« ForrigeFortsett »
wind blowing aside the dust, discovered, in deep array, the impatient squadrons of Aëtius and Theodoric, who pressed forwards to the relief of Orleans. The facility with which Attila had penetrated into the heart of Gaul, may be ascribed to his insidious policy, as well as to the terror of his arms. His public declarations were skilfully mitigated by his private assurances; he alternately soothed and threatened the Romans and the Goths; and the courts of Ravenna and Toulouse, mutually suspicious of each other's intentions, beheld with supine indifference, the approach of their common enemy. Aëtius was the sole guardian of the public safety; but his wisest measures were embarrassed by a faction, which, since the death of Placidia, infested the Imperial palace; the youth of Italy trembled at the sound of the trumpet; and the I3arbarians, who, from fear or affection, were inclined to the cause of Attila, awaited with doubtful and venal faith the event of the war. The patrician passed the Alps at the head of some troops, whose strength and numbers scarcely deserved the name of an army.” But on his arrival at Arles, or Lyons, he was confounded by the intelligence, that the Visigoths, refusing to embrace the defence of Gaul, had determined to expect, within their own territories, the formidable invader, whom they professed to despise. The senator Avitus, who, after the honorable exercise of the Praetorian praefecture, had retired to his estate in Auvergne, was persuaded to accept the important embassy, which he executed with ability and success. He represented to Theodoric, that an ambitious conqueror, who aspired to the dominion of the earth, could be resisted only by the firm and unanimous alliance of the powers whom he labored to oppress. The lively eloquence of Avitus inflamed the Gothic warriors, by the description of the injuries which their ancestors had suffered from the Huns; whose implacable fury still pursued them from the Danube to the foot of the Pyrenees. He strenuously urged, that it was the duty of every Christian to save from sacrilegious violation the churches of God, and the relics of the saints; that it was the interest of every Barbarian, who had acquired a settlement in Gaui, to defend the fields and vineyards, which were cul
Wix liquerat Alpes
tivated for his use, against the desolation of the Scythian shepherds. Theodoric yielded to the evidence of truth; adopted the measure at once the most prudent and the most honorable; and declared, that, as the faithful ally of Aëtius and the Romans, he was ready to expose his life and kingdom for the common safety of Gaul.” The Visigoths, who, at that time, were in the mature vigor of their fame and power, obeyed with alacrity the signal of war; prepared their arms and horses, and assembled under the standard of their aged king, who was resolved, with his two eldest sons, Torismond and Theodoric, to command in person his numerous and valiant people. The example of the Goths determined several tribes or nations, that seemed to fluctuate between the Huns and the Romans. The indefatigable diligence of the patrician gradually collected the troops of Gaul and Germany, who had formerly acknowledged them. selves the subjects, or soldiers, of the republic, but who now claimed the rewards of voluntary service, and the rank of independent allies; the Laeti, the Armoricans, the Breones, the Saxons, the Burgundians, the Sarmatians, or Alani, the Ripuarians, and the Franks who followed Merovens as their lawful prince. Such was the various army, which, under the conduct of Aëtius and Theodoric, advanced, by rapid marches, to relieve Orleans, and to give battle to the innumerable host of Attila.” On their approach, the king of the Huns immediately raised the siege, and sounded a retreat to recall the foremost of his troops from the pillage of a city which they had already entered.” The valor of Attila was always guided by his prudence; and as he foresaw the fatal consequences of a defeat in the heart of Gaul, he repassed the Seine, and expected the enemy in the plains of Châlons, whose smooth 37 The policy of Attila, of Aëtius, and of the Yo. is imperfectly described in the Panegyric of Avitus, and the thirty-sixth chapter of Jornaindes. The poet and the historian were both biased by personal or national prejudices. The former exalts the merit and importance of