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riage with mere infants. Augustus, to prevent this fraud, forbade any one to contract a girl that was not at least ten years old, that the wedding might be celebrated two years after. Metellus, the censor, said to the people, " If it were possible for us to do without wives, we should escape a very great evil ; but it is ordained that we cannot live very happily either with them or without them.”
Such was the diseased state of society, when Christianity came in with its blessed influence, to purify the manners, and give the soul its proper empire over the senses. Many women of the noblest and wealthiest families, surrounded by the seductive allurements of worldly pleasure, renounced them all, for the sake of the strength and consolation they found in the words of Jesus. Undismayed by severe edicts against the new religion, they appeared before the magistrates, and by pronouncing the simple words, “ I am a Christian,” calmly resigned themselves to imprisonment, ignominy, and death. Taught by the maxims of the Gospel that it was a duty to love and comfort each other, as members of the same family, they devoted their lives to the relief of the sick, the aged, and the destitute. Beautiful ladies, accustomed to all the luxurious appendages of wealth, might be seen in the huts of poverty, and the cells of disease, performing in the kindest manner the duties of a careful nurse.
In the worst stages of human society, there will ever be seven thousand of Israel who do not bow the knee to Baal; and such a remnant existed in Romne. The graceful form of heathen mythology had some degree of protecting life within it, so long as it was sincerely reverenced; but the vital spark, that at best had glimmered but faintly, was now entirely extinguished, and the beautiful form was crumbling in corruption and decay. The heart, oppressed with a sense of weakness and destitution, called upon the understanding for aid, and received only the lonely echo of its own wants. At such a moment, Christianity was embraced with fervor; and the soul, enraptured with glimpses of its heavenly home, forgot that the narrow pathway lay amid worldly duties, and worldly temptations.
The relation of the sexes to each other had become so gross in its manifested forms, that it was difficult to perceive the pure conservative principle in its inward essence. Hence, though marriage was sanctioned, and solemnized by the most sacred forms, it was regarded as a necessary concession to human weakness, and perpetual celibacy was considered a sublime virtue. This feeling gave rise to the retirement of the cloister, and to solitary hermitages in the midst of the desert. St. Jerome is perhaps the most eloquent advocate of this ideal purity, His writings are full of eulogiums upon Paula, her daughter Eustochium, and other Roman women, who embraced Christianity, and spent whole days and nights in the study of the Scriptures.
Women were peculiarly susceptible to the influence of doctrines whose very essence is gentleness and love. Among the Jews, the number of believing wo
men had been greater than converted men ; the same was true of the Romans; and it is an undoubted fact that most nations were brought into Christianity by the influence of a believing queen. By such means the light of the Gospel gradually spread through France, England, part of Germany, Bavaria, Hungary, Bohemia, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia.
The northern nations bore a general resemblance to each other. War and hunting were considered the only honorable occupations for men, and all other employments were left to women and slaves. Even the Visigoths, on the coasts of Spain, left their fields and flocks to the care of women. They had annual meetings, in which those who had shown most skill and industry in agriculture, received public applause. They were bound by law not to give a wife more than the tenth part of their substance.
The Scandinavian women often accompanied the men in plundering excursions, and had all the drudgery to perform. The wives of the ancient Franks were inseparable from their husbands. They lived with them in the camp, where the marriages of their daughters were celebrated by the soldiers, with Scythian, and other warlike dances. A man was allowed but one wife, and was rigorously punished if he left her to marry another.
They could put their wives to death for infidelity; and if they happened to kill them without justifiable cause, in a moment of anger, the law punished theni only by a temporary prohibition to bear arms.
The ancient German women could not inherit the cstates of their fathers; but by subsequent laws they were permitted to succeed after males of the same degree of kindred.
Women of the northern nations rarely ate and drank with their husbands, but waited upon them at their meals, and afterward shared what was left, with the children. This custom could not have originated in the habit of regarding women as inferior beings; for the whole history of the north proves the existence of an entirely opposite sentiment. It was probably owing, in part, to the circumstance that women were too busy in cooking the food, to wish to eat at the same time with the men ; and partly, perhaps, to the fact that these feasts were generally drunken carousals.
The eastern nations imagine the joys of heaven to consist principally in voluptuous love ; but northern tribes seem to have believed that they chiefly consisted in drinking. In the Koran, the dying hero is assured that a troop of houries, beautiful as the day, will welcome him with kisses, and lead him to fragrant bowers; but according to the Edda,* a crowd of lovely maidens wait on heroes in the halls of Odin, to fill their cups as fast as they can empty them.
In a state of society so turbulent as that we are describing, men had little leisure, and less inclination, for the sciences; women, having better opportunities for observation and experience in common
* The sacred book of the Scandinavians.
things, acquired great knowledge of simple remedies, and were in fact the only physicians. Their usefulness, virtue, and decorum, procured them an uncommon degree of respect. The institution of marriage was regarded with the utmost reverence, and second marriages were forbidden. Tacitus says: “The strictest regard to virtue characterizes the Germans, and deserves our highest applause. Vice is not made the subject of mirth and raillery, nor is fashion pleaded as an excuse for being corrupt, or for corrupting others. Good customs and manners avail more among these barbarous people, than good laws among such as are more refined. It is a great incitement to courage, that in battle their separate troops, or columns, are not arranged promiscuously, as chance directs, but consist of one united clan, with its relatives. Their dearest pledges are placed in the vicinity, whence may be heard the cries of their women, and the wailing of infants, whom each one accounts the most sacred witnesses and dearest eulogists of his valor. The wounded repair to their wives and mothers, who do not hesitate to number their wounds, and suck the blood that flows from them. Women carry refreshments to those engaged in the contest, and encourage them by exhortations. It is said that armies, when about to give way, have renewed the struggle, moved by the earnest entreaties of the women, for whose sake they dreaded captivity much more than their own. Those German states which were induced to number noble damsels among their hostages, were much more effectually bound to obe