What The Middle Ages Started With
Addition Of Christianity
German Conquest And The Fall Of Rome
What The Germans Added
Formation Of The Papacy
The Franks And Charlemagne
The Empire And The Papacy
Read More Articles About: Medieval Civilization
What The Middle Ages Started With
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
IT follows from what has been said in the introduction that our nineteenth-century civilization has not merely that complexity of character of which we are so conscious, but also that it is complex in origin. Its distinct elements are the work of generations widely separated from one another in time and space. It has been brought together into a common whole from a thousand different sources. This fact is very familiar as regards the work of historic times. We recall at once from what different ages and peoples the printing-press, the theory of evolution, the representative system, the Divine Comedy, entered our civilization and how they enriched it. It is less easy to realize the presence there, in almost unchanged form, of the work of primitive generations who lived before the possibility of record. And yet, for ex-ample, we have only just ceased to kindle a fire and to raise wheat after methods practically identical with those of the primitive man the modification is still not essential and the discovery of either of these two arts was no doubt as great a step in advance at the time when it was made as any the world has since taken. The same thing may be said in a slightly modified form of what is in some of our States the unit of our political system the town-meeting.
Of the sources from which the different parts of our civilization have been brought together in historic times there are four which greatly exceed in importance all the others. They are Greece, Rome, Christianity, and the Germans. Many separate elements have come from other sources, some of them modifying very essentially our ideas or institutions-the alphabet from the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, philosophical notions from the Tigris valley, mathematical methods from Hindoostan. But so far as we yet know, leaving one side what the further investigation of the monuments of early peoples may have to teach us, except the four mentioned, no great body of civilization, the entire work of no people, has been taken up into our civilization as one of its great constituent parts. Should we attempt to make a fifth co-ordinate with these four, we should need to group together the separate contributions of the various oriental nations made at widely separated times during the whole course of history and having no connection with one another. But the work of the Greeks as an organic whole lies at the foundation of all later progress.
Of these four, three had been brought together before the close of ancient history. By its conquest of the classic world Rome had added the Greek civilization to its own, and prepared the way for the introduction of the ideas and influences which came from Christianity, and from these three sources, in the main, had been formed that practically uniform civilization which the Germans found throughout the Roman empire when they took possession of it. To ascertain, then, what the middle ages had to start with, and the contribution of the ancient world to the nineteenth century, it is necessary to examine, though as briefly as possible, the results of Greek and of Roman work and the elements introduced by Christianity.
The contribution of Greece comes naturally first in order. This was made, we may say, exclusively in the departments of literature and art, philosophy and science. Other work of hers which may have had a permanent influence is comparatively insignificant. The work of the Greeks in literature and art is too well known to need more than a mention. It is hardly too strong to say that it still remains the richest contribution to this side of our civilization made by any people in the course of history ; and it is very easy to believe that, with the adoption of more appreciative methods of study in our schools, it must have an even greater influence in the future than it has ever had in the past. It was this part of Greek work more than any other which made the conquest of the Roman world, so that even those parts of Latin literature which must be considered something more than mere copies of the Greek are still deeply tinged with the Greek influence.
But the Greek mind was as active and as creative in the fields of philosophy and of science as in those of literature and art. Greek thought lies at the foundation of all modern speculation, and Aristotle and Plato are still " the masters of those who know." All the great problems of philosophy were directly or indirectly attacked by the Greeks, and their varying solutions were formed, before the close of their active intellectual life, into finely wrought systems. These Greek systems of thought furnished the Romans with their philosophical beliefs, and deeply affected the speculative theology of the Christian church, and a few brief sentences from one of them furnished the starting-point for the endless speculations and the barren civil wars of the Realists and Nominalists in the later middle ages.
Among the Greeks philosophy and science were very closely related to one another. The philosopher was apt to be the student of natural and physical science as well, and it was thought that the arrangement of the universe and the component elements of all bodies might be deter-mined by speculation. This was especially true of the early periods of Greek thinking. It is characteristic of all early thinking that it turns with every problem to speculation rather than to investigation, and characteristic of advancing knowledge that it is constantly enlarging the number of those subjects which, it is clearly seen, are to be carried to a real solution only by experiment and observation.
