Editor of "Great Epochs in American History" Associate Editor of "The World's Famous Orations" and of "The Best of the World's Classics," etc.
The tourist bound for France lands either at Cherbourg, Havre, or Boulogne. At Cherbourg, he sees waters in which the "Kearsarge" sank the "Alabama"; at Havre a shelter in which, long before Caesar came to Gaul, ships, with home ports on the Seine, sought safety from the sea; and at Boulogne may recall the invading expedition to England, planned by Napoleon, but which never sailed.
From the Roman occupation, many Roman remains have survived in England, but these are far inferior in numbers and in state of preservation to the Roman remains found in France. Marseilles was not only an important Roman seaport, but its earliest foundations date perhaps from Phoenician times, and certainly do from the age when Greeks were building temples at Paestum and Girgenti. Rome got her first foothold in Marseilles as a consequence of the Punic wars; and in 125 B.C. acquired a province (Provincia Romana) reaching from the Alps to the Rhone, and southward to the sea, with Aix as its first capital and Arles its second. Caesar in 58 B.C. found on the Seine a tribe of men called Parisii, whose chief village, Lutetia, stood where now rises Notre Dame.
Lutetia afterward became a residence of Roman emperors. Constantius Chlorus spent some time there, guarding the empire from Germans and Britons, while Julian the Apostate built there for himself a palace and extensive baths, of which remains still exist in Paris. In that palace afterward lived Pepin le Bref ("mayor of the palace"), son of Charles Martell, and father of the great Charles. Romans built there an amphitheater seating ten thousand people, of which remains are still visible.
Lyons was a great Roman city. Augustus first called it into vigorous life, his wish being to make it "a second Rome." From Lyons a system of roads ran out to all parts of Gaul. Claudius was born there; Caligula made it the political and intellectual capital of Provincia; its people, under an edict of Caracalla, were made citizens of Rome. At Nimes was born the Emperor Antoninus. In Gaul, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian and Domitian were made emperors. At Arles and Nimes are Roman amphitheaters still regularly put to use for combats between men and wild beasts--but the wild beasts, instead of lions and tigers, are bulls. At Orange is a Roman theater of colossal proportions, in which a company from the Theatre Francais annually presents classical dramas. The magnificent fortress city of Carcassonne has foundation walls that were laid by Romans. Notre Dame of Paris occupies the site of a temple to Jupiter.
As with modern England, so with modern France; its people are a mixture of many races. To the southwest, in a remote age, came Iberians from Spain, to Provence, Ligurians from Italy; to the northeast, Germanic tribes; to the northwest, Scandinavians; to the central parts, from the Seine to the Garonne, in the sixth century B.C., Gauls, who soon became the dominant race, and so have remained until this day, masterful and fundamental. When Caesar came, there had grown up in Gaul a martial nobility, leaders of a warlike people, with chieftains whose names are familiar in the mouths and ears of all schoolboys--Aricvistus and Vercingetorix. When Vercingetorix was overthrown at Alesia, Gaul became definitely Roman. For five hundred years it remained loyal to Rome. Within its borders, was established the Pax Romana, and in 250 A.D., under St. Denis, Christianity. When the disintegration of the empire set in five centuries afterward, Gaul was among the first provinces to suffer. With the coming of the Visigoths and Huns from the Black Sea, the Pranks and Bnrgundians from beyond the Rhine, the Roman fall was near, but great battles were first fought in Gaul, battles which rivaled those of Caesar five centuries before. Greatest of all these was the one with Attila, at Chalons, in 451, where thousands perished.
When the Roman dominion ended, Rome's one great province in Gaul became seventeen small principalities, and power drifted fast into the hands of a warlike aristocracy. Then a strong man rose in Clovis, who, in 508, made Lutetia his capital, his successors enriching and adorning it. From these beginnings, has been evolved, in twelve hundred years, the great modern state--through Charlemagne and his empire-building, Louis XI. and his work of consolidating feudal principalities into one strong state, through a Hundred Years' War, fierce wars of religion, a long line of Bourbon kings, with their chateaux-building in Touraine and Versailles, the Revolution of 1789, the Napoleonic era, the Republic. An historical land surely is this, and a beautiful land, with her snow-capped mountains of the southeast, her broad vineyards, unrivaled cathedrals, her Roman remains, ancient olive groves, her art, her literature, her people.
Belgium and Holland were included in the territory known to Rome as Gaul. Here dwelt a people called the Belgii, and another called the Nervii--that tribal nation whom Caesar "overcame" on a summer's day, and the same evening, "in his tent," "put on" the mantle that was pierced afterward by daggers in the Senate House. From these lands came the skilled Batavian cavalry, which followed Caesar in pursuit of Pompey and forced Pompey's flight at Pharsalia. From here afterward came other Batavians, who served as the Imperial Guard of Rome from Caasar's time to Vespasian's. In race, as in geographical position, the Netherlands have belonged in part to France, in part to Germany, the interior long remaining Gallic, the frontier Teutonic. From Caesar's time down to the fifth century, the land was Roman. Afterward, in several periods, it was in part, or in whole, included in the domain of France--in Charlemagne's time and after; under Louis XI., who sought, somewhat unsuccessfully, its complete submission; under Louis XIV., who virtually conquered it; under the French Revolution, and during Napoleon's ascendency. On Belgium soil Marlborough fought and won Ramillies, and Wellington Waterloo.
Belgium and Holland were for long great centers of European commerce--at Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Amsterdam--rivals of English ports, Holland an ancient adversary of England and her valiant enemy in great wars. A still fiercer struggle came with Spain. Perhaps an even greater conflict than these two has been her never-ending war with the sea. Holland has been called a land enclosed in a fortress reared against the sea. For generations her people have warred with angry waves; but, as Motley has said, they gained an education for a struggle "with the still more savage despotism of man." Let me not forget here Holland's great school of art--comparable only to that of Spain, or even to that of Italy. F. W. H.