The great Greek empire

In vain you would seek a firm territory for each people, and well-impressed signs of a nation in the middle of the eighth century, a time when the Carolingic lineage begins to show itself in its greatness. The empires, the provinces and the cities are in constant turmoil due to the invasions and the rapid passage of the different populations who rest for a moment, then rush to new districts, bringing with them their customs, their laws, and the traditions of ancient homeland. There is still neither France, nor Alemagna, nor England, but there are Franks, Alemanni and Saxons [13] who want to establish their lordship by force of conquest: tribes are seen passing through the territories, and stable nations are not seen . Everything has a wandering form of life: kings, princes, leaders, populations, the same cherics have not [4]no stability in church governance; if you except the pious families of the order of St. Benedict who cultivate the land and are bound to the soil, the bishops, the abbots become like great travelers carrying the evangelical preaching with the pastoral in hand and together with the pilgrim’s staff [ 14] .

The Franks, as those who possessed the most beautiful cities of ancient Roman Gaul, retained some of those denominations with which the praetors and consuls of the Eternal City called the provinces of Gaul a while ago. They split into several powerful families. The Austrian Franks inhabited the colonies of the Rhine, famous in the splendor of the emperors, where there are ample traces of their great works; from Cologne, Mainz, Treveri, up to Aachen which is already celebrated by poets for its thermal waters. They are encamped as conquerors in the provinces with imperial geography pointed out under the name of Germania inferior, Belgica prima et secunda; those who wear shields and rods are governed by their laws, while they retain that character of individuality which is the type of barbaric conquests; under the empire of Roman civilization, so deeply sculpted as it is, the Franks left their customs to the peoples; the municipi ai Galli; to the bishops their canons; to the Romans the Theodosian code and the Justinian [15] .

On the side of the Austrasiian Franks, whose extreme borders go from the west to Reims and Chalons, lie the Franks of Neustria, established between the Seine, the Marne and the Loire; their capital city is Lutetia of the Gauls (the Paris later of the chronicles), the city where you can see the baths of Giuliano, memory of Rome, the abbeys of San Germano d’Auxerre and the Prati; the pilgrimage of Santa Genoveffa to the mountain. The Franks of Neustria are masters of San Dionigi, San Clodoaldo [16] , famous for its Frankish founder, of Melun, Chartres, Meaux, d’Evreux and Lisieux; then of the lonely monasteries on the Seine, the Orna and the Era, fertile districts. They [5]they pushed the Bretons back into the Druid forests; those Bretons, mysterious people of which Tacitus speaks, with their endless stone tablets, and their mythological traditions; those Bretons who in their dark solitudes and in the midst of sacred woods sacrificed to unknown gods [17] .

Other blonde-haired conquerors scattered across Burgundy. The Ionna again rang out with war cries; Sens, the city of praetors; Auxerre, the episcopal city; Autun, proud of its triumphal arches and its temples; Lyon, famous for its academies and its martyrs; Vienna, where the Roman civilization lived in the midst of the relics of another age: all these metropolises, with Besancon as well, and a portion of Switzerland, were equally subject to a branch of the great Frankish family under the name of the kingdom of Burgundy. Except that among the Burgundians there was a more sensitive change in the original customs, and they had softened under the impression of Christian civilization. Some tribes of Franks had overflowed into Aquitaine, in the midst of the races of the south; the Goths of the Week, they had had to bow their heads under the yoke of the Merovingians; who, crossing the Loire, rushed to Aquitaine for the cities of Angoulemme and Perigueux; the Dordogne and the Garonne, which united their waters like two sisters, had also succumbed to the yoke, and their fields covered with vineyards and their cities made more splendid than others by the sun, obeyed kings or counts of the conquering race[18] .

It could well be said that in the seventh and eighth centuries the name of the Franks was everywhere, in the likeness of the memory of the Goths in the fourth and fifth centuries. At each of these eras, new populations flocked to divide among themselves the spoils of the vast Roman empire. So when one nation falls low, others rise to occupy its place; when one civilization is extinguished, another comes to fill this void, nor is consumption a law of God, that indeed from death life is born. The Franks were virile peoples who flocked to rejuvenate the weakened society; their kings and their counts fought each other to death, and yet they did not host these wars [6]civilians, the already old and prostrate Gauls were subjected to their dominion. The fights between the victors, who vied for the spoils of victory, recalled the vase of Clovis in Soissons [19] . From the ancient Roman and Gallic form no longer survived if not the however uncertain foundations of the Church, and a few remains of the municipalities; Christianity in sum and the reminiscences of the laws that are still seen to last, through the barbaric customs, up to the midst of the Carolingic lineage [20] .

