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Title: Latin Literature
Author: Mackail, J. W. (John William)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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LATIN LITERATURE

BY

J. W. MACKAIL, Sometime Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford



A history of Latin Literature was to have been written for this series of
Manuals by the late Professor William Sellar. After his death I was
asked, as one of his old pupils, to carry out the work which he had
undertaken; and this book is now offered as a last tribute to the memory
of my dear friend and master.       J. W. M.



CONTENTS.

I. THE REPUBLIC.

   I. ORIGINS OF LATIN LITERATURE: EARLY EPIC AND TRAGEDY.
        Andronicus--Naevius--Ennius--Pacuvius--Accius
  II. COMEDY: PLAUTUS AND TERENCE.
 III. EARLY PROSE: THE SATURA, OR MIXED MODE.
        The Early Jurists, Annalists, and Orators--Cato--The
        Scipionic Circle--Lucilius
  IV. LUCRETIUS.
   V. LYRIC POETRY: CATULLUS.
        Cinna and Calvus--Catullus
  VI. CICERO.
 VII. PROSE OF THE CICERONIAN AGE.
        Julius Caesar--The Continuators of the Commentaries--
        Sallust--Nepos--Varro--Publilius Syrus

II. THE AUGUSTAN AGE.

   I. VIRGIL.
  II. HORACE.
 III. PROPERTIUS AND THE ELEGISTS.
        Augustan Tragedy--Gallus--Propertius--Tibullus
  IV. OVID.
        Sulpicia--Ovid
   V. LIVY.
  VI. THE LESSER AUGUSTANS.
        Manilius--Phaedrus--Velleius--Paterculus--Celsus--
        Vitruvius--The Elder Seneca

III. THE EMPIRE.

   I. THE ROME OF NERO.
        The Younger Seneca--Lucan--Persius--Quintus Curtius
        --Columella--Calpurnius--Petronius
  II. THE SILVER AGE.
        Statius--Valerius Flaccus--Silius Italicus--Martial--The
        Elder Pliny--Quintilian
 III. TACITUS.
  IV. JUVENAL, THE YOUNGER PLINY, SUETONIUS: DECAY OF CLASSICAL LATIN.
   V. THE ELOCUTIO NOVELLA.
        Fronto--Apuleius--The Pervigilium Veneris
  VI. EARLY LATIN CHRISTIANITY.
        Minucius Felix--Tertullian--Cyprian--Arnobius--
        Lactantius--Commodianus
 VII. THE FOURTH CENTURY.
        Papinian and Ulpian--Sammonicus--Nemesianus--
        Tiberianus--The Augustan History--Ausonius--Claudian
        --Prudentius--Ammianus Marcellinus
VIII. THE BEGINNINGS OF THE MIDDLE AGES.
        The End of the Ancient World--The Four Periods of
        Latin Literature--The Empire and the Church

INDEX OF AUTHORS.



I.

THE REPUBLIC.



I.

ORIGINS OF LATIN LITERATURE: EARLY EPIC AND TRAGEDY.


To the Romans themselves, as they looked back two hundred years later,
the beginnings of a real literature seemed definitely fixed in the
generation which passed between the first and second Punic Wars. The
peace of B.C. 241 closed an epoch throughout which the Roman Republic had
been fighting for an assured place in the group of powers which
controlled the Mediterranean world. This was now gained; and the pressure
of Carthage once removed, Rome was left free to follow the natural
expansion of her colonies and her commerce. Wealth and peace are
comparative terms; it was in such wealth and peace as the cessation of
the long and exhausting war with Carthage brought, that a leisured class
began to form itself at Rome, which not only could take a certain
interest in Greek literature, but felt in an indistinct way that it was
their duty, as representing one of the great civilised powers, to have a
substantial national culture of their own.

That this new Latin literature must be based on that of Greece, went
without saying; it was almost equally inevitable that its earliest forms
should be in the shape of translations from that body of Greek poetry,
epic and dramatic, which had for long established itself through all the
Greek-speaking world as a common basis of culture. Latin literature,
though artificial in a fuller sense than that of some other nations, did
not escape the general law of all literatures, that they must begin by
verse before they can go on to prose.

Up to this date, native Latin poetry had been confined, so far as we can
judge, to hymns and ballads, both of a rude nature. Alongside of these
were the popular festival-performances, containing the germs of a drama.
If the words of these performances were ever written down (which is
rather more than doubtful), they would help to make the notion of
translating a regular Greek play come more easily. But the first certain
Latin translation was a piece of work which showed a much greater
audacity, and which in fact, though this did not appear till long
afterwards, was much more far-reaching in its consequences. This was a
translation of the _Odyssey_ into Saturnian verse by one Andronicus, a
Greek prisoner of war from Tarentum, who lived at Rome as a tutor to
children of the governing class during the first Punic War. At the
capture of his city, he had become the slave of one of the distinguished
family of the Livii, and after his manumission was known, according to
Roman custom, under the name of Lucius Livius Andronicus.

The few fragments of his _Odyssey_ which survive do not show any high
level of attainment; and it is interesting to note that this first
attempt to create a mould for Latin poetry went on wrong, or, perhaps it
would be truer to say, on premature lines. From this time henceforth the
whole serious production of Latin poetry for centuries was a continuous
effort to master and adapt Greek structure and versification; the
_Odyssey_ of Livius was the first and, with one notable exception, almost
the last sustained attempt to use the native forms of Italian rhythm
towards any large achievement; this current thereafter sets underground,
and only emerges again at the end of the classical period. It is a
curious and significant fact that the attempt such as it was, was made
not by a native, but by a naturalised foreigner.

The heroic hexameter was, of course, a metre much harder to reproduce in
Latin than the trochaic and iambic metres of the Greek drama, the former
of which especially accommodated itself without difficulty to Italian
speech. In his dramatic pieces, which included both tragedies and
comedies, Andronicus seems to have kept to the Greek measures, and in
this his example was followed by his successors. Throughout the next two
generations the production of dramatic literature was steady and
continuous. Gnaeus Naevius, the first native Latin poet of consequence,
beginning to produce plays a few years later than Andronicus, continued
to write busily till after the end of the second Punic War, and left the
Latin drama thoroughly established. Only inconsiderable fragments of his
writings survive; but it is certain that he was a figure of really great
distinction. Though not a man of birth himself, he had the skill and
courage to match himself against the great house of the Metelli. The
Metelli, it is true, won the battle; Naevius was imprisoned, and finally
died in exile; but he had established literature as a real force in Rome.
Aulus Gellius has preserved the haughty verses which he wrote to be
engraved on his own tomb--

    _Immortelles mortales si foret fas flere
    Flerent divae Camenae Naevium poetam;
    Itaque postquam est Orci traditus thesauro
    Obliti sunt Romai loquier lingua Latina._

The Latin Muses were, indeed, then in the full pride and hope of a
vigorous and daring youth. The greater part of Naevius' plays, both in
tragedy and comedy, were, it is true, translated or adapted from Greek
originals; but alongside of these,--the _Danae_, the _Iphigenia_, the
_Andromache_, which even his masculine genius can hardly have made more
than pale reflexes of Euripides--were new creations, "plays of the purple
stripe," as they came to be called, where he wakened a tragic note from
the legendary or actual history of the Roman race. His _Alimonium Romuli
et Remi_, though it may have borrowed much from the kindred Greek legends
of Danae or Melanippe, was one of the foundation-stones of a new national
literature; in the tragedy of _Clastidium_, the scene was laid in his own
days, and the action turned on an incident at once of national importance
and of romantic personal heroism--a great victory won over the Gallic
tribes of Northern Italy, and the death of the Gallic chief in single
combat at the hand of the Roman consul.

In his advanced years, Naevius took a step of even greater consequence.
Turning from tragedy to epic, he did not now, like Andronicus, translate
from the Greek, but launched out on the new venture of a Roman epic. The
Latin language was not yet ductile enough to catch the cadences of the
noble Greek hexameter; and the native Latin Saturnian was the only
possible alternative. How far he was successful in giving modulation or
harmony to this rather cumbrous and monotonous verse, the few extant
fragments of the _Bellum Punicum_ hardly enable us to determine; it is
certain that it met with a great and continued success, and that, even in
Horace's time, it was universally read. The subject was not unhappily
chosen: the long struggle between Rome and Carthage had, in the great
issues involved, as well as in its abounding dramatic incidents and
thrilling fluctuations of fortune, many elements of the heroic, and
almost of the superhuman; and in his interweaving of this great pageant
of history with the ancient legends of both cities, and his connecting
it, through the story of Aeneas, with the war of Troy itself, Naevius
showed a constructive power of a very high order. It is, doubtless,
possible to make too much of the sweeping statements made in the comments
of Macrobius and Servius on the earlier parts of the _Aeneid_--"this
passage is all taken from Naevius;" "all this passage is simply conveyed
from Naevius' _Punic War_." Yet there is no doubt that Virgil owed him
immense obligations; though in the details of the war itself we can
recognise little in the fragments beyond the dry and disconnected
narrative of the rhyming chronicler. Naevius laid the foundation of the
Roman epic; he left it at his death--in spite of the despondent and
perhaps jealous criticism which he left as his epitaph--in the hands of
an abler and more illustrious successor.

Quintus Ennius, the first of the great Roman poets, and a figure of
prodigious literary fecundity and versatility, was born at a small town
of Calabria about thirty years later than Naevius, and, though he served
as a young man in the Roman army, did not obtain the full citizenship
till fifteen years after Naevius' death. For some years previously he had
lived at Rome, under the patronage of the great Scipio Africanus, busily
occupied in keeping up a supply of translations from the Greek for use on
the Roman stage. Up to his death, at the age of seventy, he continued to
write with undiminished fertility and unflagging care. He was the first
instance in the Western world of the pure man of letters. Alongside of
his strictly literary production, he occupied himself diligently with the
technique of composition--grammar, spelling, pronunciation, metre, even
an elementary system of shorthand. Four books of miscellaneous
translations from popular Greek authors familiarised the reading public
at Rome with several branches of general literature hitherto only known
to scholars. Following the demand of the market, he translated comedies,
seemingly with indifferent success. But his permanent fame rested on two
great bodies of work, tragic and epic, in both of which he far eclipsed
his predecessors.

We possess the names, and a considerable body of fragments, of upwards of
twenty of his tragedies; the greater number of the fragments being
preserved in the works of Cicero, who was never tired of reading and
quoting him. As is usual with such quotations, they throw light more on
his mastery of phrase and power of presenting detached thoughts, than on
his more strictly dramatic qualities. That mastery of phrase is
astonishing. From the silver beauty of the moonlit line from his
_Melanippe_--

    _Lumine sic tremulo terra et cava caerula candent_,

to the thunderous oath of Achilles--

                _Per ego deum sublimas subices
    Umidas, unde oritur imber sonitu saevo et spiritu_

they give examples of almost the whole range of beauty of which the Latin
language is capable. Two quotations may show his manner as a translator.
The first is a fragment of question and reply from the prologue to the
_Iphigenia at Aulis_, one of the most thrilling and romantic passages in
Attic poetry--

Agam. _Quid nocti videtur in altisono
      Caeli clupeo?_

Senex.             _Temo superat
      Cogens sublime etiam atque etiam
      Noctis iter_.

What is singular here is not that the mere words are wholly different
from those of the original, but that in the apparently random variation
Ennius produces exactly the same rich and strange effect. This is no
accident: it is genius. Again, as a specimen of his manner in more
ordinary narrative speeches, we may take the prologue to his _Medea_,
where the well-known Greek is pretty closely followed--

    _Utinam ne in nemore Pelio securibus
    Caesa cecidisset abiegna ad terram trabes,
    Neve inde navis inchoandae exordium
    Coepisset, quae nunc nominatur nomine
    Argo, quia Argivi in ea dilecti viri
    Vecti petebant pellem inauratam arietis
    Colchis, imperio regis Peliae, per dolum:
    Nam nunquam era errans mea domo ecferret pedem
    Medea, animo aegra, amore saevo saucia._

At first reading these lines may seem rather stiff and ungraceful to ears
familiar with the liquid lapse of the Euripidean iambics; but it is not
till after the second or even the third reading that one becomes aware in
them of a strange and austere beauty of rhythm which is distinctively
Italian. Specially curious and admirable is the use of elision (in the
eighth, for instance, and even more so in the fifth line), so
characteristic alike of ancient and modern Italy. In Latin poetry Virgil
was its last and greatest master; its gradual disuse in post-Virgilian
poetry, like its absence in some of the earliest hexameters, was fatal to
the music of the verse, and with its reappearance in the early Italian
poetry of the Middle Ages that music once more returns.

It was in his later years, and after long practice in many literary
forms, that Ennius wrote his great historical epic, the eighteen books of
_Annales_, in which he recorded the legendary and actual history of the
Roman State from the arrival of Aeneas in Italy down to the events of his
own day. The way here had been shown him by Naevius; but in the interval,
chiefly owing to Ennius' own genius and industry, the literary
capabilities of the language had made a very great advance. It is
uncertain whether Ennius made any attempt to develop the native metres,
which in his predecessor's work were still rude and harsh; if he did, he
must soon have abandoned it. Instead, he threw himself on the task of
moulding the Latin language to the movement of the Greek hexameter; and
his success in the enterprise was so conclusive that the question between
the two forms was never again raised. The _Annales_ at once became a
classic; until dislodged by the _Aeneid_, they remained the foremost and
representative Roman poem, and even in the centuries which followed, they
continued to be read and admired, and their claim to the first eminence
was still supported by many partisans. The sane and lucid judgment of
Quintilian recalls them to their true place; in a felicitous simile he
compares them to some sacred grove of aged oaks, which strikes the senses
with a solemn awe rather than with the charm of beauty. Cicero, who again
and again speaks of Ennius in terms of the highest praise, admits that
defect of finish on which the Augustan poets lay strong but not
unjustified stress. The noble tribute of Lucretius, "as our Ennius sang
in immortal verse, he who first brought down from lovely Helicon a
garland of evergreen leaf to sound and shine throughout the nations of
Italy," was no less than due from a poet who owed so much to Ennius in
manner and versification.

It is not known when the _Annales_ were lost; there are doubtful
indications of their existence in the earlier Middle Ages. The extant
fragments, though they amount only to a few hundred lines, are sufficient
to give a clear idea of the poet's style and versification, and of the
remarkable breadth and sagacity which made the poem a storehouse of civil
wisdom for the more cultured members of the ruling classes at Rome, no
less than a treasury of rhythm and phrase for the poets. In the famous
single lines like--

    _Non cauponantes bellum sed belligerantes_,

or--

    _Quem nemo ferro potuit superare me auro_,

or--

    _Ille vir haud magna cum re sed plenu' fidei_,

or the great--

    _Moribus antiquis res stat Romana virisque_

Ennius expressed, with even greater point and weight than Virgil himself,
the haughty virtue, the keen and narrow political instinct, by which the
small and struggling mid-Italian town grew to be arbitress of the world;
not Lucretius with his vast and melancholy outlook over a world where
patriotism did not exist for the philosopher, not Virgil with his deep
and charmed breedings over the mystery and beauty of life and death,
struck the Roman note so exclusively and so certainly.

The success of the Latin epic in Ennius' hands was indeed for the period
so complete that it left no room for further development; for the next
hundred years the _Annales_ remained not only the unique, but the
satisfying achievement in this kind of poetry, and it was only when a new
wave of Greek influence had brought with it a higher and more refined
standard of literary culture, that fresh progress could be attained or
desired. It was not so with tragedy. So long as the stage demanded fresh
material, it continued to be supplied, and the supply only ceased when,
as had happened even in Greece, the acted drama dwindled away before the
gaudier methods of the music-hall. Marcus Pacuvius, the nephew of Ennius,
wrote plays for the thirty years after his uncle's death, which had an
even greater vogue; he is placed by Cicero at the head of Roman
tragedians. The plays have all perished, and even the fragments are
lamentably few; we can still trace in them, however, that copiousness of
fancy and richness of phrase which was marked as his distinctive quality
by the great critic Varro. Only one Roman play (on Lucius Aemilius
Paulus, the conqueror of Pydna[1]) is mentioned among his pieces; and
this, though perhaps accidental, may indicate that tragedy had not really
pushed its roots deep enough at Rome, and was destined to an early decay.
Inexhaustible as is the life and beauty of the old Greek mythology, it
was impossible that a Roman audience should be content to listen for age
after age to the stories of Atalanta and Antiope, Pentheus and Orestes,
while they had a new national life and overwhelming native interests of
their own. The Greek tragedy tended more and more to become the merely
literary survival that it was in France under Louis Quatorze, that it has
been in our own day in the hands of Mr. Arnold or Mr. Swinburne. But one
more poet of remarkable genius carries on its history into the next age.

Lucius Accius of Pisaurum produced one of his early plays in the year 140
B.C., on the same occasion when one of his latest was produced by
Pacuvius, then an old man of eighty. Accius reached a like age himself;
Cicero as a young man knew him well, and used to relate incidents of the
aged poet's earlier life which he had heard from his own lips. For the
greater part of the fifty years which include Sulla and the Gracchi,
Accius was the recognised literary master at Rome, president of the
college of poets which held its meetings in the temple of Minerva on the
Aventine, and associating on terms of full equality with the most
distinguished statesmen. A doubtful tradition mentions him as having also
written an epic, or at least a narrative poem, called _Annales_, like
that of Ennius; but this in all likelihood is a distorted reflection of
the fact that he handed down and developed the great literary tradition
left by his predecessor. The volume of his dramatic work was very great;
the titles are preserved of no less than forty-five tragedies. In general
estimation he brought Roman tragedy to its highest point. The fragments
show a grace and fancy which we can hardly trace in the earlier
tragedians.

Accius was the last, as he seems to have been the greatest, of his race.
Tragedy indeed continued, as we shall see, to be written and even to be
acted. The literary men of the Ciceronian and Augustan age published
their plays as a matter of course; Varius was coupled by his
contemporaries with Virgil and Horace; and the lost _Medea_ of Ovid, like
the never-finished _Ajax_ of Augustus, would be at the least a highly
interesting literary document. But the new age found fresh poetical forms
into which it could put its best thought and art; while a blow was struck
directly at the roots of tragedy by the new invention, in the hands of
Cicero and his contemporaries, of a grave, impassioned, and stately
prose.



II.

COMEDY: PLAUTUS AND TERENCE.


Great as was the place occupied in the culture of the Greek world by
Homer and the Attic tragedians, the Middle and New Comedy, as they
culminated in Menander, exercised an even wider and more pervasive
influence. A vast gap lay between the third and fifth centuries before
Christ. Aeschylus, and even Sophocles, had become ancient literature in
the age immediately following their own. Euripides, indeed, continued for
centuries after his death to be a vital force of immense moment; but this
force he owed to the qualities in him that make his tragedy transgress
the formal limits of the art, to pass into the wider sphere of the human
comedy, with its tears and laughter, its sentiment and passions. From him
to Menander is in truth but a step; but this step was of such importance
that it was the comedian who became the Shakespeare of Greece. _Omnem
vitae imaginem expressit_ are the words deliberately used of him by the
greatest of Roman critics.

When, therefore, the impulse towards a national literature began to be
felt at Rome, comedy took its place side by side with tragedy and epic as
part of the Greek secret that had to be studied and mastered; and this
came the more naturally that a sort of comedy in rude but definite forms
was already native and familiar. Dramatic improvisations were, from an
immemorial antiquity, a regular feature of Italian festivals. They were
classed under different heads, which cannot be sharply distinguished. The
_Satura_ seems to have been peculiarly Latin; probably it did not differ
deeply or essentially from the two other leading types that arose north
and south of Latium, and were named from the little country towns of
Fescennium in Etruria, and Atella in Campania. But these rude
performances hardly rose to the rank of literature; and here, as
elsewhere, the first literary standard was set by laborious translations
from the Greek.

We find, accordingly, that the earlier masters--Andronicus, Naevius,
Ennius--all wrote comedies as well as tragedies, of the type known as
_palliata_, or "dressed in the Greek mantle," that is to say, freely
translated or adapted from Greek originals. After Ennius, this still
continued to be the more usual type; but the development of technical
skill now results in two important changes. The writers of comedy become,
on the whole and broadly speaking, distinct from the writers of tragedy;
and alongside of the _palliata_ springs up the _togata_, or comedy of
Italian dress, persons, and manners.

As this latter form of Latin comedy has perished, with the exception of
trifling fragments, it may be dismissed here in few words. Its life was
comprised in less than a century. Titinius, the first of the writers of
the _fabula togata_ of whom we have any certain information, was a
contemporary of Terence and the younger Scipio; a string of names, which
are names and nothing more, carries us down to the latest and most
celebrated of the list, Lucius Afranius. His middle-class comedies
achieved a large and a long-continued popularity; we hear of performances
of them being given even a hundred years after his death, and Horace
speaks with gentle sarcasm of the enthusiasts who put him on a level with
Menander. With his contemporary Quinctius Atta (who died B.C. 77, in the
year of the abortive revolution after the death of Sulla), he owed much
of his success to the admirable acting of Roscius, who created a stage
tradition that lasted long after his own time. To the mass of the people,
comedy (though it did not err in the direction of over-refinement) seemed
tame by comparison with the shows and pageants showered on them by the
ruling class as the price of their suffrages. As in other ages and
countries, fashionable society followed the mob. The young man about
town, so familiar to us from the brilliant sketches of Ovid, accompanies
his mistress, not to comedies of manners, but to the more exciting
spectacles of flesh and blood offered by the ballet-dancers and the
gladiators. Thus the small class who occupied themselves with literature
had little counteracting influence pressed on them to keep them from the
fatal habit of perpetually copying from the Greek; and adaptations from
the Attic New Comedy, which had been inevitable and proper enough as the
earlier essays of a tentative dramatic art, remained the staple of an art
which thus cut itself definitely away from nature.

That we possess, in a fairly complete form, the works of two of the most
celebrated of these playwrights, and of their many contemporaries and
successors nothing but trifling fragments, is due to a chance or a series
of chances which we cannot follow, and from which we must not draw too
precise conclusions. Plautus was the earliest, and apparently the most
voluminous, of the writers who devoted themselves wholly to comedy.
Between him and Terence a generation intervenes, filled by another
comedian, Caecilius, whose works were said to unite much of the special
excellences of both; while after the death of Terence his work was
continued on the same lines by Turpilius and others, and dwindled away
little by little into the early Empire. But there can be no doubt that
Plautus and Terence fully represent the strength and weakness of the
Latin _palliata_. Together with the eleven plays of Aristophanes, they
have been in fact, since the beginning of the Middle Ages, the sole
representatives of ancient, and the sole models for modern comedy.

Titus Maccius Plautus was born of poor parents, in the little Umbrian
town of Sarsina, in the year 254 B.C., thus falling midway in age between
Naevius and Ennius. Somehow or other he drifted to the capital, to find
employment as a stage-carpenter. He alternated his playwriting with the
hardest manual drudgery; and though the inexhaustible animal spirits
which show themselves in his writing explain how he was able to combine
extraordinary literary fertility with a life of difficulty and poverty,
it must remain a mystery how and when he picked up his education, and his
surprising mastery of the Latin language both in metre and diction. Of
the one hundred and thirty comedies attributed to him, two-thirds were
rejected as spurious by Varro, and only twenty-one ranked as certainly
genuine. These last are extant, with the exception of one, called
_Vidularia_, or _The Carpet-Bag_, which was lost in the Middle Ages; some
of them, however, exist, and probably existed in Varro's time, only in
abridged or mutilated stage copies.

The constructive power shown in these pieces is, of course, less that of
Plautus himself than of his Greek originals, Philemon, Diphilus, and
Menander. But we do not want modern instances to assure us that, in
adapting a play from one language to another, merely to keep the plot
unimpaired implies more than ordinary qualities of skill or
conscientiousness. When Plautus is at his best--in the _Aulularia_,
_Bacchides_, or _Rudens_, and most notably in the _Captivi_--he has
seldom been improved upon either in the interest of his action or in the
copiousness and vivacity of his dialogue.

Over and above his easy mastery of language, Plautus has a further
Claim to distinction in the wide range of his manner. Whether he ever
Went beyond the New Comedy of Athens for his originals, is uncertain;
But within it he ranges freely over the whole field, and the twenty
Extant pieces include specimens of almost every kind of play to which
the name of comedy can be extended. The first on the list, the famous
_Amphitruo_, is the only surviving specimen of the burlesque. The
Greeks called this kind of piece [Greek: ilarotrag_oidia]--a term for
Which _tragédie-bouffe_ would be the nearest modern equivalent;
_tragico-comoedia_ is the name by which Plautus himself describes it
in the prologue. The _Amphitruo_ remains, even now, one of the most
masterly specimens of this kind. The version of Molière, in which he
did little by way of improvement on his original, has given it fresh
currency as a classic; but the French play gives but an imperfect idea
of the spirit and flexibility of the dialogue in Plautus' hands.

Of a very different type is the piece which comes next the _Amphrituo_ in
acknowledged excellence, the _Captivi_. It is a comedy of sentiment,
without female characters, and therefore without the coarseness which (as
one is forced to say with regret) disfigures some of the other plays. The
development of the plot has won high praise from all critics, and
justifies the boast of the epilogue, _Huiusmodi paucas poetae reperiunt
comoedias_. But the praise which the author gives to his own piece--

    _Non pertractate facta est neque item ut ceterae,
    Neque spurcidici insunt versus immemorabiles,
    Hic neque periurus leno est nec meretrix mala
    Neque miles gloriosus--_

is really a severe condemnation of two other groups of Plautine plays.
The _Casina_ and the _Truculentus_ (the latter, as we know from Cicero, a
special favourite with its author) are studies in pornography which only
the unflagging animal spirits of the poet can redeem from being
disgusting; and the _Asinaria, Curculio_, and _Miles Gloriosus_ are broad
farces with the thinnest thread of plot. The last depends wholly on the
somewhat forced and exaggerated character of the title-rôle; as the
_Pseudolus_, a piece with rather more substance, does mainly on its
_periurus leno_, Ballio, a character who reminds one of Falstaff in his
entire shamelessness and inexhaustible vocabulary.

A different vein, the domestic comedy of middle-class life, is opened in
one of the most quietly successful of his pieces, the _Trinummus_, or
_Threepenny-bit_. In spite of all the characters being rather fatiguingly
virtuous in their sentiments, it is full of life, and not without
gracefulness and charm. After the riotous scenes of the lighter plays, it
is something of a comfort to return to the good sense and good feeling of
respectable people. It forms an interesting contrast to the _Bacchides_,
a play which returns to the world of the bawd and harlot, but with a
brilliance of intrigue and execution that makes it rank high among
comedies.

Two other plays are remarkable from the fact that, though neither in
construction nor in workmanship do they rise beyond mediocrity, the
leading motive of the plot in one case and the principal character in the
other are inventions of unusual felicity. The Greek original of both is
unknown; but to it, no doubt, rather than to Plautus himself, we are
bound to ascribe the credit of the _Aulularia_ and _Menaechmi_. The
_Aulularia_, or _Pot of Gold_, a commonplace story of middle-class life,
is a mere framework for the portrait of the old miser, Euclio--in itself
a sketch full of life and brilliance, and still more famous as the
original of Moliére's Harpagon, which is closely studied from it. The
_Menaechmi_, or _Comedy of Errors_, without any great ingenuity of
plot or distinction of character, rests securely on the inexhaustible
opportunities of humour opened up by the happy invention of the
twin-brothers who had lost sight of one another from early childhood,
and the confusions that arise when they meet in the same town in
later life.

There is yet one more of the Plautine comedies which deserves special
notice, as conceived in a different vein and worked out in a different
tone from all those already mentioned--the charming romantic comedy
called _Rudens_, or _The Cable_, though a more fitting name for it would
be _The Tempest_. It is not pitched in the sentimental key of the
_Captivi_; but it has a higher, and, in Latin literature, a rarer, note.
By a happy chance, perhaps, rather than from any unwonted effort of
skill, this translation of the play of Diphilus has kept in it something
of the unique and unmistakeable Greek atmosphere--the atmosphere of the
_Odyssey_, of the fisher-idyl of Theocritus, of the hundreds of little
poems in the Greek Anthology that bear clinging about their verses the
faint murmur and odour of the sea. The scene is laid near Cyrene, on the
strange rich African coast; the prologue is spoken, not by a character in
the piece, nor by a decently clothed abstraction like the figures of
Luxury and Poverty which speak the prologue of the _Trinummus_, but by
the star Arcturus, watcher and tempest-bearer.

    _Qui gentes omnes, mariaque et terras movet,
    Eius sum civis civitate caelitum;
    Ita sum ut videtis, splendens stella candida,
    Signum quod semper tempore exoritur suo
    Hic atque in caelo; nomen Arcturo est mihi.
    Noctu sum in caelo clarus atque inter deos;
    Inter mortales ambulo interdius_.

The romantic note struck in these opening lines is continued throughout
the comedy, in which, by little touches here and there, the scene is kept
constantly before us of the rocky shore in the strong brilliant sun after
the storm of the night, the temple with its kindly priestess, and the
red-tiled country-house by the reeds of the lagoon, with the solitary
pastures behind it dotted over with fennel. Now and again one is reminded
of the _Winter's Tale_, with fishermen instead of shepherds for the
subordinate characters; more frequently of a play which, indeed, has
borrowed a good deal from this, _Pericles Prince of Tyre_.

The remainder of the Plautine plays may be dismissed with scant notice.
They comprise three variations on the theme which, to modern taste, has
become so excessively tedious, of the _Fourberies de Scapin_--the
_Epidicus_, _Mostellaria_, and _Persa_; the _Poenulus_, a dull play,
which owes its only interest to the passages in it written in the
Carthaginian language, which offer a tempting field for the conjectures
of the philologist; two more, the _Mercator_ and _Stichus_, of confused
plot and insipid dialogue; and a mutilated fragment of the _Cistellaria_,
or _Travelling-Trunk_, which would not have been missed had it shared the
fate of the _Carpet-Bag_.

The humour of one age is often mere weariness to the next; and farcical
comedy is, of all the forms of literature, perhaps the least adapted for
permanence. It would be affectation to claim that Plautus is nowadays
widely read outside of the inner circle of scholars; and there he is read
almost wholly on account of his unusual fertility and interest as a field
of linguistic study. Yet he must always remain one of the great
outstanding influences in literary history. The strange fate which has
left nothing but inconsiderable fragments out of the immense volume of
the later Athenian Comedy, raised Plautus to a position co-ordinate with
that of Aristophanes as a model for the reviving literature of modern
Europe; for such part of that literature (by much the more important) as
did not go beyond Latin for its inspiration, Plautus was a source of
unique and capital value, in his own branch of literature equivalent to
Cicero or Virgil in theirs.

Plautus outlived the second Punic War, during which, as we gather from
prefaces and allusions, a number of the extant plays were produced. Soon
after the final collapse of the Carthaginian power at Zama, a child was
born at Carthage, who, a few years later, in the course of unexplained
vicissitudes, reached Rome as a boy-slave, and passed there into the
possession of a rich and educated senator, Terentius Lucanus. The boy
showed some unusual turn for books; he was educated and manumitted by his
master, and took from him the name of Publius Terentius the African. A
small literary circle of the Roman aristocracy--men too high in rank to
need to be careful what company they kept--admitted young Terence to
their intimate companionship; and soon he was widely known as making a
third in the friendship of Gaius Laelius with the first citizen of the
Republic, the younger Scipio Africanus. This society, an informal academy
of letters, devoted all its energies to the purification and improvement
of the Latin language. The rough drafts of the Terentian comedies were
read out to them, and the language and style criticised in minute detail;
gossip even said that they were largely written by Scipio's own hand, and
Terence himself, as is not surprising, never took pains to deny the
rumour. Six plays had been subjected to this elaborate correction and
produced on the Roman stage, when Terence undertook a prolonged visit to
Greece for the purpose of further study. He died of fever the next year--
by one account, at a village in Arcadia; by another, when on his voyage
home. The six comedies had already taken the place which they have ever
since retained as Latin classics.

The Terentian comedy is in a way the turning-point of Roman literature.
Plautus and Ennius, however largely they drew from Greek originals, threw
into all their work a manner and a spirit which were essentially those of
a new literature in the full tide of growth. The imitation of Greek
models was a means, not an end; in both poets the Greek manner is
continually abandoned for essays into a new manner of their own, and they
relapse upon it when their imperfectly mastered powers of invention or
expression give way under them. In the circle of Terence the fatal
doctrine was originated that the Greek manner was an end in itself, and
that the road to perfection lay, not in developing any original
qualities, but in reproducing with laborious fidelity the accents of
another language and civilisation. Nature took a swift and certain
revenge. Correctness of sentiment and smooth elegance of diction became
the standards of excellence; and Latin literature, still mainly confined
to the governing class and their dependents, was struck at the root (the
word is used of Terence himself by Varro) with the fatal disease of
mediocrity.

But in Terence himself (as in Addison among English writers) this
mediocrity is, indeed, golden--a mediocrity full of grace and charm. The
unruffled smoothness of diction, the exquisite purity of language, are
qualities admirable in themselves, and are accompanied by other striking
merits; not, indeed, by dramatic force or constructive power, but by
careful and delicate portraiture of character, and by an urbanity (to use
a Latin word which expresses a peculiarly Latin quality) to which the
world owes a deep debt for having set a fashion. In some curious lines
preserved by Suetonius, Julius Caesar expresses a criticism, which we
shall find it hard to improve, on the "halved Menander," to whom his own
fastidious purity in the use of language, no less than his tact and
courtesy as a man of the world, attracted him strongly, while not
blinding him to the weakness and flaccidity of the Terentian drama. Its
effect on contemporary men of letters was immediate and irresistible. A
curious, if doubtfully authentic, story is told of the young poet when he
submitted his first play, _The Maid of Andros_, for the approval of the
Commissioners of Public Works, who were responsible for the production of
plays at the civic festivals. He was ordered to read it aloud to
Caecilius, who, since the death of Plautus, had been supreme without a
rival on the comic stage. Terence presented himself modestly while
Caecilius was at supper, and was carelessly told to sit down on a stool
in the dining-room, and begin. He had not read beyond a few verses when
Caecilius stopped him, and made him take his seat at table. After supper
was over, he heard his guest's play out with unbounded and unqualified
admiration.

But this admiration of the literary class did not make the refined
conventional art of Terence successful for its immediate purposes on the
stage: he was caviare to the general. Five of the six plays were produced
at the spring festival of the Mother of the Gods--an occasion when the
theatre had not to face the competition of the circus; yet even then it
was only by immense efforts on the part of the management that they
succeeded in attracting an audience. The _Mother-in-Law_ (not, it is
true, a play which shows the author at his best) was twice produced as a
dead failure. The third time it was pulled through by extraordinary
efforts on the part of the acting-manager, Ambivius Turpio. The prologue
written by Terence for this third performance is one of the most curious
literary documents of the time. He is too angry to extenuate the repeated
failure of his play. If we believe him, it fell dead the first time
because "that fool, the public," were all excitement over an exhibition
on the tight-rope which was to follow the play; at the second
representation only one act had been gone through, when a rumour spread
that "there were going to be gladiators" elsewhere, and in five minutes
the theatre was empty.

The Terentian prologues (they are attached to all his plays) are indeed
very interesting from the light they throw on the character of the
author, as well as on the ideas and fashions of his age. In all of them
there is a certain hard and acrid purism that cloaks in modest phrases an
immense contempt for all that lies beyond the writer's own canons of
taste. _In hac est pura oratio_, a phrase of the prologue to _The
Self-Tormentor_, is the implied burden of them all. He is a sort of
Literary Robespierre; one seems to catch the premonitory echo of
well-known phrases, "degenerate condition of literary spirit,
backsliding on this hand and on that, I, Terence, alone left
incorruptible." Three times there is a reference to Plautus, and always
with a tone of chilly superiority which is too proud to break into an
open sneer. Yet among these haughty and frigid manifestoes some
felicity of phrase or of sentiment will suddenly remind us that here,
after all, we are dealing with one of the great formative intelligences
of literature; where, for instance, in the prologue to the lively and
witty comedy of _The Eunuch_, the famous line--

    _Nullumst iam dictum quod non dictum sit prius--

drops with the same easy negligence as in the opening dialogue of _The
Self-Tormentor_, the immortal--

    _Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto--_

falls from the lips of the old farmer. Congreve alone of English
playwrights has this glittering smoothness, this inimitable ease; if we
remember what Dryden, in language too splendid to be insincere, wrote of
his young friend, we may imagine, perhaps, how Caecilius and his circle
regarded Terence. Nor is it hard to believe that, had Terence, like
Congreve, lived into an easy and honoured old age, he would still have
rested his reputation on these productions of his early youth. Both
dramatists had from the first seen clearly and precisely what they had in
view, and had almost at the first stroke attained it: the very
completeness of the success must in both cases have precluded the
dissatisfaction through which fresh advances could alone be possible.

This, too, is one reason, though certainly not the only one, why, with
the death of Terence, the development of Latin comedy at once ceased. His
successors are mere shadowy names. Any life that remained in the art took
the channel of the farces which, for a hundred years more, retained a
genuine popularity, but which never took rank as literature of serious
value. Even this, the _fabula tabernaria_, or comedy of low life,
gradually melted away before the continuous competition of the shows
which so moved the spleen of Terence--the pantomimists, the jugglers, the
gladiators. By this time, too, the literary instinct was beginning to
explore fresh channels. Not only was prose becoming year by year more
copious and flexible, but the mixed mode, fluctuating between prose and
verse, to which the Romans gave the name of satire, was in process of
invention. Like the novel as compared with the play at the present time,
it offered great and obvious advantages in ease and variety of
manipulation, and in the simplicity and inexpensiveness with which, not
depending on the stated performances of a public theatre, it could be
produced and circulated. But before proceeding to consider this new
literary invention more fully, it will be well to pause in order to
gather up, as its necessary complement, the general lines on which Latin
prose was now developing, whether in response to the influence of Greek
models, or in the course of a more native and independent growth.



III.

EARLY PROSE: THE _SATURA_, OR MIXED MODE.


Law and government were the two great achievements of the Latin race;
and the two fountain-heads of Latin prose are, on the one hand, the texts
of codes and the commentaries of jurists; on the other, the annals of the
inner constitution and the external conquests and diplomacy of Rome. The
beginnings of both went further back than Latin antiquaries could trace
them. Out of the mists of a legendary antiquity two fixed points rise,
behind which it is needless or impossible to go. The code known as
that of the Twelve Tables, of which large fragments survive in later
law-books, was drawn up, according to the accepted chronology, in the
year 450 B.C. Sixty years later the sack of Rome by the Gauls led to
the destruction of nearly all public and private records, and it was
only from this date onwards that such permanent and contemporary
registers--the consular _fasti_, the books of the pontifical college,
the public collections of engraved laws and treaties--were extant as
could afford material for the annalist. That a certain amount of work
in the field both of law and history must have been going on at Rome
from a very early period, is, of course, obvious; but it was not till
the time of the Punic Wars that anything was produced in either field
which could very well be classed as literature.

In history as in poetry, the first steps were timidly made with the help
of Greek models. The oldest and most important of the early historians,
Quintus Fabius Pictor, the contemporary of Naevius and Ennius, actually
wrote in Greek, though a Latin version of his work certainly existed,
whether executed by himself or some other hand is doubtful, at an almost
contemporary date. Extracts are quoted from it by the grammarians as
specimens of the language of the period. The scope of his history was
broadly the same as that of the two great contemporary poets. It was a
narrative of events starting from the legendary landing of Aeneas in
Italy, becoming more copious as it advanced, and dealing with the events
of the author's own time at great length and from abundant actual
knowledge. The work ended, so far as can be judged, with the close of the
second Punic War. It long remained the great quarry for subsequent
historians; and though Polybius wrote the history of the first Punic War
anew from dissatisfaction with Pictor's prejudice and inaccuracy, he is
one of the chief authorities followed in the earlier decads of Livy. A
younger contemporary of Pictor, Lucius Cincius Alimentus, who commanded a
Roman army in the war against Hannibal, also used the Greek language in
his annals of his own life and times, and the same appears to be the case
with the memoirs of other soldiers and statesmen of the period. It is
only half a century later that we know certainly of historians who wrote
in Latin. The earliest of them, Lucius Cassius Hemina, composed his
annals in the period between the death of Terence and the revolution of
the Gracchi; a more distinguished successor, Lucius Calpurnius Piso
Frugi, is better known as one of the leading opponents of the revolution
(he was consul in the year of the tribuneship of Tiberius Gracchus) than
as the author of annals which were certainly written with candour and
simplicity, and in a style where the epithets "artless and elegant," used
of them by Aulus Gellius, need not be inconsistent with the more
disparaging word "meagre," with which they are dismissed by Cicero.
History might be written in Greek--as, indeed, throughout the Republican
and Imperial times it continued to be--by any Roman who was sufficiently
conversant with that language, in which models for every style of
historical composition were ready to his hand. In the province of
jurisprudence it was different. Here the Latin race owed nothing to any
foreign influence or example; and the development of Roman law pursued a
straightforward and uninterrupted course far beyond the limits of the
classical period, and after Rome itself had ceased to be the seat even of
a divided empire. The earliest juristic writings, consisting of
commentaries on collections of the semi-religious enactments in which
positive law began, are attributed to the period of the Samnite Wars,
long before Rome had become a great Mediterranean power. About 200 B.C.
two brothers, Publius and Sextus Aelius, both citizens of consular and
censorial rank, published a systematic treatise called _Tripertita_,
which was long afterwards held in reverence as containing the _cunabula
iuris_, the cradle out of which the vast systems of later ages sprang.
Fifty years later, in the circle of the younger Scipio, begins the
illustrious line of the Mucii Scaevolae. Three members of this family,
each a distinguished jurist, rose to the consulate in the stormy
half-century between the Gracchi and Sulla. The last and greatest of the
three represented the ideal Roman more nearly than any other citizen of
his time. The most eloquent of jurists and the most learned of orators,
he was at the same time a brilliant administrator and a paragon of
public and private virtue; and his murder at the altar of Vesta, in the
Marian proscription, was universally thought the most dreadful event
Of an age of horrors. His voluminous and exhaustive treatise on Civil
Law remained a text-book for centuries, and was a foundation for the
Writings of all later Roman jurists.

The combination of jurisconsult and orator in the younger Scaevola was
somewhat rare; from an early period the two professions of jurist and
pleader were sharply distinguished, though both were pathways to the
highest civic offices. Neither his father nor his cousin (the other two
of the triad) was distinguished in oratory; nor were the two great
contemporaries of the former, who both published standard works on civil
law, Manius Manilius and Marcus Junius Brutus. The highest field for
oratory was, of course, in the political, and not in the purely legal,
sphere; and the unique Roman constitution, an oligarchy chosen almost
wholly by popular suffrage, made the practice of oratory more or less of
a necessity to every politician. Well-established tradition ascribed to
the greatest statesman of the earlier Republic, Appius Claudius Caecus,
the first institution of written oratory. His famous speech in the senate
against peace with Pyrrhus was cherished in Cicero's time as one of the
most precious literary treasures of Rome. From his time downwards the
stream of written oratory flowed, at first in a slender stream, which
gathered to a larger volume in the works of the elder Cato.

In the history of the half-century following the war with Hannibal, Cato
is certainly the most striking single figure. It is only as a man of
letters that he has to be noticed here; and the character of a man of
letters was, perhaps, the last in which he would have wished to be
remembered or praised. Yet the cynical and indomitable old man, with his
rough humour, his narrow statesmanship, his obstinate ultra-conservatism,
not only produced a large quantity of writings, but founded and
transmitted to posterity a distinct and important body of critical dogma
and literary tradition. The influence of Greece had, as we have already
seen, begun to permeate the educated classes at Rome through and through.
Against this Greek influence, alike in literature and in manners, Cato
struggled all his life with the whole force of his powerful intellect and
mordant wit; yet it is most characteristic of the man that in his old age
he learned Greek himself and read deeply in the masterpieces of that
Greek literature from which he was too honest and too intelligent to be
able to withhold his admiration. While much of contemporary literature
was launching itself on the fatal course of imitation of Greek models,
and was forcing the Latin language into the trammels of alien forms, Cato
gave it a powerful impulse towards a purely native, if a somewhat narrow
and harsh development. The national prose literature, of which he may
fairly be called the founder, was kept up till the decay of Rome by a
large and powerful minority of Latin writers. What results it might have
produced, if allowed unchecked scope, can only be matter for conjecture;
in the main current of Latin literature the Greek influence was, on the
whole, triumphant; Cato's was the losing side (if one may so adapt the
famous line of Lucan), and the men of genius took the other.

The speeches of Cato, of which upwards of a hundred and fifty were extant
in Cicero's time, and which the _virtuosi_ of the age of Hadrian
preferred, or professed to prefer, to Cicero's own, are lost, with the
exception of inconsiderable fragments. The fragments show high oratorical
gifts; shrewdness, humour, terse vigour and controlled passion; "somewhat
confused and harsh," says a late but competent Latin critic, "but strong
and vivid as it is possible for oratory to be." We have suffered a
heavier loss in his seven books of _Origines_, the work of his old age.
This may broadly be called an historical work, but it was history treated
in a style of great latitude, the meagre, disconnected method of the
annalists alternating with digressions into all kinds of subjects--
geography, ethnography, reminiscences of his own travels and experiences,
and the politics and social life of his own and earlier times. It made no
attempt to keep up either the dignity or the continuity of history. His
absence of method made this work, however full of interest, the despair
of later historians: what were they to think, they plaintively asked,
of an author who dismissed whole campaigns without even giving the names
of the generals, while he went into profuse detail over one of the
war-elephants in the Carthaginian army?

The only work of Cato's which has been preserved in its integrity is that
variously known under the titles _De Re Rustica_ or _De Agri Cultura_. It
is one of a number of treatises of a severely didactic nature, which he
published on various subjects--agricultural, sanitary, military, and
legal. This treatise was primarily written for a friend who owned and
cultivated farms in Campania. It consists of a series of terse and
pointed directions following one on another, with no attempt at style or
literary artifice, but full of a hard sagacity, and with occasional
flashes of dry humour, which suggest that Cato would have found a not
wholly uncongenial spirit in President Lincoln. A brief extract from one
of the earlier chapters is not without interest, both as showing the
practical Latin style, and as giving the prose groundwork of Virgil's
stately and beautiful embroidery in the _Georgics_.

_Opera omnia mature conficias face. Nam res rustica sic est; si unam rem
sero feceris, omnia opera sero facies. Stramenta si deerunt frondem
iligneam legito; earn substernito ovibus bubusque. Sterquilinium magnum
stude ut habeas. Stercus sedulo conserva, cum exportabis spargito et
comminuito; per autumnum evehito. Circum oleas autumnitate ablaqueato et
stercus addito. Frondem populneam, ulmeam, querneam caedito, per tempus
eam condito, non peraridam, pabulum ovibus. Item foenum cordum,
sicilimenta de prato; ea arida condito. Post imbrem autumni rapinam,
pabulum, lupinumque serito._

To the Virgilian student, every sentence here is full of reminiscences.

In his partial yielding, towards the end of a long and uncompromising
life, to the rising tide of Greek influence, Cato was probably moved to a
large degree by his personal admiration for the younger Scipio, whom he
hailed as the single great personality among younger statesmen, and to
whom he paid (strangely enough, in a line quoted from Homer) what is
probably the most splendid compliment ever paid by one statesman to
another. Scipio was the centre of a school which included nearly the
whole literary impulse of his time. He was himself a distinguished orator
and a fine scholar; after the conquest of Perseus, the royal library was
the share of the spoils of Macedonia which he chose for himself, and
bequeathed to his family. His celebrated friend, Gaius Laelius, known in
Rome as "the Wise," was not only an orator, but a philosopher, or deeply
read, at all events, in the philosophy of Greece. Another member of the
circle, Lucius Furius Philus, initiated that connection of Roman law with
the Stoic philosophy which continued ever after to be so intimate and so
far-reaching. In this circle, too, Roman history began to be written in
Latin. Cassius Hemina and Lucius Calpurnius Piso have been already
mentioned; more intimately connected with Scipio are Gaius Fannius, the
son-in-law of Laelius, and Lucius Caelius Antipater, who reached, both in
lucid and copious diction and in impartiality and research, a higher
level than Roman history had yet attained. Literary culture became part
of the ordinary equipment of a statesman; a crowd of Greek teachers,
foremost among them the eminent philosopher, afterwards Master of the
Portico, Panaetius of Rhodes, spread among the Roman upper classes the
refining and illuminating influence of Greek ideas and Attic style.

Meanwhile, in this Scipionic circle, a new figure had appeared of great
originality and force, the founder of a kind of literature which, with
justifiable pride, the Romans claimed as wholly native and original.
Gaius Lucilius was a member of a wealthy equestrian family, and thus
could associate on equal terms with the aristocracy, while he was removed
from the necessity, which members of the great senatorian houses could
hardly avoid, of giving the best of their time and strength to political
and administrative duties. After Terence, he is the most distinguished
and the most important in his literary influence among the friends of
Scipio. The form of literature which he invented and popularised, that of
familiar poetry, was one which proved singularly suited to the Latin
genius. He speaks of his own works under the name of _Sermones_, "talks"
--a name which was retained by his great successor, Horace; but the
peculiar combination of metrical form with wide range of subject and the
pedestrian style of ordinary prose, received in popular usage the name
_Satura_, or "mixture." The word had, in earlier times, been used of the
irregular stage performances, including songs, stories, and semi-dramatic
interludes, which formed the repertory of strolling artists at popular
festivals. The extension of the name to the verse of Lucilius indicates
that written literature was now rising to equal importance and popularity
with the spoken word.

