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Southern Europe: Italy - the Papacy, Naples and Sicily, Venice, Genoa; the Moors in Spain; the Turks; Downfall of Greek (Eastern page 3


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There is hardly an independent state in Europe, of old standing, which has not had her day of renown. Belgium, Servia, Roumania, Bulgaria, and the sixth "great power," Italy, are all modern. Greece, if she is ever to be worthy of her ancient name, has certainly not yet, in 1898, attained that point. Holland and Switzerland, still worthy of all respect, were both glorious in their rise. Sweden was at one time, as we shall see, in a leading position. There are countries once independent, now forming parts of great empires, which were famous in their day, as Tuscany (Florence), Venice, and Hungary. Turkey was formerly the terror, as she is now the standing nuisance, of the Christian nations of Europe. Spain was, three centuries ago, the chief power of the world. The mention of Spain brings us to the small kingdom of Portugal, geographically a part of the same great peninsula, with people of the same stock, and practically of the same language, as the Spaniards, and yet for more than eight centuries, save for an interval of 60 years, politically distinct. We have now to trace how it was that Portugal became a separate nation, and in what respect she was, for a time, in a most honourable way, the leading nation of Europe. Like Spain, she produced a race of heroes, when her people were free and well ruled, and a spirit of Christian chivalry led to conflict with the Moors,. and like Spain, she sank into insignificance through the influence of absolute government administered by narrow-minded bigots. We note first that Portugal does not represent, as commonly supposed, the ancient Roman province Lusitania, which was a district south of the Tagus, nor do the Portuguese represent a distinct branch of the Celtic population of the Iberian peninsula. Their early history is the same as that of the rest of the peninsula; they were thoroughly Latinised in Roman days, with coloniae and municipia, or military settlements and self-governed towns, established at points suitable for trade such as Lisbon and Oporto.

After the rise of Christian kingdoms in Gallicia, Leon, and Castile, and the winning back of much territory from the Moors, the history of Portugal as a separate country begins at the end of the 11th century, when Henry of Burgundy, who had married a daughter of Alfonso VI. of Castile and Leon, received from him the territory between the Minho and the Tagus as a dependent fief. Count Henry, a restless knight-errant, went off to the Crusades, leaving his "county" in charge of his wife Theresa. Under the administration of this beautiful and accomplished woman, who held power until 1128, a spirit of independence, as regarded Gallicia, arose and was carefully fostered by her. Her son Affonso Henriques, or Alfonso I. of Portugal, when he assumed power, as a man who united his father's chivalrous courage with his mother's political ability, made successful war on the king of Gallicia, and in 1143 became sovereign of an independent Portugal. For the period of 25 years he was in conflict with the Moors, assisted by the Knights Templars and Knights Hospitallers, and in 1139 he gained a brilliant victory over the infidels at Orik or Ourique, in the Alemtejo. In 1147 the great town of Santarem, commanding the upper Tagus, was stormed, and this success was at once followed by the capture of Lisbon, in which Alfonso was helped by a body of English Crusaders, men of Norfolk, Suffolk, Hampshire, Bristol, and Hastings, on their way from Dartmouth to the Holy Land. This was the beginning of the enduring connection between England and Portugal, very important for the smaller country. Other conquests followed, and the Burgundian house of sovereigns was thus settled, for nearly four centuries and a half, on the throne of Portugal. Under the successors of Alfonso I. there were struggles with the Moors and with the clergy and nobles of the country. Sancho I., son of Alfonso, already known as a warrior, was an excellent ruler, building new cities and repairing and re-fortifying old, encouraging tillage, stoutly resisting Papal interference, and governing with great advantage to the kingdom until his death in 1211. Under Alfonso III. (1248-1279) the country attained its existing limits, and in 1254 at a "Cortes" or Parliament summoned at Leiria, including representatives of the cities sitting with the nobles and higher clergy, the power of the Crown was well asserted against feudalism and the priestly class. The wise policy of Portuguese sovereigns was conspicuous in two points - non-interference in Spanish affairs, and the steady maintenance of friendship and alliance with England.

Diniz (Denis), son of Alfonso III., reigned from 1279 to 1325, and well earned, by prudent and energetic administration, the honourable title of "Re Lavrador," or "the toiling king." He was a lover of literature; a promoter of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures; a just ruler, a maintainer of peace. To him is due the cultivation of vines in the north of Portugal, which still maintains one of the country's chief branches of trade. He steadily turned the attention of nobles and people from warlike pursuits to the tillage, of the soil, and he greatly improved the royal cities of Lisbon, Coimbra, and Santarem. The administration of justice was thoroughly reformed, under chancellors trained in the Roman law at Padua and Bologna, and a new legal system was established. A commercial treaty with England was made, and a royal navy was founded under an able Genoese "High Admiral," In 1300, Diniz founded at Lisbon the first Portuguese university, afterwards transferred to Coimbra. He was the best Portuguese poet of his day, and may be justly regarded as the founder of Portuguese literature. Under his son Alfonso IV., who was much engaged in warfare with Spain and with the Moors, a new commercial treaty was concluded with Edward III. of England in 1353, and the powerful English king, by a proclamation, commanded his subjects to abstain from all harm to the Portuguese. Dom John, an illegitimate brother of Ferdinand I., was elected king by the Cortes in 1385, and a few months later a Portuguese and English army decisively defeated an invasion from Castile, and firmly established Portuguese power. In the following year the Treaty of Windsor cemented the bonds of friendship and alliance with England, and in 1387 John I. of Portugal married Philippa, a daughter of John of Gaunt, who came to Corunna with 2,000 English lances and 3,000 archers, bringing the bride, and marching in triumph through: Spanish territory, to Oporto. Under King John the power of the Crown was firmly maintained, and many internal reforms were made. A brisk trade was carried on with England by the export of fruits and wines in exchange for cloth made in English and Flemish looms, and the king's favourite residence was at Lisbon, where he could view the daily passage of shipping to and from the city which was now becoming a great centre of commerce.

