French Revolution and Classical References
from the programme of Peter Gill's National Theatre production of
- Pupil of Socrates. Greek statesman whose friends were not reconciled to
- Athenian statesman ("the Just") renowned for his integrity.
- AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER
- Rising of 10 August 1792 captured the Tuileries and imprisoned the Royal
family. 376 demonstrators killed or wounded and Swiss Guard at the Tuileries
massacred. Between 2-4 September, extremist sans-culottes (cf.) forced
their way into the Paris prisons murdering 1100-1400 prisoners.
- Phrygian peasant woman who, with her husband, personified domestic
- BONNET ROUGE
- Symbol of liberty since Roman times when slaves went bareheaded. In
Revolutionary France, modelled on the bonnet du pauvre, a serviceable
woollen bonnet covering head and ears. The colour was retained because it was
striking. The bloody connotations arose later. In general wear by men from
autumn 1792 as"un emblème virile, un insigne de guerre." July 1794 saw
a reaction against the bonnet, regarded as a Jacobin symbol.
- Presided over the execution of his sons when they were found to be
conspiring to restore monarchy in the Roman Republic. His descendant, Marcus
Junius Brutus, was one of the murderers of Julius Caesar.
- Lucius Sergius Catiline (109-62 BC) a former noble who fought the Roman
Senate and was opposed by Cicero. Danton was referred to as"the Catiline of
- Stoic and defender of liberty, Cato lived out his beliefs rather
over-dogmatically. His great-grandson, Cato of Utica, committed suicide after
being defeated by Caesar in the civil war.
- FRANCOIS CHABOT
- A Capuchin friar, bom 1759. Deputy to the National Assembly, he was
condemned for manipulating the shares of the Compagnie des Indes and
guillotined with Danton on 5 April 1794.
- CHAMPS DE MARS
- 17 July 1791, the National Guard, under Lafayette (cf.), fired on a crowd
assembled in the Champs de Mars killing twelve people. This was shortly after
the King's attempted flight to Varennes and helped turn popular opinion
against the monarchy.
- "CLOCK-MAKER PHILOSOPHER FROM GENEVA"
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, son of a horologist. His Contrat Social was
the"bible" of many Revolutionary leaders. He declared the State could not be
healthy without religion.
- COMMITTEE OF CLEMENCY
- Proposed by Camille Desmoulins in the fourth number of Le Vieux
Cordelier (24 December 1793):"I think very differently from those who tell
you that the Terror must be left as the order of the day. On the contrary, I
am certain that liberty would be consolidated and Europe conquered if you were
to have a Committee of Clemency. It is this Committee which will finally
accomplish the Revolution; for clemency is also a revolutionary measure, the
most efficacious of all, when it is used with wisdom"
- COMMITTEE OF GENERAL SECURITY
- One of the two principal Government Committees in charge of police and
- COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC SAFETY
- The most important Government Committee controlling internal and external
policy. In police and judicial business its function overlapped with that of
the Committee of General Security.
- COMMUNE DE PARIS
- Established in the popular insurrection of 10 August 1792. Each of the 48
Sections which went to make up the municipality of Paris sent 3 delegates,
supplemented, after the rising of 31 May 1793 by a further 96 delegates. The
Commune provided a pressure group for radical policies well to the left of the
more conservative departments of provincial France.
- CORDELIERS CLUB
- The Société des Amis des Droits de l'homme et du citoyen which met
in the Franciscan monastery, Rue des Cordeliers. The Cordeliers always more
radical than the Jacobins, had come to be dominated by the extremist
Hébertists. Hence the"old" and"new" Cordeliers. The newspaper Camille
Desmoulins edited was called the Vieux Cordelier.
- Model Roman matron, mother of the Gracchi, two republican tribunes
murdered by the aristocratic party 133 and 121
- BC. COUTHON
- Georges Couthon (1755-94), extreme Montagnard (cf. Mountain and
Plain) and, with Robespierre and Saint-Just, one of the Triumvirate who
controlled the Committee of Public Safety. His legs were paralysed and he
worked from a wheelchair. Guillotined with Robespierre, 28 July 1794.
