Roman Medicine and Medical Knowledge

The Roman Empire > Roman Medical Knowledge and Practices >


Anastasius, the Eastern Emperor--His character--His disputes with his subjects--Theodoric and the king of the Gepidse--War of Sinnium and its consequences--Raid on the coast of Italy--Reconciliation between the courts of Ravenna and Constantinople--Anastasius confers on Clovis the title of Consul--Clovis removes many of his rivals--Death of Clovis--Death of Anastasius.

In order to complete our survey of the foreign policy of the great Ostrogoth, we must now consider the relations which existed between him and the majestic personage who, though he had probably never set foot in Italy, was yet always known in the common speech of men as "The Roman Emperor". It has been already said that Zeno, the sovereign who bore this title when Theodoric started for Italy, died before his final victory, and that it was his successor, Anastasius, with whom the tedious negotiations were conducted which ended (497) in a recognition, perhaps a somewhat grudging recognition, by the Emperor of the right of the Ostrogothic king to rule in Italy.

Anastasius, who was Theodoric's contemporary during twenty-five years of his reign, was already past sixty when the widowed Empress Ariadne chose him for her husband and her Emperor, and he had attained the age of eighty-eight when his harassed life came to a close. A man of tall stature and noble presence, a wise administrator of the finances of the Empire, and therefore one who both lightened taxation and accumulated treasure, a sovereign who chose his servants well and brought his only considerable war, that with Persia, to a successful issue, Anastasius would seem to be an Emperor of whom both his own subjects and posterity should speak favourably. Unfortunately, however, for his fame he became entangled in that most wearisome of theological debates, which is known as the Monophysite controversy. In this controversy he took an unpopular side; he became embroiled with the Roman Pontiff, and estranged from his own Patriarch of Constantinople. Opposition and the weariness of age soured a naturally sweet temper, and he was guilty of some harsh proceedings towards his ecclesiastical opponents. Even worse than his harshness (which did not, even on the representations of his enemies, amount to cruelty) was a certain want of absolute truthfulness, which made it difficult for a beaten foe to trust his promises of forgiveness, and thus caused the fire of civil discord, once kindled, to smoulder on almost interminably. The religious party to which he belonged had probably the majority of the aristocracy of Constantinople on its side, but the mob and the monks were generally against Anastasius, and some scenes very humiliating to the Imperial dignity were the consequence of this antagonism.

(511) Once, when he had resolved on the deposition of the orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Macedonius, so great a tempest of popular and theological fury raged through the city, that he ordered the great gates of his palace to be barred and the ships to be made ready at what is now called Seraglio Point, intending to seek safety in flight. A humiliating reconciliation with the Patriarch, the order for whose banishment he rescinded, saved him from this necessity. The citizens and the soldiers poured through the streets shouting triumphantly: "Our father is yet with us!" and the storm for the time abated. But the Emperor had only appeared to yield, and some months later he stealthily but successfully carried into effect his design for the banishment of Macedonius. Again, the next year, a religious faction-fight disgraced the capital of the Empire.

(511) The addition of the words "Who wast crucified for us" to the chorus of the Te Deum, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty", goaded the orthodox but fanatical mob to madness. For three days such scenes as London saw during Lord George Gordon's "No Popery" riots were enacted in the streets of Constantinople. The palaces of the heterodox ministers were burned, their deaths were eagerly demanded, the head of a monk, who was supposed to be responsible for the heretical addition to the hymn, was carried round the city on a pole, while the murderers shouted: "Behold the head of an enemy to the Trinity!" Then the statues of the Emperor were thrown down, an act of insurrection which corresponded to the building of barricades in the revolutions of Paris, and loud voices began to call for the proclamation of a popular general as Augustus. Anastasius this time dreamed not of flight, but took his seat in the _podium_[104] at the Hippodrome, the great place of public meeting for the citizens of Constantinople. Thither, too, streamed the excited mob, fresh from their work of murder and pillage, shouting with hoarse voices the line of the Te Deum in its orthodox form. A suppliant, without his diadem, without his purple robe, the white-haired Anastasius, eighty-two years of age, sat meekly on his throne, and bade the criers declare that he was ready to lay down the burden of the Empire if the citizens would decide who should assume it in his stead. The humiliation was accepted, the clamorous mob were not really of one mind as to the election of a successor, and Anastasius was permitted still to reign and to reassume the diadem, which has not often encircled a wearier or more uneasy head.