Horace comments, not without severity, on the profuse and careless
production of Lucilius. Of the thirty books of his _Satires_, few
fragments of any length survive; much, probably the greater part of them,
would, if extant, long have lost its interest. But the loss of the bulk
of his work is matter of sincere regret, because it undoubtedly gave a
vivid and detailed picture of the social life and the current interests
of the time, such as the _Satires_ of Horace give of Rome in the Augustan
age. His criticisms on the public men of his day were outspoken and
unsparing; nor had he more reverence for established reputations in
poetry than in public life. A great deal of his work consisted in
descriptions of eating and drinking; much, also, in lively accounts of
his own travels and adventures, or those of his friends. One book of the
_Satires_ was occupied with an account of Scipio's famous mission to the
East, in which he visited the courts of Egypt and Asia, attended by a
retinue of only five servants, but armed with the full power of the
terrible Republic. Another, imitated by Horace in his story of the
journey to Brundusium, detailed the petty adventures, the talk and
laughter by roads and at inns, of an excursion of his own through
Campania and Bruttium to the Sicilian straits. Many of the fragments deal
with the literary controversies of the time, going down even to the
minutiae of spelling and grammar; many more show the beginnings of that
translation into the language of common life of the precepts of the
Greek schools, which was consummated for the world by the poets and
prose-writers of the following century. But, above all, the _Satires_ of
Lucilius were in the fullest sense of the word an autobiography. The
famous description of Horace, made yet more famous for English readers by
the exquisite aptness with which Boswell placed it on the title-page of
his _Life of Johnson_--

                       _Quo fit ut omnis
    Votiva pateat veluti descripta tabella
    Vita senis--_

expresses the true greatness of Lucilius. He invented a literary method
which, without being great, yields to no other in interest and even in
charm, and which, for its perfection, requires a rare and refined
genius. Not Horace only, nor all the satirists after Horace, but
Montaigne and Pepys also, belong to the school of Lucilius.

Such was the circle of the younger Scipio, formed in the happy years--as
they seemed to the backward gaze of the succeeding generation--between
the establishment of Roman supremacy at the battle of Pydna, and the
revolutionary movement of Tiberius Gracchus. Fifty years of stormy
turbulence followed, culminating in the Social War and the reign of
terror under Marius and Cinna, and finally stilled in seas of blood by
the counter-revolution of Sulla. This is the period which separates the
Scipionic from the Ciceronian age. It was naturally, except in the single
province of political oratory, not one of great literary fertility; and
a brief indication of the most notable authors of the period, and of the
lines on which Roman literature mainly continued to advance during it, is
all that is demanded or possible here.

In oratory, this period by general consent represented the golden age of
Latin achievement. The eloquence of both the Gracchi was their great
political weapon; that of Gaius was the most powerful in exciting feeling
that had ever been known; and his death was mourned, even by fierce
political opponents, as a heavy loss to Latin literature. But in the next
generation, the literary perfection of oratory was carried to an even
higher point by Marcus Antonius and Lucius Licinius Crassus. Both
attained the highest honours that the Republic had to bestow. By a happy
chance, their styles were exactly complementary to one another; to hear
both in one day was the highest intellectual entertainment which Rome
afforded. By this time the rules of oratory were carefully studied and
reduced to scientific treatises. One of these, the _Rhetorica ad
Herennium_, is still extant. It was almost certainly written by one
Quintus Cornificius, an older contemporary of Cicero, to whom the work
was long ascribed. It, no doubt, owes its preservation to this erroneous
tradition. The first two books were largely used by Cicero in his own
treatise _De Inventione_, part of a work on the principles of rhetoric
which he began in early youth.

Latin history during this period made considerable progress. It was a
common practice among statesmen to write memoirs of their own life and
times; among others of less note, Sulla the dictator left at his death
twenty-two books of _Commentarii Rerum Gestarum_, which were afterwards
published by his secretary. In regular history the most important name
is that of Quintus Claudius Quadrigarius. His work differed from those
of the earlier annalists in passing over the legendary period, and
beginning with the earliest authentic documents; in research and critical
judgment it reached a point only excelled by Sallust. His style was
formed on that of older annalists, and is therefore somewhat archaic for
the period, Considerable fragments, including the well-known description
of the single combat in 361 B.C. between Titus Manlius Torquatus and the
Gallic chief, survive in quotations by Aulus Gellius and the archaists of
the later Empire. More voluminous but less valuable than the _Annals_ of
Claudius were those of his contemporary, Valerius Antias, which formed
the main groundwork for the earlier books of Livy, and were largely used
by him even for later periods, when more trustworthy authorities were
available. Other historians of this period, Sisenna and Macer, soon fell
into neglect--the former as too archaic, the latter as too diffuse and
rhetorical, for literary permanence.

Somewhat apart from the historical writers stand the antiquarians, who
wrote during this period in large numbers, and whose treatises filled the
library from which, in the age of Cicero, Varro compiled his monumental
works. As numerous probably were the writers of the school of Cato, on
husbandry, domestic economy, and other practical subjects, and the
grammarians and philologists, whose works formed two other large sections
in Varro's library. On all sides prose was full of life and growth; the
complete literary perfection of the age of Cicero, Caesar, and Sallust
might already be foreseen as within the grasp of the near future.

Latin poetry, meanwhile, hung in the balance. The first great wave of the
Greek impulse had exhausted itself in Ennius and the later tragedians.
Prose had so developed that the poetical form was no longer a necessity
for the expression of ideas, as it had been in the palmy days of Latin
tragedy. The poetry of the future must be, so to speak, poetry for its
own sake, until some new tradition were formed which should make certain
metrical forms once more the recognised and traditional vehicle for
certain kinds of literary expression. In the blank of poetry we may note
a translation of the _Iliad_ into hexameters by one Gnaeus Matius, and
the earliest known attempts at imitation of the forms of Greek lyrical
verse by an equally obscure Laevius Melissus, as dim premonitions of the
new growth which Latin poetry was feeling after; but neither these, nor
the literary tragedies which still were occasionally produced by a
survival of the fashions of an earlier age, are of any account for their
own sake. Prose and poetry stood at the two opposite poles of their
cycle; and thus it is that, while the poets and prose-writers of the
Ciceronian age are equally imperishable in fame, the latter but represent
the culmination of a broad and harmonious development, while of the
former, amidst but apart from the beginnings of a new literary era, there
shine, splendid like stars out of the darkness, the two immortal lights
of Lucretius and Catullus.



IV.

LUCRETIUS.


The age of Cicero, a term familiar to all readers as indicating one of
the culminating periods of literary history, while its central and later
years are accurately fixed, may be dated in its commencement from varying
limits. Cicero was born in 106 B.C., the year of the final conquest of
Jugurtha, and the year before the terrible Cimbrian disaster at Orange:
he perished in the proscription of the triumvirate in December, 43 B.C.
His first appearance in public life was during the dictatorship of Sulla;
and either from this date, or from one ten years later when the Sullan
constitution was re-established in a modified form by Pompeius and
Crassus in their first consulate, the Ciceronian age extends over a space
which approximates in the one case to thirty, in the other to forty
years. No period in ancient, and few even in more modern history are so
pregnant with interest or so fully and intimately known. From the
comparative obscurity of the earlier age we pass into a full blaze of
daylight. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the Rome of Cicero is
as familiar to modern English readers as the London of Queen Anne, to
readers in modern France as the Paris of Louis Quatorze. We can still
follow with unabated interest the daily fluctuations of its politics, the
current gossip and scandal of its society, the passing fashions of
domestic life as revealed in private correspondence or the disclosures of
the law courts. Yet in the very centre of this brilliantly lighted world,
one of its most remarkable figures is veiled in almost complete darkness.
The poem of Lucretius, _On the Nature of Things_, though it not only
revealed a profound and extraordinary genius, but marked an entirely new
technical level in Latin poetry, stole into the world all but unnoticed;
and of its author's life, though a pure Roman of one of the great
governing families, only one or two doubtful and isolated facts could be
recovered by the curiosity of later commentators. The single sentence in
St. Jerome's _Chronicle_ which practically sums up the whole of our
information runs as follows, under the year 94 B.C:--

_Titus Lucretius poeta nascitur, posted amatorio poculo in furorem versus
cum aliquot libros per intervalla insaniae conscripsisset quos postea
Cicero emendavit, propria se manu interfecit anno aetatis xliiii._

Brief and straightforward as the sentence is, every clause in it has
given rise to volumes of controversy. Was Lucretius born in the year
named, or is another tradition correct, which, connecting his death with
a particular event in the youth of Virgil, makes him either be born a few
years earlier or die a few years younger? Did he ever, whether from a
poisonous philtre or otherwise, lose his reason? and can a poem which
ranks among the great masterpieces of genius have been built up into its
stately fabric--for this is not a question of brief lyrics like those of
Smart or Cowper--in the lucid intervals of insanity? Did Cicero have
anything to do with the editing of the unfinished poem? If so, which
Cicero--Marcus or Quintus? and why, in either case, is there no record of
the fact in their correspondence, or in any writing of the period? All
these questions are probably insoluble, and the notice of Jerome leaves
the whole life and personality of the poet still completely hidden. Yet
we have little or nothing else to go upon. There is a brief and casual
allusion to him in one of Cicero's letters of the year 54 B.C.: yet it
speaks of "poems," not the single great poem which we know; and most
editors agree that the text of the passage is corrupt, and must be
amended by the insertion of a _non_, though they differ on the important
detail of the particular clause in which it should be inserted. That the
earlier Augustan poets should leave their great predecessor completely
unnoticed is less remarkable, for it may be taken as merely a part of
that curious conspiracy of silence regarding the writers of the
Ciceronian age which, whether under political pressure or not, they all
adopted. Even Ovid, never ungenerous though not always discriminating in
his praise, dismisses him in a list of Latin poets with a single couplet
of vague eulogy. In the reactionary circles of the Empire, Lucretius
found recognition; but the critics who, according to Tacitus, ranked him
above Virgil may be reasonably suspected of doing so more from caprice
than from rational conviction. Had the poem itself perished (and all the
extant manuscripts are copies of a single original), no one would have
thought that such a preference could be anything but a piece of
antiquarian pedantry, like the revival, in the same period, of the plays
of the early tragedians. But the fortunate and slender chance which has
preserved it shows that their opinion, whether right or wrong, is one
which at all events is neither absurd nor unarguable. For in the _De
Rerum Natura_ we are brought face to face not only with an extraordinary
literary achievement, but with a mind whose profound and brilliant genius
has only of late years, and with the modern advance of physical and
historical science, been adequately recognised.

The earliest Greek impulse in Latin poetry had long been exhausted; and
the fashion among the new generation was to admire and study beyond all
else the Greek poets of the decadence, who are generally, and without any
substantial injustice, lumped together by the name of the Alexandrian
school. The common quality in all this poetry was its great learning, and
its remoteness from nature. It was poetry written in a library; it viewed
the world through a highly coloured medium of literary and artistic
tradition. The laborious perfectness of execution which the taste of the
time demanded was, as a rule, lavished on little subjects, patient
carvings in ivory. One side of the Alexandrian school which was largely
followed was that of the didactic poets--Aratus, Nicander, Euphorion, and
a host of others less celebrated. Cicero, in mature life, speaks with
some contempt of the taste for Euphorion among his contemporaries. But he
had himself, as a young man, followed the fashion, and translated the
_Phaenomena_ of Aratus into wonderfully polished and melodious hexameter
verse.

Not unaffected by this fashion of the day, but turning from it to older
and nobler models--Homer and Empedocles in Greek, Ennius in Latin--
Lucretius conceived the imposing scheme of a didactic poem dealing with
the whole field of life and nature as interpreted by the Epicurean
philosophy. He lived to carry out his work almost to completion. It here
and there wants the final touches of arrangement; one or two discussions
are promised and not given; some paragraphs are repeated, and others have
not been worked into their proper place; but substantially, as in the
case of the _Aeneid_, we have the complete poem before us, and know
perfectly within what limits it might have been altered or improved by
fuller revision.

As pure literature, the _Nature of Things_ has all the defects
inseparable from a didactic poem, that unstable combination of
discordant elements, and from a poem which is not only didactic, but
argumentative, and in parts highly controversial. Nor are these
difficulties in the least degree evaded or smoothed over by the poet. As
a teacher, he is in deadly earnest; as a controversialist, his first
object is to refute and convince. The graces of poetry are never for a
moment allowed to interfere with the full development of an argument.
Much of the poem is a chain of intricate reasoning hammered into verse by
sheer force of hand. The ardent imagination of the poet struggles through
masses of intractable material which no genius could wholly fuse into a
metal pure enough to take perfect form. His language, in the fine
prologue to the fourth book of the poem, shows his attitude towards his
art very clearly.

    _Avia Pieridum peragro loca nullius ante
    Trita solo; iuvat integros accedere fontes
    Atque haurire, iuvatque novos decerpere flores
    Insignemque meo capiti petere inde coronam
    Unde prius milli velarint tempora Musae:
    Primum quod magnis doceo de rebus, et artis
    Religionum animum nodis exsolvere pergo,
    Deinde quod obscura de re tam lucida pango
    Carmina, musaeo contingens cuncta lepore._

The joy and glory of his art come second in his mind to his passionate
love of truth, and the deep moral purport of what he believes to be the
one true message for mankind. The human race lies fettered by
superstition and ignorance; his mission is to dispel their darkness by
that light of truth which is "clearer than the beams of the sun or the
shining shafts of day." Spinoza has been called, in a bold figure, "a man
drunk with God;" the contemplation of the "nature of things," the
physical structure of the universe, and the living and all but
impersonate law which forms and sustains it, has the same intoxicating
influence over Lucretius. God and man are alike to him bubbles on the
ceaseless stream of existence; yet they do not therefore, as they have so
often done in other philosophies, fade away to a spectral thinness. His
contemplation of existence is no brooding over abstractions; Nature is
not in his view the majestic and silent figure before whose unchanging
eyes the shifting shadow-shapes go and come; but an essential life,
manifesting itself in a million workings, _creatrix, gubernans, daedala
rerum_. The universe is filled through all its illimitable spaces by the
roar of her working, the ceaseless unexhausted energy with which she
alternates life and death.

To our own age the Epicurean philosophy has a double interest. Not only
was it a philosophy of life and conduct, but, in the effort to place life
and conduct under ascertainable physical laws, it was led to frame an
extremely detailed and ingenious body of natural philosophy, which,
partly from being based on really sound postulates, partly from a happy
instinct in connecting phenomena, still remains interesting and valuable.
To the Epicureans, indeed, as to all ancient thinkers, the scientific
method as it is now understood was unknown; and a series of unverified
generalizations, however brilliant and acute, is not the true way towards
knowledge. But it still remains an astonishing fact that many of the most
important physical discoveries of modern times are hinted at or even
expressly stated by Lucretius. The general outlines of the atomic
doctrine have long been accepted as in the main true; in all important
features it is superior to any other physical theory of the universe
which existed up to the seventeenth century. In his theory of light
Lucretius was in advance of Newton. In his theory of chemical affinities
(for he describes the thing though the nomenclature was unknown to him)
he was in advance of Lavoisier. In his theory of the ultimate
constitution of the atom he is in striking agreement with the views of
the ablest living physicists. The essential function of science--to
reduce apparently disparate phenomena to the expressions of a single law
--is not with him the object of a moment's doubt or uncertainty.

Towards real progress in knowledge two things are alike indispensable: a
true scientific method, and imaginative insight. The former is, in the
main, a creation of the modern world, nor was Lucretius here in advance
of his age. But in the latter quality he is unsurpassed, if not
unequalled. Perhaps this is even clearer in another field of science,
that which has within the last generation risen to such immense
proportions under the name of anthropology. Thirty years ago it was the
first and second books of the _De Rerum Natura_ which excited the
greatest enthusiasm in the scientific world. Now that the atomic theory
has passed into the rank of received doctrines, the brilliant sketch,
given in the fifth book, of the beginnings of life upon the earth, the
evolution of man and the progress of human society, is the portion of the
poem in which his scientific imagination is displayed most astonishingly.
A Roman aristocrat, living among a highly cultivated society, Lucretius
had been yet endowed by nature with the primitive instincts of the
savage. He sees the ordinary processes of everyday life--weaving,
carpentry, metal-working, even such specialised forms of manual art as
the polishing of the surface of marble--with the fresh eye of one who
sees them all for the first time. Nothing is to him indistinct through
familiarity. In virtue of this absolute clearness of vision it costs him
no effort to throw himself back into prehistoric conditions and the wild
life of the earliest men. Even further than this he can pierce the dim
recesses of the past. Before his imagination the earth rises swathed in
tropical forests, and all strange forms of life issuing and jostling one
another for existence in the steaming warmth of perpetual summer. Among a
thousand types that flowered and fell, the feeble form of primitive man
is distinguished, without fire, without clothing, without articulate
speech. Through the midnight of the woods, shivering at the cries of the
stealthy-footed prowlers of the darkness, he crouches huddled in fallen
leaves, waiting for the rose of dawn. Little by little the prospect
clears round him. The branches of great trees, grinding one against
another in the windy forest, break into a strange red flower; he gathers
it and hoards it in his cave. There, when wind and rain beat without, the
hearth-fire burns through the winter, and round it gathers that other
marvellous invention of which the hearth-fire became the mysterious
symbol, the family. From this point the race is on the full current of
progress, of which the remainder of the book gives an account as
essentially true as it is incomparably brilliant. If we consider how
little Lucretius had to go upon in this reconstruction of lost history,
his imaginative insight seems almost miraculous. Even for the later
stages of human progress he had to rely mainly on the eye which saw deep
below the surface into the elementary structure of civilisation. There
was no savage life within the scope of his actual observation. Books
wavered between traditions of an impossible golden age and fragments of
primitive legend which were then quite unintelligible, and are only now
giving up their secret under a rigorous analysis. Further back, and
beyond the rude civilisation of the earlier races of Greece and Italy,
data wholly failed. We have supplemented, but hardly given more life to,
his picture of the first beginnings, by evidence drawn from a thousand
sources then unknown or unexplored--from coal-measures and mud-deposits,
Pictish barrows and lacustrine middensteads, remote tribes of hidden
Africa and islands of the Pacific Sea.

Such are the characteristics which, to one or another epoch of modern
times, give the poem of Lucretius so unique an interest. But for these as
for all ages, its permanent value must lie mainly in more universal
qualities. History and physical science alike are in all poetry ancillary
to ideas. It is in his moral temper, his profound insight into life, that
Lucretius is greatest; and it is when dealing with moral ideas that his
poetry rises to its utmost height. The Epicurean philosophy, in his
hands, takes all the moral fervour of a religion. The depth of his
religious instinct may be measured by the passion of his antagonism to
what he regarded as superstition. Human life in his eyes was made
wretched, mean, and cruel by one great cause--the fear of death and of
what happens after it. That death is not to be feared, that nothing
happens after it, is the keystone of his whole system. It is after an
accumulation of seventeen proofs, hurled one upon another at the reader,
of the mortality of the soul, that, letting himself loose at the highest
emotional and imaginative tension, he breaks into that wonderful passage,
which Virgil himself never equalled, and which in its lofty passion, its
piercing tenderness, the stately roll of its cadences, is perhaps
unmatched in human speech.

    _"Iam iam non domus accipiet te Iaeta, neque uxor
    Optima, nee dulces occurrent oscula nati
    Praeripere et tacita pectus dulcedine tangent:
    Non poteris factis florentibus esse, tuisque
    Praesidium: misero misere" aiunt, "omnia ademit
    Una dies infesta tibi tot praemia vitae...."_

"'Now no more shall a glad home and a true wife welcome thee, nor darling
children race to snatch thy first kisses and touch thy heart with a sweet
and silent content; no more mayest thou be prosperous in thy doings and a
defence to thine own: alas and woe!' say they, 'one disastrous day has
taken all these prizes of thy life away from thee'--but thereat they do
not add this, 'and now no more does any longing for these things beset
thee.' This did their thought but clearly see and their speech follow,
they would release themselves from great heartache and fear. 'Thou,
indeed, as thou art sunk in the sleep of death, wilt so be for the rest
of the ages, severed from all weary pains; but we, while close by us thou
didst turn ashen on the awful pyre, made unappeasable lamentation, and
everlastingly shall time never rid our heart of anguish.' Ask we then
this of him, what there is that is so very bitter, if sleep and peace be
the conclusion of the matter, to make one fade away in never-ending
grief?

"Thus also men often do when, set at the feast, they hold their cups and
shade their faces with garlands, saying sadly, 'Brief is this joy for
wretched men; soon will it have been, and none may ever after recall it!'
as if this were to be first and foremost of the ills of death, that
thirst and dry burning should waste them miserably, or desire after
anything else beset them. For not even then does any one miss himself and
his life when soul and body together are deep asleep and at rest; for all
we care, such slumber might go on for ever, nor does any longing after
ourselves touch us then, though then those first beginnings through our
body swerve away but a very little from the movements that bring back the
senses when the man starts up and gathers himself out of sleep. Far less,
therefore, must we think death concerns us, if less than nothing there
can be; for a greater sundering in the mass of matter follows upon death,
nor does any one awake and stand, whom the cold stoppage of death once
has overtaken.

"Yet again, were the Nature of things suddenly to utter a voice, and thus
with her own lips upbraid one of us, 'What ails thee so, O mortal, to let
thyself loose in too feeble grievings? why weep and wail at death? for if
thy past life and overspent has been sweet to thee, and all the good
thereof has not, as if poured into a pierced vessel, run through and
joylessly perished, why dost thou not retire like a banqueter filled with
life, and calmly, O fool, take thy peaceful sleep? But if all thou hast
had is perished and spilt, and thy life is hateful, why seekest thou yet
to add more which shall once again all perish and fall joylessly away?
why not rather make an end of life and labour? for there is nothing more
that I can contrive and invent for thy delight; all things are the same
for ever. Even were thy body not yet withered, nor thy limbs weary and
worn, yet all things remain the same, didst thou go on to live all the
generations down, nay, even more, wert thou never doomed to die'--what do
we answer?"

It is in passages of which the two hundred lines beginning thus are the
noblest instance, passages of profound and majestic broodings over life
and death, that the long rolling weight of the Lucretian hexameter tells
with its full force. For the golden cadence of poesy we have to wait till
Virgil; but the strain that Lucretius breathes through bronze is
statelier and more sonorous than any other in the stately and sonorous
Roman speech. Like Naevius a century and a half before, he might have
left the proud and pathetic saying on his tomb that, after he was dead,
men forgot to speak Latin in Rome. He stands side by side with Julius
Caesar in the perfect purity of his language. The writing of the next
age, whether prose or verse, gathered richness and beauty from alien
sources; if the poem of Lucretius had no other merit, it would be a
priceless document as a model of the purest Latin idiom in the precise
age of its perfection. It follows from this that in certain points of
technique Lucretius kept behind his age, or rather, deliberately held
aloof from the movement of his age towards a more intricate and elaborate
art. The wave of Alexandrianism only touched him distantly; he takes up
the Ennian tradition where Ennius had left it, and puts into it the
immensely increased faculty of trained expression which a century of
continuous literary practice, and his own admirably clear and quick
intelligence, enable him to supply. The only Greek poets mentioned by him
are Homer and Empedocles. His remoteness from the main current of
contemporary literature is curiously parallel to that of Milton. The
Epicurean philosophy was at this time, as it never was either earlier or
later, the predominant creed among the ruling class at Rome: but except
in so far as its shallower aspects gave the motive for light verse, it
was as remote from poetry as the Puritan theology of the seventeenth
century. In both cases a single poet of immense genius was also deeply
penetrated with the spirit of a creed. In both cases his poetical
affinity was with the poets of an earlier day, and his poetical manner
something absolutely peculiar to himself. Both of them under this
strangely mixed impulse set themselves to embody their creed in a great
work of art. But the art did not appeal strongly to sectaries, nor the
creed to artists. The _De Rerum Natura_ and the _Paradise Lost_, while
they exercised a profound influence over later poets, came silently into
the world, and seem to have passed over the heads of their immediate
contemporaries. There is yet another point of curious resemblance between
them. Every student of Milton knows that the only English poet from whom
he systematically borrowed matter and phrase was a second-rate translator
of a second-rate original, who now would be almost forgotten but for the
use Milton made of him. For one imitation of Spenser or Shakespeare in
the _Paradise Lost_ it would be easy to adduce ten--not mere coincidences
of matter, but direct transferences--of Sylvester's Du Bartas. While
Lucretius was a boy, Cicero published the version in Latin hexameters of
the _Phaenomena_ and _Prognostica_ of Aratus to which reference has
already been made. These poems consist of only between eleven and twelve
hundred lines in all, but had, in the later Alexandrian period, a
reputation (like that of the _Sepmaine_ of Du Bartas) far in excess of
their real merit, and were among the most powerful influences in founding
the new style. The many imitations in Lucretius of the extant fragments
of these Ciceronian versions show that he must have studied their
vocabulary and versification with minute care. The increased technical
possibilities shown by them to exist in the Latin hexameter--for in them,
as in nearly all his permanent work, Cicero was mastering the problem of
making his own language an adequate vehicle of sustained expression--may
even have been the determining influence that made Lucretius adopt this
poetical form. Till then it may have been just possible that native
metrical forms might still reassert themselves. Inscriptions of the last
century of the Republic show that the saturnian still lingered in use
side by side with the rude popular hexameters which were gradually
displacing it; and the _Punic War_ of Naevius was still a classic.
Lucretius' choice of the hexameter, and his definite conquest of it as a
medium of the richest and most varied expression, placed the matter
beyond recall. The technical imperfections which remained in it were now
reduced within a visible compass; its power to convey sustained argument,
to express the most delicate shades of meaning, to adjust itself to the
greatest heights and the subtlest tones of emotion, was already acquired
when Lucretius handed it on to Virgil. And here, too, as well as in the
wide field of literature with which his fame is more intimately
connected, from the actual impulse given by his own early work and
heightened by admiration of his brilliant maturity, even more than from
the dubious tradition of his critical revision of the poem, the glory of
the Ciceronian age is in close relation to the personal genius of Cicero.



V.

LYRIC POETRY: CATULLUS.


Contemporary with Lucretius, but, unlike him, living in the full whirl
and glare of Roman life, was a group of young men who were professed
followers of the Alexandrian school. In the thirty years which separate
the Civil war and the Sullan restoration from the sombre period that
opened with the outbreak of hostilities between Caesar and the senate,
social life at Rome among the upper classes was unusually interesting and
exciting. The outward polish of Greek civilisation was for the first time
fully mastered, and an intelligent interest in art and literature was the
fashion of good society. The "young man about town," whom we find later
fully developed in the poetry of Ovid, sprang into existence, but as the
government was still in the hands of the aristocracy, fashion and
politics were intimately intermingled, and the lighter literature of the
day touched grave issues on every side. The poems of Catullus are full of
references to his friends and his enemies among this group of writers.
Two of the former, Cinna and Calvus, were poets of considerable
importance. Gaius Helvius Cinna--somewhat doubtfully identified with the
"Cinna the poet" who met such a tragical end at the hands of the populace
after Caesar's assassination--carried the Alexandrian movement to its
most uncompromising conclusions. His fame (and that fame was very great)
rested on a short poem called _Zmyrna_, over which he spent ten years'
labour, and which, by subject and treatment alike, carried the method of
that school to its furthest excess. In its recondite obscurity it outdid
Lycophron himself. More than one grammarian of the time made a reputation
solely by a commentary on it. It throws much light on the peculiar
artistic position of Catullus, to bear in mind that this masterpiece of
frigid pedantry obtained his warm and evidently sincere praise.

The other member of the triad, Gaius Licinius Macer Calvus, one of the
most brilliant men of his time, was too deeply plunged in politics to be
more than an accomplished amateur in poetry. Yet it must have been more
than his intimate friendship with Catullus, and their common fate of too
early a death, that made the two names so constantly coupled afterwards.
By the critics of the Silver Age, no less than by Horace and Propertius,
the same idea is frequently repeated, which has its best-known expression
in Ovid's beautiful invocation in his elegy on Tibullus--

    Obvius huic venias, hedera iuvenilia cinctus
        Tempora, cum Calvo, docte Catulle, tuo._

We must lament the total loss of a volume of lyrics which competent
judges thought worthy to be set beside that of his wonderful friend.

Gaius Valerius Catullus of Verona, one of the greatest names of Latin
poetry, belonged, like most of this group, to a wealthy and distinguished
family, and was introduced at an early age to the most fashionable
circles of the capital. He was just so much younger than Lucretius that
the Marian terror and the Sullan proscriptions can hardly have left any
strong traces on his memory. When he died, Caesar was still fighting in
Gaul, and the downfall of the Republic could only be dimly foreseen. In
time, no less than in genius, he represents the fine flower of the
Ciceronian age. He was about five and twenty when the attachment began
between him and the lady whom he has immortalised under the name of
Lesbia. By birth a Claudia, and wife of her cousin, a Caecilius Metellus,
she belonged by blood and marriage to the two proudest families of the
inner circle of the aristocracy. Clodia was seven years older than
Catullus; but that only made their mutual attraction more irresistible:
and the death of her husband in the year after his consulship, whether or
not there was foundation for the common rumour that she had poisoned him,
was an incident that seems to have passed almost unnoticed in the first
fervour of their passion. The story of infatuation, revolt, relapse,
fresh revolt and fresh entanglement, lives and breathes in the verses of
Catullus. It was after their final rupture that Catullus made that
journey to Asia which gave occasion to his charming poems of travel. In
the years which followed his return to Italy, he continued to produce
with great versatility and force, making experiments in several new
styles, and devoting great pains to an elaborate metrical technique.
Feats of learning and skill alternate with political verses, into which
he carries all his violence of love and hatred. But while these later
poems compel our admiration, it is the earlier ones which win and keep
our love. Though the old liquid note ever and again recurs, the freshness
of these first lyrics, in which life and love and poetry are all alike in
their morning glory, was never to be wholly recaptured. Nor did he live
to settle down on any matured second manner. He was thirty-three at the
utmost--perhaps not more than thirty--when he died, leaving behind him
the volume of poems which sets him as the third beside Sappho and
Shelley.

The order of the poems in this volume seems to be an artificial
compromise between two systems--one an arrangement by metre, and the
other by date of composition. In the former view the book falls into
three sections--the pure lyrics, the idyllic pieces, and the poems in
elegiac verse. The central place is occupied by the longest and most
elaborate, if not the most successful, of his poems, the epic idyl on the
marriage of Peleus and Thetis. Before this are the lyrics, chiefly in the
phalaecian eleven-syllabled verse which Catullus made so peculiarly his
own, but in iambic, sapphic, choriambic, and other metres also, winding
up with the fine epithalamium written for the marriage of his friends,
Mallius and Vinia. The transition from this group of lyrics to the
_Marriage of Peleus and Thetis_ is made with great skill through another
wedding-chant, an idyl in form, but approaching to a lyric in tone,
without any personal allusions, and not apparently written for any
particular occasion. Finally comes a third group of poems, extending to
the end of the volume, all written in elegiac verse, but otherwise
extremely varied in date, subject, and manner. The only poem thus left
unaccounted for, the _Atys_, is inserted in the centre of the volume,
between the two hexameter poems, as though to make its wild metre and
rapid movement the more striking by contrast with their smooth and
languid rhythms. Whether the arrangement of the whole book comes from the
poet's own hand is very doubtful. His dedicatory verses, which stand at
the head of the volume, are more probably attached to the first part
only, the book of lyrics. Catullus almost certainly died in 54 B.C.; the
only positive dates assignable to particular poems, in either the lyric
or the elegiac section, alike lie within the three or four years
previous, and, while no strict chronological order is followed, the
pieces at the beginning of the book are almost certainly the earliest,
and those at the end among the latest.

Among the poems of Catullus, those connected with Lesbia hold the
foremost place, and, as expressions of direct personal emotion, are
unsurpassed, not merely in Latin, but in any literature. There are no
poems of the growth of love among them; from the first, Lesbia appears as
the absolute mistress of her lover's heart:

    _Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
    Rumoresque senum severiorum
    Omnes unius aestimemus assis.
    Soles occidere et redire possunt;
    Nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux
    Nox est perpetua una dormienda:--_

thus he cries in the first intoxication of his happiness, as yet ignorant
that the brief light of his love was to go out before noon. Clodia soon
showed that the advice not to care for the opinion of the world was, in
her case, infinitely superfluous. That intolerable pride which was the
proverbial curse of the Claudian house took in her the form of a flagrant
disregard of all conventions. In the early days of their love, Catullus
only felt, or only expressed, the beautiful side of this recklessness.
His affection for Clodia had in it, he says, something of the tenderness
of parents for their children; and the poems themselves bear out the
paradox. We do not need to read deeply in Catullus to be assured that
merely animal passion ran as strong in him as it ever did in any man. But
in the earlier poems to Lesbia all this turns to air and fire; the
intensity of his love melts its grosser elements into one white flame.
There is hardly even a word of Lesbia's bodily beauty; her great blazing
eyes have only come down to us in the sarcastic allusions made to them by
Cicero in his speeches and letters. As in a few of the finest lyrics of
Burns, with whom Catullus, as a poet of love, has often been compared,
the ardency of passion has effected for quintessential moments the work
that long ages may work out on the whole fabric of a human soul--
_Concretam exemit labem purumque reliquit aetherium sensum atque aurai
simplicis ignem_.

But long after the rapture had passed away the enthralment remained.
Lesbia's first infidelities only riveted her lover's chains--

        _Amantem iniuria talis
    Cogit amare magis;_

then he hangs between love and hatred, in the poise of soul immortalised
by him in the famous verse--

    _Odi et amo: quare id faciam fortasse requiris;
        Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior._

There were ruptures and reconciliations, and renewed ruptures and
repeated returns, but through them all, while his love hardly lessens,
his hatred continually grows, and the lyrical cry becomes one of the
sharpest agony: through protestations of fidelity, through wails over
ingratitude, he sinks at last into a stupor only broken by moans of pain.
Then at last youth reasserts itself, and he is stung into new life by the
knowledge that he has simply dropped out of Lesbia's existence. His final
renunciation is no longer addressed to her deaf ears, but flung at her in
studied insult through two of the associates of their old revels in Rome.

    _Cum suis vivat valeatque moechis
    Quos simul complexa tenet trecentos
    Nullum amans vere, sed identidem[2] omnium
          Ilia rumpens--_

so the hard clear verse flashes out, to melt away in the dying fall, the
long-drawn sweetness of the last words of all--

    _Nec meum respectet ut ante amorem
    Qui illius culpa cecidit, velut prati
    Ultimi flos, praetereunte postquam
        Tactus aratro est._

Foremost among the other lyrics of Catullus which have a personal
reference are those concerned with his journey to Asia, and the death in
the Troad of the deeply loved brother whose tomb he visited on that
journey. The excitement of travel and the delight of return have never
been more gracefully touched than in these little lyrics, of which every
other line has become a household word, the _Iam ver egelidos refert
tepores_, and the lovely _Paene insularum Sirmio insularumque_, whose
cadences have gathered a fresh sweetness in the hands of Tennyson. But a
higher note is reached in one or two of the short pieces on his brother's
death, which are lyrics in all but technical name. The finest of these
has all the delicate simplicity of an epitaph by the best Greek artists,
Leonidas or Antipater or Simonides himself; and with this it combines the
specific Latin dignity, and a range of tones, from the ocean-roll of its
opening hexameter, _Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus_, to
the sobbing wail of the _Atque in perpehtum frater ave atque vale_ in
which it dies away, that is hardly equalled except in some of
Shakespeare's sonnets.

It is in these short lyrics of personal passion or emotion that the
genius of Catullus is most eminent; but the same high qualities appear in
the few specimens he has left of more elaborate lyrical architecture, the
_Ode to Diana_, the marriage-song for Mallius and Vinia, and the _Atys_.
The first of these, brief as it is, has a breadth and grandeur of manner
which--as in the noble fragment of Keats' _Ode to Maia_--lift it into the
rank of great masterpieces. The epithalamium, on the other hand, with
which the book of lyrics ends, while very simple in structure, is large
in scale. It is as much longer than the rest of the lyrics as the
marriage-song which stands at the end of _In Memoriam_ is than the other
sections of that poem. In the charm of perfect simplicity it equals the
finest of his lyrics; but besides this, it has in its clear ringing music
what is for this period an almost unique premonition of the new world
that rose out of the darkness of the Middle Ages, the world that had
invented bells and church-organs, and had added a new romantic beauty to
love and marriage. With a richness of phrase that recalls the Song of
Solomon, the verses clash and swing: _Open your bars, O gates! the bride
is at hand! Lo, how the torches shake out their splendid tresses!... Even
so in a rich lord's garden-close might stand a hyacinth-flower. Lo, the
torches shake out their golden tresses; go forth, O bride! Day wanes; go
forth, O bride!_ And the verse at the end, about the baby on its mother's
lap--

    _Torqutatus volo parvulus
    Matris e gremio suae
    Porrigens teneras manus
    Dulce rideat ad patrem
         Semihiante labello--_

is as incomparable; not again till the Florentine art of the fifteenth
century was the picture drawn with so true and tender a hand.

Over the _Atys_ modern criticism has exhausted itself without any
definite result. The accident of its being the only Latin poem extant in
the peculiar galliambic metre has combined with the nature of the
subject[3] to induce a tradition about it as though it were the most
daring and extraordinary of Catullus' poems. The truth is quite
different. It stands midway between the lyrics and the idyls in being a
poem of most studied and elaborate artifice, in which Catullus has
chosen, not the statelier and more familiar rhythms of the hexameter or
elegiac, but one of the Greek lyric metres, of which he had already
introduced several others into Latin. As a _tour de force_ in metrical
form it is remarkable enough, and probably marks the highest point of
Latin achievement in imitation of the more complex Greek metres. As a
lyric poem it preserves, even in its highly artificial structure, much of
the direct force and simplicity which mark all Catullus' best lyrics.
That it goes beyond this, or that--as is often repeated--it transcends
both the idyls and the briefer lyrics in sustained beauty and passion,
cannot be held by any sane judgment.

How far elaboration could lead Catullus is shown in the long idyllic poem
on the _Marriage of Peleus and Thetis_. Here he entirely abandons the
lyric manner, and adventures on a new field, in which he does not prove
very successful. The poem is full of great beauties of detail; but as a
whole it is cloying and yet not satisfying. For a few lines together
Catullus can write in hexameter more exquisitely than any other Latin
poet. The description in this piece of the little breeze that rises at
dawn, beginning _Hic qualis flatu placidum mare matutino_, like the more
famous lines in his other idyllic poem--

    _Ut flos in septis secretum nascitur hortis,
    Ignotus pecori, nullo contusus aratro,
    Quem mulcent aurae, firmat sol, educat imber;
    Multi illum pueri, multae optavere puellae--_

has an intangible and inexpressible beauty such as never recurs in the
more mature art of greater masters. But Catullus has no narrative gift;
his use of the hexameter is confined to a limited set of rhythms which in
a poem about the length of a book of the _Georgics_ become hopelessly
monotonous; and it finally stops, rather than ends, when the writer (as
is already the case with the reader) grows tired of it. It is remarkable
that the poet who in the lightness and speed of his other metres is
unrivalled in Latin, should, when he attempts the hexameter, be more
languid and heavy, not only than his successors, but than his
contemporaries. Here, as in the elaborate imitations of Callimachus with
which he tested his command of the Latin elegiac, he is weak because he
wanders off the true line, not from any failure in his own special gift,
which was purely and simply lyrical. When he uses the elegiac verse to
express his own feeling, as in the attacks on political or personal
enemies, it has the same direct lucidity (as of an extraordinarily gifted
child) which is the essential charm of his lyrics.

It is just this quality, this clear and almost terrible simplicity, that
puts Catullus in a place by himself among the Latin poets. Where others
labour in the ore of thought and gradually forge it out into sustained
expression, he sees with a single glance, and does not strike a second
time. His imperious lucidity is perfectly unhesitating in its action;
whether he is using it for the daintiest flower of sentiment--_fair
passions and bountiful pities and loves without stain_--or for the
expression of his fiery passions and hatreds in some flagrant obscenity
or venomous insult, it is alike straight and reckless, with no scruple
and no mincing of words; in Mr. Swinburne's curiously true and vivid
phrase, he "makes mouths at our speech" when we try to follow him.

With the death of Catullus and Calvus, an era in Latin poetry definitely
ends. Only thirteen or fourteen years later a new era begins with the
appearance of Virgil; but this small interval of time is sufficient to
mark the passage from one age--we might almost say from one civilisation
--to another. During these years poetry was almost silent, while the
Roman world shook with continuous civil war and the thunder of prodigious
armies. The school of minor Alexandrian poets still indeed continued; the
"warblers of Euphorion" with their smooth rhythms and elaborate _finesse_
of workmanship are spoken of by Cicero as still numerous and active ten
years after Catullus' death. But their artifice had lost the gloss of
novelty; and the enthusiasm which greeted the appearance of the Eclogues
was due less perhaps to their intrinsic excellence than to the relief
with which Roman poetry shook itself free from the fetters of so rigorous
and exhausting a convention.



CICERO.


Meanwhile, in the last age of the Republic, Latin prose had reached its
full splendour in the hands of the most copious and versatile master of
style whom the Graeco-Roman world had yet produced. The claims of Cicero
to a place among the first rank of Roman statesmen have been fiercely
canvassed by modern critics; and both in oratory and philosophy some
excess of veneration once paid to him has been replaced by an equally
excessive depreciation. The fault in both estimates lay in the fact that
they were alike based on secondary issues. Cicero's unique and
imperishable glory is not, as he thought himself, that of having put down
the revolutionary movement of Catiline, nor, as later ages thought, that
of having rivalled Demosthenes in the _Second Philippic_, or confuted
atheism in the _De Natura Deorum_. It is that he created a language which
remained for sixteen centuries that of the civilised world, and used that
language to create a style which nineteen centuries have not replaced,
and in some respects have scarcely altered. He stands in prose, like
Virgil in poetry, as the bridge between the ancient and modern world.
Before his time, Latin prose was, from a wide point of view, but one
among many local ancient dialects. As it left his hands, it had become a
universal language, one which had definitely superseded all others, Greek
included, as the type of civilised expression.

Thus the apparently obsolete criticism which ranked Cicero together with
Plato and Demosthenes, if not above them, was based on real facts, though
it may be now apparent that it gave them a wrong interpretation. Even
Hellenists may admit with but slight reluctance that the prose of the
great Attic writers is, like the sculpture of their contemporary artists,
a thing remote from modern life, requiring much training and study for
its appreciation, and confined at the best to a limited circle. But
Ciceronian prose is practically the prose of the human race; not only of
the Roman empire of the first and second centuries, but of Lactantius and
Augustine, of the mediaeval Church, of the earlier and later Renaissance,
and even now, when the Renaissance is a piece of past history, of the
modern world to which the Renaissance was the prelude.

The life of Cicero as a man of letters may be divided into four periods,
which, though not of course wholly distinct from one another, may be
conveniently treated as separate for the purpose of criticism. The first
is that of his immature early writings--poems, treatises on rhetoric, and
forensic speeches--covering the period from his boyhood in the Civil
wars, to the first consulship of Pompeius and Crassus, in 70 B.C. The
second, covering his life as an active statesman of the first prominence,
begins with the Verrine orations of that year, and goes down to the
consulship of Julius Caesar, in 59 B.C. These ten years mark his
culmination as an orator; and there is no trace in them of any large
literary work except in the field of oratory. In the next year came his
exile, from which indeed he returned within a twelvemonth, but as a
broken statesman. From this point to the outbreak of the Civil war in 50
B.C., the third period continues the record of his great speeches; but
they are no longer at the old height, nor do they occupy his full energy;
and now he breaks new ground in two fields with works of extraordinary
brilliance, the _De Oratore_ and the _De Republica_. During the heat of
the Civil war there follows a period of comparative silence, but for his
private correspondence; then comes the fourth and final period, perhaps
the most brilliant of all, the four years from 46 B.C. to his death in 43
B.C. The few speeches of the years 46 and 45 show but the ghost of former
splendours; he was turning perforce to other subjects. The political
philosophy of the _De Republica_ is resumed in the _De Legibus_; the _De
Oratore_ is continued by the history of Roman oratory known as the
_Brutus_. Then, as if realising that his true work in life was to mould
his native language into a vehicle of abstract thought, he sets to work
with amazing swiftness and copiousness to reproduce a whole series of
Greek philosophical treatises, in a style which, for flexibility and
grace, recalls the Greek of the best period--the _De Finibus_, the
_Academics_, the _Tusculans_, the _De Natura Deorum_, the _De
Divinatione_, the _De Officiis_. Concurrently with these, he continues to
throw off further manuals of the theory and practice of oratory, intended
in the first instance for the use of the son who proved so thankless a
pupil, the _Partitiones Oratoriae_, the _Topica_, the _De Optimo Genere
Oratorum_. Meanwhile, the Roman world had again been plunged into civil
war by the assassination of Caesar. Cicero's political influence was no
longer great, but it was still worth the while of younger and more
unscrupulous statesmen to avail themselves of his eloquence by assumed
deference and adroit flattery. The series of fourteen speeches delivered
at Rome against Marcus Antonius, between September, 44, and April, 43
B.C., were the last outburst of free Roman oratory before the final
extinction of the Republic. That even at the time there was a sense of
their unreality--of their being rhetorical exercises to interest the
capital while the real issues of the period were being fought out
elsewhere--is indicated by the name that from the first they went under,
the _Philippics_. In the epoch of the _Verrines_ and the _Catilinarians_
it had not been necessary to find titles for the weapons of political
warfare out of old Greek history. Yet, in spite of this unreality, and of
the decline they show in the highest oratorical qualities, the
_Philippics_ still remain a noble ruin of eloquence.

Oratory at Rome had, as we have already seen, attained a high degree of
perfection when Cicero entered on public life. Its golden age was indeed,
in the estimation of some critics, already over; old men spoke with
admiring regret of the speeches of the younger Scipio and of Gaius
Gracchus; and the death of the great pair of friendly rivals, Crassus and
Antonius, left no one at the moment who could be called their equal. But
admirable as these great orators had been, there was still room for a
higher formal perfection, a more exhaustive and elaborate technique,
without any loss of material qualities. Closer and more careful study led
the orators of the next age into one of two opposed, or rather
complementary styles, the Attic and Asiatic; the calculated simplicity of
the one being no less artificial than the florid ornament of the other.
At an early age Cicero, with the intuition of genius, realised that he
must not attach himself to either school. A fortunate delicacy of health
led him to withdraw for two years, at the age of seven and twenty, from
the practice at the bar, in which he was already becoming famous; and in
the schools of Athens and Rhodes he obtained a larger view of his art,
both in theory and practice, and returned to Rome to form, not to follow,
a style. Quintus Hortensius Hortalus, the foremost representative of the
Asiatic school, was then at the height of his forensic reputation. Within
a year or two Cicero was recognised as at least his equal: it is to the
honour of both, that the eclipse of Hortensius by his younger rival
brought no jealousy or alienation; up to the death of Hortensius, about
the outbreak of the Civil war, they remained good friends. Years
afterwards Cicero inscribed with his name the treatise, now lost, but
made famous to later ages by having been one of the great turning-points
in the life of St. Augustine[4], which he wrote in praise of philosophy
as an introduction to the series of his philosophical works.

The years which followed Cicero's return from the East were occupied,
with the single break of his quaestorship in Sicily, by hard and
continuous work at the bar. His speeches of this date, being non-
political, have for the most part not been preserved. The two still
imperfectly extant, the _Pro Roscio Comoedo_ of 76, and the _Pro Tullio_
of 72 B.C., form, together with two other speeches dating from before his
visit to the East, the _Pro Quinctio_ and _Pro Roscio Amerino_, and, with
his juvenile treatise on rhetoric known as the _De Inventione_, the body
of prose composition which represents the first of his four periods.
These early speeches are carefully composed according to the scholastic
canons then in vogue, the hard legal style of the older courts
alternating with passages of carefully executed artificial ornament.
Their chief interest is one of contrast with his matured style; for they
show, no doubt with much accuracy, what the general level of oratory was
out of which the great Ciceronian eloquence sprang.

In 70 B.C., at the age of thirty-six, Cicero at last found his great
chance, and seized it. The impeachment of Verres for maladministration in
the government of Sicily was a political trial of great constitutional
importance. It was undertaken at the direct encouragement of Pompeius,
who had entered on his first or democratic consulate, and was indirectly
a formidable attack both on the oligarchic administration of the
provinces and on the senatorian jury-panels, in whose hands the Sullan
constitution had placed the only check upon misgovernment. The defence of
Verres was undertaken by Hortensius; the selection of Cicero as chief
counsel for the prosecution by the democratic leaders was a public
recognition of him as the foremost orator on the Pompeian side. He threw
himself into the trial with all his energy. After his opening speech, and
the evidence which followed, Verres threw up his defence and went into
exile. This, of course, brought the case to an end; but the cause turned
on larger issues than his particular guilt or innocence. The whole of the
material prepared against him was swiftly elaborated by Cicero into five
great orations, and published as a political document. These orations,
the _Second Action against Verres_ as they are called, were at once the
most powerful attack yet made on the working of the Sullan constitution,
and the high-water mark of the earlier period of Cicero's eloquence. It
was not till some years later that his oratory culminated; but he never
excelled these speeches in richness and copiousness of style, in ease and
lucidity of exposition, and in power of dealing with large masses of
material. He at once became an imposing political force; perhaps it was
hardly realised till later how incapable that force was of going straight
or of bearing down opposition. The series of political and semi-political
speeches of the next ten years, down to his exile, represent for the time
the history of Rome; and together with these we now begin the series of
his private letters. The year of his praetorship, 66 B.C., is marked by
the two orations which are on the whole his greatest, one public and the
other private. The first, the speech known as the _Pro Lege Manilia_,
which should really be described as the panegyric of Pompeius and of the
Roman people, does not show any profound appreciation of the problems
which then confronted the Republic; but the greatness of the Republic
itself never found a more august interpreter. The stately passage in
which Italy and the subject provinces are called on to bear witness to
the deeds of Pompeius breathes the very spirit of an imperial race.
Throughout this and the other great speeches of the period "the Roman
People" is a phrase that keeps perpetually recurring with an effect like
that of a bourdon stop. As the eye glances down the page, _Consul Populi
Romani, Imperium Populi Romani, Fortuna Populi Romani_, glitter out of
the voluminous periods with a splendour that hardly any other words could
give.

