The Plain Invading Tribes

advance, conditions, world and geographical

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The effect of these peoples on the history of the world is, then, obvious. It is equally obvious that geographical conditions of many kinds reacted to produce this effect. We have now to see whether there was really any advance, whether there was really any saving of energy. There was certainly some waste. The great " going concern " of the Roman Empire was largely wrecked. Were there any compensating advantages ? Was the destruction of a great part of the Roman Empire absolute waste, or was it not rather the " scrapping " of obsolete machinery which was necessary before new and better machinery could take its place ? The advance took three forms.

(i) Both Asiatics and Western barbarians were brave and hardy. The majority of the earlier peoples — Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians lived under easier geographical conditions, but just be cause of the hard geographical conditions of the plain— hard because the plain lies northward and less natural energy is available—the peoples of the plain possessed certain qualities in a higher degree than did the peo ples in the south, and these qualities tended to greater advance. Personal courage was necessary to fight against daily hardships of climate and sterile soil as well as against human enemies, and on the whole the Northern races were superior in bravery to the rulers in Italy after the second century. These had long forgotten how great a factor in the stability of a state is the personal courage of individuals.

(ii) Among the Teutonic nations this individualism showed itself in other ways. Individual initiation was necessary, but it was subordinated in part to the good of the whole. In after times this union of the two ideas was seen, among other things, in the growth of the feudal system; but the geographical conditions of early times were favourable to the growth of the attitude of mind which desires a personal freedom like the Greek, with orderly rule like the Roman. This indiiiidualism also is evident in other moral qualities which make for advance. Love of the family, and all the virtues which spring from that love, are much more likely to be fostered in the north than in the south of Europe.

(iii) The invasions of the Asiatic barbarians, destructive as they were, were also not without their effect in bringing about a great material advance. They gave a wider outlook on the world. These invasions hammered into the minds of the Western nations the idea that the world was larger than the Mediterranean lands. Travellers did actually reach China and return to tell the tale. The world that mattered grew enormously, and with this growth the amount of energy that was available grew also. Further, it is not too much to say that invading tribes, by enlarging the outlook, had a very distinct effect in producing the train of circumstances which led to the discoveries of Columbus and his followers.

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