[Footnote 104: The Imperial box.]

Such an Emperor as this, at war with a large part of his subjects, and suspected of heresy by the great body of the Catholic clergy, was a much less formidable opponent for Theodoric than the young and warlike Clovis, with his rude energy, and his unquestioning if somewhat truculent orthodoxy. Moreover, at this time, independently of these special causes of strife, there was a chronic schism between the see of Rome and the see of Constantinople (precursor of that great schism which, three centuries later, finally divided the Eastern and Western Churches), and this schism, though it did not as yet lead to the actual excommunication of Anastasius,[105] caused him to be looked upon with coldness and suspicion by the successive Popes of Rome, and made the rule of Theodoric, avowed Arian as he was, but anxious to hold the balance evenly between rival churches, far more acceptable at the Lateran than that of the schismatic partisan Anastasius.

[Footnote 105: By order of Pope Hormisdas the name of Anastasius was solemnly "erased from the diptychs" in 519; that is, he was virtually excommunicated after his death, but I do not find that he was formally excommunicated by the Pope in his life-time.]

For some years after the embassy of Festus (497) and the consequent recognition of Theodoric by the Emperor, there appears to have been peace, if no great cordiality, between the courts of Ravenna and Constantinople. But a war in which Theodoric found himself engaged with the Gepidæ (504), taking him back as it did into his old unwelcome nearness to the Danube, led to the actual outbreak of hostilities between the two States, hostilities, however, which were but of short duration.

The great city of Sirmium on the Save, the ruins of which may still be seen about eighty miles west of Belgrade, had once belonged to the Western Empire and had been rightly looked upon as one of the bulwarks of Italy. To anyone who studies the configuration of the great Alpine chain, which parts off the Italian peninsula from the rest of Europe, it will be manifest that it is in the north-east that that mountain barrier is the weakest. The Maritime, Pennine, and Cottian Alps, which soar above the plains of Piedmont and Western Lombardy, afford scarcely any passes below the snow-line practicable for an invading army. Great generals, like Hannibal and Napoleon, have indeed crossed them, but the pride which they have taken in the achievement is the best proof of its difficulty. Modern engineering science has carried its zig-zag roads up to their high crests, has thrown its bridges across their ravines, has defended the traveller by its massive galleries from their avalanches, and in these later days has even bored its tunnels for miles through the heart of the mountains; but all these are works done obviously in defiance of Nature, and if Europe relapsed into a state of barbarism, the eternal snow and the eternal silence would soon reassert their supremacy over the frail handiwork of man. Quite different from this is the aspect of the mountains on the north-eastern border of Italy. The countries which we now call Venetia and Istria are parted from their northern neighbours by ranges (chiefly that known as the Julian Alps) which are indeed of bold and striking outline, but which are not what we generally understand by "Alpine" in their character, and which often do not rise to a greater elevation than four thousand feet. Therefore it was from this quarter of the horizon, from the Pannonian (or in modern language, Austrian) countries bordering on the Middle Danube, that all the greatest invaders in the fifth and sixth centuries, Alaric, Attila, Alboin, bore down upon Italy. And for this reason it was truly said by an orator[106] who was recounting the praises of Theodoric in connection with this war: "The city of the Sirmians was of old the frontier of Italy, upon which Emperors and Senators kept watch, lest from thence the stored up fury of the neighbouring nations should pour over the Roman Commonwealth".

[Footnote 106: Ennodius.]

