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INTRODUCTION - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 1 
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 1.
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by the editor
Gibbon is one of those few writers who hold as high a place in the history of literature as in the roll of great historians. He concerns us here as an historian; our business is to consider how far the view which he has presented of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire can be accepted as faithful to the facts, and in what respects it needs correction in the light of discoveries which have been made since he wrote. But the fact that his work, composed more than a hundred years ago, is still successful with the general circle of educated people, and has not gone the way of Hume and Robertson, whom we laud as “classics” and leave on the cold shelves, is due to the singularly happy union of the historian and the man of letters. Gibbon thus ranks with Thucydides and Tacitus, and is perhaps the clearest example that brilliance of style and accuracy of statement — in Livy’s case conspicuously divorced — are perfectly compatible in an historian.
His position among men of letters depends both on the fact that he was an exponent of important ideas and on his style. The appreciation of his style devolves upon the history of literature; but it may be interesting to illustrate how much attention he paid to it, by alterations which he made in his text. The first volume was published, in quarto form, in 1776, and the second quarto edition of this volume, which appeared in 1782, exhibits a considerable number of variants. Having carefully collated the two editions throughout the first fourteen chapters, I have observed that, in most cases, the changes were made for the sake not of correcting misstatements of fact, but of improving the turn of a sentence, rearranging the dactyls and cretics, or securing greater accuracy of expression. Some instances may be interesting.
These are a few specimens of the numerous cases in which alterations have been made for the purpose of improving the language. Sometimes, in the new edition, statements are couched in a less positive form. For example: —
There are also cases, where something is added which, without changing the general sense, renders a statement fuller, more picturesque, or more vivid. Thus: —
It may be noticed in this connection that at a later period Gibbon set to work to revise the second edition, but did not get further than p. 32 of the first volume.1 His own copy with autograph marginal notes was exhibited last year, on the occasion of the Gibbon Centenary, by the Royal Historical Society, and is to be seen in the British Museum. The corrections and annotations are as follows: —
(P. 1 = 1 of this edition.) “To describe the prosperous condition of their empire.” Read times for empire.
“And afterwards from the death of Marcus Antoninus.” The following note is entered: “Should I not have given the history of that fortunate period which was interposed between two iron ages? Should I not have deduced the decline of the Empire from the Civil Wars that ensued after the Fall of Nero, or even from the tyranny which succeeded the reign of Augustus? Alas! I should: but of what avail is this tardy knowledge? Where error is irreparable, repentance is useless.”
(P. 2 = 1.) “To deduce the most important circumstances of its decline and fall: a revolution which will ever be remembered, and is still felt by the nations of the earth.” These words are erased and the following are substituted: “To prosecute the decline and fall of the empire of Rome: of whose language, religion and laws the impression will be long preserved in our own and the neighbouring countries of Europe.” To which an observation is appended: “N.B. Mr. Hume told me that, in correcting his history, he always laboured to reduce superlatives, and soften positives. Have Asia and Africa, from Japan to Morocco, any feeling or memory of the Roman Empire?”
(P. 2 = 2.) On the words “rapid succession of triumphs,” note: “Excursion I. on the succession of Roman triumphs.”
(P. 3 = 3.) On “bulwarks and boundaries,” note: “Incertum metû an per invidiam (Tacit. Annal. i. 11). Why must rational advice be imputed to a base or foolish motive? To what cause, error, malevolence, or flattery shall I ascribe the unworthy alternative? Was the historian dazzled by Trajan’s conquests?”
(P. 6 = 6.) “On the immortality and transmigration of soul” (compare footnote). Note: “Julian assigns this Theological cause, of whose power he himself might be conscious (Cæsares, p. 327). Yet I am not assured that the religion of Zamolxis subsisted in the time of Trajan; or that his Dacians were the same people with the Getae of Herodotus. The transmigration of the soul has been believed by many nations, warlike as the Celts, or pusillanimous like the Hindoos. When speculative opinion is kindled into practical enthusiasm, its operation will be determined by the previous character of the man or the nation.”
(P. 7 = 7.) “On their destroyers than on their benefactors.” Note: “The first place in the temple of fame is due and is assigned to the successful heroes who had struggled with adversity; who, after signalising their valour in the deliverance of their country, have displayed their wisdom and virtue in foundation or government of a flourishing state. Such men as Moses, Cyrus, Alfred, Gustavus Vasa, Henry IV. of France, &c.”
“The thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted [characters . . . but he] lamented with a sigh that his advanced age, &c.” All included within the brackets is erased, and the following substituted: “the most exalted minds. Late generations and far distant climates may impute their calamities to the immortal author of the Iliad. The spirit of Alexander was inflamed by the praises of Achilles: and succeeding Heroes have been ambitious to tread in the footsteps of Alexander. Like him the Emperor Trajan aspired to the conquest of the East; but the Roman lamented with a sigh,” &c.
(P. 11 = 12.) “A just preference was given to the climates of the north over those of the south.” Note: “The distinction of North and South is real and intelligible; and our pursuit is terminated on either side by the poles of the Earth. But the difference of East and West is arbitrary and shifts round the globe. As the men of the North, not of the West, the legions of Gaul and Germany were superior to the South-Eastern natives of Asia and Egypt. It is the triumph of cold over heat; which may, however, and has been surmounted by moral causes.”
(P. 15 = 15.) “A correspondent number of tribunes and centurions.” Note: “The composition of the Roman officers was very faulty. 1. It was late before a Tribune was fixed to each cohort. Six tribunes were chosen from the entire legion, which two of them commanded by turns (Polyb. l. vi. p. 526, edit. Schweighaeuser), for the space of two months. 2. One long subordination from the Colonel to the Corporal was unknown. I cannot discover any intermediate ranks between the Tribune and the Centurion, the Centurion and the manipularis or private leginary [sic]. 3. As the tribunes were often without experience, the centurions were often without education, mere soldiers of fortune who had risen from the ranks (eo immitior quia toleraverat, Tacit. Annal. i. 20). A body equal to eight or nine of our battalions might be commanded by half a dozen young gentlemen and fifty or sixty old sergeants. Like the legions, our great ships of war may seem ill provided with officers: but in both cases the deficiency is corrected by strong principles of discipline and rigour.”
(P. 17, footnote 53 = 18, footnote 55.) “As in the instance of Horace and Agricola.” These words are erased. Note: “quod mihi pareret legio Romana Tribuno (Horat. Serm. l. i. vi. 45), a worthy commander of three and twenty from the school of Athens! Augustus was indulgent to Roman birth, liberis Senatorum . . . militiam. auspicantes non tribunatum modo legionum sed et praefecturas alarum dedit (Sueton. c. 38).”
(P. 32, footnote 86 = 33, footnote 94.) “A league and a half above the surface of the sea.” Note: “More correctly, according to Mr. Bouguer, 2500 toises (Buffon, Supplement, tom. v. p. 304). The height of Mont Blanc is now fixed to 2416 toises (Saussure, Voyage dans les Alpes, tom. i. p. 495): but the lowest ground from whence it can be seen is itself greatly elevated above the level of the sea. He who sails by the isle of Teneriff, contemplates the entire Pike, from the foot to the summit.”
