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Victor, who succeeded Eleutherius as Bishop of Rome, A.D. 189, took very harsh measures for enforcing uniformity, threatening to excommunicate the Asiatics, but on S. Irenæus addressing him a letter, warning him that the effect of this would be to rend the Catholic Church in pieces, he was prevailed on not to make such a question a ground for a breach of communion, and the question was more calmly debated until finally settled by the Council of Nicæa. S. Irenæus had won his right to intercede by his sacred descent, his unfaltering labours, his mercy and charity, his spotless faith, and his untainted worship. Eusebius, after recounting in his History some parts of this letter, adds, Irenæus fulfilled all the signification of his name (Irenæus in Greek meaning the Peace-maker), showed himself a true lover of peace, by the sweetness of his manners, by the moderation of his conduct, and by the beautiful things which he wrote and undertook for the Church.'
S. Jerome greatly praises the works of S. Irenæus, and S. Basil uses them to prove the Divinity of the Holy Spirit. S. Augustin values them for their refutation of the Pelagians and Julian. S. Clement of Alexander, S. Cyril of Jerusalem, and Theodoret, unite in praising S. Irenæus in their works. The last calls him the Light of the Western Gauls,' and Tertullian places him amongst the number of those great persons who are distinguished by their piety and by their genius.
The writings of S. Irenæus prompted S. Epiphanius to remark, “this admirable old man is one filled with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, an athlete full of force and vigour, covered by the heavenly arms, always ready to combat against the enemies of the truth, and who, by the help of a sincere faith and solid doctrine, discovers and overthrows all their lies.' The leading feature in the character of Marcus Aurelius was his devotion to the Stoic philosophy-his earlier education had been committed to Cornelius Fronto, who enjoyed the greatest reputation among the Roman rhetoricians of the time, and to the Greek, Herodes Atticus.
Marcus Aurelius read immensely, and was insatiable in acquiring knowledge. He complains of want of time to occupy himself with intellectual pursuits, but then he consoles himself with the thought that in exerting all his powers for the good of the Empire and the army he is doing his duty and fulfilling his mission. In his meditations he has left us a beautiful if sad picture of his life. There certainly never was a prince more generally beloved than Marcus Aurelius, yet with all his excellencies and virtues an evil fate seemed ever to hang over him.
The golden days of the Empire had already begun to darken, and to the public troubles which had encompassed the Emperor, domestic calamities were added. Aunius, the eldest of Aurelius' two sons, died of a decline in his early youth ; while Commodus, whose education had been entrusted to Fronto, was in every way unworthy of his father. It is possible that the character of Faustina, the wife of Marcus Aurelius and daughter of Antoninus Pius, has been described in blacker colours than it deserves, through her bad disposition cannot be denied. Marcus Aurelius died on the frontier of the Marcomanni before the war against them was brought to a close, A.D. 180. As it has been remarked, it seems most sad that the Light, which had already enlightened the Gentiles, should never have reached the noblest of them.
The remains of Marcus Aurelius were taken to Rome, where they were interred, with the ordinary solemnities, in a mausoleum ; probably that which Hadrian caused to be built.
The character of the Emperor is thus summed up by Tillemont. As the smallest things may do harm to the reputation of a prince, Marcus Aurelius took care to do everything with precaution and maturity. He did nothing negligently, but weighed well all that he wrote or spoke, devoting at times whole days to matters which seemed little worthy of so great application ; the imperial dignity had not produced in him any arrogance, he treated all persons as if he were their equal, allowing those of rank to be served as himself, and to have the same officers. Nor did he allow his guards to prevent any one from accosting him, for he placed his grandeur not so much in communicating with persons under the pretext of attracting respect, as in making all the world feel the effects of his goodness and fatherly care like a god.'
Though early trained by Antoninus in the conduct of affairs, and well versed both by study and practice in the arts of governing, Marcus Aurelius never did anything, whether it was in war or the government of the State, without communicating with those who were in authority about him, and often said, 'It is more fitting that I should follow the advice of so many persons who love me, than that they should be obliged to submit to the will of one man.'