Avitus; orbis, Avite, salus, &c. : The latter is anxious to show the Goths in the most favorable light. Yet their agreement, when they are fairly interpreted, is a proof of their veracity. * The review of the army of Aëtius is made by Jornandes, c. 36, p. 664, edit. Grot. tom. ii. p. 23, of the Historians of France, with the notes of the Benedictime editor. The Laeti were a promiscuous race of Barbarians, born or naturalized in Gaul; and the Riparii, or Ripuarii, derived their name from their post on the three rivers; the Rhine, the Meuse, and the Moselle; the Armoricans possessed the independent cities between the Seine and Loire. A colony of Sarons hal and level surface was adapted to the operations of his Scythian cavalry. But in this tumultuary retreat, the vanguard of the Romans and their allies continually pressed, and sometimes engaged, the troops whom Attila had posted in the rear; the hostile columns, in the darkness of the night and the perplexity of the roads, might encounter each other without design; and the bloody conflict of the Franks and Gepidae, in which fifteen thousand "Barbarians were slain, was a prelude to a more general and decisive action. The Catalaunian fields” spread themselves round Chalons, and extend, according to the vague measurement of Jornandes, to the length of one hundred and fifty, and the breadth of one hundred miles, over the whole province, which is entitled to the appellation of a champaign country.” This spacious plain was distinguished, however, by some inequalities of ground; and the importance of a height which commanded the camp of Attila, was understood and disputed by the two generals. The young and valiant Torismond first occupied the summit; the Goths rushed with irresistible weight on the Huns, who labored to ascend from the opposite side: and the possession of this advantageous post inspired both the troops and their leaders with a fair assurance of victory. The anxiety of Attila prompted him to consult his priests and haruspices. It was reported, that, after scrutinizing the entrails of victims, and scraping their bones, they revealed, in mysterious language, his own defeat, with the death of his principal adversary; and that the Barbarian, by accepting the equivalent, expressed his involuntary esteem for the superior merit of Aëtius. But the unusual despondency, which seemed to prevail among the Huns, engaged Attila to use the expedient, so familiar to the generals of antiquity, of animating his troops by a mili: tary oration; and his language was that of a king, who had often fought and conquered at their head.” He pressed 40 The common editions read xoM ; but there is some authority of manuscripts (and almost any authority is sufficient) for the more reasonable number of *ions. or Duro-Catalaunum, afterwards Catalaumi, had formerly made a part of the territory of Irheims, from whence it is distant only twenty-seven miles, See Wales. Notit. Gall. p. 136. D'Anville, Notice de l'Ancienne Gaule, **śame of Campania or Champagne, is frequently mentioned by Gregory of Tours; and that great province, of which Rheims was the capital, obeyed the command of a duke. Wales. Notit. pp. 120-123. As i am sensible that these military orations are usually composed by the historian; yet the old Ostrogoths, who had served under Attila, might repeat, his discourse to Cassiodorus; the ideas, and even the expressions, have an original them to consider their past glory, their actual danger, and their future hopes. The same fortune, which opened the deserts and morasses of Scythia to their unarmed valor, which had laid so many warlike nations prostrate at their feet, had reserved the joys of this memorable field for the consummation of their victories. The cautious steps of their enemies, their strict alliance, and their advantageous so he artfully represented as the effects, not of prudence,
been planted in the diocese of Bayeux; the Burgundians were settled in Savoy ; and the Breoves were a warlike tribe of Rhaetians, to the east of the Lake of Constance. - * Aurelianensis urbis obsidio, oppugnatio, irruptio. mec direptio, l. v. Sidon. Apollin. 1. viii. Epist. 15, p. 246. The preservation of Orleans might easily be turned into a miracle, obtained and foretold by the holy bishop.
scythian cast; and I doubt whether an Italian of the sixth century would have thought of the hujus certaininis gaudia.