But Gibbon has his place in literature not only as the stylist, who never lays aside his toga when he takes up his pen, but as the expounder of a large and striking idea in a sphere of intense interest to mankind, and as a powerful representative of certain tendencies of his age. The guiding idea or “moral” of his history is briefly stated in his epigram: “I have described the triumph of barbarism and religion.” In other words, the historical development of human societies, since the second century after Christ, was a retrogression (according to ordinary views of “progress”), for which Christianity was mainly to blame. This conclusion of Gibbon tended in the same direction as the theories of Rousseau; only, while Rousseau dated the decline from the day when men left Arcadia, Gibbon’s era was the death of Marcus Aurelius.
We are thus taken into a region of speculation where every traveller must make his own chart. But to attempt to deny a general truth in Gibbon’s point of view is vain; and it is feeble to deprecate his sneer. We may spare more sympathy than he for the warriors and the churchmen; but all that has since been added to his knowledge of facts has neither reversed nor blunted the point of the “Decline and Fall.” Optimism of temperament may shut the eyes; faith, wedded to some “one increasing purpose” which it shrinks from grasping, may divert from the path of facts. But for an inquirer not blinded by religious prepossessions, or misled by comfortable sophistries, Gibbon really expounded one of the chief data with which the philosophy of history has to reckon. How are we to define progress? how recognise retrogression? What is the end in relation to which such words have their meaning, and is there a law which will explain “the triumph of barbarism and religion” as a necessary moment in a reasonable process towards that end, whatever it may be? Answers have been given since Gibbon’s day, engaging to the intellect, but always making some demand on the faith — answers for which he would have the same smile as for Leo’s Dogmatic Epistle. There is certainly some reason for thinking these questions insoluble. We may say at least that the meaning of the philosophy of history is misapprehended until it is recognised that its function is not to solve problems but to transform them.
But, though the moral of Gibbon’s work has not lost its meaning yet, it is otherwise with the particular treatment of Christian theology and Christian institutions. Our point of view has altered, and, if Gibbon were writing now, the tone of his “candid and rational inquiry” would certainly be different. His manner would not be that of sometimes open, sometimes transparently veiled, dislike; he would rather assume an attitude of detachment. He would be affected by that merely historical point of view, which is a note of the present century and its larger tolerances; and more than half disarmed by that wide diffusion of unobtrusive scepticism among educated people, which seems to render offensive warfare superfluous. The man of letters admires the fine edge of subtle sarcasm, wielded by Gibbon with such skill and effect; while the historian is interested in an historical standpoint of the last century. Neither the historian nor the man of letters will any longer subscribe, without a thousand reserves, to the theological chapters of the “Decline and Fall,” and no discreet inquirer would go there for his ecclesiastical history. Yet we need not hide the fact that Gibbon’s success has in a large measure been due to his scorn for the Church; which, most emphatically expressed in the theological chapters, has, as one might say, spiced his book. The attack of a man, equipped with erudition, and of perfectly sober judgment, on cherished beliefs and revered institutions, must always excite the interest, by irritating the passions, of men. Gibbon’s classical moderation of judgment, his temperate mood, was responsible, as well as foreign education and the influence of French thought, for his attitude to Christianity and to Mahometanism. He hated excess, and the immoderation of the multitude. He could suffer the tolerant piety of a learned abbé or “the fat slumbers of the Church”; but with the religious faith of a fanatical populace or the ardour of its demagogues his reason was unable to sympathise. In the spirit of Cicero or Tacitus he despised the superstitions of the vulgar, and regarded the unmeasured enthusiasm of the early Christians as many sober Churchmen regard the fanaticism of Islam. He dealt out the same measure to the opposite enthusiasm of Julian the Apostate.2 His work was all the more effective, because he was never dogmatic himself. His irony should not be construed as insincerity, but rather as showing that he was profoundly — one might say, constitutionally — convinced of the truth of that sceptical conclusion which has been, in a different spirit, formulated precisely by the Bishop of Oxford; “there is no room for sweeping denunciations or trenchant criticisms in the dealings of a world whose falsehoods and veracities are separated by so very thin a barrier.”
Thus Gibbon’s attitude to religion, while it was conditioned by the intellectual atmosphere of Europe in that age, was also the expression of the man. When Dean Milman spoke of his “bold and disingenuous attack on Christianity,”3 he made one of those futile charges which it would be impossible to prove and impossible to disprove; such imputations as are characteristic of theologians in the heat of controversy and may be condoned to politicians in the heat of electioneering, but in an historical critic are merely an impertinence.
It has sometimes been remarked that those histories are most readable which are written to prove a thesis. The indictment of the Empire by Tacitus, the defence of Cæsarianism by Mommsen, Grote’s vindication of democracy, Droysen’s advocacy of monarchy, might be cited as examples. All these writers intended to present the facts as they took place, but all wrote with prepossessions and opinions, in the light of which they interpreted the events of history. Arnold deliberately advocated such partiality on the ground that “the past is reflected to us by the present and the partyman feels the present most.” Another Oxford Regius Professor remarked that “without some infusion of spite it seems as if history could not be written.” On the other side stands the formula of Ranke as to the true task of the historian: “Ich will bloss sagen wie es eigentlich gewesen ist.” The Greek History of Bishop Thirlwall, the English Constitutional History of Bishop Stubbs himself, were written in this spirit. But the most striking instances perhaps, because they tread with such light feet on the treacherous ashes of more recent history, are Ranke and Bishop Creighton. Thucydides is the most ancient example of this historical reserve. It cannot be said that Gibbon sat down to write with any ulterior purpose, but, as we have seen, he allowed his temperament to colour his history, and used it to prove a congenial thesis. But, while he put things in the light demanded by this thesis, he related his facts accurately. If we take into account the vast range of his work, his accuracy is amazing. He laboured under some disadvantages, which are set forth in his own Memoirs. He had not enjoyed that school and university training in the languages and literatures of Greece and Rome which is probably the best preparation for historical research. His knowledge of Greek was imperfect; he was very far from having the “scrupulous ear of the well-flogged critic.” He has committed errors of translation, and was capable of writing “Gregory of Nazianzen.” But such slips are singularly few. Nor is he accustomed to take lightly quotations at second hand; like that famous passage of Eligius of Noyon — held up by Arnold as a warning — which Robertson and Hallam successively copied from Mosheim, where it had appeared in a garbled form, to prove exactly the opposite of its true meaning.
From one curious inaccuracy, which neither critics nor editors seem to have observed, he must I think be acquitted. In his account of the disturbances in Africa and Egypt in the reign of Diocletian, we meet the following passage (vol. ii. chap. xiii. p. 160): —
“Julian had assumed the purple at Carthage. Achilleus at Alexandria, and even the Blemmyes, renewed, or rather continued their incursions into the Upper Egypt.”
