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century the Hospital of the Holy Ghost at Paris even refused to admit deserted children, yet the care of foundlings soon passed in a great measure into its hands. At last, after many complaints of the frequency of infanticide, St. Vincent de Paul arose, and gave so great an impulse to that branch of charity that he may be regarded as its second author, and his influence was felt not only in private charities, but in legislative enactments. Into the effects of these measuresthe encouragement of the vice of incontinence by institutions that were designed to suppress the crime of infanticide, and the serious moral controversies suggested by this apparent contrict between the interests of humanity and of chastityit is not necessary for me to enter. We are at present concerned with the principles that actuated Christian charity, not with the wisdom of its organisations. Whatever mistakes may have been made, the entire movement I have traced displays an anxiety not only for the life, but also for the moral well-being, of the castaways of society, such as the most humane nations of antiquity had never reached. This minute and scrupulous care for human life and human virtue in the bumblest forms, in the slave, the gladiator, the savage, or the infant, was indeed wholly foreign to the genius of Paganism. It was produced by the Christian doctrine of the inestimable value of each immortal soul. It is the distinguishing and transcendent characteristic of every society into which the spirit of Christianity has passed.
The influence of Christianity in the protection of infant life, though very real, may be, and I think often has been, exaggerated. It would be difficult to overrate its influence in the sphere we have next to examine. There is scarcely any other single reform so important in the moral history of mankind as the suppression of the gladiatorial shows, and this feat must be almost exclusively ascribed to the Christian Church. When we remember how extremely few of the best and greatest men of the Roman world had absolutely
condemned the games of the amphitheatre, it is impossible to regard, without the deepest admiration, the unwavering and uncompromising consistency of the patristic denunciations. And even comparing the Fathers with the most enlightened Pagan moralists in their treatment of this matter, we shall usually find one most significant difference. The Pagan, in the spirit of philosophy, denounced these games as inhuman, or demoralising, or degrading, or brutal. The Christian, in the spirit of the Church, represented them as a definite sin, the sin of murder, for which the spectators as well as the actors were directly responsible before Heaven. In the very latest days of the Pagan Empire, magnificent amphitheatres were still arising,' and Constantine himself had condemned numerous barbarian captives to combat with wild beasts.2 It was in A.D. 325, immediately after the convocation of the Council of Nice, that the first Christian emperor issued the first edict in the Roman Empire condemnatory of the gladiatorial games. It was issued in Berytus in Syria, and is believed by some to have been only applicable to the province of Phænicia; 4 but even in this province it was suffered to be inoperative, for, only four years later, Libanius speaks of the shows as habitually celebrated at Antioch.5 In the Western Empire their continuance was fully recognised, though a few infinitesimal restrictions were imposed upon them. Constantine, in A.D. 357, prohibited the lanistæ, or
E.g. the amphitheatre of ad pænas spectaculo dati sævientes Verona was only built under Dio- bestias_multitudine sua fatigacletian.
runt.'—Eumenius, Paneg. Constant. 2 «Quid hoc triumpho pul- xi. chrius ? Tantam captivorum 3 Cod. Theod. lib. xy. tit. 12, multitudinem bestiis objicit ut in- lex l. Sozomen, i. 8. grati et perfidi non minus doloris 4 This, at least, is the opinion ex ludibrio sui quam ex ipsa morte of Godefroy, who has discussed the patiantur.'-Incerti Panegyricus subject very fully. (Cod. Theod. Constant. "Puberes qui in manus lib. xv. tit. 12.) venerunt, quorum nec perfidia erat 5 Libanius, De Vita Sua, 3. apta militiæ nec ferocia servituti
purveyors of gladiators, from bribing servants of the palace to enrol themselves as combatants. Valentinian, in A.D. 365, forbade any Christian criminal, and in A.D. 367, any one connected with the Palatine,3 being condemned to fight. Honorius prohibited any slave who had been a gladiator passing into the service of a senator; but the real object of this last measure was, I imagine, not so much to stigmatise the gladiator, as to guard against the danger of an armed nobility.4 A much more important fact is that the spectacles were never introduced into the new capital of Constantine. At Rome, though they became less numerous, they do not appear to have been suspended until their final suppression. The passion for gladiators was the worst, while religious liberty was probably the best, feature of the old Pagan society; and it is a melancholy fact that of these two it was the nobler part that in the Christian Empire was first destroyed. Theodosius the Great, who suppressed all diversity of worship throughout the Empire, and who showed himself on many occasions the docile slave of the clergy, won the applause of the Pagan Symmachus by compelling his barbarian prisoners to fight as gladiators. Besides this occasion, we have special knowledge of gladiatorial games that were celebrated in A.D. 385, in A.D. 391, and afterwards in the reign of Honorius, and the practice of condemning criminals to the arena still continued.6
But although the suppression of the gladiatorial shows was not effected in the metropolis of the Empire till nearly ninety years after Christianity had been the State religion, the distinction between the teaching of the Christians and Pagans on the subject remained unimpaired. To the last,
i Cod. Theod. lib. xv. tit. 12, 1. 2.