This city of Sirmium, however, and the surrounding territory had now been for many years divorced from Italy. In Theodoric's boyhood it is possible that his own barbarian countrymen, occupying as they did the province of Pannonia, lorded it in the streets of Sirmium, which was properly a Pannonian city. Since the Ostrogoths evacuated the province (473), the Gepidæ, as we have seen, had entered it, and it was a king of the Gepidæ, Traustila, who sought to bar Theodoric's march into Italy, and who sustained at the hands of the Ostrogothic king the crushing defeat by the Hiulca Palus (488). Traustila's son, Trasaric, had asked for Theodoric's help against a rival claimant to the throne, and had, perhaps, promised to hand over possession of Sirmium in return for that assistance. Theodoric, who, as king of "the Hesperian realm", felt that it was a point of honour to recover possession of "the frontier city of Italy", gave the desired help, but failed to receive the promised recompense. When Trasaric's breach of faith was manifest, Theodoric sent an army (504) composed of the flower of the Gothic youth, commanded by a general named Pitzias, into the valley of the Save. The Gepidaæ, though reinforced by some of the Bulgarians (who about thirty years before this time had made their first appearance in the country which now bears their name), were completely defeated by Pitzias. Trasaric's mother, the widow of Theodoric's old enemy, Traustila, fell into the hands of the invaders; Trasaric was expelled from that corner of Pannonia, and Sirmium, still apparently a great and even opulent city, notwithstanding the ravages of the barbarians, submitted, probably with joy, to the rule of Theodoric, under which she felt herself once more united to the Roman Commonwealth.

We have still (in the "Various Letters" of Cassiodorus) two letters relating to this annexation of Sirmium. In the first, addressed to Count Colossæus, that "Illustrious" official is informed that he is appointed to the governorship of Pannonia Sirmiensis, a former habitation of the Goths. This province is now to extend a welcome to her old Roman lords, even as she gladly obeyed her Ostrogothic rulers. Surrounded by the wild anarchy of the barbarous nations, the new governor is to exhibit the justice of the Goths, "a nation so happily situated in the midst of praise, that they could accept the wisdom of the Romans and yet hold fast the valour of the barbarians". He is to shield the poor from oppression, and his highest merit will be to establish in the hearts of the inhabitants of the land the love of peace and order.

To the barbarians and Romans settled in Pannonia the secretary of Theodoric writes, informing them that he has appointed as their governor a man mighty in name (Colossæus) and mighty in deeds. They must refrain from acts of violence and from redressing their supposed wrongs by main force. Having got an upright judge, they must use him as the arbiter of their differences. What is the use to man of his tongue, if his armed hand is to settle his cause, or how can peace be maintained if men take to fighting in a civilised State? They are therefore to imitate the example of "our Goths", who do not shrink from battles abroad, but who have learned to exhibit peaceable moderation at home.

The recovery of Sirmium from the Gepidæ, though doubtless the subject of congratulation in Italy, was viewed with much displeasure at Constantinople. Whether the part of Pannonia in which it was included belonged in strictness to the Eastern or Western Empire, is a question that has been a good deal discussed and upon which we have perhaps not sufficient materials for coming to a conclusion. The boundary line between East and West had undoubtedly fluctuated a good deal in the fourth and fifth centuries, and the fact that there were not, as viewed by a Roman statesman, two Empires at all, but only one great World-Empire, which for the sake of convenience was administered by two Emperors, one dwelling at Ravenna or Milan and the other at Constantinople, was probably the reason why that boundary was not defined as strictly as it would have been between two independent kingdoms. Moreover, through the greater part of the fifth century, when Huns and Ostrogoths, Rugians and Gepidæ were roaming over these countries of the Middle Danube, any claim of either the Eastern or Western Emperor to rule in these lands must have been so purely theoretical that it probably seemed hardly worth while to spend time in defining it. But now that the actual ruler of Italy, and that ruler a strong and capable barbarian like Theodoric, was holding the great city of Sirmium, and was sending his governors to civilise and subdue the inhabitants of what is now called the "Austrian Military Frontier", the Emperor who reigned at Constantinople was not unlikely to find his neighbourhood unpleasant.