Aurelius was succeeded by his son Commodus, who was quite unworthy to be placed at the head of an Empire. His character and history have been tersely and well epitomised as follows : “Commodus adorned his shoulders with the skin of a lion, and, arming himself with a knotted club, fought with the gladiators, and boasted of his dexterity in killing the wild beasts in the amphitheatre. So great was his vanity and luxury, that he powdered his head with immense quantities of gold-dust, and when he appeared uncovered in the meridian sun, his head glittered as if he were surrounded by it. He was one of the most wicked princes that ever reigned, the enemy of the gods, the enemy of his country, the executioner of the Christians ; the gladiator more cruel than Domitian, more infamous than Nero, more luxurious than Caligula, and more stupid than Claudius.'*
CAMEOS FROM ENGLISH HISTORY.
THE MISSION OF ALVA.
1567—1568. JUDGMENT of the characters of the men of these times is very difficult. The men who acted conscientiously often transgressed what appear to us the great and simple rules of humanity, truth, equity, and mercy; yet they went on high, uncompromising notions of right, and deemed that they were maintaining the honour of God and His Church, and only fulfilling His commands by trying to crush out heresy. The chief blame rests with their system rather than themselves, though greater men would have gone deeper and known that physical coercion in spiritual matters was utterly alien to the spirit of Christianity. Philip II. had enough of his father in him to hang long in doubt whether to proceed to extremities with the Low Countries, so beloved by Charles V. and so valuable to his crown. The letters are extant in which he sought counsel from the Pope, without whose advice he seldom acted.
As an Italian, and devoid of all sympathy with the northern spirit of independence, Pius bade him put down the Dutch disturbances in Church and State with the utmost severity, and he chose for his instrument one as devout and unflinching as himself, but with far more activity and readiness, Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alva, the most distinguished captain in Spain, now just sixty years old, having been trained in the wars of Charles V. He was a tall, thin man, very upright, with a small head, long narrow face, dark eyes and hair, a sallow complexion, and a long forked and grizzled beard. His manners were grave, stately, and reserved, after the Spanish ideal ; he was unstained by any of the grosser vices, and he was viewed as a mirror of undeviating chivalry and loyalty ; but the code of Spain at that time was utterly merciless towards all who did not hold the Catholic faith, and all idea of honour and good faith towards heretics and unbelievers had been studiously avoided. To a Spaniard, Alva thus appeared a most noble personage, while to all who judged by other standards, he became a proverb for cool, treacherous ferocity.
Pius V., who, chiefly by the influence of Cardinal Borromeo, had been elected Pope in 1565, was a man of pure, pious, ascetic life, who relaxed none of his self-denying habits when Pope, was perfectly unworldly and uncompromising, and so personally forgiving, that he would not punish a man who had tried to assassinate him, only saying, 'See how God protects the innocent.' He did much to carry out the decrees of the Council of Trent for reformation of the discipline of the clergy; he never showed special favour to his own family, avoided all the ordinary temptations of Popes, and was in all respects a saintly person. But he could never understand that spiritual offences ought not to be dealt with by temporal weapons, and thus his very unworldliness made him terribly implacable, since he was withheld by no considerations of expediency. He was much under the influence of the Jesuits, who had hitherto been little esteemed at the Spanish court, because they were said to be often sprung of families where there was a mixture of Jewish blood, so unjustly despised by the Spaniard. It is by no means improbable that the ability and devotion inherent in the Israel of old should have found occupation in that wonderful order.
Philip II. and Pius V. admired one another greatly, so much so, that when the King fell sick, the Pope prayed that years might be taken from his life to be added to those of this champion of the Church. The King wrote constantly to Pius and consulted him on every matter of conscience, public or private, and it is to this good old man that the most terrible cruelties of Philip's reign are attributable. For Philip had enough of his father left in him to hesitate long to use extreme measures with the Netherlands ; but it was the Pope who decided him that it was his duty to extermiate heresy and rebellion.
