Rome was mistress of the world; he—would be master of Rome.
In the early days of the conquest of Gaul a small island lying in the river Seine was chosen for the residence of the Roman Governors, and called Lutetia. The residence soon grew into the Palace of the Caesars; and then bridges spanned the river, and roads and aqueducts and faubourgs sprang into existence across the Seine, and Lutetia was swallowed up in Paris—so named for a Gallic tribe, the Parisii, which had once encamped there. Standing within the Palais de Justice on this island to-day, one is in direct touch with Rome when she was mistress of the world. The feet of the Caesars have pressed those stones. Those vaulted ceilings have looked down upon Julian the Apostate; he who upon his throne in the far East sighed for “Lutetia”—his “dear Lutetia.”
At Passy and Montmartre, and where stands the Palais Royal, rich Romans had their suburban homes, and Roman legions were encamped where are now the Palais de Luxembourg and the Sorbonne. And with a mingling of Keltic and Latin, there had commenced a new form of human speech.
Not Paris alone, but all of Gaul felt the awakening touch of a great civilization, and with improved ideals in living there came another great advance. The human sacrifices and abhorrent practices of the Druidical faith were abandoned, and Jupiter and Minerva and the gods of Parnassus supplanted the grim deities of a more ancient mythology. But while Rome was a powerful teacher, she was a cruel mistress—and shackles were galling to these free barbarians. In the midst of universal misery there came tidings of something better than the gods of Parnassus, when in A.D. 160 Irenaeus came to Lyons and there established the first Church of Christ; and here it was that Marcus Aurelius ordered the persecution which was intended to stamp out the new and fanatical heresy.
While the Star of Empire was thus moving toward the West, another and brighter star had arisen in the East. So accustomed are we to the story, that we lose all sense of wonder at its recital.
Julius Caesar’s brief triumph was over, Marc Antony had recited his virtues over his bier, Rome had wept, and then forgotten him in the absorbing splendors of his nephew Augustus. In an obscure village of an obscure country in Asia Minor the young wife of a peasant finds shelter in a stable, and gives birth to a son, who is cradled in the straw of a manger from which the cattle are feeding.
Can the mind conceive of human circumstances more lowly? The child grew to manhood, and in his thirty-three years of life was never lifted above the obscure sphere into which he was born; never spoke from the vantage-ground of worldly elevation; simply moving among people of his own station in life, mechanics, fishermen, and peasants, he told of a religion of love, a gospel of peace, for which he was willing to die.