Achilleus arose at this time (295-6 ) as a tyrant at Alexandria; but that he made either at this date or at any previous date an incursion into the Upper Egypt, there is not a trace of evidence in our authorities. I am convinced however that this error was not originally due to the author, but merely a treacherous misprint, which was overlooked by him in correcting the proof sheets, and has also escaped the notice of his editors. By a slight change in punctuation we obtain a perfectly correct statement of the situation: —
“Julian had assumed the purple at Carthage, Achilleus at Alexandria; and even the Blemmyes renewed, or rather continued, their incursions into the Upper Egypt.”
I have no doubts that this was the sentence originally meant and probably written by Gibbon, and have felt no scruple in extirpating the inveterate error from the text.4
Gibbon’s diligent accuracy in the use of his materials cannot be over-praised, and it will not be diminished by giving the due credit to his French predecessor Tillemont. The Histoire des Empereurs and the Mémoires ecclésiastiques, laborious and exhaustive collections of material, were addressed to the special student and not to the general reader, but scholars may still consult them with profit. It is interesting to find Mommsen in his later years retracting one of his earlier judgments and reverting to a conclusion of Tillemont. In his recent edition5 of the Laterculus of Polemius Silvius, he writes thus: —
“L’auteur de la Notice — peritissimi Tillemontii verba sunt (hist. 5, 699) — vivoit en Occident et ne savoit pas trop l’état où estoit l’Orient; ei iuvenis contradixi hodie subscribo.”
It is one of Gibbon’s merits that he made full use of Tillemont, “whose inimitable accuracy almost assumes the character of genius,” as far as Tillemont guided him, up to the reign of Anastasius I.; and it is only just to the mighty work of the Frenchman to impute to him a large share in the accuracy which the Englishman achieved. From the historical, though not from the literary, point of view, Gibbon, deserted by Tillemont, distinctly declines, though he is well sustained through the wars of Justinian by the clear narrative of Procopius.
Recognising that Gibbon was accurate, we do not acknowledge by implication that he was always right; for accuracy is relative to opportunities. The discovery of new materials, the researches of numerous scholars, in the course of a hundred years, have not only added to our knowledge of facts, but have modified and upset conclusions which Gibbon with his materials was justified in drawing. Compare a chapter or two of Mr. Hodgkin’s Italy and her Invaders with the corresponding episode in Gibbon, and many minor points will appear in which correction has been needful. If Gibbon were alive and writing now, his history would be very different. Affected by the intellectual experiences of the past century he could not adopt quite the same historical attitude; and we should consequently lose the colouring of his brilliant attack on Christianity. Again, he would have found it an absolute necessity to learn what he insolently called that “barbarous idiom,” the German language; and this might have affected his style as it would certainly have affected his matter. We dare not deplore Gibbon’s limitations, for they were the conditions of his great achievement.
Not the least important aspect of the Decline and Fall is its lesson in the unity of history, the favourite theme of Mr. Freeman. The title displays the cardinal fact that the Empire founded by Augustus fell in 1461; that all the changes which transformed the Europe of Marcus Aurelius into the Europe of Erasmus had not abolished the name and memory of the Empire. And whatever names of contempt — in harmony with his thesis — Gibbon might apply to the institution in the period of its later decline, such as the “Lower Empire,” or “Greek Empire,” his title rectified any false impressions that such language might cause. On the continuity of the Roman Empire depended the unity of his work. By the emphasis laid on this fact he did the same kind of service to the study of history in England, that Mr. Bryce has done in his Holy Roman Empire by tracing the thread which connects the Europe of Francis the Second with the Europe of Charles the Great.
Gibbon read widely, and had a large general knowledge of history, which supplied him with many happy illustrations. It is worth pointing out that the gap in his knowledge of ancient history was the period of the Diadochi and Epigoni. If he had been familiar with that period, he would not have said that Diocletian was the first to give to the world the example of a resignation of sovereignty. He would have referred to the conspicuous case of Ptolemy Soter; Mr. Freeman would have added Lydiadas, the tyrant of Megalopolis. Of the earlier example of Asarhaddon Gibbon could not have known.
To pass from scope and spirit to method, Gibbon’s historical sense kept him constantly right in dealing with his sources, but he can hardly be said to have treated them methodically. The growth of German erudition is one of the leading features of the intellectual history of the nineteenth century; and one of its most important contributions to historical method lies in the investigation of sources. German scholars have indeed pressed this “Quellenkunde” further than it can safely be pressed. A philologist, writing his doctoral dissertation, will bring plausible reasons to prove where exactly Diodorus ceased to “write out” Ephorus, whose work we do not possess, and began to write out somebody else, whose work is also lost to us. But, though the method lends itself to the multiplication of vain subtleties, it is absolutely indispensable for scientific historiography. It is in fact part of the science of evidence. The distinction of primary and derivative authorities might be used as a test. The untrained historian fails to recognise that nothing is added to the value of a statement of Widukind by its repetition by Thietmar or Ekkehard, and that a record in the Continuation of Theophanes gains no further credibility from the fact that it likewise occurs in Cedrenus, Zonaras or Glycas.
While evidence is more systematically arranged, greater care is bestowed on sifting and probing what our authorities say, and in distinguishing contemporary from later witnesses. Not a few important results have been derived from such methods; they enable us to trace the growth of stories. The evidence against Faustina shrinks into nothing; the existence of Pope Joan is exploded. It is irrelevant to condemn a statement of Zonaras as made by a “modern Greek.” The question is, where did he get it?6
The difficult questions connected with the authorship and compilation of the Historia Augusta have produced a chestful of German pamphlets, but they did not trouble Gibbon. The relationships of the later Greek chronicles and histories are more difficult and intricate even than the questions raised by the Historia Augusta, but he did not even formulate a prudent interrogation. Ferdinand Hirsch, twenty years ago, cleared new roads through this forest, in which George the Monk and the Logothete who continued him, Leo Grammaticus and Simeon Magister, John Scylitzes, George Cedrenus and Zonaras, lived in promiscuous obscurity. Büttner-Wobst on one side, C. de Boor on the other, have been working effectually on the same lines, clearing up the haze which surrounds George the Monk — the time has gone by for calling him George Hamartolus. Another formidable problem, that of John Malalas — with his namesake John of Antioch, so hard to catch, — having been grappled with by Jeep, Sotiriades and others, is now being more effectively treated by Patzig.