The most powerful adversaries of the Frankish Empire in the eighth century were the Saxons, fought by Charlemagne for thirty-three years of his life. And yet the origin of these two races was not too disparate, for indeed in the annals of one and the other people it was possible to find more than one point of similarity between them. They came, so to speak, from a common homeland, the Rhine and the Elbe: their blue eyes, their white complexion, showed the same blood, the same family. Except that the Saxons had remained faithful to the gods of their country, and the Franks had embraced the religion of Clotilde: these possessed the rich heritage of the Romans and the Gauls, those still wandered in the midst of the pastures and forests of ancient Germany, in the lands that stretched from the Oder to the Main, from Osnabruc to the extreme border of the Obotriti. The Saxons retained their invariable uses: little loyalty in speech, worship of unknown gods, a mythology that portrayed their Scandinavian origin. Tacitus had painted their customs in the great workDe moribus Germanorum , being that Saxony was truly the heart of Germany. The gigantic idol of Erminsul, a sign to the adoration of all these peoples, was the moral expression of that Germanic myth of which you find the explanation in the appearance of the solitary forests, and in the wandering customs of the northern peoples [21] .

The Frisians or Frisians had something even more salvatic than the Saxons of the middle lands; to their passion for conquests, it was mixed [7]that for piracy; the appearance of the sea and its sparkling waves had given them a certain barbaric insensitivity in the face of dangers; they loved shipwrecks and the spoils of the storm, and fervent in their worship, they worshiped the Scandinavian divinities. In vain the Christian preaching had called him to humanity, to the hierarchy, which indeed more than one holy bishop had perished in his religious pilgrimages to the threshold of indomitable Frisia. The traditions of the cavalry pretended in those countries acts of ruthless ferocity [22] ; in Zeeland and Friesland the supplication of the young damsel exposed to the fangs of a sea monster was placed in the epic poems, a fable imitated by that of Andromeda, and the paladin from whom she is freed, swears the wrath of God on[23] .

And therefore not in the midst of that Scandinavian homeland, in the midst of those lands of ice, from Dania to Norway, did peoples already well advanced in poetry and history, which perhaps possessed traditions as warm and colorful as the legends of Southern Europe, but according to ancient assertions, they came from Asia. The sagasrecited by the skalds they narrated the adventures of Odin and the events of war; Odin with his waving maned helmet, and with his golden javelin, as resplendent as the Apollo de ‘Greci; Torn, the god of war, Fraja, the Venus of the North, in her palace of crystal, with her chaste loves, seemed taken away from Homer’s Olympus. The tastes and passions of the Scandinavians inclined to distant expeditions, to heroic deeds, to running on boats which they launched into the waves of the Baltic and the Ocean; they enjoyed contrasting with the storm and the strident lightning; the children themselves joked with the sea; the two races, Saxon and Danish, had more than one point of resemblance to each other; they left the inland shipments to the Franks,[24] . Wanting to know the customs and habits of the peoples of those times, we want to carefully follow the pilgrimages, the legends of the saints, curious relics that were there [8]from the acts of the saints ( Acta Sanctorum ), preserved. Those poor pilgrims who went through unknown lands to proclaim Christianity, recount the slightest peculiarities of those foreign regions, and in the legends they are the only reports that modern geography can consult to rectify and fulfill the uncertain conjectures of science.

In the midst of ancient Italy, and on the border almost of the Burgundians, he had come by force and by conquest, establishing the state of a people of Germanic descent, whose civilization was then based on that of Rome and Greece. The Lombards (the people we are talking about), who are so much of the first period of the middle age, had established their empire in the delightful plains closed between the Alps, the Apennines and the Tyrol, and had Milan as their capital city; their chiefs, under the title of counts or kings, encircled their foreheads with an iron crown in the monastery of Monza. A diligent and industrious people, they had enriched the Roman cities with those monuments of heavy and solid architecture which marked their passage through Italy; converted Aquileja, on the Adriatic, in a city which served as a scale for their traffic, and they conquered Ferrara, Bologna and the exarchate of Ravenna, the military and civil headquarters which the Greeks had left in Italy. Therefore, due to their posture, the Lombards were in perpetual nimistà with the Greek empire[25], although formerly master of Italy, and together with the popes who governed Rome and its basilicas; but as for the imperial dominion over the Adriatic, they had almost completely landed it, chasing the Greeks back to the last borders of the peninsula within the mountains of the kingdom of Taranto. As for the popes, the Lombards became their most ardent persecutors, and although converted to Christianity, they were at war with the pontificate, and the bishop of Ravenna contended for primacy with the bishop of Rome. The dominion of the Lombards alone lacked the great city of the Caesars, and they wanted it in any case as the fulfillment of their Italian dominion; the kings with the iron crown therefore longed for the purchase of the metropolis of the Roman Empire, and hence the first practices between the popes and the Carolingians, who to fight the Lombards,

