Henry Hart Milman, D.D., was born in London on February 10, 1791, died on September 24, 1868, and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral, of which for the last nineteen years of his life he was Dean. He was the youngest son of Sir Francis Milman, physician to George III, and was educated at Greenwich, Eton and Oxford. Although as a scholarly poet he had a considerable reputation, his literary fame rests chiefly on his fine historical works, of which fifteen volumes appeared, including the "History of the Jews," the "History of Christianity to the Abolition of Paganism in the Roman Empire," and the "History of Latin Christianity to the Pontificate of Nicholas V." The appearance of the "History of the Jews" in 1830 caused no small consternation among the orthodox, but among the Jews themselves it was exceptionally well received. Dean Milman wrote several hymns, including "Ride on, ride on in majesty," "When our heads are bowed in woe." Although this history carries the Jewish race down tomodern times, it is included in the section of THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS treating of ancient history, as it is the history of an ancient race, not of a definite country.
I.--Dissolution of the Jewish States
By the destruction of Jerusalem and of the fortified cities of Machaerus and Masada, which had held out after it, the political existence of the Jewish nation was annihilated; it was never again recognised as one of the states or kingdoms of the world. We have now to trace a despised and obscure race in almost every region of the world. We are called back, indeed, for a short time to Palestine, to relate new scenes of revolt, ruin, and persecution. Not long after the dissolution of the Jewish state it revived again in appearance, under the form of two separate communities--one under a sovereignty purely spiritual, the other partly spiritual and partly temporal, but each, comprehending all the Jewish families in the two great divisions of the world. At the head of the Jews on this side of the Euphrates appeared the Patriarch of the West; the chief of the Mesopotamian communities, assumed the striking but more temporal title of Resch- lutha, or Prince of the Captivity.
That Judaism should have thus survived is one of the most marvellous of historic phenomena. But, for the most part, the populous cities beyond the Jordan, the dominions of Agrippa, and Samaria escaped the devastation; and, according to tradition, the sanhedrin was spared in the general wreck.
After a brief interval of peace for the Jews scattered through the world during the reign of Nerva, their settlements in Babylonia, Egypt, Cyrene, and Judea broke out in rebellion against the intolerant religious policy of the otherwise sagacious and upright Trajan. Great atrocities were committed by revolting Jews in Egypt, and the retaliation was terrible. It is said that 220,000 Jews fell before the remorseless vengeance of their enemies. The flame spread to Cyprus, where it was quenched by Hadrian, afterwards emperor. He expelled the Jews from the island. When Hadrian ascended the throne, in 117 A.D., he issued an edict which was tantamount to the total suppression of Judaism, for it interdicted circumcision, the reading of the law, and the observance of the Sabbath.
At this momentous juncture, when universal dismay prevailed, it was announced that the Messiah had appeared. He had come in power and glory. His name fulfilled the prophecy of Balaam. Barcochab, the Son of the Star, was that star which was to "arise out of Jacob." Wonders attended on his person; he breathed flames from his mouth which, no doubt, would burn up the strength of the proud oppressor, and wither the armies of the tyrannical Hadrian. Above all, Akiba, the greatest of the rabbins, the living oracle of divine truth, espoused the claims of the new Messiah; he was called the standard-bearer of the Son of the Star. Of him also wondrous stories were told. The first expedition of Barcochab was to the ruins of Jerusalem, where a rude town had sprung up. Here he openly assumed the title of king. But he and his followers avoided a battle in the open field. On the arrival of the famous Julius Severus to take command of the Roman forces, the rebel Jews were in possession of fifty of the strongest castles and nearly a thousand villages. Severus attacked the strongholds in detail,
reducing them by famine, and gradually brought the war to a close.
Over half a million Jews perished during the struggle, and the whole of Judea was a desert in which wolves and hyenas howled through the streets of the desolate cities. Hadrian established a new city on the site of Jerusalem, which he called AElia Capitolina, and peopled with a colony of foreigners. An edict was issued prohibiting any Jew from entering the new city on pain of death, and the more effectually to enforce the edict, the image of a swine was placed over the gate leading to Bethlehem.
