own blood. ^1'

[Footnote 1: Jordanes, De Rebus Geticis, cap. 28.]

The social and political system, with its cultivated language and
literature, into which they came, would impress fewer of the conquerors, but
by those few would be admired beyond all else. Its regular organization
supplied what they most needed and could least construct for themselves, and
hence it was that the greatest among them were the most desirous to preserve
it. The Mongol Attila excepted, there is among these terrible hosts no
destroyer; the wish of each leader is to maintain the existing order, to spare
life, to respect every work of skill and labour, above all to perpetuate the
methods of Roman administration, and rule the people as the deputy or
successor of their Emperor. Titles conferred by him were the highest honours
they knew: they were also the only means of acquiring something like a legal
claim to the obedience of the subject, and of turning a patriarchal or
military chieftainship into the regular sway of an hereditary monarch.
Civilis had long since endeavoured to govern his Batavians as a Roman general.
^1 Alaric became master-general of the armies of Illyricum. Clovis exulted in
the consulship; his son Theodebert received Provence, the conquest of his own
battle-axe, as the gift of Justinian. Sigismund the Burgundian king, created
count and patrician by the Emperor Anastasius, professed the deepest gratitude
and the firmest faith to that Eastern court which was absolutely powerless to
help or to hurt him. 'My people is yours,' he writes, 'and to rule them
delights me less than to serve you; the hereditary devotion of my race to Rome
has made us account those the highest honours which your military titles
convey; we have always preferred what an Emperor gave to all that our
ancestors could bequeath. In ruling our nation we hold ourselves but your
lieutenants: you, whose divinely-appointed sway no barrier bounds, whose beams
shine from the Bosphorus into distant Gaul, employ us to administer the
remoter regions of your Empire: your world is our fatherland ^2.' A
contemporary historian has recorded the remarkable disclosure of his own
thoughts and purposes, made by one of the ablest of the barbarian chieftains,
Athaulf the Visigoth, the brother-in-law and successor of Alaric. 'It was at
first my wish to destroy the Roman name, and erect in its place a Gothic
empire, taking to myself the place and the powers of Caesar Augustus. But
when experience taught me that the untameable barbarism of the Goths would not
suffer them to live beneath the sway of law, and that the abolition of the
institutions on which the state rested would involve the ruin of the state
itself, I chose the glory of renewing and maintaining by Gothic strength the
fame of Rome, desiring to go down to posterity as the restorer of that Roman
power which it was beyond my power to replace. Wherefore I avoid war and
strive for peace ^3.'

[Footnote 1: Tac. Hist. i. and iv.]

[Footnote 2: 'Vester quidem est populus meus sed me plus servire vobis quam
illi praeesse delectat. Traxit istud a proavis generis mei apud vos
decessoresque vestros semper animo Romana devotio, ut illa nobis magis
claritas putaretur, quam vestra per militiae titulos porrigeret celsitudo:
cunctisque auctoribus meis semper magis ambitum est quod a principibus
sumerent quam quod a patribus attulissent. Cumque gentem nostram videamur
regere, non aliud nos quam milites vestros credimus ordinari. . . . Per nos
administratis remotarum spatia regionum: patria nostra vester orbis est.
Tangit Galliam suam lumen orientis, et radius qui illis partibus oriri
creditur, hic refulget. Dominationem vobis divinitus praestitam obex nulla
concludit, nec ullis provinciarum terminis diffusio felicium sceptrorum
limitatur. Salvo divinitatis honore sit dictum.' - Letter printed among the
works of Avitus, Bishop of Vienne. (Migne's Patrologia, vol. lix. p. 285.)
This letter, as its style shews, is the composition not of Sigismund himself,
but of Avitus, writing on Sigismund's behalf. But this makes it scarcely less
valuable evidence of the feelings of the time.]