The kingdom of the Lombards extended as far as Provence with the city of Nice on the border; the Provençals, a mixed race of Gauls, Greeks and Romans, occupied the great delta formed by the Rhone, Duranza and Varo; Marseille was the port to which all the goods from Syria and eastern traffic, silks and apothecaries came to land [26] . Marseille was also famous in the glories of Christianity, and proud of its monastery of San Vittore, and of its cathedral (the Major) which protruded like a promontory over the sea. Aix, a Roman city, shone not far from Marseille, a Roman city, the colony of Sestio, with its thermal waters, emulating that other Aix of the kingdom of Austrasia, a city so dear to Charlemagne. The Rhone and the Duranza bordered Provence, which in antiquity could contend with the metropolis of Arli, the cradle of Christianity, proudly proud of its Roman relics, of its circuses, of its theaters, where well thirty thousand spectators comfortably they sat on large seats, as in the Coliseum of Rome [27] .

Beyond the Rhine began Gothia or Septimania, which does not want to be confused with Aquitaine, bordered by the Garonne. If the kingdom of the Aquitans boasted of Toulouse and Albi, Gothia had Narbonne as its capital city, which gave its name to the Roman province, in the first part of the Gauls, and Nimes, the true sister of Rome, which nevertheless retains the most intact of its antiquities, its Square House and its Arenas, almost as spacious as the Coliseo [28]. The Septimania was like the greatest vestibule of the kingdom of the Goths, and extended beyond the Pyrenees to the Ebro. On the crest of the western Pyrenees lived the Gascons, proud mountain dwellers induced to fatigue, peoples of shepherds who did not suffer foreign domination, and the day will soon come when they rise up against the invasion of the Franks, and the chronicles will resound for long [10]time of the Roncesvalles route, where the paladins of Charles the Great perished.

In this way, in the west of the kingdom of the Lombards, were the Provencals, the Goths, the Visigoths and the Gascons, while in the east other peoples still retained the savage vigor of primitive times; the Schiavoni, the Croats and the Dalmatians were the masters of the lands between the Sala and the Adriatic. Beside Venice, which arose as if born from the waters, already decorated with oriental riches, and not far from the colony of Justin and the Greek civilization, peoples still living in their primitive state, the terrible Hungarians, the Avars and the Bulgars, from the tralignata Byzantium much feared [29] . The Bulgarians, encamped around the Eusine Bridge, founded an orderly kingdom; they had their leaders or kings [30], and later Christianity brought their high civilization to them, but we do not want to forget how the preaching of the bishops was the most powerful impulse of those times to make the nations advance in that, and they had apostles fervent, indefatigable, starting with Bonifazio, the Germanic bishop, up to St.Anscario, the preacher of the Scandinavian peoples [31] . The Bulgarians moved towards the arts and culture more quickly than the Hungarians, savage populations that we will see in the tenth century come to desert the kingdom of the Franks. The Bulgarians almost always found themselves in commerce with the empire of Constantinople, and they imitated its uses.