It was doubtless in consequence of the jealousy, arising from the conquest of Sirmium, that war soon broke out between the two powers. Upper Moesia (in modern geography Servia) was undoubtedly part of the Eastern Empire, yet it is there that we next find the Gothic troops engaged in war. (505) Mundo, the Hun, a descendant of Attila, was in league with Theodoric, but at enmity with the Empire, and was wandering with a band of freebooters through the half desolate lands south of the Danube. Sabinian, the son of the general of the same name, who twenty-six years before had fought with Theodoric in Macedonia, was ordered by Anastasius to exterminate this disorderly Hun. With 10,000 men (among whom there were some Bulgarian foederati), and with a long train of waggons containing great store of provisions, he marched from the Balkans down the valley of the Morava. Mundo, in despair and already thinking of surrender, called on his Ostrogothic ally for aid, and Pitzias, marching rapidly with an army of 2,500 young and warlike Goths (2,000 infantry and 500 cavalry), reached Horrea Margi,[107] the place where Mundo was besieged, in time to prevent his surrender. Notwithstanding the enthusiasm of the Gothic troops, the battle was most stubbornly contested, especially by the fierce Bulgarians, but in the end Pitzias obtained a complete victory. We may state this fact with confidence, as it is recorded in the chronicles of an official of the Eastern Empire.[108] He says of Sabinian: "Having joined battle at Horrea Margi, and many of his soldiers having been slain in this conflict and drowned in the river Margus (Morava), having also lost all his wagons, he fled with a few followers to the fortress which is called Nato. In this lamentable war so promising an army fell, that, speaking after the manner of men, its loss could never be repaired".

[Footnote 107: Morava Hissar, about half-way between Nisch and Belgrade.]

[Footnote 108: Marcellinus Comes. Strangely enough he makes no mention of the Goths as assisting Mundo.]

Without any general campaign, the quarrel between the Goths and the Empire seems to have smouldered on for three years longer. In his chronicle for the year 508, the same Byzantine official who has just been quoted, says very honestly: "Romanus Count of the Domestics and Rusticus Count of the Scholarii,[109] with 100 armed ships and as many cutters, carrying 8,000 soldiers, went forth to ravage the shores of Italy, and proceeded as far as the most ancient city of Tarentum. Having recrossed the sea they reported to Anastasius Cæsar this inglorious victory, which in piratical fashion Romans had snatched from their fellow-Romans".

[Footnote 109: Both these terms denote what we should call "household troops".]

These words of the chronicler show to what extent Theodoric's kingdom was looked upon as still forming part of the Roman Empire, and they also point to the difficulty of the position of Anastasius, who, whatever might be his cause of quarrel with Theodoric, could only enforce his complaints against him by resorting to acts which in the eyes of his subjects wore the unholy appearance of a civil war.

Though we are not precisely informed when or how hostilities were brought to a close, it seems probable that soon after this raid, about the year 509, peace, unbroken for the rest of Theodoric's reign, was re-established between Ravenna and Byzantium. The Epistle which stands in the forefront of the "Various Letters" of Cassiodorus was probably written on this occasion.

"Most clement Emperor", says Theodoric, or rather Cassiodorus speaking in his name, "there ought to be peace between us since there is no real occasion for animosity. Every kingdom should desire tranquillity, since under it the people flourish and the common good is secured. Tranquillity is the comely mother of all useful arts; she multiplies the race of men as they perish and are renewed; she expands our powers, she softens our manners, and he who is a stranger to her sway grows up in ignorance of all these blessings. Therefore, most pious Prince, it redounds to your glory that we should now seek harmony with your government, as we have ever felt love for your person. For you are the fairest ornament of all realms, the safeguard and defence of the world; to whom all other rulers rightly look up with reverence, inasmuch as they recognise that there is in you something which exists nowhere else. But we pre-eminently thus regard you, since by Divine help it was in your Republic that we learned the art of ruling the Romans with justice. Our kingdom is an imitation of yours, which is the mould of all good purposes, the only model of Empire, Just in so far as we follow you do we surpass all other nations.