Criticism, too, has rejected some sources from which Gibbon drew without suspicion. In the interest of literature we may perhaps be glad that like Ockley he used with confidence the now discredited Al Wakidi. Before such maintained perfection of manner, to choose is hard; but the chapter on the origin of Mahometanism and its first triumphs against the Empire would alone be enough to win perpetual literary fame. Without Al Wakidi’s romance they would not have been written; and the historian, compelled to regard Gibbon’s description as he would a Life of Charles the Great based on the monk of St. Gall, must refer the inquirer after facts to Sprenger’s Life of Mahomet and Weil’s History of the Caliphs.7
In connection with the use of materials, reference may be made to a mode of proceeding which Gibbon has sometimes adopted and which modern method condemns. It is not legitimate to blend the evidence of two different periods in order to paint a complete picture of an institution. Great caution, for example, is needed in using the Greek epics, of which the earliest and latest parts differ by a long interval, for the purpose of portraying a so-called Homeric or heroic age. A notice of Fredegarius will not be necessarily applicable to the age of the sons and grandsons of Chlodwig, and a custom which was familiar to Gregory or Venantius may have become obsolete before the days of the last Merwings. It is instructive to compare Gibbon’s description of the social and political institutions of our Teutonic forefathers with that of Bishop Stubbs. Gibbon blends together with dexterity the evidence of Cæsar and Tacitus, between whom a century had elapsed, and composes a single picture; whereas Bishop Stubbs keeps the statements of the two Romans carefully apart, and by comparing them is able to show that in certain respects the Germans had developed in the interval. Gibbon’s account of the military establishment of the Empire, in the first chapter of his work, is open to a like objection. He has blended, without due criticism, the evidence of Vegetius with that of earlier writers.8
In the study of sources, then, our advance has been great, while the labours of an historian have become more arduous. It leads us to another advance of the highest importance. To use historical documents with confidence, an assurance that the words of the writer have been correctly transmitted is manifestly indispensable. It generally happens that our texts have come down in several MSS., of different ages, and there are often various discrepancies. We have then to determine the relations of the MSS. to each other and their comparative values. To the pure philologist this is part of the alphabet of his profession; but the pure historian takes time to realise it, and it was not realised in the age of Gibbon as it is to-day. Nothing forces upon the historian the necessity of having a sound text so impressively as the process of comparing different documents in order to determine whether one was dependent on another, — the process of investigating sources. In this respect we have now to be thankful for many blessings denied to Gibbon and — so recent is our progress — denied to Milman and Finlay. We have Mommsen’s editions of Jordanes and the Variæ of Cassiodorius, his Chronica Minora (still incomplete), including, for instance, Idatius, the Prospers, Count Marcellinus; we have Peter’s Historia Augusta, Gardthausen’s Ammianus, Luetjohann’s Sidonius Apollinaris; Duchesne’s Liber Pontificalis; and a large number of critical texts of ecclesiastical writers might be mentioned.9 The Greek historians have been less fortunate. The Bonn edition of the “Byzantine Writers,” issued under the auspices of Niebuhr and Bekker in the early part of this century, was the most lamentably feeble production ever given to the world by German scholars of great reputation. It marked no advance on the older folio edition, except that it was cheaper, and that one or two new documents were included. But there is now a reasonable prospect that we shall by degrees have a complete series of trustworthy texts. De Boor showed the way by his splendid edition of Theophanes and his smaller texts of Theophylactus Simocatta and the Patriarch Nicephorus. Mendelssohn’s Zosimus, and Reifferscheid’s Anna Comnena stand beside them. Haury promises a Procopius, and we are expecting from Seger a long-desired John Scylitzes, the greater part of whose text, though existing in a MS. at Paris, has never been printed and can only be inferred by a comparison of the Latin translation of Gabius with the chronicle of Cedrenus, who copied him with faithful servility.
The legends of the Saints, though properly outside the domain of the historian proper, often supply him with valuable help. For “Culturgeschichte” they are a direct source. Finlay observed that the Acta Sanctorum contain an unexplored mine for the social life of the Eastern Empire. But before they can be confidently dealt with, trained criticism must do its will on the texts; the relations between the various versions of each legend must be defined and the tradition in each case made clear. The task is huge; the libraries of Europe and Hither Asia are full of these holy tales. But Usener has made a good beginning and Krumbacher has rendered the immense service of pointing out precisely what the problems are.10
Besides improved methods of dealing with the old material, much new material of various kinds has been discovered, since the work of Gibbon. To take one department, our coins have increased in number. It seems a pity that he who worked at his Spanheim with such diligence was not able to make use of Eckhel’s great work on Imperial coinage which began to appear in 1792 and was completed in 1798. Since then we have had Cohen, and the special works of Saulcy and Sabatier. M. Schlumberger’s splendid study of Byzantine sigillography must be mentioned in the same connection.11
The constitution and history of the Principate, and the provincial government of the early Emperors, have been placed on an entirely new basis by Mommsen and his school.12 The Römisches Staatsrecht is a fabric for whose rearing was needed not only improved scholarship but an extensive collection of epigraphic material. The Corpus of Latin Inscriptions is the keystone of the work.
Hence Gibbon’s first chapters are somewhat “out of date.” But on the other hand his admirable description of the change from the Principate to absolute Monarchy, and the system of Diocletian and Constantine, is still most valuable. Here inscriptions are less illustrative, and he disposed of much the same material as we, especially the Codex Theodosianus. New light is badly wanted, and has not been to any extent forthcoming, on the respective contributions of Diocletian and Constantine to the organisation of the new monarchy. As to the arrangement of the provinces we have indeed a precious document in the Verona List (published by Mommsen), which, dating from 297 , shows Diocletian’s reorganisation. The modifications which were made between this year and the beginning of the fifth century when the Notitia Dignitatum was drawn up, can be largely determined not only by lists in Rufus and Ammianus, but, as far as the Eastern provinces are concerned, by the Laterculus of Polemius Silvius. Thus, partly by critical method applied to Polemius, partly by the discovery of a new document, we are enabled to rectify the list of Gibbon, who adopted the simple plan of ascribing to Diocletian and Constantine the detailed organisation of the Notitia. Otherwise our knowledge of the changes of Diocletian has not been greatly augmented; but our clearer conception of the Principate and its steady development towards pure monarchy has reflected light on Diocletian’s system; and the tendencies of the third century, though still obscure at many points, have been made more distinct. The year of the Gordians is still as great a puzzle as ever; but the dates of Alexandrine coins with the tribunician years give us here, as elsewhere, limits of which Gibbon was ignorant. While speaking of the third century, I may add that Calpurnius Siculus, whom Gibbon claimed as a contemporary of Carinus, has been restored by modern criticism to the reign of Nero, and this error has vitiated some of Gibbon’s pages.
The constitutional history of the Empire from Diocletian forward has still to be written systematically. Some noteworthy contributions to this subject have been made by Russian scholars.
Gibbon’s forty-fourth chapter is still not only famous, but admired by jurists as a brief and brilliant exposition of the principles of Roman law. To say that it is worthy of the subject is the best tribute that can be paid to it. A series of foreign scholars of acute legal ability has elaborated the study of the science in the present century; I need only refer to such names as Savigny and Jhering. A critical edition of the Corpus juris Romani by Mommsen himself has been one of the chief contributions. The manuscript of Gaius is the new discovery to be recorded; and we can imagine with what interest Gibbon, were he restored to earth, would compare in Gneist’s parallel columns the Institutions with the elder treatise.