In the midst of such a shaking of peoples, when all rushed to the old civilization, some empires nevertheless remained standing, and exercised an industrious influence on the age of Charlemagne: I mean here the Greeks, the Saracens, and the land of Italy, since there the very ideas and institutions of Rome survived the ruins of the ancient world. Anyone who gets to study well into Byzantine history must feel moved by that character of greatness that marks even its decay, which certainly has something tearful in the sorrow and weakness of a vast empire, pursued by all departed, and almost drowned under the straits of the Barbarians. The spectacle of those eunuchs covered with gold, of those Caesars weakened under the purple in their marble palaces, [11]it still inspires some pity to the most rigorous nations: but who then cannot recognize and greet the infinite increase of the arts, the advanced civilization, the marvelous order that everywhere manifest themselves in that empire? Byzantium was the metropolis of knowledge, philosophy, commerce and industry; in every place of Asia Minor towards which the traveler turned his steps, as in Laodicea as in Corinth, as well in the islands of the Archipelago as in the mainland, everywhere and he saw the treasures of the industry of a very cultivated nation: racecourses, theaters, ancient statues [32], sumptuous palaces, wide streets, innumerable fleets that crossed the seas, the marvelous discovery of the Greek fire, the traffic of purple and silk, a luxury that appeared in all the monuments. The administration of the empire, the forms of its government were a model of hierarchy; every office was marked, every order called to contribute with its strength of action and mind to the administration of the provinces. The Book of Purple and Gold regulated the government and authority of each; the treasury was overflowing, everything was opulence: the Greeks fed their vigor in civil wars; their ancient nature was this, were they ever others at the time of Sparta and Athens, and did they ever correct themselves? They got lost in the subtle disputes over Christianity, around the procreation of the Father and the Son, the mysterious Trinity, in the way that in other times disputed over philosophical theses in the areopagus. Neither the appearance of such a powerful civilization, however, left it to have some action on the Barbarians of the North, and the annals of those centuries attest that the kings of the Franks demanded pompous titles from the emperors of Constantinople[33] , and they sent more than one embassy to solicit the purple, the consulate, or the patriciate from the Caesars. The administrative order of Byzantium, and its forms of government were also, for more than one respect, the foundation and principle of the first institutions of order and hierarchy that marked the reign of Charlemagne [34] .

Alongside the Greek pre-eminence, the sharp course of the Moorish provinces is manifested. Muhammad’s sectarians are about to have such a large part in events that it is impossible to separate them from contemporary history and civilization. Up to the eighth century their course is all about conquests: they are armed peoples that spread rapidly from Asia and Africa to Spain and Aquitaine, nor have laws other than the Koran, other reason than the sword. The caliphate, however strong it was in itself, could not serve as a model for the establishment of an orderly empire in the West [35]: for it was a mixture of religious and political despotism: with both swords in one hand, and nothing else. What little the caliphate can have of civil status, it owed to Constantinople, to the Greeks of Asia Minor and to India, and it takes away from the conquered peoples instead of giving them. The Arabs in the Middle Ages preceded the Jews in the great monopoly of knowledge. The Saracins, a destroying stream, joined in the seventh century with the other barbarians to cut up the Roman empire. It was only after their establishment in the cities of the Goths in Spain that they exercised the power of imagination and poetry over the following times. Was it the Saracens who brought the arts and wonders of a more advanced civilization among the Goths? It would be nice to prove that the Goths, with that lively feeling of them,[36] . And what did those peoples who went ahead with the sword of Muhammad in their hands have in common with Christian spirit and progress? It is true that some cities of Spain had flourished under the Moors, who rose jagged mosques there, minarets rose up to the sky, but what did the laws and arts of Greece, Rome and Gaul do in this? The children of the Prophet landed more than they built. What wonder that in such cities, such as Cordoba or Toledo, Seville or Granada, under that sun, oriental fantasies could create marvelous monuments? But the relics of the arts that can still be seen on the meschite, those flowers, those golden fruit are mostly removed by the Byzantine craftsmen.

And on the other hand, did the Goths not have some part of the Roman civilization? The whole world echoed with the name of Rome; his authority was in every part that of a dead but immense power; there was no city in Austrasia, Neustria or Aquitaine which tenaciously did not preserve the vestiges of that great upheaval; not only aqueducts, nor wide streets marked with funeral tombs, and as to say the streets of the dead , as in Pompeii, but also customs, laws, municipalities which had survived the destruction of the empire and the passage of the Barbarians. Institutions sprang up here and there: municipalities, companies of craftsmen, city prosecutors, laws on annone, magistracy, decurions [37]; Rome and the Gauls had marked the frank institutions in every part of their profound imprint.

We therefore want to take into account such elements in what constitutes the work of Charlemagne, who does not otherwise create a new thing, but makes use of the facts which he has under his hand, and organizes them; he leaves his law to each one, his customs to each people: the Salic law to the Franks, their formulas to the Lombards, their codes to the Romans. Only in the midst of this fragmentation does he plant a principle of unity, he takes away from Christianity his moral strength, from the popes their perseverance in plans, and in the constitution of his great empire he takes Rome as a basis and the Church as a model.