This last stage of knowledge was reached by the Greeks more or less completely in regard to a great variety of subjects, and the amount and character of their scientific work is astonishing considering its early date. Their favorite lines of work were mathematics and the physical sciences, physics and astronomy, and they made greater advances in these than in the natural-history sciences, like zoology and botany. This scientific work hardly affected the Romans, and it was entirely forgotten by the Christian nations of the West during the middle ages ; but when modern science opened in the Renaissance age, it began clearly and consciously on the foundations laid down by the Greeks. In every line the first step was to find out what the ancients had known, and then to begin a new progress from the point which they had reached. The first medical lectures were comments on the Greek text, almost as much philological as scientific, and Copernicus's first step, in preparation of the scientific revolution which he wrought, was to search the classics for a theory of the solar system different from the Ptolemaic. This is true of all the sciences of those in which the Greek work has finally been thrown aside as worthless, as of those in which it still forms a part. The science of the Greeks was no doubt in many cases entirely mistaken ; but these mistakes represent in all probability stages of inquiry through which the mind had necessarily to pass in reaching the truth, and the work of the Greeks, though mistaken, was a positive gain.
So brief and general a statement can give no idea of the marvellous character of Greek work, miraculous almost considering its early date, the smallness of the land, and the few generations which performed it. But a correct appreciation of that work is now so general that it may suffice for the present purpose.'
It would hardly seem necessary, but for a popular misconception, to add to this account of the work of the Greeks which permanently influenced history, the negative statement that none of this work was political. The history of the Greek republics is interesting reading, and it seems as if the restless activity of their political life ought to have resulted in something of value for all time ; but, as a matter of fact, it did not unless it be an example of warning. The Greeks had a very keen interest in politics they tried all sorts of political experiments, and they show us an immense variety of political forms. But all this interest was intellectual rather than practical. It was the keenness of the competition, the excitement of the game, which had the greatest charm for them, and they went into the assembly to decide a political question in very much the same spirit in which they went into the theatre to see a new play. Scarcely a state can be found among them which makes a real success of any government, and in the histories of most of them revolutions are as frequent and as meaningless as anywhere in South America. They were not a creative political people, and not a single political expedient of theirs was a permanent contribution to the institutional life of the race, as was the imperial government of the Romans, or the representative system of the English.' In the science of politics, as in other sciences, the Greeks did extraordinary work, and in this way may have had some influence, untraceable for the most part, on the minds of statesmen of later ages. The Politics of Aristotle has been called as modern a book as Euclid, and it is a mod-ern book for precisely the reason that Euclid is, because it is a thoroughly inductive study based upon a very wide investigation of political facts. His collection of constitutions for study numbered one hundred and fifty-eight. But the science of politics and the creation of workable political institutions are two different things.
When we turn to the work of Rome we are struck with the contrast which it presents to that of Greece. It would seem as if each people of the ancient world had had its special line of work to accomplish, and, doing this, had not been able to do anything beyond. At all events, Rome was strong where Greece was weak, and weak where Greece was strong. Her work was political and legal, scarcely at all artistic or intellectual. We could not well afford to be without the Latin literature. In some departments lyric poetry and history, for instance it is of a distinctly high order. It presents us fine specimens of elegance and polish, and there will probably always be those who will consider these the most important literary qualities, as there will always be those who rank Pope among the greatest of poets. But as compared with the Greek, Latin literature lacks originality, depth, and power. The ancients themselves were not without a more or less conscious feeling of this contrast, and while Latin literature is saturated with the influences of Greek thought, scarcely a single, if indeed any instance can be found until the very last days of Greek literature, in which a Greek author appears conscious of the existence of a Latin literature.
The same things could be said even more strongly of Roman art and science, but perhaps Roman philosophy exhibits better than anything else the contrast between the two peoples. There was no original Roman philosophy. The Roman simply thought over into other forms the results which the Greeks had reached. A good example of this is that sort of eclectic philosophizing so familiar to us in the works of Cicero a rhetorical popularizing of what seemed to him the best in Greek thinking without any original speculation of his own, at its best nothing more than a sympathetic comment or paraphrase. This difference between the two races is seen still more clearly in that form of Greek philosophy which the Romans cultivated with especial fondness, and in which they produced two such famous names as Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. It was the in-tensely ethical character of Stoicism which attracted them, with its ideal of strong manhood and its principles so naturally applicable to the circumstances in which a cultivated Roman found himself under the early empire. And it was on this purely practical side that the Roman cultivated Stoicism. He praised virtue in earnest phrases, he exhorted himself and other people to right living, he tried to make it a missionary philosophy and to bring its guidance and support to the help of men in general, he turned its abstract formulas into specific precepts of law, but he did not develop it as a science or a philosophy. The whole Roman mind was practical and not at all aesthetic or speculative.
