Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

tower,

ancient date, reaching back for nearly a the struggle, but they considered themthousand years, and maintained by the selves bound in honor to defend their recollection of the abduction of women prince's possession of his paramour. and the resulting wars. The first trou. Even the very old men, whose voices ble of this kind was the carrying off of had the treble tone, and whose veins Io, an Argive maid, by the Phænicians. were almost bloodless, did not desire Then the Greeks stole away Europa, her surrender. the daughter of the king of Tyre, and

“ These, when the Spartan queen approached the she was in the myth represented as the spirit of intelligence and refinement with In secret owned resistless beauty's power ; whom civilization crossed the Ægean, They cried, “No wonder such resistless charms

For nine long years have set the world in arms.'" and who gave character and name to the continent which has since had the lead- Notwithstanding the decided preponership in progress. When Jason led the derance of military power on the side of Argonauts to Colchis on the eastern the Greeks, they were in much peril of coast of the Black Sea in search of the ultimate failure, on account of a quarrel Golden Fleece, he met Medea, who lov- between two of their leaders about aned and assisted him, and then eloped other woman. In a distribution of Trowith him. The Greeks thus overdrew jan captives, Chryseis and Briseis, two their account, and gave to Paris an ex- beautiful girls, were given, the first to cuse for running off with the wife of Agamemnon and the second to Achilles. Menelaus. Excuse, however, was prob- Chryseis was, however, the daughter of ably the last thing in his mind. He had a priest of Apollo, and when a ransom been led into the affair by fate. Three was tendered, it was necessary to surgoddesses, after a rivalry in heaven, had render her, whereupon her late master, come down to earth and applied to him who was the commander-in-chief of the to decide between their relative attrac- besieging army, and as such entitled to tions, and then, instead of trusting to exceptional consideration, at a meeting his impartial judgment, undertook by of the chiefs demanded another captive common consent to bribe him. Juno to replace the one surrendered for the offered him power, Minerva wisdom, good of the cause. Achilles taking of and Venus the most beautiful woman in fense, spoke very sharply; Agamemnon the world. He made the only decision replied in a still angrier tone, and the that could be expected from a young result was that the latter seized Briseis. man under the circumstances; and he The despoiled hero swore that he would was not only fairly entitled to the reward take no further part in the war, and for promised by the queen of love, but en- some days Hector, no longer opposed titled to its undisturbed possession. It by the only Greek whom he feared, made was a violation of the bargain when his frightful slaughter among the besiegers. title to Helen proved to be bad, as if a At last, however, Achilles avenged the man had sold a horse which he did not death of his friend Patroclus by slaying own and then refused to protect the pur- Hector, and soon Troy was in ruins, a chaser.

sacrifice to Helen. When Agamemnon The gods permitted the Greeks to returned from this war he was murderunite their forces and besiege the city ed by Ægystheus, the paramour of his of Priam to recover the stolen woman. wife Clytemnestra, and this crime was For ten long years the siege continued, only one of a long and dark series that and at any time the Trojans could have beset the blood of Atreus to which Agended it by surrendering the object of amemnon belonged. The fate of the Atridæ became proverbial for its tragic fice the welfare of Athens to it. The character, and in many instances wom- thorough military discipline of the Sparen were the cause of their misfortunes. tans gave them such a superiority in the

The taking of Briseis and the treason field that the Athenians were finally overof Ægystheus were not causes of ill el- thrown, and, though two thousand years ing between Europe and Asia, and are have elapsed in the meantime, the world not mentioned by Herodotus, who refers is still waiting to see another city so rich very briefly to the Trojan war, to which, relatively in great statesmen, authors, however, he attributes a serious influ- and artists. ence in the mind of Iarius, who under- As Troy, Persia, and Athens owed took to avenge that as well as other of their destruction to feminine influence, fenses committed by the Greeks against so did Sparta. It was by dressing as a his continent. We can smile at the idea woman that Pelopidas and his associates that such a motive could be ascribed to delivered Thebes from Spartan tyranny. him, but the fact shows how much influ- When the despondent Boeotians were ence was attributed among the Greeks at Leuctra, about to give a pitched batto quarrels about women. It is certain tle with an equal force to the Lacedethat the invasions of Greece by Darius, monians, who had never failed to conand Xerxes were prominent considera- quer under such circumstances, Epamtions in the minds of Alexander and his inondas changed the mood of his army army in stimulating the expedition for to confidence by reminding them that the conquest of Persia; and when Al- the enemy had encamped upon the exander had taken Persepolis, he burn- ground where two Theban maids, after ed it at the request of Thais, a Grecian having been outraged by Spartans, had courtesan, who demanded this vengeance called down the curses of the gods upon for the burning of Athens by Xerxes. the race of the offenders, and had prov