The other great speech of this year, Cicero's defence of Aulus Cluentius
Habitus of Larinum on a charge of poisoning, has in its own style an
equal brilliance of language. The story it unfolds of the ugly tragedies
of middle-class life in the capital and the provincial Italian towns is
famous as one of the leading documents for the social life of Rome.
According to Quintilian, Cicero confessed afterwards that his client was
not innocent, and that the elaborate and impressive story which he
unfolds with such vivid detail was in great part an invention of his own.
This may be only bar gossip; true or false, his defence is an
extraordinary masterpiece of oratorical skill.

The manner in which Cicero conducted a defence when the cause was not so
grave or so desperate is well illustrated by a speech delivered four
years later, the _Pro Archia_. The case here was one of contested
citizenship. The defendant, one of the Greek men of letters who lived in
great numbers at Rome, had been for years intimate with the literary
circle among the Roman aristocracy. This intimacy gained him the
privilege of being defended by the first of Roman orators, who would
hardly, in any other circumstances, have troubled himself with so trivial
a case. But the speech Cicero delivered is one of the permanent glories
of Latin literature. The matter immediately at issue is summarily dealt
with in a few pages of cursory and rather careless argument; then the
scholar lets himself go. Among the many praises of literature which great
men of letters have delivered, there is none, ancient or modern, more
perfect than this; some of the sentences have remained ever since the
abiding motto and blason of literature itself. _Haec studia,
adolescentiam agunt, senectutem oblectant, secundas res ornant, adversis
perfugium ac solatium praebent, delectant domi, non impediunt foris,
pernoctant nobiscum, peregrinantur, rusticantur;_ and again, _Nullam enim
virtus aliam mercedem laborum periculorumque desiderat, praeter hanc
laudis et gloriae; qua quidem detracta, iudices, quid est quod in hoc tam
exiguo vitae curriculo, et tam brevi, tantis nos in laboribus exerceamus?
Certe, si nihil animus praesentiret in posterum, et si quibus regionibus
vitae spatium circumscriptum est, eisdem omnes cogitationes terminaret
suas, nec tantis se laboribus frangeret, neque tot curis vigiliisque
angeretur, neque teties de vita ipsa dimicaret_. Strange words these to
fall from a pleader's lips in the dusty atmosphere of the praetor's
court! _non fori, neque iudiciali consuetudine_, says Cicero himself, in
the few words of graceful apology with which the speech ends. But, in
truth, as he well knew, he was not speaking to the respectable gentlemen
on the benches before him. He addressed a larger audience; posterity, and
the civilised world.

The _Pro Archia_ foreshadows already the change which was bound to take
place in Cicero's life, and which was precipitated by his exile four
years later. More and more he found himself forced away from the inner
circle of politics, and turned to the larger field where he had an
undisputed supremacy, of political and ethical philosophy clothed in the
splendid prose of which he had now obtained the full mastery. The roll of
his great speeches is indeed continued after his return from exile; but
even in the greatest, the _Pro Sestio_, the _Pro Caelio_, the _De
Provinciis Consularibus_ of 56, or the _In Pisonem_ and _Pro Plancio_ of
55 B.C., something of the old tone is missing; it is as though the same
voice spoke on a smaller range of notes and with less flexibility of
cadence. And now alongside of the speeches begins the series of his works
on oratory and philosophy, with the _De Oratore_ of 55, and the _De
Republica_ of 54 B.C.

The three books _De Oratore_ are perhaps the most finished examples of
the Ciceronian style. The subject (which cannot be said of all the
subjects he deals with) was one of which, over all its breadth and in all
its details, he was completely master; and, thus left unhampered by any
difficulties with his material, he could give full scope to his brilliant
style and diction. The arrangement of the work follows the strict
scholastic divisions; but the form of dialogue into which it is thrown,
and which is managed with really great skill, avoids the tediousness
incident to a systematic treatise. The principal persons of the dialogue
are the two great orators of the preceding age, Lucius Crassus and Marcus
Antonius; this is only one sign out of many that Cicero was more and more
living in a sort of dream of the past, that past of his own youth which
was still full of traditions of the earlier Republic.

The _De Oratore_ was so complete a masterpiece that its author probably
did not care to weaken its effect by continuing at the time to bring out
any of the supplementary treatises on Roman oratory for which his
library, and still more his memory, had accumulated immense quantities of
material. In the treatise _De Republica_, which was begun in 54 B.C.,
though not published till three years later, he carried the achievement
of Latin prose into a larger and less technical field--that of the
philosophy of politics. Again the scene of the dialogue is laid in a past
age; but now he goes further back than he had done in the _De Oratore_,
to the circle of the younger Scipio. The work was received, when
published, with immense applause; but its loss in the Middle Ages is
hardly one of those which are most seriously to be deplored, except in so
far as the second and fifth books may have preserved real information on
the early history of the Roman State and the development of Roman
jurisprudence. Large fragments were recovered early in the present
century from a palimpsest, itself incomplete, on which the work of Cicero
had been expunged to make room for the commentary of St. Augustine on the
Psalms. The famous _Somnium Scipionis_, with which (in imitation of the
vision of Er in Plato's _Republic_) the work ended, has been
independently preserved. Though it flagrantly challenges comparison with
the unequalled original, it has, nevertheless, especially in its opening
and closing passages, a grave dignity which is purely Roman, and
characteristically Ciceronian. Perhaps some of the elaborate fantasies of
De Quincey (himself naturally a Ciceronian, and saturated in the rhythms
and cadences of the finest Latin prose) are the nearest parallel to this
piece in modern English. The opening words of Scipio's narrative, _Cum in
Africam venissem, Mania Manilio consuli ad quartam legionem tribunus_,
come on the ear like the throb of a great organ; and here and there
through the piece come astonishing phrases of the same organ-music:
_Ostendebat autem Karthaginem de excelso et pleno stellarum inlustri et
claro quodam loco.... Quis in reliquis orientis aut obeuntis solis,
ultimis aut aquilonis austrive partibus, tuum nomen audiet?... Deum te
igitur scito esse, siquidem deus est, qui viget, qui sentit, qui meminit,
qui providet_--hardly from the lips of Virgil himself does the noble
Latin speech issue with a purer or a more majestic flow.

During the next few years the literary activity of Cicero suffered a
check. The course of politics at Rome filled him with profound
disappointment and disgust. Public issues, it became more and more plain,
waited for their determination, not on the senate-house or the forum, but
on the sword. The shameful collapse of his defence of Milo in 52 B.C.
must have stung a vanity even as well-hardened as Cicero's to the quick;
and his only important abstract work of this period, the _De Legibus_,
seems to have been undertaken with little heart and carried out without
either research or enthusiasm. His proconsulate in Cilicia in 51 and 50
B.C. was occupied with the tedious details of administration and petty
warfare; six months after his return the Civil war broke out, and, until
permitted to return to Rome by Caesar in the autumn of 47 B.C., he was
practically an exile, away from his beloved Rome and his more beloved
library, hating and despising the ignorant incompetence of his
colleagues, and looking forward with almost equal terror to the
conclusive triumph of his own or the opposite party. When at last he
returned, his mind was still agitated and unsettled. The Pompeian party
held Africa and Spain with large armies; their open threats that all who
had come to terms with Caesar would be proscribed as public enemies were
not calculated to restore Cicero's confidence. The decisive battle of
Thapsus put an end to this uncertainty; and meanwhile Cicero had resumed
work on his _De Legibus_, and had once more returned to the study of
oratory in one of the most interesting of his writings, the _Brutus de
claris Oratoribus_, in which he gives a vivid and masterly sketch of the
history of Roman oratory down to his own time, filled with historical
matter and admirable sketches of character.

The spring of 45 B.C. brought with it two events of momentous importance
to Cicero: the final collapse of the armed opposition to Caesar at the
battle of Munda, and the loss, by the death of his daughter Tullia, of
the one deep affection of his inner life. Henceforth it seemed as if
politics had ceased to exist, even had he the heart to interest himself
in them. He fell back more completely than ever upon philosophy; and the
year that followed (45-44 B.C.) is, in mere quantity of literary
production, as well as in the abiding effect on the world of letters of
the work he then produced, the _annus mirabilis_ of his life. Two at
least of the works of this year, the _De Gloria_ and the _De Virtutibus_,
have perished, though the former survived long enough to be read by
Petrarch; but there remain extant (besides one or two other pieces of
slighter importance) the _De Finibus_, the _Academics_, the _Tusculans_,
the _De Natura Deorum_, the _De Divinatione_, the _De Fato_, the _De
Officiis_, and the two exquisite essays _De Senectute_ and _De Amicitia_.

It is the work of this astonishing year which, on the whole, represents
Cicero's permanent contribution to letters and to human thought. If his
philosophy seems now to have exhausted its influence, it is because it
has in great measure been absorbed into the fabric of civilised society.
Ciceronianism, at the period of the Renaissance, and even in the
eighteenth century, meant more than the impulse towards florid and
sumptuous style. It meant all that is conveyed by the Latin word
_humanitas;_ the title of "the humaner letters," by which Latin was long
designated in European universities, indicated that in the great Latin
writers--in Cicero and Virgil preeminently--a higher type of human life
was to be found than existed in the literature of other countries: as
though at Rome, and in the first century before Christ, the political and
social environment had for the first time produced men such as men would
wish to be, at all events for the ideals of Western Europe. To less
informed or less critical ages than our own, the absolute contribution of
Cicero to ethics and metaphysics seemed comparable to that of the great
Greek thinkers; the _De Natura Deorum_ was taken as a workable argument
against atheism, and the thin and wire-drawn discussions of the
_Academics_ were studied with an attention hardly given to the founder of
the Academy. When a sounder historical method brought these writings into
their real proportion, it was inevitable that the scale should swing
violently to the other side; and for a time no language was too strong in
which to attack the reputation of the "phrase-maker," the "journalist,"
whose name had once dominated Europe. The violence of this attack has now
exhausted itself; and we may be content, without any exaggerated praise
or blame, to note the actual historical effect of these writings through
many ages, and the actual impression made on the world by the type of
character which they embodied and, in a sense, created. In this view,
Cicero represents a force that no historian can neglect, and the
importance of which it is not easy to overestimate. He did for the Empire
and the Middle Ages what Lucretius, with his far greater philosophic
genius, totally failed to do--created forms of thought in which the life
of philosophy grew, and a body of expression which alone made its growth
in the Latin-speaking world possible; and to that world he presented a
political ideal which profoundly influenced the whole course of European
history even up to the French Revolution. Without Cicero, the Middle Ages
would not have had Augustine or Aquinas; but, without him, the movement
which annulled the Middle Ages would have had neither Mirabeau nor Pitt.

The part of Cicero's work which the present age probably finds the most
interesting, and the interest of which is, in the nature of things,
perennial, has been as yet left unmentioned. It consists of the
collections of his private letters from the year 68 B.C. to within a few
months of his death. The first of these collections contains his letters
to the friend and adviser, Titus Pomponius Atticus, with whom, when they
were not both in Rome, he kept up a constant and an extremely intimate
correspondence. Atticus, whose profession, as far as he had one, was that
of a banker, was not only a man of wide knowledge and great political
sagacity, but a refined critic and an author of considerable merit. The
publishing business, which he conducted as an adjunct to his principal
profession, made him of great use to Cicero by the rapid multiplication
in his workshops of copies of the speeches or other writings for which
there was an immediate public demand. But the intimacy was much more than
that of the politician and his confidential adviser, or the author and
his publisher. Cicero found in him a friend with whom he could on all
occasions be perfectly frank and at his ease, and on whose sober judgment
and undemonstrative, but perfectly sincere, attachment his own excitable
and emotional nature could always throw itself without reserve. About
four hundred of the letters were published by Atticus several years after
Cicero's death. It must always be a source of regret that he could not,
or, at all events, did not, publish the other half of the correspondence;
many of the letters, especially the brief confidential notes, have the
tantalising interest of a conversation where one of the speakers is
inaudible. It is the letters to Atticus that place Cicero at the head of
all epistolary stylists. We should hardly guess from the more formal and
finished writings what the real man was, with his excitable Italian
temperament, his swift power of phrase, his sensitive affections.

The other large collection of Cicero's letters, the _Epistolae ad
Familiares_, was preserved and edited by his secretary, Tiro. They are,
of course, of very unequal value and interest. Some are merely formal
documents; others, like those to his wife and family in book xiv., are as
intimate and as valuable as any we possess. The two smaller collections,
the letters to his brother Quintus, and those to Marcus Brutus, of which
a mere fragment is extant, are of little independent value. The
_Epistolae ad Familiares_ include, besides Cicero's own letters, a large
number of letters addressed to him by various correspondents; a whole
book, and that not the least interesting, consists of those sent to him
during his Cilician proconsulate by the brilliant and erratic young
aristocrat, Marcus Caelius Rufus, who was the temporary successor of
Catullus as the favoured lover of Clodia. Full of the political and
social gossip of the day, they are written in a curiously slipshod but
energetic Latin, which brings before us even more vividly than Cicero's
own the familiar language of the upper classes at Rome at the time.
Another letter, which can hardly be passed over in silence in any history
of Latin literature, is the noble message of condolence to Cicero on the
death of his beloved Tullia, by the statesman and jurist, Servius
Sulpicius Rufus, who carried on in this age the great tradition of the
Scaevolae.

It is due to these priceless collections of letters, more than to any
other single thing, that our knowledge of the Ciceronian age is so
complete and so intimate. At every point they reinforce and vitalise the
more elaborate literary productions of the period. The art of letter-
writing suddenly rose in Cicero's hands to its full perfection. It fell
to the lot of no later Roman to have at once such mastery over familiar
style, and contemporary events of such engrossing and ever-changing
interest on which to exercise it. All the great letter-writers of more
modern ages have more or less, consciously or unconsciously, followed the
Ciceronian model. England of the eighteenth century was peculiarly rich
in them; but Horace Walpole, Cowper, Gray himself, would willingly have
acknowledged Cicero as their master.

Caesar's assassination on the 15th of March, 44 B.C., plunged the
political situation into a worse chaos than had ever been reached during
the Civil wars. For several months it was not at all plain how things
were tending, or what fresh combinations were to rise out of the welter
in which a vacillating and incapable senate formed the only
constitutional rallying-point. In spite of all his long-cherished
delusions, Cicero must have known that this way no hope lay; when at last
he flung himself into the conflict, and broke away from his literary
seclusion to make the fierce series of attacks upon Antonius which fill
the winter of 44-43 B.C., he may have had some vague hopes from the
Asiatic legions which once before, in Sulla's hands, had checked the
revolution, and some from the power of his own once unequalled eloquence;
but on the whole he seems to have undertaken the contest chiefly from the
instinct that had become a tradition, and from his deep personal
repugnance to Antonius. The fourteen _Philippics_ add little to his
reputation as an orator, and still less to his credit as a statesman. The
old watchwords are there, but their unreality is now more obvious; the
old rhetorical skill, but more coarsely and less effectively used. The
last _Philippic_ was delivered to advocate a public thanksgiving for the
victory gained over Antonius by the consuls, Hirtius and Pansa. A month
later, the consuls were both dead, and their two armies had passed into
the control of the young Octavianus. In autumn the triumvirate was
constituted, with an armed force of forty legions behind it. The
proscription lists were issued in November. On the 7th of December, after
some aimless wandering that hardly was a serious effort to escape, Cicero
was overtaken near Formiae by a small party of Antonian troops. He was
killed, and his head sent to Rome and displayed in the senate-house.
There was nothing left for which he could have wished to live. In the
five centuries of the Republic there never had been a darker time for
Rome. Cicero had outlived almost all the great men of his age. The newer
generation, so far as they had revealed themselves, were of a type from
which those who had inherited the great traditions of the Republic shrank
with horror. Caesar Octavianus, the future master of the world, was a
delicate boy of twenty, already an object of dislike and distrust to
nearly all his allies. Virgil, a poet still voiceless, was twenty-seven.



VII.

PROSE OF THE CICERONIAN AGE: CAESAR AND SALLUST.


Fertile as the Ciceronian age was in authorship of many kinds, there was
only one person in it whose claim to be placed in an equal rank with
Cicero could ever be seriously entertained; and this was, strangely
enough, one who was as it were only a man of letters by accident, and
whose literary work is but among the least of his titles to fame--Julius
Caesar himself. That anything written by that remarkable man must be
interesting and valuable in a high degree is obvious; but the combination
of literary power of the very first order with his unparallelled military
and political genius is perhaps unique in history.

It is one of the most regrettable losses in Latin literature that
Caesar's speeches and letters have almost completely perished. Of the
latter several collections were made after his death, and were extant in
the second century; but none are now preserved, except a few brief notes
to Cicero, of which copies were sent by him at the time to Atticus. The
fragments of his speeches are even less considerable; yet, according to
the unanimous testimony both of contemporary and of later critics, they
were unexcelled in that age of great oratory. He used the Latin language
with a purity and distinction that no one else could equal. And along
with this quality, the _mira elegantia_ of Quintilian, his oratory had
some kind of severe magnificence which we can partly guess at from his
extant writings--_magnifica et generosa_, says Cicero; _facultas dicendi
imperatoria_ is the phrase of a later and able critic.

Of Caesar's other lost writings little need be said. In youth, like most
of his contemporaries, he wrote poems, including a tragedy, of which
Tacitus drily observes that they were not better than those of Cicero. A
grammatical treatise, _De Analogia_, was composed by him during one of
his long journeys between Northern Italy and the headquarters of his army
in Gaul during his proconsulate. A work on astronomy, apparently written
in connection with his reform of the calendar, two pamphlets attacking
Cato, and a collection of apophthegms, have also disappeared. But we
possess what were by far the most important of his writings, his famous
memoirs of the Gallic and Civil Wars.

The seven books of _Commentaries on the Gallic War_ were written in
Caesar's winter quarters in Gaul, after the capture of Alesia and the
final suppression of the Arvernian revolt. They were primarily intended
to serve an immediate political purpose, and are indeed a defence, framed
with the most consummate skill, of the author's whole Gallic policy and
of his constitutional position. That Caesar was able to do this without,
so far as can be judged, violating, or even to any large degree
suppressing facts, does equal credit to the clear-sightedness of his
policy and to his extraordinary literary power. From first to last there
is not a word either of self-laudation or of innuendo; yet at the end we
find that, by the use of the simplest and most lucid narration, in which
hardly a fact or a detail can be controverted, Caesar has cleared his
motives and justified his conduct with a success the more complete
because his tone is so temperate and seemingly so impartial. An officer
of his staff who was with him during that winter, and who afterwards
added an eighth book to the _Commentaries_ to complete the history of the
Gallic proconsulate, has recorded the ease and swiftness with which the
work was written. Caesar issued it under the unpretending name of
_Commentarii_--"notes"--on the events of his campaigns, which might be
useful as materials for history; but there was no exaggeration in the
splendid compliment paid it a few years later by Cicero, that no one in
his senses would think of recasting a work whose succinct, perspicuous,
and brilliant style--_pura et inlustris brevitas_--has been the model and
the despair of later historians.

The three books of _Commentaries on the Civil War_ show the same merits
in a much less marked degree. They were not published in Caesar's
lifetime, and do not seem to have received from him any close or careful
revision. The literary incompetence of the Caesarian officers into whose
hands they fell after his death, and one or more of whom must be
responsible for their publication, is sufficiently evident from their own
awkward attempts at continuing them in narratives of the Alexandrine,
African, and Spanish campaigns; and whether from the carelessness of the
original editors or from other reasons, the text is in a most deplorable
condition. Yet this is not in itself sufficient to account for many
positive misstatements. Either the editors used a very free hand in
altering the rough manuscript, or--which is not in itself unlikely, and
is borne out by other facts--Caesar's own prodigious memory and
incomparable perspicuity became impaired in those five years of all but
superhuman achievement, when, with the whole weight of the civilised
world on his shoulders, feebly served by second-rate lieutenants and
hampered at every turn by the open or passive opposition of nearly the
whole of the trained governing classes, he conquered four great Roman
armies, secured Egypt and Upper Asia and annexed Numidia to the Republic,
carried out the unification of Italy, reestablished public order and
public credit, and left at his death the foundations of the Empire
securely laid for his successor.

The loyal and capable officer, Aulus Hirtius (who afterwards became
consul, and was killed in battle before Mutina a year after Caesar's
murder), did his best to supplement his master's narrative. He seems to
have been a well-educated man, but without any particular literary
capacity. It was uncertain, even to the careful research of Suetonius,
whether the narrative of the campaigns in Egypt and Pontus, known as the
_Bellum Alexandrinum_, was written by him or by another officer of
Caesar's, Gaius Oppius. The books on the campaigns of Africa and Spain
which follow are by different hands: the former evidently by some
subaltern officer who took part in the war, and very interesting as
showing the average level of intelligence and culture among Roman
officers of the period; the latter by another author and in very inferior
Latin, full of grammatical solecisms and popular idioms oddly mixed up
with epic phrases from Ennius, who was still, it must be remembered, the
great Latin school-book. It is these curious fragments of history which
more than anything else help us to understand the rapid decay of Latin
prose after the golden period. Under the later Republic the educated
class and the governing class had, broadly speaking, been the same. The
Civil wars, in effect, took administration away from their hands,
transferring it to the new official class, of which these subalterns of
Caesar's represent the type; and this change was confirmed by the Empire.
The result was a sudden and long-continued divorce between political
activity on the one hand and the profession of letters on the other. For
a century after the establishment of the Empire the aristocracy, which
had produced the great literature of the Republic, remained forcibly or
sullenly silent; and the new hierarchy was still at the best only half
educated. The professional man of letters was at first fostered and
subsidised; but even before the death of Augustus State patronage of
literature had fallen into abeyance, while the cultured classes fell more
and more back on the use of Greek. The varying fortunes of this struggle
between Greek and literary Latin as it had been formed under the
Republic, belong to a later period: at present we must return to complete
a general survey of the prose of the Ciceronian age.

Historical writing at Rome, as we have seen, had hitherto been in the
form either of annals or memoirs. The latter were, of course, rather
materials for history than history itself, even when they were not
excluded from Quintilian's famous definition of history[5] by being
composed primarily as political pamphlets. The former had so far been
attempted on too large a scale, and with insufficient equipment either of
research or style, to attain any permanent merit. In the ten years after
Caesar's death Latin history was raised to a higher level by the works of
Sallust, the first scientific historian whom Italy had produced.

Gaius Sallustius Crispus of Amiternum in Central Italy belonged to that
younger generation of which Marcus Antonius and Marcus Caelius Rufus were
eminent examples. Clever and dissipated, they revolted alike from the
severe traditions and the narrow class prejudices of the constitutional
party, and Caesar found in them enthusiastic, if somewhat imprudent and
untrustworthy, supporters. Sallust was expelled from the senate just
before the outbreak of the Civil war; was reinstated by Caesar, and
entrusted with high posts in Illyria and Italy; and was afterwards sent
by him to administer Africa with the rank of proconsul. There he
accumulated a large fortune, and, after Caesar's death, retired to
private life in his beautiful gardens on the Quirinal, and devoted
himself to historical study. The largest and most important of his works,
the five books of _Historiae_, covering a period of about ten years from
the death of Sulla, is only extant in inconsiderable fragments; but his
two monographs on the Jugurthine war and the Catilinarian conspiracy,
which have been preserved, place him beyond doubt in the first rank of
Roman historians.

Sallust took Thucydides as his principal literary model. His reputation
has no doubt suffered by the comparison which this choice makes
inevitable; and though Quintilian did not hesitate to claim for him a
substantial equality with the great Athenian, no one would now press the
parallel, except in so far as Sallust's formal treatment of his subject
affords interesting likenesses or contrasts with the Thucydidean manner.
In his prefatory remarks, his elaborately conceived and executed
speeches, his reflections on character, and his terse method of
narration, Sallust closely follows the manner of his master. He even
copies his faults in a sort of dryness of style and an excessive use of
antithesis. But we cannot feel, in reading the _Catiline_ or the
_Jugurtha_, that it is the work of a writer of the very first
intellectual power. Yet the two historians have this in common, which is
not borrowed by the later from the earlier,--that they approach and
handle their subject with the mature mind, the insight and common sense
of the grown man, where their predecessors had been comparatively like
children. Both are totally free from superstition; neither allows his own
political views to obscure his vision of facts, of men as they were and
events as they happened. The respect for truth, which is the first virtue
of the historian, is stronger in Sallust than in any of his more
brilliant successors. His ideal in the matter of research and documentary
evidence was, for that age, singularly high. In the _Catiline_ he writes
very largely from direct personal knowledge of men and events; but the
_Jugurtha_, which deals with a time two generations earlier than the date
of its composition, involved wide inquiry and much preparation. He had
translations made from original documents in the Carthaginian language;
and a complete synopsis of Roman history, for reference during the
progress of his work, was compiled for him by a Greek secretary. Such
pains were seldom taken by a Latin historian.

The last of the Ciceronians, Sallust is also in a sense the first of the
imperial prose-writers. His style, compressed, rhetorical, and very
highly polished, is in strong contrast to the graceful and fluid periods
which were then, and for some time later continued to be, the predominant
fashion, and foreshadows the manner of Seneca or Tacitus. His archaism in
the use of pure Latin, and, alongside of it, his free adoption of
Grecisms, are the first open sign of two movements which profoundly
affected the prose of the earlier and later empire. The acrid critic of
the Augustan age, Asinius Pollio, accused him of having had collections
of obsolete words and phrases made for his use out of Cato and the older
Roman writers. For a short time he was eclipsed by the glowing and
opulent style of Livy; but Livy formed no school, and Sallust on the
whole remained in the first place. The line of Martial, _primus Romana
Crispus in historia_, expresses the settled opinion held of him down to
the final decay of letters; and even in the Middle Ages he remained
widely read and highly esteemed.

Contemporary with Sallust in this period of transition between the
Ciceronian and the Augustan age is Cornelius Nepos (_circ_. 99-24 B.C.).
In earlier life he was one of the circle of Catullus, and after Cicero's
death was one of the chief friends of Atticus, of whom a brief biography,
which he wrote after Atticus' death, is still extant. Unlike Sallust,
Nepos never took part in public affairs, but carried on throughout a long
life the part of a man of letters, honest and kindly, but without any
striking originality or ability. In him we are on the outer fringe of
pure literature; and it is no doubt purposely that Quintilian wholly
omits him from the list of Roman historians. Of his numerous writings on
history, chronology, and grammar, we only possess a fragment of one, his
collection of Roman and foreign biographies, entitled _De Viris
Illustribus_. Of this work there is extant one complete section, _De
Excellentibus Ducibus Exterarum Gentium_, and two lives from another
section, those of Atticus and the younger Cato. The accident of their
convenient length and the simplicity of their language has made them for
generations a common school-book for beginners in Latin; were it not for
this, there can be little doubt that Nepos, like the later epitomators,
Eutropius or Aurelius Victor, would be hardly known except to
professional scholars, and perhaps only to be read in the pages of some
_Corpus Sciptorum Romanorum_. The style of these little biographies is
unpretentious, and the language fairly pure, though without any great
command of phrase. A theory was once held that what we possess is merely
a later epitome from the lost original. But for this there is no rational
support. The language and treatment, such as they are (and they do not
sink to the level of the histories of the African and Spanish wars), are
of this, and not of a later age, and quite consonant with the good-
natured contempt which Nepos met at the hands of later Roman critics.
The chief interest of the work is perhaps the clearness with which it
enforces the truth we are too apt to forget, that the great writers were
in their own age, as now, unique, and that there is no such thing as a
widely diffused level of high literary excellence.

As remote from literature in the higher sense were the innumerable
writings of the Ciceronian age on science, art, antiquities, grammar,
rhetoric, and a hundred miscellaneous subjects, which are, for the most
part, known only from notices in the writings of later commentators and
encyclopedists. Foremost among the voluminous authors of this class was
the celebrated antiquarian, Marcus Terentius Varro, whose long and
laborious life, reaching from two years after the death of the elder Cato
till the final establishment of the Empire, covers and overlaps the
entire Ciceronian age. Of the six or seven hundred volumes which issued
from his pen, and which formed an inexhaustible quarry for his
successors, nearly all are lost. The most important of them were the one
hundred and fifty books of _Saturae Menippeae_, miscellanies in prose and
verse in the manner which had been originated by Menippus of Gadara, the
master of the poet Meleager, and which had at once obtained an enormous
popularity throughout the whole of the Greek-speaking world; the forty-
one books of _Antiquitates Rerum Humanarum et Divinarum_, the standard
work on the religious and secular antiquities of Rome down to the time of
Augustine; the fifteen books of _Imagines_, biographical sketches, with
portraits, of celebrated Greeks and Romans, the first certain instance in
history of the publication of an illustrated book; the twenty-five books
_De Lingua Latina_, of which six are extant in an imperfect condition;
and the treatise _De Re Rustica_, which we possess in an almost complete
state. This last work was written by him at the age of eighty. It is in
the form of a dialogue, and is not without descriptive and dramatic
power. The tediousness which characterised all Varro's writing is less
felt where the subject is one of which he had a thorough practical
knowledge, and which gave ample scope for the vein of rough but not
ungenial humour which he inherited from Cato.

Other names of this epoch have left no permanent mark on literature. The
precursors of Sallust in history seem, like the precursors of Cicero in
philosophy, to have approached their task with little more equipment than
that of the ordinary amateur. The great orator Hortensius wrote _Annals_
(probably in the form of memoirs of his own time), which are only known
from a reference to them in a later history written in the reign of
Tiberius. Atticus, who had an interest in literature beyond that of the
mere publisher, drew up a sort of handbook of Roman history, which is
repeatedly mentioned by Cicero. Cicero's own brother Quintus, who passed
for a man of letters, composed a work of the same kind; the tragedies
with which he relieved the tedium of winter-quarters in Gaul were,
however, translations from the Greek, not originals. Cicero's private
secretary, Marcus Tullius Tiro, best known by the system of shorthand
which he invented or improved, and which for long remained the basis of a
standard code, is also mentioned as the author of works on grammar, and,
as has already been noticed, edited a collection of his master's letters
after his death. Decimus Laberius, a Roman of equestrian family, and
Publilius Syrus, a naturalised native of Antioch, wrote mimes, which
were performed with great applause, and gave a fugitive literary
importance to this trivial form of dramatic entertainment. A collection
of sentences which passes under the name of the latter was formed out of
his works under the Empire, and enlarged from other sources in the Middle
Ages. It supplies many admirable instances of the terse vigour of the
Roman popular philosophy; some of these lines, like the famous--

    _Bene vixit is qui potuit cum voluit mori_,

or--

    _Index damnatur ubi nocens absolvitur_,

or--

    _O vitam misero longam, felici brevem!_

or the perpetually misquoted--

    _Stultum facit fortuna, quem vult perdere_,

have sunk deeper and been more widely known than almost anything else
written in Latin. Among the few poets who succeeded the circle of
Catullus, the only one of interest is Publius Terentius Varro, known as
Varro Atacinus from his birthplace on the banks of the Aude in Provence,
the first of the long list of Transalpine writers who filled Rome at a
later period. Besides the usual translations and adaptations from
Alexandrian originals, and an elaborate cosmography, he practised his
considerable talent in hexameter verse both in epic and satiric poetry,
and did something to clear the way in metrical technique for both Horace
and Virgil. With these names, among a crowd of others even more vague and
shadowy, the literature of the Roman Republic closes. A new generation
was already at the doors.



II.

THE AUGUSTAN AGE.



VIRGIL.


Publius Vergilius Maro was born at the village of Andes, near Mantua, on
the 15th of October, 70 B.C. The province of Cisalpine Gaul, though not
formally incorporated with Italy till twenty years later, had before
this become thoroughly Romanised, and was one of the principal recruiting
grounds for the legions. But the population was still, by blood and
sympathy, very largely Celtic; and modern theorists are fond of tracing
the new element of romance, which Virgil introduced with such momentous
results into Latin poetry, to the same Celtic spirit which in later ages
flowered out in the Arthurian legend, and inspired the whole creative
literature of mediaeval Europe. To the countrymen of Shakespeare and
Keats it will not seem necessary to assume a Celtic origin, on abstract
grounds, for any new birth of this romantic element. The name Maro may or
may not be Celtic; any argument founded on it is of little more relevance
than the fancy which once interpreted the name of Virgil's mother, Magia
Polla, into a supernatural significance, and, connecting the name
Virgilius itself with the word _Virgo_, metamorphosed the poet into an
enchanter born of a maiden mother, the Merlin of the Roman Empire.

Virgil's father was a small freeholder in Andes, who farmed his own land,
practised forestry and bee-keeping, and gradually accumulated a
sufficient competence to enable him to give his son--an only child, it
would appear, of this marriage--the best education that the times could
provide. He was sent to school at the neighbouring town of Cremona, and
afterwards to Milan, the capital city of the province. At the age of
seventeen he proceeded to Rome, where he studied oratory and philosophy
under the best masters of the time. A tradition, which the dates make
improbable, was that Gaius Octavius, afterwards the Emperor Augustus, was
for a time his fellow-scholar under the rhetorician Epidius. In the
classroom of the Epicurean Siro he may have made his first acquaintance
with the poetry of Lucretius.

For the next ten years we know nothing of Virgil's life, which no doubt
was that of a profound student. His father had died, and his mother
married again, and his patrimony was sufficient to support him until a
turn of the wheel of public affairs for a moment lost, and then
permanently secured his fortune. After the battle of Philippi, the first
task of the victorious triumvirs was to provide for the disbanding and
settlement of the immense armies which had been raised for the Civil war.
The lands of cities which had taken the Republican side were confiscated
right and left for this purpose; among the rest, Virgil's farm, which was
included in the territory of Cremona. But Virgil found in the
administrator of the district, Gaius Asinius Pollio, himself a
distinguished critic and man of letters, a powerful and active patron. By
his influence and that of his friends, Cornelius Gallus and Alfenus
Varus--the former a soldier and poet, the latter an eminent jurist, who
both had been fellow-students of Virgil at Rome--Virgil was compensated
by an estate in Campania, and introduced to the intimate circle of
Octavianus, who, under the terms of the triumvirate, was already absolute
ruler of Italy.

It was about this time that the _Eclogues_ were published, whether
separately or collectively is uncertain, though the final collection and
arrangement, which is Virgil's own, can hardly be later than 38 B.C. The
impression they made on the world of letters was immediate and universal.
To some degree no doubt a reception was secured to them by the influence
of Maecenas, the Home Minister of Octavianus, who had already taken up
the line which he so largely developed in later years, of a public patron
of art and letters in the interest of the new government. But had Virgil
made his first public appearance merely as a Court poet, it is probable
that the _Eclogues_ would have roused little enthusiasm and little
serious criticism. Their true significance seems to have been at once
realised as marking the beginning of a new era; and amid the storm of
criticism, laudatory and adverse, which has raged round them for so many
ages since, this cardinal fact has always remained prominent. Alike to
the humanists of the earlier Renaissance, who found in them the sunrise
of a golden age of poetry and the achievement of the Latin conquest over
Greece, and to the more recent critics of this century, for whom they
represented the echo of an already exhausted convention and the beginning
of the decadence of Roman poetry, the _Eclogues_ have been the real
turning-point, not only between two periods of Latin literature, but
between two worlds.

The poems destined to so remarkable a significance are, in their external
form, close and careful imitations of Theocritus, and have all the vices
and weaknesses of imitative poetry to a degree that could not well be
exceeded. Nor are these failings redeemed (as is to a certain extent true
of the purely imitative work of Catullus and other poets) by any
brilliant jewel-finish of workmanship. The execution is uncertain,
hesitating, sometimes extraordinarily feeble. One well-known line it is
impossible to explain otherwise than as a mistranslation of a phrase in
Theocritus such as one would hardly expect from a well-grounded
schoolboy. When Virgil follows the convention of the Greek pastoral his
copy is doubly removed from nature; where he ventures on fresh
impersonation or allegory of his own, it is generally weak in itself and
always hopelessly out of tone with the rest. Even the versification is
curiously unequal and imperfect. There are lines in more than one Eclogue
which remind one in everything but their languor of the flattest parts of
Lucretius. Contemporary critics even went so far as to say that the
language here and there was simply not Latin.

Yet granted that all this and more than all this were true, it does not
touch that specific Virgilian charm of which these poems first disclosed
the secret. Already through their immature and tremulous cadences there
pierces, from time to time, that note of brooding pity which is unique in
the poetry of the world. The fourth and tenth Eclogues may be singled out
especially as showing the new method, which almost amounted to a new
human language, as they are also those where Virgil breaks away most
decidedly from imitation of the Greek idyllists. The fourth Eclogue
unfortunately has been so long and so deeply associated with purely
adventitious ideas that it requires a considerable effort to read it as
it ought to be read. The curious misconception which turned it into a
prophecy of the birth of Christ outlasted in its effects any serious
belief in its historical truth: even modern critics cite Isaiah for
parallels, and are apt to decry it as a childish attempt to draw a
picture of some actual golden age. But the Sibylline verses which
suggested its contents and imagery were really but the accidental grain
of dust round which the crystallization of the poem began; and the
enchanted light which lingers over it is hardly distinguishable from that
which saturates the _Georgics. Cedet et ipse mari vector, nec nautica
pinus mutabit merces_--the feeling here is the same as in his mere
descriptions of daily weather, like the _Omnia plenis rura natant fossis
atque omnis navita ponto umida vela legit;_ not so much a vision of a
golden age as Nature herself seen through a medium of strange gold. Or
again, in the tenth Eclogue, where the masque of shepherds and gods
passes before the sick lover, it is through the same strange and golden
air that they seem to move, and the heavy lilies of Silvanus droop in the
stillness of the same unearthly day.

Seven years following on the publication of the _Eclogues_ were spent by
Virgil on the composition of the _Georgics_. They were published two
years after the battle of Actium, being thus the first, as they are the
most splendid, literary production of the Empire. They represent the art
of Virgil in its matured perfection. The subject was one in which he was
thoroughly at home and completely happy. His own early years had been
spent in the pastures of the Mincio, among his father's cornfields and
coppices and hives; and his newer residence, by the seashore near Naples
in winter, and in summer at his villa in the lovely hill-country of
Campania, surrounded him with all that was most beautiful in the most
beautiful of lands. His delicate health made it easier for him to give
his work the slow and arduous elaboration that makes the _Georgics_ in
mere technical finish the most perfect work of Latin, or perhaps of any
literature. There is no trace of impatience in the work. It was in some
sense a commission; but Augustus and Maecenas, if it be true that they
suggested the subject, had, at all events, the sense not to hurry it. The
result more than fulfilled the brilliant promise of the _Eclogues_.
Virgil was now, without doubt or dispute, the first of contemporary
poets.

But his responsibilities grew with his greatness. The scheme of a great
Roman epic, which had always floated before his own mind, was now
definitely and indeed urgently pressed upon him by authority which it was
difficult to resist. And many elements in his own mind drew him in the
same direction. Too much stress need not be laid on the passage in the
sixth Eclogue--one of the rare autobiographic touches in his work--in
which he alludes to his early experiments in "singing of kings and
battles." Such early exercises are the common field of young poets. But
the maturing of his mind, which can be traced in the _Georgics,_ was
urging him towards certain methods of art for which the epic was the only
literary form that gave sufficient scope. More and more he was turning
from nature to man and human life, and to the contemplation of human
destiny. The growth of the psychological instinct in the _Georgics_ is
curiously visible in the episode of Aristaeus, with which the poem now
ends. According to a well-authenticated tradition, the last two hundred
and fifty lines of the fourth _Georgic_ were written several years after
the rest of the poem, to replace the original conclusion, which had
contained the praises of his early friend, Cornelius Gallus, now dead in
disgrace and proscribed from court poetry. In the story of Orpheus and
Eurydice, in the later version, Virgil shows a new method and a new
power. It stands between the idyl and the epic, but it is the epic method
towards which it tends. No return upon the earlier manner was thenceforth
possible; with many searchings of heart, with much occasional
despondency and dissatisfaction, he addressed himself to the composition
of the _Aeneid_.

The earlier national epics of Naevius and Ennius had framed certain lines
for Roman epic poetry, which it was almost bound to follow. They had
established the mythical connection of Rome with Troy and with the great
cycle of Greek legend, and had originated the idea of making Rome itself
--that _Fortuna Urbis_ which later stood in the form of a golden statue
in the imperial bedchamber--the central interest, one might almost say
the central figure, of the story. To adapt the Homeric methods to this
new purpose, and at the same time to make his epic the vehicle for all
his own inward broodings over life and fate, for his subtle and delicate
psychology, and for that philosophic passion in which all the other
motives and springs of life were becoming included, was a task incapable
of perfect solution. On his death-bed Virgil made it his last desire that
the _Aeneid_ should be destroyed, nominally on the ground that it still
wanted three years' work to bring it to perfection, but one can hardly
doubt from a deeper and less articulate feeling. The command of the
Emperor alone prevented his wish from taking effect. With the unfinished
_Aeneid,_ as with the unfinished poem of Lucretius, it is easy to see
within what limits any changes or improvements would have been made in
it had the author lived longer: the work is, in both cases, substantially
done.

The _Aeneid_ was begun the year after the publication of the _Georgics,_
when Virgil was forty years of age. During its progress he continued to
live for the most part in his Campanian retirement. He had a house at
Rome in the fashionable quarter of the Esquiline, but used it little. He
was also much in Sicily, and the later books of the _Aeneid_ seem to show
personal observation of many parts of Central Italy. It is a debated
question whether he visited Greece more than once. His last visit there
was in 19 B.C. He had resolved to spend three years more on the
completion of his poem, and then give himself up to philosophy for what
might remain of his life. But the three years were not given him. A
fever, caught while visiting Megara on a day of excessive heat, induced
him to return hastily to Italy. He died a few days after landing at
Brundusium, on the 26th of September. His ashes were, by his own request,
buried near Naples, where his tomb was a century afterwards worshipped as
a holy place. The _Aeneid,_ carefully edited from the poet's manuscript
by two of his friends, was forthwith published, and had such a reception
as perhaps no poem before or since has ever found. Already, while it was
in progress, it had been rumoured as "something greater than the
_Iliad,_" and now that it appeared, it at once became the canon of Roman
poetry, and immediately began to exercise an overwhelming influence over
Latin literature, prose as well as verse. Critics were not indeed wanting
to point out its defects, and there was still a school (which attained
greater importance a century later) that went back to Lucretius and the
older poets, and refused to allow Virgil's preeminence. But for the
Roman world at large, as since for the world of the Latin races, Virgil
became what Homer had been to Greece, "the poet." The decay of art and
letters in the third century only added a mystical and hieratic element
to his fame. Even to the Christian Church he remained a poet sacred and
apart: in his profound tenderness and his mystical "yearning after the
further shore," as much as in the supposed prophecy of the fourth
Eclogue, they found and reverenced what seemed to them like an
unconscious inspiration. The famous passage of St. Augustine, where he
speaks of his own early love for Virgil, shows in its half-hysterical
renunciation how great the charm of the Virgilian art had been, and still
was, to him: _Quid miserius misero,_ he cries, _non miserante se ipsum,
et flente Didonis mortem quae fiebat amando Aeneam, non flente autem
mortem meam quae flebat non amando te? Deus lumen cordis mei, non te
amabam, et haec non flebam, sed flebam Didonem exstinctam, ferroque
extrema secutam, sequens ipse extrema condita tua relicto te![6] To the
graver and more matured mind of Dante, Virgil was the lord and master
who, even though shut out from Paradise, was the chosen and honoured
minister of God. Up to the beginning of the present century the supremacy
of Virgil was hardly doubted. Since then the development of scientific
criticism has passed him through all its searching processes, and in a
fair judgment his greatness has rather gained than lost. The doubtful
honour of indiscriminate praise was for a brief period succeeded by the
attacks of an almost equally undiscriminating censure. An ill-judged
partiality had once spoken of the _Aeneid_ as something greater than a
Roman _Iliad:_ it was easy to show that in the most remarkable Homeric
qualities the _Aeneid_ fell far short, and that, so far as it was an
imitation of Homer, it could no more stand beside Homer than the
imitations of Theocritus in the _Eclogues_ could stand beside Theocritus.
The romantic movement, with its impatience of established fames, damned
the _Aeneid_ in one word as artificial; forgetting, or not seeing, that
the _Aeneid_ was itself the fountain-head of romanticism. Long after the
theory of the noble savage had passed out of political and social
philosophy it lingered in literary criticism; and the distinction between
"natural" and "artificial" poetry was held to be like that between light
and darkness. It was not till a comparatively recent time that the
leisurely progress of criticism stumbled on the fact that all poetry is
artificial, and that the _Iliad_ itself is artificial in a very eminent
and unusual degree.

No great work of art can be usefully judged by comparison with any other
great work of art. It may, indeed, be interesting and fertile to compare
one with another, in order to seize more sharply and appreciate more
vividly the special beauty of each. But to press comparison further, and
to depreciate one because it has not what is the special quality of the
other, is to lose sight of the function of criticism. We shall not find
in Virgil the bright speed, the unexhausted joyfulness, which, in spite
of a view of life as grave as Virgil's own, make the _Iliad_ and
_Odyssey_ unique in poetry; nor, which is more to the point as regards
the _Aeneid,_ the narrative power, the genius for story-telling, which is
one of the rarest of literary gifts, and which Ovid alone among the Latin
poets possessed in any high perfection. We shall not find in him that
high and concentrated passion which in Pindar (as afterwards in Dante)
fuses the elements of thought and language into a single white heat. We
shall not find in him the luminous and untroubled calm, as of a spirit in
which all passion has been fused away, which makes the poetry of
Sophocles so crystalline and irreproachable. Nor shall we find in him the
peculiar beauties of his own Latin predecessors, Lucretius or Catullus.
All this is merely saying in amplified words that Virgil was not
Lucretius or Catullus, and that still less was he Homer, or Pindar, or
Sophocles; and to this may be added, that he lived in the world which the
great Greek and Latin poets had created, though he looked forward out of
it into another.

Yet the positive excellences of the _Aeneid_ are so numerous and so
splendid that the claim of its author to be the Roman Homer is not
unreasonable, if it be made clear that the two poems are fundamentally
disparate, and that no more is meant than that the one poet is as eminent
in his own form and method as the other in his. In our haste to rest
Virgil's claim to supremacy as a poet on the single quality in which he
is unique and unapproachable we may seem tacitly to assent to the
judgment of his detractors on other points. Yet the more one studies the
_Aeneid,_ the more profoundly is one impressed by its quality as a
masterpiece of construction. The most adverse critic would not deny that
portions of the poem are, both in dramatic and narrative quality, all but
unsurpassed, and in a certain union of imaginative sympathy with their
fine dramatic power and their stateliness of narration perhaps
unequalled. The story of the last agony of Troy could not be told with
more breadth, more richness, more brilliance than it is told in the
second book: here, at least, the story neither flags nor hurries; from
the moment when the Greek squadron sets sail from Tenedos and the signal-
flame flashes from their flagship, the scenes of the fatal night pass
before us in a smooth swift stream that gathers weight and volume as it
goes, till it culminates in the vision of awful faces which rises before
Aeneas when Venus lifts the cloud of mortality from his startled eyes.
The episode of Nisus and Euryalus in the ninth book, and that of Camilla
in the eleventh, are in their degree as admirably vivid and stately. The
portraiture of Dido, again, in the fourth book, is in combined breadth
and subtlety one of the dramatic masterpieces of human literature. It is
idle to urge that this touch is borrowed from Euripides or that suggested
by Sophocles, or to quote the Medea of Apollonius as the original of
which Dido is an elaborate imitation. What Virgil borrowed he knew how to
make his own; and the world which, while not denying the tenderness, the
grace, the charm of the heroine of the _Argonautica,_ leaves the
_Argonautica_ unread, has thrilled and grown pale from generation to
generation over the passionate tragedy of the Carthaginian queen.

