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a villa or castle. In the lower Auvergne the river Allier flows through the fair and spacious plain of .Limagne; and the inexhaustible fertility of the soil supplied, and still supplies, without any interval of repose, the constant repetition of the same harvests.* On the false report that their lawful sovereign had been slain in Germany, the city and diocese of Auvergne were betrayed by the grandson of Sidonius Apollinaris. Childebert enjoyed this clandestine victory; and the free subjects of Theodoric threatened to desert his standard if he indulged his private resentment while the nation was engaged in the Burgundian war. But the Franks of Austrasia soon yielded to the persuasive eloquence of their king. "Follow me," said Theodoric "into Auvergne: I will lead you into a province where you may acquire gold, silver, slaves, cattle, and precious apparel, to the full extent of your wishes. I repeat my promise; I give you the people, and their wealth, as your prey; and you may transport them at pleasure into your own country." By the execution of this promise, Theodoric I justly forfeited the allegiance of a people whom he devoted to destruction. His troops, reinforced by the fiercest barbarians of Germany,f spread desolation over the fruitful face of Auvergne; and two places only, a strong castle and a holy shrine, were saved, or redeemed, from their licentious fury. The castle of Meroliac J was seated on a lofty rock, which rose a hundred feet above the surface of the plain; and a large reservoir of fresh water was enclosed, with some arable lands, within the circle of its fortifications. The Franks beheld with envy and despair this impregnable
his entry into Clermont. * For the description of Auvergne,
see Sidonius (1. 4, epist. 21, in tom, i, p. 793), with the notes of Savaron and Sirmond (p. 279, and 51, of their respective editions). Boulainvilliers (Etat de la France, tom, ii, p. 242—268), and the Abbe" de la Longuerue (Description de la France, part 1, p. 132—139).
+ Furorem gentium, quse de ulteriore Rheni amnis parte venerant, superare non poterat, (Greg. Turon. 1. 4, c. 50, in tom, ii, 229,) was the excuse of another king of Austrasia, (a.d. 574,) for the ravages which his troops committed in the neighbourhood of Paris.
X From the name and situation, the Benedictine editors of Gregory of Tours (in tom, ii, p. 192) have fixed this fortress at a place named Caatd Merliac, two miles from Mauriac in the upper Auvergne. In this description, I translate infra as if I read intra; the two prepositions are perpetually confounded by Gregory or his transcribers; 200
fortress: but they surprised a party of fifty stragglers; and, as they were oppressed by the number of their captives, they fixed, at a trifling ransom, the alternative of life or death for these wretched victims, whom the cruel barbarians were prepared to massacre on the refusal of the garrison. Another detachment penetrated as far as Brivas, or Brioude, where the inhabitants, with their valuable effects, had taken refuge in the sanctuary of St. Julian. The doors of the church resisted the assault, but a daring soldier entered through a window of the choir and opened a passage to his companions. The clergy and people, the sacred and the profane spoils, were rudely torn from the altar; and the sacrilegious division was made at a small distance from the town of Brioude. But this act of impiety was severely chastised by the devout son of Clovis. He punished with death the most atrocious offenders; left their secret accomplices to the vengeance of St. Julian; released the captives; restored the plunder; and extended the rights of sanctuary five miles round the sepulchre of the holy martyr.*