But whoever takes up Gibbon’s theme now will not be content with an exposition of the Justinianean Law. He must go on to its later development in the subsequent centuries, in the company of Zachariä von Lingenthal and Heimbach. Such a study has been made possible and comparatively easy by the magnificent works of Zachariä, among whose achievements I may single out his restoration of the Ecloga, which used to be ascribed to Leo VI., to its true author Leo III.; a discovery which illuminated in a most welcome manner the Isaurian reformation. It is interesting to observe that the last work which engaged him even on his death-bed was an attempt to prove exactly the same thing for the military treatise known as the Tactics of Leo VI. Here too Zachariä thinks that Leo was the Isaurian, while the received view is that he was the “Philosopher.”
Having illustrated by examples the advantages open to an historian of the present day, which were not open to Gibbon, for dealing with Gibbon’s theme, — improved and refined methods, a closer union of philology with history, and ampler material, — we may go on to consider a general defect in his treatment of the Later Empire, and here too exhibit, by a few instances, progress made in particular departments.
Gibbon ended the first half of his work with the so-called fall of the Western Empire in 476 — a date which has been fixed out of regard for Italy and Rome, and should strictly be 480 in consideration of Julius Nepos. Thus the same space is devoted to the first three hundred years which is allowed to the remaining nine hundred and eighty. Nor does the inequality end here. More than a quarter of the second half of the work deals with the first two of these ten centuries. The mere statement of the fact shows that the history of the Empire from Heraclius to the last Grand Comnenus of Trebizond is merely a sketch with certain episodes more fully treated. The personal history and domestic policy of all the Emperors, from the son of Heraclius to Isaac Angelus, are compressed into one chapter. This mode of dealing with the subject is in harmony with the author’s contemptuous attitude to the “Byzantine” or “Lower” Empire.
But Gibbon’s account of the internal history of the Empire after Heraclius is not only superficial: it gives an entirely false impression of the facts. If the materials had been then as well sifted and studied as they are even to-day, he could not have failed to see that beneath the intrigues and crimes of the Palace there were deeper causes at work, and beyond the revolutions of the Capital City wider issues implied. The cause for which the Iconoclasts contended involved far more than an ecclesiastical rule or usage: it meant, and they realised, the regeneration of the Empire. Or, to take another instance: the key to the history of the tenth and eleventh centuries is the struggle between the Imperial throne and the great landed interest of Asia Minor;13 the accession of Alexius Comnenus marked the final victory of the latter. Nor had Gibbon any conception of the great ability of most of the Emperors from Leo the Isaurian to Basil II., or, we might say, to Constantine the conqueror of Armenia. The designation of the story of the later Empire as a “uniform tale of weakness and misery”14 is one of the most untrue, and most effective, judgments ever uttered by a thoughtful historian. Before the outrage of 1204, the Empire was the bulwark of the West.15
Against Gibbon’s point of view there has been a gradual reaction which may be said to have culminated within the last ten years. It was begun by Finlay, whose unprosperous speculations in Greece after the Revolution prompted him to seek for the causes of the insecurity of investments in land, and, leading him back to the year 146 , involved him in a history of the “Byzantine Empire” which embedded a history of Greece.16 The great value of Finlay’s work lies not only in its impartiality and in his trained discernment of the commercial and financial facts underlying the superficial history of the chronicles, but in its full and trustworthy narration of the events. By the time that Mr. Tozer’s edition appeared in 1876, it was being recognised that Gibbon’s word on the later Empire was not the last. Meanwhile Hertzberg was going over the ground in Germany, and Gfrörer, whose ecclesiastical studies had taken him into those regions, had written a good deal of various value. Hirsch’s Byzantinische Studien had just appeared, and Rambaud’s l’Empire grec au Xme siècle. M. Sathas was bringing out his Bibliotheca Græca medii aevi — including two volumes of Psellus — and was beginning his Documents inédits. Professor Lambros was working at his Athens in the Twelfth Century and preparing his editio princeps of the great Archbishop Akominatos. Hopf had collected a mass of new materials from the archives of southern cities. In England, Freeman was pointing out the true position of New Rome and her Emperors in the history of Europe.
These tendencies have increased in volume and velocity within the last twenty years. They may be said to have reached their culminating point in the publication of Professor Krumbacher’s History of Byzantine Literature.17 The importance of this work, of vast scope and extraordinary accuracy, can only be fully understood by the specialist. It has already promoted and facilitated the progress of the study in an incalculable measure; and it was soon followed by the inauguration of a journal, entirely devoted to works on “Byzantine” subjects, by the same scholar. The Byzantinische Zeitschrift would have been impossible twenty-five years ago, and nothing shows more surely the turn of the tide. Professor Krumbacher’s work seems likely to form as important an epoch as that of Ducange.
Meanwhile in a part of Europe which deems itself to have received the torch from the Emperors as it has received their torch from the Patriarchs, and which has always had a special regard for the city of Constantine, some excellent work was being done. In Russia, Muralt edited the chronicle of George the monk and his Continuers, and compiled Byzantine Fasti. The Journal of the Ministry of Public Instruction is the storehouse of a long series of most valuable articles dealing, from various sides, with the history of the later Empire, by those indefatigable workers Uspenski and Vasilievski. At length, in 1894, Krumbacher’s lead has been followed, and the Vizantiski Vremennik, a Russian counterpart of the Byzantinische Zeitschrift, has been started under the joint editorship of Vasilievski and Regel, and is clearly destined, with the help of Veselovski, Kondakov, Bieliaiev and the rest of a goodly fellowship, to make its mark.
After this general sketch of the new prospects of later Imperial history, it will be useful to show by some examples what sort of progress is being made, and what kind of work has to be done. I will first take some special points of interest connected with Justinian. My second example shall be the topography of Constantinople; and my third the large field of literature composed in colloquial Greek. Lastly, the capital defect of the second half of Gibbon’s work, his inadequate treatment, or rather his neglect, of the Slavs, will serve to illustrate our historical progress.
New light has been cast, from more than one side, on the reign of Justinian where there are so many uncertain and interesting places. The first step that methodical history had to take was a thoroughgoing criticism of Procopius, and this was more than half done by Dahn in his elaborate monograph. The double problem of the “Secret History” has stimulated the curiosity of the historian and the critic. Was Procopius the author? and in any case, are the statements credible? Gibbon has inserted in his notes the worst bits of the scandals which far outdid the convivium quinquaginta meretricum described by Burchard, or the feast of Sophonius Tigellinus; and he did not hesitate to believe them. Their credibility is now generally questioned, but the historian of Cæsarea is a much more interesting figure if it can be shown that he was the author. From a careful comparison of the Secret History with the works of Procopian authorship, in point of style, Dahn concluded that Procopius wrote it. Ranke argued against this view and maintained that it was the work of a malcontent who had obtained possession of a private diary of Procopius, on which framework he constructed the scandalous chronicle, imitating successfully the Procopian style.18
The question has been placed on a new footing by Haury;19 and it is very interesting to find that the solution depends on the right determination of certain dates. The result is briefly as follows: —
Procopius was a malcontent who hated Justinian and all his works. He set himself the task of writing a history of his time, which, as the secretary of Belisarius, he had good opportunities of observing. He composed a narrative of the military events, in which he abstained from committing himself, so that it could be safely published in his own lifetime. Even here his critical attitude to the government is sometimes clear. He allows it to be read between the lines that he regarded the reconquest of Africa and Italy as calamities for those countries; which thus came under an oppressor, to be stripped by his governors and tax gatherers. But the domestic administration was more dangerous ground, on which Procopius could not tread without raising a voice of bitter indignation and hatred. So he dealt with this in a book which was to be kept secret during his own life and bequeathed to friends who might be trusted to give it to the world at a suitable time. The greater part of the Military History, which treated in seven Books the Persian, Vandalic, and Gothic wars, was finished in 545 , and perhaps read to a select circle of friends; at a later time some additions were made, but no changes in what had been already written. The Secret History, as Haury has proved from internal evidence, was written in 550.20 About three years later the Military History received an eighth Book, bringing the story down to the end of the Gothic war. Then the work came under the notice of Justinian, who saw that a great historian had arisen; and Procopius, who had certainly not described the wars for the purpose of pleasing the Emperor, but had sailed as close to the wind as he dared, was called upon to undertake the disagreeable task of lauding the oppressor. An Imperial command was clearly the origin of the De Ædificiis (560 ), in which the reluctant writer adopted the plan of making adulation so fulsome, that, except to Justinian’s vanity, he might appear to be laughing in his sleeve. At the very beginning of the treatise he has a sly allusion to the explosives which were lying in his desk, unknown to the Imperial spies.