But before a deeper and more appreciative study of the _Aeneid_ these
great episodes cease to present themselves as detached eminences. That
the _Aeneid_ is unequal is true; that passages in it here and there are
mannered, and even flat, is true also; but to one who has had the
patience to know it thoroughly, it is in its total effect, and not in the
great passages, or even the great books, that it seems the most
consummate achievement. Virgil may seem to us to miss some of his
opportunities, to labour others beyond their due proportion, to force
himself (especially in the later books) into material not well adapted to
the distinctive Virgilian treatment. The slight and vague portrait of the
maiden princess of Latium, in which the one vivid touch of her "flower-
like hair" is the only clear memory we carry away with us, might, in
different hands--in those of Apollonius, for instance,--have given a new
grace and charm to the scenes where she appears. The funeral games at the
tomb of Anchises, no longer described, as they had been in early Greek
poetry, from a real pleasure in dwelling upon their details, begin to
become tedious before they are over. In the battle-pieces of the last
three books we sometimes cannot help being reminded that Virgil is rather
wearily following an obsolescent literary tradition. But when we have set
such passages against others which, without being as widely celebrated as
the episode of the sack of Troy or the death of Dido, are equally
miraculous in their workmanship--the end of the fifth book, for instance,
or the muster-roll of the armies of Italy in the seventh, or, above all,
the last hundred and fifty lines of the twelfth, where Virgil rises
perhaps to his very greatest manner--we shall not find that the
splendour of the poem depends on detached passages, but far more on the
great manner and movement which, interfused with the unique Virgilian
tenderness, sustains the whole structure through and through.

In merely technical quality the supremacy of Virgil's art has never been
disputed. The Latin hexameter, "the stateliest measure ever moulded by
the lips of man," was brought by him to a perfection which made any
further development impossible. Up to the last it kept taking in his
hands new refinements of rhythm and movement which make the later books
of the _Aeneid_ (the least successful part of the poem in general
estimation) an even more fascinating study to the lovers of language than
the more formally perfect work of the _Georgics,_ or the earlier books of
the _Aeneid_ itself. A brilliant modern critic has noted this in words
which deserve careful study. "The innovations are individually hardly
perceptible, but taken together they alter the character of the hexameter
line in a way more easily felt than described. Among the more definite
changes we may note that there are more full stops in the middle of
lines, there are more elisions, there is a larger proportion of short
words, there are more words repeated, more assonances, and a freer use of
the emphasis gained by the recurrence of verbs in the same or cognate
tenses. Where passages thus characterised have come down to us still in
the making, the effect is forced and fragmentary; where they succeed,
they combine in a novel manner the rushing freedom of the old trochaics
with the majesty which is the distinguishing feature of Virgil's style.
The poet's last words suggest to us possibilities in the Latin tongue
which no successor has been able to realise." In these later books
likewise, the psychological interest and insight which keep perpetually
growing throughout Virgil's work result in an almost unequalled power of
expressing in exquisite language the half-tones and delicate shades of
mental processes. The famous simile in the twelfth _Aeneid_--

    _Ac velut in somnis oculos ubi languida pressit
    Nocte quies, nequiquam avidos extendere cursus
    Velle videmur, et in mediis conatibus aegri
    Succidimus, nec lingua valet, nec corpore notae
    Sufficiunt vires aut vox et verba sequuntur--_

is an instance of the amazing mastery with which he makes language have
the effect of music in expressing the subtlest processes of feeling.
But the specific and central charm of Virgil lies deeper than in any
merely technical quality. The word which expresses it most nearly is that
of pity. In the most famous of his single lines he speaks of the "tears
of things;" just this sense of tears, this voice that always, in its most
sustained splendour and in its most ordinary cadences, vibrates with a
strange pathos, is what finally places him alone among artists. This
thrill in the voice, _come colui che piange e dice,_ is never absent from
his poetry. In the "lonely words," in the "pathetic half-lines" spoken of
by the two great modern masters of English prose and verse, he
perpetually touches the deepest springs of feeling; in these it is that
he sounds, as no other poet has done, the depths of beauty and sorrow, of
patience and magnanimity, of honour in life and hope beyond death.

A certain number of minor poems have come down to us associated more or
less doubtfully with Virgil's name. Three of these are pieces in
hexameter verse, belonging broadly to the class of the _epyllion,_ or
"little epic," which was invented as a convenient term to include short
poems in the epic metre that were not definitely pastorals either in
subject or treatment, and which the Alexandrian poets, headed by
Theocritus, had cultivated with much assiduity and considerable success.
The most important of them, the _Culex,_ or _Gnat,_ is a poem of about
four hundred lines, in which the incident of a gnat saving the life of a
sleeping shepherd from a serpent, and being crushed to death in the act,
is made the occasion for an elaborate description of the infernal
regions, from which the ghost of the insect rises to reproach his
unconscious murderer. That Virgil wrote a poem with this title is alluded
to by Martial and Statius as matter of common undisputed knowledge; nor
is there any certain argument against the Virgilian authorship of the
extant poem, but various delicate metrical considerations incline recent
critics to the belief that it is from the hand of an almost contemporary
imitator who had caught the Virgilian manner with great accuracy. The
_Ciris,_ another piece of somewhat greater length, on the story of Scylla
and Nisus, is more certainly the production of some forgotten poet
belonging to the circle of Marcus Valerius Messalla, and is of interest
as showing the immense pains taken in the later Augustan age to continue
the Virgilian tradition. The third poem, the Moretum, is at once briefer
and slighter in structure and more masterly in form. It is said to be a
close copy of a Greek original by Parthenius of Nicaea, a distinguished
man of letters of this period who taught Virgil Greek; nor is there any
grave improbability in supposing that the _Moretum_ is really one of the
early exercises in verse over which Virgil must have spent years of his
laborious apprenticeship, saved by some accident from the fate to which
his own rigorous judgment condemned the rest.

So far the whole of the poetry attributed to Virgil is in the single form
of hexameter verse, to the perfecting of which his whole life was
devoted. The other little pieces in elegiac and lyric metres require but
slight notice. Some are obviously spurious; others are so slight and
juvenile that it matters little whether they are spurious or not. One
elegiac piece, the _Copa,_ is of admirable vivacity and grace, and the
touch in it is so singularly unlike the Virgilian manner as to tempt one
into the paradox of its authenticity. That Virgil wrote much which he
deliberately destroyed is obviously certain; his fastidiousness and his
melancholy alike drove him towards the search after perfection, and his
mercilessness towards his own work may be measured by his intention to
burn the _Aeneid_. Not less by this passionate desire of unattainable
perfection than by the sustained glory of his actual achievement,--his
haunting and liquid rhythms, his majestic sadness, his grace and pity,--
he embodies for all ages that secret which makes art the life of life
itself.



II.

HORACE.


In that great turning-point of the world's history marked by the
establishment of the Roman Empire, the position of Virgil is so unique
because he looks almost equally forwards and backwards. His attitude
towards his own age is that of one who was in it rather than of it. On
the one hand is his intense feeling for antiquity, based on and
reinforced by that immense antiquarian knowledge which made him so dear
to commentators, and which renders some of his work so difficult to
appreciate from our mere want of information; on the other, is that
perpetual brooding over futurity which made him, within a comparatively
short time after his death, regarded as a prophet and his works as in
some sense oracular. The _Sortes Vergilianae,_ if we may believe the
confused gossip of the Augustan History, were almost a State institution,
while rationalism was still the State creed in ordinary matters. Thus,
while, in a way, he represented and, as it were, gave voice to the Rome
of Augustus, he did so in a transcendental manner; the Rome which he
represents, whether as city or empire, being less a fact than an idea,
and already strongly tinged with that mysticism which we regard as
essentially mediaeval, and which culminated later without any violent
breach of continuity in the conception of a spiritual Rome which was a
kingdom of God on earth, and of which the Empire and the Papacy were only
two imperfect and mutually complementary phases; _quella Roma onde Cristo
è Romano,_ as it was expressed by Dante with his characteristic width and
precision.

To this mystical temper the whole mind and art of Virgil's great
contemporary stands in the most pointed contrast. More than almost any
other poet of equal eminence, Horace lived in the present and actual
world; it is only when he turns aside from it that he loses himself.
Certain external similarities of method there are between them--above
all, in that mastery of verbal technique which made the Latin language
something new in the hands of both. Both were laborious and indefatigable
artists, and in their earlier acquaintanceship, at all events, were close
personal friends. But the five years' difference in their ages represents
a much more important interval in their poetical development. The earlier
work of Horace, in the years when he was intimate with Virgil, is that
which least shows the real man or the real poet; it was not till Virgil,
sunk in his _Aeneid,_ and living in a somewhat melancholy retirement far
away from Rome, was within a few years of his death, that Horace, amid
the gaiety and vivid life of the capital, found his true scope, and
produced the work that has made him immortal.

Yet the earlier circumstances of the two poets' lives had been not
unlike. Like Virgil, Horace sprang from the ranks of the provincial lower
middle class, in whom the virtues of industry, frugality, and sense were
generally accompanied by little grace or geniality. But he was
exceptionally fortunate in his father. This excellent man, who is always
spoken of by his son with a deep respect and affection, was a freedman of
Venusia in Southern Italy, who had acquired a small estate by his
economies as a collector of taxes in the neighbourhood. Horace must have
shown some unusual promise as a boy; yet, according to his own account,
it was less from this motive than from a disinterested belief in the
value of education that his father resolved to give him, at whatever
personal sacrifice, every advantage that was enjoyed by the children of
the highest social class. The boy was taken to Rome about the age of
twelve--Virgil, a youth of seventeen, came there from Milan about the
same time--and given the best education that the capital could provide.
Nor did he stop there; at eighteen he proceeded to Athens, the most
celebrated university then existing, to spend several years in completing
his studies in literature and philosophy. While he was there the
assassination of Caesar took place, and the Civil war broke out. Marcus
Brutus occupied Macedonia, and swept Greece for recruits. The scarcity of
Roman officers was so great in the newly levied legions that the young
student, a boy of barely twenty-one, with no birth or connection, no
experience, and no military or organising ability, was not only accepted
with eagerness, but at once given a high commission. He served in the
Republican army till Philippi, apparently without any flagrant discredit;
after the defeat, like many of his companions, he gave up the idea of
further resistance, and made the best of his way back to Italy. He found
his little estate forfeited, but he was not so important a person that he
had to fear proscription, and with the strong common sense which he had
already developed, he bought or begged himself a small post in the civil
service which just enabled him to live. Three years later he was
introduced by Virgil to Maecenas, and his uninterrupted prosperity began.

Did we know more of the history of Horace's life in the interval between
his leaving the university and his becoming one of the circle of
recognised Augustan poets, much in his poetical development might be less
perplexing to us. The effect of these years was apparently to throw him
back, to arrest or thwart what would have been his natural growth. No
doubt he was one of the men who (like Caesar or Cromwell in other fields
of action) develop late; but something more than this seems needed to
account for the extraordinary weakness and badness of his first volume of
lyrical pieces, published by him when he was thirty-five. In the first
book of the _Satires,_ produced about five years earlier, he had shown
much of his admirable later qualities,--humour, sense, urbanity,
perception,--but all strangely mingled with a vein of artistic vulgarity
(the worst perhaps of all vulgarities) which is totally absent from his
matured writing. It is not merely that in this earlier work he is often
deliberately coarse--that was a literary tradition, from which it would
require more than ordinary originality to break free,--but that he again
and again allows himself to fall into such absolute flatness as can only
be excused on the theory that his artistic sense had been checked or
crippled in its growth, and here and there disappeared in his nature
altogether. How elaborate and severe the self-education must have been
which he undertook and carried through may be guessed from the vast
interval that separates the spirit and workmanship of the _Odes_ from
that of the _Epodes,_ and can partly be traced step by step in the
autobiographic passages of the second book of _Satires_ and the later
_Epistles_. We are ignorant in what circumstances or under what pressure
the _Epodes_ were published; it is a plausible conjecture that their
faults were just such as would meet the approbation of Maecenas, on whose
favour Horace was at the time almost wholly dependent; and Horace may
himself have been glad to get rid, as it were, of his own bad immature
work by committing it to publicity. The celebrated passage in Keats'
preface to _Endymion,_ where he gives his reasons for publishing a poem
of whose weakness and faultiness he was himself acutely conscious, is of
very wide application; and it is easy to believe that, after the
publication of the _Epodes,_ Horace could turn with an easier and less
embarrassed mind to the composition of the _Odes_.

Meanwhile he was content to be known as a writer of satire, one whose
wish it was to bring up to an Augustan polish the literary form already
carried to a high degree of success by Lucilius. The second book of
_Satires_ was published not long after the _Epodes_. It shows in every
way an enormous advance over the first. He has shaken himself free from
the imitation of Lucilius, which alternates in the earliest satires with
a rather bitter and self-conscious depreciation of the work of the older
poet and his successors. The prosperous turn Horace's own life had taken
was ripening him fast, and undoing the bad effects of earlier years. We
have passed for good out of the society of Rupilius Rex and Canidia. At
one time Horace must have run the risk of turning out a sort of
ineffectual François Villon; this, too, is over, and his earlier
education bears fruit in a temper of remarkable and delicate gifts.

This second book of _Satires_ marks in one way the culmination of
Horace's powers. The brilliance of the first years of the Empire
stimulated the social aptitude and dramatic perception of a poet who
lived in the heart of Rome, already free from fear or ambition, but as
yet untouched by the melancholy temper which grew on him in later years.
He employs the semi-dramatic form of easy dialogue throughout the book
with extraordinary lightness and skill. The familiar hexameter, which
Lucilius had left still cumbrous and verbose, is like wax in his hands;
his perfection in this use of the metre is as complete as that of Virgil
in the stately and serious manner. And behind this accomplished literary
method lies an unequalled perception of common human nature, a rich vein
of serious and quiet humour, and a power of language the more remarkable
that it is so unassuming, and always seems as it were to say the right
thing by accident. With the free growth of his natural humour he has
attained a power of self-appreciation which is unerring. The _Satires_
are full from end to end of himself and his own affairs; but the name of
egoism cannot be applied to any self-revelation or self-criticism which
is so just and so certain. From the opening lines of the first satire,
where he notes the faults of his own earlier work, to the last line of
the book, with its Parthian shot at Canidia and the _jeunesse orageuse_
that he had so long left behind, there is not a page which is not full of
that self-reference which, in its truth and tact, constantly passes
beyond itself and holds up the mirror to universal human nature. In
reading the _Satires_ we all read our own minds and hearts.

Nearly ten years elapsed between the publication of the second book of
the _Satires_ and that of the first book of the _Epistles_. Horace had
passed meanwhile into later middle life. He had in great measure retired
from society, and lived more and more in the quietness of his little
estate among the Sabine hills. Life was still full of vivid interest; but
books were more than ever a second world to him, and, like Virgil, he was
returning with a perpetually increasing absorption to the Greek
philosophies, which had been the earliest passion of his youth. Years had
brought the philosophic mind; the more so that these years had been
filled with the labour of the _Odes,_ a work of the highest and most
intricate effort, and involving the constant study of the masterpieces of
Greek thought and art. The "monument more imperishable than bronze" had
now been completed; its results are marked in the _Epistles_ by a new and
admirable maturity and refinement. Good sense, good feeling, good taste,
--these qualities, latent from the first in Horace, have obtained a final
mastery over the coarser strain with which they had at first been
mingled; and in their shadow now appear glimpses of an inner nature even
more rare, from which only now and then he lifts the veil with a sort of
delicate self-depreciation, in an occasional line of sonorous rhythm, or
in some light touch by which he gives a glimpse into a more magical view
of life and nature: the earliest swallow of spring on the coast, the
mellow autumn sunshine on a Sabine coppice, the everlasting sound of a
talking brook; or, again, the unforgettable phrases, the _fallentis
semita vitae,_ or _quod petis hic est,_ or _ire tamen restat,_ that have,
to so many minds in so many ages, been key-words to the whole of life.

It is in the _Epistles_ that Horace reveals himself most intimately, and
perhaps with the most subtle charm. But the great work of his life, for
posterity as well as for his own age, was the three books of _Odes_ which
were published by him in 23 B.C., at the age of forty-two, and represent
the sustained effort of about ten years. This collection of eighty-eight
lyrics was at once taken to the heart of the world. Before a volume of
which every other line is as familiar as a proverb, which embodies in a
quintessential form that imperishable delight of literature to which the
great words of Cicero already quoted[7] give such beautiful expression,
whose phrases are on all men's lips as those of hardly any other ancient
author have been, criticism is almost silenced. In the brief and graceful
epilogue, Horace claims for himself, with no uncertainty and with no
arrogance, such eternity as earth can give. The claim was completely
just. The school-book of the European world, the _Odes_ have been no less
for nineteen centuries the companions of mature years and the delight of
age--_adolescentiam agunt, senectutem oblectant,_ may be said of them
with as much truth as ever now. Yet no analysis will explain their
indefinable charm. If the so-called "lyrical cry" be of the essence of a
true lyric, they are not true lyrics at all. Few of them are free from a
marked artificiality, an almost rigid adherence to canon. Their range of
thought is not great; their range of feeling is studiously narrow. Beside
the air and fire of a lyric of Catullus, an ode of Horace for the moment
grows pale and heavy, _cineris specie decoloratur_. Beside one of the
pathetic half-lines of Virgil, with their broken gleams and murmurs as of
another world, a Horatian phrase loses lustre and sound. Yet Horace
appeals to a tenfold larger audience than Catullus--to a larger audience,
it may even be said, than Virgil. Nor is he a poets' poet: the refined
and exquisite technique of the _Odes_ may be only appreciable by a
trained artist in language; but it is the untrained mind, on whom other
art falls flat, that the art of Horace, by some unique penetrative power,
kindles and quickens. His own phrase of "golden mediocrity" expresses
with some truth the paradox of his poetry; in no other poet, ancient or
modern, has such studied and unintermitted mediocrity been wrought in
pure gold. By some tact or instinct--the "felicity," which is half of the
famous phrase in which he is characterised by Petronius--he realised
that, limited as his own range of emotion was, that of mankind at large
was still more so, and that the cardinal matter was to strike in the
centre. Wherever he finds himself on the edge of the range in which his
touch is certain, he draws back with a smile; and so his concentrated
effect, within his limited but central field, is unsurpassed, and perhaps
unequalled.

This may partly explain how it was that with Horace the Latin lyric stops
dead. His success was so immediate and so immense that it fixed the
limit, so to speak, for future poets within the confined range which he
had chosen to adopt; and that range he had filled so perfectly that no
room was left for anything but imitation on the one hand, or, on the
other, such a painful avoidance of imitation as would be equally
disastrous in its results. With the principal lyric metres, too, the
sapphic and alcaic, he had done what Virgil had done with the dactylic
hexameter, carried them to the highest point of which the foreign Latin
tongue was capable. They were naturalised, but remained sterile. When at
last Latin lyric poetry took a new development, it was by starting afresh
from a wholly different point, and by a reversion to types which, for the
culture of the early imperial age, were obsolete and almost non-existent.

The phrase, _verbis felicissime audax,_ used of Horace as a lyric poet by
Quintilian, expresses, with something less than that fine critic's usual
accuracy, another quality which goes far to make the merit of the _Odes_.
Horace's use of words is, indeed, remarkably dexterous; but less so from
happy daring than from the tact which perpetually poises and balances
words, and counts no pains lost to find the word that is exactly right.
His audacities--if one cares to call them so--in the use of epithet, in
Greek constructions (which he uses rather more freely than any other
Latin poet), and in allusive turns of phrase, are all carefully
calculated and precisely measured. His unique power of compression is not
that of the poet who suddenly flashes out in a golden phrase, but more
akin to the art of the distiller who imprisons an essence, or the gem-
engraver working by minute touches on a fragment of translucent stone.
With very great resources of language at his disposal, he uses them with
singular and scrupulous frugality; in his measured epithets, his curious
fondness for a number of very simple and abstract words, and the studious
simplicity of effect in his most elaborately designed lyrics, he reminds
one of the method of Greek has-reliefs, or, still more (after allowing
for all the difference made by religious feeling), of the sculptured work
of Mino of Fiesole, with its pale colours and carefully ordered outlines.
Phrases of ordinary prose, which he uses freely, do not, as in Virgil's
hands, turn into poetry by his mere use of them; they give rather than
receive dignity in his verses, and only in a few rare instances, like the
stately _Motum ex Metello consule civicum,_ are they completely fused
into the structure of the poem. So, too, his vivid and clearly-cut
descriptions of nature in single lines and phrases stand out by
themselves like golden tesserae in a mosaic, each distinct in a
glittering atmosphere--_qua tumidus rigat arva Nilus; opacam porticus
excipiebat Arcton; nec prata canis albicant pruinis_--a hundred phrases
like these, all exquisitely turned, and all with the same effect of
detachment, which makes them akin to sculpture, rather than painting or
music. Virgil, as we learn from an interesting fragment of biography,
wrote his first drafts swiftly and copiously, and wrought them down by
long labour into their final structure; with Horace we may rather imagine
that words came to the surface slowly and one by one, and that the _Odes_
grew like the deposit, cell by cell, of the honeycomb to which, in a
later poem, he compares his own work. In some passages where the _Odes_
flag, it seems as though material had failed him before the poem was
finished, and he had filled in the gaps, not as he wished, but as he
could, yet always with the same deliberate gravity of workmanship.

_Horatii curiosa felicitas_--this, one of the earliest criticisms made on
the _Odes,_ remains the phrase which most completely describes their
value. Such minute elaboration, on so narrow a range of subject, and
within such confined limits of thought and feeling, could only be
redeemed from dulness by the perpetual felicity--something between luck
and skill--that was Horace's secret. How far it was happy chance, how far
deliberately aimed at and attained, is a question which brings us before
one of the insoluble problems of art; we may remind ourselves that, in
the words of the Greek dramatist Agathon, which Aristotle was so fond of
quoting, skill and chance in all art cling close to one another. "Safe in
his golden mediocrity," to use the words of his own counsel to Licinius,
Horace has somehow or another taken deep hold of the mind, and even the
imagination, of mankind. This very mediocrity, so fine, so chastened, so
certain, is in truth as inimitable as any other great artistic quality;
we must fall back on the word genius, and remember that genius does not
confine itself within the borders of any theory, but works its own will.

With the publication of the three books of the _Odes,_ and the first book
of the _Epistles,_ Horace's finest and maturest work was complete. In the
twelve years of his life which were still to run he published but little,
nor is there any reason to suppose that he wrote more than he published.
In 17 B.C., he composed, by special command, an ode to be sung at the
celebration of the Secular Games. The task was one in which he was much
hampered by a stringent religious convention, and the result is
interesting, but not very happy. We may admire the skill with which
formularies of the national worship are moulded into the sapphic stanza,
and prescribed language, hardly, if at all, removed from prose, is made
to run in stately, though stiff and monotonous, verse; but our admiration
is of the ingenuity, not of the poetry. The _Jubilee Ode_ written by Lord
Tennyson is curiously like the _Carmen Seculare_ in its metrical
ingenuities, and in the way in which the unmistakeable personal note of
style sounds through its heavy and formal movement.

Four years later a fourth book of _Odes_ was published, the greater part
of which consists of poems less distinctly official than the _Secular
Hymn,_ but written with reference to public affairs by the direct command
of the Emperor, some in celebration of the victories of Drusus and
Tiberius on the north-eastern frontier, and others in more general praise
of the peace and external prosperity established throughout Italy under
the new government. Together with these official pieces he included some
others: an early sketch for the _Carmen Seculare,_ a curious fragment of
literary criticism in the form of an ode addressed to one of the young
aristocrats who followed the fashion of the Augustan age in studying and
writing poetry, and eight pieces of the same kind as his earlier odes,
written at various times within the ten years which had now passed since
the publication of the first three books. An introductory poem, of
graceful but half-ironical lamentation over the passing of youth, seems
placed at the head of the little collection in studious depreciation of
its importance. Had it not been for the necessity of publishing the
official odes, it is probable enough that Horace would have left these
few later lyrics ungathered. They show the same care and finish in
workmanship as the rest, but there is a certain loss of brilliance;
except one ode of mellow and refined beauty, the famous _Diffugere
nives,_ they hardly reach the old level. The creative impulse in Horace
had never been very powerful or copious; with growing years he became
less interested in the achievement of literary artifice, and turned more
completely to his other great field, the criticism of life and
literature. To the concluding years of his life belong the three
delightful essays in verse which complete the list of his works. Two of
these, which are placed together as a second book of _Epistles_, seem to
have been published at about the same time as the fourth book of the
_Odes_. The first, addressed to the Emperor, contains the most matured
and complete expression of his views on Latin poetry, and is in great
measure a vindication of the poetry of his own age against the school
which, partly from literary and partly from political motives, persisted
in giving a preference to that of the earlier Republic. In the second,
inscribed to one of his younger friends belonging to the circle of
Tiberius, he reviews his own life as one who was now done with literature
and literary fame, and was giving himself up to the pursuit of wisdom.
The melancholy of temperament and advancing age is subtly interwoven in
his final words with the urbane humour and strong sense that had been his
companions through life:--

    _Lusisti satis, edisti satis atque bibisti,
    Tempus abire tibi est, ne potum largius acquo
    Rideat et pulset lasciva decentius aetas._

A new generation, clever, audacious, and corrupt, had silently been
growing up under the Empire. Ovid was thirty, and had published his
_Amores_. The death of Virgil had left the field of serious poetry to
little men. The younger race had learned only too well the lesson of
minute care and formal polish so elaborately taught them by the earlier
Augustan poets, and had caught the ear of the town with work of
superficial but, for the time, captivating brilliance. Gloom was already
beginning to gather round the Imperial household; the influence of
Maecenas, the great support of letters for the last twenty years, was
fast on the wane. In the words just quoted, with their half-sad and half-
mocking echo of the famous passage of Lucretius,[8] Horace bids farewell
to poetry.

But literary criticism, in which he had so fine a taste, and on which he
was a recognised authority, continued to interest him; and the more
seriously minded of the younger poets turned to him for advice, which he
was always willing to give. The _Epistle to the Pisos,_ known more
generally under the name of the _Art of Poetry,_ seems to have been
composed at intervals during these later years, and was, perhaps, not
published till after his death in the year 8 B.C. It is a discussion of
dramatic poetry, largely based on Greek textbooks, but full of Horace's
own experience and of his own good sense. Young aspirants to poetical
fame regularly began with tragedies; and Horace, accepting this as an
actual fact, discusses the rules of tragedy with as much gravity as if he
were dealing with some really living and national form of poetry. This
discursive and fragmentary essay was taken in later ages as an
authoritative treatise; and the views expressed by Horace on a form of
poetical art with which he had little practical acquaintance had, at the
revival of literature, and even down to last century, an immense
influence over the structure and development of the drama. Just as modern
comedy based itself on imitation of Plautus and Terence, and as the
earliest attempts at tragedy followed haltingly in the steps of Seneca,
so as regards the theory of both, Horace, and not the Greeks, was the
guiding influence.

Among the many amazing achievements of the Greek genius in the field
of human thought were a lyrical poetry of unexampled beauty, a refined
critical faculty, and, later than the great thinkers and outside of the
strict schools, a temperate philosophy of life such as we see afterwards
in the beautiful personality of Plutarch. In all these three Horace
interpreted Greece to the world, while adding that peculiarly Roman
urbanity--the spirit at once of the grown man as distinguished from
children, of the man of the world, and of the gentleman--which up till
now has been a dominant ideal over the thought and life of Europe.



III

PROPERTIUS AND THE ELEGISTS.


Those years of the early Empire in which the names of Virgil and Horace
stand out above all the rest were a period of large fertility in Latin
poetry. Great poets naturally bring small poets after them; and there was
no age at Rome in which the art was more assiduously practised or more
fashionable in society. The Court set a tone which was followed in other
circles, and more especially among the younger men of the old
aristocracy, now largely excluded from the public life which had
engrossed their parents under the Republic. The influence of the
Alexandrian poets, so potent in the age of Catullus, was not yet
exhausted; and a wider culture had now made the educated classes familiar
with the whole range of earlier Greek poetry as well. Rome was full of
highly educated Greek scholars, some of whom were themselves poets of
considerable merit. It was the fashion to form libraries; the public
collection formed by Augustus, and housed in a sumptuous building on the
Palatine, was only the largest among many others in the great houses of
Rome. The earlier Latin poets had known only a small part of Greek
literature, and that very imperfectly; their successors had been
trammelled by too exclusive an admiration of the Greek of the decadence.
Virgil and Horace, though professed students of the Alexandrians, had
gone back themselves, and had recalled the attention of the public, to
the poets of free Greece, and had stimulated the widely felt longing to
conquer the whole field of poetry for the Latin tongue.

For this attempt, tradition and circumstance finally proved too strong;
and Augustan poetry, outside of a few definite forms, is largely a
chronicle of failure. This was most eminently so in the drama. Augustan
tragedy seems never to have risen for a moment beyond mere academic
exercises. Of the many poets who attempted it, nothing survives beyond a
string of names. Lucius Varius Rufus, the intimate friend of both Virgil
and Horace, and one of the two joint-editors of the _Aeneid_ after the
death of the former, wrote one tragedy, on the story of Thyestes, which
was acted with applause at the games held to celebrate the victory of
Actium, and obtained high praise from later critics. But he does not
appear to have repeated the experiment like so many other Latin poets, he
turned to the common path of annalistic epic. Augustus himself began a
tragedy of _Ajax,_ but never finished it. Gaius Asinius Pollio, the first
orator and critic of the period, and a magnificent patron of art and
science, also composed tragedies more on the antique model of Accius and
Pacuvius, in a dry and severe manner. But neither in these, nor in the
work of the young men for whose benefit Horace wrote the _Epistle to the
Pisos,_ was there any real vitality; the precepts of Horace could no more
create a school of tragedians than his example could create a school of
lyric poets.

The poetic forms, on the other hand, used by Virgil were so much more on
the main line of tendency that he stands among a large number of others,
some of whom might have had a high reputation but for his overwhelming
superiority. Of the other essays made in this period in bucolic poetry we
know too little to speak with any confidence. But both didactic poetry
and the little epic were largely cultivated, and the greater epic itself
was not without followers. The extant poems of the _Culex_ and _Ciris_
have already been noted as showing with what skill and grace unknown
poets, almost if not absolutely contemporary with Virgil, could use the
slighter epic forms. Varius, when he abandoned tragedy, wrote epics on
the death of Julius Caesar, and on the achievements of Agrippa. The few
fragments of the former which survive show a remarkable power and
refinement; Virgil paid them the sincerest of all compliments by
conveying, not once only but again and again, whole lines of Varius into
his own work. Another intimate friend of Virgil, Aemilius Macer of
Verona, wrote didactic poems in the Alexandrian manner on several
branches of natural history, which were soon eclipsed by the fame of the
_Georgics_, but remained a model for later imitators of Nicander. One of
these, a younger contemporary of Virgil called Gratius, or Grattius, was
the author of a poem on hunting, still extant in an imperfect form. In
its tame and laboured correctness it is only interesting as showing the
early decay of the Virgilian manner in the hands of inferior men.

A more interesting figure, and one the loss of whose works leaves a real
gap in Latin literature, is Gaius Cornelius Gallus, the earliest and one
of the most brilliant of the Augustan poets. Like Varro Atacinus, he was
born in Narbonese Gaul, and brought into Roman poetry a new touch of
Gallic vivacity and sentiment. The year of his birth was the same as that
of Virgil's, but his genius matured much earlier, and before the
composition of the _Eclogues_ he was already a celebrated poet, as well
as a distinguished man of action. The story of his life, with its swift
rise from the lowest fortune to the splendid viceroyalty of Egypt, and
his sudden disgrace and death at the age of forty-three, is one of the
most dramatic in Roman history. The translations from Euphorion, by which
he first made his reputation, followed the current fashion; but about the
same time he introduced a new kind of poetry, the erotic elegy, which had
a swift and far-reaching success. To Gallus, more than to any other
single poet, is due the naturalisation in Latin of the elegiac couplet,
which, together with the lyrics of Horace and the Virgilian hexameter,
makes up the threefold poetical achievement of the Augustan period, and
which, after the Latin lyric had died out with Horace himself, halved the
field with the hexameter. For the remaining literature of the Empire, for
that of the Middle Ages so far as it followed classical models, and even
for that of the Renaissance, which carries us down to within a measurable
distance of the present day, the hexameter as fixed by Virgil, and the
elegiac as popularised by Gallus and rapidly brought to perfection by his
immediate followers, are the only two poetical forms of real importance.

The elegiac couplet had, of course, been in use at Rome long before;
Ennius himself had employed it, and in the Ciceronian age Catullus had
written in it largely, and not without success. But its successful use
had been hitherto mainly confined to short pieces, such as would fall
within the definition of the Greek epigram. The four books of poems in
which Gallus told the story of his passion for the courtesan Cytheris
(the Lycoris of the tenth Eclogue) showed the capacities of the metre in
a new light. The fashion they set was at once followed by a crowd of
poets. The literary circles of Maecenas and Messalla had each their
elegiac poet of the first eminence; and the early death of both
Propertius and Tibullus was followed, amid the decline of the other forms
of the earlier Augustan poetry, by the consummate brilliance of Ovid.

Of the Augustan elegiac poets, Sextus Propertius, a native of Assisi in
Umbria, and introduced at a very early age to the circle of Maecenas, is
much the most striking and interesting figure, not only from the formal
merit of his poetry, but as representing a type till then almost unknown
in ancient literature. Of his life little is known. Like Virgil, he lost
his patrimonial property in the confiscations which followed the Civil
war, but he was then a mere child. He seems to have been introduced to
imperial patronage by the publication of the first book of his _Elegies_
at the age of about twenty. He died young, before he was thirty-five, if
we may draw an inference from the latest allusions in his extant poems;
he had then written four other books of elegiac pieces, which were
probably published separately at intervals of a few years. In the last
book there is a noticeable widening of range of subject, which
foreshadows the further development that elegiac verse took in the hands
of Ovid soon after his death.

In striking contrast to Virgil or Horace, Propertius is a genius of great
and, indeed, phenomenal precocity. His first book of _Elegies,_ the
_Cynthia monobiblos_ of the grammarians, was a literary feat comparable
to the early achievements of Keats or Byron. The boy of twenty had
already mastered the secret of elegiac verse, which even Catullus had
used stiffly and awkwardly, and writes it with an ease, a colour, a
sumptuousness of rhythm which no later poet ever equalled. The splendid
cadence of the opening couplet--

    _Cynthia prima suis miserum me cepit ocellis
        Contactum nullis ante cupidinibus--_

must have come on its readers with the shock of a new revelation. Nothing
like it had ever been written in Latin before: itself and alone it
assures a great future to the Latin elegiac. His instinct for richness of
sound is equally conspicuous where it is found in purely Latin phrases,
as in the opening of the sixteenth elegy--

    _Quae fueram magnis olim patefacta triumphis
        Ianua Tarpeiae nota pudicitiae
    Cuius inaurati celebrarunt limina currus
        Captorum lacrimis umida supplicibus,_

and where it depends on a lavish use of Greek ornament, as in the opening
of the third--

    _Qualis Thesea iacuit cedente carina
        Languida desertis Gnosia litoribus,
    Qualis et accubuit primo Cepheia somno
        Libera iam duris cotibus Andromede,_

Even when one comes to them fresh from Virgil, lines like these open a
new world of sound. The Greek elegiac, as it is known to us by the finest
work of the epigrammatists, had an almost unequalled flexibility and
elasticity of rhythm; this quality Propertius from the first seized, and
all but made his own. By what course of reasoning he was led in his later
work to suppress this large and elastic treatment, and approximate more
and more closely to the fine but somewhat limited and metallic rhythm
which has been perpetuated by the usage of Ovid, we cannot guess. In this
first book he ends the pentameter freely with words of three, four, and
five syllables; the monotony of the perpetual disyllabic termination,
which afterwards became the normal usage, is hardly compensated by the
increased smoothness which it gives the verse.

But this new power of versification accompanied a new spirit even more
remarkable, which is of profound import as the precursor of a whole
school of modern European poetry. The _Cynthia_ is the first appearance
in literature of the neurotic young man, who reappeared last century in
Rousseau's _Confessions_ and Goethe's _Werther,_ and who has dominated
French literature so largely since Alfred de Musset. The way had been
shown half a century before by that remarkable poet, Meleager of Gadara,
whom Propertius had obviously studied with keen appreciation. Phrases in
the _Cynthia_, like--

    _Tum mihi constantis deiecit lumina fastus
        Et caput impositis pressit Amor pedibus,_

or--

    _Qui non ante patet donec manus attigit ossa,_

are in the essential spirit of Meleager, and, though not verbally copied
from him, have the precise quality of his rhythms and turns of phrase.
But the abandonment to sensibility, the absorption in self-pity and the
sentiment of passion, are carried by Propertius to a far greater length.

The abasement of a line like--

    Sis quodcunque voles, non aliena tamen,_

is in the strongest possible contrast to that powerful passion which
fills the poetry of Catullus, or to the romantic tenderness of the
_Eclogues_; and in the extraordinary couplet--

    _Me sine, quem semper voluit fortuna iacere,
        Hanc animam extremae reddere nequitiae,_

"the expense of spirit in a waste of shame" reaches its culminating
point. This tremulous self-absorption, rather than any defect of eye or
imagination, is the reason of the extraordinary lapses which now and then
he makes both in description and in sentiment. The vivid and picturesque
sketches he gives of fashionable life at watering-places and country-
houses in the eleventh and fourteenth elegies, or single touches, like
that in the remarkable couplet--

    _Me mediae noctes, me sidera prona iacentem,
        Frigidaque Eoo me dolet aura gelu,_

show that where he was interested neither his eye nor his language had
any weakness; but, as a rule, he is not interested either in nature or,
if the truth be told, in Cynthia, but wholly in himself. He ranks among
the most learned of the Augustan poets; but, for want of the rigorous
training and self-criticism in which Virgil and Horace spent their lives,
he made on the whole but a weak and ineffective use of a natural gift
perhaps equal to either of theirs. Thus it is that his earliest work is
at the same time his most fascinating and brilliant. After the _Cynthia_
he rapidly became, in the mordant phrase used by Heine of Musset, _un
jeune homme d'un bien beau passé_. Some premonition of early death seems
to have haunted him; and the want of self-control in his poetry may
reflect actual physical weakness united with his vivid imagination.

The second and third books of the _Elegies_,[9] though they show some
technical advance, and are without the puerilities which here and there
occur in the _Cynthia,_ are on the whole immensely inferior to it in
interest and charm. There is still an occasional line of splendid beauty,
like the wonderful--

    _Sunt apud infernos tot milia formosarum;_

an occasional passage of stately rhythm, like the lines beginning--

    _Quandocunque igitur nostros mors clausit ocellos;_

but the smooth versification has now few surprises; the learning is
becoming more mechanical; there is a tendency to say over again what he
had said before, and not to say it quite so well.

Through these two books Cynthia is still the main subject. But with the
advance of years, and his own growing fame as a poet, his passion--if
that can be called a passion which was so self-conscious and so
sentimental--fell away from him, and left his desire for literary
reputation the really controlling motive of his work. In the introductory
poem to the fourth book there is a new and almost aggressive tone with
regard to his own position among the Roman poets, which is in strong
contrast to the modesty of the epilogue to the third book. The inflated
invocation of the ghost of Callimachus laid him fatally open to the
quietly disdainful reference by which, without even mentioning Propertius
by name, Horace met it a year or two later in the second book of the
_Epistles_. But even Horace is not infallible; and Propertius was, at all
events, justified in regarding himself as the head of a new school of
poetry, and one which struck its roots wide and deep.

In the fourth and fifth books of the _Elegies_ there is a wide range of
subject; the verse is being tested for various purposes, and its
flexibility answers to almost every demand. But already we feel its fatal
facility. The passage beginning _Atque ubi iam Venerem,_ in the poem
where he contrasts his own life with those of the followers of riches and
ambition, is a dilution into twelve couplets of eight noble lines of the
_Georgics,_ with an effect almost as feeble, if not so grotesque, as that
of the later metaphrasts, who occupied themselves in turning heroic into
elegiac poems by inserting a pentameter between each two lines. The sixth
elegy of the same book is nothing but a cento of translations from the
_Anthology,_ strung together and fastened up at the end by an original
couplet in the worst and most puerile manner of his early writing. On the
other hand, these books include fresh work of great merit, and some of
great beauty. The use of the elegiac metre to tell stories from Graeco-
Roman mythology and legendary Roman history is begun in several poems
which, though Propertius has not the story-telling gift of Ovid, showed
the way to the delightful narratives of the _Fasti_. A few of the more
personal elegies have a new and not very agreeable kind of realism, as
though Musset had been touched with the spirit of Flaubert. In one, the
ninth of the fourth book, the realism is in a different and pleasanter
vein; only Herrick among English poets has given such imaginative charm
to straightforward descriptions of the ordinary private life of the
middle classes. The fifth book ends with the noble elegy on Cornelia, the
wife of Paulus Aemilius Lepidus, in which all that is best in Propertius'
nature at last finds splendid and memorable expression. It has some of
his common failings,--passages of inappropriate learning, and a little
falling off towards the end. But where it rises to its height, in the
lines familiar to all who know Latin, it is unsurpassed in any poetry for
grace and tenderness.

    _Nunc tibi commendo communia pignora natos;
        Haec cura et cineri spirat inusta meo.
    Fungere maternis vicibus pater: illa meorum
        Omnis erit collo turba fovenda tuo.
    Oscula cum dederis tua flentibus, adice matris;
        Tota domus coepit nunc onus esse tuum.
    Et siquid doliturus eris, sine testibus illis!
        Cum venient, siccis oscula falle genis:
    Sat tibi sint noctes quas de me, Paule, fatiges,
        Somniaque in faciem reddita saepe meam._

In these lines, hardly to be read without tears, Propertius for once
rises into that clear air in which art passes beyond the reach of
criticism. What he might have done in this new manner had he lived longer
can only be conjectured; at the same age neither Virgil nor Horace had
developed their full genius. But the perpetual recurrence in the later
poems of that brooding over death, which had already marked his juvenile
work, indicates increasing exhaustion of power. Even the sparkling elegy
on the perils of a lover's rapid night journey from Rome to Tibur passes
at the end into a sombre imagination of his own grave; and the fine and
remarkable poem (beginning with the famous _Sunt aliquid Manes_) in which
the ghost of Cynthia visits him, is full of the same morbid dwelling on
the world of shadows, where the "golden girl" awaits her forgetful lover.
_Atque hoc sollicitum vince sopore caput_ had become the sum of his
prayers. But a little while afterwards the restless brain of the poet
found the sleep that it desired.

At a time when literary criticism was so powerful at Rome, and poetry was
ruled by somewhat rigid canons of taste, it is not surprising that more
stress was laid on the defects than on the merits of Propertius' poetry.
It evidently annoyed Horace; and in later times Propertius remained the
favourite of a minority, while general taste preferred the more
faultless, if less powerfully original, elegiacs of his contemporary,
Albius Tibullus. This pleasing and graceful poet was a few years older
than Propertius, and, like him, died at the age of about thirty-five. He
did not belong to the group of court poets who formed the circle of
Maecenas, but to a smaller school under the patronage of Marcus Valerius
Messalla, a distinguished member of the old aristocracy, who, though
accepting the new government and loyal in his service to the Emperor,
held somewhat aloof from the court, and lived in a small literary world
of his own. Tibullus published in his lifetime two books of elegiac
poems; after his death a third volume was published, containing a few of
his posthumous pieces, together with poems by other members of the same
circle. Of these, six are elegies by a young poet of the upper class,
writing under the name of Lygdamus, and plausibly conjectured to have
been a near relative of Tibullus. One, a panegyric on Messalla, by an
unknown author, is without any poetical merit, and only interesting as an
average specimen of the amateur verse of the time when, in the phrase of
Horace--

                         _Populus calet uno
    Scribendi studio; pueri patresque severi
    Fronde comas vincti cenant et carmina dictant._

The curious set of little poems going under the name of Sulpicia, and
included in the volume, will be noticed later.

Tibullus might be succinctly and perhaps not unjustly described as a
Virgil without the genius. The two poets died in the same year, and a
contemporary epigram speaks of them as the recognised masters of heroic
and elegiac verse; while the well known tribute of Ovid, in the third
book of the _Amores,_ shows that the death of Tibullus was regarded as an
overwhelming loss by the general world of letters. "Pure and fine," the
well-chosen epithets of Quintilian, are in themselves no slight praise;
and the poems reveal a gentleness of nature and sincerity of feeling
which make us think of their author less with admiration than with a sort
of quiet affection. No two poets could be more strongly contrasted than
Tibullus and Propertius, even when their subject and manner of treatment
approximate most closely. In Tibullus the eagerness, the audacity, the
irregular brilliance of Propertius are wholly absent; as are the feverish
self-consciousness and the want of good taste and good sense which are
equally characteristic of the latter. Poetry is with him, not the
outburst of passion, or the fruit of high imagination, but the refined
expression of sincere feeling in equable and melodious verse. The
delightful epistle addressed to him by Horace shows how high he stood in
the esteem and affection of a severe critic, and a man whose friendship
was not lightly won or lavishly expressed. He stands easily at the head
of Latin poets of the second order. In delicacy, in refinement, in grace
of rhythm and diction, he cannot be easily surpassed; he only wants the
final and incommunicable touch of genius which separates really great
artists from the rest of the world.



IV.

OVID.


The Peace of the Empire, secured by the victory of Actium, and fully
established during the years which followed by Augustus and his
lieutenants, inaugurated a new era of social life in the capital. The
saying of Augustus, that he found Rome brick and left it marble, may be
applied beyond the sphere of mere architectural decoration. A French
critic has well observed that now, for the first time in European
history, the Court and the City existed in their full meaning. Both had
an organised life and a glittering external ease such as was hardly known
again in Europe till the reign of the Grand Monarque. The enormous wealth
of the aristocracy was in the mass hardly touched by all the waste and
confiscations of the civil wars; and, in spite of a more rigorous
administration, fresh accumulations were continually made by the new
official hierarchy, and flowed in from all parts of the Empire to feed
the luxury and splendour of the capital. Wealth and peace, the increasing
influence of Greek culture, and the absence of political excitement,
induced a period of brilliant laxity among the upper classes. The severe
and frugal morals of the Republic still survived in great families, as
well as among that middle class, from which the Empire drew its solid
support; but in fashionable society there was a marked and rapid
relaxation of morals which was vainly combated by stringent social and
sumptuary legislation. The part taken by women in social and political
life is among the most powerful factors in determining the general aspect
of an age. This, which had already been great under the later Republic,
was now greater than ever. The Empress Livia was throughout the reign of
Augustus, and even after his death, one of the most important persons in
Rome. Partly under her influence, partly from the temperament and policy
of Augustus himself, a sort of court Puritanism grew up, like that of the
later years of Louis Quatorze. The aristocracy on the whole disliked and
despised it; but the monarchy was stronger than they. The same gloom
overshadows the end of these two long reigns. Sentences of death or
banishment fell thick among the leaders of that gay and profligate
society; to later historians it seemed that all the result of the
imperial policy had been to add hypocrisy to profligacy, and incidentally
to cripple and silence literature.

Of this later Augustan period Ovid is the representative poet. The world
in which he lived may be illustrated by a reference to two ladies of his
acquaintance, both in different ways singularly typical of the time.
Julia, the only daughter of Augustus, still a mere child when her father
became master of the world, was brought up with a strictness which
excited remark even among those who were familiar with the strict
traditions of earlier times. Married, when a girl of fourteen, to her
cousin, Marcus Claudius Marcellus; after his death, two years later, to
the Emperor's chief lieutenant, Marcus Agrippa; and a third time, when he
also died, to the son of the Empress Livia, afterwards the Emperor
Tiberius,--she was throughout treated as a part of the State machinery,
and as something more or less than a woman. But she turned out to be, in
fact, a woman whose beauty, wit, and recklessness were alike
extraordinary, and who rose in disastrous revolt against the system in
which she was forced to be a pivot. Alike by birth and genius she easily
took the first place in Roman society; and under the very eyes of the
Emperor she multiplied her lovers right and left, and launched out into a
career that for years was the scandal of all Rome. When she had reached
the age of thirty-seven, in the same year when Ovid's _Art of Love_ was
published, the axe suddenly fell; she was banished, disinherited, and
kept till her death in rigorous imprisonment, almost without the
necessaries of life. Such were the first-fruits of the social reform
inaugurated by Augustus and sung by Horace.

In the volume of poems which includes the posthumous elegies of Tibullus,
there is also contained a group of short pieces by another lady of high
birth and social standing, a niece of Messalla and a daughter of Servius
Sulpicius, and so belonging by both parents to the inner circle of the
aristocracy. Nothing is known of her life beyond what can be gathered
from the poems. But that they should have been published at all, still
more that they should have been published, as they almost certainly were,
with the sanction of Messalla, is a striking instance of the unique
freedom enjoyed by Roman women of the upper classes, and of their
disregard of the ordinary moral conventions. The only ancient parallel is
in the period of the Aeolic Greek civilisation which produced Sappho. The
poems are addressed to her lover, who (according to the fashion of the
time--like Catullus' Lesbia or Propertius' Cynthia) is spoken of by a
Greek name, but was most probably a young Roman of her own circle. The
writer, a young, and apparently an unmarried woman, addresses him with a
frankness of passion that has no idea of concealment. She does not even
take the pains to seal her letters to him, though they contain what most
women would hesitate to put on paper. They have all the same directness,
which sometimes becomes a splendid simplicity. One note, reproaching him
for a supposed infidelity--

    _Si tibi cura togae potior pressumque quasillo
        Scortum quam Servi filia Sulpicia--_

has all the noble pride of Shakespeare's Imogen. Of the world and its
ways she has no girlish ignorance; but the talk of the world, as a motive
for reticence, simply does not exist for her.