And it was on this practical side that the Roman mind found its mission. The great work of Rome for the world was political and legal. Whatever rank we give to Greece for its literature, we must give an equally high rank to Rome for the results of its genius for government. If it may be true, as is sometimes said, that in the course of history there is no literature which rivals the Greek except the English, it is perhaps even more true that the Anglo-Saxon is the only race which can be placed beside the Roman in creative power in law and politics. A somewhat detailed examination of the work which Rome did in this direction is demanded because the foundation fact of all modern civilization is the Roman empire, or more accurately, perhaps, it is the external framework of all later history.
The opportunity to exert such an important political influence came to Rome, of course, as a result of her military successes and her wide conquests ; but these are themselves not the least of the evidences of her ruling genius. It was an opportunity which none but a great political people could have created, or could have used to any good purpose when it carne to them. Rome's conquests were not mere military occupations. After a generation or two the peoples which had most stubbornly resisted her advance had become Roman, those of them at least who were not already in possession of a civilization as high as her own. From the very beginning of her career, in the absorption of the little rival city states around her in Italy, she treated her subjects as friends and not as conquered enemies. She allowed the utmost local independence and freedom of self-government possible under her strong control of all general affairs. She did not interfere with local prejudices or superstitions where they were not harmful to the common good. She knew how to make her subjects understand that her interests were identical with theirs, and that their best good was to be found in strengthening her power, as Hannibal discovered to his cost. She opened the line of promotion and success beyond the narrow limits of their own locality to ambitious spirits throughout the provinces. Balbus, a Spaniard, was consul in Rome forty years before the Christian era. She made no conscious attempt anywhere to Romanize the provincials, nor any use of violent methods to mould them into a common race ; but she thoroughly convinced them by reasonable evidence, by its constant presence and its beneficial results, of the superiority of her civilization to theirs. She won them completely by the peace and good order which she everywhere kept, by the decided advantages of a common language, a common law, common commercial arrangements, a uniform coinage, vastly improved means of intercommunication, and by no means least of all, by common treatment for the men of every race. The literature and the inscriptions give us abundant evidence of the affectionate regard in which this Roman rule was held in every quarter. That such good government was without exceptions is certainly not maintained, and it gradually changes into a bad government as time goes on; but even where Rome's rule was least favorable to the subject, it was, until the last age, much better than the conditions which had anywhere preceded it, and the work of Romanization was completed before it became anywhere a serious evil.
The result of such a policy was speedily apparent. It was a process of absorption into a common Roman race willingly undergone by the provincial. If there was any conscious effort to bring about such a result it was on the part of the provincial, not on that of the government, and he certainly made no conscious effort to prevent it. And this was a genuine absorption, not a mere con-tented and quiet living under a foreign government. The local dress, religion, manners, family names, language and literature, political and legal institutions, and race pride almost or entirely disappeared, did disappear for all except the lowest classes, and everything became Roman became really Roman, so that neither they nor the Romans of blood ever felt in any way the difference of descent, as we never do in the case of the thoroughly Americanized German, whose family name alone betrays his origin. Gaul, Spain, and Africa have all been called more Roman than Rome itself. Some of the provinces possessed schools of rhetoric, that is, training in the use of the Latin tongue, so famous that they were sought by pupils from all parts of the empire. Gaul furnished some of the most celebrated grammarians of the Latin language, and that distinguished Spanish family must not be forgotten which gave the two Senecas and Lucan to Latin literature, and the proconsul Gallic) to Christian history, in the incident recorded in the Acts, which illustrates so strikingly the attitude of the cultured Roman toward the earliest Christianity. In political life the case of Balbus has been mentioned. Before the first century closed another Spaniard Nerva had become emperor, and as time went on the emperors were, more and more frequently, drawn from the provincials. In the days when the empire was falling to pieces, and local commanders were taking advantage of their military strength to make themselves independent rulers, nowhere was there any return to an earlier national autonomy, but everywhere the commander became a Roman emperor, and reproduced, as perfectly as circumstances would admit, the Roman arrangements, court forms, officials, senate, and even coinage, and, more surprising still, in the very last days of the empire some of its most earnest and devoted defenders against their own race were Germans, or of German descent.