[Footnote 3: 'Referre solitus est (sc. Ataulphus) se in primis ardenter
inhiasse: ut obliterato Romanorum nomine Romanum omne solum Gothorum imperium
et faceret et vocaret: essetque, ut vulgariter loquar, Gothia quod Romania
fuiset; fieretque nunc Ataulphus quod quondam Caesar Augustus. At ubi multa
experientia probavisset, neque Gothos ullo modo parere legibus posse propter
effrenatam barbariem, neque reipublicae interdici leges oportere sine quibus
respublica non est respublica, elegisse se saltem, ut gloriam sibi de
restituendo in integrum augendoque Romano nomine Gothorum viribus quaereret,
habereturque apud posteros Romanae restitutionis auctor postquamesse non
potuerat immutator. Ob hoc abstinere a bello, ob hoc inhiare paci nitebatur.'
- Orosius, vii. 43.]

Historians have remarked how valuable must have been the skill of Roman
officials to princes who from leaders of tribes were become rulers of wide
lands; and in particular how indispensable the aid of the Christian bishops,
the intellectual aristocracy of their new subjects, whose advice could alone
guide their policy and conciliate the vanquished. Not only is this true; it
is but a small part of the truth; one form of that manifold and overpowering
influence which the old system exercised over its foes not less than its own
children. For it is hardly too much to say that the thought of antagonism to
the Empire and the wish to extinguish it never crossed the mind of the
barbarians. ^1 The conception of that Empire was too universal, too august,
too enduring. It was everywhere around them, and they could remember no time
when it had not been so. It had no association of people or place whose fall
could seem to involve that of the whole fabric; it had that connection with
the Christian Church which made it all-embracing and venerable.

[Footnote 1: Athaulf formed only to abandon it.]

There were especially two ideas whereon it rested, and from which it
obtained a peculiar strength and a peculiar direction. The one was the belief
that as the dominion of Rome was universal, so must it be eternal. Nothing
like it had been seen before. The empire of Alexander had lasted a short
lifetime; and within its wide compass were included many arid wastes, and many
tracts where none but the roving savage had ever set foot. That of the
Italian city had for fourteen generations embraced all the most wealthy and
populous regions of the civilized world, and had laid the foundations of its
power so deep that they seemed destined to last for ever. If Rome moved
slowly for a time, her foot was always planted firmly: the ease and swiftness
of her later conquests proved the solidity of the earlier; and to her, more
justly than to his own city, might the boast of the Athenian historian be
applied: that she advanced farthest in prosperity, and in adversity drew back
the least. From the end of the republican period her poets, her orators, her
jurists, ceased not to repeat the claim of world-dominion, and confidently
predict its eternity ^1. The proud belief of his countrymen which Virgil had
expressed -

'His ego nec metas rerum, nec tempora pono:
Imperium sine fine dedi' -

was shared by the early Christians when they prayed for the persecuting power
whose fall would bring Antichrist upon earth. Lactantius writes: 'When Rome
the head of the world shall have fallen, who can doubt that the end is come of
human things, aye, of the earth itself. She, she alone is the state by which
all things are upheld even until now; wherefore let us make prayers and
supplications to the God of heaven, if indeed his decrees and his purposes can
be delayed, that that hateful tyrant come not sooner than we look for, he for
whom are reserved fearful deeds, who shall pluck out that eye in whose
extinction the world itself shall perish ^1.' With the triumph of Christianity
this belief had found a new basis. For as the Empire had decayed, the Church
had grown stronger: and now while the one, trembling at the approach of the
destroyer, saw province after province torn away, the other, rising in stately
youth, prepared to fill her place and govern in her name, and in doing so, to
adopt and sanctify and propagate anew the notion of a universal and unending
state.

[Footnote 1: See, among other passages, Varro, De lingua Latina, iv. 34; Cic.
Pro Domo, 33; Virg. Aen. ix. 448; Hor. Od. iii. 30, 8; Tibull, ii. 5, 23;
Ovid, Am. i. 15, 26; Trist. iii. 7, 51; and cf. in the Digest, 1, 33; xiv. 2,
9. The phrase 'urbs aeterna' appearsin a constitution issued by Valentinian
III.

Tertullian speaks of Rome as 'civitas sacrosancta.']