Where young ladies of the upper classes had such freedom as is shown in
these poems, and used it, the ordinary lines of demarcation between
respectable women and women who are not respectable must have largely
disappeared. It has been much and inconclusively debated whether the
Hostia and Plania, to whom, under assumed names, the amatory poems of
Propertius and Tibullus were addressed, were more or less married women
(for at Rome there were degrees of marriage), or women for whom marriage
was a remote and immaterial event. The same controversy has raged over
Ovid's Corinna, who is variously identified as Julia the daughter of the
Emperor herself, as a figment of the imagination, or as an ordinary
courtesan. The truth is, that in the society so brilliantly drawn in the
_Art of Love_, such distinctions were for the time suspended, and we are
in a world which, though for the time it was living and actual, is as
unreal to us as that of the Restoration dramatists.

The young lawyer and man of fashion, Publius Ovidius Naso, who was the
laureate of this gay society, was a few years younger than Propertius,
with whom he was in close and friendly intimacy. The early death of both
Propertius and Tibullus occurred before Ovid published his first volume;
and Horace, the last survivor of the older Augustans, had died some years
before that volume was followed by any important work. The period of
Ovid's greatest fertility was the decade immediately following the
opening of the Christian era; he outlived Augustus by three years, and so
laps over into the sombre period of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, which
culminated in the reign of Nero.

As the eldest surviving son of an opulent equestrian family of Upper
Italy, Ovid was trained for the usual career of civil and judicial
office. He studied for the bar at Rome, and, though he never worked hard
at law, filled several judicial offices of importance. But his interest
was almost wholly in the rhetorical side of his profession; he "hated
argument;" and from the rhetoric of the schools to the highly rhetorical
poetry which was coming into fashion there was no violent transition. An
easy fortune, a brilliant wit, an inexhaustible memory, and an unfailing
social tact, soon made him a prominent figure in society; and his genuine
love of literature and admiration for genius--unmingled in his case with
the slightest trace of literary jealousy or self-consciousness--made him
the friend of the whole contemporary world of letters. He did not begin
to publish poetry very early; not because he had any delicacy about doing
so, nor because his genius took long to ripen, but from the good-humoured
laziness which never allowed him to take his own poetry too seriously.
When he was about thirty he published, to be in the fashion, a volume of
amatory elegiacs, which was afterwards re-edited and enlarged into the
existing three books of _Amores_. Probably about the same time he
formally graduated in serious poetry with his tragedy of _Medea_. For ten
or twelve years afterwards he continued to throw off elegiac poems, some
light, others serious, but all alike in their easy polish, and written
from the very first with complete and effortless mastery of the metre. To
this period belong the _Heroides,_ the later pieces in the _Amores,_ the
elaborate poem on the feminine toilet called _De Medicamine Faciei,_ and
other poems now lost. Finally, in 2 or 1 B.C., he published what is
perhaps on the whole his most remarkable work, the three books _De Arte
Amatoria_.

Just about the time of the publication of the _Art of Love,_ the exile of
the elder Julia fell like a thunderbolt on Roman society. Staggered for a
little under the sudden blow, it soon gathered itself together again, and
a perpetual influx of younger men and women gathered round her daughter
and namesake, the wife of Lucius Aemilius Paulus, into a circle as
corrupt, if not so accomplished, as that of which Ovid had been a chief
ornament. He was himself now forty; though singularly free from literary
ambition, he could not but be conscious of his extraordinary powers, and
willing to employ them on larger work. He had already incidentally proved
that he possessed an instinct for narrative such as no Roman poet had
hitherto had--such, indeed, as it would be difficult to match even in
Greek poetry outside Homer. A born story-teller, and an accomplished
master of easy and melodious verse, he naturally turned for subjects to
the inexhaustible stores of the Graeco-Roman mythology, and formed the
scheme of his _Metamorphoses_ and _Fasti_. Both poems were all but
complete, but only the first half of the latter had been published, when,
at the end of the year 8, his life and work were suddenly shattered by a
mysterious catastrophe. An imperial edict ordered him to leave Rome on a
named day, and take up his residence at the small barbarous town of Tomi,
on the Black Sea, at the extreme outposts of civilisation. No reason was
assigned, and no appeal allowed. The cause of this sudden action on the
part of the Emperor remains insoluble. The only reason ever officially
given, that the publication of the _Art of Love_ (which was already ten
years old) was an offence against public morals, is too flimsy to have
been ever meant seriously. The allusions Ovid himself makes to his own
"error" or "crime" are not meant to be intelligible, and none of the many
theories which have been advanced fully satisfies the facts. But,
whatever may have been the cause--whether Ovid had become implicated in
one of those aristocratic conspiracies against which Augustus had to
exercise constant vigilance, or in the intrigues of the younger Julia, or
in some domestic scandal that touched the Emperor even more personally--
it brought his literary career irretrievably to the ground. The elegies
which he continued to pour forth from his place of exile, though not
without their grace and pathos, struggle almost from the first under the
crowning unhappiness of unhappiness, that it ceases to be interesting.
The five books of the _Tristia,_ written during the earlier years of his
banishment, still retain, through the monotony of their subject, and the
abject humility of their attitude to Augustus, much of the old dexterity.
In the four books of _Epistles from Pontus,_ which continue the
lamentation over his calamities, the failure of power is evident. He went
on writing profusely, because there was nothing else to do; panegyrics on
Augustus and Tiberius alternated with a natural history of fish--the
_Halieutica_--and with abusive poems on his real or fancied enemies at
Rome. While Augustus lived he did not give up hopes of a remission, or at
least an alleviation, of his sentence; but the accession of Tiberius, who
never forgot or forgave anything, must have extinguished them finally;
and he died some three years later, still a heart-broken exile.

Apart from his single tragedy, from a few didactic or mock-didactic
pieces, imitated from Alexandrian originals, and from his great poem of
the _Metamorphoses,_ the whole of Ovid's work was executed in the elegiac
couplet. His earliest poems closely approximate in their management of
this metre to the later work of Propertius. The narrower range of cadence
allowed by the rule which makes every couplet regularly end in a
disyllable, involves a monotony which only Ovid's immense dexterity
enabled him to overcome. In the _Fasti_ this dexterity becomes almost
portentous: when his genius began to fail him, the essential vice of the
metre is soon evident. But the usage was stereotyped by his example; all
through the Empire and through the Middle Ages, and even down to the
present day, the Ovidian metre has been the single dominant type: and
though no one ever managed it with such ingenuity again, he taught enough
of the secret to make its use possible for almost every kind of subject.
His own elegiac poetry covers an ample range. In the impassioned rhetoric
of the _Heroides,_ the brilliant pictures of life and manners in the _De
Arte Amatoria,_ or the sparkling narratives of the _Fasti,_ the same sure
and swift touch is applied to widely diverse forms and moods. Ovid was a
trained rhetorician and an accomplished man of the world before he began
to write poetry; that, in spite of his worldliness and his glittering
rhetoric, he has so much of feeling and charm, is the highest proof of
his real greatness as a poet.

But this feeling and charm are the growth of more mature years. In his
early poetry there is no passion and little sentiment. He writes of love,
but never as a lover; nor, with all his quickness of insight and
adroitness of impersonation, does he ever catch the lover's tone. From
the amatory poems written in his own person one might judge him to be
quite heartless, the mere hard and polished mirror of a corrupt society;
and in the _Art of Love_ he is the keen observer of men and women whose
wit and lucid common sense are the more insolently triumphant because
untouched by any sentiment or sympathy. We know him from other sources to
have been a man of really warm and tender feeling; in the poetry which he
wrote as laureate of the world of fashion he keeps this out of sight, and
outdoes them all in cynical worldliness. It is only when writing in the
person of a woman--as in the Phyllis or Laodamia of the _Heroides_--that
he allows himself any approach to tenderness. The _Ars Amatoria,_ full as
it is of a not unkindly humour, of worldly wisdom and fine insight, is
perhaps the most immoral poem ever written. The most immoral, not the
most demoralizing: he wrote for an audience for whom morality, apart from
the code of good manners which society required, did not exist; and
wholly free as it is from morbid sentiment, the one great demoralizing
influence over men and women, it may be doubted whether the poem is one
which ever did any reader serious harm, while few works are more
intellectually stimulating within a certain limited range. To readers for
whom its qualities have exhausted or have not acquired their stimulating
force, it merely is tiresome; and this, indeed, is the fate which in the
present age, when wit is not in vogue, has very largely overtaken it.

Interspersed in the _Art of Love_ are a number of stories from the old
mythology, introduced to illustrate the argument, but set out at greater
length than was necessary for that purpose, from the active pleasure it
always gives Ovid to tell a story. When he conceived the plan of his
_Metamorphoses,_ he had recognised this narrative instinct as his special
gift. His tragedy of _Medea_ had remained a single effort in dramatic
form, unless the _Heroides_ can be classed as dramatic monologues. The
_Medea,_ but for two fine single lines, is lost; but all the evidence is
clear that Ovid had no natural turn for dramatic writing, and that it was
merely a clever _tour de force_. In the idea of the _Metamorphoses_ he
found a subject, already treated in more than one Alexandrian poem, that
gave full scope for his narrative gift and his fertile ingenuity. The
result was a poem as long, and almost as unflagging, as the _Odyssey_. A
vast mass of multifarious stories, whose only connection is the casual
fact of their involving or alluding to some transformation of human
beings into stones, trees, plants, beasts, birds, and the like, is cast
into a continuous narrative. The adroitness with which this is done makes
the poem rank as a masterpiece of construction. The atmosphere of
romantic fable in which it is enveloped even gives it a certain
plausibility of effect almost amounting to epic unity. In the fabulous
superhuman element that appears in all the stories, and in their natural
surroundings of wood, or mountain, or sea--always realised with fresh
enjoyment and vivid form and colour--there is something which gives the
same sort of unity of effect as we feel in reading the _Arabian Nights_.
It is not a real world; it is hardly even a world conceived as real; but
it is a world so plausible, so directly appealing to simple instincts and
unclouded senses, above all so completely taken for granted, that the
illusion is, for the time, all but complete. For later ages, the
_Metamorphoses_ became the great textbook of classical mythology; the
legends were understood as Ovid had told them, and were reproduced (as,
for instance, throughout the whole of the painting of the Renaissance) in
the spirit and colour of this Italian story-teller.

For the metre of the _Metamorphoses_ Ovid chose the heroic hexameter, but
used it in a strikingly new and original way. He makes no attempt, as
later poets unsuccessfully did, at reproducing the richness of tone and
intricacy of modulation which it had in the hands of Virgil. Ovid's
hexameter is a thing of his own. It becomes with him almost a new metre--
light, brilliant, and rapid, but with some monotony of cadence, and
without the deep swell that it had, not in Virgil only, but in his
predecessors. The swift, equable movement is admirably adapted to the
matter of the poem, smoothing over the transitions from story to story,
and never allowing a story to pause or flag halfway. Within its limits,
the workmanship is faultless. The style neither rises nor sinks with the
variation of subject. One might almost say that it was without moral
quality. Ovid narrates the treachery of Scylla or the incestuous passion
of Myrrha with the same light and secure touch as he applies to the
charming idyl of Baucis and Philemon or the love-tale of Pyramus and
Thisbe; his interest is in what happened, in the story for the story's
sake. So, likewise, in the rhetorical evolution of his thought, and the
management of his metre, he writes simply as the artist, with the
artistic conscience as his only rule. The rhetorician is as strong in him
as it had been in the _Amores;_ but it is under better control, and
seldom leads him into excesses of bad taste, nor is it so overmastering
as not to allow free play to his better qualities, his kindliness, his
good-humour, his ungrudging appreciation of excellence, in his evolution
of thought--or his play of fancy, if the expression be preferred--he has
an alertness and precision akin to great intellectual qualities; and it
is this, perhaps, which has made him a favourite with so many great men
of letters. Shakespeare himself, in his earlier work, alike the plays and
the poems, writes in the Ovidian manner, and often in what might be
direct imitation of Ovid; the motto from the _Amores_ prefixed to the
_Venus and Adonis_ is not idly chosen. Still more remarkable, because
less superficially evident, is the affinity between Ovid and Milton. At
first sight no two poets, perhaps, could seem less alike. But it is known
that Ovid was one of Milton's favourite poets; and if one reads the
_Metamorphoses_ with an eye kept on _Paradise Lost_, the intellectual
resemblance, in the manner of treatment of thought and language, is
abundantly evident, as well in the general structure of their rhetoric as
in the lapses of taste and obstinate puerilities (_non ignoravit vitia
sua sed amavit_ might be said of Milton also), which come from time to
time in their maturest work.

The _Metamorphoses_ was regarded by Ovid himself as his masterpiece. In
the first impulse of his despair at leaving Rome, he burned his own copy
of the still incomplete poem. But other copies were in existence; and
though he writes afterwards as though it had been published without his
correction and without his consent, we may suspect that it was neither
without his knowledge nor against his will; when he speaks of the _manus
ultima_ as wanting, it is probably a mere piece of harmless affectation
to make himself seem liker the author of the _Aeneid_. The case was
different with the _Fasti_, the other long poem which he worked at side
by side with the _Metamorphoses_. The twelve books of this work, dealing
with the calendar of the twelve months, were also all but complete when
he was banished, and the first six, if not actually published, had, at
all events, got into private circulation. At Tomi he began a revision of
the poem which, apparently, he never completed. The first half of the
poem, prefaced by a fresh dedication to Germanicus, was published, or
republished, after the death of Augustus, to whom, in its earlier form,
it had been inscribed; the second half never reached the public. It
cannot be said that Latin poetry would be much poorer had the first six
books been suppressed also. The student of metrical forms would, indeed,
have lost what is metrically the most dexterous of all Latin poems, and
the archaeologist some curious information as to Roman customs; but, for
other readers, little would be missed but a few of the exquisitely told
stories, like that of Tarquin and Lucretia, or of the Rape of Proserpine,
which vary the somewhat tedious chronicle of astronomical changes and
national festivals.

The poems of the years of Ovid's exile, the _Tristia_ and the _Letters
from Pontus_, are a melancholy record of flagging vitality and failing
powers. His adulation of the Emperor and the imperial family passes all
bounds; it exhausts what would otherwise seem the inexhaustible
copiousness of his vocabulary. The long supplication to Augustus, which
stands by itself as book ii. of the _Tristia_, is the most elaborate and
skilful of these pieces; but those which may be read with the most
pleasure are the letters to his wife, for whom he had a deep affection,
and whom he addresses with a pathos that is quite sincere. As hope of
recall grew fainter, his work failed more and more; the incorrect
language and slovenly versification of some of the _Letters from Pontus_
are in sad contrast to the Ovid of ten years before, and if he went on
writing till the end, it was only because writing had long been a second
nature to him.

Of the extraordinary force and fineness of Ovid's natural genius, there
never have been two opinions; had he but been capable of controlling it,
instead of indulging it, he might have, in Quintilian's opinion, been
second to no Roman poet. In his _Medea_, the critic adds, he did show
some of this self-control; its loss is the more to be lamented. But the
easy good-nature of his own disposition, no less than the whole impulse
of the literary fashion then prevalent, was fatal to the continuous
exercise of such severe self-education: and the man who was so keen and
shrewd in his appreciation of the follies of lovers had all the weakness
of a lover for the faults of his own poetry. The delightful story of the
three lines which his critical friends urged him to erase proves, if
proof were needed, that this weakness was not blindness, and that he was
perfectly aware of the vices of his own work. The child of his time, he
threw all his brilliant gifts unhesitatingly into the scale of new ideas
and new fashions; his "modernity," to use a current term of the present
day, is greater than that of any other ancient author of anything like
his eminence.

    _Prisca iuvent alios, ego me nunc denique natum
        Gratulor: haec aetas moribus apta meis--_

this is his deliberate attitude throughout his life.

Such a spirit has more than once in the history of the arts marked the
point from which their downward course began. _I do not sing the old
things, for the new are far better_, the famous Greek musician Timotheus
had said four centuries earlier, and the decay of Greek music was dated
from that period. But to make any artist, however eminent, responsible
for the decadence of art, is to confuse cause with effect; and the note
of ignominy affixed by Augustus to the _Art of Love_ was as futile as the
action of the Spartan ephor when he cut the strings away from the cithara
of Timotheus. The actual achievement of Ovid was to perfect and
popularise a poetical form of unusual scope and flexibility; to throw a
vivid and lasting life into the world of Graeco-Roman mythology; and,
above all, to complete the work of Cicero and Horace in fixing a certain
ideal of civilised manners for the Latin Empire and for modern Europe. He
was not a poet of the first order; yet few poets of the first order have
done a work of such wide importance.



V.

LIVY.


The Ciceronian age represents on the whole the culmination of Latin
prose, as the Augustan does the culmination of Latin poetry. In the
former field, the purity of the language as it had been used by Caesar
and Cicero could hardly be retained in a period of more diffused culture;
and the influence of the schools of rhetoric, themselves based on
inferior Greek models, became more and more marked. Poetry, too, was for
the time more important than prose, and one result was that prose became
infected with certain qualities of poetical style. The reign of Augustus
includes only one prose writer of the first rank, the historian Titus
Livius.

Though not living like Virgil or Horace in the immediate circle of
Augustus and under direct court patronage, Livy was in friendly relations
with the Emperor and his family, and accepted the new rule with
cordiality, if without much enthusiasm. Of his life, which seems to have
been wholly spent in literary pursuits, little is known. He was born at
Padua in the year of Julius Caesar's first consulship, and had survived
Augustus by three years when he died at the age of seventy-five. In
earlier life he wrote some philosophical dialogues and treatises on
rhetoric which have not been preserved. An allusion in the first book of
his history shows that it was written, or at all events published, after
the first and before the second closing of the temple of Janus by
Augustus, in the years 29 and 25 B.C. For forty years thereafter he
continued this colossal task, which, like the _Decline and Fall_, was
published in parts from time to time. He lived to bring it down as far as
the death of Drusus, the younger son of the Empress Livia, in the year 9
B.C. The division into books, of which there were one hundred and forty-
two in the whole work, is his own; these again were arranged in
_volumina_, or sections issued as separate volumes, and containing a
varying number of books. The division of the work into decads was made by
copyists at a much later period, and was no part of the author's own
plan. Only one-fourth of the whole history has survived the Middle Ages.
This consists of the first, the third, the fourth, and half of the fifth
decad, or books i.-x. and xxi.-xlv. of the work; of the rest we only
possess brief tables of contents, drawn up in the fourth century, not
from the original work but from an abridgment, itself now lost, which was
then in use. The scale of the history is very different in the two
surviving portions. The first decad carries it from the foundation of the
city through the Regal and early Republican periods down to the third
Samnite war, a period of four centuries and a half. The twenty-five
extant books of the third, fourth, and fifth decads cover a period of
fifty years, from the beginning of the second Punic to the conclusion of
the third Macedonian war. This half century, it is true, was second in
importance to none in Roman history. But the scale of the work had a
constant tendency to expand as it approached more modern times, and more
abundant documents; and when he reached his own time, nearly a book was
occupied with the events of each year.

Founded as it was, at least for the earlier periods, upon the works of
preceding annalists, the history of Livy adopted from them the
arrangement by years marked by successive consulates, which was familiar
to all his readers. He even speaks of his own work as _annales_, though
its formal title seems to have been _Histori'_ (or _Libri Historiarum_)
_ab Urbe Condita_. There is no reason to suppose that he intended to
conclude it at any fixed point In a preface to one of the later volumes,
he observed with justifiable pride that he had already satisfied the
desire of fame, and only went on writing because the task of composition
had become a fixed habit, which he could not discontinue without
uneasiness. His fame even in his lifetime was unbounded. He seems to have
made no enemies. The acrid criticism of Asinius Pollio, a purist by
profession, on certain provincialities of his style, was an insignificant
exception to the general chorus of praise. In treading the delicate
ground of the Civil wars his attitude towards the Republican party led
Augustus to tax him half jestingly as a Pompeian; yet Livy lost no favour
either with him or with his more jealous successor. The younger Pliny
relates how a citizen of Cadiz was so fired by his fame that he travelled
the whole way to Rome merely to see him, and as soon as he had seen him
returned home, as though Rome had no other spectacles to offer.

Roman history had hitherto been divided between the annalists and the
writers of personal and contemporary memoirs. Sallust was almost the only
example of the definite historical treatment of a single epoch or episode
of the past. As a rule each annalist set himself the same task, of
compiling, from the work of his predecessors, and such additional
information as he found accessible to him, a general history of the Roman
people from its beginnings, carried down as far towards his own day as he
found time or patience to continue it. Each successive annalist tried to
improve upon previous writers, either in elegance of style or in
copiousness of matter, and so far as he succeeded in the double task his
work replaced those already written. It was not considered unfair to
transcribe whole passages from former annalists, or even to copy their
works with additions and improvements, and bring them out as new and
original histories. The idea of literary property seems, in truth, to be
very much a creation of positive law. When no copyright existed, and when
the circulation of any book was confined within very small limits by the
cost and labour of transcription, the vaguest ideas prevailed, not at
Rome alone, on what we should now regard as the elementary morality of
plagiarism. Virgil himself transferred whole lines and passages, not
merely from earlier, but even from contemporary poets; and in prose
writing, one annalist cut up and reshaped the work of another with as
little hesitation as a mediaeval romance-writer.

In this matter Livy allowed himself full liberty; and his work absorbed,
and in a great measure blotted out, those of his predecessors. In his
general preface he speaks of the two motives which animate new
historians, as the hope that they will throw further light on events, or
the belief that their own art will excel that of a ruder age. The former
he hardly professes to do, at least as regards times anterior to his own;
his hope is that by his pen the great story of the Republic will be told
more impressively, more vividly, in a manner more stimulating to the
reader and more worthy of the subject, than had hitherto been done. This
purpose at least he amply and nobly carried out; nor can it be said to be
a low ideal of the function of history. So far, however, as the office of
the historian is to investigate facts, to get at the exact truth of what
physically happened, or to appreciate the varying degrees of probability
with which that truth can be attained, Livy falls far short of any
respectable ideal. His romantic temper and the ethical bent of his mind
alike indisposed him to set any very great value on facts as such. His
history bears little trace of any independent investigation. Sources for
history lay round him in immense profusion. The enormous collections made
by Varro in every field of antiquarian research were at his hand, but he
does not seem to have used them, still less to have undertaken any
similar labour on his own account. While he never wilfully distorts the
truth, he takes comparatively little pains to disengage it from fables
and inaccuracies. In his account of a battle in Greece he finds that
Valerius Antias puts the number of the enemy killed as inside ten
thousand, while Claudius Quadrigarius says forty thousand. The
discrepancy does not ruffle him, nor even seem to him very important; he
contents himself with an expression of mild surprise that Valerius for
once allows himself to be outstripped in exaggerating numbers. Yet where
Valerius is his only authority or is not contradicted by others, he
accepts his statements, figures and all, without uneasiness. This
instance is typical of his method as a critical--or rather an uncritical
--historian. When his authorities do not disagree, he accepts what they
say without much question. When they do disagree, he has several courses
open to him, and takes one or another according to his fancy at the
moment. Sometimes he counts heads and follows the majority of his
authors; sometimes he adopts the account of the earliest; often he tries
to combine or mediate between discordant stories; when this is not easy,
he chooses the account which is most superficially probable or most
dramatically impressive. He even bases a choice on the ground that the
story he adopts shows Roman statesmanship or virtue in a more favourable
light, though he finds some of the inventions of Roman vanity too much
for him to swallow. Throughout he tends to let his own preferences decide
whether or not a story is true. _In rebus tam antiquis si quae similia
veri sint pro veris accipiantur_ is the easy canon which he lays down for
early and uncertain events. Even when original documents of great value
were extant, he refrains from citing them if they do not satisfy his
taste. During the second Punic war a hymn to Juno had been written by
Livius Andronicus for a propitiatory festival. It was one of the most
celebrated documents of early Latin; but he refuses to insert it, on the
ground that to the taste of his own day it seemed rude and harsh. Yet as
a historian, and not a collector of materials for history, he may plead
the privilege of the artist. The modern compromise by which documents are
cited in notes without being inserted in the text of histories had not
then been invented; and notes, even when as in the case of Gibbon's they
have a substantive value as literature, are an adjunct to the history
itself, rather than any essential part of it. A more serious charge is,
that when he had trustworthy authorities to follow, he did not appreciate
their value. In his account of the Macedonian wars, he often follows
Polybius all but word for word, but apparently without realising the
Greek historian's admirable accuracy and judgment. Such appreciation only
comes of knowledge; and Livy lacked the vast learning and the keen
critical insight of Gibbon, to whom in many respects he has a strong
affinity. His imperfect knowledge of the military art and of Roman law
often confuses his narrative of campaigns and constitutional struggles,
and gives too much reason to the charge of negligence brought against him
by that clever and impudent critic, the Emperor Caligula.

Yet, in spite of all his inaccuracies of detail, and in spite of the
graver defect of insufficient historical perspective, which makes him
colour the whole political development of the Roman state with the ideas
of his own time, the history of Rome as narrated by Livy is essentially
true and vital, because based on a large insight into the permanent
qualities of human nature. The spirit in which he writes history is well
illustrated by the speeches. These, in a way, set the tone of the whole
work. He does not affect in them to reproduce the substance of words
actually spoken, or even to imitate the tone of the time in which the
speech is laid. He uses them as a vivid and dramatic method of portraying
character and motive. The method, in its brilliance and its truth to
permanent facts, is like that of Shakespeare's _Coriolanus_. Such truth,
according to the celebrated aphorism in Aristotle's _Poetics_, is the
truth of poetry rather than of history: and the history of Livy, in this,
as in his opulent and coloured diction, has some affinity to poetry. Yet,
when such insight into motive and such vivid creative imagination are
based on really large knowledge and perfect sincerity, a higher
historical truth may be reached than by the most laborious accumulation
of documents and sifting of evidence.

Livy's humane and romantic temper prevented him from being a political
partisan, even if political partisanship had been consistent with the
view he took of his own art. In common with most educated Romans of his
time, he idealised the earlier Republic, and spoke of his own age as
fatally degenerate. But this is a tendency common to writers of all
periods. He frequently pauses to deplore the loss of the ancient
qualities by which Rome had grown great--simplicity, equity, piety,
orderliness. In his remarkable preface he speaks of himself as turning to
historical study in order to withdraw his mind from the evils of his own
age, and the spectacle of an empire tottering to the fall under the
weight of its own greatness and the vices of its citizens. "Into no
State," he continues, "were greed and luxury so long in entering; in
these late days avarice has grown with wealth, and the frantic pursuit of
pleasure leads fast towards a collapse of the whole social fabric; in our
ever-accelerating downward course we have already reached a point where
our vices and their remedies are alike intolerable." But his idealisation
of earlier ages was that of the romantic student rather than the
reactionary politician. He is always on the side of order, moderation,
conciliation; there was nothing politically dangerous to the imperial
government in his mild republicanism. He shrinks instinctively from
violence wherever he meets it, whether on the side of the populace or of
the governing class; he cannot conceive why people should not be
reasonable, and live in peace under a moderate and settled government.
This was the temper which was welcome at court, even in men of Pompeian
sympathies.

So, too, Livy's attitude towards the established religion and towards the
beliefs of former times has the same sentimental tinge. The moral reform
attempted by Augustus had gone hand in hand with an elaborate revival and
amplification of religious ceremony. Outward conformity at least was
required of all citizens. _Expedit esse deos, et ut expedit esse
putemus;_ "the existence of the gods is a matter of public policy, and we
must believe it accordingly," Ovid had said, in the most daring and
cynical of his poems. The old associations, the antiquarian charm, that
lingered round this faded ancestral belief, appealed strongly to the
romantic patriotism of the historian. His own religion was a sort of mild
fatalism; he pauses now and then to draw rather commonplace reflections
on the blindness of men destined to misfortune, or the helplessness of
human wisdom and foresight against destiny. But at the same time he
gravely chronicles miracles and portents, not so much from any belief in
their truth as because they are part of the story. The fact that they had
ceased to be regarded seriously in his own time, and were accordingly in
a great measure ceasing to happen, he laments as one among many
declensions from older and purer fashions.

As a master of style, Livy is in the first rank of historians. He marks
the highest point which the enlarged and enriched prose of the Augustan
age reached just before it began to fall into decadence. It is no longer
the famous _urbanus sermo_ of the later Republic, the pure and somewhat
austere language of a governing class. The influence of Virgil is already
traceable in Livy, in actual phrases whose use had hitherto been confined
to poetry, and also in a certain warmth of colouring unknown to earlier
prose. To Augustan purists this relaxation of the language seemed
provincial and unworthy of the severe tradition of the best Latin; and it
was this probably, rather than any definite novelties in grammar or
vocabulary, that made Asinius Pollio accuse Livy of "Patavinity." But in
the hands of Livy the new style, by its increased volume and flexibility,
is as admirably suited to a work of great length and scope as the older
had been for the purposes of Caesar or Sallust. It is drawn, so to speak,
with a larger pattern; and the added richness of tone enables him to
advance without flagging through the long and intricate narrative where a
simpler diction must necessarily have grown monotonous, as one more
florid would be cloying. In the earlier books we seem to find the manner
still a little uncertain and tentative, and a little trammelled by the
traditional manner of the older annalists; as he proceeds in his work he
falls into his stride, and advances with a movement as certain as that of
Gibbon, and claimed by Roman critics as comparable in ease and grace to
that of Herodotus. The periodic structure of Latin prose which had been
developed by Cicero is carried by him to an even greater complexity, and
used with a greater daring and freedom; a sort of fine carelessness in
detail enhancing the large and continuous excellence of his broad effect.
Even where he copies Polybius most closely he invariably puts life and
grace into his cumbrous Greek. For the facts of the war with Hannibal we
can rely more safely on the latter; but it is in the picture of Livy that
we see it live before us. His imagination never fails to kindle at great
actions; it is he, more than any other author, who has impressed the
great soldiers and statesmen of the Republic on the imagination of the
world.

    _Quin Decios Drusosque procul, saevumque securi
    Aspice Torquatum, et referentem signa Camilium....
    Quis te, magne Cato, tacitum, aut te, Cosse, relinquat?
    Quis Gracchi genus, aut geminos, duo fulmina belli.
    Scipiadas, cladem Libyae, parvoque potentem
    Fabricium, vel te sulco, Serrane, serentem?--

his whole work is a splendid expansion of that vision of Rome which
passes before the eyes of Aeneas in the Fortunate Fields of the
underworld. In the description of great events, no less than of great
characters and actions, he rises and kindles with his subject. His eye
for dramatic effect is extraordinary. The picture of the siege and
storming of Saguntum, with which he opens the stately narrative of the
war between Rome and Hannibal, is an instance of his instinctive skill;
together with the masterly sketch of the character of Hannibal and the
description of the scene in the Carthaginian senate-house at the
reception of the Roman ambassadors, it forms a complete prelude to the
whole drama of the war. His great battle-pieces, too, in spite of his
imperfect grasp of military science, are admirable as works of art. Among
others may be specially instanced, as masterpieces of execution, the
account of the victory over Antiochus at Magnesia in the thirty-seventh
book, and, still more, that in the forty-fourth of the fiercely contested
battle of Pydna, the desperate heroism of the Pelignian cohort, and the
final and terrible destruction of the Macedonian phalanx.

Yet, with all his admiration for great men and deeds, what most of all
kindles Livy's imagination and sustains his enthusiasm is a subject
larger, and to him hardly more abstract, the Roman Commonwealth itself,
almost personified as a continuous living force. This is almost the only
matter in which patriotism leads him to marked partiality. The epithet
"Roman" signifies to him all that is high and noble. That Rome can do no
wrong is a sort of article of faith with him, and he has always a
tendency to do less than justice to her enemies. The two qualities of
eloquence and candour are justly ascribed to him by Tacitus, but from the
latter some deduction must be made when he is dealing with foreign
relations and external diplomacy. Without any intention to falsify
history, he is sometimes completely carried away by his romantic
enthusiasm for Roman statesmanship.

This canonisation of Rome is Livy's largest and most abiding achievement.
The elder Seneca, one of his ablest literary contemporaries, observes, in
a fine passage, that when historians reach in their narrative the death
of some great man, they give a summing-up of his whole life as though it
were an eulogy pronounced over his grave. Livy, he adds, the most candid
of all historians in his appreciation of genius, does this with unusual
grace and sympathy. The remark may bear a wider scope; for the whole of
his work is animated by a similar spirit towards the idealised
Commonwealth, to the story of whose life he devoted his splendid literary
gifts. As the title of _Gesta Populi Romani_ was given to the _Aeneid_ on
its appearance, so the _Historiae ab Urbe Condita_ might be called, with
no less truth, a funeral eulogy--_consummatio totius vitae et quasi
funebris laudatio_--delivered, by the most loving and most eloquent of
her children, over the grave of the great Republic.



VI.

THE LESSER AUGUSTANS.


The impulse given to Latin literature by the great poets and prose
writers of the first century before Christ ebbed slowly away. The end of
the so-called Golden Age may be conveniently fixed in the year which saw
the death of Livy and Ovid; but the smaller literature of the period
suffered no violent breach of continuity, and one can hardly name any
definite date at which the Silver Age begins. Until the appearance of a
new school of writers in the reign of Nero, the history of Roman
literature is a continuation of the Augustan tradition. But it is
continued by feeble hands, and dwindles away more and more under several
unfavourable influences. Among these influences may be specially noted
the growing despotism of the Empire, which had already become grave in
the later years of Augustus, and under his successors reached a point
which made free writing, like free speech, impossible; the perpetually
increasing importance of the schools of declamation, which forced a
fashion of overstrained and unnatural rhetoric on both prose and verse;
and the paralysing effect of the great Augustan writers themselves, which
led poetry at all events to lose itself in imitations of imitations
within an arbitrary and rigid limit of subjects and methods.

In mere amount of production, however, literature remained active during
the first half-century of the Christian era. That far the greater part of
it has perished is probably a matter for congratulation rather than
regret; even of what survives there is a good deal that we could well do
without, and such of it as is valuable is so rather from incidental than
essential reasons. _Scribimus indocti doctique poemata passim_, Horace
had written in half-humorous bitterness; the crowd of names that flit
like autumn leaves through the pages of Ovid represent probably but a
small part of the immense production. Among the works of Ovid himself
were included at various times poems by other contemporary hands--some,
like the _Consolatio ad Liviam_, and the elegy on the _Nut-tree_, without
any author's name; others of known authorship, like the continuation by
Sabinus of Ovid's _Heroides_, in the form of replies addressed to the
heroines by their lovers. Heroic poetry, too, both on mythological and
historical subjects, continued to be largely written; but few of the
writers are more than names. Cornelius Severus, author of an epic on the
civil wars, gave in his earlier work promise of great excellence, which
was but imperfectly fulfilled. The fine and stately passage on the death
of Cicero, quoted by Seneca, fully reaches the higher level of post-
Virgilian style. Two other poets of considerable note at the time, but
soon forgotten after their death, were Albinovanus Pedo and Rabirius. The
former, besides a _Theseid_, wrote a narrative and descriptive poem in
the epic manner, on the northern campaigns of Germanicus, the latter was
the author of an epic on the conflict with Antonius, which was kept alive
for a short time by court favour; the stupid and amiable aide-de-camp of
Tiberius, Velleius Paterculus, no doubt repeating what he heard in
official circles, speaks of him and Virgil as the two most eminent poets
of the age! Tiberius himself, though he chiefly wrote in Greek,
occasionally turned off a copy of Latin verses; and his nephew
Germanicus, a man of much learning and culture, composed a Latin version
of the famous _Phaenomena_ of Aratus, which shows uncommon skill and
talent. Another, and a more important work of the same type, but with
more original power, and less a mere adaptation of Greek originals, is
the _Astronomica,_ ascribed on doubtful manuscript evidence to an
otherwise unknown Gaius or Marcus Manilius. This poem, from the allusions
in it to the destruction of the three legions under Varus, and the
retirement of Tiberius in Rhodes, must have been begun in the later years
of Augustus, though probably not completed till after his death. As
extant it consists of five books, the last being incomplete; the full
plan seems to have included a sixth, and would have extended the work to
about five thousand lines, or two-thirds of the length of the _De Rerum
Natura_. Next to the poem of Lucretius it is, therefore, much the largest
in bulk of extant Latin didactic poems. The oblivion into which it has
fallen is, perhaps, a little hard if one considers how much Latin poetry
of no greater merit continues to have a certain reputation, and even now
and then to be read. The author is not a great poet; but he is a writer
of real power both in thought and style. The versification of his
_Astronomica_ shows a high mastery of technique. The matter is often
prosaically handled, and often seeks relief from prosaic handling in ill-
judged flights of rhetoric; but throughout we feel a strong and original
mind, with a large power over lucid and forcible expression. In the
prologue to the third book he rejects for himself the common material for
hexameter poems, subjects from the Greek heroic cycle, or from Roman
history. His total want of narrative gift, as shown by the languor and
flatness of the elaborate episode in which he attempts to tell the story
of Perseus and Andromeda, would have been sufficient reason for this
decision; but he justifies it, in lines of much grace and feeling, as due
to his desire to take a line of his own, and make a fresh if a small
conquest for Latin poetry.

    _Omnis ad accessus Heliconis semita trita est,
    Et iam confusi manant de fonitibus amnes
    Nec capiunt haustum, turbamque ad nota ruentem:
    Integra quaeramus rorantes prata per herbas
    Undamque occultis meditantem murmur in antris._

In a passage of nobler and more sincere feeling, he breaks off his
catalogue of the signs of the Zodiac to vindicate the arduous study of
abstract science--

    _"Multum" inquis "tenuemque iubes me ferre laborem
    Cernere cum facili lucem ratione viderer."
    Quod quaeris, Deus est. Coneris scandere caelum
    Fataque fatali genitus cognoscere lege
    Et transire tuum pectus, mundoque potiri:
    Pro pretio labor est, nec sunt immunia tanta._

Wherever one found this language used, in prose or verse, it would be
memorable. The thought is not a mere text of the schools; it is strongly
and finely conceived, and put in a form that anticipates the ardent and
lofty manner of Lucan, without his perpetual overstrain of expression.
Other passages, showing the same mental force, occur in the
_Astronomica_; one might instance the fine passage on the power of the
human eye to take in, within its tiny compass, the whole immensity of the
heavens; or another, suggested by the mention of the constellation Argo,
on the influence of sea-power on history, where the inevitable and well-
worn instances of Salamis and Actium receive a fresh life from the
citation of the destruction of the Athenian fleet in the bay of Syracuse,
and the great naval battles of the first Punic war. Or again, the lines
with which he opens the fourth book, weakened as their effect is by what
follows them, a tedious enumeration of events showing the power of
destiny over human fortunes, are worthy of a great poet:--

    _Quid tam sollicitis vitam consumimus annis,
    Torquemurque metu caecaque cupidine rerum?
    Acternisque senes curis, dum quaerimus aevum
    Perdimus, et nullo votorum fine beati
    Victuros agimus semper, nec vivimus unquam?_

These passages have been cited from the _Astronomica_ because, to all but
a few professional students of Latin, the poem is practically unknown.
The only other poet who survives from the reign of Tiberius is in a very
different position, being so well known and so slight in literary quality
as to make any quotations superfluous. Phaedrus, a Thracian freedman
belonging to the household of Augustus, published at this time the well-
known collection of _Fables_ which, like the lyrics of the pseudo-
Anacreon, have obtained from their use as a school-book a circulation
much out of proportion to their merit. Their chief interest is as the
last survival of the _urbanus sermo_ in Latin poetry. They are written in
iambic senarii, in the fluent and studiously simple Latin of an earlier
period, not without occasional vulgarisms, but with a total absence of
the turgid rhetoric which was coming into fashion. The _Fables_ are the
last utterance made by the speech of Terence: it is singular that this
intimately Roman style should have begun and ended with two authors of
servile birth and foreign blood. But the patronage of literature was now
passing out of the hands of statesmen. Terence had moved in the circle of
the younger Scipio; one book of the _Fables_ of Phaedrus is dedicated to
Eutychus, the famous chariot-driver of the Greens in the reign of
Caligula. It was not long before Phaedrus was in use as a school-book;
but his volume was apparently regarded as hardly coming within the
province of serious literature. It is ignored by Seneca and not mentioned
by Quintilian. But we must remind ourselves that the most celebrated
works, whether in prose or verse, do not of necessity have the widest
circulation or the largest influence. Among the poems produced in the
first ten years of this century the _Original Poems_ of Jane and Ann
Taylor are hardly if at all mentioned in handbooks of English literature;
but to thousands of readers they were more familiar than the contemporary
verse of Wordsworth or Coleridge or even of Scott. In their terse and
pure English, the language which is transmitted from one generation to
another through the continuous tradition of the nursery, they may remind
us of the _Fables_ of Phaedrus.

The collection, as it has reached us, consists of nearly a hundred
pieces. Of these three-fourths are fables proper; being not so much
translations from the Greek of Aesop as versions of the traditional
stories, written and unwritten, which were the common inheritance of the
Aryan peoples. Mixed up with these are a number of stories which are not
strictly fables; five of them are about Aesop himself, and there are also
stories told of Simonides, Socrates, and Menander. Two are from the
history of his own time, one relating a grim jest of the Emperor
Tiberius, and the other a domestic tragedy which had been for a while the
talk of the town in the previous reign. There are also, besides the
prologues and epilogues of the several books, a few pieces in which
Phaedrus speaks in his own person,[10] defending himself against
detractors with an acrid tone which recalls the Terentian prologues. The
body of fables current in the Middle Ages is considered by the most
recent investigators to descend from the collection of Phaedrus, though
probably supplemented from the Greek collection independently formed by
Babrius about the same period.

Though Livy is the single great historian of the Augustan age, there was
throughout this period a profuse production of memoirs and commentaries,
as well as of regular histories. Augustus wrote thirteen books of memoirs
of his own life down to the pacification of the Empire at the close of
the Cantabrian war. These are lost; but the _Index Rerum a se Gestarum,_
a brief epitome of his career, which he composed as a sort of epitaph on
himself, is extant. This document was engraved on plates of bronze
affixed to the imperial mausoleum by the Tiber, and copies of it were
inscribed on the various temples dedicated to him in many provincial
cities after his death. It is one of these copies, engraved on the
vestibule wall of the temple of Augustus and Rome at Ancyra in Galatia,
which still exists with inconsiderable gaps. His two principal ministers,
Maecenas and Agrippa, also composed memoirs. The most important work of
the latter hardly, however, falls within the province of literature; it
was a commentary on the great geographical survey of the Empire carried
out under his supervision.

Gaius Asinius Pollio, already mentioned as a critic and tragedian, was
also the author of the most important historical work of the Augustan age
after Livy's. This was a _History of the Civil Wars,_ in seventeen books,
from the formation of the first triumvirate in 60 B.C. to the battle of
Philippi. Though Pollio was a practised rhetorician, his narrative style
was simple and austere. The fine ode addressed to him by Horace during
the composition of this history seems to hint that in Horace's opinion--
or perhaps, rather, in that of Horace's masters--Pollio would find a
truer field for his great literary ability in tragedy. But apart from its
artistic quality, the work of Pollio was of the utmost value as giving
the view held of the Civil wars by a trained administrator of the highest
rank. It was one of the main sources used by Appian and Plutarch, and its
almost total loss is matter of deep regret.

An author of less eminence, and belonging rather to the class of
encyclopedists than of historians, is Pompeius Trogus, the descendant of
a family of Narbonese Gaul, which had for two generations enjoyed the
Roman citizenship. Besides works on zoology and botany, translated or
adapted from the Greek of Aristotle and Theophrastus, Trogus wrote an
important _History of the World_, exclusive of the Roman Empire, which
served as, and may have been designed to be, a complement to that of
Livy. The original work, which extended to forty-four books, is not
extant; but an abridgment, which was executed in the age of the Antonines
by one Marcus Junianus Justinus, and has fortunately escaped the fate
which overtook the abridgment of Livy made about the same time, preserves
the main outlines and much of the actual form of the original. Justin,
whose individual talent was but small, had the good sense to leave the
diction of his original as far as possible unaltered. The pure and
vivacious style, and the evident care and research which Trogus himself,
or the Greek historians whom he follows, had bestowed on the material,
make the work one of very considerable value. Its title, _Historiae
Philippicae_, is borrowed from that of a history conceived on a somewhat
similar plan by Theopompus, the pupil of Isocrates, in or after the reign
of Alexander the Great; and it followed Theopompus in making the
Macedonian Empire the core round which the history of the various
countries included in or bordering upon it was arranged.

Gaius Velleius Paterculus, a Roman officer, who after passing with credit
through high military appointments, entered the general administrative
service of the Empire, and rose to the praetorship, wrote, in the reign
of Tiberius, an abridgment of Roman history in two books, which hardly
rises beyond the mark of the military man who dabbles in letters. The
pretentiousness of his style is partly due to the declining taste of the
period, partly to an idea of his own that he could write in the manner of
Sallust. It alternates between a sort of laboured sprightliness and a
careless conversational manner full of endless parentheses. Yet Velleius
had two real merits; the eye of the trained soldier for character, and an
unaffected, if not a very intelligent, interest in literature. Where he
approaches his own times, his servile attitude towards all the members of
the imperial family, and towards Sejanus, who was still first minister to
Tiberius when the book was published, makes him almost valueless as a
historian; but in the earlier periods his observations are often just and
pointed; and he seems to have been almost the first historian who
included as an essential part of his work some account of the more
eminent writers of his country. A still lower level of aim and attainment
is shown in another work of the same date as that of Velleius, the nine
books of historical anecdotes, _Facta et Dicta Memorabilia,_ by Valerius
Maximus, whose turgid and involved style is not redeemed by any
originality of thought or treatment.

The study of archaeology, both on its linguistic and material sides, was
carried on in the Augustan age with great vigour, though no single name
is comparable to that of Varro for extent and variety of research. One of
the most eminent and copious writers on these subjects was Gaius Julius
Hyginus, a Spanish freed man of Augustus, who made him principal keeper
of the Palatine library. He was a pupil of the most learned Greek
grammarian of the age, Cornelius Alexander Polyhistor, and an intimate
acquaintance of Ovid. Of his voluminous works on geography, history,
astrology, agriculture, and poetry, all are lost but two treatises on
mythology, which in their present form are of a much later date, and are
at best only abridged and corrupted versions, if (as many modern critics
are inclined to think) they are not wholly the work of some author of the
second or third century. Hyginus was also one of the earliest
commentators on Virgil; he possessed among his treasures a manuscript of
the _Georgics,_ which came from Virgil's own house, though it was not
actually written by his hand; and many of his annotations and criticisms
on the _Aeneid_ are preserved by Aulus Gellius and later commentators. A
little later, in the reigns of Tiberius and Claudius, Virgilian criticism
was carried on by Quintus Remmius Palaemon of Vicenza, the most
fashionable teacher in the capital, and the author of a famous Latin
grammar on which all subsequent ones were more or less based. Perhaps the
most distinguished of Augustan scholars was another equally celebrated
teacher, Marcus Verrius Flaccus, who was chosen by Augustus as tutor for
his two grandsons, and thenceforward held his school in the imperial
residence on the Palatine. His lexicon, entitled _De Verborum
Significatu_, was a rich treasury of antiquarian research: such parts of
it as survive in the abridgments made from it in the second and eighth
centuries, by Sextus Pompeius Festus and Paulus Diaconus, are still among
our most valuable sources for the study of early Latin language and
institutions. The more practical side of science in the same period was
ably represented by Aulus Cornelius Celsus, the compiler of an
encyclopedia which included comprehensive treatises not only on oratory,
jurisprudence, and philosophy, but on the arts of war, agriculture, and
medicine. The eight books dealing with this last subject are the only
part of the work that has been preserved. This treatise, which is written
in a pure, simple, and elegant Latin, became a standard work. It was one
of the earliest books printed in the fifteenth century, and remained a
text-book for medical students till within living memory. Medical science
had then reached, in the hands of its leading professors, a greater
perfection than it regained till the eighteenth century. Celsus, though
not, so far as is known, the author of any important discovery or
improvement, had fully mastered a system which even then was highly
complicated, and takes rank by his extensive and accurate knowledge, as
well as by his rare literary skill, with the highest names in his
profession. That with his eminent medical acquirement he should have been
able to deal adequately with so many other subjects as well, has long
been a subject of perplexity. The cold censure of Quintilian, who refers
to him slightly as "a man of moderate ability," may be principally aimed
at the treatise on rhetoric, which formed a section of his encyclopedia.
Columella, writing in the next age, speaks of him as one of the two
leading authorities on agriculture; and he is also quoted as an authority
of some value on military tactics. Yet we cannot suppose that the
encyclopedist, however adequate his treatment of one or even more
subjects, would not lay himself open in others to the censure of the
specialist. It seems most reasonable to suppose that Celsus was one of a
class which is not, after all, very uncommon--doctors of eminent
knowledge and skill in their own art, who at the same time are men of
wide culture and far-ranging practical interests.

In striking contrast to Celsus as regards width of knowledge and literary
skill, though no less famous in the history of his own art, is his
contemporary, the celebrated architect Vitruvius Pollio. The ten books
_De Architectura,_ dedicated to Augustus about the year 14 B.C., are the
single important work on classical architecture which has come down from
the ancient world, and, as such, have been the object of continuous
professional study from the Renaissance down to the present day. But
their reputation is not due to any literary merit. Vitruvius, however
able as an architect, was a man of little general knowledge, and far from
handy with his pen. His style varies between immoderate diffuseness and
obscure brevity; sometimes he is barely intelligible, and he never writes
with grace. Where in his introductory chapters or elsewhere he ventures
beyond his strict province, his writing is that of a half-educated man
who has lost simplicity without acquiring skill.

