Note on the e-text: this Renascence Editions text was provided by Ben R. Schneider, Lawrence University, Wisconsin. It is in the public domain. "Florio's Translation of Montaigne's Essays was first published in 1603. In 'The World's Classics' the first volume was published in 1904, and reprinted in 1910 and 1924." Content unique to this presentation is copyright © 1998 The University of Oregon. For nonprofit and educational uses only.
T IS ordinarily seene how good intentions, being managed without moderation, thrust men into most vicious effects. In this controversie, by which France is at this instant molested with eivill warres, the best and safest side is no doubt that which maintained both the ancient religion and policy of the country. Neverthelesse amongst the honest men that follow it (for my meaning is not to speake of those who use them as a colour, either to exercise their particular revenges, or to supply their greedy avarice, or to follow the favour of Princes: but of such as do it with a true zeale towards their religion, and an unfained holy affection, to maintaine the peace and uphold the state of their country), of those I say divers are seene, whome passion thrusts out of the bounds of reason, and often forceth them to take and follow unjust, violent and rash counsels. Certaine it is, that when first our religion began to gaine authority with the lawes, its zeale armed many against all sorts of Pagane bookes, whereof the learned sort have a great losse. My opinion is that this disorder hath done more hurt to learning than all the Barbarian flames. Cornelius Tacitus is a sufficient testimonie of it, for, howbeit the Emperor Tacitus his kinsman had by expresse appointment stored all the libraries in the world with it, notwithstanding one onely entire copy could not escape the curious search of those who sought to abolish it, by reason of five or sixe vaine clauses contrary to our beleefe. They have also had this easily to affoord false commendations to all the Emperours, that made for us, and universally to condemne al the actions of those which were our adversaries, as may plainly be seene in Julian the Emperor, surnamed the Apostate; who in truth was a notable-rare-man, as he whose mind was lively endowed with the discourses of Philosophy, unto which he professed to conforme all his actions; and truely there is no kinde of vertue whereof he hath not left most notable examples. In chastity (whereof the whole course of his life giveth aparant testimony) a like example unto that of Alexander and Scipio is read of him, which is, that of many wonderfull faire captive ladies brought before him, being even in the very prime of his age (for he was slain by the Parthians about the age of one and thirty yeares) he would not see one of them. Touching justice, himselfe would take the paines to heare all parties: and although for curiosity sake, he would enquire of such as came before him what religion they were of, nevertheles the enmitie he bare to ours did no whit weigh downe the ballance. Himselfe made sundrie good lawes, and revoked diverse subsidies and impositions, his predecessours before him had receaved. We have two good historians as eye witnesses of his actions. One of which (who is Marcellinus) in sundry places of his historie bitterly reprooveth this ordinance of his, by which he forbade schooles and interdicted all Christian rhetoricians and grammarians to teach, saying he wished this his action might be buried under silence. It is very likely, if he had done anything else more sharpe or severe against us, he would not have forgot it, as he that was well affected to our side. Hee was indeede very severe against us, yet not a cruell enemy. For, our people themselves report this historie of him that walking one day about the city of Calcedon, Maris, Bishop thereof, durst call him wicked and traitor to Christ, to whom be did no other thing but answered thus: 'Goe, wretched man, weepe and deplore the losse of thine eyes;' to whom the Bishop replied: 'I thank Jesus Christ that he hath deprived me of my sight, that so I might not view thy impudent face;' affecting therby (as they say) a kind of Philosophicall patience. So it is this part cannot be referred to the cruelties which he is said to have exercised against us. He was (saith Eutropius, my other testimony) an enemy unto Christianity, but without shedding of bloud. But to returne to his justice, he can be accused of nothing but of the rigors he used in the beginning of his Empire, against such as had followed the faction of Constantius, his predecessour. Concerning sobriety, he never lived a souldiers kinde of life, and in time of peace would feed no otherwise than the one who prepared and enured himselfe to the austeritie of war. Such was his vigilancie that he divided the night into three or foure parts, the least of which he allotted unto sleepe; the rest he employed in visiting the state of his army and his guards, or in study, for, amongst other his rare qualities, he was most excellent in al sorts of learning. It is reported of Alexander the Great, that being laid downe to rest, fearing lest sleep should divert him from his thoughts