[Footnote 2: Lact. Divin. Instit. vii. 25: 'Etiam res ipsa declarat lapsum
ruinamque rerum brevi fore: nisi quod incolumi urbe Roma nihil istiusmodi
videtur esse metuendum. At vero cum caput illud orbis occiderit, et
[illegible] esse coeperit quod Sibyllae fore aiunt, quis dubitet venisse iam
finem rebus humanis, orbique terrarum? Illa, illa est civitas quae adhuc
sustentat omnia, precandusque nobis et adorandus est Deus coeli si tamen
statuta eius et placita differri possunt, ne citius quam putemus tyrannus ille
abominabilis veniat qui tantum facinus moliatur, ac lumen illud effodiat cuius
interitu mundus ipse lapsurus est.'

Cf. Tertull. Apolog. cap. xxxii: 'Est et alia maior necessitas nobis
orandi pro imperatoribus, etiam pro omni statu imperii rebusque Romanis, qui
vim maximam universo orbi imminentem ipsamque clausulam saeculi acerbitates
horrendas comminantem Romani imperii commeatu scimus retardari.' Also the same
writer, Ad Scapulam, cap. ii: 'Christianus sciens imperatorem a Deo suo
constitui, necesse est ut ipsum diligat et revereatur et honoret et salvum
velit cum toto Romano imperio quousque saeculum stabit: tamdiu enim stabit.'
So too the author - now usually supposed to be Hilary the Deacon - of the
Commentary on the Pauline Epistles ascribed to S. Ambrose: 'Non prius veniet
Dominus quam regni Romani defectio fiat, et appareat antichristus qui
interficiet sanctos, reddita Romanis libertate, sub suo tamen nomine.' - Ad II
Thess. ii. 4,7.]

The second chief element in this conception was the association of such a
state with one irresponsible governor, the Emperor. The hatred to the name of
King, which their earliest political struggles had left in the Romans, by
obliging their ruler to take a new and strange title, marked him off from all
the other sovereigns of the world. To the provincials especially he became an
awful impersonation of the great machine of government which moved above and
around them. It was not merely that he was, like a modern king, the centre of
power and the dispenser of honour: his pre-eminence, broken by no comparison
with other princes, by the ascending ranks of no aristocracy, had in it
something almost supernatural. The right of legislation had become vested in
him alone: the decrees of the people, and resolutions of the senate, and
edicts of the magistrates were, during the last three centuries, replaced by
imperial constitutions; his domestic council, the consistory, was the supreme
court of appeal; his interposition, like that of some terrestrial Providence,
was invoked, and legally provided so to be, to reverse or overleap the
ordinary rules of law ^1. From the time of Julius and Augustus his person had
been hallowed by the office of chief pontiff ^2 and the tribunician power; to
swear by his head was considered the most solemn of all oaths ^3; his effigy
was sacred ^4, even on a coin; to him or to his Genius temples were erected
and divine honours paid while he lived ^5; and when, as it was expressed, he
ceased to be among men, the title of Divus was accorded to him, after a solemn
consecration ^6. In the confused multiplicity of mythologies, the worship of
the Emperor was the only worship common to the whole Roman world, and was
therefore that usually proposed as a test to the Christians on their trial.
Under the new religion the form of adoration vanished, the sentiment of
reverence remained: and the right to control the Church as well as the State,
admitted at Nicaea, and habitually exercised by the sovereigns of
Constantinople, made the Emperor hardly less essential to the new conception
of a world-wide Christian monarchy than he had been to the military despotism
of old. These considerations explain why the men of the fifth century,
clinging to preconceived ideas, refused to believe in that dissolution of the
Empire which they saw with their own eyes. Because it could not die, it
lived. And there was in the slowness of the change and its external aspect,
as well as in the fortunes of the capital, something to favour the illusion.
The Roman name was shared by every subject; the Roman city was no longer the
seat of government, nor did her capture extinguish the imperial power, for the
maxim was now accepted, Where the Emperor is, there is Rome. But her
continued existence, not permanently occupied by any conqueror, striking the
nations with an awe which the history or the external splendours of
Constantinople, Milan, or Ravenna could nowise inspire, was an ever new
assertion of the endurance of the Roman race and dominion. Dishonoured and
defenceless, the spell of her name was still strong enough to arrest the
conqueror in the moment of triumph. The irresistible impulse that drew Alaric
was one of glory or revenge, not of destruction: the Hun turned back from
Aquileia with a vague fear upon him: the Ostrogoth adorned and protected his
splendid prize.

