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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

All the races outside of Germany


[Sidenote:

570. SPREAD OF CHRISTIANITY.]

The latter, moreover, were greatly inferior to the former in all the arts of civilization. In the homes, the dress and ornaments, the social intercourse, and all the minor features of life, they found their new neighbors above them, and they were quick to learn the use of unaccustomed comforts or luxuries. All the cities and small towns were Roman in their architecture, in their municipal organization, and in the character of their trade and intercourse; and the conquerors found it easier to accept this old-established order than to change it.

Another circumstance contributed to Latinize the German races outside of Germany. After the invention of a Gothic alphabet by Bishop Ulfila, and his translation of the Bible, we hear no more of a written German

language until the eighth century. There was at least none which was accessible to the people, and the Latin continued to be the language of government and religion. The priests were nearly all Romans, and their interest was to prevent the use of written Germanic tongues. Such learning as remained to the world was of course only to be acquired through a knowledge of Latin and Greek.

All the influences which surrounded the conquering races tended, therefore, to eradicate or change their original German characteristics. After a few centuries, their descendants, in almost

every instance, lost sight of their origin, and even looked with contempt upon rival people of the same blood. The Franks and Burgundians of the present day speak of themselves as "the Latin race": the blonde and blue-eyed Lombards of Northern Italy, not long since, hated "the Germans" as the Christian of the Middle Ages hated the Jew; and the full-blooded English or American Saxon often considers the German as a foreigner with whom he has nothing in common.

By the year 570, all the races outside of Germany, except the Saxons and Angles in Britain, had accepted Christianity. Within Germany, although the Christian missionaries were at work among the Alemanni, the Bavarians, and along the Rhine, the great body of the people still held to their old pagan worship. The influence of the true faith was no doubt weakened by the bitter enmity which still existed between the Athanasian and Arian sects, although the latter ceased to be powerful after the downfall of the Ostrogoths. But the Christianity which prevailed among the Franks, Burgundians and Longobards was not pure or intelligent enough to save them from the vices which the Roman Empire left behind it. Many of their kings and nobles were polygamists, and the early history of their dynasties is a chronicle of falsehood, cruelty and murder.

[Sidenote: 570.]

In each of the races, the primitive habit of electing chiefs by the people had long since given way to an hereditary monarchy, but in other respects their political organization remained much the same. The Franks introduced into Gaul the old German division of the land into provinces, hundreds and communities, but the king now claimed the right of appointing a Count for the first, a _Centenarius_, or centurion, for the second, and an elder, or head-man, for the third. The people still held their public assemblies, and settled their local matters; they were all equal before the law, and the free men paid no taxes. The right of declaring war, making peace, and other questions of national importance, were decided by a general assembly of the people, at which the king presided. The political system was therefore more republican than monarchical, but it gradually lost the former character as the power of the kings increased.


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