Page:Romance of History, Mexico.djvu/25
THE AWAKENING OF SPAIN
was destined to display, singularly unlike the vigour of the modern world, except, perhaps, in its greed for riches. So marked it was in its outline, that to this day we associate with the word "Spaniard" the dominant qualities of the heroes of her golden age. To understand the conquerors of Mexico, it may help if we look at the stock and circumstances from which they sprang.
Nearly seventeen centuries before the fall of Granada, restless warring tribes, hemmed in by the sea before them and the Pyrenees behind, possessed the land of Spain. Pure Celt, or pure Iberian, or blended Celtiberian, these men had retained in their mountain fastnesses, through centuries of conflict, a fierce and untamed spirit. Nowhere within her boundaries had all-conquering Rome to face a more determined foe, just as nowhere within her boundaries did her intellectual supremacy bear finer fruit. The courage, the love of adventure, and the intelligence of the Spaniard are qualities ingrained in his stock.
With the decay of the Roman empire, Hispania, enfeebled by Roman luxury, fell almost without a blow when Frank and Sueve, Vandal and Goth, bursting unopposed through the Pyrenees, traversed her from end to end. Three hundred years did Gothic kings hold turbulent sway over a conquered and sullen people. Christians the conquerors were, but arrogant and luxurious; though rude and ignorant they were not deterred by their faith from living in their rock-castles like brigand chiefs. Sudden was their downfall. In the days of King Roderic there