The Peloponnesian war one of the ed their purity and given efficacy to their most disastrous of all wars for the cause appeal for vengeance by a mutual and of civilization — was attributed by com- sacrificial suicide. That day saw the mon rumor to the influence of a woman. end of Sparta's harsh and haughty It began in 433 B.C., and, after contin- hegemony. The Theban maids were uing thirty years, ended with the con- avenged. quest of Athens, the destruction of the The dominion of Rome was lost thrice Athenian empire, the impoverishment of on account of women. The authority of the Hellenic states generally, and the the kings was overthrown because of the close of the most glorious period of an- wrong done to Lucretia by Tarquin, and cient culture. This lamentable contest that of the decemvirs because of Appius began when Pericles was in the height Claudius' attempt to take Virginia from of his power as the head of the Athenian her father. Mark Antony neglected the administration, and when the parlor of people, the army, and navy, to pay court Aspasia was his daily resort, the scene to Cleopatra, and, through her, the fall of his chief pleasures, and the source of of the empire and of himself was decidmany of his inspirations. She was born ed at Actium. The Egyptian queen in Miletus, and as the war arose from a had previously conquered Pompey, and quarrel in which that city was a promi- Cæsar, who had conquered the world. nent party, there was reason to suspect Wherever women have been permitthat Aspasia had gratified her sympa- ted to wear the honors or take part in thies with her native land by inducing the ceremonies of religion, they have Pericles to espouse its cause and sacri- been its most zealous advocates. In

spreading Christianity they have played venturous Moslem, on an expedition to a prominent part. The conversion of carry off a nun who had expressed a Constantine was attributed mainly to wish to leave the ascetic life. the influence of his mother Helena, and Neither has Protestantism been left also his decree recognizing the new faith without help from women. Ireland fell as that of the empire, and the transfer under the dominion of England and of the capital from Rome to Byzantium, afterward of the English Church, bewhere a new city was built without the cause Dermot, King of Leinster, carried multitude of venerable pagan temples off the wife of a neighboring prince, who and associations to overawe the follow- with the help of his friends defeated and ers of Christ. After the conquest of the drove out the offender, who appealed to west by the Teutons, and the transfer Henry II. for help. It was given, but of the main seat of power from the coast when the English had once establishof the Mediterranean to the northern.ed their power in the green island they slope of Europe, it became a matter of staid there, and they hold it yet, after great importance to the church to con- a lapse of six centuries. Henry VIII. vert the Franks, and she succeeded by would have remained a zealous Cathothe help of Clotilde, the wife of King lic if the pope had consented to his diClovis. He became “the eldest son of vorce from Queen Catherine. She had the church," and his successors to the been betrothed to his elder brother; present day have claimed the same title. this betrothal made her his sister-in-law The church was the guardian and guide according to the rules laid down by some of education and refinement in the dark ecclesiastical authorities; according to ages, and the ecclesiastics were not dis- the same authorities, a marriage beappointed in the expectations of help tween persons thus related was not from the princesses whom they taught, lawful until a special dispensation had and who, when they became the wives been obtained, and there was none in of barbarian chiefs and kings, used ev- this case. The objection of invalidity ery exertion to convert their husbands for relationship, brought up many years and subjects. Female missionaries did after the marriage as a pretext for a dimuch to bring Germany, Scandinavia, vorce, was base and hypocritical; but and Slavonia into the church.

divorces had been granted by the paIslam, too, was helped by woman's in- pal court on even flimsier grounds, and fluence. The conquest of Spain by the Henry thought he was entitled to as Arabs was the result of a quarrel about much favor as anybody else. It hapa woman. Roderick, a Gothic king of pened, however, that there were weighty Toledo, outraged a daughter of Count considerations on the other side in this Julian, who, seeing no hope of revenge case.

Catherine was the sister of among the Christians, invited the Mo- Charles V., who was master of Gerhammedans to cross the Strait of Gi- many, Spain, Flanders, Milan, Naples, braltar. Roderick was soon a fugitive; Sicily, and the New World. If the the crescent was hoisted over all the pope should offend him after northern cities of Spain; and France had a nar- Europe had adopted the ideas of Lurow escape at the battle of Tours, after ther and Calvin, the Catholic Church Aquitaine had been under Arab do- might be given up to destruction. Betminion for ten years. About a century ter risk the utmost enmity of England. after Spain was lost to Christendom, So Henry's application was denied, and Sicily was also taken, in consequence as he was determined to get rid of his of a visit made to the island by an ad- queen, he discarded her and the church

a

a

woman

together. No Catholic woman could The government of France was for marry him, and he was thus driven a long time a despotism tempered by into a Protestant alliance, which was petticoats. Women could not wear the the more welcome to him because he crown, but they usually managed it. found no