Among the innumerable rhetoricians of this age one only requires formal
notice, Lucius Annaeus Seneca of Cordova, the father of the famous
philosopher, and the grandfather of the poet Lucan. His long life reached
from before the outbreak of war between Caesar and Pompeius till after
the death of Tiberius. His only extant work, a collection of themes
treated in the schools of rhetoric, was written in his old age, after the
fall of Sejanus, and bears witness to the amazing power of memory which
he tells us himself was, when in its prime, absolutely unique. How much
of his life was spent at Rome is uncertain. As a young man he had heard
all the greatest orators of the time except Cicero; and up to the end of
his life he could repeat word for word and without effort whole passages,
if not whole speeches, to which he had listened many years before. His
ten books of _Controversiae_ are only extant in a mutilated form, which
comprises thirty-five out of seventy-four themes; to these is prefixed a
single book of _Suasoriae_, which is also imperfect. The work is a mine
of information for the history of rhetoric under Augustus and Tiberius,
and incidentally includes many interesting quotations, anecdotes, and
criticisms. But we feel in reading it that we have passed definitely away
from the Golden Age. Yet once more "they have forgotten to speak the
Latin tongue at Rome." The Latinity of the later Empire is as distinct
from that of the Augustan age as this last is from the Latinity of the
Republic. Seneca, it is true, was not an Italian by birth; but it is just
this influx of the provinces into literature, which went on under the
early Empire with continually accelerating force, that determined what
type the new Latinity should take. Gaul, Spain, and Africa are henceforth
side by side with Italy, and Italy herself sinks towards the level of a
province. Within thirty years of the death of the elder Seneca "the fatal
secret of empire, that Emperors could be made elsewhere than at Rome,"
was discovered by the Spanish and German legions; of hardly less moment
was the other discovery, that Latin could be written in another than the
Roman manner. In literature no less than in politics the discovery meant
the final breaking up of the old world, and the slow birth of a new one
through alternate torpors and agonies. It might already have been said of
Rome, in the words of a poet of four hundred years later, that she had
made a city of what had been a world. But in this absorption of the world
into a single citizenship, the city itself was ceasing to be a world of
its own; and with the self-centred _urbs_ passed away the _urbanus
sermo,_ that austere and noble language which was the finest flower of
her civilisation.



III

THE EMPIRE.



I

THE ROME OF NERO: SENECA, LUCAN, PETRONIUS


The later years of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, while they brought about
the complete transformation of the government into an absolute monarchy,
also laid the foundations for that reign of the philosophers which had
been dreamed of by Plato, and which has never been so nearly realised as
it was in Rome during the second century after Christ. The Stoical
philosophy, passing beyond the limits of the schools to become at once a
religious creed and a practical code of morals for everyday use,
penetrated deeply into the life of Rome. At first associated with the
aristocratic opposition to the imperial government, it passed through a
period of persecution which only strengthened and consolidated its
growth. The final struggle took place under Domitian, whose edict of the
year 94, expelling all philosophers from Rome, was followed two years
afterwards by his assassination and the establishment, for upwards of
eighty years, of a government deeply imbued with the principles of
Stoicism.

Of the men who set this revolution in motion by their writings, the
earliest and the most distinguished was Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the son of
the rhetorician. Though only of the second rank as a classic, he is a
figure of very great importance in the history of human thought from the
work he did in the exposition of the new creed. As a practical exponent
of morals, he stands, with Plutarch, at the head of all Greek and Roman
writers.

The life of Seneca was one of singularly dramatic contrasts and
vicissitudes. He was born in the year 4 B.C., at Cordova, where, at a
somewhat advanced age, his father had married Helvia, a lady of high
birth, and brought up in the strictest family traditions. Through the
influence of his mother's family (her sister had married Vitrasius
Pollio, who for sixteen years was viceroy of Egypt), the way was easy to
him for advancement in the public service. But delicate health, which
continued throughout his life, kept him as a young man from taking more
than a nominal share in administrative work. He passed into the senate
through the quaestorship, and became a well-known figure at court during
the reign of Caligula. On the accession of Claudius, he was banished to
Corsica at the instance of the Empress Messalina, on the charge of being
the favoured lover of Julia Livilla, Caligula's youngest sister. Whether
the scandal which connected his name with hers, or with that of her
sister Agrippina, had any other foundation than the prurient gossip which
raged round all the members of the imperial family, may well be doubted;
but when Agrippina married Claudius, after the downfall and execution of
Messalina seven years later, she recalled him from exile, obtained his
nomination to the quaestorship, and appointed him tutor to her son
Domitius Nero, then a boy of ten. The influence gained by Seneca, an
accomplished courtier and a clever man of the world, as well as a
brilliant scholar, over his young pupil was for a long time almost
unbounded; and when Nero became Emperor at the age of seventeen, Seneca,
in conjunction with his close friend, Afranius Burrus, commander of the
imperial guards, became practically the administrator of the Empire. His
philosophy was not one which rejected wealth or power; a fortune of three
million pounds may have been amassed without absolute dishonesty, or even
forced upon him, as he pleads himself, by the lavish generosity of his
pupil; but there can be no doubt that in indulging the weaknesses and
passions of Nero, Seneca went far beyond the limits, not only of honour,
but of ordinary prudence. The mild and enlightened administration of the
earlier years of the new reign, the famous _quinquennium Neronis_, which
was looked back to afterwards as a sort of brief golden age, may indeed
be ascribed largely to Seneca's influence; but this influence was based
on an excessive indulgence of Nero's caprices, which soon worked out its
own punishment. His consent to the murder of Agrippina was the death-blow
to his influence for good, or to any self-respect that he may till then
have retained; the death of Burrus left him without support; and, by
retiring into private life and formally offering to make over his whole
fortune to the Emperor, he did not long delay his fate. In the year 65,
on the pretext of complicity in the conspiracy of Piso, he was commanded
to commit suicide, and obeyed with that strange mixture of helplessness
and heroism with which the orders of the master of the world were then
accepted as a sort of inevitable law of nature.

The philosophical writings of Seneca were extremely voluminous; and
though a large number of them are lost, he is still one of the bulkiest
of ancient authors. They fall into three main groups: formal treatises on
ethics; moral letters (_epistolae morales_), dealing in a less continuous
way with the same general range of subjects; and writings on natural
philosophy, from the point of view of the Stoical system. The whole of
these are, however, animated by the same spirit; to the Stoical
philosophy, physics were merely a branch of ethics, and a study to be
pursued for the sake of moral edification, not of reaching truth by
accurate observation or research. The discussions of natural phenomena
are mere texts for religious meditations; and though the eight books of
_Naturales Quaestiones_ were used as a text-book of physical science in
the Middle Ages, they are totally without any scientific value. So, too,
the twenty books of moral letters, nominally addressed to Lucilius, the
procurator of Sicily, merely represent a slight variation of method from
the more formal treatises, _On Anger, On Clemency, On Consolation, On
Peace of Mind, On the Shortness of Life, On Giving and Receiving
Favours_, which are the main substance of Seneca's writings.

As a moral writer, Seneca stands deservedly high. Though infected with
the rhetorical vices of the age, his treatises are full of striking and
often gorgeous eloquence, and in their combination of high thought with
deep feeling, have rarely, if at all, been surpassed. The rhetorical
manner was so essentially part of Seneca's nature, that the warm
colouring and perpetual mannerism of his language does not imply any
insincerity or want of earnestness. In spite of the laboured style, there
is no failure either in lucidity or in force, and even where the rhetoric
is most profuse, it seldom is without a solid basis of thought. "It would
not be easy," says a modern scholar, who was himself averse to all
ornament of diction, and deeply penetrated with the spirit of Stoicism,
"to name any modern writer who has treated on morality and has said so
much that is practically good and true, or has treated the matter in so
attractive a way."

In the moral writings we have the picture of Seneca the philosopher;
Seneca the courtier is less attractively presented in the curious
pamphlet called the _Apocolocyntosis_, a silly and spiteful attack on the
memory of the Emperor Claudius, written to make the laughter of an
afternoon at the court of Nero. The gross bad taste of this satire is
hardly relieved by any great wit in the treatment, and the reputation of
the author would stand higher if it had not survived the occasion for
which it was written.

Among Seneca's extant works are also included nine tragedies, composed in
imitation of the Greek, upon the well-worn subjects of the epic cycle. At
what period of his life they were written cannot be ascertained. As a
rule, only young authors had courage enough to attempt the discredited
task of flogging this dead horse; but it is not improbable that these
dramas were written by Seneca in mature life, in deference to his
imperial pupil's craze for the stage. All the rhetorical vices of his
prose are here exaggerated. The tragedies are totally without dramatic
life, consisting merely of a series of declamatory speeches, in correct
but monotonous versification, interspersed with choruses, which only
differ from the speeches by being written in lyric metres instead of the
iambic. To say that the tragedies are without merit would be an
overstatement, for Seneca, though no poet, remained even in his poetry an
extremely able man of letters and an accomplished rhetorician. His
declamation comes in the same tones from all his puppets; but it is often
grandiose, and sometimes really fine. The lines with which the curtain
falls in his _Medea_ remind one, by their startling audacity, of Victor
Hugo in his most Titanic vein. As the only extant Latin tragedies, these
pieces had a great effect upon the early drama of the sixteenth century
in England and elsewhere. In the well-known verses prefixed to the first
folio Shakespeare, Jonson calls on "him of Cordova dead," in the same
breath with Aeschylus and Euripides; and long after the Jacobean period
the false tradition remained which, by putting these lifeless copies on
the same footing as their great originals, perplexed and stultified
literary criticism, much as the criticism of classical art was confused
by an age which drew no distinction between late Graeco-Roman sculpture
and the finest work of Praxiteles or Pheidias.

By far the most brilliant poet of the Neronian age was Seneca's nephew,
Marcus Annaeus Lucanus. His father, Annaeus Mela, the younger brother of
the philosopher, is known chiefly through his more distinguished son; an
interesting but puzzling notice in a life of Lucan speaks of him as
famous at Rome "from his pursuit of the quiet life." This may imply
refusal of some great office when his elder brother was practically ruler
of the Empire; whatever stirrings of ambition he suppressed broke out
with accumulated force in his son. Lucan's short life was one of feverish
activity. At twenty-one he made his first public sensation by the
recitation, in the theatre of Pompeius, of a panegyric on Nero, who had
already murdered his own mother, but had not yet broken with the poet's
uncle. Soon afterwards, he was advanced to the quaestorship, and a seat
in the college of Augurs: but his brilliant poetical reputation seems to
have excited the jealousy of the artist-emperor; a violent quarrel broke
out between them, and Lucan, already in theory an ardent republican,
became one of the principal movers in the conspiracy of Piso. The plan
discussed among the conspirators of assassinating Nero while in the act
of singing on the stage would, no doubt, commend itself specially to the
young poet whom the Emperor had forbidden to recite in public. When the
conspiracy was detected, Lucan's fortitude soon gave way; he betrayed one
accomplice after another, one of the first names he surrendered being
that of his mother, Acilia. The promise of pardon, under which his
confessions were obtained, was not kept after they were completed; and
the execution of Lucan, at the age of twenty-six, while it cut short a
remarkable poetical career, rid the world of a very poor creature. Yet
the final spasm of courage with which he died, declaiming a passage from
his own epic, has gained him, in the noblest of English elegies, a place
in the same verse with Sidney and Chatterton.

But the _Pharsalia_, the only large work which Lucan left complete, or
all but complete, among a number of essays in different styles of poetry,
and the only work of his which has been preserved, is a poem which, in
spite of its immaturity and bad taste, compels admiration by its
elevation of thought and sustained brilliance of execution. Pure rhetoric
has, perhaps, never come quite so near being poetry; and if the perpetual
overstraining of both thought and expression inevitably ends by fatiguing
the reader, there are at least few instances of a large work throughout
which so lofty and grandiose a style is carried with such elasticity and
force. The _Pharsalia_ is full of quotations, and this itself is no small
praise. Lines like _Nil actum credens dum quid superesset agendum,_ or
_Nec sibi, sed toti gentium se credere mundo_, or _Iupiter est quodcunque
vides quocunque moveris,_ or the sad and noble

    _Victurosque dei celant, ut vivere durent,
    Felix esse mori--_

are as well known and have sunk as deep as the great lines of Virgil
himself; and not only in single lines, but in longer passages of lofty
thought or sustained imagination, as in his description of the dream of
Pompeius, at the beginning of the seventh book; or the passage on the
extension of the Roman Empire, later in the same book; or the magnificent
speech of Cato when he refuses to seek counsel of the oracle of Ammon,
Lucan sometimes touches a point where he challenges comparison with his
master. In these passages, without any delicacy of modulation, with a
limited range of rhythm, his verse has a metallic clangour that stirs the
blood like a trumpet-note. But his range of ideas is as limited as that
of his rhythms; and the thought is not sustained by any basis of
character. His fierce republicanism sits side by side with flattery of
the reigning Emperor more gross and servile than had till then been known
at Rome. He makes no attempt to realise his persons or to grasp the
significance of events. Caesar, Pompeius, Cato himself--the hero of the
epic--are not human beings, but mere lay-figures round which he drapes
his gorgeous rhetoric. The Civil wars are alternately regarded as the
death-agony of freedom and as the destined channel through which the
world was led to the blessings of an uncontrolled despotism. His ideas
are borrowed indifferently from the Epicurean and Stoical philosophies
according to the convenience of the moment. Great events and actions do
not kindle in him any imaginative sympathy; they are greedily seized as
opportunities for more and more immoderate flights of extravagant
embellishment. He "prates of mountains;" his "phrase conjures the
wandering stars, and makes them stand like wonder-wounded hearers;"
freedom, virtue, fate, the sea and the sun, gods and men before whom the
gods themselves stand abased, hurtle through the poem in a confused
thunder of sonorous phrase. Such brilliance, in the exact manner that was
then most admired, dazzled his contemporaries and retained a permanent
influence over later poets. Statius, himself an author of far higher
poetical gifts, speaks of him in terms of almost extravagant admiration;
with a more balanced judgment Quintilian sums him up in words which may
be taken as on the whole the final criticism adopted by the world;
_ardens et concitatus et sententiis clarissimus, et, ut dicam quod
sentio, magis oratoribus quam poetis imitandus_.

One of Lucan's intimate friends was a young man of high family, Aulus
Persius Flaccus of Volaterrae in Etruria, a near relation of the
celebrated Arria, wife of Paetus. Through his kinswoman he was early
introduced to the circle of earnest thinkers and moralists among whom the
higher life was kept up at Rome amid the corruption of the Neronian age.
The gentle and delicate boy won the hearts of all who knew him. When he
died, at the age of twenty-eight, a little book of six satires, which he
had written with much effort and at long intervals, was retouched by his
master, the Stoic philosopher Cornutus, and published by another friend,
Caesius Bassus, himself a poet of some reputation. Several other writings
which Persius left were destroyed by the advice of Cornutus. The six
pieces--only between six and seven hundred lines in all--were at once
recognised as showing a refined and uncommon literary gift. Persius, we
are informed, had no admiration for the genius of Seneca; and, indeed, no
two styles, though both are deeply artificial, could be more unlike one
another. With all his moral elevation, Seneca was a courtier, an
opportunist, a man of the world: Stoicism took a very different colour in
the boy "of maidenly modesty," as his biographer tells us, who lived in a
household of devoted female relations, and only knew the world as a
remote spectator. Though within the narrow field of his own experience he
shows keen observation and delicate power of portraiture, the world that
he knows is mainly one of books; his perpetual imitations of Horace are
not so much plagiarisms as the unaffected outcome of the mind of a very
young student, to whom the _Satires_ of Horace were more familiar than
the Rome of his own day. So, too, the involved and obscure style which
has made him the paradise of commentators is less a deliberate literary
artifice than the natural effect of looking at everything through a
literary medium, and choosing phrases, not for their own fitness, but for
the associations they recall. His deep moral earnestness, his gentleness
of nature, and, it must be added, his want of humour, made him a
favourite author beyond the circles which were merely attracted by his
verbal obscurities and the way in which he locks up his meaning in hints
and allusions. His unquestionable dramatic power might, in later life,
have ripened into higher achievement; as it is, he lives to us chiefly in
the few beautiful passages where he slips into being natural, and draws,
with a grace and charm that are strikingly absent from the rest of his
writing, the picture of his own quiet life as a student, and of the
awakening of his moral and intellectual nature at the touch of
philosophy.

Lucan and Persius represent the effect which Roman Stoicism had on two
natures of equal sensibility but widely different quality and taste.
Among the many other professors or adherents of the Stoic school in the
age of Nero, a considerable number were also authors, but the habit of
writing in Greek, which a hundred years later grew to such proportions as
to threaten the continued existence of Latin literature, had already
taken root. The three most distinguished representatives of the stricter
Stoicism, Cornutus, Quintus Sextius, and Gaius Musonius Rufus (the first
and last of whom were exiled by Nero), wrote on philosophy in Greek,
though they seem to have written in Latin on other subjects. Musonius
was, indeed, hardly more Roman than his own most illustrious pupil, the
Phrygian Epictetus. Stoicism, as they understood it, left no room for
nationality, and little for writing as a fine art.

This growing prevalence of Greek at Rome combined with political reasons
to check the production of important prose works. History more especially
languished under the jealous censorship of the government. The only
important historical work of the period is one of which the subject could
hardly excite suspicion, the _Life of Alexander the Great_, by Quintus
Curtius Rufus. The precise date is uncertain, and different theories have
assigned it to an earlier or later period in the reign of Augustus or of
Vespasian. The subject is one which hardly any degree of dulness in the
writer could make wholly uninteresting. But the clear and orderly
narrative of Curtius, written in a style studied from that of Livy, but
kept within simpler limits, has real merit of its own; and against his
imperfect technical knowledge of strategy and tactics must be set the
pains he took to consult the best Greek authorities.

Memoirs were written in the Neronian age by numbers both of men and
women. Those of the Empress Agrippina were used by Tacitus; and we have
references to others by the two great Roman generals of the period,
Suetonius Paulinus and Domitius Corbulo. The production of scientific or
technical treatises, which had been so profuse in the preceding
generation, still went on. Only two of any importance are extant; one of
these, the _Chorographia_ of Pomponius Mela, a geographical manual based
on the best authorities and embellished with descriptions of places,
peoples, and customs, is valuable as the earliest and one of the most
complete systems of ancient geography which we possess; but in literary
merit it falls far short of the other, the elaborate work on agriculture
by Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella. Both Mela and Columella were
natives of Spain, and thus belong to the Spanish school of Latin authors,
which begins with the Senecas and is continued later by Martial and
Quintilian. But while Mela, in his style, followed the new fashion,
Columella, an enthusiast for antiquity and a warm admirer of the Augustan
writers, reverts to the more classical manner, which a little later
became once more predominant in the writers of the Flavian period. His
simple and dignified style is much above the level of a mere technical
treatise. His prose, indeed, may be read with more pleasure than the
verse in which, by a singular caprice, one of the twelve books is
composed. In one of the most beautiful episodes of the _Georgics_, Virgil
had briefly touched on the subject of gardening, and left it to be
treated by others who might come after him: _praetereo atque aliis post
me memoranda relinquo_. At the instance, he says, of friends, Columella
attempts to fill up the gap by a fifth Georgic on horticulture. He
approaches the task so modestly, and carries it out so simply, that
critics are not inclined to be very severe; but he was no poet, and the
book is little more than a cento from Virgil, carefully and smoothly
written, and hardly if at all disfigured by pretentiousness or rhetorical
conceits.

The same return upon the Virgilian manner is shown in the seven
_Eclogues,_ composed in the early years of Nero's reign, by Titus
Calpurnius Siculus. These are remarkable rather as the only specimens for
nearly three hundred years of a direct attempt to continue the manner of
Virgil's _Bucolics_ than for any substantive merit of their own. That
manner, indeed, is so exceptionally unmanageable that it is hardly
surprising that it should have been passed over by later poets of high
original gift; but that even poets of the second and third rate should
hardly ever have attempted to imitate poems which stood in the very first
rank of fame bears striking testimony to Virgil's singular quality of
unapproachableness. The _Eclogues_ of Calpurnius (six of them are
Eclogues within the ordinary meaning, the seventh rather a brief Georgic
on the care of sheep and goats, made formally a pastoral by being put
into the mouth of an old shepherd sitting in the shade at midday) are,
notwithstanding their almost servile imitation of Virgil, written in such
graceful verse, and with so few serious lapses of taste, that they may be
read with considerable pleasure. The picture, in the sixth Eclogue, of
the fawn lying among the white lilies, will recall to English readers one
of the prettiest fancies of Marvell; that in the second, of Flora
scattering her tresses over the spring meadow, and Pomona playing under
the orchard boughs, is at least a vivid pictorial presentment of a
sufficiently well-worn theme. A more normal specimen of Calpurnius's
manner may be instanced in the lines (v. 52-62) where one of the most
beautiful passages in the third _Georgic,_ the description of a long
summer day among the Italian hill-pastures, is simply copied in different
words.

The didactic poem on volcanoes, called _Aetna,_ probably written by the
Lucilius to whom Seneca addressed his writings on natural philosophy,
belongs to the same period and shows the same influences. Of the other
minor poetical works of the time the only one which requires special
mention is the tragedy of _Octavia,_ which is written in the same style
as those of Seneca, and was long included among his works. Its only
interest is as the single extant specimen of the _fabula praetexta,_ or
drama with a Roman subject and characters. The characters here include
Nero and Seneca himself. But the treatment is as conventional and
declamatory as that of the mythological tragedies among which it has been
preserved, and the result, if possible, even flatter and more tedious.

One other work of extreme and unique interest survives from the reign of
Nero, the fragments of a novel by Petronius Arbiter, one of the Emperor's
intimate circle in the excesses of his later years. In the year 66 he
fell a victim to the jealousy of the infamous and all but omnipotent
Tigellinus; and on this occasion Tacitus sketches his life and character
in a few of his strong masterly touches. "His days were passed," says
Tacitus, "in sleep, his nights in the duties or pleasures of life; where
others toiled for fame he had lounged into it, and he had the reputation
not, like most members of that profligate society, of a dissolute wanton,
but of a trained master in luxury. A sort of careless ease, an entire
absence of self-consciousness, added the charm of complete simplicity to
all he said and did. Yet, as governor of Bithynia, and afterwards as
consul, he showed himself a vigorous and capable administrator; then
relapsing into the habit or assuming the mask of vice, he was adopted as
Arbiter of Elegance into the small circle of Nero's intimate companions;
no luxury was charming or refined till Petronius had given it his
approval, and the jealousy of Tigellinus was roused against a rival and
master in the science of debauchery."

The novel written by this remarkable man was in the form of an
autobiography narrating the adventures, in various Italian towns, of a
Greek freedman. The fragments hardly enable us to trace any regular plot;
its interest probably lay chiefly in the series of vivid pictures which
it presented of life among all orders of society from the highest to the
lowest, and its accurate reproduction of popular language and manners.
The hero of the story uses the ordinary Latin speech of educated persons,
though, from the nature of the work, the style is much more colloquial
than that of the formal prose used for serious writing. But the
conversation of many of the characters is in the _plebeius sermo,_ the
actual speech of the lower orders, of which so little survives in
literature. It is full of solecisms and popular slang; and where the
scene lies, as it mostly does in the extant fragments, in the semi-Greek
seaports of Southern Italy, it passes into what was almost a dialect of
its own, the _lingua franca_ of the Mediterranean under the Empire, a
dialect of mixed Latin and Greek. The longest and most important fragment
is the well-known _Supper of Trimalchio_. It is the description of a
Christmas dinner-party given by a sort of Golden Dustman and his wife,
people of low birth and little education, who had come into an enormous
fortune. Trimalchio, a figure drawn with extraordinary life, is
constantly making himself ridiculous by his blunders and affectations,
while he almost wins our liking by his childlike simplicity and good
nature. The dinner itself, and the conversation on literature and art
that goes on at the dinner-table, are conceived in a spirit of the
wildest humour. Trimalchio, who has two libraries, besides everything
else handsome about him, is anxious to air his erudition. "Can you tell
us a story," he asks a guest, "of the twelve sorrows of Hercules, or how
the Cyclops pulled Ulysses' leg? I used to read them in Homer when I was
a boy." After an interruption, caused by the entrance of a boar, roasted
whole and stuffed with sausages, he goes on to talk of his collection of
plate; his unique cups of Corinthian bronze (so called from a dealer
named Corinthus; the metal was invented by Hannibal at the capture of
Troy), and his huge silver vases, "a hundred of them, more or less,"
chased with the story of Daedalus shutting Niobe into the Trojan horse,
and Cassandra killing her sons--"the dead children so good, you would
think they were alive; for I sell my knowledge in matters of art for no
money." Presently there follow the two wonderful ghost stories--that of
the wer-wolf, told by one of the guests, and that of the witches by
Trimalchio himself in return--both masterpieces of vivid realism. As the
evening advances the fun becomes more fast and furious. The cook, who had
excelled himself in the ingenuity of his dishes, is called up to take a
seat at table, and after favouring the company with an imitation of a
popular tragedian, begins to make a book with Trimalchio over the next
chariot races. Fortunata, Trimalchio's wife, is a little in liquor, and
gets up to dance. Just at this point Trimalchio suddenly turns
sentimental, and, after giving elaborate directions for his own
obsequies, begins to cry. The whole company are in tears round him when
he suddenly rallies, and proposes that, as death is certain, they shall
all go and have a hot bath. In the little confusion that follows, the
narrator and his friend slip quietly away. This scene of exquisite
fooling is quite unique in Greek or Latin literature: the breadth and
sureness of touch are almost Shakespearian. Another fragment relates the
famous story of the _Matron of Ephesus_, one of the popular tales which
can be traced back to India, but which appears here for the first time in
the Western world. Others deal with literary criticism, and include
passages in verse; the longest of these, part of an epic on the civil
wars in the manner of Lucan, is recited by one of the principal
characters, the professional poet Eumolpus, to exemplify the rules he has
laid down for epic poetry in a most curious discussion that precedes it.
That so small a part of the novel has been preserved is most annoying; it
must have been comparable, in dramatic power and (notwithstanding the
gross indecency of many passages) in a certain large sanity, to the great
work of Fielding. In all the refined writing of the next age we never
again come on anything at once so masterly and so human.



II.

THE SILVER AGE: STATIUS, THE ELDER PLINY, MARTIAL, QUINTILIAN.


To the age of the rhetoricians succeeded the age of the scholars.
Quintilian, Pliny, and Statius, the three foremost authors of the Flavian
dynasty, have common qualities of great learning and sober judgment which
give them a certain mutual affinity, and divide them sharply from their
immediate predecessors. The effort to outdo the Augustan writers had
exhausted itself; the new school rather aimed at reproducing their
manner. In the hands of inferior writers this attempt only issued in tame
imitations; but with those of really original power it carried the Latin
of the Silver Age to a point higher in quality than it ever reached,
except in the single case of Tacitus, a writer of unique genius who
stands in a class of his own.

The reigns of the three Flavian emperors nearly occupy the last thirty
years of the first century after Christ. The "year of four Emperors"
which passed between the downfall of Nero and the accession of Vespasian
had shaken the whole Empire to its foundations. The recovery from that
shock left the Roman world established on a new footing. In literature,
no less than in government and finance, a feverish period of inflated
credit had brought it to the verge of ruin. At the beginning of his reign
Vespasian announced a deficit of four hundred million pounds (a sum the
like of which had never been heard of before) in the public exchequer;
some similar estimate might have been formed by a fanciful analogy of the
collapse that had to be made good in literature, when style could no
longer bear the tremendous overdrafts made on it by Seneca and Lucan. And
in the literary as in the political world there was no complete recovery:
throughout the second century we have to trace the gradual decline of
letters going on alongside of that mysterious decay of the Empire itself
before which a continuously admirable government was all but helpless.

Publius Papinius Statius, the most eminent of the poets of this age, was
born towards the end of the reign of Tiberius, and seems to have died
before the accession of Nerva. His poetry can all be assigned to the
reign of Domitian, or the few years immediately preceding it. As to his
life little is known, probably because it passed without much incident.
He was born at Naples, and returned to it in advanced age after the
completion of his _Thebaid_; but the greater part of his life was spent
at Rome, where his father was a grammarian of some distinction who had
acted for a time as tutor to Domitian. He had thus access to the court,
where he improved his opportunities by unstinted adulation of the Emperor
and his favourite eunuch Earinus. The curious mediaeval tradition of his
conversion to Christianity, which is so finely used by Dante in the
_Purgatorio_, cannot be traced to its origin, and does not appear to have
any historical foundation.

Twelve years were spent by Statius over his epic poem on the War of
Thebes, which was published about the year 92, with a florid dedication
to Domitian. After its completion he began another epic, on an even more
imposing scale, on the life of Achilles and the whole of the Trojan war.
Of this _Achilleid_ only the first and part of the second book were ever
completed; had it continued on the same scale it would have been the
longest of Greek or Latin epics. At various times after the publication
of the _Thebaid_ appeared the five books of _Silvae_, miscellaneous and
occasional poems on different subjects, often of a personal nature.
Another epic, on the campaign of Domitian in Germany, has not been
preserved.

The _Thebaid_ became very famous; later poets, like Ausonius or Claudian,
constantly imitate it. Its smooth versification, copious diction, and
sustained elegance made it a sort of canon of poetical technique. But,
itself, it rises beyond the merely mechanical level. Without any quality
that can quite be called genius, Statius had real poetical feeling. His
taste preserves him from any great extravagances; and among much tedious
rhetoric and cumbrous mythology, there is enough of imagination and
pathos to make the poem interesting and even charming. At a time when
Guercino and the Caracci were counted great masters in the sister art,
the _Thebaid_ was also held to be a masterpiece. Besides complete
versions by inferior hands, both Pope and Gray took the pains to
translate portions of it into English verse, and it is perpetually quoted
in the literature of the eighteenth century. It is, indeed, perhaps its
severest condemnation that it reads best in quotations. Not only the more
highly elaborated passages, but almost any passage taken at random, may
be read with pleasure and admiration; those who have had the patience to
read it through, however much they may respect the continuous excellence
of its workmanship, will (as with the _Gierusalemme Liberata_ of Tasso)
feel nearly as much respect for their own achievement as for that of the
poet.

The _Silvae_, consisting as they do of comparatively short pieces,
display the excellences of Statius to greater advantage. Of the thirty-
two poems, six are in lyric metres, the rest being all written in the
smooth graceful hexameters of which the author of the _Thebaid_ was so
accomplished a master. The subjects, for the most part of a familiar
nature, are very various. A touching and affectionate poem to his wife
Claudia is one of the best known. Several are on the death of friends;
one of very great beauty is on the marriage of his brother poet,
Arruntius Stella, to a lady with the charming name of Violantilla. The
descriptive pieces on the villas of acquaintances at Tivoli and Sorrento,
and on the garden of another in Rome, are full of a genuine feeling for
natural beauty. The poem on the death of his father, though it has
passages of romantic fancy, is deformed by an excess of literary
allusions; but that on the death of his adopted son (he had no children
of his own), which ends the collection, is very touching in the sincerity
of its grief and its reminiscences of the dead boy's infancy. Perhaps the
finest, certainly the most remarkable of all these pieces is the short
poem (one might almost call it a sonnet) addressed to Sleep. This, though
included in the last book of the _Silvae_, must have been written in
earlier life; it shows that had Statius not been entangled in the
composition of epics by the conventional taste of his age, he might have
struck out a new manner in ancient poetry. The poem is so brief that it
may be quoted in full:--

    _Crimine quo merui iuvenis, placidissime divom,
    Quove errore miser, donis ut solus egerem,
    Somne, tuis? Tacet omne pecus, volueresque, feraeque,
    Et simulant fessos curvata cacumina somnos;
    Nec trucibus fluviis idem sonus; occidit horror
    Aequoris, et terris maria inclinata quiescunt.
    Septima iam rediens Phoebe mihi respicit aegras
    Stare genas, totidem Oeteae Paphiaeque revisunt
    Lampades, et toties nostros Tithonia questus
    Praeterit et gelido spargit miserata flagello.
    Unde ego sufficiam? Non si mihi lumina mille
    Quae sacer alterna tantum statione tenebat
    Argus, et haud unquam vigilabat corpore toto.
    At nunc, heu, aliquis longa sub nocte puellae
    Brachia nexa tenens, ultra te, Somne, repellit:
    Inde veni: nec te totas infundere pennas
    Luminibus compello meis: hoc turba precatur
    Laetior; extremae me tange cacumine virgae,
    Sufficit, aut leviter suspenso poplite transi._

Were the three lines beginning _Unde ego sufficiam_ struck out--and one
might almost fancy them to have been inserted later by an unhappy second
thought--the remainder of this poem would be as perfect as it is unique.
The famous sonnet of Wordsworth on the same subject must at once occur to
an English reader; but the poem in its manner, especially in the dying
cadence of the last two lines, recalls even more strongly some of the
finest sonnets of Keats. "Had Statius written often thus," in the words
Johnson uses of Gray, "it had been vain to blame, and useless to praise
him."

The two other epic poets contemporary with Statius whose works are
extant, Valerius Flaccus and Silius Italicus, belong generally to the
same school, but stand on a much lower level of excellence. The former is
only known as the author of the _Argonautica_. An allusion in the proem
of his epic to the recent destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in the year
70, and another in a later book to the great eruption of Vesuvius in 79,
fix the date of the poem; and Quintilian, writing in the later years of
Domitian, refers to the poet's recent death. From another passage in the
_Argonautica_ it has been inferred that Flaccus was one of the college of
quindecemvirs, and therefore of high family. The _Argonautica_ follows
the well-known poem of Apollonius Rhodius, but by his diffuse rhetorical
treatment the author expands the story to such a length that in between
five and six thousand lines he has only got as far as the escape of Jason
and Medea from Colchos. Here the poem breaks off abruptly in the eighth
book; it was probably meant to consist of twelve, and to end with the
return of the Argonauts to Greece. In all respects, except the choice of
subject, Valerius Flaccus is far inferior to Statius. He cannot indeed
wholly destroy the perennial charm of the story of the Golden Fleece, but
he comes as near doing so as is reasonably possible. His versification is
correct, but without freedom or variety; and incidents and persons are
alike presented through a cloud of monotonous and mechanical rhetoric.

If Valerius Flaccus to some degree redeemed his imaginative poverty by
the choice of his subject, the other epic poet of the Flavian era,
Tiberius Catius Silius Italicus, chose a subject which no ingenuity could
have adapted to epic treatment. His _Punic War_ may fairly contend for
the distinction of being the worst epic ever written; and its author is
the most striking example in Latin literature of the incorrigible
amateur. He had, in earlier life, passed through a distinguished official
career; he was consul the year before the fall of Nero, and in the
political revolutions which followed conducted himself with such prudence
that, though an intimate friend of Vitellius, he remained in favour under
Vespasian. After a term of further service as proconsul of Asia, he
retired to a dignified and easy leisure. His love of literature was
sincere; he prided himself on owning one of Cicero's villas, and the land
which held Virgil's grave, and he was a generous patron to men of
letters. The fulsome compliments paid to him by Martial (who has the
effrontery to speak of him as a combined Virgil and Cicero) are, no
doubt, only an average specimen of the atmosphere which surrounded so
munificent a patron; but the admiration which he openly expressed for the
slave Epictetus does him a truer honour. The _Bellum Punicum_, in
seventeen books, is longer than the _Odyssey_. It closely follows the
history as told by Livy; but the elements of almost epic grandeur in the
contest between Rome and Hannibal all disappear amid masses of tedious
machinery. Without any invention or constructive power of his own, Silius
copies with tasteless pedantry all the outworn traditions of the heroic
epic. What Homer or Virgil has done, he must needs do too. The Romans are
the Dardanians or the Aeneadae: Juno interferes in Hannibal's favour, and
Venus, hidden in a cloud, watches the battle of the Trebia from a hill.
Hannibal is urged to war by a dream like that of Agamemnon in the
_Iliad_; he is equipped with a spear "fatal to many thousands" of the
enemy, and a shield, like that of Aeneas, embossed with subjects from
Carthaginian history, and with the river Ebro flowing round the edge as
an ingenious variant of the Ocean-river on the shield of Achilles. A
Carthaginian fleet cruising off the coast of Italy falls in with Proteus,
who takes the opportunity of prophesying the course of the war. Hannibal
at Zama pursues a phantom of Scipio, which flies before him and
disappears like that of Aeneas before Turnus. Such was the degradation to
which the noble epic machinery had now sunk. Soon after the death of
Silius the poem seems to have fallen into merited oblivion; there is a
single reference to it in a poet of the fifth century, and thereafter it
remained unknown or unheard of until a manuscript discovered by Poggio
Bracciolini brought it to light again early in the fifteenth century.

The works of the other Flavian poets, Curiatius Maternus, Saleius Bassus,
Arruntius Stella, and the poetess Sulpicia, are lost; all else that
survives of the verse of the period is the work of a writer of a
different order, but of considerable importance and value, the
epigrammatist Martial. By no means a poet of the first rank, hardly
perhaps a poet at all according to any strict definition, he has yet a
genius of his own which for many ages made him the chief and almost the
sole model for a particular kind of literature.

Marcus Valerius Martialis was born at Augusta Bilbilis in Central Spain
towards the end of the reign of Tiberius. He came to Rome as a young man
during the reign of Nero, when his countrymen, Seneca and Lucan, were at
the height of their reputation. Through their patronage he obtained a
footing, if not at court, yet among the wealthy amateurs who extended a
less dangerous protection to men of letters. For some thirty-five years
he led the life of a dependant; under Domitian his assiduous flattery
gained for him the honorary tribunate which conferred equestrian rank,
though not the rewards of hard cash which he would probably have
appreciated more. The younger Pliny, who speaks of him with a slightly
supercilious approval, repaid with a more substantial gratification a
poem comparing him to Cicero. Martial's gift for occasional verse just
enabled him to live up three pair of stairs in the city; in later years,
when he had an income from booksellers as well as from private patrons,
he could afford a tiny country house among the Sabine hills. Early in the
reign of Domitian he began to publish regularly, bringing out a volume of
epigrams every year. After the accession of Trajan he returned to his
native town, from which, however, he sent a final volume three years
afterwards to his Roman publishers. There his talent for flattery at last
bore substantial fruit; a rich lady of the neighbourhood presented him
with a little estate, and though the longing for the country, which had
grown on him in Rome, was soon replaced by a stronger feeling of regret
for the excitement of the capital, he spent the remainder of his life in
material comfort.

The collected works of Martial, as published after his death, which
probably took place about the year 102, consist of twelve books of
miscellaneous _Epigrams,_ which are prefaced by a book of pieces called
_Liber Spectaculorum,_ upon the performances given by Titus and Domitian
in the capital, especially in the vast amphitheatre erected by the
former. At the end are added two books of _Xenia_ and _Apophoreta,_
distichs written to go with the Christmas presents of all sorts which
were interchanged at the festival of the Saturnalia. These last are, of
course, not "distinguished for a strong poetic feeling," any more than
the cracker mottoes of modern times. But the twelve books of _Epigrams_,
while they include work of all degrees of goodness and badness, are
invaluable from the vivid picture which they give of actual daily life at
Rome in the first century. Few writers of equal ability show in their
work such a total absence of character, such indifference to all ideas or
enthusiasms; yet this very quality makes the verse of Martial a more
perfect mirror of the external aspects of Roman life. A certain
intolerance of hypocrisy is the nearest approach Martial ever makes to
moral feeling. His perpetual flattery of Domitian, though gross as a
mountain--it generally takes the form of comparing him with the Supreme
Being, to the disadvantage of the latter--has no more serious political
import than there is serious moral import in the almost unexampled
indecency of a large proportion of the epigrams. The "candour" noted in
him by Pliny is simply that of a sheet of paper which is indifferent to
what is written upon it, fair or foul. He may claim the merit--nor is it
an inconsiderable one--of being totally free from pretence. In one of the
most graceful of his poems, he enumerates to a friend the things which
make up a happy life: "Be yourself, and do not wish to be something
else," is the line which sums up his counsel. To his own work he extends
the same easy tolerance with which he views the follies and vices of
society. "A few good, some indifferent, the greater number bad"--so he
describes his epigrams; what opening is left after this for hostile
criticism? If elsewhere he hints that only indolence prevented him from
producing more important work, so harmless an affectation may be passed
over in a writer whose clearness of observation and mastery of slight but
lifelike portraiture are really of a high order.

By one of the curious accidents of literary history Martial, as the only
Latin epigrammatist who left a large mass of work, gave a meaning to the
word epigram from which it is only now beginning to recover. The art,
practised with such infinite grace by Greek artists of almost every age
between Solon and Justinian, was just at this period sunk to a low ebb.
The contemporary Greek epigrammatists whose work is preserved in the
Palatine Anthology, from Nicarchus and Lucilius to Strato, all show the
same heaviness of handling and the same tiresome insistence on making a
point, which prevent Martial's epigrams from being placed in the first
rank. But while in any collection of Greek epigrammatic poetry these
authors naturally sink to their own place, Martial, as well by the mere
mass of his work--some twelve hundred pieces in all, exclusive of the
cracker mottoes--as by his animation and pungent wit, set a narrow and
rather disastrous type for later literature. He appealed strongly to all
that was worst in Roman taste--its heavy-handedness, its admiration of
verbal cleverness, its tendency towards brutality. Half a century later,
Verus Caesar, that wretched creature whom Hadrian had adopted as his
successor, and whose fortunate death left the Empire to the noble rule of
Antoninus Pius, called Martial "his Virgil:" the incident is highly
significant of the corruption of taste which in the course of the second
century concurred with other causes to bring Latin literature to decay
and almost to extinction.

Among the learned Romans of this age of great learning, the elder Pliny,
_aetatis suae doctissimus_, easily took the first place. Born in the
middle of the reign of Tiberius, Gaius Plinius Secundus of Comum passed
his life in high public employments, both military and civil, which took
him successively over nearly all the provinces of the Empire. He served
in Germany, in the Danubian provinces, in Spain, in Gaul, in Africa, and
probably also in Syria, on the staff of Titus, during the Jewish war. In
August of the year 79 he was in command of the fleet stationed at Misenum
when the memorable eruption of Vesuvius took place. In his zeal for
scientific investigation he set sail for the spot in a man-of-war, and,
lingering too near the zone of the eruption, was suffocated by the rain
of hot ashes. The account of his death, given by his nephew in a letter
to the historian Tacitus, is one of the best known passages in the
classics.

By amazing industry and a most rigid economy of time, Pliny combined with
his continuous official duties an immense reading and a literary
production of great scope and value. A hundred and sixty volumes of his
extracts from writers of all kinds, written, we are told, on both sides
of the paper in an extremely small hand, were bequeathed by him to his
nephew. Besides works on grammar, rhetoric, military tactics, and other
subjects, he wrote two important histories--one, in twenty books, on the
wars on the German frontier, the other a general history of Rome in
thirty-one books, from the accession of Nero to the joint triumph of
Vespasian and Titus after the subjugation of the Jewish revolt. Both
these valuable works are completely lost, nor is it possible to determine
how far their substance reappears in Tacitus and Suetonius; the former,
however, in both _Annals_ and _Histories_, repeatedly cites him as an
authority. But we fortunately possess the most important of his works,
the thirty-seven books of his _Natural History_. This is not, indeed, a
great work of literature, though its style, while sometimes heavy and
sometimes mannered, is on the whole plain, straightforward, and
unpretentious; but it is a priceless storehouse of information on every
branch of natural science as known to the ancient world. It was published
with a dedication to Titus two years before Pliny's death, but continued
during the rest of his life to receive his additions and corrections. It
was compiled from a vast reading. Nearly five hundred authors (about a
hundred and fifty Roman, the rest foreign) are cited in his catalogue of
authorities. The plan of this great encyclopedia was carefully thought
out before its composition was begun. It opens with a general system of
physiography, and then passes successively to geography, anthropology,
human physiology, zoology and comparative physiology, botany, including
agriculture and horticulture, medicine, mineralogy, and the fine arts.

After being long held as an almost infallible authority, Pliny, in more
recent times, fell under the reproach of credulity and want of sufficient
discrimination in the value of his sources. Further research has gone
some way to reinstate his reputation. Without having any profound
original knowledge of the particular sciences, he had a naturally
scientific mind. His tendency to give what is merely curious the same
attention as what is essentially important, has incidentally preserved
much valuable detail, especially as regards the arts; and modern research
often tends to confirm the anecdotes which were once condemned as plainly
erroneous and even absurd. Pliny has, further, the great advantage of
being shut up in no philosophical system. His philosophy of life, and his
religion so far as it appears, is that of his age, a moderate and
rational Stoicism. Like his contemporaries, he complains of the modern
falling away from nature and the decay of morals. But it is as the
conscientious student and the unbiassed observer that he habitually
appears. In diligence, accuracy, and freedom from preconception or
prejudice, he represents the highest level reached by ancient science
after Aristotle and his immediate successors.

Of the more specialised scientific treatises belonging to this period,
only two are extant, the three books on _Strategy_ by Sextus Julius
Frontinus, and a treatise by the same author on the public water-supply
of Rome; both belong to strict science, rather than to literature. The
schools of rhetoric and grammar continued to flourish: among many
unimportant names that of Quintilian stands eminent, as not only a
grammarian and rhetorician, but a fine critic and a writer of high
substantive value.

Marcus Fabius Quintilianus of Calagurris, a small town on the Upper Ebro,
is the last, and perhaps the most distinguished of that school of Spanish
writers which bulks so largely in the history of the first century. He
was educated at Rome, and afterwards returned to his native town as a
teacher of rhetoric. There he made, or improved, the acquaintance of
Servius Sulpicius Galba, proconsul of Tarraconensian Spain in the later
years of Nero. When Galba was declared Emperor by the senate, he took
Quintilian with him to Rome, where he was appointed a public teacher of
rhetoric, with a salary from the privy purse. He retained his fame and
his favour through the succeeding reigns. Domitian made him tutor to the
two grand-nephews whom he destined for his own successors, and raised him
to consular rank. For about twenty years he remained the most celebrated
teacher in the capital, combining his professorship with a large amount
of actual pleading in the law-courts. His published works belong to the
later years of his life, when he had retired from the bar and from public
teaching. His first important treatise, on the decay of oratory, _De
Causis Corruptae Eloquentiae_, is not extant. It was followed, a few
years later, in or about the year 93, by his great work, the _Institutio
Oratoria_, which sums up the teaching and criticism of his life.

The contents of this work, which at once became the final and standard
treatise on the theory and practice of Latin oratory, are very elaborate
and complete. In the first book, Quintilian discusses the preliminary
training required before the pupil is ready to enter on the study of his
art, beginning with a sketch of the elementary education of the child
from the time he leaves the nursery, which is even now of remarkable
interest. The second book deals with the general principles and scope of
the art of oratory, and continues the discussion of the aims and methods
of education in its later stages. The five books from the third to the
seventh are occupied with an exhaustive treatment of the matter of
oratory, under the heads of what were known to the Roman schools by the
names of _invention_ and _disposition_. The greater part of these books
is, of course, highly technical. The next four books, from the eighth to
the eleventh, treat of the manner of oratory, or all that is included in
the word _style_ in its widest signification. It is in this part of the
treatise that Quintilian, in relation to the course of general reading
both in Greek and Latin that should be pursued by the young orator, gives
the masterly sketch of Latin literature which is the most famous portion
of the whole work. The twelfth book, which concludes the work, reverts to
education in the highest and most extended sense, that of the moral
qualifications of the great orator, and the exhaustive discipline of the
whole nature throughout life which must be continued unfalteringly to the
end.

Now that the formal study of rhetoric has ceased to be a part of the
higher education, the more strictly technical parts of Quintilian's work,
like those of the _Rhetoric_ of Aristotle, have, in a great measure, lost
their relevance to actual life, and with it their general interest to the
world at large. Both the Greek and the Roman masterpiece are read now
rather for their incidental observations upon human nature and the
fundamental principles of art, than for instruction in a particular form
of art which, in the course of time, has become obsolete. These
observations, in Quintilian no less than in Aristotle, are often both
luminous and profound, A collection of the memorable sentences of
Quintilian, such as has been made by his modern editors, is full of
sayings of deep wisdom and enduring value. _Nulla mansit ars qualis
inventa est, nec intra initium stetit; Plerumque facilius est plus
facere, quam idem; Nihil in studiis parvum est; Cito scribendo non fit ut
bene scribatur, bene scribendo fit ut cito; Omnia nostra dum nascuntur
placent, alioqui nec scriberentur_;--such sayings as these, expressed
with admirable terseness and lucidity, are scattered all over the work,
and have a value far beyond the limits of any single study. If they do
not drop from Quintilian with the same curious negligence as they do from
Aristotle (whose best things are nearly always said in a parenthesis),
the advantage is not wholly with the Greek author; the more orderly and
finished method of the Roman teacher marks a higher constructive literary
power than that of Aristotle, whose singular genius made him indeed the
prince of lecturers, but did not place him in the first rank of writers.