It would be easy to multiply evidences of the completeness of this Romanization, but perhaps language forms the best example of all, because it is one of the things which a race trying to maintain a separate existence would most consciously strive to retain, as witness the Welsh of to-day, and because the evidence remains clear to our own time, in the speech of modern Europe, that the national languages passed out of use and Latin be-came the universal language from the mouth of the Douro to the mouth of the Danube. Not that this happened for every man. In the remoter country districts and among the lowest classes the national language long remained as a local dialect. In some of the most inaccessible parts the national speech permanently survived, as among the Basques and in Brittany. But Latin be-came the universal language of all the well-to-do classes. Nor was this change brought about because anyone consciously dropped the use of his native language and adopted Latin in its place. It simply became a very great convenience for all the ordinary purposes of life for everybody to know the Latin in addition to his native tongue. He learned it with no expectation of giving up his own, and doubtless for a generation or two the two languages would go on side by side as generally spoken languages, and the local speech would only gradually be-come unfashionable and disappear. Indeed in some cases, as for example in the Punic of north Africa, we know that a very considerable literary activity continued in the local language after Latin had become universally spoken.'
In one part of the empire there is an apparent exception to this absorption of the native races into the Roman. In the eastern half of the ancient world another language had become universal and another civilization al-most as prevalent as the Roman in the west. The historical reason for this is familiar. At the time when the political life of Greece proper was reaching its lowest decline came the Grecized Macedonian, and with the military superiority of the Greek soldier constructed a great oriental empire, and, although this empire was scarcely at all Greek in its political or institutional life was, indeed, in many ways the exact opposite of anything which the genuine Greek political life could have produced —yet the great superiority of the Greek intellectual civilization, and the fact that Greek was the language of the government and of the ruling class made the Greek language and Greek ideas universal.' These were thoroughly established throughout the East at the time of the Roman conquest, so that Rome came in contact there with a universal civilization as high as her own. Naturally it retained its place. Except politically Rome had nothing to offer the East, and there was not that need of a unifying and assimilating work there which Rome had performed in the West. But politically Rome had much to offer, and her political influence became as decided and as permanent in the East as in the West. Law and governmental institutions and forms became entirely Roman. Latin became the language of government and law and remained so until the end of the sixth century. In Greek compendiums and translations the legislation of Justinian remained the basis of the law of the later East-ern Empire. Even when so distant a portion of the Roman dominion as Palmyra attempted, in the third century, to found a new oriental state, it did it under political forms that were Roman,' and the subjects of the modern Turkish Empire have had no reason to rejoice in what their rulers learned of the Romans in the matter of taxation. The exception presented by the East to the universal Romanization of the ancient world is more apparent than real.
In this power of assimilation the Roman presented, as has already been suggested, a marked contrast to the Greek. Athens had offered her, in the confederacy of Delos, the same opportunity which came to Rome. Sparta had it again after the Peloponnesian War. The difficulties in the way were but little greater than those which confronted Rome in Italy; but neither Greek state was able to take any step toward a real consolidation of Greece, and the empires of both fell to pieces at the first opportunity. This difference, and even the reasons for it, were so obvious that they did not escape the notice of the observers of those times. The remarkable speech which Tacitus, in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Eleventh Book of the Annals, puts into the mouth of the Emperor Claudius illustrates so many of the points which have just been discussed, as well as this, that I venture to insert a portion of it. The question having arisen as to the admission of Gauls into the senate, and various arguments being advanced against it, Claudius said : " My own ancestors, the most remote of whom, Clausus, though of Sabine origin, was adopted into the number of the Roman citizens, and also of the patricians, exhort me to follow the same plan in managing the state, and transfer to ourselves whatever there may be anywhere that is good. For I remember that we had the Julii from Alba, . . . . and, not to mention every ancient case, from Etruria and Lucania and all Italy men were received into the senate, and finally even from as far as the Alps, and this, too, was not done for single men alone, but lands and races became one with us and our state grew strong and flourished. . . . Are we sorry that the Balbi came to us from Spain, or men not less distinguished from Gallia Narbonensis ? Their posterity are still with us, nor do they yield to us in love for this fatherland. Was anything else the ruin of the Lacedaemonians and Athenians, though they were strong in arms, than that they held off from them as aliens those whom they had conquered? But Romulus, the founder of our city, was so wise that upon the same day he treated many people first as enemies and then as citizens. Foreigners have ruled over us, and to intrust the magistracies to the sons of freedmen is not, as many think, a recent thing, but was frequently done in former times."