Above all, it was in the reign, lasting until 1433, of John "the Great" of Portugal, that the age of exploration and discovery began which gave the country her great place in European history - the age of Prince Henry "the Navigator," of Vasco da Gama, of Albuquerque, and of Camoens, the poet who celebrated the eminent men of his country. The king's sons were worthy of their sire and their great English descent. Dom Edward, the eldest son, named after his great-grandfather, Edward III. of England, aided his father in the duties of government, and drew up the first code of Portuguese law. Dom Pedro, the second son, travelled over Europe, winning respect at all courts by his abilities, fighting against the heathen Lithuanians with 'the Teutonic Knights, and then, on his return, taking a good share in the direction of affairs at home. Dom Henry, the third son, was the famous " Navigator." His great aim was to bring commercial gain to Portugal by discovering a continuous sea-route to India. Two younger sons were distinguished, one in civil rule, the other as a Crusader. The beautiful Isabel, their sister, married Philip "the Good" of Burgundy. Under the immediate successors of John the Great, there was some useless and unsuccessful warfare against the Moors in Africa, and Dom Ferdinand, the fifth son of John, fell a victim to imprisonment as a hostage, rather than consent to the surrender of Ceuta, the only ransom which his captors would accept. Alfonso V., foolishly attacking Castile, instead of adhering to the old policy, was utterly defeated in 1476. His son and successor, John II. (1481-1495), a brave soldier and a very able politician and statesman, returned to the wise policy of his ancestor, John the Great, maintaining a close friendship with England, and neutrality in Spanish affairs. He broke the power of the turbulent and rapacious feudal nobles, bringing their leader, the duke of Braganza, to the block in 1483. He was also a strong supporter of the systematic maritime exploration inaugurated by Prince Henry, and only made the one great mistake, as regarded -his own glory and that of Portugal, of rejecting the proposals of -Columbus. The Portuguese king, the first European monarch who thought of reaching India by sailing round Africa, was deaf to one who-thought of sailing westwards with the same object. During his brief reign, John II. did much to improve shipbuilding and firearms and his court was filled with men who became illustrious in maritime research or in conquest and government, such as Bartholomew Diaz and Albuquerque. His death occurred in the prime of manhood, while he was preparing the fleet with which Vasco da Gama performed the great work which his sovereign had conceived. Prince Henry "the Navigator" devoted more than 40 years, from 1418 until his death in 1460, to the direction of the great work by which he won his historical title. He called to his aid mathematicians and astronomers from all quarters, and used a part of his vast wealth in establishing a school of navigation and an observatory at Sagre, near Cape St. Vincent. Charts-were drawn up and the working of the mariner's compass was improved. The most enterprising mariners and commanders were employed, and sent out yearly along the western coast of Africa. The daring of these men may be conceived from the fact that their voyages in the open Atlantic were performed in ships little better than half-decked sailing-boats, carrying a crew of about three dozen men. In 1420 Madeira, still in Portuguese possession, was discovered. Funchal, the capital, is named from funcho, the Portuguese word for the abundant fennel, Madeira itself being named from the Portuguese for "timber," in which it abounded at that date. Porto Santo, about 23 miles north-east of Madeira, had been reached in the previous year. The chief island of the group, Madeira, was promptly colonised, and, after the end of a seven-years' fire which almost utterly destroyed the vegetation, Dom Henry introduced the sugarcane and the vine. We are reminded of a trouble now endured by our fellow-subjects in Australia and New Zealand when we read that the attempt to colonise Porto Santo, which was leased to its discoverer Perestrello, was rendered vain by the rabbits introduced, which ate up all the produce of the soil. The main object of the prince was, however, the circumnavigation of Africa, in order to divert the Indian trade to Lisbon from the existing routes, which were either by land all the way to the Levant, or up the Red Sea and across Egypt, the European destination in either case being chiefly Venice. It was many years before the Portuguese navigators could make their way south of Cape Bojador, lying in about 26 north latitude. In the yearly attempts made by little fleets of two or three vessels, the Canary Islands, yielded to Castile on the ground of previous discovery, and the Azores, still held by Portugal, were reached, the latter in 1431. In the following year a captain discovered in the Azores (from acor or azor, a hawk) the island of Santa Maria, and in 1444 the same navigator, Cabral (not the subsequent discoverer of Brazil), made his way to Sao Miguel or St. Michael, which is still so famous for its oranges. In 1434 Cape Bojador was doubled, and in 1441 the most enterprising of all these captains, Nuno Tristao, reached Cabo Branco (Cape Blanco), and unhappily started the Portuguese slave-trade by bringing home some captive negroes. Labourers were needed for the tillage of Portuguese waste-lands, and a profitable traffic was at once started by the navigators on the west African coast. In 1445 Nuno Tristao reached the Senegal river, and in the same year the Guinea coast was discovered. A further trade in slaves was started there by the Lisbon merchants. Year by year the voyages went on, and Cape Verde, so named from its green appearance, was reached in 1446 by Diniz Diaz, one of the most adventurous commanders. After the death of Prince Henry in 1460, when the way round Africa had been well prepared, the slave-trade and other traffic on the Guinea coast, rich in ivory and spices, brought a lull in the voyages of pure exploration. In 1471, however, the navigator Fernando Po discovered the island called by his name, with St. Thomas and Anno Bom (Annobon), and crossed the equator to some distance south. John II. built the fort of Elmina, now in British possession, west of Cape Coast Castle, on the Gold Coast, and in 1484 Diogo Cam discovered the Congo. Still pushing forward, Bartholomew Diaz reached Algoa Bay in 1486, and in 1487 at last doubled the cape named by him, from the weather which he met, Cabo Tormentoso, or Stormy Cape, a title changed by his sovereign, when the north-east run of the coast gave a good prospect of success in the main object which Prince Henry had not lived to see attained, into the world-famous Cape of Good Hope, in his language Cabo da Boa Esperanga. Here, on the verge of modern history, and in full sight of her brief period of national glory in the 16th century, we leave Portugal, to treat of very different people and scenes at the other end of southern Europe.