_II.--Judaism and Christianity_
For the fourth time the Jewish people seemed on the brink of extermination. Nebuchadrezzar, Antiochus, Titus, and Hadrian had successively exerted their utmost power to extinguish their existence as a separate people. Yet in less than sixty years after the war under Hadrian, before the close of the second century after Christ, the Jews present the extraordinary spectacle of two separate and regularly organised communities--one under the Patriarch of Tiberias, comprehending all of Israelitish descent who inhabited the Roman Empire; the other under the Prince of the Captivity, to whom all the eastern Jews paid allegiance. By the mild temper of Antoninus Pius, the Jews were restored to their ancient privileges. Though still forbidden to enter Jerusalem, they were permitted to acquire the freedom of Rome, to establish many settlements in Italy, and to enjoy municipal honours.
This gentle treatment assuaged the stern temper of the race. Awakened from their dream of prophecy and conquest, they assumed the behaviour of peaceable and industrious subjects. The worship of the synagogue became the great bond of racial union, and through centuries held the scattered nation in the closest uniformity.
The middle of the third century beheld all Israel incorporated into their two communities, under their patriarch and their caliphate. The Resch-Glutha, or Prince of the Captivity, lived in all the state and splendour of an oriental potentate, far outshining in his pomp his rival sovereign in Tiberias. The most celebrated of the rabbinical sovereigns was Jehuda, sometimes called the nasi or patriarch. His life was of such spotless purity that he was named the Holy. He was the author of a new constitution for the Jewish people, for he embodied in the celebrated Mischna all the authorised traditions of the schools and courts, and all the authorised interpretations of the Mosaic law. Both in the East and the West the Jews maintained their seclusion from the rest of the world. The great work called the Talmud, formed of the Mischna and the Gemara (or compilation of comments), was composed during a period of thirty years of profound peace for the masters of the Babylonian schools, under Persian rule. This remains a monumental token of learning and industry of the eastern Jewish rabbins of the third and fourth centuries.
The formal establishment of Christianity by Constantine the Great, in the early part of the fourth century, might have led to Jewish apprehension lest the Synagogue should be eclipsed by the splendour of its triumphant rival, the Christian Church; but the Rabbinical authority had raised an insurmountable barrier around the Synagogue. And, unhappily, the Church had lost its most effective means of conversion--its miraculous powers, its simple doctrine, and the blameless lives of its believers. Constantine enacted severe laws against the Jews, which seem in great part to have been occasioned by their own fiery zeal. But, still earlier than these enactments, Spain had given the signal for hostility towards the Jews. A decree was passed at the Council of Elvira prohibiting Jewish and Christian farmers and peasants from mingling together at harvest home and other festivals.
In Egypt, during the reign of Constantius, who succeeded his father Constantine, the hot-headed Jews of Alexandria provoked the enactment by that emperor of yet severer laws, by mingling themselves in the factions of Arians and Athanasians, which distracted that restless city. They joined with the pagans on the side of the Arian bishop, and committed frightful excesses. An insurrection in Judea, which terminated in the destruction of Dio Caesarea, gave further pretext for exaction and oppression. But the apostasy of the emperor for a time revived the hopes of the race, especially when he issued his memorable edict decreeing the rebuilding of the Temple on Mount Moriah, and the restoration of the Jewish worship in its original splendour.
The whole Jewish world was now in commotion. Julian entrusted the execution of the project to his favourite, Alypius, while he advanced with his ill-fated army to the East. The Jews crowded from the most distant quarters to assist in the work. But terrible disappointment ensued. Fire destroyed the work, and various catastrophes frustrated the enterprise, and the death of Julian rendered it hopeless.