Beyond these incidental touches of wisdom and insight, which give an
enduring value to the whole substance of the work, the chief interest for
modern readers in the _Institutio Oratoria_, lies in three portions which
are, more or less, episodic to the strict purpose of the book, though
they sum up the spirit in which it is written. These are the discussions
on the education of children in the first, and on the larger education of
mature life in the last book, and the critical sketch of ancient
literature up to his own time, which occupies the first chapter of the
tenth. Almost for the first time in history--for the ideal system of
Plato, however brilliant and suggestive, stands on quite a different
footing--the theory of education was, in this age, made a subject of
profound thought and study. The precepts of Quintilian, if taken in
detail, address themselves to the formation of a Roman of the Empire, and
not a citizen of modern Europe. But their main spirit is independent of
the accidents of any age or country. In the breadth of his ideas, and in
the wisdom of much of his detailed advice, Quintilian takes a place in
the foremost rank of educational writers. The dialogue on oratory written
a few years earlier by Tacitus names, as the main cause of the decay of
the liberal arts, not any lack of substantial encouragement, but the
negligence of parents and the want of skill in teachers. To leave off
vague and easy declamations against luxury and the decay of morals, and
to fix on the great truth that bad education is responsible for bad life,
was the first step towards a real reform. This Quintilian insists upon
with admirable clearness. Nor has any writer on education grasped more
firmly or expressed more lucidly the complementary truth that education,
from the cradle upwards, is something which acts on the whole
intellectual and moral nature, and whose object is the production of what
the Romans called, in a simple form of words which was full of meaning,
"the good man." It would pass beyond the province of literary criticism
to discuss the reasons why that reform never took place, or, if it did,
was confined to a circle too small to influence the downward movement of
the Empire at large. They belong to a subject which is among the most
interesting of all studies, and which has hardly yet been studied with
adequate fulness or insight, the social history of the Roman world in the
second century.

One necessary part of the education of the orator was a course of wide
and careful reading in the best literature; and it is in this special
connection that Quintilian devotes part of his elaborate discussion on
style to a brief critical summary of the literature of Greece and that of
his own country. The frequent citations which have already been made from
this part of the work may indicate the very great ability with which it
is executed. Though his special purpose as a professor of rhetoric is
always kept in view, his criticism passes beyond this formal limit. He
expresses, no doubt, what was the general opinion of the educated world
of his own time; but the form of his criticism is so careful and so
choice, that many of his brief phrases have remained the final word on
the authors, both in prose and verse, whom he mentions in his rapid
survey. His catalogue is far from being, as it has been disparagingly
called, a mere "list of the best hundred books." It is the deliberate
judgment of the best Roman scholarship, in an age of wide reading and
great learning, upon the masterpieces of their own literature. His own
preference for certain periods and certain manners is well marked. But he
never forgets that the object of criticism is to disengage excellences
rather than to censure faults: even his pronounced aversion from the
style of Seneca and the authors of the Neronian age does not prevent him
from seeing their merits, and giving these ungrudging praise.

It is, indeed, in Quintilian that the reaction from the early imperial
manner comes to its climax. Statius had, to a certain degree, gone back
to Virgil; Quintilian goes back to Cicero without hesitation or reserve.
He is the first of the Ciceronians; Lactantius in the fourth century,
John of Salisbury in the twelfth, Petrarch in the fourteenth, Erasmus in
the sixteenth, all in a way continue the tradition which he founded; nor
is it surprising that the discovery of a complete manuscript of the
_Institutio Oratoria_, early in the fifteenth century was hailed by
scholars as one of the most important events of the Renaissance. He is
not, however, a mere imitator of his master's style; indeed, his style
is, in some features and for some purposes, a better one than his
master's. It is as clear and fluent, and not so verbose. He cannot rise
to the great heights of Cicero; but for ordinary use it would be
difficult to name a manner that combines so well the Ciceronian dignity
with the rich colour and high finish added to Latin prose by the writers
of the earlier empire.

The body of criticism left by Quintilian in this remarkable chapter is
the more valuable because it includes nearly all the great Latin writers.
Classical literature, little as it may have seemed so at the time, was
already nearing its end. With the generation which immediately followed,
that of his younger contemporaries, the Silver Age closes, and a new age
begins, which, though full of interest in many ways, is no longer
classical. After Tacitus and the younger Pliny, the main stream dwindles
and loses itself among quicksands. The writers who continue the pure
classical tradition are few, and of inferior power; and the chief
interest of Latin literature becomes turned in other directions, to the
Christian writers on the one hand, and on the other to those authors in
whom we may trace the beginning of new styles and methods, some of which
bore fruit at the time, while others remained undeveloped till the later
Middle Ages. Why this final effort of purely Roman culture, made in the
Flavian era with such sustained energy and ability, on the whole scarcely
survived a single generation, is a question to which no simple answer can
be given. It brings us once more face to face with the other question,
which, indeed, haunts Latin literature from the outset, whether the
conquest and absorption of Greece by Rome did not carry with it the seeds
of a fatal weakness in the victorious literature. Up to the end of the
Golden Age fresh waves of Greek influence had again and again given new
vitality and enlarged power to the Latin language. That influence had now
exhausted itself; for the Latin world Greece had no further message. That
Latin literature began to decline so soon after the stimulating Greek
influence ceased to operate, was partly due to external causes; the
empire began to fight for its existence before the end of the second
century, and never afterwards gained a pause in the continuous drain of
its vital force. But there was another reason more intimate and inherent;
a literature formed so completely on that of Greece paid the penalty in a
certain loss of independent vitality. The gap between the literary Latin
and the actual speech of the mass of Latin-speaking people became too
great to bridge over. Classical Latin poetry was, as we have seen,
written throughout in alien metres, to which indeed the language was
adapted with immense dexterity, but which still remained foreign to its
natural structure. To a certain degree the same was even true of prose,
at least of the more imaginative prose which was developed through a
study of the great Greek masters of history, oratory, and philosophy. In
the Silver Age Latin literature, feeling a great past behind it,
definitely tried to cut itself away from Greece and stand on its own
feet. Quintilian's criticism implies throughout that the two literatures
were on a footing of substantial equality; Cicero is sufficient for him,
as Virgil is for Statius. Even Martial, it has been noted, hardly ever
alludes to Greek authors, while he is full of references to those of his
own country. The eminent grammarians of the age, Aemilius Asper, Marcus
Valerius Probus, Quintus Asconius Pedianus, show the same tendency; their
main work was in commenting on the great Latin writers. The elaborate
editions of the Latin poets, from Lucretius to Persius, produced by
Probus, and the commentaries on Terence, Cicero, Sallust, and Virgil by
Asconius and Asper, were the work of a generation to whom these authors
had become in effect the classics. But literature, as the event proved
not for the first or the last time, cannot live long on the study of the
classics alone.



III.

TACITUS.


The end, however, was not yet; and in the generation which immediately
followed, the single imposing figure of Cornelius Tacitus, the last of
the great classical writers, adds a final and, as it were, a sunset
splendour to the literature of Rome. The reigns of Nerva and Trajan,
however much they were hailed as the beginning of a golden age, were
really far less fertile in literary works than those of the Flavian
Emperors; and the boasted restoration of freedom of speech was almost
immediately followed by an all but complete silence of the Latin tongue.
When to the name of Tacitus are added those of Juvenal and the younger
Pliny, there is literally almost no other author--none certainly of the
slightest literary importance--to be chronicled until the reign of
Hadrian; and even then the principal authors are Greek, while mere
compilers or grammarians like Gellius and Suetonius are all that Latin
literature has to show. The beginnings of Christian literature in
Minucius Felix, and of mediaeval literature in Apuleius and the author of
the _Pervigilium Veneris,_ rise in an age scanty in the amount and below
mediocrity in the substance of its production.

Little is known of the birth and parentage of Tacitus beyond the mere
fact that he was a Roman of good family. Tradition places his birth at
Interamna early in the reign of Nero; he passed through the regular
stages of an official career under the three Flavian Emperors. His
marriage, towards the end of the reign of Vespasian, to the daughter and
only surviving child of the eminent soldier and administrator, Gnaeus
Julius Agricola, aided him in obtaining rapid promotion; he was praetor
in the year in which Domitian celebrated the Secular Games, and rose to
the dignity of the consulship during the brief reign of Nerva. He was
then a little over forty. When still quite a young man he had written the
dialogue on oratory, which is one of the most interesting of Latin works
on literary criticism; but throughout the reign of Domitian his pen was
wholly laid aside. The celebrated passage of the _Agricola_ in which he
accounts for this silence may or may not give an adequate account of the
facts, but at all events gives the keynote of the whole of his subsequent
work, and of that view of the imperial government of the first century
which his genius has fixed ineradicably in the imagination of the world.
Under Domitian a servile senate had ordered the works of the two most
eminent martyrs of reactionary Stoicism, Arulenus Rusticus and Herennius
Senecio, to be publicly burned in the forum; "thinking that in that fire
they consumed the voice of the Roman people, their own freedom, and the
conscience of mankind. Great indeed," he bitterly continues, "are the
proofs we have given of what we can endure. The antique time saw to the
utmost bounds of freedom, we of servitude; robbed by an inquisition of
the common use of speech and hearing, we should have lost our very memory
with our voice, were it as much in our power to forget as to be dumb. Now
at last our breath has come back; yet in the nature of human frailty
remedies are slower than their diseases, and genius and learning are more
easily extinguished than recalled. Fifteen years have been taken out of
our lives, while youth passed silently into age; and we are the wretched
survivors, not only of those who have been taken away from us, but of
ourselves." Even a colourless translation may give some idea of the
distilled bitterness of this tremendous indictment. We must remember that
they are the words of a man in the prime of life and at the height of
public distinction, under a prince of whose government he speaks in terms
of almost extravagant hope and praise, to realise the spirit in which he
addressed himself to paint his lurid portraits of Tiberius or Nero or
Domitian.

The exquisitely beautiful memoir of his father-in-law, in the
introduction to which this passage occurs, was written by Tacitus in the
year which succeeded his own consulship, and which saw the accession of
Trajan. He was then already meditating a large historical work on the
events of his own lifetime, for which he had, by reading and reflection,
as well as by his own administrative experience, accumulated large
materials. The essay _De Origine Situ Moribus ac Populis Germaniae_ was
published about the same time or a little later, and no doubt represents
part of the material which he had collected for the chapters of his
history dealing with the German wars, and which, as much of it fell
outside the scope of a general history of Rome, he found it worth his
while to publish as a separate treatise. The scheme of his work became
larger in the course of its progress. As he originally planned it, it was
to begin with the accession of Galba, thus dealing with a period which
fell entirely within his own lifetime, and indeed within his own
recollection. But after completing his account of the six reigns from
Galba to Domitian, he did not, as he had at first proposed, go on to
those of Nerva and Trajan, but resumed his task at an earlier period, and
composed an equally elaborate history of the empire from the death of
Augustus down to the point where his earlier work began. He still
cherished the hope of resuming his history from the accession of Nerva,
but it is doubtful whether he lived long enough to do so. Allusions to
the Eastern conquests of Trajan in the _Annals_ show that the work cannot
have been published till after the year 115, and it would seem--though
nothing is known as to the events or employments of his later life--that
he did not long survive that date. But the thirty books of his _Annals_
and _Histories,_ themselves splendid work for a lifetime, gave the
continuous history of the empire in the most crucial and on the whole the
most remarkable period of its existence, the eighty-two years which
succeeded the death of its founder.

As in so many other cases, this memorable work has only escaped total
loss by the slenderest of chances. As it is, only about one-half of the
whole work is extant, consisting of four large fragments. The first of
these, which begins at the beginning, breaks off abruptly in the
fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius. A gap of two years follows, and
the second fragment carries on the history to Tiberius' death. The story
of the reign of Caligula is wholly lost; the third fragment begins in the
seventh year of Claudius, and goes on as far as the thirteenth of Nero.
The fourth, consisting of the first four and part of the fifth book of
the earlier part of the work, contains the events of little more than a
year, but that the terrible "year of Emperors" which followed the
overthrow of Nero and shook the Roman world to its foundations. A single
manuscript has preserved the last two of these four fragments; to the
hand of one nameless Italian monk of the eleventh century we owe our
knowledge of one of the greatest masterpieces of the ancient world.

Not the least interesting point in the study of the writings of Tacitus
is the way in which we can see his unique style gradually forming and
changing from his earlier to his later manner. The dialogue _De
Oratoribus_ is his earliest extant work. Its scene is laid in or about
the year 75. But Tacitus was then little if at all over twenty, and it
may have been written some five or six years later. In this book the
influence of Quintilian and the Ciceronian school is strongly marked;
there is so much of Ciceronianism in the style that many scholars have
been inclined to assign it to some other author, or have even identified
it with the lost treatise of Quintilian himself, on the _Causes of the
Decay of Eloquence_. But its style, while it bears the general colour of
the Silver Age, has also large traces of that compressed and allusive
manner which Tacitus later carried to such an extreme degree of
perfection. Full as it is of the _ardor iuvenilis,_ page after page
recalling that Ciceronian manner with which we are familiar in the
_Brutus_ or the _De Oratore_ by the balance of the periods, by the
elaborate similes, and by a certain fluid and florid evolution of what is
really commonplace thought, a touch here and there, like _contemnebat
potius literas quam nesciebat_, or _vitio malignitatis humanae vetera
semper in laude, praesentia in fastidio esse_, or the criticism on the
poetry of Caesar and Brutus, _non melius quam Cicero, sed felicius, quia
illos fecisse pauciores sciunt_, anticipates the author of the _Annals,_
with his mastery of biting phrase and his unequalled power of innuendo.
The defence and attack of the older oratory are both dramatic, and to a
certain extent unreal; it is probable that the dialogue does in fact
represent the matter of actual discussions between the two principal
interlocutors, celebrated orators of the Flavian period, to which as a
young student Tacitus had himself listened. One phrase dropped by Aper,
the apologist of the modern school, is of special interest as coming from
the future historian; among the faults of the Ciceronian oratory is
mentioned a languor and heaviness in narration--_tarda et iners structura
in morem annalium_. It is just this quality in historical composition
that Tacitus set himself sedulously to conquer. By every artifice of
style, by daring use of vivid words and elliptical constructions, by
studied avoidance of the old balance of the sentence, he established a
new historical manner which, whatever may be its failings--and in the
hands of any writer of less genius they become at once obvious and
intolerable--never drops dead or says a thing in a certain way because it
is the way in which the ordinary rules of style would prescribe that it
should be said. A comparison has often been drawn between Tacitus and
Carlyle in this matter. It may easily be pressed too far, as in some
rather grotesque attempts made to translate portions of the Latin author
into phrases chosen or copied from the modern. But there is this
likeness: both authors began by writing in the rather mechanical and
commonplace style which was the current fashion during their youth; and
in both the evolution of the personal and inimitable manner from these
earlier essays into the full perfection of the _Annals_ and the _French
Revolution_ is a lesson in language of immense interest.

The fifteen silent years of Tacitus followed the publication of the
dialogue on oratory. In the _Agricola_ and _Germania_ the distinctively
Tacitean style is still immature, though it is well on the way towards
maturity. The _Germania_ is less read for its literary merit than as the
principal extant account, and the only one which professes to cover the
ground at all systematically, of Central Europe under the early Roman
Empire. It does not appear whether, in the course of his official
employments, Tacitus had ever been stationed on the frontier either of
the Rhine or of the Danube. The treatise bears little or no traces of
first-hand knowledge; nor does he mention his authorities, with the
single exception of a reference to Caesar's _Gallic War_. We can hardly
doubt that he made free use of the material amassed by Pliny in his
_Bella Germaniae,_ and it is quite possible that he really used few other
sources. For the work, though full of information, is not critically
written, and the historian constantly tends to pass into the moralist.
His Ciceronianism has now completely worn away, but his manner is still
as deeply rhetorical as ever. What he has in view throughout is to bring
the vices of civilised luxury into stronger relief by a contrast with the
idealised simplicity of the German tribes; and though his knowledge and
his candour alike make him stop short of falsifying facts, his selection
and disposition of facts is guided less by a historical than by an
ethical purpose. His lucid and accurate description of the amber of the
Baltic seems merely introduced in order to point a sarcastic reference to
Roman luxury; and the whole of the extremely valuable account of the
social life of the Western German tribes is drawn in implicit or
expressed contrast to the elaborate social conventions of what he
considers a corrupt and degenerate civilisation. The exaggeration of the
sentiment is more marked than in any of his other writings; thus the fine
outburst, _Nemo illic vitia ridet, nec corrumpere et corrumpi seculum
vocatur,_ concludes a passage in which he gravely suggests that the
invention of writing is fatal to moral innocence; and though he is candid
enough to note the qualities of laziness and drunkenness which the
Germans shared with other half-barbarous races, he glosses over the other
quality common to savages, want of feeling, with the sounding and
grandiose commonplace, expressed in a phrase of characteristic force and
brevity, _feminis lugere honestum est, viris meminisse_.

The _Agricola,_ perhaps the most beautiful piece of biography in ancient
literature, stands on a much higher level than the _Germania,_ because
here his heart was in the work. The rhetorical bent is now fully under
control, while his mastery over "disposition" (to use the term of the
schools), or what one might call the architectural quality of the book,
could only have been gained by such large and deep study of the art of
rhetoric as is inculcated by Quintilian. The _Agricola_ has the
stateliness, the ordered movement, of a funeral oration; the peroration,
as it might not unfairly be called, of the two concluding chapters,
reaches the highest level of the grave Roman eloquence, and its language
vibrates with a depth of feeling to which Lucretius and Virgil alone in
their greatest passages offer a parallel in Latin. The sentence, with its
subtle Virgilian echoes, in which he laments his own and his wife's
absence from Agricola's death-bed--_omnia sine dubio, optime parentum,
adsidente amantissima uxore superfuere honori tuo; paucioribus tamen
lacrimis comploratus es, et novissima in luce desideraverunt aliquid
oculi tui_--shows a new and strange power in Latin. It is still the
ancient language, but it anticipates in its cadences the language of the
Vulgate and of the statelier mediaeval prose.

Together with this remarkable power over new prose rhythms, Tacitus shows
in the _Agricola_ the complete mastery of mordant and unforgettable
phrase which makes his mature writing so unique. Into three or four
ordinary words he can put more concentrated meaning than any other
author. The likeness and contrast between these brief phrases of his and
the "half-lines" of Virgil might repay a long study. They are alike in
their simple language, which somehow or other is charged with the whole
personality of the author; but the personality itself is in the sharpest
antithesis. The Virgilian phrases, with their grave pity, are steeped in
a golden softness that is just touched with a far-off trouble, a pathetic
waver in the voice as if tears were not far below it. Those of Tacitus
are charged with indignation instead of pity; "like a jewel hung in
ghastly night," to use Shakespeare's memorable simile, or like the red
and angry autumnal star in the _Iliad_, they quiver and burn. Phrases
like the famous _ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant_, or the _felix
opportunitate mortis_, are the concentrated utterance of a great but
deeply embittered mind.

In this spirit Tacitus set himself to narrate the history of the first
century of the Empire. Under the settled equable government of Trajan,
the reigns of the Julio-Claudian house rapidly became a legendary epoch,
a region of prodigies and nightmares and Titanic crimes. Even at the time
they happened many of the events of those years had thrown the
imagination of their spectators into a fever. The strong taint of
insanity in the Claudian blood seemed to have communicated itself to the
world ruled over by that extraordinary series of men, about whom there
was something inhuman and supernatural. Most of them were publicly
deified before their death. The _Fortuna Urbis_ took in them successive
and often monstrous incarnations. Augustus himself was supposed to have
the gift of divination; his foreknowledge overleapt the extinction of his
own house, and foresaw, across a gap of fifty years, the brief reign of
Galba. Caligula threw an arch of prodigious span over the Roman Forum,
above the roofs of the basilica of Julius Caesar, that from his house on
the Palatine he might cross more easily to sup with his brother, Jupiter
Capitolinus. Nero's death was for years regarded over half the Empire as
incredible; men waited in a frenzy of excited terror for the reappearance
of the vanished Antichrist. Even the Flavian house was surrounded by much
of the same supernatural atmosphere. The accession of Vespasian was
signalised by his performing public miracles in Egypt; Domitian, when he
directed that he should be formally addressed as _Our Lord God_ by all
who approached him, was merely settling rules for an established practice
of court etiquette. In this thunderous unnatural air legends of all sorts
sprung up right and left; foremost, and including nearly all the rest,
the legend of the Empire itself, which (like that of the French
Revolution) we are only now beginning to unravel. The modern school of
historians find in authentic documents, written and unwritten, the story
of a continuous and able administration of the Empire through all those
years by the permanent officials, and traces of a continuous personal
policy of the Emperors themselves sustaining that administration against
the reactionary tendencies of the Senate. Even the massacres of Nero and
Domitian are held to have been probably dictated by imperious public
necessity. The confidential advisers of the Emperors acted as a sort of
Committee of Public Safety, silent and active, while the credit or
obloquy was all heaped on a single person. It took three generations to
carry the imperial system finally out of danger; but when this end was at
last attained, the era of the Good Emperors succeeded as a matter of
course; much as in France, the success of the Revolution once fairly
secured, the moderate government of the Directory and Consulate quietly
succeeded to the Terror and the Revolutionary Tribunal.

Such is one view now taken of the early Roman Empire. Its weakness is
that it explains too much. How or why, if the matter was really as simple
as this, did the traditional legend of the Empire grow up and extinguish
the real facts? Is it possible that the malignant genius of a single
historian should outweigh, not only perishable facts, but the large body
of imperialist literature which extends from the great Augustans down to
Statius and Quintilian? Even if we set aside Juvenal and Suetonius as a
rhetorician and a gossipmonger, that only makes the weight Tacitus has to
sustain more overwhelming. It is hardly possible to overrate the effect
of a single work of great genius; but the more we study works of great
genius the more certain does it appear that they are all founded on real,
though it may be transcendental, truth. Systems, like persons, are to be
known by their fruits. The Empire produced, as the flower of its culture
and in the inner circle of its hierarchy, the type of men of whom Tacitus
is the most eminent example; and the indignant hatred it kindled in its
children leaves it condemned before the judgment of history.

The surviving fragments of the _Annals_ and _Histories_ leave three great
pictures impressed upon the reader's mind: the personality of Tiberius,
the court of Nero, and the whole fabric and machinery of empire in the
year of the four Emperors. The lost history of the reigns of Caligula and
Domitian would no doubt have added two other pictures as memorable and as
dramatic, but could hardly make any serious change in the main structure
of the imperial legend as it is successively presented in these three
imposing scenes.

The character and statesmanship of Tiberius is one of the most vexed
problems in Roman history; and it is significant to observe how, in all
the discussions about it, the question perpetually reverts to another--
the view to be taken of the personality of the historian who wrote nearly
a century after Tiberius' accession, and was not born till long after his
death. In no part of his work does Tacitus use his great weapon,
insinuation of motive, with such terrible effect. All the speeches or
letters of the Emperor quoted by him, almost all the actions he records,
are given with this malign sidelight upon them: that, in spite of it, we
lose our respect for neither Emperor nor historian is strong evidence
both of the genius of the latter and the real greatness of the former.
The case of Germanicus Caesar is a cardinal instance. In the whole
account of the relations of Tiberius to his nephew there is nothing in
the mere facts as stated inconsistent with confidence and even with
cordiality. Tiberius pronounces a long and stately eulogy on Germanicus
in the senate for his suppression of the revolt of the German legions. He
recalls him from the German frontier, where the Roman supremacy was now
thoroughly re-established, and where the hot-headed young general was on
the point of entangling himself in fresh and dangerous conquests, in
order to place him in supreme command in the Eastern provinces; but first
he allows him the splendid pageant of a Roman triumph, and gives an
immense donative to the population of the capital in his nephew's name.
Germanicus is sent to the East with _maius imperium_ over the whole of
the transmarine provinces, a position more splendid than any that
Tiberius himself had held during the lifetime of Augustus, and one that
almost raised him to the rank of a colleague in the Empire. Then
Germanicus embroils himself hopelessly with his principal subordinate,
the imperial legate of Syria, and his illness and death at Antioch put an
end to a situation which is rapidly becoming impossible. His remains are
solemnly brought back to Rome, and honoured with a magnificent funeral;
the proclamation of Tiberius fixing the termination of the public
mourning is in its gravity and good sense one of the most striking
documents in Roman history. But in Tacitus every word and action of
Tiberius has its malignant interpretation or comment. He recalls
Germanicus from the Rhine out of mingled jealousy and fear; he makes him
viceroy of the East in order to carry out a diabolically elaborate scheme
for bringing about his destruction. The vague rumours of poison or magic
that ran during his last illness among the excitable and grossly
superstitious populace of Antioch are gravely recorded as ground for the
worst suspicions. That dreadful woman, the elder Agrippina, had, even in
her husband's lifetime, made herself intolerable by her pride and
jealousy after her husband's death she seems to have become quite insane,
and the recklessness of her tongue knew no bounds. To Tacitus all her
ravings, collected from hearsay or preserved in the memoirs of her
equally appalling daughter, the mother of Nero, represent serious
historical documents; and the portrait of Tiberius is from first to last
deeply influenced by, and indeed largely founded on, the testimony of a
madwoman.

The three books and a half of the _Annals_ which contain the principate
of Nero are not occupied with the portraiture of a single great
personality, nor are they full, like the earlier books, of scathing
phrases and poisonous insinuations. The reign of Nero was, indeed, one
which required little rhetorical artifice to present as something
portentous. The external history of the Empire, till towards its close,
was without remarkable incident. The wars on the Armenian frontier hardly
affected the general quiet of the Empire; the revolt of Britain was an
isolated occurrence, and soon put down. The German tribes, engaged in
fierce internal conflicts, left the legions on the Rhine almost
undisturbed. The provinces, though suffering under heavy taxation, were
on the whole well ruled. Public interest was concentrated on the capital;
and the startling events which took place there gave the fullest scope to
the dramatic genius of the historian. The court of Nero lives before us
in his masterly delineation. Nero himself, Seneca and Tigellinus, the
Empress-mother, the conspirators of the year 65, form a portrait-gallery
of sombre magnificence, which surpasses in vivid power the more elaborate
and artificial picture of the reign of Tiberius. With all his immense
ability and his deep psychological insight, Tacitus is not a profound
political thinker; as he approaches the times which fell within his own
personal knowledge he disentangles himself more and more from the
preconceptions of narrow theory, and gives his dramatic gift fuller play.

It is for this reason that the _Histories_, dealing with a period which
was wholly within his own lifetime, and many of the main actors in which
he knew personally and intimately, are a greater historical work than
even the _Annals_. He moves with a more certain step in an ampler field.
The events of the year 69, which occupy almost the whole of the extant
part of the _Histories_, offer the largest and most crowded canvas ever
presented to a Roman historian. And Tacitus rises fully to the amplitude
of his subject. It is in these books that the material greatness of the
Empire has found its largest expression. In the _Annals_ Rome is the core
of the world, and the provinces stretch dimly away from it, shaken from
time to time by wars or military revolts that hardly touch the great
central life of the capital. Here, though the action opens indeed in the
capital in that wet stormy January, the main interest is soon transferred
to distant fields; the life of the Empire still converges on Rome as a
centre, but no longer issues from it as from a common heart and brain.
The provinces had been the spoil of Rome; Rome herself is now becoming
the spoil of the provinces. The most splendid piece of narration in the
_Histories,_ and one of the finest in the work of any historian, is the
story of the second battle of Bedriacum, and the storm and sack of
Cremona by the Moesian and Pannonian legions. This is the central thought
which makes it so tragical. The little vivid touches in which Tacitus
excels are used towards this purpose with extraordinary effect; as in the
incident of the third legion saluting the rising sun--_ita in Suria mos
est_--which marks the new and fatal character of the great provincial
armies, or the casual words of the Flavian general, _The bath will soon
be heated,_ which were said to have given the signal for the burning of
Cremona. In these scenes the whole tragedy of the Empire rises before us.
The armies of the Danube and Rhine left the frontiers defenceless while
they met in the shock of battle on Italian soil, still soaking with Roman
blood and littered with unburied Roman corpses; behind them the whole
armed strength of the Empire--_immensa belli moles_--was gathering out of
Gaul, Spain, Syria, and Hungary; and before the year was out, the Roman
Capitol itself, in a trifling struggle between small bodies of the
opposing forces, went up in flame at the hands of the German troops of
Vitellius.

This great pageant of history is presented by Tacitus in a style which,
in its sombre yet gorgeous colouring, is unique in literature. In mere
grammatical mechanism it bears close affinity to the other Latin writing
of the period, but in all its more intimate qualities it is peculiar to
Tacitus alone; he founded his own style, and did not transmit it to any
successor. The influence of Virgil over prose reaches in him its most
marked degree. Direct transferences of phrase are not infrequent; and
throughout, as one reads the _Histories,_ one is reminded of the
_Aeneid,_ not only by particular phrases, but by a more indefinable
quality permeating the style. The narrative of the siege and firing of
the Capitol, to take one striking instance, is plainly from the hand of a
writer saturated with the movement and language of Virgil's _Sack of
Troy_. A modern historian might have quoted Virgil in a note; with
Tacitus the Virgilian reminiscences are interwoven with the whole
structure of his narrative. The whole of the three fine chapters will
repay minute comparison; but some of the more striking resemblances are
worth noting as a study in language. _Erigunt aciem_, says the historian,
_usque ad primas Capitolinae arcis fores ... in tectum egressi saxis
tegulisque Vitellianos obruebant ... ni revolsas undique statuas, decora
maiorum, in ipso aditu obiecissent ... vis propior atque acrior ingruebat
 ... quam non Porsena dedita urbe neque Galli temerare potuissent ...
inrumpunt Vitelliani et cuncta sanguine ferro flammisque miscent_. We
seem to be present once more at that terrible night in Troy--

    _Vestibulum ante ipsum primoque in limine Pyrrhus ...
    Evado ad summi fastigia culminis ...
        ... turres ac tecta domorum Culmina convellunt ...
        ... veterum decora alia parentum
    Devolvunt ... nec saxa, nec ullum Telorum interea cessat genus ...
        ... armorumque ingruit horror ...
        ... et iam per moenia clarior ignis
    Auditur, propiusque aestus incendia volvunt ...
    Quos neque Tydides, nec Larissaeus Achilles,
    Non anni domuere decem, non mille carinae ...
    Fit via vi; rumpunt aditus primosque trucidant
    Inmissi Danai, et late loca milite complent._

These quotations indicate strikingly enough the way in which Tacitus is
steeped in the Virgilian manner and diction. The whole passage must be
read continuously to realise the immense skill with which he uses it, and
the tragic height it adds to the narrative.

Nor is the deep gloom of his history, though adorned with the utmost
brilliance of rhetoric, lightened by any belief in Providence or any
distinct hope for the future. The artificial optimism of the Stoics is
alien from his whole temper; and his practical acquiescence in the
existing system under the reign of Domitian only added bitterness to his
inward revolt from it. The phrases of religion are merely used by him to
darken the shades of his narrative; _Deum ira in rem Romanam,_ one of the
most striking of them, might almost be taken as a second title for his
history. On the very last page of the _Annals_ he concludes a brief
notice of the ruin and exile of Cassius Asclepiodotus, whose crime was
that he had not deserted an unfortunate friend, with the striking words,
"Such is the even-handedness of Heaven towards good and evil conduct."
Even his praises of the government of Trajan are half-hearted and
incredulous; "the rare happiness of a time when men may think what they
will, and say what they think," is to his mind a mere interlude, a brief
lightening of the darkness before it once more descends on a world where
the ambiguous power of fate or chance is the only permanent ruler, and
where the gods intervene, not to protect, but only to avenge.



IV.

JUVENAL, THE YOUNGER PLINY, SUETONIUS: DECAY OF CLASSICAL LATIN.


From the name of Tacitus that of Juvenal is inseparable. The pictures
drawn of the Empire by the historian and the satirist are in such
striking accordance that they create a greater plausibility for the
common view they hold than could be given by any single representation;
and while Juvenal lends additional weight and colour to the Tacitean
presentment of the imperial legend, he acquires from it in return an
importance which could hardly otherwise have been sustained by his
exaggerated and glaring rhetoric.

As regards the life and personality of the last great Roman satirist we
are in all but total ignorance. Several lives of him exist which are
confused and contradictory in detail. He was born at Aquinum, probably in
the reign of Nero; an inscription on a little temple of Ceres, dedicated
by him there, indicates that he had served in the army as commander of a
Dalmatian cohort, and was superintendent (as one of the chief men of the
town) of the civic worship paid to Vespasian after his deification. The
circumstance of his banishment for offence given to an actor who was high
in favour with the reigning Emperor is well authenticated; but neither
its place nor its time can be fixed. It appears from the _Satires_
themselves that they were written late in life; we are informed that he
reached his eightieth year, and lived into the reign of Antoninus Pius.
Martial, by whom he is repeatedly mentioned, alludes to him only as a
rhetorician, not as a satirist. The sixteen satires (of which the last
is, perhaps, not genuine) were published at intervals under Trajan and
Hadrian. They fall into two groups; the first nine, which are at once the
most powerful and the least agreeable, being separated by a considerable
interval of years from the others, in which a certain softening of tone
and a tendency to dwell on the praise of virtue more than on the ignoble
details of vice is united with a failing power that marks the approach of
senility.

Juvenal is the most savage--one might almost say the most brutal--of all
the Roman satirists. Lucilius, when he "scourged the town," did so in the
high spirits and voluble diction of a comparatively simple age. Horace
soon learned to drop the bitterness which appears in his earlier satires,
and to make them the vehicle for his gentle wisdom and urbane humour. The
writing of Persius was that of a student who gathered the types he
satirised from books rather than from life. Juvenal brought to his task
not only a wide knowledge of the world--or, at least, of the world of the
capital--but a singular power of mordant phrase, and a mastery over crude
and vivid effect that keeps the reader suspended between disgust and
admiration. In the commonplaces of morality, though often elevated and
occasionally noble, he does not show any exceptional power or insight;
but his graphic realism, combined (as realism often is) with a total
absence of all but the grimmest forms of humour, makes his verses cut
like a knife. _Facit indignatio versum_, he truly says of his own work;
with far less flexibility, he has all the remorselessness of Swift. That
singular product of the last days of paganism, the epigrammatist Palladas
of Alexandria, is the only ancient author who shows the same spirit. Of
his earlier work the second and ninth satires, and a great part of the
sixth, have a cold prurience and disgustingness of detail, that even
Swift only approaches at his worst moments. Yet the sixth satire, at all
events, is an undeniable masterpiece; however raw the colour, however
exaggerated the drawing, his pictures of Roman life have a force that
stamps them permanently on the imagination; his _Legend of Bad Women,_ as
this satire might be called, has gone far to make history.

It is in the third satire that his peculiar gift of vivid painting finds
its best and easiest scope. In this elaborate indictment of the life of
the capital, put into the mouth of a man who is leaving it for a little
sleepy provincial town, he draws a picture of the Rome he knew, its
social life and its physical features, its everyday sights and sounds,
that brings it before us more clearly and sharply than even the Rome of
Horace or Cicero. The drip of the water from the aqueduct that passed
over the gate from which the dusty squalid Appian Way stretched through
its long suburb; the garret under the tiles where, just as now, the
pigeons sleeked themselves in the sun and the rain drummed on the roof;
the narrow crowded streets, half choked with builders' carts, ankle-deep
in mud, and the pavement ringing under the heavy military boots of
guardsmen; the tavern waiters trotting along with a pyramid of hot dishes
on their head; the flowerpots falling from high window ledges; night,
with the shuttered shops, the silence broken by some sudden street brawl,
the darkness shaken by a flare of torches as some great man, wrapped in
his scarlet cloak, passes along from a dinner-party with his long train
of clients and slaves: these scenes live for us in Juvenal, and are
perhaps the picture of ancient Rome that is most abidingly impressed on
our memory. The substance of the satire is familiar to English readers
from the fine copy of Johnson, whose _London_ follows it closely, and is
one of the ablest and most animated modern imitations of a classical
original. The same author's noble poem on the _Vanity of Human Wishes_ is
a more free, but equally spirited rendering of the tenth satire, which
stands at the head of the later portion of Juvenal's work. In this, and
in those of the subsequent satires which do not show traces of declining
power, notably the eleventh and thirteenth, the rhetoric is less gaudy
and the thought rises to a nobler tone. The fine passage at the end of
the tenth satire, where he points out what it is permitted mankind to
pray for, and that in the thirteenth, where he paints the torments of
conscience in the unpunished sinner, have something in them which
combines the lofty ardour of Lucretius with the subtle psychological
insight of Horace, and to readers in all ages have been, as they still
remain, a powerful influence over conduct. Equally elevated in tone, and
with a temperate gravity peculiar to itself, is the part of the
fourteenth satire which deals with the education of the young. We seem to
hear once more in it the enlightened eloquence of Quintilian; in the
famous _Maxima debetur puero reverentia_ he sums up in a single memorable
phrase the whole spirit of the instructor and the moralist. The allusions
to childhood here and elsewhere show Juvenal on his most pleasing side;
his rhetorical vices had not infected the real simplicity of his nature,
or his admiration for goodness and innocence. In his power over trenchant
expression he rivals Tacitus himself. Some of his phrases, like the one
just quoted, have obtained a world-wide currency, and even reached the
crowning honour of habitual misquotation; his _Hoc volo sic iubeo_, his
_Mens Sana in corpore sano_, his _Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?_ are
more familiar than all but the best-known lines of Virgil and Horace. But
perhaps his most characteristic lines are rather those where his moral
indignation breaks forth in a sort of splendid violence quite peculiar to
himself; lines like--

    _Et propter vitam vivendi perdere causas,_

or--

    _Magnaque numinibus vota exaudita malignis,_

in which the haughty Roman language is still used with unimpaired weight
and magnificence.

To pass from Juvenal to the other distinguished contemporary of Tacitus,
the younger Pliny, is like exchanging the steaming atmosphere and
gorgeous colours of a hot-house for the commonplace trimness of a
suburban garden. The nephew and adopted son of his celebrated uncle,
Pliny had received from his earliest years the most elaborate training
which ever fell to the lot of mediocrity. His uncle's death left him at
the age of seventeen already a finished pedant. The story which he tells,
with obvious self-satisfaction, of how he spent the awful night of the
eruption of Vesuvius in making extracts from Livy for his commonplace
book, sets the whole man before us. He became a successful pleader in the
courts, and passed through the usual public offices up to the consulate.
At the age of fifty he was imperial legate of Bithynia: the extant
official correspondence between him and the Emperor during this
governorship shows him still unchanged; upright and conscientious, but
irresolute, pedantic, and totally unable to think and act for himself in
any unusual circumstances. The contrast between Pliny's fidgety
indecision and the quiet strength and inexhaustible patience of Trajan,
though scarcely what Pliny meant to bring out, is the first and last
impression conveyed to us by this curious correspondence. The nine books
of his private letters, though prepared, and in many cases evidently
written for publication, give a varied and interesting picture of the
time. Here, too, the character of the writer in its virtues and its
weakness is throughout unmistakable. Pliny, the patriotic citizen,--
Pliny, the munificent patron,--Pliny, the eminent man of letters,--Pliny,
the affectionate husband and humane master,--Pliny, the man of principle,
is in his various phases the real subject of the whole collection. His
opinions are always just and elegant; few writers can express truisms
with greater fervour. The letters to Tacitus with whom he was throughout
life in close intimacy, are among the most interesting and the fullest of
unintentional humour. Tacitus was the elder of the two; and Pliny, "when
very young"--the words are his own,--had chosen him as his model and
sought to follow his fame. "There were then many writers of brilliant
genius; but you," he writes to Tacitus, "so strong was the affinity of
our natures, seemed to me at once the easiest to imitate and the most
worthy of imitation. Now we are named together; both of us have, I may
say, some name in literature, for, as I include myself, I must be
moderate in my praise of you." This to the author who had already
published the _Histories!_ Before so exquisite a self-revelation
criticism itself is silenced.

The cult of Ciceronianism established by Quintilian is the real origin of
the collection of Pliny's _Letters_. Cicero and Pliny had many weaknesses
and some virtues in common, and the desire of emulating Cicero, which
Pliny openly and repeatedly expresses, had a considerable effect in
exaggerating his weaknesses. Cicero was vain, quick-tempered, excitable;
his sensibilities were easily moved, and found natural and copious
expression in the language of which he was a consummate master. Pliny,
the most steady-going of mankind, sets himself to imitate this excitable
temperament with the utmost seriousness; he cultivates sensibility, he
even cultivates vanity. His elaborate and graceful descriptions of
scenery--the fountain of Clitumnus or the villa overlooking the Tiber
valley--are no more consciously insincere than his tears over the death
of friends, or the urgency with which he begs his wife to write to him
from the country twice a day. But these fine feelings are meant primarily
to impress the public; and a public which could be impressed by the
spectacle of a man giving a dinner-party, and actually letting his
untitled guests drink the same wine that was being drunk at the head of
the table, put little check upon lapses of taste.

Yet with all his affectations and fatuities, Pliny compels respect, and
even a measure of admiration, by the real goodness of his character.
Where a good life is lived, it hardly becomes us to be too critical of
motives and springs of action; and in Pliny's case the practice of
domestic and civic virtue was accompanied by a considerable literary
gift. Had we a picture drawn with equal copiousness and grace of the Rome
of Marcus Aurelius half a century later, it would be a priceless addition
to history. Pliny's world--partly because it is presented with such rich
detail--reminds us, more than that of any other period of Roman history,
of the society of our own day. To pass from Cicero's letters to his is
curiously like passing from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century. In
other respects, indeed, they have what might be called an eighteenth
century flavour. Some of the more elaborate of them would fall quite
naturally into place among the essays of the _Spectator_ or the
_Rambler;_ in many others the combination of thin and lucid common-sense
with a vein of calculated sensibility can hardly be paralleled till we
reach the age of Rousseau.

Part of this real or assumed sensibility was the interest in scenery and
the beauties of nature, which in Pliny, as in the eighteenth century
authors, is cultivated for its own sake as an element in self-culture. In
the words with which he winds up one of the most elaborate of his
descriptive pieces, that on the lake of Vadimo in Tuscany--_Me nihil
aeque ac naturae opera delectant_--there is an accent which hardly recurs
till the age of the _Seasons_ and of Gray's _Letters_. Like Gray, Pliny
took a keen pleasure in exploring the more romantic districts of his
country; his description of the lake in the letter just mentioned is
curiously like passages from the journal in which Gray records his
discovery--for it was little less--of Thirlmere and Derwentwater. He
views the Clitumnus with the eye of an accomplished landscape-gardener;
he notes the cypresses on the hill, the ash and poplar groves by the
water's edge; he counts the shining pebbles under the clear ice-cold
water, and watches the green reflections of the overhanging trees; and
finally, as Thomson or Cowper might have done, mentions the abundance of
comfortable villas as the last charm of the landscape.

The munificent benefactions of Pliny to his native town of Comum, and his
anxiety that, instead of sending its most promising boys to study at
Milan--only thirty miles off--it should provide for them at home what
would now be called a university education, are among the many
indications which show us how Rome was diffusing itself over Italy, as
Italy was over the Latin-speaking provinces. Under Hadrian and the
Antonines this process went on with even growing force. Country life, or
that mixture of town and country life afforded by the small provincial
towns, came to be more and more of a fashion, and the depopulation of the
capital had made sensible progress long before the period of renewed
anarchy that followed the assassination of Commodus. Whether the rapid
decay of Latin literature which took place after the death of Pliny and
Tacitus was connected with this weakening of the central life of Rome, is
a question to which we hardly can hazard a definite answer. Under the
three reigns which succeeded that of Trajan, a period of sixty-four years
of internal peace, of beneficent rule, of enlightened and humane
legislation, the cultured society shown to us in Pliny's _Letters_ as
diffused all over Italy remained strangely silent. Of all the streams of
tradition which descended on this age, the schools of law and grammar
alone kept their course; the rest dwindle away and disappear. Sixty years
pass without a single poet or historian, even of the second rate; one or
two eminent jurists share the field with one or two inconsiderable
extract-makers and epitomators, who barely rise out of the common herd of
undistinguished grammarians. Among the obscure poets mentioned by Pliny,
the name of Vergilius Romanus may excite a momentary curiosity; he was
the author of Terentian comedies, which probably did not long survive the
private recitations for which they were composed. The epitome of the
_History_ of Pompeius Trogus, made by the otherwise unknown Marcus
Junianus Justinus, has been already mentioned; like the brief and poorly
executed abridgment of Livy by Julius or Lucius Annaeus Florus (one of
the common text-books of the Middle Ages), it is probably to be placed
under Hadrian. Javolenus Priscus, a copious and highly esteemed juridical
writer, and head of one of the two great schools of Roman jurisprudence,
is best remembered by the story of his witty interruption at a public
recitation, which Pliny (part of whose character it was to joke with
difficulty) tells with a scandalised gravity even more amusing than the
story itself. His successor as head of the school, Salvius Julianus, was
of equal juristic distinction; his codification of praetorian law
received imperial sanction from Hadrian, and became the authorised civil
code. He was one of the instructors of Marcus Aurelius. The wealth he
acquired by his profession was destined, in the strange revolutions of
human affairs, to be the purchase-money of the Empire for his great-
grandson, Didius Julianus, when it was set up at auction by the
praetorian guards. More eminent as a man of letters than either of these
is their contemporary Gaius, whose _Institutes of Civil Law_, published
at the beginning of the reign of Marcus Aurelius, have ever since
remained one of the foremost manuals of Roman jurisprudence.

But the literary poverty of this age in Latin writing is most strikingly
indicated by merely naming its principal author. At any previous period
the name of Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus would have been low down in the
second rank: here it rises to the first; nor is there any other name
which fairly equals his, either in importance or in interest. The son of
an officer of the thirteenth legion, Suetonius practised in early life as
an advocate, subsequently became one of Hadrian's private secretaries,
and devoted his later years to literary research and compilation,
somewhat in the manner, though without the encyclopedic scope, of Varro.
In his youth he had been an intimate friend of the younger Pliny, who
speaks in high terms of his learning and integrity. The greater part of
his voluminous writings are lost; they included many works on grammar,
rhetoric, and archaeology, and several on natural history and physical
science. Fragments survive of his elaborate treatise _De Viris
Illustribus,_ an exhaustive history of Latin literature up to his own
day: excerpts made from it by St. Jerome in his _Chronicle_ are the
source from which much of our information as to Latin authors is derived,
and several complete lives have been prefixed to manuscripts of the works
of the respective authors, and thus independently preserved. But his most
interesting, and probably his most valuable work, the _Lives of the
Twelve Caesars_, has made him one of the most widely known of the later
classical writers. It was published under Hadrian in the year 120, and
dedicated to his praetorian prefect, Septicius Clarus. Tacitus (perhaps
because he was still alive) is never mentioned, and not certainly made
use of. Both authors had access, in the main, to the same materials; but
the confidential position of Suetonius as Hadrian's secretary no doubt
increased his natural tendency to collect stories and preserve all sorts
of trivial or scandalous gossip, rather than make any attempt to write
serious history. It is just this, however, which gives unique interest
and value to the _Lives of the Caesars_. We can spare political insight
or consecutive arrangement in an author who is so lavish in the personal
detail that makes much of the life of history; who tells us the colour of
Caesar's eyes, who quotes from a dozen private letters of Augustus, who
shows us Caligula shouting to the moon from his palace roof, and Nero
lecturing on the construction of the organ. There perhaps never was a
series of biographies so crammed with anecdote. Nor is the style without
a certain sort of merit, from its entire and unaffected simplicity. After
all the fine writing of the previous century it is, for a little while,
almost a relief to come on an author who is frankly without style, and
says what he has to say straightforwardly. But it is only the absorbing
interest of the matter which makes this kind of writing long endurable.
It is, in truth, the beginning of barbarism; and Suetonius measures more
than half the distance from the fine familiar prose of the Golden Age to
the base jargon of the authors of the _Augustan History_ a century and a
half later, under Diocletian.

Amid the decay of imagination and of the higher qualities of style, the
tradition of industry and accuracy to some degree survived. The
biographies of Suetonius show considerable research and complete honesty;
and the same qualities, though united with a feebler judgment, appear in
the interesting miscellanies of his younger contemporary, Aulus Gellius.
This work, published under the fanciful title of _Noctes Atticae_, is
valuable at once as a collection of extracts from older writers and as a
source of information regarding the knowledge and studies of his own age.
Few authors are more scrupulously accurate in quotation; and by this
conscientiousness, as well as by his real admiration for the great
writers, he shows the pedantry of the time on its most pleasing side.

The twenty books of the _Noctes Atticae_ were the compilation of many
years; but the title was chosen from the fact of the work having been
begun during a winter spent by the author at Athens, when about thirty
years of age. He was only one among a number of his countrymen, old as
well as young, who found the atmosphere of that university town more
congenial to study than the noisy, unhealthy, and crowded capital, or
than the quiet, but ill-equipped, provincial towns of Italy. Athens once
more became, for a short time, the chief centre of European culture.
Herodes Atticus, that remarkable figure who traced his descent to the
very beginnings of Athenian history and the semi-mythical Aeacidae of
Aegina, and who was consul of Rome under Antoninus Pius, had taken up his
permanent residence in his native town, and devoted his vast wealth to
the architectural embellishment of Athens, and to a munificent patronage
of letters. Plutarch and Arrian, the two most eminent authors of the age,
both spent much of their time there; and the Emperor Hadrian, by his
repeated and protracted visits--he once lived at Athens for three years
together--established the reputation of the city as a fashionable resort,
and superintended the building of an entirely new quarter to accommodate
the great influx of permanent residents. The accident of imperial
patronage doubtless added force to the other causes which made Greek take
fresh growth, and become for a time almost the dominant language of the
Empire. Though two centuries were still to pass before the foundation of
Constantinople, the centre of gravity of the huge fabric of government
was already passing from Italy to the Balkan peninsula, and Italy itself
was becoming slowly but surely one of the Western provinces. Nature
herself seemed to have fixed the Eastern limit of the Latin language at
the Adriatic, and even in Italy Greek was equally familiar with Latin to
the educated classes. Suetonius, Fronto, Hadrian himself, wrote in Latin
and Greek indifferently. Marcus Aurelius used Greek by preference, even
when writing of his predecessors and the events of Roman history. From
Plutarch to Lucian the Greek authors completely predominate over the
Latin. In the sombre century which followed, both Greek and Latin
literature were all but extinguished; the partial revival of the latter
in the fourth century was artificial and short-lived; and though the
tradition of the classical manner took long to die away, the classical
writers themselves completely cease with Suetonius. A new Latin, that of
the Middle Ages, was already rising to take the place of the speech
handed down by the Republic to the Empire.