"You have often exhorted me to love the Senate, to accept cordially the legislation of the Emperors, to weld together all the members of Italy. Then, if you wish thus to form my character by your counsels, how can you exclude me from your august peace? I may plead, too, affection for the venerable city of Rome, from which none can separate themselves who prize that unity which belongs to the Roman name.

"We have therefore thought fit to direct the two Ambassadors who are the bearers of this letter to visit your most Serene Piety, that the transparency of peace between us, which from various causes hath been of late somewhat clouded, may be restored to-its former brightness by the removal of all contentions. For we think that you, like ourselves, cannot endure that any trace of discord should remain between two Republics which, under the older Princes, ever formed but one body, and which ought not merely to be joined together by a languid sentiment of affection, but strenuously to help one another with their mutually imparted strength. Let there be always one will, one thought in the Roman kingdom. ... Wherefore, proffering the honourable expression of our salutation, we beg with humble mind that you will not even for a time withdraw from us the most glorious charity of your Mildness, which I should have a right to hope for even if it were not granted to others. (The change from We to I, which here occurs in the original, is puzzling.)

"Other matters we have left to be suggested to your Piety verbally by the bearers of this letter, that on the one hand this epistolary speech of ours may not become too prolix, and on the other that nothing may be omitted which would tend to our common advantage".

The letter which I have attempted thus to bring before the reader is one which almost defies accurate translation. It is an exceedingly diplomatic document, full of courtesy, yet committing the writer to nothing definite. The very badness of his style enables Cassiodorus to envelop his meaning in a cloud of words from which the Quæstor of Anastasius perhaps found it as hard to extract a definite meaning then, as a perplexed translator finds it hard to render it into intelligible English now. It is certainly difficult to acquit Cassiodorus of the charge of a deficient sense of humour, when we find him putting into the mouth of his master, who had so often marched up and down through Thrace, ravaging and burning, these solemn praises of "Tranquillity". And when we read the fulsome flattery which is lavished on Anastasius, the almost obsequious humbleness with which the great Ostrogoth, who was certainly the stronger monarch of the two, prays for a renewal of his friendship, we may perhaps suspect either that the "illiteratus Rex" did not comprehend the full meaning of the document to which he attached his signature, or that Cassiodorus himself, in his later years, when, after the death of his master, he republished his "Various Letters", somewhat modified their diction so as to make them more Roman, more diplomatic, more slavishly subservient to the Emperor, than Theodoric himself would ever have permitted.

One other act of this Emperor must be noticed, as illustrating the subject of the last chapter. When Clovis returned in triumph from the Visigothic war (508) he found messengers awaiting him from Anastasius, who brought to him some documents from the Imperial chancery which are somewhat obscurely described as "Codicils of the Consulship". Then, in the church of St. Martin at Tours he was robed in a purple tunic and chlamys, and placed apparently on his own head some semblance of the Imperial diadem. At the porch of the basilica he mounted his horse and rode slowly through the streets of the city to the other chief church, scattering largesse of gold and silver to the shouting multitude. "From that day", we are told, "he was saluted as Consul and Augustus".

The name of Clovis does not, like that of Theodoric, appear in the Fasti of Imperial Rome, and what the precise nature of the consulship conferred by the "codicils" may have been, it is not easy to discover.[110] But there is no doubt that the authority which Clovis up to this time had exercised by the mere right of the stronger, over great part of Gaul, was confirmed and legitimised by this spontaneous act of the Augustus at Constantinople, nor that this eager recognition of the royalty of the slayer of Alaric was meant in some degree as a demonstration of hostility against Alaric's father-in-law, with whom Anastasius had not then been reconciled.

[Footnote 110: Perhaps the simplest explanation is that Clovis was not "Consul ordinarius", but "Consul suffectus". Junghans suggests that he was Proconsul of one or more of the Gaulish provinces, and Gaudenzi, accepting this idea, is inclined to call him Proconsul of Narbonese Gaul.]