The irruption of the Northern Barbarians during the latter half of the fourth to about the end of the fifth century so completely disorganised the whole frame of society that the condition of its humblest members could not but be powerfully influenced thereby. The Jews were widely dispersed in all those countries on which the storm fell--in Belgium, the Rhine districts, Germany, where it was civilised, Gaul, Italy, and Spain. Not only did the Jews in their scattered colonies engage actively in mercantile pursuits, but one great branch of commerce fell chiefly into their hands--the internal slave-trade of Europe.
The Church beheld this evil with grief and indignation, and popes issued rescripts and interdicts. Fierce hostility grew up between Church and Synagogue. The Church had not then the power--it may be hoped it had not the will--to persecute. It was fully occupied with the task of seeking to impart to the fierce conquerors--the Vandals; Goths, and other Barbarians-- he humanising and civilising knowledge of Christianity.
A great enemy arose in the person of the Emperor Justinian, who was provoked by savage conflicts between the Jews and the Samaritans to issue severe enactments against both, which led to the fall of the patriarchate. In the East, under the rule during the same period of the Persian king, Chosroes the Just, or Nushirvan, who began his reign in 531 A.D., the position was not more favourable for the Jews of Babylonia.
_III.--The Golden Age of Judaism_
During the conflict between Persian and Roman emperors a power was rapidly growing up in the secret deserts of Arabia which was to erect its throne on the ruins of both. The Jews were the first opponents and the first victims of Mohammed. At least a hundred and twenty years before Christ, Jewish settlers had built castles in Sabaea and established an independent kingdom, known as Homeritis, which was subdued by an Arab chieftain and came to an end. But the Jews were still powerful in the Arabian peninsula. Mohammed designed to range all the tribes under his banner; but his overtures were scorned, and he ordered a massacre of all who refused to accept the Koran.
On one day 700 Jews were slain in Medina while the Prophet looked on without emotion. But the persecution of the Jews by the Mohammedans was confined to Arabia, for under the empire of the caliphs they suffered no further oppression than the payment of tribute. Spain had maintained its odious distinction in the West, and it is not surprising that the suffering Jews by active intrigue materially assisted the triumphant invasion of the country by the Saracens. And in France the Jews became numerous and wealthy, and traded with great success.
We enter on a period which may be described as the Golden Age of the modern Jews. The religious persecutions of this race by the Mohammedans were confined within the borders of Arabia. The Prophet was content with enforcing uniformity of worship within the sacred peninsula which gave him birth. The holy cities of Medina and Mecca were not to be profaned by the unclean footstep of the unbeliever. His immediate successors rose from stern fanatics to ambitious conquerors. Whoever would submit to the dominion of the caliph might easily evade the recognition of the Prophet's title. The Jews had reason to rejoice in the change of masters. An Islamite sovereign would not be more oppressive than a Byzantine on the throne of Constantinople or a Persian on the throne of Ctesiphon. In every respect the Jew rose in the social scale under his Mohammedan rulers. Provided he demeaned himself peaceably, and paid his tribute, he might go to the synagogue rather than to the mosque.
In the time of Omar, the second caliph, the coinage, already a trust of great importance, had been committed to the care of a Jew. And the Jews acted as intermediate agents in the interworking of European civilisation, its knowledge, arts, and sciences, into the oriental mind, and in raising the barbarian conquerors from the chieftains of wild, marauding tribes intomagnificent and enlightened sovereigns. The caliph readily acknowledged as his vassal the Prince of the Captivity, who maintained his state as representative of the Jewish community. And in the West, during the reigns of Pepin and Charlemagne, the treatment of Jews became much more liberal than before. Their superior intelligence and education, in a period when nobles and kings, and even the clergy, could not always write their names, pointed them out for offices of trust. They were the physicians, the ministers of finance, to monarchs.
They even became ambassadors. The Golden Age of the Jews endured in increasing prosperity during the reign of Louis the Debonnaire, or the Pious, at whose court they were so powerful that their interest was solicited by the presents of kings. In the reign of Charles the Bald, the Jews maintained their high estate, but dark signs of the approaching Age of Iron began to lower around.