more attractive to Catherine de Medicis, Mary de Medicis, him than Anna Boleyn. She had a de- and Anne of Austria were respectively cided character, a strong attachment to regents from 1560 to 1574, 1610 to 1617, the doctrines of the Reformation, and and 1643 to 1653. All were weak in much influence (for a time) over her moral character, but strong in cunning, husband, who established a State Prot- and their administrations were little betestant Church, of which he was the ter than continuous intrigues. When nominal head. He was succeeded by there was no queen-regent, the mishis son Edward VI., who reigned six, tress of the king, or of the male reyears as a minor, dying at sixteen; his gent, usually held a large part of the sister Mary, the daughter of Catherine, power. A remarkable succession of held the throne for three years, during royal favorites fill the history of France which time she did her best to re-es- with their fame, from Diana of Poitablish Catholicism. After her death tiers to Pompadour. Contemporary the throne fell to Elizabeth, the daugh- with them were many famous ladies, ter of Anna Boleyn. Her legitimacy whose intimates were statesmen and and right of inheritance were denied by generals. The civil war of the Fronde the Catholics, and perhaps for that rea- was called “The Women's War." The son as much as by the influence of her Duchess of Longueville, Madame Chev. early tra ning she was compelled to reuse, and the Princess Palatine, who look for support to the Protestants. were as remarkable for their talents as They gave it without reserve, and she for the scandals associated with their repaid it with assistance of incalculable names, were leaders in it. The first value to their cause throughout Europe. two were dragged in by their lovers; Before the close of her long reign, the but the princess had other motives. She people, or at least those who controlled and Catherine II., according to Saint the government, had become fixed in Beuve, are the only women “who knew their hostility to the Papal Church. how to separate love from politics."

Scotland suffered much by the follies The license of Parisian society in the of Mary Stuart. Her position was a seventeenth and eighteenth centuries very difficult one in a country nearly gave women opportunities for acquiring equally divided between two bitterly a social and political influence such as hostile churches, and threatened on they have never had at any other time one side by England and on the other or place. Mesdames Sablé, Lafayette, by France, while she was by education Caylus, Du Chatelet, Du Deffand, D'Epand the force of circumstances attach- inay, and De Staal-Delaunay, Mesdemoied to the weaker side. Her reign was selles L'Enclos, Lecouvreur, and L'Es. filled with confusion, bloodshed, and pinasse, the Duchess of Luxembourg, disgrace. Her favorite Rizzio was mur- and the Countess of Bouffleurs, were dered by her second husband, Darnley, powerful as well as famous, and all of who was in turn directly or indirectly them led free lives. Mesdames Talslain by Bothwell, whom she married. lien, Beauharnais (afterward the EmHer dethronement followed almost im- press Josephine) Roland, De Staël, and mediately, and after twenty years of im- Récamier, the leading women of the prisonment she was sent to the scaffold. revolutionary period, were their equals

in talent, but the times were less favor- suicide of her son. She had reared him able for female influence. They, too, in ignorance of his parentage, and when did not escape without scandal; but if his education was completed she invited not chaste they were at least more se- him to her house, intending to keep him cret in their loves than the women of near to her and yet conceal the relathe preceding generation. The intro- tionship. He misunderstood the moduction of Protestantism into France tive of her attentions, and fell so viowas helped by Marguerite of Valois lently in love with her that when she and Jane d'Albret; its overthrow owed was compelled in self-defense to tell much to Catherine de Medicis and Mad- him that she was his mother, he could ame de Maintenon; and the rapid spread not resign himself to the loss and took of the ideas of Voltaire was furthered by his life. the influence of the ladies at the head In England women have had less of the famous parlors of Paris in his influence politically and have been entime.

gaged in fewer scandals than in France, It has been the fortune or misfortune and yet there serious troubles on their of the French to have been involved account have not been rare. The inmore frequently in trouble in foreign surrection of Wat Tyler was provoked lands, on account of women, than any by an outrage to his daughter; the fortother nation. Perhaps this has been une of young Churchill, afterward the because they have occupied the leading great Marlborough, began by the proplace as invaders and conquerors. The motion of his sister to the favor of the Sicilian Vespers, when the French resi. Duke of York—as Napoleon's fortune dents and soldiers of the island were all by the favor of Josephine with a memmassacred, is the most horrid and fa- ber of the directory. When the mob mous of the results provoked by an out- attacked Nell Gwynne's carriage as she rage offered to a woman; but it was not was leaving the palace of Charles II., the only case of the kind in French ex- she restored good humor as well as orperience. Flanders in 1302, Florence der by sticking her head out of the winin 1342, Scotland in 1385, and Genoa in dow and calling out that she was the 1409 and in 1460, witnessed similar pro- Protestant, not the Popish mistress tests against Gallic gallantry. Turenne using, however, a phraseology slightly made peace so that he could meet a different; and it was by the help of Lady grisette in Paris, and Henry IV. made Hamilton, whom he afterward loved bewar so that he could get to Anne of yond the limits of the law, and whose Montmorency in Flanders. Coligny and previous career had not been above reHenry of Guise fought a duel about proach, that Lord Nelson was enabled the Duchess of Montbazon, and the to win the battle of the Nile, and thus Duchess of Longueville was present to strengthen the supremacy of Enin the dress of a page. The only great gland on the seas to such a degree that grief in the life of the incomparable Napoleon could not cross the Channel Ninon—who was accounted by her con- with his army of invasion. temporaries the happiest as well as the Among the women who were the submost charming of women during the jects of scandal and in some cases of sethree-quarters of a century that had rious quarrels among their lovers, were elapsed between her fifteenth and nineti- the Roman empresses Messalina, Fauseth years, preserving her wit, her beau- ta, and Julia Denana; the Russian emty, her fresh complexion, her health, and presses Catherine II. and Elizabeth; her active habits to the last- was the the French queen, Marguerite, wife of

« AnteriorContinua »