« EelmineJätka »
The Greeks made but little use of cavalry. It was chiefly with the Macedonian phalanx that Alexander gained the battles which laid Persia at his feet.
It was the Roman infantry that subjugated the greater part of the world. At the battle of Pharsalia, Cæsar had but one thousand horse.
It is not known at what time the Indians and the Africans first began to march elephants at the head of their armies. We cannot read without surprise of Hannibal's elephants crossing the Alps, which were much harder to pass then than they are now.
There have long been disputes about the disposition of the Greek and Roman armies, their arms, and their evolutions.
Each one has given his plan of the battles of Zama and Pharsalia.
The commentator Calmet, a Benedictine, has printed three great volumes of his Dictionary of the Bible, in which, the better to explain God's commandments, are inserted a hundred engravings, where you see plans of battles and sieges in copper-plate. The god of the Jews was the god of armies, but Calmet was not his secretary; he cannot have known, but by revelation, how the armies of the Amalekites, the Moabites, the Syrians, and the Philistines, were arranged on the days of general murder. These plates of carnage, designed at a venture, made his book five or six louis dearer, but made it no better.
It is a great question whether the Franks, whom the Jesuit Daniel calls French by anticipation, used bows and arrows in their armies, and whether they had helmets and cuirasses.
Supposing that they went to combat almost naked, and armed, as they are said to have been, with only a small carpenter's axe, a sword, and a knife, we must infer that the Romans, masters of Gaul, so easily conquered by Clovis, had lost all their ancient valour, and that the Gauls were as willing to be subject to a small number of Franks as to a small number of Romans.
Warlike accoutrements have since changed, as everything else changes.
In the days of knights, squires, and varlets, the armed force of Germany, France, Italy, England, and Spain, consisted almost entirely of horsemen, who, as well as their horses, were covered with steel. The infantry performed the functions rather of pioneers than of soldiers. But the English had always good archers among their foot, which contributed, in a great measure, to their gaining almost every battle.
Who would believe that armies now-a-days do but make experiments in natural philosophy? A soldier would be much astonished, if some learned man were to say to him
My friend, you are a better machinist than Archimedes. Five parts of saltpetre, one of sulphur, and one of carbo ligneus, have been separately prepared. Your saltpetre dissolved, well filtered, well evaporated, well crystallized, well turned, well dried, has been incorporated with the yellow purified sulphur. These two ingredients, mixed with powdered charcoal, have, by means of a little vinegar, or solution of sal-ammoniac, or urine, formed large balls, which balls have been reduced in pulverem pyrium by a mill. The effect of this mixture is a dilatation, which is nearly as four thousand to unity; and the lead in your barrel exhibits another effect, which is the product of its bulk multiplied by its velocity.
"The first who discovered a part of this mathematical secret, was a Benedictine named Roger Bacon. He who perfected the invention, was another Benedictine, in Germany, in the fourteenth century, named Schwartz. So that you owe to two monks the art of being an excellent murderer, when you aim well and your powder is good.
"Du Cange has in vain pretended that, in 1338, the registers of the Chambre des Comptes, at Paris, mention a bill paid for gunpowder. Do not believe it. It is artillery which is there spoken of a name attached to ancient as well as to modern warlike machines.
Gunpowder entirely superseded the Greek fire, of which the Moors still made use. In fine, you are the depositary of an art, which not only imitates the thunder, but is also much more terrible."
There is, however, nothing but truth in this speech. Two monks have, in reality, changed the face of the earth.
Before cannon were known, the northern nations had subjugated nearly the whole hemisphere, and could come again, like famishing wolves, to seize upon the lands as their ancestors had done.
In all armies, the victory, and consequently the fate of kingdoms, was decided by bodily strength and agility-a sort of sanguinary fury-a desperate struggle, man to man. Intrepid men took towns by scaling their walls. There was hardly more discipline in the armies of the North, during the decline of the Roman Empire, than among carnivorous beasts rushing on their prey.