6 M. Wallon has traced these last shows with much ng. (Hist. de l'Esclavage, tome iii. pp. 421-429.)
the most estimable of the Pagans appear to have regarded them with favour or indifference. Julian, it is true, with a rare magnanimity, refused persistently, in his conflict with Christianity, to avail himself, as he might most easily have done, of the popular passion for games which the Church condemned; but Libanius has noticed them with some approbation,' and Symmachus, as we have already seen, both instituted and applauded them. But the Christians steadily refused to admit any professional gladiator to baptism till he had pledged himself to abandon his calling, and every Christian who attended the games was excluded from communion. The preachers and writers of the Church denounced them with the most unqualified vehemence, and the poet Prudentius made a direct and earnest appeal to the emperor to suppress them. In the East, where they had never taken very
firm root, they appear to have ceased about the time of Theodosius, and a passion for chariot races, which rose to the most extravagant height at Constantinople and in many other cities, took their place. In the West, the last gladiatorial show was celebrated at Rome, under Honorius, in A.D. 404, in honour of the triumph of Stilicho, when an Asiatic monk, named Telemachus, animated by the noblest heroism of philanthropy, rushed into the amphitheatre, and attempted to part the combatants. He perished beneath a shower of stones flung by the
angry spectators; but his death led to the final abolition of the games.2 Combats of men with wild beasts continued, however, much later, and were especially popular in the East. The difficulty of procuring wild animals, amid the general poverty, contributed, with other causes, to their decline. They sank, at last, into games of cruelty to animals, but of little danger to men, and were finally condemned, at the end of the seventh century, by the Council of Trullo.3 In Italy,
He wavered, however, the subject, and on one occasion condemned them. See Wallon,
tome iii. p. 423.
? Theodoret, v. 26.
the custom of sham fights, which continued through the whole of the middle ages, and which Petrarch declares were in his days sometimes attended with considerable bloodshed, may perhaps be traced in some degree to the traditions of the amphitheatre.
The extinction of the gladiatorial spectacles is, of all the results of early Christian influence, that upon which the historian can look with the deepest and most unmingled satisfaction. Horrible as was the bloodshed they directly caused, these games were perhaps still more pernicious on account of the callousness of feeling they diffused through all classes, the fatal obstacle they presented to any general elevation of the standard of humanity. Yet the attitude of the Pagans decisively proves that no progress of philosophy or social civilisation was likely, for a very long period, to have extirpated them; and it can hardly be doubted that, had they been flourishing unchallenged as in the days of Trajan, when the rude warriors of the North obtained the empire of Italy, they would have been eagerly adopted by the conquerors, would have taken deep root in mediæval life, and have indefinitely retarded the progress of humanity. Christianity alone was powerful enough to tear this evil plant from the Roman soil. The Christian custom of legacies for the relief of the indigent and suffering replaced the Pagan custom of bequeathing sums of money for games in honour of the dead; and the month of December, which was looked forward to with eagerness through all the Roman world, as the special season of the gladiatorial spectacles, was consecrated in the Church by another festival commemorative of the advent of Christ.
The notion of the sanctity of human life, which led the early Christians to combat and at last to overthrow the
dosiani (1797), vol. ii. p. 88; Mil- See on these fights Ozanam's man, Hist. of Early Christianity, Civilisation in the Fifth Century vol. iii. pp. 343-347.
(Eng. trans.), vol. i. p. 130.