Such is the outline of the literary motives of Procopius as we must conceive them, now that we have a practical certainty that he, and no other, wrote the Secret History. For Haury’s dates enable us, as he points out, to argue as follows: If Procopius did not write the book, it was obviously written by a forger, who wished it to pass as a Procopian work. But in 550 no forger could have had the close acquaintance with the Military History which is exhibited by the author of the Anecdota. And moreover the identity of the introduction of the eighth Book of the Military History with that of the Secret History, which was urged by Ranke as an objection to the genuineness of the latter work, now tells decisively in favour of it. For if Procopius composed it in 553, how could a forger, writing in 550, have anticipated it? And if the forger composed it in 550, how are we to explain its appearance in a later work of Procopius himself? These considerations put it beyond all reasonable doubt that Procopius was the author of the Secret History; for this assumption is the only one which supplies an intelligible explanation of the facts.
Another puzzle in connection with Justinian lay in certain biographical details relating to that emperor and his family; which Alemanni, in his commentary on the Secret History, quoted on the authority of a Life of Justinian by a certain Abbot Theophilus, said to have been the Emperor’s preceptor. Of these biographical notices, and of Justinian’s preceptor Theophilus, we otherwise knew nothing; nor had any one, since Alemanni, seen the Biography. Gibbon and other historians accepted without question the statements quoted by Alemanni; though it would have been wiser to treat them with more reserve, until some data for criticising them were discovered. The puzzle of Alemanni’s source, the Life of Theophilus, was solved by Mr. Bryce, who discovered in the library of the Barberini palace at Rome the original text from which Alemanni drew his information.21 It professes to be an extract from a Slavonic work, containing the Life of Justinian up to the thirtieth year of his reign, composed by Bogomil, abbot of the monastery of St. Alexander in Dardania. This extract was translated by Marnavich, Canon of Sebenico (afterwards Bishop of Bosnia, 1631-1639), a friend of Alemanni, and some notes were appended by the same scholar. Bogomil is the Slavonic equivalent of the Greek Theophilus, which was accordingly adopted by Alemanni in his references. Mr. Bryce has shown clearly that this document, interesting as it is in illustrating how Slavonic legends had grown up round the name of Justinian, is worthless as history, and that there is no reason to suppose that such a person as the Dardanian Bogomil ever existed. We are indeed met by a new problem, which, however, is of no serious concern to the practical purposes of history. How did Marnavich obtain a copy of the original Life, from which he made the extract, and which he declares to be preserved in the library of the monks who profess the rule of St. Basil on Mount Athos? Does the original still exist, on Mount Athos or elsewhere? or did it ever exist?
The wars of Justinian22 in the west have been fully and admirably related by Mr. Hodgkin, with the exception of the obscure conquest of Spain, on which there is too little to be said and nothing further seems likely to come to light. In regard to the ecclesiastical policy of Justinian there is still a field for research.
As for the study of the great work of Anthemius, which brings us to the general subject of Byzantine art, much has been done within the last half century. Gibbon had nothing to help him for the buildings of Constantinople that could compare with Adam’s splendid work which he consulted for the buildings of Spalato. We have now Salzenberg’s luxurious work, Alt-christliche Baudenkmale von Constantinopel, published just fifty years ago by the Prussian government, with plates which enable us to make a full study of the architecture of St. Sophia. A few months ago a complete and scholarly English study of this church by Messrs. Lethaby and Swainson appeared. Other churches, too, especially those at Ravenna, have received careful attention; De Voguě’s admirable work on the architecture of Syria is well known; but Strzygovski has only too good reason for complaining that the study of Byzantine architecture, as a whole, has not yet properly begun. A large work on the churches of Greece, which two English scholars are preparing, ought to do much to further the cause which Strzygovski has at heart, and to which he has made valuable contributions himself.23 More progress is perhaps being made in the study of miniature painting and iconography; and in this field the work of the Russian student Kondakov is the most noteworthy.
The study of works of architecture in ancient cities, like Athens, Rome, or Constantinople, naturally entails a study of the topography of the town; and in the case of Constantinople this study is equally important for the historian. Little progress of a satisfactory kind can be made until either Constantinople passes under a European government, or a complete change comes over the spirit of Turkish administration. The region of the Imperial Palace and the ground between the Hippodrome and St. Sophia must be excavated before certainty on the main points can be attained. Labarte’s a priori reconstruction of the plan of the palace, on the basis of the Cerimonies of Constantine Porphyrogennetos and scattered notices in other Greek writers, was wonderfully ingenious and a certain part of it is manifestly right, though there is much which is not borne out by a more careful examination of the sources. The next step was taken by a Russian scholar Bieliaiev who has recently published a most valuable study on the Cerimonies,24 in which he has tested the reconstruction of Labarte and shown us exactly where we are, — what we know, and what with our present materials we cannot possibly know. Between Labarte and Bieliaiev the whole problem was obscured by the unscholarly work of Paspatês, the Greek antiquarian; whose sole merit was that he kept the subject before the world. As the acropolis is the scene of so many great events in the history which Gibbon recorded, it is well to warn the reader that our sources make it absolutely certain that the Hippodrome adjoined the Palace; there was no public space between them. The Augusteum did not lie, as Paspatês asserted, between the Palace and the Hippodrome,25 but between the north side of the Hippodrome and St. Sophia.
On the trades and industries of the Imperial City, on the trade corporations and the minute control exercised over them by the government, new light has been thrown by M. Nicole’s discovery and publication of the Prefect’s Book, a code of regulations drawn up by Leo VI. The demes of Constantinople are a subject which needs investigation. They are certainly not to be regarded as Gibbon and his successors have regarded them, as mere circus parties. They must represent, as Uspenski points out in the opening number of the new Vizantiski Vremennik, organised divisions of the population.