[Footnote 1: For example, by the 'restitutio natalium,' and the 'adrogatio per
rescriptum principis,' or, as it is expressed, 'per sacrum oraculum.']

[Footnote 2: Even the Christian Emperors took the title of Pontifex Maximus,
till Gratian refused it - Zosimus, lib. iv. cap. 36.]

[Footnote 3: 'Maiore formidine et callidiore timiditate Caesarem observatis
quam ipsum ex Olympo Iovem, et merito, si sciatis. . . . Citius denique apud
vos per omnes Deos quam per unum genium Caesaris peieratur.' - Tertull.
Apolog. c. xxviii.

[Footnote 4: Tac. Ann. i. 73; iii. 38, etc.]

[Footnote 5: It is curious that this should have begun in the first years of
the Empire. See, among other passages that might be cited from the Augustan
poets, Virg. Georg. i. 24; iv. 560; Hor. Od. iii. 3. II; Ovid, Epp. ex Ponto,
iv. 9. 105.]

[Footnote 6: Hence Vespasian's dying jest, 'Ut puto, deus fio.']

In the history of the last days of the Western Empire, two points deserve
special remark: its continued union with the Eastern branch, and the way in
which its ideal dignity was respected while its representatives were despised.
After Stilicho's death, and Alaric's invasion, its fall was a question of
time. While one by one the provinces were abandoned by the central
government, left either to be occupied by invading tribes or to maintain a
precarious independence, like Britain and Armorica ^1, by means of municipal
unions, Italy lay at the mercy of the barbarian auxiliaries and was governed
by their leaders. The degenerate line of Theodosius might have seemed to
reign by hereditary right, but after their extinction in Valentinian III each
phantom Emperor - Maximus, Avitus, Majorian, Anthemius, Olybrius - received
the purple from the haughty Ricimer, general of the troops, only to be
stripped of it when he presumed to forget his dependence. Though the division
between Arcadius and Honorius had definitely severed the two realms for
administrative purposes, they were still supposed to constitute a single
Empire, and the rulers of the East interfered more than once to raise to the
Western thrones princes they could not protect upon it. Ricimer's insolence
quailed before the shadowy grandeur of the imperial title: his ambition, and
Gundobald his successor's, were bounded by the name of patrician. The bolder
genius of Odoacer ^2, general of the barbarian auxiliaries, resolved to
abolish an empty pageant, and extinguish the title and office of Emperor of
the West. Yet over him too the spell had power; and as the Gaulish warrior
had gazed on the silent majesty of the senate in a deserted city, so the
Herulian revered the power before which the world had bowed, and though there
was no force to check or to affright him, shrank from grasping in his own
barbarian hand the sceptre of the Caesars. When, at Odoacer's bidding,
Romulus Augustulus, the boy whom a whim of fate had chosen to be the last
native Caesar of Rome, had formally announced his resignation to the senate, a
deputation from that body proceeded to the Eastern court to lay the insignia
of royalty at the feet of the reigning Emperor Zeno. The West, they declared,
no longer required an Emperor of its own: one monarch sufficed for the world;
Odoacer was qualified by his wisdom and courage to be the protector of their
state, and upon him Zeno was entreated to confer the title of patrician and
the administration of the Italian provinces. The Emperor granted what he
could not refuse, and Odoacer, taking the title of King ^3, continued the
consular office, respected the civil and ecclesiastical institutions of his
subjects, and ruled for fourteen years as the nominal vicar of the Eastern
Emperor. There was thus legally no extinction of the Western Empire at all,
but only a reunion of East and West. In form, and to some extent also in the
belief of men, things now reverted to their state during the first two
centuries of the Empire, save that Byzantium instead of Rome was the centre of
the civil government. The joint tenancy which had been conceived by
Diocletian, carried further by Constantine, renewed under Valentinian I and
again at the death of Theodosius, had come to an end; once more did a single
Emperor sway the sceptre of the world, and head an undivided Catholic Church
^4. To those who lived at the time, this year (476 A.D.) was no such epoch as
it has since become, nor was any impression made on men's minds commensurate
with the real significance of the event. For though it did not destroy the
Empire in idea, nor wholly even in fact, its consequences were from the first
great. It hastened the development of a Latin as opposed to Greek and
Oriental forms of Christianity: it emancipated the Popes: it gave a new
character to the projects and government of the Teutonic rulers of the West.
But the importance of remembering its formal aspect to those who witnessed it
will be felt as we approach the era when the Empire was revived by Charles the
Frank.

