Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/160

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

154 BATTLE OF CHALONS.


Cradled the Hun; from all the countless realms Between Imaus and that utmost strand Where columns of Herculean rock confront The blown Atlantic; Roman, Goth, and Hun, And Scythian strength of chivalry, that tread The cold Codanian shore, or what far lands Inhospitable drink Cimmerian floods, Franks, Saxons, Suevic, and Sarmatian chiefs. And who from green Armories or Spain Flocked to the work of death."*

The victory which the Roman general, Aetius, with his Gothic allies, had then gained over the Huns, was the last victory of imperial Rome. But among the long Fasti of her triumphs, few can he found that, for their importance and ultimate benefit to mankind, are comparable with this expiring effort of her arms. It did not, indeed, open to her any new career of conquest—it did not consolidate the relics of her power— it did not turn the rapid ebb of her fortunes. The mission of imperial Rome was, in truth, already accomplished. She had received and transmitted through her once ample dominion the civilization of Greece. She had broken up the barriers of narrow nationalities among the various states and tribes that dwelt around the coasts of the Mediterranean. She had fused these and many other races into one organized empire, bound together by a community of laws, of government, and institutions. Under the shelter of her full power the True Faith had arisen in the earth, and during the years of her decline it had been nourished to maturity, it had overspread all the provinces that ever obeyed her sway.† For no beneficial purpose to mankind could the dominion of the seven-hilled city have been restored or prolonged. But it "was *all-important to mankind what nations should divide among them Rome's rich inheritance of empire. Whether the Germanic and Gothic warriors should form states and kingdoms out of the fragments of her dominions, and become the free members of the commonwealth of Christian Europe; or whether pagan savages, from the wilds of Central Asia, should crush the relics of classic civilization and the early institutions of the Christianized Germans in one hopeless chaos of barbaric conquest. The Christian Visigoths of King Theodoric fought and triumphed at Chalons, side by side with the

  • Herbert's "Attila," book i., line 13.

† See the Introduction to Ranke's "History of the Popes"