This subject deserves even fuller statement and illustration because it was by means of this thorough Romanization of the world that the work of Rome obtained its decided and permanent influence on all later history. Without this it must have perished. It was the completeness of this assimilation which fixed the Roman ideas so firmly in the minds of all her subjects that the later flood of German barbarism, which swept over the empire, was not able to obliterate them, but must even, in the end, yield itself to their influence.
But this is by no means the only important result which followed from the unity which Rome established in the ancient world. Most obviously Rome gave to all the West a higher civilization than it had had. She placed the provinces, within a generation or two, in a position which it would have taken them centuries of unaided development to reach. This is very clear, for instance, in the matter of government and order, to any reader of Caesar's Gallic War. And so it was upon every side of civilization.
This empire also held back the German conquest for three centuries or more. That process of armed migration which the Cimbri and Teutones foreshadowed at the end of the second century B.C., and which Ariovistus had certainly began in Caesar's time, Rome stopped ; and it could only be begun again by Alaric and Clovis. During all the intervening time the Germans were surging against the Roman barriers ; from the time of Marcus Aurelius the struggle against them was a desperate one, and it became finally a hopeless one. But these four centuries which Rome had gained were enough. During them the provinces were thoroughly Romanized, Christianity spread itself throughout the empire and took on that compact and strong organization which was so vitally necessary in the confusion of the following time,' and the Roman law received its scientific development and its precise statement.
The historical importance of the mere fact that it was an organic unity which Rome established, and not simply a collection of fragments artificially held together by military force, cannot be overstated. Indeed it is quite impossible to state it so that its full significance can be seen in the words. The historic sense, the scientific imagination of the reader, must come to his aid. That this was the character of the union which Rome established has already been illustrated. It was a union not in externals merely but in every department of thought and action ; and it was so thorough, the Gaul became so completely a Roman, that when the Roman government disappeared he had no idea of being anything else than a Roman. The immediate result of this was that the Romanized provincial began at once the process of Romanizing his German conquerors, and succeeded everywhere where he had a fair chance ; and it was because of this that, despite the fall of Rome, Roman institutions were perpetuated.'
The more remote result of it was that strong influence which this idea of unity, of a single world-embracing empire, exercised over the minds of men through all the early middle ages. It was this, together with the influence of that more real union the great united church whose existence had been made possible only by this Roman unity which kept Europe from falling into isolated fragments in the days of feudalism. More remotely still, that modern federation of nations which we call Christendom, based upon so large a stock of common ideas and traditions, is the outgrowth of Roman unity. It would very likely have been created in time by some-thing else if not by this, but as history actually is, it was done by Rome.
Finally, this Roman unity made possible the spread of Christianity. With the religious ideas which prevailed in the ancient world before the advent of Rome, the moment a Christian missionary had attempted to proclaim his religion outside the bounds of Judea, he would have been arrested and executed as attempting a revolution in the state. It needed the toleration throughout the empire of each national religion alongside every other, and the melting of all local national governments whose life and prosperity had been thought to be bound up in the prosperity of the national religion, into a great all-containing government which could afford to tolerate all forms of religion which had been proved by the logic of war to be inferior to its own, it needed these results of the conquests of Rome before Christianity could become universal. As says Renan : "It is not easy to imagine how in the face of an Asia Minor, a Greece, an Italy, split up into a hundred small re-publics ; of a Gaul, a Spain, an Africa, an Egypt, in possession of their old national institutions, the apostles could have succeeded, or even how their project could have been started. The unity of the empire was the condition precedent of all religious proselytism on a grand scale if it was to place itself above the nationalities." '
In these ways the conquest of the world by Rome, and the use which it had known how to make of it, decisively influenced the whole course of history. But in addition to this, some of the special features of Rome's political work have had very important results. That one of these which has had the longest continued direct influence is the Roman law ; indeed, it is a fact of great interest in this connection that the direct influence of the Roman law is even yet extending.
