Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/161

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

BATTLE OF CHALONS. 155


legions of Aetius. Their joint victory over the Hunnish host not only rescued for a time from destruction the old age of Rome, but preserved for centuries of power and glory the Germanic element in the civilization of modern Europe.

In order to estimate the full importance to mankind of the battle of Chalons, we must keep steadily in mind who and what the Germans were, and the important distinctions between them and the numerous other races that assailed the Roman empire; and it is to be understood that the Gothic and Scandinavian nations are included in the German race. Now, "in two remarkable traits, the Germans differed from the Sarmatic as well as from the Slavic nations, and, indeed, from all those other races to whom the Greeks and Romans gave the designation of barbarians. I allude to their personal freedom and regard for the rights of men; secondly, to the respect paid by them to the female sex, and the chastity for which the latter were celebrated among the people of the North. These were the foundations of that probity of character, self-respect, and purity of manners which may be traced among the Germans and Goths even during pagan times, and which, when their sentiments were enlightened by Christianity, brought out those splendid traits of character which distinguish the age of chivalry and romance."* What the intermixture of the German stock with the classic, at the fall of the Western empire, has done for mankind, may be best felt by watching, with Arnold, over how large a portion of the earth the influence of the German element is now extended.

"It affects, more or less, the whole west of Europe, from the head of the Gulf of Bothnia to the most southern promontory of Sicily, from the Oder and the Adriatic to the Hebrides and to Lisbon. It is true that the language spoken over a large portion of this space is not predominantly German; but even in France, and Italy, and Spain, the influence of the Franks, Burgundians, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and Lombards, while it has colored even the language, has in blood and institutions left its mark legibly and indelibly. Germany, the Low Countries, Switzerland for the most part, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and our own islands, are all in language, in blood, and in institutions, German most decidedly. But all South America is peopled with

  • See Prichard's "Researches into the Physical History of Man," vol.

iii., p, 423.