The coalition of Eastern Emperor and Frankish King boded no good to Italy. Perhaps could the eye of Anastasius have pierced through the mists of seven future centuries, could he have foreseen the insults, the extortions, the cruelties which a Roman Emperor at Constantinople was to endure at the hands of "Frankish" invaders,[111] he would not have been so eager in his worship of the new sun which was rising over Gaul from out of the marshes of the Scheldt.

[Footnote 111: In the Fourth Crusade, 1203.]

The remainder of the life of Clovis seems to have been chiefly spent in removing the royal competitors who were obstacles to his undisputed sway over the Franks. Doubtless these were kings of a poor and barbarous type, with narrower and less statesmanlike views than those of the founder of the Merovingian dynasty; but the means employed to remove them were hardly such as we should have expected from the eldest Son of the Church, from him who had worn the white robe of a catechumen in the baptistery at Rheims. His most formidable competitor was Sigebert, king of the Ripuarian Franks, that is the Franks dwelling on both banks of the Rhine between Maintz and Koln, in the forest of the Ardennes and along the valley of the Moselle. But Sigebert, who had sent a body of warriors to help the Salian king in his war against the Visigoths, was now growing old, and among these barbarous peoples age and bodily infirmity were often considered as to some extent disqualifications for kingship. Clovis accordingly sent messengers to Cloderic, the son of Sigebert, saying: "Behold thy father has grown old and is lame on his feet. If he were to die, his kingdom should be thine and we would be thy friends". Cloderic yielded to the temptation, and when his father went forth from Koln on a hunting expedition in the beech-forests of Hesse, assassins employed by Cloderic stole upon him in his tent, as he was taking his noon-tide slumber, and slew him. The deed being done, Cloderic sent messengers to Clovis saying: "My father is dead and his treasures are mine. Send me thy messengers to whom I may confide such portion of the treasure as thou mayest desire". "Thanks", said Clovis, "I will send my messengers, and do thou show them all that thou hast, yet thou thyself shalt still possess all". When the messengers of Clovis arrived at the palace of the Ripuanan, Cloderic showed them all the royal hoard. "And here", said he, pointing to a chest, "my father used to keep his gold coins of the Empire". (In hanc arcellolam solitus erat pater meus numismata auri congerere.) "Plunge thy hand in", said the messenger, "and search them down to the very bottom". The King stooped low to plunge his hand into the coins, and while he stooped the messenger lifted high his battle-axe and clove his skull. "Thus", says the pious Gregory, who tells the story, "did the unworthy son fall into the pit which he had digged for his own father".

When Clovis heard that both father and son were slain, he came to the same place (probably Colonia) where all these things had come to pass and called together a great assembly of the Ripuarian people. "Hear", he said, "what hath happened. While I was quietly sailing down the Scheldt, Cloderic, my cousin's son, practised against his father's life, giving forth that I wished him slain, and when he was fleeing through the beech-forests he sent robbers against him, by whom he was murdered. Then Cloderic himself, when he was displaying his treasures, was slain by some one, I know not whom. But in all these things I am free from blame. For I cannot shed the blood of my relations: that were an unholy thing to do. But since these events have so happened, I offer you my advice if it seem good to you to accept it. Turn you to me that you may be under my defence". Then they, when they heard these things, shouted approval and clashed their spears upon their shields in sign of assent, and raising Clovis on a buckler proclaimed him their king. And he receiving the kingdom and the treasures of Sigebert added the Ripuanans to the number of his subjects. "For", concludes Gregory, Bishop of Tours, to whom we owe the story of this enlargement of the dominions of his hero, "God was daily laying low the enemies of Clovis under his hand and increasing his kingdom, because he walked before him with a right heart and did those things which were pleasing in his eyes".