Before narrating the downfall of the Greek or Byzantine Empire, we must deal with a branch of the Turks, the people who founded a new empire in the south-east of Europe. We have already seen something of the Mongols in this record as hordes who invaded eastern Europe and held sway for centuries in a large part of Russia. The name is derived from the word mong, meaning "brave" or "bold." Their origin and early history are very obscure, but from Chinese annals we learn of their existence, from the 6th to the 9th century, in regions around the north of the great desert of Gobi and Lake Baikal. In the 13th century these Mongols, foremost in strength and valour, and waging war, on scientific principles with heavy-armed horsemen, came forth like a flood from central Asia, and brought a tide of ruin and devastation over most of the Eastern, world. In the 12th century they warred with success against China, but it was only at the end of that period that they became united and truly formidable under a leader of great genius named Temujin, who assumed the title of Chingiz (or Zingis, Jingis) or Genghis Khan, meaning "very mighty khan or prince." In the earlier years of the 13th century this mighty conqueror and his generals, with hundreds of thousands of warriors, overran northern China and central Asia, capturing the populous cities of Bokhara, Merv, Herat, Samarcand, and Khiva, and invading northern India. The fighting-men of the conquered territories were all slain, and fortifications were razed to the ground. Before his death in 1227 Genghis had proved himself to be no mere barbarian, but a general whose great and rapid conquests were due to admirable discipline and organisation; the ablest administrator and greatest sovereign of his time; the most terrible of warlike subduers of mankind; the founder of long-enduring states. His vast empire was, at his death, divided among his sons and grandsons, and it was at this time that Russia, Hungary, Poland, and Moravia were invaded, though, happily for Europe, the migratory spirit of the Mongols prevented them from settling down in any permanence on Western territory, except in the Russian khanates. In this 13th century the Caliphate of Bagdad was destroyed, Syria was subdued, and a kingdom was founded in Persia. It was Batu, a grandson of Genghis Khan, that marched into the heart of Hungary in 1241, and defeated its people with immense slaughter on the wide heath of Mohi, near the vine-clad hills of Tokay. Croatia, Dalmatia, Herzegovina, Servia, and Bulgaria had been overrun, when Batu was recalled to Asia by tidings of the death of his uncle Ogotai, the chief khan, who had become emperor of China. The wonderful success of these conquering Mongols was due to the dissensions of Christendom; to the rapid movements of their cavalry, contrasted with the heavy-armed mediaeval knights of Europe; and, strange to say, to the superior quality of their weapons. They were armed with crooked swords, bows and arrows, and slings. The arrow was longer than that used by the Western archers, and was made of iron, bone, or horn. Their artillery for sieges, in the form of the ballista, or huge catapult, far surpassed any other of the time, and in all points of military efficiency they were the best troops in the world. Among the Mongol kingdoms of central Asia, the khanates of Bokhara and Khiva reached the highest point of prosperity and power. At a later period the whole of their conquered territory in Asia became absorbed in the Chinese, British, and Russian empires, with the exception of Persia and a small territory to the north-east.

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