_IV.--The Iron Age of Judaism_
Our Iron Age commences in the East, where it witnessed the extinction of the Princes of the Captivity by the ignominious death of the last sovereign, the downfall of the schools, and the dispersion of the community, which from that period remained an abject and degraded part of the population. During the ninth and tenth centuries the Caliphate fell into weakness and confusion, and split up into several kingdoms under conflicting sovereigns, and at the same time Judaism in the East was distracted by continual disputes between the Princes of the Captivity and the masters of the schools. The tribunals of the civil and temporal powers of the Eastern Jewish community were in perpetual collision, so that this singular state was weakened internally by its own dissensions.
When a violent and rapacious caliph, Ahmed Kader, ascended the throne, he cast a jealous look on the powers of his vassal sovereign, and, without pretext, he seized Scherira, the prince of the community, now a hundred years old, imprisoned him and his son Hai, and confiscated their wealth. Hai escaped to resume his office and to transmit its honours and its dangers to Hezekiah, who was elected chief of the community, but after a reign of two years was arrested with all his family by order of the caliph Abdallah Kaim ben Marillah (A.D. 1036). The schools were closed. Many of the learned fled to Spain, where the revulsion under the Almohades had not yet taken place; all were dispersed. Among the rest two of the sons of the unfortunate Prince of the Captivity effected their escape to Spain, while the last of the House of David who reigned over the Jews of the Dispersion in Babylonia perished on the scaffold.
The Jewish communities in Palestine suffered a slower but more complete dissolution. Benjamin of Tudela in the compilation of his travels in the twelfth century gives a humiliating account of the few brethren who still clung, in dire poverty and meanness, to their native land. In Tyre he found 400 Jews, mostly glass-blowers. There were in Jerusalem only 200, almost all dyers of wool. Ascalon contained 153 Jews; Tiberias, the seat of learning, and of the kingly patriarchate, but fifty. In the Byzantine Empire the number of Jews had greatly diminished.
We pursue our dark progress to the West, where we find all orders gradually arrayed in fierce and implacable animosity against the race of Israel. Every passion was in arms against them. In that singular structure, the feudal system, which rose like a pyramid from the villeins, or slaves attached to the soil, to the monarch who crowned the edifice, the, Jews alone found no proper place. In France and England they were the actual property of the king, and there was nowhere any tribunal to which they could appeal.
The Jew, often acquiring wealth in commerce, might become valuable property of some feudatory lord. He was granted away, he was named in a marriage settlement, he was pawned, he was sold, he was stolen. Even Churchmen of the highest rank did not disdain such lucrative property. Louis, King of Provence, granted to the Archbishop of Aries all the possessions which his predecessors have held of former kings, including the Jews. Philip the Fair bought of his brother, Charles of Valois, all the Jews of his dominions and lordships.
The Jew, making money as he knew how to do by trade and industry, was
a valuable source of revenue, and was tolerated only as such, but he was a valuable possession. Chivalry, the parent of so much good and evil, was a source of unmitigated wretchedness to the Jew--for religious fanaticism and chivalry were inseparable, the knight of the Middle Ages being bound with his good sword to extirpate all the enemies of Christ and His Virgin Mother. The power of the clergy tended greatly to increase this general detestation against the unhappy Jew. And when undisciplined fanatics of the lowest order, under the guidance of Peter the Hermit and Walter the Penniless, were fired with the spirit of the
Crusades, fearful massacres of Jews were perpetrated in Treves, Metz, Spiers, Worms, and Cologne. Everywhere the tracks of the Crusaders were deeply marked with Jewish blood.
Half a century after the shocking massacres of Jews during the First Crusade, another storm gathered, as the monk Rodolph passed through Germany preaching the duty of wreaking vengeance on all the enemies of God. The terrible cry of "Hep!"--the signal for the massacre of Israelites--ran through the cities of the Rhine. Countless atrocities took place as the Crusaders passed on, as the Jews record with triumph, to perish by plague, famine, and the sword.