Alva, therefore, was sent out, and his last adventure before going was a strange one. Philip's only son, Don Carlos, whom we have seen behaving rudely and ungraciously to his grandfather, as time went on had not improved. No doubt he was really weak in intellect, as was only too likely in the child of first cousins, both alike descended from the insane Juana of Aragon; and his royal rank only led to his overweening pride, encouraging him in sullenness and violence. After a severe fall down a staircase, when his head was seriously hurt, his insanity seems to have been beyond a doubt. He threw his chamberlain out of the window for being slow in answering his bell, and when a pair of tight boots were sent him, actually had them chopped up and boiled, and then forced the unhappy maker to eat them, swearing at the same time that they were sent by a plot of his father's. He hated the King above all, and next to him, all the ministers, especially the Duke of Alva. Indeed, he had taken it into his head that he himself ought to be regent of the Netherlands, and when Alva went to take leave of him before departing on the mission, he sprang upon the Duke with a dagger, howling with fury. They rolled on the floor, Alva defending himself, but not hurting the prince, till the attendants could drag him away.
To leave a maniac like him to inherit a throne was impossible, and Philip caused the unhappy youth to be imprisoned. What happened then no one knows. All seems to have been told to the Pope, but Philip's letters to him have not yet seen the light. That Carlos died in prison at twenty-three, some time in 1568, is all that is certain; but
his death remained a secret for several months. It was said to have been caused by a fever, but it was universally believed that it was not a natural death. If Philip did indeed decide on his suffering for his offences in secret, it was a terrible alternative between an act of dark cruelty and leaving the kingdom to a ferocious madman.
However, Philip was so much hated that the worst motives were ascribed to him. Some fancied Carlos a secret Protestant, put to death by the Inquisition lest he should espouse the cause of the persecuted Reformers in the Netherlands. Others, more romantically, made out that his melancholy was caused by disappointment at having been deprived of Elizabeth of France, who had been proposed as his wife, and that he was the victim of his father's jealousy, while, as she died about the time of his imprisonment, she was thought to have suffered for him! On this supposition was founded Schiller's drama of Don Carlos, which gave the story all the grace of high tragedy.
But Carlos was only twelve years old, and had never seen his stepmother at the time of his father's marriage; nor is there the least evidence that he ever cared for her, while she could only have looked on the crazy, dissipated lad with pity and disgust. She seems to have been very fairly happy. Philip loved her as well as he could love any one, and treated her with much respect and courtesy ; but she had the delicate constitution of her family, and died in 1568, leaving one only daughter, Isabel Clara Eugenia. It is quite possible that all these family troubles may have tended to render Philip more implacable towards the two cousing.
With Alva went 10,000 picked troops. Brantôme, the gossiping Frenchman who has vividly described all the chief persons of his time, travelled to Lorraine on purpose to see this army. All, even the privates, wore engraved or gilded armour, and carried muskets, then used for the first time, instead of the clumsy old harquebus, and each had his own esquire in attendance. There were nearly 9,000 of these, and 1,200 men-at-arms on horseback, heavily accoutred, and no doubt each with at least three attendants. They had been trained to the perfection of soldierly movement, and were undauntedly courageous and utterly merciless and rapacious, like nothing so much as a legion of disciplined tigers. Alva thought his work would be easy. 'I have tamed men of iron in my day,' he said. "Shall I not easily tame these men of butter?'
They marched from Genoa to Luxemburg, while the Regent Duchess of Parma expected their arrival with dread, dismay, and indignation,
At Tirlemont, on the 22nd of August, 1567, Count Egmont came out with his retinue and a present of some fine horses to welcome the representative of the sovereign. Alva received him coldly, and afterwards said to his attendants, Behold the greatest of the heretics !' though in fact Egmont was as good a Catholic as 'himself, and only was anxious to keep the Spanish Inquisition out of the country.