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time before the Ommeyads of Cordova met with their fall. Syria, Egypt, and Persia became the prey of Turk and Mameluke and Tartar long ere Andalusia yielded to the Christian. Arabia itself sunk back into torpor with astonishing rapidity and ease. It was certainly in Spain that the conquering Moslems retained longest all the best and worthiest characteristics of the days of their early greatness.
We leave Europe at the end of our period in a day of gloom and depression. The picture indeed has its bright points: in Spain the balance had definitely turned in favour of Christendom, and the crescent was already beginning to wane. At Constantinople the rule of the Basilian dynasty promised a period of stationary prosperity, even if no strong emperor should arise to lead the Byzantine armies once more to victory. But in those great lands of Central Europe which then, and always, have formed the heart of Christendom, the outlook was very black—blacker than it had been at any time since the evil days of the seventh century. If the attacks of the Vikings were visibly slackening, and if the Saracens had at last been driven out of southern Italy, so that the invaders from without were for a time checked, yet the state of affairs within showed no signs of mending. The empire was dead: the papacy was falling into premature decay and corruption.
In the midst of all the treason and selfishness, the wars, murders, and rebellions of the dismal age that lies between the battle of Fontenay and the end of the tenth century, there is one thought only that can afford the student any consolation. After the break-up of the empire of Charles the Great, while Dane, Saracen, Hungarian, and Slav were simultaneously besetting the gates of Christendom, there was a very serious danger that the fabric of civilised Europe might crumble to pieces beneath their blows. That it did not do so must be attributed to the unexpected powers of resistance developed
by the disintegrated fractions of the Frankish empire under the feudal system. Disastrous as were most of the effects of that system, it at least justified its existence by saving Christendom from the foe without. What the successors of Charles the Great had failed to do when all the military force of the empire was at their backs, was accomplished by the petty counts and margraves whose power was developed on the ruins of the central authority. It was the mailed feudal horseman, and the impregnable walls of the feudal castle, that foiled the attacks of the Dane, the Saracen, and the Hungarian. While the emperor or king was expected to protect every corner of the realm, and as a matter of fact protected none of it, the governors of the gaus and mārks proved, on the whole, to be equal to the task, when once they had got their hands free and were not fettered by the close supervision of their master. Europe lapsed, indeed, into utter decentralisation, and lost for centuries the administrative unity which the reign of Charles the Great had promised. A heavy blow was dealt at the slowly developing culture and civilisation which the eighth century had produced. It was not without justice that the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries have been called “the Dark Ages.” Literature and art sank back to the level from which Charles the Great had for a time raised them; history has once more to be reconstructed from the scantiest materials. Architecture was stagnant, save in the single department of castle-building—the one development that these centuries produced. The internal history of continental Europe, when it ceases to be a series of Danish, Saracen, and Magyar raids, becomes a dismal record of tiresome local feuds and private wars. The remains of the old Teutonic liberty, which had survived in slowly dwindling measure, finally disappear as feudalism is perfected, and the freeman becomes everywhere the vassal of some greater or smaller lord. But all the details of this unhappy change must not blind us to the fact that Christendom was saved from destruction by the men of the feudal age. In spite of all the faults of their system, its selfishness, its particularism, its feuds, its degradation of the lower classes, it served the required end in producing the condition of military efficiency which was needed to beat off the invading hordes from without. The problem with which Europe had to deal was that of facing quickly-moving assailants, whose object was primarily plunder rather than fighting, and who therefore had to be the feudal caught and brought to bay if they were to be horsemen. checked. The slowly-moving masses of foot-soldiery which the Frankish empire put into the field were quite unable to deal with this problem. The light cavalry of the Magyars and Saracens could ride around or away from them: the Dane took to his ships and disappeared when they tardily crept up to drive him from his prey. The local count or duke who could put a few hundred mailed horsemen of approved valour into the field, men bound to him by every tie of discipline and obedience, and trained to war from their youth up, was really a far more formidable foe to the plundering invader. Even if he could not check the raiders for want of numbers, his troop of riders hung round the intruders, cut off their stragglers, intercepted them at every defensible pass or ford where the few can withstand the many, circumvented them by cross-roads which the native must know better than the stranger. No less important than the rise of the mailed horseman was the rise of the feudal castle. In the Frankish empire fortified places had hitherto been rare: save the towns that possessed ancient Roman walls there seem to have been none that could defend themselves: Frankish ideas of fortification went no further than heaping up a mound, surrounding it with a ditch, and crowning it with a palisade. The feudal Such temporary strongholds were inadequate, *. and safety from the Dane was only found by the use of permanent fortifications of firm masonry. Every town that had not perished surrounded itself with a ring-wall : fortified PERIOD I. 2 K
bridge-heads were built to shut up the rivers to the Viking ships. But most important of all were the castles, which rose up on every hand, to form safe residences for the chiefs who had once dwelt in open villas, and to serve as bases for the defence of the country-side. Few in number at first, they gradually spread over the breadth of the land, as each lord who was able reared himself a stronghold. The existence of these castles changed the whole face of war: when an enemy appeared there were now countless places of refuge to seek, and the invader, instead of sweeping easily over the district in search of plunder, found that it could for the future only be procured at the cost of a series of lengthy sieges. There was hardly any sure method known of reducing a strong place, save the expedient of starving it out: but to sit three months before a castle till famine should reduce it, was not what Dane or Magyar desired. Their booty would be limited, while the delay would allow the whole military strength of the country to be mustered against them. Hence it may be truly said that the rise of the feudal castle was the best remedy that could have been found against the pressing evils that threatened Christendom in the ninth century.
The military triumph was a political disaster. At a moment when the kingly power was shaken by the unhappy civil wars of the descendants of Charles the Great, when almost every province was disputed by two lords, it was absolutely fatal that the control of the warlike strength of Europe should pass into the hands of a crowd of petty magnates, each intent on his own aggrandisement, and caring nought for the general welfare of the kingdom so long as his own county was well guarded. The price at which Christendom bought its safety was enormous: nevertheless no price was too high when the future of Europe was at stake. Any ransom was worth paying, if thereby Rome was saved from the Saracen, Mainz from the Magyar, Paris from the heathen of the North.
A PPE N DIX
TABLES OF SOWEREIGNS
(1) For VANDAL KINGS see table on page 12.
(2) For FRANKish KINGs see tables on pages 166 and 26o and 413.
(3) For LOMBARD KINGs see table on page 183.
(4) EMPERORS At CoNSTANTINople
Constantine IV or V., Pogonatus,
Theodosius III., 715-17.
Leo vi, the Wise, 886–912. Constantine vii. or viii., Porphyrogenitus, 912-59.