_V.--The Jews in England_
In the Dark Ages England was not advanced beyond the other nations of Europe in the civil or religious wisdom of toleration. There were Jews in England under the Saxons. And during the days of the Norman kings they were established in Oxford and in London. They taught Hebrew to Christian as well as to Jewish students. But they increased in both wealth and unpopularity, false tales about atrocities committed by them being bruited abroad. In many towns furious rabbles at different times attacked the Jewish quarters, burnt the dwellings, and put the inmates cruelly to death, as at York, where hundreds perished during a riot in the reign of Richard I. King John by cruel measures extorted large sums from wealthy Jews.
The Church was also their implacable enemy, securing many repressive enactments against them. Jewish history has a melancholy sameness-- erpetual exactions, the means of enforcing them differing only in their cruelty. When parliament refused to maintain the extravagant royal expenditure, nothing remained but still further to drain Hebrew veins. In the reign of Henry III. a tale was spread of the crucifixion of a Christian child, called Hugh of Lincoln. The story refutes itself, but it created horror throughout the country. For this crime eighteen of the richest Jews of Lincoln were hanged, and many more flung into dungeons.
The death of Henry brought no respite, for Edward acted with equal harshness. At length he issued the famous irrevocable edict of total expulsion from the realm. Their departure was fixed for October 10, 1290. All who delayed were to be hanged without mercy. The Jews were pursued from, the kingdom with every mark of popular triumph in their sufferings. In one day 16,511 were exiled; all their property, debts, obligations, mortgages were escheated to the king. A like expulsion had been effected in France; and Spain, where the Jews were of a far nobler rank, was not to be outdone in bigotry.
During the reign of John I., in 1388 A.D., a fierce popular preacher of Seville, Ferdinand Martinez, Arch-deacon of Ecija, excited the populace to excesses against the Jews. The streets of the noble city ran with blood, and 4,000 victims perished. The cruel spirit spread through the kingdom, and appalling massacres followed in many cities. A series of intermittent persecutions followed both in Spain and Portugal, in reign after reign. Jews and Protestants together went through awful ordeals at the hands of the Inquisition. When her glory had declined, Spain, even in her lowest decrepitude, indulged in what might seem the luxury of persecution.
It was in the reign of Charles II. that the Jews found opportunity to steal insensibly back into England. Cromwell had felt very favourably disposed towards them, but had not dared to permit the re-establishment which they had openly sought. But the necessities of Charles and his courtiers quietly accomplished the, change, and the race has ever since maintained its footing, and no doubt contributed a fair share to the national wealth. Russia throughout her history adhered to her hostility to the Jews, but expulsion became impossible with such vast numbers. It is estimated that Russia contains half the Jewish population of the world, notwithstanding that Russia proper from ancient times has been sternly inhospitable to the Jewish race, while Poland has ever been hospitable.
The most important measures of amelioration in the lot of the Jews in England were passed in 1723, when they acquired the right to possess land; in 1753, when parliament enacted the Naturalisation Bill; in 1830, when they were admitted to civic corporations; in 1833, when they were admitted to the profession of advocates; in 1845, when they were rendered eligible for the office of alderman and lord mayor; and in 1858, when the last and crowning triumph of the principle was achieved by the admission of Jews into parliament.
In Asia, the Jews are still found in considerable numbers on the verge of the continent; in China, they are now found in one city alone, and possess only one synagogue. In Mesopotamia and Assyria the ancient seats of the Babylonian Jews are still occupied by 5,270 families. But England and Anglo-Saxon countries generally have been the most favourable to the race. Perhaps the most remarkable fact in the history of modern Judaism is the extension of the Jews in the United States. Writing in 1829, I stated, on the best authority then attainable, their numbers at 6,000. They are now [in 1863] reckoned at 75,000.