Ancient Europe

THE history of Europe in ancient times is the history of those lands which adjoin the Mediterranean Sea. Beyond the Alps lay a vast expanse of marsh and forest, through which flowed the swift and gloomy Rhine. On the right side of that river dwelt the Germans; on its left, the Celtic Gauls. Both people, in manners and customs, resembled the Red Indians. They lived in round wigwams, with a hole at the top to let out the smoke. They hunted the white maned bison and the brown bear, and trapped the beaver, which then built its lodges by the side of every stream. They passed their spare time in gambling, drunkenness, and torpor; while their squaws cut the firewood, cultivated their garden-plots of grain, tended the shaggy- headed cattle, and the hogs feeding on acorns and beech-mast, obedient to the horn of the mistress, but savage to strangers as a pack of wolves. At an early period, however, the Gauls came into contact with the Phoenicians and the Greeks; they served in the Carthaginian armies, and acquired a taste for trade; they learnt the cultivation of the vine, and some of the metallic arts; their priests, or learned men, employed the Greek characters in writing. But the Gauls had a mania for martial glory, and often attacked the peaceful Greek merchants of Marseilles. The Greeks at last called in the assistance of the Romans, who not only made war on the hostile tribes, but on the peaceful tribes as well. Thus began the conquest of Gaul. It was completed by Caesar, who used that country as an exercise-ground for his soldiers, and prepared them, by a hundred battles, for the mighty combat in which Pompey was over- thrown.

Military roads were made across the Alps, Roman colonies were dispatched into the newly conquered land, Italian farmers took up their abode in the native towns, and the chiefs were required to send their sons to school. Thus the Romans obtained hostages, and the Celts were pleased to see their boys neatly dressed in white garments edged with purple, displaying their proficiency on the waxen tablets and the counting board. In a few generations the Celts had disappeared. On the banks of the Rhone and the Seine magnificent cities arose, watered by aqueducts, surrounded by gardens, adorned with libraries, temples, and public schools. The inhabitants called themselves Romans, and spoke with patriotic fervour of the glorious days of the Republic.

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