- Louis David (1748-1825), great Revolutionary painter, always strategically
placed to catch a dying fall. Deputy, member of the Jacobin club and friend of
Robespierre. Imprisoned on Robespierre's fall, July 1794.
- The Committee of Public Safety, nominally ten members, twelve from July
- JACQUES DELAUNAY
- A deputy to the National Assembly. The decree of 24 August 1793 suppressed
all joint-stock companies, following denunciations by Delaunay, Chabot, and
Fabre d'Eglantine who were at the same time playing the market as the price of
- DICTIONARY OF THE ACADEMY
- Re-issued in 1777 in a 2-volume pocket edition.
- DUC D'ORLEANS
- Novelty-loving, reformist prince of the blood. Freemason. The gardens of
his residence, the Palais-Royal (cf.), became centre of political agitation.
Deputy (Paris) 1792. Awarded title l'Egalité by Paris Commune.
Guillotined by Revolutionary Tribunal, November 1793.
- Reformer, general, and Jacobin. Allied himself with Danton and the
Girondins (cf.). Deserted to Austria after his defeat at Neerwinden (March
- PHILIPPE-FRANCOIS FABRE D'EGLANTINE
- Deputy to the National Assembly, arraigned with Chabot and Delaunay (cf.)
on charges of speculation and financial malpractice.
- Republican in Lyons who committed suicide, despairing of support from the
- Moderate Jacobins from the Gironde, led by, amongst others, Jacques-Pierre
Brissot and Antoine de Condorcet. Sought power for an enlightened bourgeoisie.
Guillotined ("the twenty-two") 31 October 1793.
- The"simple mechanism" which, with humane intentions, brought
the"privilege" of the nobility to the people after the Revolution. A
brainchild of Dr Guillotin, it was"perfected" by Dr Louis of the Academy of
Surgery and others. First used on 26 April 1792. Called La Guillotine
after a popular song of 1789.
- After the death of Marat (cf. Saint Marat), the most extreme faction
amongst the Jacobins, grouped around Jacques Hébert, editor of Le Père
Duchesne. Hébert and his immediate followers, though not all his
sympathisers, were executed 24 March 1794.
- JACOBINS CLUB
- Took its name from the Dominican or"Jacobin" convent where it met. Called
the Société des Jacobins, amis de la Liberté et de l'Egalité from
September 1792. A power-house of ideas and views later developed in the
Assembly and dominated by Robespierre. The Dantonists were members, though
Danton, Legendre, and Camille Desmoulins had their roots in the more plebeian
- Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834). At first prominent reformer. Ordered
National Guard to fire on demonstrators in the Champs de Mars (July 1791) -
the"Massacre" Deserted to Austria after the rising of 10 August 1792.
- LA FORCE
- One of the nine principal prisons of Paris. Among others were the Temple,
the Conciergerie, and the Luxembourg.
- "LAWYER FROM ARRAS"
- Robespierre, son of a poor lawyer, was born in Arras. In his early career
he returned to practice in his native town.
- LOUIS XVII
- Second son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, Dauphin from June 1789. Died
from scrofula and neglect June 1795.
- Famous Roman lady who killed herself in despair after rape by the son of
Tarquin the Great, an event which served as a pretext for the overthrow of
royalty in Rome, 510 BC.
- Medea, sailing with the Argonauts, killed her brother Absyrtos and threw
his limbs into the sea to delay pursuit by her family.
- Comte de Mirabeau (1749-91). Bold reformer and outstanding orator.
Increasingly played double role. Died at height of renewed popularity (April
1791), but his remains ordered to be removed from Pantheon when his memoranda
to Louis XVI were discovered (November 1792).
- "THE MONARCHS"
- The Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia who had invaded France.