A field in which the historian must wander to breathe the spirit and learn the manner of the mediæval Greek world is that of the romance, both prose and verse, written in the vulgar tongue. This field was closed to Gibbon, but the labours of many scholars, above all Legrand, have rendered it now easily accessible. Out of a large number of interesting things I may refer especially to two. One is the epic of Digenes Akritas, the Roland or Cid of the Later Empire, a poem of the tenth century, which illustrates the life of Armatoli and the border warfare against the Saracens in the Cilician mountains. The other is the Book of the Conquest of the Morea,26 a mixture of fiction and fact, but invaluable for realising the fascinating though complicated history of the “Latin” settlements in Greece. That history was set aside by Gibbon, with the phrase, “I shall not pursue the obscure and various dynasties that rose and fell on the continent or in the isles,” though he deigns to give a page or two to Athens.27 But it is a subject with unusual possibilities for picturesque treatment, and out of which, Gibbon, if he had apprehended the opportunity, and had possessed the materials, would have made a brilliant chapter. Since Finlay, who entered into this episode of Greek history with great fulness, the material has been largely increased by the researches of Hopf.28
As I have already observed, it is perhaps on the Slavonic side of the history of the Empire that Gibbon is most conspicuously inadequate. Since he wrote, various causes have combined to increase our knowledge of Slavonic antiquity. The Slavs themselves have engaged in methodical investigation of their own past; and, since the entire or partial emancipations of the southern Slavs from Asiatic rule, a general interest in Slavonic things has grown up throughout Europe. Gibbon dismissed the history of the First Bulgarian Kingdom, from its foundation in the reign of Constantine Pogonatus to its overthrow by the second Basil, in two pages. To-day the author of a history of the Empire on the same scale would find two hundred a strict limit. Gibbon tells us nothing of the Slavonic missionaries, Cyril and Methodius, round whose names an extensive literature has been formed. It is only in recent years that the geography of the Illyrian peninsula has become an accessible subject of study.
The investigation of the history of the northern peoples who came under the influence of the Empire has been stimulated by controversy, and controversy has been animated and even embittered by national pride. The question of Slavonic settlements in Greece has been thoroughly ventilated, because Fallmerayer excited the scholarship of Hellenes and Philhellenes to refute what they regarded as an insulting paradox.29 So, too, the pride of the Roumanians was irritated by Roesler, who denied that they were descended from the inhabitants of Trajan’s Dacia and described them as later immigrants of the thirteenth century. Pič arose against him; then Hermuzaki argued for an intermediate date. The best Hungarian scholar of the day joined the fray, on the other side; and the contention became bitter between Vlach and Magyar, the Roumanian pretensions to Siebenbürgen — “Dacia irredenta” — sharpening the lances of the foes. The Roumanians have not come out of their “question” as well as the Hellenes. Hungary too has its own question. Are the Magyars to be ethically associated with the Finns or given over to the family of the Turks, whom as champions of Christendom they had opposed at Mohácz and Varna? It was a matter of pride for the Hungarian to detach himself from the Turk; and the evidence is certainly on his side. Hunfalvy’s conclusions have successfully defied the assaults of Vámbéry.30 Again in Russia there has been a long and vigorous contest, — the so-called Norman or Varangian question. No doubt is felt now by the impartial judge as to the Scandinavian origin of the princes of Kiev, and that the making of Russia was due to Northmen or Varangians. Kunik and Pogodin were reinforced by Thomsen of Denmark; and the pure Slavism of Ilovaiski31 and Gedeonov, though its champions were certainly able, is a lost cause.
From such collisions sparks have flown and illuminated dark corners. For the Slavs the road was first cleared by Šafarik. The development of the comparative philology of the Indo-Germanic tongues has had its effect; the Slavonic languages have been brought into line, chiefly by the lifework of Miklosich; and the science is being developed by such scholars as Jagič and Leskien. The several countries of the Balkan lands have their archæologists and archæological journals; and the difficulty which now meets the historian is not the absence but the plenitude of philological and historical literature.
A word may be added about the Hungarians, who have not been so successful with their early history as the Slavs. Until the appearance of Hunfalvy, their methods were antediluvian, and their temper credulous. The special work of Jászay, and the first chapters of Szalay’s great History of Hungary, showed no advance on Katóna and Pray, who were consulted by Gibbon. All believed in the Anonymous Scribe of King Béla; Jászay simply transcribed him. Then Roesler came and dispelled the illusion. Our main sources now are Constantine Porphyrogennetos, and the earlier Asiatic traveller Ibn Dasta, who has been rendered accessible by Chwolson.32 The linguistic researches of Ahlquist, Hunfalvy and others into Vogul, Ostjak and the rest of the Ugro-Finnic kindred, must be taken into account by the critic who is dealing with those main sources. The Chazars, to whom the Hungarians were once subject, the Patzinaks, who drove the Magyars from “Lebedia” to “Atelkuzu” and from “Atelkuzu” to Pannonia, and other peoples of the same kind, have profited by these investigations.
The foregoing instances will serve to give a general idea of the respects in which Gibbon’s history might be described as behind date. To follow out all the highways and byways of progress would mean the usurpation of at least a volume by the editor. What more has to be said, must be said briefly in notes and appendices. That Gibbon is behind date in many details, and in some departments of importance, simply signifies that we and our fathers have not lived in an absolutely incompetent world. But in the main things he is still our master, above and beyond “date.” It is needless to dwell on the obvious qualities which secure to him immunity from the common lot of historical writers, — such as the bold and certain measure of his progress through the ages; his accurate vision, and his tact in managing perspective; his discreet reserves of judgment and timely scepticism; the immortal affectation of his unique manner. By virtue of these superiorities he can defy the danger with which the activity of successors must always threaten the worthies of the past. But there is another point which was touched on in an earlier page and to which here, in a different connection, we may briefly revert. It is well to realise that the greatest history of modern times was written by one in whom a distrust of enthusiasm was deeply rooted.33 This cynicism was not inconsistent with partiality, with definite prepossessions, with a certain spite. In fact it supplied the antipathy which the artist infused when he mixed his most effective colours. The conviction that enthusiasm is inconsistent with intellectual balance was engrained in his mental constitution, and confirmed by study and experience. It might be reasonably maintained that zeal for men or causes is an historian’s marring, and that “reserve sympathy” — the principle of Thucydides — is the first lesson he has to learn. But without venturing on any generalisation we must consider Gibbon’s zealous distrust of zeal as an essential and most suggestive characteristic of the “Decline and Fall.”
[1 ]It is stated that there are also unimportant annotations in vols. iv. and vi.
[2 ]The influence of Gibbon’s picture of Julian can be discerned in Ibsen’s “Emperor and Galilæan.”
[3 ]In a footnote to the Autobiography.