Now, a single frontier fortress would suffice to stop the armies of Genghis or Attila.
It is not long since a victorious army of Russians were unavailingly consumed before Custrin, which is nothing more than a little fortress in a marsh.
In battle, men the weakest in body may, with welldirected artillery, prevail against the stoutest. At the battle of Fontenoi, a few cannon were sufficient to compel the retreat of the whole English column, though it had been master of the field.
ce The combatants no longer close. The soldier has no longer that ardour-that impetuosity, which is redoubled in the heat of action, when the fight is hand to hand. Strength, skill, and even the temper of the weapons, are useless. A charge with the bayonet is made scarcely once in the course of a war, though the bayonet is the most terrible of weapons.
In a plain, frequently surrounded by redoubts furnished with heavy artillery, two armies advance in siolence, each division taking with it flying artillery. The first lines fire at one another and after one another:
they are victims presented in turn to the bullets. Squadrons at the wings are often exposed to a cannonade while waiting for the general's orders. They who first tire of this manoeuvre, which gives no scope for the display of impetuous courage, disperse and quit the field; and are rallied, if possible, a few miles off. The victorious enemies besiege a town, which sometimes costs them more men, money, and time, than they would have lost by several battles. The progress made is rarely rapid; and at the end of five or six years, both sides, being equally exhausted, are obliged to make peace.*
Thus, at all events, the invention of artillery and the new mode of warfare have established among the respective powers an equality which secures mankind from devastations like those of former times, and thereby renders war less fatal in its consequences, though it is still prodigiously so.
The Greeks in all ages, the Romans in the time of Sylla, and the other nations of the West and South, had no standing army; every citizen was a soldier, and enrolled himself in time of war. It is, at this day, precisely the same in Switzerland. Go through the whole country, and you will not find a battalion, exeept at the time of the reviews. If it goes to war, you all at once see eighty thousand men in arms.
Those who usurped the supreme power after Sylla, always had a permanent force, paid with the money of the citizens, to keep the citizens in subjection, much more than to subjugate other nations. The bishop of Rome himself keeps a small army in his pay. Who, in the time of the apostles, would have said that the servant of the servants of God should have regiments, and have them in Rome?
Nothing is so much feared in England as a great standing army.t
The Janissaries have raised the Sultans to greatness,
The military genius of Napoleon has supplied a fine illustration of many of the observations of Voltaire.-T.
+ This time is gone by.-T.
but they have also strangled them. The Sultans would have avoided the rope, if, instead of these large bodies of troops, they had established small ones.
AROT AND MAROT,
WITH A SHORT REVIEW OF THE KORAN.
THIS article may serve to show how much the most learned men may be deceived, and to develope some useful truths. In the Dictionnaire Encyclopédique, there is the following passage concerning Arot and Marot:
"These are the names of two angels, who the impostor Mahomet said had been sent from God to teach man, and to order him to abstain from murder, false judgments, and excesses of every kind. This false prophet adds, that a very beautiful woman having invited these two angels to her table, she made them drink wine, with which being heated, they solicited her as lovers; that she feigned to yield to their passion, provided they would first teach her the words by pronouncing which they said it was easy to ascend to heaven; that having obtained from them what she asked, she would not keep her promise; and that she was then taken up into heaven, where, having related to God what had passed, she was changed into the morning star called Lucifer or Aurora, and the angels were severely punished.* Thence it was, according to Mahomet, that God took occasion to forbid wine to men."
It would be in vain to seek in the Koran for a single word of this absurd story and pretended reason for Mahomet's forbidding to his followers the use of wine. He forbids it only in the second and fifth chapters :
"They will question thee about wine and strong liquors thou shalt answer, that it is a great sin."
"The just, who believe and do good works, must not be reproached with having drunk wine and played at games of chance, before games of chance were forbidden."
*The incidents of one of the tales in Moore's "Loves of the Angels:"-T.