The very considerable body of law which had grown up in. the days of the republic, somewhat narrow and harsh from the circumstances of its tribal origin, passed in the empire under conditions which favored both important modifications of its character, and very rapid and wide extension. No longer the law of a little state, or of a single fairly homogeneous people, but of a great empire and of numerous totally distinct races, the circumstances of the case together with the native Roman genius, would have led, without any foreign influence, to a very decided softening of the ruder features of the law and its development in the direction of general justice. But just at this time came Stoicism with its ethical teaching, so deeply interesting to the Roman mind, and with many of its precepts shaped as if deliberately intended for application in some system of law. These are the sources of that very decided amelioration, and ethical and scientific reorganization of the Roman law which, beginning soon after the opening of the second century, go on so long as it was a living system. It must be recognized as clearly established that in this process of humanizing the law Christianity had no share which can be traced until we reach the time of the Christian empire in the fourth century. Then, although the humanizing work goes on upon the lines already laid down, some influence of genuine Christian ideas may be traced, as well as of theological and ecclesiastical notions.
Growing in the two ways in which all great systems of law grow by statute enactment and by the establishment of precedents and the decision of cases, containing both written and unwritten law the body of this law had come to be by the fourth century enormous and very difficult to use. Scattered in innumerable treatises, full of repetitions and superfluous matter, not without contradictions, and entirely without the help of printing and indexes, which do so much to aid us in our struggle with a similar mass of law, the necessity of codification forced itself upon the Roman mind as it may, perhaps, in time upon the Anglo-Saxon. We have, first, attempts at codification by private individuals the Gregorian and Hermogenian codes, probably of the fourth century, and containing only imperial constitutions, that is, statute law. Then we have the Theodosian code, of the Emperor Theodosius II., published in A.D. 438, containing also only statute law, though it seems likely that the emperor intended to include, before the close of the work, the whole body of the law. This code, formed just at the time of the occupation of the Western Empire by the Germans, was of very decided influence on all the early middle ages. Then came the final codification in the formation of the Corpus Juris Civilis by the Emperor Justinian between the years 528 and 534.
This comprised :
I. The Code proper, containing the imperial constitutions or statute law then in force, reduced to its lowest terms by cutting away all unnecessary matter, repetitions, and contradictions, and covering chiefly, though not exclusively, public and ecclesiastical law.
II. The Digest, or Pandects, containing in the same reduced form the common or case law, comprised mainly in the responsa of the jurisconsults, similar in character to the decisions of our judges, and covering chiefly private law, and especially the law of property.'
III. The Institutes, a brief statement of the principles of the law intended as a text-book for law students and perhaps even for more general use as an introduction to a knowledge of the law.
IV. The Novellae, or Novels, imperial constitutions, covering various subjects, issued by Justinian himself after the completion of the Code. These are usually spoken of as if formed into a definite collection as a part of the Corpus Juris. This, however, was not done by Justinian, nor apparently ever in any authoritative way, and the collections of the Novels which have come down to us differ somewhat from one another in their contents.
The most important effect of this codification from our point of view was this : By it the enormous and scattered mass of the law, which would in that form undoubtedly have perished as a historical fact the books from which it was made did mostly perish--was boiled down into clear and concise statement and into a few volumes which could easily be preserved, and that by means of the definite form thus given it put into a book which can be studied today just as it existed in the sixth century there was secured a direct and immediate contact of the principles of the Roman law with every future generation.
The specific influence of this law is not difficult to trace. Soon after the revival of its study in the law-schools of Italy, in the twelfth century, the political conditions of Europe offered an unusual opportunity to the class of thoroughly trained lawyers which was thus formed. Under their influence this clear and scientific body of law was substituted in many of the continental states for the native law, which, owing to the peculiar circumstances of the feudal age, was even more confused and unscientific than customary law usually is ; or, if in some cases not actually substituted for it, became the law for cases not already covered by the customary law. This substitution was greatly aided by the fact that in these feudal states absolute monarchies were forming which found a natural ally and assistant in the spirit of the Roman law. As a result, this law is still a part of the living and actual law of many modern nations. Owing to the French and Spanish colonial occupation, it became the law of a part of the territory now within the United States, and forms the actual law of Louisiana in the Code of 1824, which is English in language but Roman in law and technical expressions. Even the general Anglo-Saxon law, which retained its native character and its power of natural self-development, has been profoundly influenced in particular doctrines like that of inheritance, for example by the Roman law. Still more remarkable is the fact that, in consequence of its permanence in the Eastern Empire, this law was taken up by the Mohammedan states and became the most important source of their law, contributing, it is asserted, far more than the Koran to the legal system which now rules throughout the Mohammedan world.
