Ravenna, a Study eBook

Edward Hutton (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 266 pages of information about Ravenna, a Study.

But there is something more that is of an even greater importance.

The best hope of the West in its fight with the barbarian undoubtedly lay in its own virility and arms, but it had the right to expect that in such a fight it would not be unaided by the eastern empire and the great civilisation whose capital was that New Rome upon the Bosphorus.  If it was to receive such assistance, it must receive it at Ravenna, which held Cisalpine Gaul and was the gate of the eastern sea.

When Honorius then retreated upon Ravenna, he did so, not merely because Ravenna was impregnable, though that of course weighed too with his advisers, for the base of any virile and active defence must, or should, be itself secure; but also because it held the great pass and the great road into Italy, and as the eastern gate of the West would receive and thrust forward whatever help and reinforcement the empire in the East might care or be able to give.

[Illustration:  SARCOPHAGUS OF THE EMPEROR HONORIUS]

That the defence which was made with Ravenna for its citadel was not wholly victorious, that the attack which the eastern empire planned and delivered from Ravenna, perhaps too late, was not completely successful, were the results of many and various causes, but not of any want of Judgment in the choice of Ravenna as their base.  That base was rightly and consummately chosen without hesitation and from the first; and because it was chosen, the hope of the restoration never quite passed away and seemed to have been realised at last when Charlemagne, following Pepin into Italy, was crowned emperor in S. Peter’s Church on Christmas Day in the year 800.

It will readily be understood, then, that the most important and the most interesting part of the history of Ravenna begins when Honorius retreated upon her before the invasion of Alaric, and not only the West, but Italy and Rome, the heart and soul of it, seemed about to be in dispute.

But first amid all the loose thought and confusion of the last three hundred years let us make sure of fundamentals.

I shall take for granted in this book that Rome accepted the Faith not because the Roman mind was senile, but because it was mature; that the failure of the empire is to be regretted; that the barbarians were barbarians; that not from them but from the new and Christian civilisation of the empire itself came the strength of the restoration, the mighty achievements of the Middle Age, of the Renaissance, of the Modern world.  The barbarian, as I understand it, did nothing.  He came in naked and ashamed, without laws or institutions.  To some extent, though even in this he was a failure, he destroyed; it was his one service.  He came and he tried to learn; he learnt to be a Christian.  When the empire re-arose it was Roman not barbarian, it was Christian not heathen, it was Catholic not heretical.  It owed the barbarian nothing.  That it re-arose, and that as a Roman and a Catholic state, is due largely to the fact that Honorius retreated upon Ravenna.

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Ravenna, a Study from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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