Schools of Gaul: A Study of Pagan and Christian Education in the Last Century of the Western Empire

Schools of Gaul: A Study of Pagan and Christian Education in the Last Century of the Western Empire

Schools of Gaul: A Study of Pagan and Christian Education in the Last Century of the Western Empire

Schools of Gaul: A Study of Pagan and Christian Education in the Last Century of the Western Empire

Excerpt

Education in Gaul during the fourth and fifth centuries after Christ has curiously escaped the makers of books. Yet it has more than one claim to notice. It was an age, like our own, of transition, and we see education passing through the last stage of official paganism in the Western Empire, and entering into the Christian era. Movements and counter-movements (which have a considerable measure of modern interest) pass before our eyes. For behind the shifting scenes of Roman and Barbarian, Pagan and Christian, there is a continuity which reaches to the present day. That continuity is the immense fabric of Roman Education which passed through the Church into the Middle Ages, and shaped the thought and culture of modern nations.

Gaul raises the problem of complex nationality. The old Celtic population, overlaid with Roman civilization, penetrated by Germanic tribes--Goths, Franks, Burgundians--is about to enter on a new period of history, and the blending of these elements has an influence on education which is interesting. Nations, when they become great, are prone to emphasize the purity of their race and language. They exclude foreign words and customs whenever they can, they raise the boast of a pure and unique culture. It is an empty boast. Thousands of 'foreign' elements have mingled to make them what they are, and unconsciously they daily absorb fresh elements that are 'foreign'. But so far do they forget this, that sometimes pride, and the ignorance that is born of exclusiveness, lead them to impose their culture on others by force. Complex nationality, while it is in the making, means friction; but once that stage is passed the result is almost always a richer and better culture. So it was with Gaul. Her position as leader of the Roman Empire in education was undoubtedly due largely to her complexity.

At the same time, there is the problem of recognition. The . . .

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