[Footnote 1: If the accounts we find of the Armorican republic can be
trusted.]

[Footnote 2: Odoacer or Odovaker, as it seems his name ought to be written, is
usually, but incorrectly, described as a King of the Heruli, who led his
people into Italy and overthrew the Empire of the West; others call him King
of the Rugii, or Skyrri, or Turcilingi. The truth seems to be that he was not
a king at all, but the son of a Skyrrian chieftain (Edecon, known as one of
the envoys whom Attila sent to Constantinople), whose personal merits made him
chosen by the barbarian auxiliaries to be their leader. The Skyrri were a
small tribe, apparently akin to the more powerful Heruli, whose name is often
extended to them.]

[Footnote 3: Not king of Italy, as is often said. The barbarian kings did not
for several centuries employ territorial titles; the title 'king of France,'
for instance, was first used by Henry IV. Jordanes says that Odoacer never so
much as assumed the insignia of royalty.]

[Footnote 4: Cf. Sismondi, Histoire de la Chute de l'Empire Occidentale.]

Odoacer's monarchy was not more oppressive than those of his neighbours
in Gaul, Spain, and Africa. But the mercenary foederati who supported it were
a loose swarm of predatory tribes: themselves without cohesion, they could
take no firm root in Italy. During the eighteen years of his reign no
progress seems to have been made towards the re-organization of society; and
the first real attempt to blend the peoples and maintain the traditions of
Roman wisdom in the hands of a new and vigorous race was reserved for a more
famous chieftain, the greatest of all the barbarian conquerors, the forerunner
of the first barbarian Emperor, Theodoric the Ostrogoth. The aim of his
reign, though he professed deference to the Eastern court which had favoured
his invasion ^1, was the establishment of a national monarchy in Italy.
Brought up as a hostage in the court of Byzantium, he learnt to know the
advantages of an orderly and cultivated society and the principles by which it
must be maintained; called in early manhood to roam as a warrior-chief over
the plains of the Danube, he acquired along with the arts of command a sense
of the superiority of his own people in valour and energy and truth. When the
defeat and death of Odoacer had left the peninsula at his mercy, he sought no
further conquest, easy as it would have been to tear away new provinces from
the Eastern realm, but strove only to preserve and strengthen the ancient
polity of Rome, to breathe into her decaying institutions the spirit of a
fresh life, and without endangering the military supremacy of his own Goths,
to conciliate by indulgence and gradually raise to the level of their masters
the degenerate population of Italy. The Gothic nation appears from the first
less cruel in war and more prudent in council than any of their Germanic
brethren ^2: all that was most noble among them shone forth now in the rule of
the greatest of the Amali. From his palace at Verona ^3, commemorated in the
song of the Nibelungs, he issued equal laws for Roman and Goth, and bade the
intruder, if he must occupy part of the lands, at least respect the goods and
the person of his fellow-subject. Jurisprudence and administration remained
in native hands: two annual consuls, one named by Theodoric, the other by the
Eastern monarch, presented an image of the ancient state; and while
agriculture and the arts revived in the provinces, Rome herself celebrated the
visits of a master who provided for the wants of her people and preserved with
care the monuments of her former splendour. With peace and plenty men's minds
took hope, and the study of letters revived. The last gleam of classical
literature gilds the reign of the barbarian.

[Footnote 1: 'Nil deest nobis imperio vestro famulantibus.' - Theodoricto
Zeno: Jordanes, DeRebus Geticis, cap. 57.]

