The Empire of Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 601 pages of information about The Empire of Russia.

The tribes who then peopled the vast wilds of northern Europe and Asia, though almost innumerable, and of different languages and customs, were all called, by the Greeks, Scythians, as we have given the general name of Indians to all the tribes who formerly ranged the forests of North America.  The Scythians were as ferocious a race as earth has ever known.  They drank the blood of their enemies; tanned their skins for garments; used their skulls for drinking cups; and worshiped a sword as the image or emblem of their favorite deity, the God of War.  Philip of Macedon was the first who put any check upon their proud spirit.  He conquered them in a decisive battle, and thus taught them that they were not invincible.  Alexander the Great assailed them and spread the terror of his arms throughout all the region between the Danube and the Dnieper.  Subsequently the Roman legions advanced to the Euxine, and planted their eagles upon the heights of the Caucasus.

The Roman historians seem to have dropped the Scythian name, and they called the whole northern expanse of Europe and Asia, Sarmatia, and the barbarous inhabitants Sarmatians.  About the time of our Saviour, some of these fierce tribes from the banks of the Theiss and the Danube, commenced their assaults upon the frontiers of the Roman empire.  This was the signal for that war of centuries, which terminated in the overthrow of the throne of the Caesars.  The Roman Senate, enervated by luxury, condescended to purchase peace of these barbarians, and nations of savages, whose names are now forgotten, exacted tribute, under guise of payment for alliance, from the proud empire.  But neither bribes, nor alliances, nor the sword in the hands of enervated Rome, could effectually check the incursions of these bands, who were ever emerging, like wolves, from the mysterious depths of the North.

In the haze of those distant times and remote realms, we catch dim glimpses of locust legions, emerging from the plains and the ravines between the Black Sea and the Caspian, and sweeping like a storm cloud over nearly all of what is now called Russia.  These people, to whom the name of Alains was given, had no fixed habitations; they conveyed their women and children in rude carts.  Their devastations were alike extended over Europe and Asia, and in the ferocity of their assaults they were as insensible to death as wild beasts could be.

In the second century, the emperor Trajan conquered and took possession of the province of Dacia, which included all of lower Hungary, Transylvania, Moldavia, Wallachia and Bessarabia.  The country was divided into Roman provinces, over each of which a prefect was established.  In the third century, the Goths, from the shores of the Baltic, came rushing over the wide arena, with the howling of wolves and their gnashing of teeth.  They trampled down all opposition, with their war knives drove out the Romans, crossed the Black Sea in their rude vessels, and spread conflagration and death throughout the most flourishing cities and villages of Bythinia, Gallacia and Cappadocia.  The famous temple of Diana at Ephesus, these barbarians committed to the flames.  They overran all Greece and took Athens by storm.  As they were about to destroy the precious libraries of Athens, one of their chieftains said,

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The Empire of Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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