[4 ]In some other cases I have corrected the text in this and the following volume. (1) vol. i. p. 69, n. 109; Sumelpur for Jumelpur, see Appendix 9. (2) vol. ii. p. 29, l. 8 from top; the reading of the received text “public” is surely a printer’s error, which escaped detection, for “republic,” which I have ventured to restore. (3) vol. ii. p. 55, l. 6 from foot, I have assumed an instance of “lipography.” (4) vol. ii. n. 35, “Lycius” had been already corrected (see Smith’s ed.) to “Lydius.” Probably Gibbon had his Zosimus open before him when he wrote this note, and his pen traced Lycius because Lycia happened to occur in the very next line of his authority. I have followed Sir William Smith’s precedent in dealing freely with the punctuation, and in modernising the spelling of a few words.
[5 ]In the Chronica Minora (M.G.H.), vol. i. 512 sqq. See vol. ii. p. 360.
[6 ]Gibbon had a notion of this, but did not apply it methodically. See in vol. ii. p. 227, note 59: “but those modern Greeks had the opportunity of consulting many writers which have since been lost.” And see, in general, his Preface to the fourth volume of the quarto ed.
[7 ]In Mahometan history in general, it may be added, not only has advance been made by access to new literary oriental documents, but its foundations have been more surely grounded by numismatic researches, especially those of Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole. This scholar’s recently published handbook containing tables and lists of the “Mohammadan” Dynasties is a guerdon for which students of history must be most deeply grateful. The special histories of Mahometan Sicily and Spain have been worked out by Amari and Dozy. For the Mongols we have the overwhelming results of Sir Henry Howorth’s learning and devotion to his “vasty” subject.
[8 ]It may be said for Gibbon, however, that even Mommsen, in his volume on the Provinces, has adopted this practice of blending evidence of different dates. For the historical artist, it is very tempting, when the evidence for any particular period is scanty; but in the eyes of the scientific historian it is indefensible.
[9 ]Especially the Corpus Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum.
[10 ]Usener, Der heilige Theodosios, 1890. Krumbacher, Studien zu den Legenden des heiligen Theodosios, 1892. It is worth while to state briefly what the chief problem is. The legends of the saints were collected, rehandled, cleansed of casual heresy, and put into literary form in the tenth century (towards its close according to Vasilievski) by Symeon Metaphrastes. Most of our MSS. are derived from the edition of Symeon; but there are also extant, some, comparatively few, containing the original pre-Symeonic versions, which formed the chief literary recreation of ordinary men and women before the tenth century. The problem is to collect the materials for a critical edition of as many legends as have been preserved in their original form. When that is done, we shall have the data for fully appreciating the methods of Symeon. As for the text Krumbacher points out that what we want is a thoroughgoing study of the Grammar of the MSS.
[11 ]M. Schlumberger followed up this work by an admirable monograph on Nicephorus Phocas, luxuriously illustrated; and we are looking forward to the appearance of a companion work on Basil II.
[12 ]The first volume of Mr. Pelham’s history of the Empire, which is expected shortly, will show, when compared with Merivale, how completely our knowledge of Roman institutions has been transformed within a very recent period.
[13 ]This has been best pointed out by C. Neumann.
[14 ]Chap. xlviii. ad init., where a full statement of his view of the later Empire will be found.
[15 ]I need not repeat here what I have said elsewhere, and what many others have said (recently Mr. Frederic Harrison in two essays in his volume entitled The Meaning of History), as to the various services of the Empire to Europe. They are beginning to be generally recognised and they have been brought out in Mr. C. W. Oman’s brief and skilful sketch of the “Byzantine Empire” (1892).
[16 ]Since then a Greek scholar, K. Paparrigopulos, has covered the whole history of Greece from the earliest times to the present century, in his Ἰστορία τον̂ Ἑλληνικον̂ ἔθνους. The same gigantic task, but in a more popular form, has been undertaken and begun by Professor Lambros, but is not yet finished.
[17 ]Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur (565-1453), 1891.
[18 ]I was seduced by this hypothesis of Ranke (Later Roman Empire, i. 363), but no longer believe in it.
[19 ]Procopiana, 1891.
[20 ]One of the author’s points is that Justinian was the real ruler during the nominal reign of Justin, who was an “ass.” Hence he dates Justinian’s administration (not of course his Imperial years) from 518. The consequence of this important discovery of Haury, which he has proved up to the hilt, is that the work was written in 550 (not, as before believed, in 559) — the thirty-second year of Justinian’s administration.
[21 ]The Life of Justinian by Theophilus, in the English Historical Review. Vasil’ev has given an account of Mr. Bryce’s article in the Vizantiski Vremennik, i. 469 sqq.
[22 ]The Persian and Lazic wars have been related in detail in my Later Roman Empire, vol. i.
[23 ]His new work on the reservoirs of Constantinople may be specially mentioned.
[24 ]Byzantina. Ocherki, materialy, i. zamietki po Vizantiskim drevnostiam. 1891-3. I must not omit to mention Dr. Mordtmann’s valuable Esquisse topographique (1892), and N. Destunis has made noteworthy contributions to the subject.
[25 ]With blameworthy indiscretion I accepted this false view of Paspatês, in my Later Roman Empire, without having gone methodically into the sources. I was misled by the fame won by the supposed “topographical discoveries” of this diligent antiquarian and by his undeservedly high reputation; this, however, is no excuse, and unfortunately the error has vitiated my account of the Nika revolt. I have gone into the theory of Paspatês in the Scottish Review (April, 1894), where he is treated too leniently. His misuse of authorities is simply astounding. I may take the opportunity of saying that I hope to rewrite the two volumes of my Later Roman Empire and correct, so far as I may be able, its many faults. A third volume, dealing with the ninth century, will, I hope, appear at a not too distant date.
[26 ]The Greek and the French versions were published by Buchon, uncritically. A new edition of the Greek text is promised by Dr. John Schmitt.
[27 ]The history of mediæval Athens has been recorded at length in an attractive work by Gregorovius, the counterpart of his great history of mediæval Rome.
[28 ]For a full account of Vulgär-griechische Litterature, I may refer to Krumbacher’s Gesch. der Byz. Litt. Here it is unnecessary to do more than indicate its existence and importance. I may add that the historian cannot neglect the development of the language, for which these romances (and other documents) furnish ample data. Here the Greeks themselves have an advantage, and scholars like Hatzidakês, Psicharês, and Jannarês are in this field doing work of the best kind.
[29 ]Fallmerayer’s thesis that there was no pure Hellenic blood in Greece was triumphantly refuted. No one denies that there was a large Slavonic element in the country parts, especially of the Peloponnesus.
[30 ]In a paper entitled, The Coming of the Hungarians, in the Scottish Review of July, 1892, I have discussed the questions connected with early Magyar history, and criticised Hunfalvy’s Magyarország Ethnographiája (1876) and Vámbéry’s A magyarok eredete (1882). One of the best works dealing with the subject has been written by a Slav (C. Grot).
[31 ]Ilovaiski’s work Istorija Rossii, vol. i. (Kiev period), is, though his main thesis is a mistake, most instructive.
[32 ]Chwolson, Izviestiia o Chozarach, Burtasach, Bolgarach, Madiarach, Slavaniach, i Rusach.
[33 ]And who regarded history as “little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind” (see below, p. 98).