Page:Historical characteristics of the Celtic race.djvu/21

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of the Rhone. It is a delicious story, told by Appian, and bears internal marks, as we shall see, of being true to the letter. The Gallic tribe, the Allobroges, whom we know, had given offence to the Romans by receiving the refugee chiefs of another tribe, the Salyes, whom the consul was reducing and subduing. Domitius, the consul, is angry, but the chief, or king, as he is styled, of the Allobroges, sends an ambassador in great state and formality to deprecate his anger. The interview is amusing, and the contrast very notable, as between the poetical and romantic Gaul and the cold, matter-of-fact Roman. Out of politeness to the Roman general, the Gaul arrives richly dressed, and having with him a brilliant train, also a number of fine dogs, the sign of an ancient as of a modern gentleman. But what he trusted to most to make an impression was, would you believe it?—his Bard, whom he brings with him, much as the Highland Chieftain would be incomplete without his piper (Piobair-mor), and he sings the glories of all concerned, μουσικός τε ἀνὴρ εἴπετο ὑμνῶν τὸν βασιλέυ, κ. τ. λ..

It is a scene in ancient times much like that where the impulsive Frenchman Jules Favre tried in recent days to touch the heart of Bismarck by an epigram. Domitius, we are told, was not moved any more than Bismarck by this picturesque politeness, for the ambassador was told to withdraw, having failed in his purpose. That is the comic side of the picture. Here is the tragic. These same Allobroges, at a later time, came in contact with the terrible tragedy that we know as the Catilinarian conspiracy. They were the unconscious occasion of the bursting out of that terrible social gangrene. Much of the story, in so far as the Allobroges are concerned, reads like a bit of contemporary history; the crofter population, of which we hear so much, are now suffering exactly as did the Allobroges in the ancient days, when they felt the pressure of remorseless economical laws, and listened for a time to the overtures of revolutionists like Catiline. The story I prefer to tell in the words of George Long, from which you will see that the Gauls of ancient times got into impecunious and over-peopled conditions. "In Gaul," says Strabo (p. 178), "no part of it remains unproductive except where there are swamps or forests, and even these parts are inhabited, yet rather on account of the populousness than by reason of the industry of the people; for the women are good