This ideal champion of orthodoxy in the sixth century then proceeded to clear the ground of the little Salian kings, his nearer relatives and perhaps more dangerous competitors. Chararic had failed to help him in his early days against Syagrius. He was deposed: the long hair of the Merovingians was shorn away from his head and from his son's head, and they were consecrated as priest and deacon in the Catholic Church. Chararic wept and wailed over his humiliation, but his son, to cheer him, said, alluding to the loss of their locks: "The wood is green, and the leaves may yet grow again. Would that he might quickly perish who has done these things!" The words were reported to Clovis, who ordered both father and son to be put to death, and added their hoards to his treasure, their warriors to his host.

Chararic had not gone forth to the battle against Syagrius, but Ragnachar of Cambray had given Clovis effectual help in that crisis of his early fortunes. However Ragnachar, by his dissolute life and his preposterous fondness for an evil counsellor named Farro, had given great offence to the proud Franks, his subjects. Just as James I. said of the forfeited estates of Raleigh: "I maun hae the land, I maun hae it for Carr", so Ragnachar said whenever anyone offered him a present, or whenever a choice dish was brought to table: "This will do for me and Farro". Clovis learned and fomented the secret discontent. He sent to the disaffected nobles amulets and baldrics of copper-gilt--which they in their simplicity took for gold,--inviting them to betray their master. The secret bargain being struck, Clovis then moved his army towards Cambray. The anxious Ragnachar sent scouts to discover the strength of the advancing host. "How many are they?" said he on their return. "Quite enough for thee and Farro", was the discouraging and taunting reply: and in fact the soldiers of Ragnachar seem to have been beaten as soon as the battle was set in array. With his hands bound behind his back, Ragnachar and his brother Richiar were brought into the presence of Clovis. "Shame on thee", said the indignant king, "for humiliating our race by suffering thy hands to be bound. It had been better for thee to die--thus", and the great battle-axe descended on his head. Then turning to Richiar, he said: "If thou hadst helped thy brother, he would not have been bound"; and his skull too was cloven with the battle-axe. Before many days the traitorous chiefs discovered the base metal in the ornaments which had purchased their treason, and complained of the fraud. "Good enough gold", said Clovis, "for men who were willing to betray their lord to death"; and the traitors, trembling for their lives under his frown and fierce rebuke, were glad to leave the matter undiscussed.

Thus in all his arguments with the weaker creatures around him the Frankish king was always right. It was always they, not he, who had befouled the stream. In this, shall I say, shameless plausibility of wrong, the founder of the Frankish monarchy was a worthy prototype of Louis XIV. and of Napoleon.

Having slain these and many other kings, and extended his dominions over the whole of Gaul, he once, in an assembly of his nobles, lamented his solitary estate. "Alas, I am but a stranger and a pilgrim, and have no kith or kin who could help me if adversity came upon me". But this he said, not in real grief for their death, but in guile, in order that if there were any forgotten relative lurking anywhere he might come forth and be killed. None, however, was found to answer to the invitation.[112]

[Footnote 112: We are reminded of the well-known story of Marshal Narvaez on his death-bed. "My son", said the confessor, "it is necessary that you should with all your heart grant forgiveness to your enemies". "Ah, that is easy", said the dying man, "I have shot them all".]

Like all his family, Clovis was short-lived, though not so conspicuously short-lived as many of his descendants. He died at forty-five, in the year 511, five years after the battle of the Campus Vogladensis. He was buried (511) in the Church of the Holy Apostles at Paris, and his kingdom, consolidated with so much labor and at the price of so many crimes, was partitioned among his four sons. The aged Emperor Anastasius survived his Frankish ally seven years, and died in the eighty-ninth year of his age, 8th July, 518. His death was sudden, and some later writers averred that it was caused by a thunderstorm, of which he had always had a peculiar and superstitious fear. Others declared that he was inadvertently buried alive, that he was heard to cry out in his coffin, and that when it was opened some days after, he was found to have gnawed his arm. But these facts are not known to earlier and more authentic historians, and the invention of them seems to be only a rhetorical way of putting the fact that he died at enmity with the Holy See.

Navigate Within This Book:

History of Rome