ut of fear. The Visigoths alone were the strength and nerves of the opposite army; and the Huns might securely trample on the degenerate Romans, whose close and comipact order betrayed their apprehensions, and who were equally incapable of supporting the dangers or the fatigues of a day of battle. The doctrine of predestination, so favorable to martial virtue, was carefully inculcated by the king of the Huns; who assured his subjects, that the warriors, protected by Heaven, were safe and invulnerable amidst the darts of the enemy; but that the unerring Fates would strike their victims in the bosom of inglorious peace. “I myself,” continued Attila, “will throw the first javelin, and the wretch who refuses to imitate the example of his sovereign, is devoted to inevitable death.” The spirit of the Barbarians was rekindled by the presence, the voice, and the example of their intrepid leader; and Attila, yielding to their impatience, immediately formed his order of battle. At the head of his brave and faithful Huns, he occupied in person the centre of the line. The nations subject to his empire, the Rugians, the IIeruli, the Thuringians, the Franks, the Burgundians, were extended on either hand, over the ample space of the Catalaunian fields; the right wing was commanded by Ardaric, king of the Gepidae; and the three valiant brothers, who reigned over the Ostrogoths, were posted on the left to oppose the kindred tribes of the Visigoths. The disposition of the allies was regulated by a different principle. Sangiban, the faithless king of the Alani, was placed in the centre, where his motions might be strictly watched, and his treachery might be instantly punished. Aëtius assumed the command of the left, and Theodoric of the right wing; while Torismond still continued to occupy the heights which appear to have stretched on the flank, and perhaps the rear, of the Scythian army. The nations from the Volga to the Atlantic were assembled on the plain of Châlons; but many of these nations had been divided by faction, or conquest, or emigration; and the appearance of similar arms and ensigns, which threatened each other, presented the image of a civil war. The discipline and tactics of the Greeks and Romans form an interesting part of their national manners. The attentive study of the military operations of Xenophon, or Caesar, or Frederic, when they are described by the same genius which conceived and executed them, may tend to improve (if such improvement can be wished) the art of destroying the human species. But the battle of Châlons can only excite our curiosity by the magnitude of the object; since it was decided by the blind impetuosity of Barbarians, and has been related by partial writers, whose civil or ecclesiastical profession secluded them from the knowledge of military affairs. Cassiodorus, however, had familiarly conversed with many Gothic warriors, who served in that memorable engagement; “a conflict,” as they informed him, “fierce, various, obstinate, and bloody; such as could not be paralleled either in the present or in past ages.” The number of the slain amounted to one hundred and sixty-two thousand, or, according to another account, three hundred thousand persons; “and these incredible exaggerations suppose a real and effective loss sufficient to justify the historian's remark, that whole generations may be swept away, by the madness of kings, in the space of a single hour. After the mutual and repeated discharge of missile weapons, in which the archers of Scythia might signalize their superior dexterity, the cavalry and infantry of the two armies were furiously mingled in closer combat. The IIuns, who fought under the eyes of their king, pierced through the feeble and doubtful centre of the allies, separated their wings from each other, and wheeling, with a rapid effort, to the left, directed their whole force against the Visigoths. As Theodoric rode along the ranks, to animate his troops, he received a mortal stroke from the javelin of Andages, a noble Ostrogoth, and immediately fell from his horse. The wounded king was oppressed in the general disorder, and trampled under the feet of his own cavalry; and this important death served to explain the ambiguous prophecy of
* The expressions of Jornandes, or rather of Cassiodorus, are extremely strong. Bellum atrox, multiplex, immane, pertinax, cui simile nulla usquam narrat antiquitas: ubi talia gesta referumtur, ut nihil esset quod in vitā suá conspicere potuisset egregius, qui hujus miraculi privaretur aspects. Dubos (Hist. Critique, tom. i. pp. 392,393) attempts to reconcile the 162,000 of Jormandes with the 300,000 of Idatius and Isidore, by supposing that the larger number included the total joion of the war, the effects of disease, the slaughter of the unarmed peopie, &c.