[Footnote 2: Unde et paene omnibus barbaris Gothi sapientiores exstiterunt
Graecisque paene consimiles.' - Jorn. cap. 5.]

[Footnote 3: Theodoric (Thiodorich) seems to have resided usually at Ravenna,
where he died and was buried; a remarkable building which tradition points out
as his tomb stands a little way out of the town, near the railway station, but
the porphyry sarcophagus, in which his body is supposed to have lain, has been
removed thence, and may be seen built up into the wall of the building called
his palace, situated close to the church of Sant' Apollinare, and not far from
the tomb of Dante. There does not appear to be any sufficient authority for
attributing this building to Ostrogothic times; it is very different from the
representation of Theodoric's palace which we have in the contemporary mosaics
of Sant' Apollinare in urbe.

In the German legends, however, Theodoric is always the prince of Verona
(Dietrich von Berne), no doubt because that city was better known to the
Teutonic nations, and because it was thither that he moved his court when
transalpine affairs required his attention. His castle there stood in the old
town on the left bank of the Adige, on the height now occupied by the citadel;
it is doubtful whether any traces of it remain, for the old foundations which
we now see may have belonged to the fortress erected by Gian Galeazzo Visconti
in the fourteenth century.]

By the consolidation of the two races under one wise government, Italy
might have been spared six hundred years of gloom and degradation. It was not
so to be. Theodoric was tolerant, but toleration was itself a crime in the
eyes of his orthodox subjects: the Arian Goths were and remained strangers and
enemies among the Catholic Italians. Scarcely had the sceptre passed from the
hands of Theodoric to his unworthy offspring, when Justinian, who had viewed
with jealousy the greatness of his nominal lieutenant, determined to assert
his dormant rights over Italy; its people welcomed Belisarius as a deliverer,
and in the struggle that followed the race and name of the Ostrogoths perished
for ever. Thus again reunited in fact, as it had been all the while united in
name, to the Roman Empire, the peninsula was divided into counties and
dukedoms, and obeyed the exarch of Ravenna, viceroy of the Byzantine court,
till the arrival of the Lombards in A.D. 568 drove him from some districts,
and left him only a feeble authority in the rest.

Beyond the Alps, though the Roman population had now ceased to seek help
from the Eastern court, the Empire's rights still subsisted in theory, and
were never legally extinguished. As has been said, they were admitted by the
conquerors themselves: by Athaulf, when he reigned in Aquitaine as the vicar
of Honorius, and recovered Spain from the Suevi to restore it to its ancient
masters; by the Visigothic kings of Spain, when they permitted the
Mediterranean cities to send tribute to Byzantium; by Clovis, when, after the
representatives of the old government, Syagrius and the Armorican cities, had
been overpowered or absorbed, he received with delight from the Eastern
emperor Anastasius the grant of a Roman dignity to confirm his possession.
Arrayed like a Fabius or Valerius in the consul's embroidered robe, the
Sicambrian chieftain rode through the streets of Tours, while the shout of the
provincials hailed him Augustus ^1. They already obeyed him, but his power
was now legalized in their eyes, and it was not without a melancholy pride
that they saw the terrible conqueror himself yield to the spell of the Roman
name, and do homage to the enduring majesty of their legitimate sovereign ^2.

[Footnote 1: Igitur Chlodovechus ab imperatore Anastasio codicillos de
consulatu accepit, et in basilica beati Martini tunica blatea indutus est et
chlamyde, imponens vertici dia . . . et ab ea die tanquam consul aut (= et)
Augustus est vocitatus.' - Gregory of Tours, ii. 58.]

[Footnote 2: Sir F. Palgrave (English Commonwealth) considers this grant as
equivalent to a formal ratification of Clovis' rule in Gaul. Hallam rates its
importance lower (Middle Ages, note iii. to chap. i.). Taken in connection
with the grant of south-eastern Gaul to Theodebert by Justinian, it may fairly
be held to shew that the influence of the Empire was still felt in these
distant provinces.]

