Imatges de pÓgina

theological manner, after the fashion of the day; this, however, does not alter the true historic reality of what she termed her' voices.'

In Joan of Arc, then, we may see with absolute clearness how under the circumstances of certain periods of history, character turns the balance and decides the course of events.

We have already remarked that both in ancient and in ecclesiastical history this deeply engaging study of character in history may be pursued with the greatest profit. If Hebrew history is one pre-eminently of character, Greek history is one of character and beauty, while Roman history is one of character and authority. Could any neat psychological formula unfold the full contents of these three vast terms—character, beauty, authority-one might write ancient history on a score of pages. These terms are, however, so rich, and have aspects so manifold, that it is only after the most varied observation of five to ten different types of civilisation in Europe and outside Europe that the student of history begins to feel the wealth of things, forces and ideas contained in those terms. The recluse bookworm indeed thinks that character, beauty, and authority are among the simplest concepts of every day's small experience; and to him it appears, no doubt, shallow to call Roman history one of character and authority. We are here fortunately not concerned with mere pedants ; and the experienced reader will readily see that like money, business, gentlemen, and many another term of apparent simplicity, it takes, as a rule, a long life of rich observation and suffering before one quite seizes the full meaning of character, beauty, and authority.

Already in a former passage we spoke of the singularly grand character of Moses as the great driving force of the most critical time of Hebrew history. When we now turn to a brief consideration of the Hebrew prophets, we shall find the same force based on the same grandeur of character. In other countries, such as ancient Rome and most modern continental polities, the leading men of the nation are, as a rule, the incumbents of some office or public position, whether it is that of a consul, tribune, or that of a modern minister or M.P. In the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. the leading men of the Hebrew nation had no such official post or position. The prophets were private men who had no official titles nor posts. They were men without any official distinction. Yet it was from them that the strongest currents of Hebrew national life were originating. It was through them that the Hebrew nation took heart in the fearful trials to which it was then exposed. The prophets did not pretend to be wiser in point of knowledge or philosophy than was the rest of the Hebrews. They did not pretend to shine as superior intellects. Their force, the secret of their influence, was largely the impressive. ness of character. They preserved intact in their hearts the great belief, the great hope of the Israelites. Where most people wavered they remained firm. In the midst of material ruin they still upheld the possibility of a spiritual realm which no Assyrian nor Babylonian foe could ever destroy. It is in this lofty character of theirs that they have, in spite of all outward disaster, succeeded in perpetuating the belief and unity of the Israelites. The prophets gave to their nation that ethical force which is the very heart of monotheism proper. For monotheism does not consist merely of a desire or willing. ness to acknowledge a certain number of a Divine Power, namely the number One. It consists mainly in the full assurance that, as the Godhead is only One, so our own soul has essentially only one great force, the force of strong and purified ethical character. It is this, the inner aspect of monotheism, that renders it the most powerful of religions. The Hebrew prophets, by setting their countrymen an example of the ethic power of monotheism, became their true leaders and saviours.

In Roman history we find character dominating to such an extent that we cannot unduly wonder at the mistake of numerous historians who held that character made the whole of Roman history. It is indeed but too natural that anyone contemplating the central figure, or rather type, of Roman history down to the middle of the second century B.C.—we mean the stern and sturdy Roman paterfamilias—is readily induced to believe that the force of the Romans was character. A Roman paterfamilias as we know him both from the authentic remains of the Twelve Tables, or Code of Law (450 B.C.), from various other laws, from the comedies of Plautus, and from the reports of the historians—the paterfamilias, we say, was the head and priest and, in law, the owner of his family. His own wife was, in law, his child ; his son was, just as his slave, his bondman. He disposed of the money or income of his children without any limit of time, until he chose to emancipate them. In all his dealings with other Romans he assumed a most forbidding attitude of rigour, or of what, with a more philosophical term, we should now call individualism. Each Roman paterfamilias appeared like a self-contained castle, admitting into its halls only a very few people, and constantly preparing for defence on the slightest symptom of aggression.

It is manifest that, in a State where the substantial burgesses are of the type of the Roman paterfamilias as above described, a great many features of what we call character are bound to receive a very strong development. The atmosphere of ancient Rome, it will be seen, was overcharged with ethical electricity, and we cannot wonder that in a city-state, where the position of the ordinary citizen was one of extraordinary domestic authority, the position of the magistrates was one of extraordinary public authority. In fact, the various magistracies of Republican Rome consisted practically of a very restricted number of annual officials, to each of whom a boundless power was entrusted, controlled only by the boundless power with which their respective colleagues or other magistracies had been invested. This strange and apparently absurd system was nevertheless the most efficient system ever devised by men, and it continues to exist, to the present day, in the essentially identical system of the Roman Catholic Church.

It is a system that borrows, it will be seen, many an essential organ from the psychological forces of character. Modern overstrung criticism has indeed tried to do away with most of the famous stories of Mucius Scaevola, Horatius Cocles, Cincinnatus, Coriolanus, and so many other great examples of Roman virtus and character. But, without here examining the value of such philological criticism, which is nil, we may very pertinently point out the fact that those stories relate the very facts that one would expect to have actually happened in a city-state so permeated by the powers of character. Where, as in Rome, discipline was carried out in every single household with a rigour and sternness bordering on cruelty, there indeed examples of high-minded acts of discipline and civic courage may readily be expected to have happened in the public life of the nation too. Far from doubting the historic reality of those celebrated acts of Roman patriotism and self-sacrifice, we must rather consider their number handed down to us as a mere fraction of the total. Manifest impossibilities alone can entitle us to cast doubts on them.