- MOUNTAIN AND PLAIN
- Groupings of the deputies, so called from the original arrangement of
seating in the manege or riding-school where the Assembly met in Paris
until 1793. The benches in front of the President, six deep, were known as the
Plain and were occupied by moderate Deputies. Benches on his left were ranked
more steeply in banks of nine. The Jacobins took these seats - so resembling a
mountain. From September 1792 the"Mountain" included all the Paris deputies
plus Couthon and Saint-Just, and acknowledged Robespierre as its leader. By
extension"montagnard" meant anyone sharing their views.
- NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
- Correctly the Constituent Assembly (June 1789 to Sept 91); Legislative
Assembly (October 1791 to August 92); National Convention (September 1792 to
- Gardens of the town house of Duc d'Orleans, hotbed of political intrigue.
Camille Desmoulins called it"le foyer de patriotisme, le rendezvous de
l'élite des patriotes." It was also the red-light district of Paris at the
- Provincial courts before 1789 who were required to register royal decrees
and might remonstrate when so doing.
- "PITT'S BATTLE FLEETS"
- England joined the war against France in 1793 when the execution of Louis
XVI led to formation of a coalition between the two countries already fighting
France (Austria and Prussia), and Britain, Holland, Spain, and Sardinia. The
British navy had command of the sea. The British fleet, which had come to the
aid of the royalists in Toulon had taken off 15,000 royalists before the town
fell to the Republicans. William Pitt was British Prime Minister from December
1783 (when still only 24) to 1801, and 1804-06.
- Legendary king of Cyprus, fell in love with statue which was given life by
- ROBESPIERRE'S BROTHER
- Augustin Robespierre (1764-94). Lawyer. Deputy (Paris) 1792. Guillotined
with Robespierre, 28 July 1794.
- RONSIN (CHARLES PHILIPPE)
- Republican general recalled from the Vendee after exactions there.
Guillotined with the Hébertists.
- SAINTS MARAT AND CHALIER
- Jean-Paul Marat, revolutionary and journalist who called for a
dictatorship"in the name of the people". Assassinated in his bath by a
Girondist sympathiser, Charlotte Corday (July 1793). Joseph Chalier, an
extreme Republican, suffered a particularly atrocious death by guillotine in
the Lyons uprising. The heart of Marat and the head of Chalier were venerated
as almost divine.
- Caius Sallustius Crispus, Roman historian 86 to 35 BC, wrote his The
Conspiracy of Catiline (63 BC), giving a brilliant portrayal of the
degeneration of public morality under the rule of nobles.
- People of the lower social orders who wore trousers instead of breeches
and stockings. The term came to denote the radical members of the Paris
sections (not proletarians necessarily - many were shopkeepers or owned small
factories) who provided Robespierre with a power base for his radically
democratic policies. The Dantonists upturned sans-culottism: "I believe that
liberty does not consist in an equality of privation and that the greatest
praise of the Assembly would be if it could declare to itself: I found a
nation without breeches, and I left it breeched" Le Vieux Cordelier,
- In 399 BC Socrates was charged with neglecting the gods of the state,
introducing new divinites, and corrupting the morals of the young. He was
sentenced to death and drank hemlock after refusing to break the laws of the
state by escaping from prison.
- SUPREME BEING
- Robespierre declared the"necessity of a belief in the Supreme Being" to
counter the extremism of the anticlerical Hébertists (cf). His proposals were
accepted (May 1794) and he led a great Festival of the Supreme Being (June
- Historian of the Roman Empire, a republican born out of his time, he used
his masterly condensation of events ("he abbreviated all because he saw all"
Montesquieu) to explore his view that power corrupted and impotence led to
degeneration. His writings were the object of renewed interest at the time of
the French Revolution.
- TARPEIAN ROCK
- The rock from which prisoners were cast to their death in Ancient Rome.
- The month which ran from 19 July to 17 August in the Revolutionary
calendar, adopted in October 1793. 9th and 10th Thermidor (27/28 July 1794)
saw the arrest of Robespierre and his followers, and their condemnation
without trial and execution.
- Killed his daughter Virginia to prevent her sale into slavery (449 BC).