Yet the severed limbs of the Empire forgot by degrees their original
unity. As in the breaking up of the old society, which we trace from the
sixth to the eighth century, rudeness and ignorance grew apace, as language
and manners were changed by the infiltration of Teutonic settlers, as men's
thoughts and hopes and interests were narrowed by isolation from their
fellows, as the organization of the Roman province and the Germanic tribe
alike dissolved into a chaos whence the new order began to shape itself, dimly
and doubtfully as yet, the memory of the old Empire, its symmetry, its sway,
its civilization, must needs wane and fade. It might have perished altogether
but for the two enduring witnesses Rome had left - her Church and her Law.
The barbarians had at first associated Christianity with the Romans from whom
they learned it: the Romans had used it as their only bulwark against
oppression. The hierarchy were the natural leaders of the people, and the
necessary councillors of the king. Their power grew with the extinction of
civil government and the spread of superstition; and when the Frank found it
too valuable to be abandoned to the vanquished people, he insensibly acquired
the feelings and policy of the order he entered.

As the Empire fell to pieces, and the new kingdoms which the conquerors
had founded themselves began to dissolve, the Church clung more closely to her
unity of faith and discipline, the common bond of all Christian men. That
unity must have a centre, that centre was Rome. A succession of able and
zealous pontiffs extended her influence (the sanctity and the writings of
Gregory the Great were famous through all the West): never occupied by
barbarians, she retained her peculiar character and customs, and laid the
foundations of a power over men's souls more durable than that which she had
lost over their bodies ^1. Only second in importance to this influence was
that which was exercised by the permanence of the old law, and of its creature
the municipality. The barbarian invaders retained the customs of their
ancestors, characteristic memorials of a rude people, as we see them in the
Salic law or in the ordinances of Ina and Alfred. But the subject population
and the clergy continued to be governed by that elaborate system which the
genius and labour of many generations had raised to be the most lasting
monument of Roman greatness.

[Footnote 1: Even so early as the middle of the fifth century, S. Leo the
Great could say to the Roman people, 'Isti (sc. Petrus et Paulus sunt qui te
ad hanc gloriam provexerunt ut gens sancta, populus electus, civitas
sacerdotalis et regia, per sacram B. Petri sedem caput orbis effecta latius
praesideres religione divina quam dominatione terrena.' - Sermon on the Feast
of SS. Peter and Paul. (Opp.ap. Migne, tom. i. p. 336.)]

The civil law had maintained itself in Spain and Southern Gaul, nor was
it utterly forgotten even in the North, in Britain, on the borders of Germany.
Revised editions of the Theodosian code were issued by the Visigothic and
Burgundian princes. For some centuries it was the patrimony of the subject
population everywhere, and in Aquitaine and Italy has outlived feudalism. The
presumption in later times was that all men were to be judged by it who could
not be proved to be subject to some other ^1. Its phrases, its forms, its
courts, its subtlety and precision, all recalled the strong and refined
society which had produced it. Other motives, as well as those of kindness to
their subjects, made the new kings favour it; for it exalted their
prerogative, and the submission enjoined by it on one class of their subjects
soon came to be demanded from the other, by their own laws the equals of the
prince. Considering attentively how many of the old institutions continued to
subsist, and studying the feelings of that time, as they are faintly preserved
in its scanty records, it seems hardly too much to say that in the eighth
century the Roman Empire still existed in the West: existed in men's minds as
a power weakened, delegated, suspended, but not destroyed.

[Footnote 1: 'Ius Romanum est adhuc in viridi observantia et eo iure
praesumitur quilibet vivere nisi adversum probetur.' - Maranta, quoted by
Marquard Freher.]

It is easy for those who read the history of an age in the light of those
that followed it, to perceive that in this men erred; that the tendency of
events was wholly different; that society had entered on a new phase, wherein
every change did more to localize authority and strengthen the aristocratic
principle at the expense of the despotic. We can see that other forms of
life, more full of promise for the distant future, had already begun to shew
themselves: they - with no type of power or beauty, but that which had filled
the imagination of their forefathers, and now loomed on them grander than ever
through the mist of centuries - mistook, as it has been said of Rienzi in
later days, memories for hopes, and sighed only for the renewal of its
strength. Events were at hand by which these hopes seemed destined to be
gratified.