We have seen in a previous section that in Rome character was raised to a higher potency by authority. It would be in vain to try to ascribe the unparalleled success of the Romans to some' innate' superiority of their character alone. In Rome there was much character ; there was much system too. Had her constitution not worked for authority as much as it did for character the Romans could not have established their unique Empire. With this allowance, however, we may very well view some of the great personalities of Roman history as virtuosi of character. What really constitutes the imposing grandeur of her great men is their character. A man like Scipio Africanus had no doubt considerable military genius, and an intelligent and genuine interest in matters of culture and art. Yet his chief trait was his character. That to his unbending persistence and unwavering steadfastness he added much charm of manner and affability, that adorns rather than constitutes his whole personality. He could not really hope to vie with his great rival Hannibal in point of military genius. He defeated him, it is true, at Zama ; but this defeat put an end to Hannibal's resistance not because the great Carthaginian was utterly nonplussed, but because the Carthaginians, having lost all courage, deserted Hannibal. The Romans did not give up their fight against Hannibal even after a score of Hannibal's signal victories; the Carthaginians resigned themselves to submission after one great defeat at the hands of Scipio. The great Roman, then, embodied in his noble character all the unbroken manliness of the Romans, while Hannibal embodied only his own personal genius. Scipio represented a great nation ; Hannibal

Vol. LXIII - No. 372


represented a great personality. In Scipio character was rendered an irresistible power by its being the plastic cumulation of untold numbers of the individual wills of an entire nation ; in Hannibal there was only the cumulation of the gifts and endowments of his own father Hamilcar and of himself. Scipio was not greater than his nation ; Hannibal was.

In all Roman history, so largely based on character, we note that peculiar, if natural, phenomenon, that previous to Julius Caesar not one of Rome's men stood head and shoulders above the rest of his countrymen. Cincinnatus, Fabius Maximus, the first great Marcellus, Aemilius Paulus, and so many other illustrious Romans were men of great worth, dignity and power. They were, however, not essentially greater than many of their less famous contemporaries. To each great Roman known to history there must have been several hundred anonymous parallels not recorded in our sources. The difference between even Marcellus and very many other anonymous Romans was one of degree, not of kind. It was quite different in Athens. There some great personalities were indeed essentially greater than the average Athenian. In Rome, where signal distinction was related chiefly to character, there could not possibly be a considerable difference between man and man. We remarked above that in character there is little, if any, chance for new and unprecedented discoveries or novelties. This alone proves conclusively that in point of character there were in Rome between men and men only differences of degree. Character is, by its very intensity, restricted, not to say

Intellect indeed is all-comprehensive, and new departures in intellect are constantly possible. No Roman before Caesar could thus hope, or even seriously desire, to distance his fellow-citizens in point of character to any extraordinary extent.

It was quite different with Julius Caesar. He is the first Roman who distanced the Romans of his time in point of character as well as in point of intellectual and political insight. Although the greatest of the Romans, or perhaps for this very reason, he is really a Greek of the highest type. The sweet and charmingly amiable winningness of his character was entirely un-Roman; his intense interest in all intellectual pursuits was essentially opposed to Roman callousness to science and philosophy. He indeed surpassed the Romans. In him originated a new Rome, the Roman Empire. It is significant to note how in Roman history, where character prevailed to such a considerable extent, the first personality, distancing his contemporaries in kind and not merely in degree, appears at the end of the first great period. In Sparta, at Athens, and in other Greek city-states this is not so. Philopoemen is no match for Themistocles.

Julius Caesar is at the same time the founder and the prototype of that Empire that in the first century of our era embraced all the nations of the cultured world. In it, for a time, all the forces and tendencies of the human soul seemed to rest upon a common basis, just


as its principal rivers nearly all flowed into the Mediterranean. In Caesar there was as much of the dignity and strenuousness of character as of the graces of intellect, and the warmth of the heart. He was 8 man, yet not unsimilar in some respects to a delicate woman. He was a man of action, yet a very great writer and scholar. In him we see character refreshed and adorned by intellect; and mental gifts steadied by firm character. No wonder Caesar has at all times appeared to men as an altogether exceptional person. All Grecian and Roman history combined, as it were, to produce the greatest of all Romans. Several Greek statesmen were, it would seem, fully as great as Caesar. Certainly Pericles was Caesar's equal in every respect, save the imposing extent of area over which he commanded. Yet Caesar was a permanently successful Pericles on the grandest scale.

In modern history, as we have seen, personality has played, on the whole, & róle of minor importance as compared with the times of classical antiquity. In fact, there is practically only one personality in modern history who, in many respects, is a true rival of the great personalities of antiquity, and in whom character of the mightiest force has had ample play. We mean Napoleon. He has, more especially by H. Taine, been likened to the men of the Renaissance. It is more correct to place him beside the men of classical antiquity. His intellect was indeed a most finely and evenly balanced instrument of thought, memory, and imagination. Yet his intellect alone could not have raised him to the height of his unparalleled position. It was the indomitable power of his character that turned circumstances, chances, and ideas into a mighty army of conquest and organisation. We are still too near to this colossal figure to be able to judge of him adequately. It is, however, certain that there was in Napoleon, in addition to the genius of the intellect, a genius of character, if one may use this expression. His very faults, nay, blunders, are manifestly the faults and blunders of character. He, together with the other character-Titans of history, help us to see more clearly how character, when given sufficient elbow-room by the impersonal causes of history, may influence the trend of events to an incredible extent. The very progressiveness innate in human intellect is hostile to the individual intelligence ; whereas character, less elastic, less progressive, ranges itself with all the conservative and staying forces of history. The error, then, of the casual student of history consists either in a total neglect of the influence of character on human events, or in an exaggerated estimation of the effect of character on all the periods of history. Character, too, has its history; and it is part of the most important tasks of the historian to allot to character its due place in the array of the causes that have produced the great drama of man.


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