Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/757

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735
SCHOLASTIC PRELUDE TO MODERN SCIENCE.

record of centuries as having escaped the influence of great or frequent immigrations, while the short-lived nations of the West have been repeatedly changed or destroyed by the admixture of foreign elements. The laws which have controlled the destinies of nations in the past are still in operation; as the Preacher has said, "That which has been done is that which will be done, and there is no new thing under the sun."

 

THE SCHOLASTIC PRELUDE TO MODERN SCIENCE.[1]
By HENRY DUNCAN MACLEOD, M. A.

IN the latter half of the sixteenth century a wondrous change came over the spirit of the nation which then held the foremost place in culture and civilization.

After twelve centuries of existence, the Niobe of nations had fulfilled her destiny. By the middle of the fifth century her empire, which had extended from the Euphrates to the Tagus, and from the Forth to the cataracts of the Nile, had seen province after province rent away from her, and had shrunk within the limits of Italy. Rome, which had not seen a foreign foe for seven centuries, had been four times sacked by the barbarians. The free yeomen of the bright days of the republic had perished in the civil wars. The land was parceled out among a small number of gigantic proprietors, and cultivated exclusively by slaves. Tillage had nearly ceased, and all the supplies of corn came from the provinces. With the loss of these the supplies failed, and the population was reduced to the lowest depths of misery. War, pestilence, and famine desolated whole provinces. The army was a host of mercenary barbarians. In 476 they peremptorily demanded that one third of the lands of Italy should be divided among them. The youthful Emperor had the spirit to refuse this demand, and took refuge in Pavia, where he was immediately besieged: the town was captured and pillaged: and the Emperor laid down his uneasy crown. The Senate ignominiously surrendered the vacant authority to the Emperor of the East; and Odoacer, the military commander, reigned in Italy. One third of the lands was immediately confiscated and divided among the successful mutineers.

Sixteen years afterward, a new swarm of barbarians under Theodoric conquered the country and effected new confiscations and settlements; and for thirty years the land enjoyed peace and prosperity under the reign of the wise Theodoric. But in 568, Alboin, King of the Lombards, introduced a new host, and founded a dynasty which

  1. Abstracted from Macleod's "Elements of Economics," Book I, "History of Economics." D. Appleton & Co.