Aside from the direct influence of the system as a whole, many of the concise maxims of the Roman law, from their almost proverbial character, came to have an influence on later ideas and facts. The best known instance of this is the absolutist maxim, Quod principi placuit legis habet vigorem,1 which exerted a considerable influence in favor of the usurpation of legislative rights by the monarchs at the close of the middle ages, and, together with the marked centralizing tendency of the system as a whole, became one of the most effective causes of the formation of absolute monarchies in the continental states.
In another great field the influence of the Roman law was equally creative in the law and theology of the church. The great system of canon law which grew up in the government and administration of the church during medieval times is based almost exclusively on the Roman law, and in its practical interpretation in the church courts the principle was admitted that whatever was ambiguous or obscure in it was to be explained by reference to the Roman law. In the theology of the Western church the influence of the Roman law was less direct but hardly less important. "In following down the stream of Latin theology, from Augustine to the latest of the schoolmen, we might trace in the handling of such topics as sin, the atonement, penance, indulgences, absolution, the silent influence of the conceptions which Roman jurisprudence had made current." ' The same strong influence may be traced in the terminology and the ideas of many other sciences, and in such ethico-political notions as the divine right of kings, the duty of passive obedience, and the social contract theory of government.' Indeed it is not too much to say that no other product of the human mind, not even the Greek philosophy, has had so far-reaching, nor, in its immediate original form, so permanent an influence as the Roman law.
Another specific product of the Roman political system has had as long a life and almost as wide an influence the imperial government. Formed out of a democratic republic where the name of king was intensely hated, by the necessities which arose from the government of a vast empire, a real despotism but of a new type, under new forms and a new name, while the citizens asserted that the old republic continued as before, it is itself one of the best examples of the institution-making power of the Romans.' Its strong centralization delayed for generations the fall of Rome ; its real majesty and august ceremonial profoundly impressed the German conquerors ; it became one of the most powerful causes which created the papacy and furnished it a model in almost every department of its activity ; the absolutisms of modern Europe were largely shaped by it ; and the modern forms of the word Caesar, Kaiser and Czar, in governments of a similar type, however different in detail, are a proof of the power and permanence of its influence in regions where Rome never had any direct control. We shall need to devote some space at a later point to the powerful preservative action of two ideas which came to be associated with this government that it was divinely intended to embrace the whole world and to last as long as the world should last.
These cases may suffice for illustration, but they are by no means the only specific instances of the abiding character of Rome's political work which could be mentioned. Modern political vocabularies testify to its permanence as clearly as our scientific vocabularies do to the influence of the Arabs, and many evidences of it will occur to us as our work proceeds.
We have, then, these contributions to civilization from the ancient world. From Greece an unequalled literature and art, and the foundations of philosophy and science. From Rome a highly perfected system of law, a model of most effective absolutism, and the union of the ancient world in an organic whole the foundation of all later history.
We must remember, however, in closing this chapter, that we have omitted even from this general sketch one large side of civilization to which we can give no adequate treatment here or elsewhere. It is what may be called the economic and mechanical side. There passed over to the middle ages from the ancients large gains of this sort. Knowledge of the mechanical arts, acquired skill and inventions ; methods of agriculture and navigation ; organized trade and commerce not all of which disappeared ; accumulations of capital ; cleared and improved land houses, roads, and bridges, many of which continued in use across the whole of medieval times ; administrative methods both in general and local government ; in a word, all sorts of practical knowledge and training and many mechanical appliances. The economic influence of the Roman empire affected in many ways indeed the larger movements of history. The comparative free trade which the empire established, the constitution of the Roman villa or farm, the beginning of the process which transformed the slave into the serf, the forced dependence of the small landholder upon the large one, are important instances. These things constitute together, in some respects, the most primary and fundamental department of civilization, and must not be forgotten, though, with the exception of a few instances which we shall notice, they demand, like the greater part of political history, special and specific treatment.