and studies, he caused a bason to be set neere his bed side, and holding one of his hands out, with a brazen ball in it, that, if sleep should surprise him, loosing his fingers ends, the ball falling into the bason, might with the noyse rouse him from out his sleep. This man had a mind so bent to what he undertook, and by reason of his singular abstinence so little troubled with vapours, that he might well have past this devise. Touching military sufficiencie he was admirable in all parts belonging to a great Captaine. So was he almost al his life time in continual exercise of war, and the greater part with us in France against the Almains and Franconians. Wee have no great memory of any man that either hath seen more dangers, nor that more often hath made triall of his person. His death hath some affinitie with that of Epaminondas, for being strucken with an arrow, and attempting to pull it out, he had surely done it, but that being sharpe-cutting, it hurt and weakened his hand. In that plight he earnestly requested to be carryed forth in the middest of his army, that so he might encourage his souldiers, who without him courageously maintained the battel, until such time as darke night severed the armies he was beholding to philosophie for a singular contempt, both of himselfe and of all humane things. He assuredly believed the eternitie of soules. In matters of religion, he was vicious everywhere. He was surnamed Apostata, because he had forsaken ours; notwithstanding, this opinion seemes to mee more likely, that he never took it to heart, but that for t he obedience which he bare to the law he dissembled til he had gotten the empire into his hands. He was so superstitious in his, that even such as lived in his time, and were of his owne religion, mocked him for it; and it was said that if he had gained the victory of the Parthians, he would have consumed the race or breede of oxen to satisfie his sacrifices. He was also besotted with the art of soothsaying, and gave authority to all manner of prognostikes. Amongst other things he spake at his death, he said he was much beholding to the Gods, and greatly thanked them that they had not suffered him to be slain sodainly or by surprize as having long before warned him both of the place and houre of his end; nor to die of a base and easie death, more beseeming idle and effeminate persons, nor of a lingering, languishing, and dolorous death; and that they had deemed him worthy to end his life so nobly in the course of his victories and in the flower of his glory. There had before appeared a vision unto him, like unto that of Marcus Brutus, which first threatened him in Gaule, and afterward even at the point of his death presented it selfe to him in Persia. The speach he is made to speak when he felt himselfe hurt, 'Thou hast vanquished, O Nazarean,' or; as some will have it, 'Content thy selfe, O Nazarean,' would scarce have beene forgotten, had it beene believed of my testimonies, who being present in the army, have noted even the least motions and words at his death, no more than certaine other wonders which they annex unto it. But to return to my theame, he had long before (as saith Marcellinus) hatched Paganisme in his hart, but forsomuch as he saw al those of his armie to be Christians, he durst not discover himselfe. In the end, when he found himselfe to be sufficiently strong, and durst publish his minde, he caused the Temples of his Gods to be opened, and by all meanes endeavoured to advance idolatrie. And to attaine his purpose, having found in Constantinople the people very loose, and at ods with the Prelates of the Christian Church, and caused them to appeare before him in his pallace, he instantly admonished them to appease all their civill dissentions, and every one without hindrance or feare apply themselves to follow and serve religion. Which he very carefully solicited, hoping this licence might encrease the factions and controversies of the division, and hinder the people from growing to any unity, and by consequence from fortifying themselves against him by reason of their concord and in one mind-agreeing intelligence: having by the cruelty of some Christians found that 'there is no beast in the world so much of man to be feared as man,' loe, here his very words, or very neare: wherewith this is worthy consideration, that the Emperor Julian useth the same receipt of libertie of conscience, to enkindle the trouble of civill dissention, which our Kings employ to extinguish. It may be said on one side that, to give faction the bridle to entertaine their opinion is to scatter contention and sow division, and as it were to lend it a hand to augment and encrease the same: there being no barre or obstacle of lawes to bridle or hinder his course. But on the other side it might also be urged that to give factions the bridle to uphold their opinion, is by that facilitie and ease the readie way to mollifie and release them, and to blunt the edge which is sharpned by rareness, novelties and difficultie. And if for the honour of our Kings devotion, I believe better it is that since they could not doe as they would, they have fained to will what they could not.