Before the Austrasian army retreated from Auvergne, Theodoric exacted some pledges of the future loyalty of a people, whose just hatred could be restrained only by their fear. A select band of noble youths, the sons of the principal senators, was delivered to the conqueror, as the hostage* of the faith of Childebert, and of their countrymen. On the first rumour of war or conspiracy, these guiltless youths were reduced to a state of servitude; and one of them, Attalus,t whose adventures are more particularly related,
and the sense must always decide. * See these revolutions
and wars of Auvergne in Gregory of Tours (1. 2, e. 37, in tom. ii, p. 183, and 1 . 3, c. 9.12, 13, p. 191,192, de Miraculis St. Julian. c. 13, in tom. ii, p. 466.) He frequently betrays his extraordinary attention. to his native country. [Of all the miracles fabricated in that age, so prolific of such wonders, there is not one, which had not the obvious design of either protecting or increasing the wealth of the church. —Ed.] + The story of Attalus is related by Gregory of
Tours (1. 3, c. 16, in tom. ii, p. 193—195.) His editor, the P. Ruinart, confounds this Attains, who was a youth (puer) in the year 532, with. a friend of Sidonius of the same name, who was count of Autun fifty or sixty years before. Such an error, which cannot be imputed to ignorance, is excused, in some degree, by its own magnitude. [If this unfortunate land had been so depopulated, deprived of all means of resistance, and all its inhabitants given up to be transported by the conquerors to their own country, how could there have been found
kept^his master's horses in the diocese of Treves. After a painful search he was discovered, in this unworthy occupation, by the emissaries of his grandfather, Gregory, bishop of Langres; but his offers of ransom were sternly rejected by the avarice of the barbarian, who required an exorbitant sum of ten pounds of gold for the freedom of his noble captive. His deliverance was effected by the hardy stratagem of Leo, a slave belonging to the kitchens of the bishop of Langres.* An unknown agent easily introduced him into the same family. The barbarian purchased Leo for the price of twelve pieces of gold; and was pleased to learn, that he was deeply skilled in the luxury of an episcopal table. "Next Sunday (said the Frank) I shall invite my neighbours and kinsmen. Exert thy art, and force them to confess, that they have never seen or tasted such an entertainment, even in the king's house." Leo assured him, that if he would provide a sufficient quantity of poultry, his wishes should be satisfied. The master, who already aspired to the merit of elegant hospitality, assumed as his own, the praise which the voracious guests unanimously bestowed on his cook; and the dexterous Leo insensibly acquired the trust and management of his household. After the patient expectation of a whole year, he cautiously whispered his design to Attalus, and exhorted him to prepare for flight in the ensuing night. At the hour of midnight, the intemperate guests retired from table; and the Frank's son-in-law, whom Leo attended to his apartment with a nocturnal potation, condescended to jest on the facility with which he might betray his trust. The intrepid slave, after sustaining this dangerous raillery, entered his master's bedchamber; removed his spear and
"a select band of noble youths, the sons of the principal senators," to be delivered to Theodoric as hostages? The story of Attalus must be a fiction, or the devastation of Auvergne grossly exaggerated.—Ed.]
* This Gregory, the great grandfather of Gregory of Tours, (in tom. ii, p. 197. 490) lived ninety-two years; of which he passed forty aa count of Autun, and thirty-two as bishop of Langres. According to the poet Fortunatus, he displayed equal merit in these stations.
Nobilis antiqua decurrens prole parentum,
Nobilior gestis, nunc super astra manet. /
STOST OF ATTALUS. [CH. XXXVIII.
shield; silently drew the fleetest horses from the stable; unbarred the ponderous gates; and excited Attalus to save his life and liberty by incessant diligence. Their apprehensions urged them to leave their horses on the banks of the Meuse ; * they swam the river, wandered three days in the adjacent forest, and subsisted only by the accidental discovery of a wild plum-tree. As they lay concealed in a dark thicket, they heard the noise of horses; they were terrified by the angry countenance of their master, and they anxiously listened to his declaration, that, if he could seize the guilty fugitives, one of them he would cut in pieces with his sword, and would expose the other on a gibbet. At length Attalus and his faithful Leo reached the friendly habitation of a presbyter of Rheims, who recruited their fainting strength with bread and wine, concealed them from the search of their enemy, and safely conducted them, beyond the limits of the Austrasian kingdom, to the episcopal palace of Langres. Gregory embraced his grandson with tears of joy, gratefully delivered Leo, with his whole family, from the yoke of servitude, and bestowed on him the property of a farm, where he might end his days in happiness and freedom. Perhaps this singular adventure, which is marked with so many circumstances of truth and nature, was related by Attalus himself to his cousin or nephew, the first historian of the Franks. Gregory of Tours f was born about sixty years after the death of Sidonius Apollinaris; and their situation was almost similar, since each of them was a native of Auvergne, a senator, and a bishop. The difference of their style and sentiments may, therefore, express the decay of Gaul; and clearly ascertain how much, in so short a space, the human mind had lost of its energy and refinement. J
* As M. de Valois, and the P. Ruinart, are determined to change the Mosella of the text into Moea, it becomes me to acquiesce in the alteration. Yet after some examination of the topography, I could defend the common reading. + The parents of Gregory (Gregorius
Florentius Georgius) were of noble extraction (natalibus .... iUustres), and they possessed large estates (latifumdia) both in Auvergne and Burgundy. He was born in the year 539, was consecrated bishop of Tours in 573, and died in 593, or 595, soon after he had terminated his history. See his life by Odo, abbot of Clugny, (in tom, ii, p. 129— 135,) and a new life in the Memoires de l'Acad^mie, &c., tom, xxvi, p. 598—637. X Decedente atque immo potius pereunte ab
urbibus Gallicanis liberalium cultura literarum, &c., (in praefat. in A.D. 536.] PRIVILEGES OF THE EOMANS OF GATJL. 203
We are now qualified to despise the opposite, and per-' haps artful, misrepresentations, which have softened or | exaggerated the oppression of the Roraans of Gaul under the reign of the Merovingians. The conquerors never promulgated any universal edict of servitude or confiscation: but a degenerate people, who excused their weakness by the specious names of politeness and peace, was exposed to the arms and laws of the ferocious barbarians, who contemptuously insulted their possessions, their freedom, and their safety. Their personal injuries were partial and irregular; but the great body of the Komans survived the revolution, and still preserved the property and privileges of citizens. A large portion of their lands was exacted for the use of the Franks; but they enjoyed the remainder, exempt from tribute;* and the same irresistible violence which swept
tom, ii, p. 137,) is the complaint of Gregory himself, which he fully verifies by his own work. His style is equally devoid of elegance and simplicity. In a conspicuous station he still remained a stranger to his own age and country; and in a prolix work (the five last books contain ten years) he has omitted almost everything that posterity desires to learn. I have tediously acquired, by a painful perusal, the right of pronouncing this unfavourable sentence. [Gaul, in its decay, was a specimen of the whole empire. One uniform scene presents itself through all its bounds, with this remarkable attendant circumstance, that the progress of decline was the same in young and vigorous communities, not long civilized, as in old countries, which had commenced their course twelve or fifteen centuries before. No caducity of age then brought on a change so universal, nor was it the consequence of barbarian sway. Schmidt speaks the language of all history, when he says (1. 184), "Das Wahre und Schone gewinnt nach und nach die Herrschaft, auch iiber die rauhesten Gemiither;" (the true and the beautiful gain an ascendancy, by degrees, even over the roughest natures); and he then goes on to show, that this did not take place with the conquerors of the Roman empire, because on their entrance into it, they found none who took delight themselves in the cultivation of the mind, or could inspire a love for it in others. As an evidence of the depraved taste of the age he cites the same Sidonius Apollinaris, from whom Gibbon traces during the next sixty years, the farther course of debasement, down to the weaker and more insipid writings of Gregory of Tours.—Ed.] * The Abbe" de Mably (tom, i, p. 247—267)
has diligently confirmed this opinion of the president de Montesquieu (Esprit des Loix, 1. 30, o. 13). [We have already seen the condition of Spain improved under Gothic dominion (c. 31,) and here we find the same in Gaul. Schmidt (1. 192) shows how the old inhabitants were relieved from their former burdens, and the proof afforded of their happier state, by the fact, that though so superior in numbers to their new masters, they never in any instance evinced any disposition