V.

THE _ELOCUTIO NOVELLA_.


Though the partial renascence in art and letters which took place in the
long peaceful reign of Hadrian was on the whole a Greek, or, at all
events, a Graeco-Roman movement, an attempt at least towards a
corresponding movement in purely Latin literature, both in prose and
verse, was made about the same time, and might have had important results
had outward circumstances allowed it a reasonable chance of development.
As it is, Apuleius and Fronto in prose, and the new school of poets, of
whom the unknown author of the _Pervigilium Veneris_ is the most striking
and typical, represent not merely a fresh refinement in the artificial
management of thought and language, but the appearance on the surface of
certain native qualities in Latin, long suppressed by the decisive
supremacy of the manner established as classical under the Republic, but
throughout latent in the structure and temperament of the language. Just
when Latin seemed to be giving way on all hands to Greek, the signs are
first seen of a much more momentous change, the rise of a new Latin,
which not only became a common speech for all Europe, but was the
groundwork of the Romance languages and of half a dozen important
national literatures. The decay of education, the growth of vulgarisms,
and the degradation of the fine, but extremely artificial, literary
language of the classical period, went hand in hand towards this change
with the extreme subtleties and refinements introduced by the ablest of
the new writers, who were no longer content, like Quintilian and Pliny,
to rest satisfied with the manner and diction of the Golden Age. The work
of this school of authors is therefore of unusual interest; for they may
not unreasonably be called a school, as working, though unconsciously,
from different directions towards the same common end.

The theory of this new manner has had considerable light thrown upon it
by the fragments of the works of Marcus Cornelius Fronto, recovered early
in the present century by Angelo Mai from palimpsests in the Vatican and
Ambrosian libraries at Rome and Milan. Fronto was the most celebrated
rhetorician of his time, and exercised a commanding influence on literary
criticism. The reign of the Spanish school was now over; Fronto was of
African origin; and though it does not follow that he was not of pure
Roman blood, the influence of a semi-tropical atmosphere and African
surroundings altered the type, and produced a new strain, which we can
trace later under different forms in the great African school of
ecclesiastical writers headed by Tertullian and Cyprian, and even to a
modified degree in Augustine himself. He was born in the Roman colony of
Cirta, probably a few years after the death of Quintilian. He rose to a
conspicuous position at Rome under Hadrian, and was highly esteemed by
Marcus Antoninus, who not only elevated him to the consulship, but made
him one of the principal tutors of the joint-heirs to the Empire, Marcus
Aurelius and Lucius Verus. He died a few years before Marcus Aurelius.
The recovered fragments of his writings, which are lamentably scanty and
interrupted, are chiefly from his correspondence with his two imperial
pupils. With both of them, and Marcus Aurelius especially, he continued
in later years to be on the most intimate and affectionate relations. The
elderly rhetorician, a martyr, as he keeps complaining, to gout, and the
philosophic Emperor write to each other with the effusiveness of two
school-girls. It is impossible to suspect Marcus Aurelius of insincerity,
and it is easy to understand what a real fervour of admiration his
saintly character might awaken in any one who had the privilege of
watching and aiding its development; but the endearments exchanged in the
letters that pass between "my dearest master" and "my life and lord" are
such as modern taste finds it hard to sympathise with, or even to
understand.

The single cause for complaint that Fronto had against his pupil was
that, as he advanced in life, he gradually withdrew from the study of
literature to that of philosophy. To Fronto, literature was the one
really important thing in the world; and in his perpetual recurrence to
this theme, he finds occasion to lay down in much detail his own literary
theories and his canons of style. The _Elocutio Novella_, which he
considered it his great work in life to expound and to practise, was
partly a return upon the style of the older Latin authors, partly a new
growth based, as theirs had been, on the actual language of common life.
The prose of Cato and the Gracchi had been, in vocabulary and structure,
the living spoken language of the streets and farms, wrought into shape
in the hands of men of powerful genius. To give fresh vitality to Latin,
Fronto saw, and saw rightly, that the same process of literary genius
working on living material must once more take place. His mistake was in
fancying it possible to go back again to the second century before
Christ, and make a fresh start from that point as though nothing had
happened in the meantime. In our own age we have seen a somewhat similar
fallacy committed by writers who, in their admiration of the richness and
flexibility of Elizabethan English, have tried to write with the same
copiousness of vocabulary and the same freedom of structure as the
Elizabethans. Between these and their object lies an insuperable barrier,
the formed and finished prose of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries;
between Fronto and his lay the whole mass of what, in the sustained and
secure judgment of mankind, is the classical prose of the Latin language,
from Cicero to Tacitus. In the simplicity which he pursued there was
something ineradicably artificial, and even unnatural, and the fresh
resources from which he attempted to enrich the literary language and to
form his new Latin resembled, to use his own striking simile, the
exhausted and unwilling population from which the legions could only now
be recruited by the most drastic conscription.

Yet if Fronto hardly succeeded in founding a new Latin, he was a powerful
influence in the final collapse and disappearance of the old. His
reversion to the style and language of pre-Ciceronian times was only a
temporary fashion; but in the general decay of taste and learning it was
sufficient to break the continuity of Latin literature. The bronze age of
Ennius and Cato had been succeeded, in a broad and stately development,
by the Golden and Silver periods. Under this fresh attack the Latin of
the Silver Age breaks up and goes to pieces, and the failure of Fronto
and his contemporaries to create a new language opens the age of the base
metals. The collapse of the imperial system after the death of Marcus
Aurelius is not more striking or more complete than the collapse of
literature after that of his tutor.

Of the actual literary achievement of this remarkable critic, when he
turned from criticism and took to construction, the surviving fragments
give but an imperfect idea. Most of the fragments are from private
letters; the rest are from rhetorical exercises, including those of the
so-called _Principia Historiae_, a panegyric upon the campaigns and
administration of Verus in the Asiatic provinces. But among the letters
there are some of a more studied eloquence, which show pretty clearly the
merits and defects of their author as a writer. In narrative he is below
mediocrity: his attempt, for instance, to tell the story of the ring of
Polycrates is incredibly languid and tedious. Where his style reaches its
highest level of force and refinement is in the more imaginative
passages, and in the occasional general reflections where he makes the
thought remarkable by an unexpected cadence of language. A single
characteristic passage may be quoted, the allegory of the Creation of
Sleep. It occurs in a letter urging the Emperor to take a brief rest from
the cares of government during a few days that he was spending at a
little seaside town in Etruria. The admirably sympathetic rendering given
by the late Mr. Pater in _Marius the Epicurean_ will show more clearly
than abstract criticism the distinctively romantic or mediaeval note
which, except in so far as it had been anticipated by the genius of Plato
and Virgil, appears now in literature almost for the first time.

"They say that our father Jupiter, when he ordered the world at the
beginning, divided time into two parts exactly equal; the one part he
clothed with light, the other with darkness; he called them Day and
Night; and he assigned rest to the night and to the day the work of life.
At that time Sleep was not yet born, and men passed the whole of their
lives awake: only, the quiet of the night was ordained for them, instead
of sleep. But it came to pass, little by little, being that the minds of
men are restless, that they carried on their business alike by night as
by day, and gave no part at all to repose. And Jupiter, when he perceived
that even in the night-time they ceased not from trouble and disputation,
and that even the courts of law remained open, resolved to appoint one of
his brothers to be the overseer of the night and have authority over
man's rest. But Neptune pleaded in excuse the gravity of his constant
charge of the seas, and Father Dis the difficulty of keeping in
subjection the spirits below: and Jupiter, having taken counsel with the
other gods, perceived that the practice of nightly vigils was somewhat in
favour. It was by night, for the most part, that Juno gave birth to her
children; Minerva, the mistress of all art and craft, loved the midnight
lamp; Mars delighted in the night for his plots and sallies; and the
favour of Venus and Bacchus was with those who roused by night. Then it
was that Jupiter formed the design of creating Sleep; and he added him to
the number of the gods, and gave him the charge over night and rest,
putting into his hands the keys of human eyes. With his own hands he
mingled the juices wherewith Sleep should soothe the hearts of mortals--
herb of Enjoyment and herb of Safety, gathered from a grove in Heaven;
and, from the meadows of Acheron, the herb of Death; expressing from it
one single drop only, no bigger than a tear that one might hide. 'With
this juice,' he said, 'pour slumber upon the eyelids of mortals. So soon
as it hath touched them they will lay themselves down motionless, under
thy power. But be not afraid: they will revive, and in a while stand up
again upon their feet.' After that, Jupiter gave wings to Sleep,
attached, not to his heels like Mercury's, but to his shoulders like the
wings of Love. For he said, 'It becomes thee not to approach men's eyes
as with the noise of a chariot and the rushing of a swift courser, but
with placid and merciful flight, as upon the wings of a swallow--nay! not
so much as with the fluttering of a dove.'"

Alike in the naïve and almost childlike simplicity of its general
structure, and in its minute and intricate ornament, like that of a
diapered wall or a figured tapestry, where hardly an inch of space is
ever left blank--this new style is much more akin to the manner of the
thirteenth or fourteenth century than to that of the classical period. A
similar quality is shown, not more strikingly, but on a larger scale and
with a more certain touch, in the celebrated prose romance of Fronto's
contemporary, Lucius Apuleius.

Like Fronto, Apuleius was of African origin. He was born at the Roman
colony of Madaura in Numidia, and educated at Carthage, from which he
proceeded afterwards to the university of Athens. The epithets of _semi-
Numida_ and _semi-Gaetulus_, which he applies to himself, indicate that
he fully felt himself to belong to a civilisation which was not purely
European. Together with the Graeco-Syrian Lucian, this Romano-African
represents the last extension which ancient culture took before finally
fading away or becoming absorbed in new forms. Both were by profession
travelling lecturers; they were the nearest approach which the ancient
world made to what we should now call the higher class of journalist.
Lucian, in his later life--like a journalist nowadays who should enter
Parliament--combined his profession with high public employment; but
Apuleius, so far as is known, spent all his life in writing and
lecturing. Though he was not strictly either an orator or a philosopher,
his works include both speeches and philosophical treatises; but his
chief distinction and his permanent interest are as a novelist both in
the literal and in the accepted sense of the word--a writer of prose
romances in which he carried the _novella elocutio_ to the highest point
it reached. He was born about the year 125; the _Metamorphoses_, his most
famous and his only extant romance, was written at Rome before he was
thirty, soon after he had completed his course of study at Athens. The
philosophical or mystical treatises of his later life, _On the Universe,
On the God of Socrates, On Plato and his Doctrine_, do not rise above the
ordinary level of the Neo-Platonist school, Platonism half understood,
mixed with fanciful Orientalism, and enveloped in a maze of verbiage.
That known as the _Apologia_, an elaborate literary amplification of the
defence which he had to make before the proconsul of Africa against an
accusation of dealing in magic, is the only one which survives of his
oratorical works; and his miscellaneous writings on many branches of
science and natural history, which are conjectured to have formed a sort
of encyclopedia like those of Celsus and Pliny, are all but completely
lost: but the _Florida_, a collection, probably made by himself, of
twenty-four selected passages from the public lectures which he delivered
at Carthage, give an idea of his style as a lecturer, and of the scope
and variety of his talent. The Ciceronian manner of Quintilian and his
school has now completely disappeared. The new style may remind one here
and there of Seneca, but the resemblance does not go far. Fronto, who
speaks of Cicero with grudging and lukewarm praise, regards Seneca as on
the whole the most corrupt among Roman writers, and Apuleius probably
held the same view. He produces his rhetorical effects, not by daring
tropes or accumulations of sonorous phrases, but by a perpetual
refinement of diction which keeps curiously weighing and rejecting words,
and giving every other word an altered value or an unaccustomed setting.
The effect is like that of strange and rather barbarous jewellery. A
remarkable passage, on the power of sight possessed by the eagle, may be
cited as a characteristic specimen of his more elaborate manner. _Quum se
nubium tenus altissime sublimavit_, he writes, _evecta alis totum istud
spatium, qua pluitur et ningitur, ultra quod cacumen nec fulmini nec
fulguri locus est, in ipso, ut ita dixerim, solo aetheris et fastigio
hiemis ... nutu clementi laevorsum vel dextrorsum tota mole corporis
labitur ... inde cuncta despiciens, ibidem pinnarum eminus indefesso
remigio, ac paulisper cunctabundo volatu paene eodem loco pendula
circumtuetur et quaerit quorsus potissimum in praedam superne se proruat
fulminis vice, de caelo improvisa simul campis pecua, simul montibus
feras, simul urbibus homines, uno obtutu sub eodem impetu cernens_. The
first thing that strikes a reader accustomed to classical Latin in a
passage like this is the short broken rhythms, the simple organism of
archaic prose being artificially imitated by carefully and deliberately
breaking up all the structure which the language had been wrought into
through the handling of centuries. The next thing is that half the
phrases are, in the ordinary sense of the word, barely Latin. Apuleius
has all the daring, though not the genius, of Virgil himself in inventing
new Latin or using old Latin in new senses. But Virgil is old Latin to
him no less than Ennius or Pacuvius; in this very passage, with its
elaborate archaisms, there are three phrases taken directly from the
first book of the _Aeneid_.

In the _Metamorphoses_ the elaboration of the new style culminates. In
its main substance this curious and fantastic romance is a translation
from a Greek original. Its precise relation to the version of the same
story, extant in Greek under the name of Lucian, has given rise to much
argument, and the question cannot be held to be conclusively settled; but
the theory which seems to have most in its favour is that both are
versions of a lost Greek original. Lucian applied his limpid style and
his uncommon power of narration to rewrite what was no doubt a ruder and
more confused story. Apuleius evidently took the story as a mere
groundwork which he might overlay with his own fantastic embroidery. He
was probably attracted to it by the supernatural element, which would
appeal strongly to him, not merely as a professed mystic and a dabbler in
magic, but as a _décadent_ whose art sought out strange experiences and
romantic passions no less than novel rhythms and exotic diction. Under
the light touch of Lucian the supernaturalism of the story is merely that
of a fairy-tale, not believed in or meant to be believed; in the
_Metamorphoses_ a brooding sense of magic is over the whole narrative. In
this spirit he entirely remodels the conclusion of the story. The whole
of the eleventh book, from the vision of the goddess, with which it
opens, to the reception of the hero at the conclusion into the fellowship
of her holy servants, is conceived at the utmost tension of mystical
feeling. "With stars and sea-winds in her raiment," flower-crowned, shod
with victorious palm, clad, under the dark splendours of her heavy pall,
in shimmering white silk shot with saffron and rose like flame, an awful
figure rises out of the moonlit sea: _En adsum_, comes her voice, _rerum
natura parens, elementorum omnium domina, seculorum progenies initialis,
summa numinum, regina manium, prima caelitum, deorum dearumque facies
uniformis, quae caeli luminosa culmina, maris salubria flamina, inferorum
deplorata silentia nutibus meis dispenso_. It was in virtue of such
passages as that from which these words are quoted that Apuleius came to
be regarded soon after his death as an incarnation of Antichrist, sent to
perplex the worshippers of the true God. Already to Lactantius he is not
a curious artist in language, but a magician inspired by diabolical
agency; St. Augustine tells us that, like Apollonius of Tyana, he was set
up by religious paganism as a rival to Jesus Christ.

Of the new elements interwoven by Apuleius in the story of the
transformations and adventures of Lucius of Patrae (Lucius of Madaura, he
calls him, thus hinting, to the mingled awe and confusion of his readers,
that the events had happened to himself), the fervid religious enthusiasm
of the conclusion is no doubt historically the most important; but what
has made it immortal is the famous story of Cupid and Psyche, which fills
nearly two books of the _Metamorphoses_. With the strangeness
characteristic of the whole work, this wonderful and exquisitely told
story is put in the mouth of a half crazy and drunken old woman, in the
robbers' cave where part of the action passes. But her first half-dozen
words, the _Erant in quadam civitate rex et regina_, lift it in a moment
into the fairy world of pure romance. The story itself is in its
constituent elements a well-known specimen of the _märchen,_ or popular
tale, which is not only current throughout the Aryan peoples, but may be
traced in the popular mythology of all primitive races. It is beyond
doubt in its essential features of immemorial antiquity; but what is
unique about it is its sudden appearance in literature in the full flower
of its most elaborate perfection. Before Apuleius there is no trace of
the story in Greek or Roman writing; he tells it with a daintiness of
touch and a wealth of fanciful ornament that have left later story-
tellers little or nothing to add. The version by which it is best known
to modern readers, that in the _Earthly Paradise_, while, after the
modern poet's manner, expanding the descriptions for their own sake,
follows Apuleius otherwise with exact fidelity.

In the more highly wrought episodes, like the _Cupid and Psyche_, the new
Latin of Apuleius often approximates nearly to assonant or rhymed verse.
Both rhyme and assonance were to be found in the early Latin which he had
studied deeply, and may be judged from incidental fragments of the
popular language never to have wholly disappeared from common use during
the classical period. Virgil, in his latest work, as has been noticed,
shows a tendency to experiment in combining their use with that of the
Graeco-Latin rhythms. The combination, in the writing of the new school,
of a sort of inchoate verse with an elaborate and even pedantic prose was
too artificial to be permanent; but about the same time attempts were
made at a corresponding new style in regular poetry. Rhymed verse as such
does not appear till later; the work of the _novelli poetae_, as they
were called by the grammarians, partly took the form of reversion to the
trochaic metres which were the natural cadence of the Latin language,
partly of fresh experiments in hitherto untried metres, in both cases
with a large employment of assonance, and the beginnings of an accentual
as opposed to a quantitative treatment. Of these experiments few have
survived; the most interesting is a poem of remarkable beauty preserved
in the Latin Anthology under the name of the _Pervigilium Veneris_. Its
author is unknown, nor can its date be determined with certainty. The
worship of Venus Genetrix, for whose spring festival the poem is written,
had been revived on a magnificent scale by Hadrian; and this fact,
together with the internal evidence of the language, make it assignable
with high probability to the age of the Antonines. The use of the
preposition _de_, almost as in the Romance languages, where case-
inflexions would be employed in classical Latin, has been held to argue
an African origin; while its remarkable mediaevalisms have led some
critics, against all the other indications, to place its date as low as
the fourth or even the fifth century.

The _Pervigilium Veneris_ is written in the trochaic septenarian verse
which had been freely used by the earliest Roman poets, but had since
almost dropped out of literary use. With the revival of the trochaic
movement the long divorce between metrical stress and spoken accent
begins to break down. The metre is indeed accurate, and even rigorous, in
its quantitative structure; but instead of the prose and verse stresses
regularly clashing as they do in the hexameter or elegiac, they tend
broadly towards coinciding, and do entirely coincide in one-third of the
lines of the poem. We are on the very verge of the accentual Latin poetry
of the Middle Ages, and the affinity is made closer by the free use of
initial and terminal assonances, and even of occasional rhyme. The use of
stanzas with a recurring refrain was not unexampled; Virgil, following
Theocritus and Catullus, had employed the device with singular beauty in
the eighth _Eclogue_; but this is the first known instance of the refrain
being added to a poem in stanzas of a fixed and equal length;[11] it is
more than halfway towards the structure of an eleventh-century Provençal
_alba_. The keen additional pleasure given by rhyme was easily felt in a
language where accidental rhymes come so often as they do in Latin, but
the rhyme here, so far as there is any, is rather incidental to the way
in which the language is used, with its silvery chimes and recurrences,
than sought out for its own sake; there is more of actual rhyming in some
of the prose of Apuleius. The refrain itself-

    _Cras amet qui nunquam amavit, quique amavit cras amet--_

has its internal recurrence, the folding back of the musical phrase upon
itself; and as it comes over and over again it seems to set the whole
poem swaying to its own music. In one of the most remarkable of his
lyrics (like this poem, a song of spring), Tennyson has come very near,
as near perhaps as it is possible to do in words, towards explaining the
actual process through which poetry comes into existence: _The fairy
fancies range, and lightly stirr'd, Ring little bells of change from word
to word_. In the _Pervigilium Veneris_ with its elaborate simplicity--
partly a conscious literary artifice, partly a real reversion to the
childhood of poetical form--this process is, as it were, laid bare before
our eyes; the ringing phrases turn and return, and expand and interlace
and fold in, as though set in motion by a strain of music.

    _Cras amet qui nunquam amavit, quique amavit cras amet;
    Ver novum, ver iam canorum, ver renatus orbis est;
    Vere concordant amores, vere nubunt alites
    Et nemus comam resolvit de maritis imbribus:
        Cras amet qui nunquam amavit, quique amavit cras amet--_

in these lines of clear melody the poem opens, and the rest is all a
series of graceful and florid variations or embroideries upon them; the
first line perpetually repeating itself through the poem like a thread of
gold in the pattern or a phrase in the music. In the soft April night the
tapering flame-shaped rosebud, soaked in warm dew, swells out and breaks
into a fire of crimson at dawn.

    _Facta Cypridis de cruore deque Amoris osculo
    Deque gemmis deque flammis deque solis purpuris
    Cras ruborem qui latebat veste tectus ignea
    Unico marita nodo non pudebit solvere.
        Cras amet qui nunquam amavit, quique amavit cras amet._

Flower-garlanded and myrtle-shrouded, the Spring worshippers go dancing
through the fields that break before them into a sheet of flowers; among
them the boy Love goes, without his torch and his arrows; amid gold-
flowered broom, under trees unloosening their tresses, in myrtle-thicket
and poplar shade, the whole land sings with the voices of innumerable
birds. Then with a sudden sob the pageant ceases:--

    _Ilia cantat, nos tacemus: quando ver venit meum?
    Quando fiam uti chelidon ut tacere desinam?_

A second spring, in effect, was not to come for poetry till a thousand
years later; once more then we hear the music of this strange poem, not
now in the bronze utterance of a mature and magnificent language, but
faintly and haltingly, in immature forms that yet have notes of new and
piercing sweetness.

    _Bels dous amicx, fassam un joc novel
    Ins el jardi on chanton li auzel--_

so it rings out in Southern France, "in an orchard under the whitethorn
leaf;" and in England, later, but yet a century before Chaucer, the same
clear note is echoed, _bytuene Mershe ant Averil, whan spray bigineth to
spring._

But in the Roman Empire under the Antonines the soil, the race, the
language, were alike exhausted. The anarchy of the third century brought
with it the wreck of the whole fabric of civilisation; and the new
religion, already widely diffused and powerful, was beginning to absorb
into itself on all sides the elements of thought and emotion which tended
towards a new joy and a living art.



VI.

EARLY LATIN CHRISTIANITY: MINUCIUS FELIX, TERTULLIAN, LACTANTIUS.


The new religion was long in adapting itself to literary form; and if,
between the era of the Antonines and that of Diocletian, a century passes
in which all the important literature is Christian, this is rather due to
the general decay of art and letters, than to any high literary quality
in the earlier patristic writing. Christianity began among the lower
classes, and in the Greek-speaking provinces of the Empire; after it
reached Rome, and was diffused through the Western provinces, it remained
for a long time a somewhat obscure sect, confined, in the first instance,
to the small Jewish or Graeco-Asiatic colonies which were to be found in
all centres of commerce, and spreading from them among the uneducated
urban populations. The persecution of Nero was directed against obscure
people, vaguely known as a sort of Jews, and the martyrdom of the two
great apostles was an incident that passed without remark and almost
without notice. Tacitus dismisses the Christians in a few careless words,
and evidently classes the new religion with other base Oriental
superstitions as hardly worth serious mention. The well-known
correspondence between Pliny and Trajan, on the subject of the repressive
measures to be taken against the Christians of Bithynia, indicates that
Christianity had, by the beginning of the second century, taken a large
and firm footing in the Eastern provinces; but it is not till a good many
years later that we have any certain indication of its obtaining a hold
on the educated classes. The legend of the conversion of Statius seems to
be of purely mediaeval origin. Flavius Clemens, the cousin of the Emperor
Domitian, executed on the ground of "atheism" during the year of his
consulship, is claimed, though without certainty, as the earliest
Christian martyr of high rank. Even in the middle of the second century,
the Church of Rome mainly consisted of people who could barely speak or
write Latin. The Muratorian fragment, the earliest Latin Christian
document, which general opinion dates within a few years of the death of
Marcus Aurelius, and which is part of an extremely important official
list of canonical writings issued by the authority of the Roman Church,
is barbarous in construction and diction. It is in the reign of Commodus,
amid the wreck of all other literature, that we come on the first
Christian authors. Victor, Bishop of Rome from the year 186, is mentioned
by Jerome as the first author of theological treatises in Latin; taken
together with his attempt to excommunicate the Asiatic Churches on the
question, already a burning one, of the proper date of keeping Easter,
this shows that the Latin Church was now gaining independent force and
vitality.

Two main streams may be traced in the Christian literature which begins
with the reign of Commodus. On the one hand, there is what may be called
the African school, writing in the new Latin; on the other, the Italian
school, which attempted to mould classical Latin to Christian use. The
former bears a close affinity in style to Apuleius, or, rather, to the
movement of which Apuleius was the most remarkable product; the latter
succeeds to Quintilian and his contemporaries as the second impulse of
Ciceronianism. The two opposing methods appear at their sharpest contrast
in the earliest authors of each, Tertullian and Minucius Felix. The vast
preponderance of the former, alike in volume of production and fire of
eloquence, offers a suggestive parallel to the comparative importance of
the two schools in the history of ecclesiastical Latin. Throughout the
third and fourth centuries the African school continues to predominate,
but it takes upon itself more of the classical finish, and tames the
first ferocity of its early manner. Cyprian inclines more to the style of
Tertullian; Lactantius, "the Christian Cicero," reverts strongly towards
the classical forms: and finally, towards the end of the fourth century,
the two languages are combined by Augustine, in proportions which,
throughout the Middle Ages, form the accepted type of the language of
Latin Christianity.

In a fine passage at the opening of the fifth book of his _Institutes of
Divinity,_ Lactantius regrets the imperfect literary support given to
Christianity by his two eminent predecessors. The obscurity and harshness
of Tertullian, he says (and to this may be added his Montanism, which
fluctuated on the edge of heresy), prevent him from being read or
esteemed as widely as his great literary power deserves; while Minucius,
in his single treatise, the _Octavius,_ gave a brilliant specimen of his
grace and power as a Christian apologist, but did not carry out the task
to its full scope. This last treatise is, indeed, of unique interest, not
only as a fine, if partial, vindication of the new religion, but as the
single writing of the age, Christian or pagan, which in style and diction
follows the classical tradition, and almost reaches the classical
standard. As to the life of its author, nothing is known beyond the
scanty indications given in the treatise itself. Even his date is not
wholly certain, and, while the reign of Commodus is his most probable
period, Jerome appears to allude to him as later than Tertullian, and
some modern critics incline to place the work in the reign of Alexander
Severus. The _Octavius_ is a dialogue in the Ciceronian manner, showing
especially a close study of the _De Natura Deorum_. A brief and graceful
introduction gives an account of the scene of the dialogue. The narrator,
with his two friends, Octavius and Caecilius, the former a Christian, the
latter a somewhat wavering adherent of the old faith, are taking a walk
on the beach near Ostia on a beautiful autumn morning, watching the
little waves lapping on the sand, and boys playing duck-and-drake with
pieces of tile, when Caecilius kisses his hand, in the ordinary pagan
usage, to an image of Serapis which they pass. The incident draws them on
to a theological discussion. Caecilius sets forth the argument against
Christianity in detail, and Octavius replies to him point by point; at
the end, Caecilius professes himself overcome, and declares his adhesion
to the faith of his friend. Both in the attack and in the defence it is
only the rational side of the new doctrine which is at issue. The unity
of God, the resurrection of the body, and retribution in a future state,
make up the sum of Christianity as it is presented. The name of Christ is
not once mentioned, nor is his divinity directly asserted. There is no
allusion to the sacraments, or to the doctrine of the Redemption; and
Octavius neither quotes from nor refers to the writings of either Old or
New Testament. Among early Christian writings, this method of treatment
is unexampled elsewhere. The work is an attempt to present the new
religion to educated opinion as a reasonable philosophic system; as we
read it, we might be in the middle of the eighteenth century. With this
temperate rationalism is combined a clearness and purity of diction,
founded on the Ciceronian style, but without Cicero's sumptuousness of
structure, that recalls the best prose of the Silver Age.

The author of the _Octavius_ was a lawyer, who practised in the Roman
courts. The literary influence of Quintilian no doubt lasted longer among
the legal profession, for whose guidance he primarily wrote, than among
the grammarians and journalists, who represent in this age the general
tendency of the world of letters. But even in the legal profession the
new Latin had established itself, and, except in the capital, seems to
have almost driven out the classical manner. Its most remarkable exponent
among Christian writers was, up to the time of his conversion, a pleader
in the Carthaginian law-courts.

Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus was born at Carthage towards the
end of the reign of Antoninus Pius. When he was a young man, the fame of
Apuleius as a writer and lecturer was at its height; and though
Tertullian himself never mentions him (as Apuleius, on his side, never
refers in specific terms to the Christian religion), they must have been
well known to each other, and their antagonism is of the kind which grows
out of strong similarities of nature. Apuleius passed for a magician:
Tertullian was a firm believer in magic, and his conversion to
Christianity was, he himself tells us, very largely due to confessions of
its truth extorted from demons, at the strange spiritualistic séances_
which were a feature of the time among all classes. His conversion took
place in the last year of Commodus. The tension between the two
religions--for in Africa, at all events, the old and the new were
followed with equally fiery enthusiasm--had already reached breaking
point. A heathen mob, headed by the priestesses of the _Mater et Virgo
Caelestis,_ the object of the ecstatic worship afterwards transferred to
the mother of Christ, had two or three years before besieged the
proconsul of Africa in his own house because he refused to order a
general massacre of the Christians. In the anarchy after the
assassination of Commodus, the persecution broke out, and continued to
rage throughout the reign of Septimius Severus. It was in these years
that Tertullian poured forth the series of apologetic and controversial
writings whose fierce enthusiasm and impetuous eloquence open the history
of Latin Christianity. The _Apologeticum,_ the greatest of his earlier
works, and, upon the whole, his masterpiece, was composed towards the
beginning of this persecution, in the last years of the second century.
The terms in which its purport is stated, _Quod religio Christiana
damnanda non sit, nisi qualis sit prius intelligatur,_ might lead one to
expect a grave and reasoned defence of the new doctrine, like that of the
_Octavius_. But Tertullian's strength is in attack, not in defence; and
his apology passes almost at once into a fierce indictment of paganism,
painted in all the gaudiest colours of African rhetoric. Towards the end,
he turns violently upon those who say that Christianity is merely a
system of philosophy: and writers like Minucius are included with the
eclectic pagan schoolmen in his condemnation. Here, for the first time,
the position is definitely taken which has since then had so vast and
varied an influence, that the Holy Scriptures are the source of all
wisdom, and that the poetry and philosophy of the Graeco-Roman world were
alike derived or perverted from the inspired writings of the Old
Testament. Moses was five hundred years before Homer; and therefore, runs
his grandiose and sweeping fallacy, Homer is derived from the books of
Moses. The argument, strange to say, has lived almost into our own day.

In thus breaking with heathen philosophy and poetry, Tertullian
necessarily broke with the literary traditions of Europe for a thousand
years. The Holy Scriptures, as a canon of revealed truth, became
incidentally but inevitably a canon of literary style likewise. Writings
soaked in quotations from the Hebrew poets and prophets could not but be
affected by their style through and through. A current Latin translation
of the Old and New Testament--the so-called _Itala,_ which itself only
survives as the ground-work of later versions--had already been made, and
was in wide use. Its rude literal fidelity imported into Christian Latin
an enormous mass of Grecisms and Hebraisms--the latter derived from the
original writings, the former from the Septuagint version of the Old
Testament--which combined with its free use of popular language and its
relaxed grammar to force the new Latin further and further away from the
classical tradition. The new religion, though it met its educated
opponents in argument and outshone them in rhetorical embellishment,
still professed, after the example of its first founders, to appeal
mainly to the simple and the poor. "Stand forth, O soul!" cries
Tertullian in another treatise of the same period; "I appeal to thee, not
as wise with a wisdom formed in the schools, trained in libraries, or
nourished in Attic academy or portico, but as simple and rude, without
polish or culture; such as thou art to those who have thee only, such as
thou art in the crossroad, the highway, the dockyard."

In the ardour of its attacks upon the heathen civilisation, the rising
Puritanism of the Church bore hard upon the whole of culture. As against
the theatre and the gladiatorial games, indeed, it occupied an
unassailable position. There is a grim and characteristic humour in
Tertullian's story of the Christian woman who went to the theatre and
came back from it possessed with a devil, and the devil's crushing reply,
_In meo eam inveni,_ to the expostulation of the exorcist; a nobler
passion rings in his pleading against the butcheries of the amphitheatre,
"Do you wish to see blood? Behold Christ's!" His declamations against
worldly luxury and ornament in the sumptuous pages of the _De Cultu
Feminarum_ are not more sweeping or less sincere than those of Horace or
Juvenal; but the violent attack made on education and on literature
itself in the _De Idololatria_ shows the growth of that persecuting
spirit which, as it gathered material force, destroyed ancient art and
literature wherever it found them, and which led Pope Gregory, four
hundred years later, to burn the magnificent library founded by Augustus.
_Nos sumus in quos decucurrerunt fines seculorum,_ "upon us the ends of
the world are come," is the burden of Tertullian's impassioned argument.
What were art and letters to those who waited, from moment to moment, for
the glory of the Second Coming? Yet for ten years or more he continued to
pour forth his own brilliant essays; and while the substance of his
teaching becomes more and more harsh and vindictive, the force of his
rhetoric, his command over irony and invective, the gorgeous richness of
his vocabulary, remain as striking as ever. In the strange and often
romantic psychology of the _De Anima,_ and in the singular clothes-
philosophy of the _De Pallio,_ he appears as the precursor of Swedenborg
and Teufelsdrückh. A remarkable passage in the former treatise, in which
he speaks of the growing pressure of over-population in the Empire,
against which wars, famines, and pestilences had become necessary if
unwelcome remedies, may lead us to reconsider the theory, now largely
accepted, that the Roman Empire decayed and perished for want of men.
With the advance of years his growing antagonism to the Catholic Church
is accompanied by a further hardening of his style. The savage Puritanism
of the _De Monogamia_ and _De Ieiunio_ is couched in a scholastic diction
where the tradition of culture is disappearing; and in the gloomy
ferocity of the _De Pudicitia,_ probably the latest of his extant works,
he comes to a final rupture alike with Catholicism and with humane
letters.

The African school of patristic writers, of which Tertullian is at once
the earliest and the most imposing figure, and of which he was indeed to
a large degree the direct founder, continued for a century after his
death to include the main literary production of Latin Christianity.
Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus, Bishop of Carthage from the year 248,
though a pupil and an admirer of Tertullian, reverts in his own writings
at once to orthodoxy and to an easy and copious diction. In earlier youth
he had been a professor of rhetoric; after his conversion in mature life,
he gave up all his wealth to the poor, and devoted his great literary
gifts to apologetic and hortatory writings. He escaped the Decian
persecution by retiring from Carthage; but a few years later he was
executed in the renewed outbreak of judicial massacres which sullied the
short and disastrous reign of Valerian. Forty years after Cyprian's death
the rhetorician Arnobius of Sicca in Numidia renewed the attack on
paganism, rather than the defence or exposition of Christianity, in the
seven books _Adversus Nationes_, which he is said to have written as a
proof of the sincerity of his conversion. "Uneven and ill-proportioned,"
in the phrase of Jerome, this work follows neither the elaborate rhetoric
of the early African school, nor the chaster and more polished style of
Cyprian, but rather renews the inferior and slovenly manner of the
earlier antiquarians and encyclopedists. A free use of the rhetorical
figures goes side by side with a general want of finish and occasional
lapses into solecism. His literary gift is so small, and his knowledge of
the religion he professes to defend so slight and so excessively
inaccurate, that theologians and men of letters for once agree that his
main value consists in the fragments of antiquarian information which he
preserves. But he has a further claim to notice as the master of a
celebrated pupil.

Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius, a name eminent among patristic
authors, and not inconsiderable in humane letters, had, like Cyprian,
been a professor of rhetoric, and embraced Christianity in mature life.
That he was a pupil of Arnobius is established by the testimony of
Jerome; his African birth is only a doubtful inference from this fact.
Towards the end of the third century he established a school at
Nicomedia, which had practically become the seat of empire under the rule
of Diocletian; and from there he was summoned to the court of Gaul to
superintend the education of Crispus, the ill-fated son of Constantine.
The new religion had passed through its last and sharpest persecution
under Diocletian; now, of the two joint Emperors Constantine openly
favoured the Christians, and Licinius had been forced to relax the
hostility towards them which he had at first shown. As it permeated the
court and saw the reins of government almost within its grasp, the Church
naturally dropped some of the anathematising spirit in which it had
regarded art and literature in the days of its earlier struggles.
Lactantius brought to its service a taste trained in the best literary
tradition; and while some doubt was cast on his dogmatic orthodoxy as
regards the precise definition of the Persons of the Trinity, his pure
and elegant diction was accepted as a model for later writers. His
greatest work, the seven books of the _Institutes of Divinity_, was
published a few years before the victory of Constantine over Maxentius
outside the walls of Rome, which was the turning-point in the contest
between the two religions. It is an able exposition of Christian doctrine
in a style which, for eloquence, copiousness, and refinement, is in the
most striking contrast to the wretched prose produced by contemporary
pagan writers. The influence of Cicero is obvious and avowed throughout;
but the references in the work show the author to have been familiar with
the whole range of the Latin classics, poets as well as prose writers.
Ennius, the comedians and satirists, Virgil and Horace, are cited by him
freely; he even dares to praise Ovid. In his treatise _On Gods
Workmanship_--_De Opificio Dei_--the arguments are often borrowed with
the language from Cicero, but Lucretius is also quoted and combated. The
more fanatical side of the new religion appears in the curious work, _De
Mortibus Persecutorum_, written after Constantine had definitely thrown
in his lot with Christianity. It is famous as containing the earliest
record of the vision of Constantine before the battle of the Mulvian
Bridge; and its highly coloured account of the tragical fates of the
persecuting Emperors, from Nero to Diocletian, had a large effect in
fixing the tradition of the later Empire as viewed throughout the Middle
Ages. The long passionate protest of the Church against heathen tyranny
breaks out here into equally passionate exultation; the Roman Empire is
already seen, as it was later by St. Augustine, fading and crumbling away
with the growth of the new and imperial City of God.

Besides the large and continuous volume of its prose production, the
Latin Church of the third century also made its first essays in poetry.
They are both rude and scanty; it was not till late in the fourth century
that Christian poetry reached its full development in the hymns of
Ambrose and Prudentius, and the hexameter poems of Paulinus of Nola. The
province of Africa, fertile as it was in prose writers, never produced a
poet of any eminence. The pieces in verse--they can hardly be called
poems--ascribed to Tertullian and Cyprian are forgeries of a late period.
But contemporary with them is an African verse-writer of curious
linguistic interest, Commodianus. A bishop of Marseilles, who wrote, late
in the fifth century, a continuation of St. Jerome's catalogue of
ecclesiastical writers, mentions his work in a very singular phrase:
"After his conversion," he says, "Commodianus wrote a treatise against
the pagans in an intermediate language approximating to verse," _mediocri
sermone quasi versu_. This treatise, the _Carmen Apologeticum adversus
Iudaeos et Gentes_, is extant, together with other pieces by the same
author. It is a poem of over a thousand lines, which the allusions to the
Gothic war and the Decian persecution fix as having been written in or
very near the year 250. It is written in hexameters, composed on a system
which wavers between the quantitative and accentual treatment. These are
almost evenly balanced. The poem is thus a document of great importance
in the history of the development of mediaeval out of classical poetry.
Though not, of course, without his barbarisms, Commodianus was obviously
neither ignorant nor careless of the rules of classical versification,
some of which--for instance, the strong caesura in the middle of the
third foot--he retains with great strictness. His peculiar prosody is
plainly deliberate. Only a very few lines are wholly quantitative, and
none are wholly accentual, except where accent and quantity happen to
coincide. Much of the pronunciation of modern Italian may be traced in
his remarkable accentuation of some words; like Italian, he both throws
back the accent off a long syllable and slides it forward upon a short
one. Assonance is used freely, but there is not more rhyming than is
usual in the poetry of the late empire. Not only in pronunciation, but in
grammatical inflexion, the beginnings of Italian here and there appear.
The case-forms of the different declensions are beginning to run into one
another: the plural, for example, of _insignis_ is no longer _insignes_,
but, as in Italian, _insigni_; and the case-inflexions themselves are
dwindling away before the free use of prepositions, which was already
beginning to show itself in the _Pervigilium Veneris_.

Popular poetry was now definitely asserting itself alongside of book-
poetry formed on the classical model. But authors who kept up a high
literary standard in prose continued to do so in verse also. The poem _De
Ave Phoenice_, found in early mediaeval collections under the name of
Lactantius, and accepted as his by recent critics, is written in accurate
and graceful elegiac couplets, which are quite in accordance with the
admiration Lactantius, in his work _On the Wrath of God_, expresses for
Ovid. It is perhaps the earliest instance outside the field of prose of
the truce or coalition which was slowly forming itself between the new
religion and the old culture. Beyond a certain faint and almost
impalpable mysticism, which hints at the legend of the Phoenix as
symbolical of the doctrine of the Resurrection, there is nothing in the
poem which is distinctively Christian. Phoebus and the lyre of Cyllene
are invoked, as they might be by a pagan poet. But the language is from
beginning to end full of Christian or, at least, scriptural
reminiscences, which could only be possible to a writer familiar with the
Psalter. The description with which the poem opens of the Earthly
Paradise, a "land east of the sun," where the bird has its home, has
mingled touches of the Elysium of Homer and Virgil, and the New Jerusalem
of the Revelation; as in the Psalms, the sun is a bridegroom coming out
of his chamber, and night and day are full of a language that is not
speech.

In the literary revival of the latter half of the fourth century these
tendencies have developed themselves, and taken a more mature but a less
interesting form. After Christianity had become formally and irrevocably
the State religion, it took over what was left of Latin culture as part
of the chaotic inheritance which it had to accept as the price for civil
establishment. A heavy price was paid on both sides when Constantine, in
Dante's luminous phrase, "turned the eagle." The Empire definitively
parted with the splendid administrative and political tradition founded
on the classical training and the Stoic philosophy; though shattered as
it had been in the anarchy of the third century, that was perhaps in any
case irrecoverable. The Church, on its side, drew away in the persons of
its leaders from its earlier tradition, with all that it involved in the
growth of a wholly new thought and art, and armed or hampered itself with
that classicalism from which it never again got quite free. It is in the
century before Constantine, therefore, when old and new were in the
sharpest antagonism, and yet were both full of a strange ferment--the
ferment of dissolution in the one case, in the other that of quickening--
that the end of the ancient world, and with it the end of Latin
literature as such, might reasonably be placed. But the first result of
the alliance between the Empire and the Church was to give added dignity
to the latter and renewed energy to the former. The partial revival of
letters in the fourth century may induce us to extend our survey so far
as to include Ausonius and Claudian as legitimate, though remote,
successors of the Augustan poets.



VII

THE FOURTH CENTURY: AUSONIUS AND CLAUDIAN.


For a full century after the death of Marcus Aurelius, Latin literature
was, apart from the Christian writers, practically extinct. The authors
of the least importance, or whose names even are known to any but
professional scholars, may be counted on the fingers of one hand. The
stream of Roman law, the one guiding thread down those dark ages,
continued on its steady course. Papinian and Ulpian, the two foremost
jurists of the reigns of Septimius and Alexander Severus, bear a
reputation as high as that of any of their illustrious predecessors. Both
rose to what was in this century the highest administrative position in
the Empire, the prefecture of the praetorian guards. Papinian, a native
it seems of the Syrian town of Emesa, and a kinsman of the Syrian wife of
Septimius Severus, was the author of numerous legal works, both in Greek
and Latin. Under Severus he was not only commander of the household
troops, but discharged what we should now call the duties of Home
Secretary. His genius for law was united with an independence of judgment
and a sense of equity which rose beyond the limits of formal
jurisprudence, and made him one of the great humanising influences of his
profession. He was murdered, with circumstances of great brutality, by
the infamous Caracalla, almost immediately after his accession to sole
power. Domitius Ulpianus, Papinian's successor as the head of Latin
jurists, was also a Syrian by birth. Already an assessor to Papinian, and
a member of the imperial privy council, he was raised to the praetorian
prefecture and afterwards removed from it by his countryman, the Emperor
Heliogabalus, but reinstated by Alexander Severus, under whom he was
second ruler of the Empire till killed in a revolt of the praetorian
guards in the year 228. He was succeeded in the prefecture by Julius
Paulus, a jurist of almost equal eminence, though inferior to Ulpian in
style and literary grace. Roman law practically remained at the point
where these three eminent men left it, or only followed in their
footsteps, until its final systematisation under Justinian.

Beyond the field of law, such prose as was written in this century was
mainly Greek. The historical works of Herodian and Dio Cassius, poor in
quality as they are, seem to have excelled anything written at the same
time in Latin. Their contemporary, Marius Maximus, continued the series
of biographies of the Emperors begun by Suetonius, carrying it down from
Nerva to Heliogabalus; but the work, such as it was, is lost, and is only
known as the main source used by the earlier compilers of the _Augustan
History_. Verse-making had fallen into the hands of inferior grammarians.
Of their numerous productions enough survives to indicate that a certain
technical skill was not wholly lost. The metrical treatises of
Terentianus Maurus, a scholar of the later years of the second century,
show that the science of metre was studied with great care, not only in
its common forms, but in the less familiar lyric measures. The didactic
poem on the art of medicine by Quintus Sammonicus Serenus, the son of an
eminent bibliophile, and the friend of the Emperor Alexander Severus,
though of little poetical merit, is written in graceful and fluent verse.
If of little merit as poetry, it is of even less as science. Medicine had
sunk lower towards barbarism than versification, when a sovereign remedy
against fevers was described in these polished lines:--

    _Inscribis chartae quod dicitur Abracadabra,
    Saepius et subter repetis, sed detrahe summam
    Et magis atque magis desint elemenfa figuris,
    Singula quae semper rapies et cetera figes
    Donec in augustum redigatur litera conum:
    His lino nexis collum redimire memento_.

Nor is his alternative remedy of a piece of coral hung round the
patient's neck much more rational. The drop from the science of Celsus is
much more striking here than the drop from the art of Celsus'
contemporary Manilius. An intermittent imperial patronage of letters
lingered on. The elder and younger Gordian (the latter a pupil of
Sammonicus' father, who bequeathed his immense library to him) had some
reputation as writers. Clodius Albinus, the governor of Britain who
disputed the empire with Septimius Severus, was a devoted admirer of
Apuleius, and wrote romances in a similar manner, which, according to his
biographer, had no inconsiderable circulation.

Under Diocletian and his successors there was a slight and partial
revival of letters, which chiefly showed itself on the side of verse. The
_Cynegetica_, a didactic poem on hunting, by the Carthaginian poet Marcus
Aurelius Olympius Nemesianus, is, together with four bucolic pieces by
the same author, the chief surviving fragment of the main line of
Virgilian tradition. The _Cynegetica_, in spite of its good taste and its
excellent versification, is on the whole a dull performance; but in the
other pieces, the pastoral form gives the author now and then an
opportunity of introducing a little touch of the romantic tone which is
partly imitated from Virgil, but partly natural to the new Latin.

    _Perdit spina rosas nec semper lilia candent
    Nec longum tenet uva comas nec populus umbras,
    Donum forma breve est, nec se quod commodet annis:--_

in these graceful lines the copied Virgilian cadence is united with the
directness and the real or assumed simplicity which belongs to the second
childhood of Latin literature, and which is so remarkable in the authors
who founded the new style. The new style itself was also largely
practised, but only a few scattered remnants survive. Tiberianus, Count
of Africa, Vicar of Spain, and praetorian prefect of Gaul (the whole
nomenclature of the Empire is now passing from the Roman to the mediaeval
type) under Constantine the Great, is usually identified with the author
of some of the most strikingly beautiful of these fragmentary pieces. A
descriptive passage, consisting of twenty lines of finely written
trochaics, reminds one of the _Pervigilium Veneris_ in the richness of
its language and the delicate simplicity of its style. The last lines may
be quoted for their singular likeness to one of the most elaborately
beautiful stanzas of the _Faerie Queene_, that which describes the sounds
"consorted in one harmony" which Guyon hears in the gardens of Acrasia:--

_Has per umbras omnis ales plus canora quam putes
Cantibus vernis strepebat et susurris dulcibus:
Hic loquentis murmur amnis concinebat frondibus
Quas melos vocalis aurae, musa Zephyri, moverat:
Sic euntem per virecta pulcra odora et musica
Ales amnis aura lucus flos et umbra iuverat._

The principal prose work, however, which has come down from this age,
shows a continued and even increased degradation of style. The so-called
_Historia Augusta_, a series of memoirs, in continuation of Suetonius'
_Lives of the Twelve Caesars_, of the Roman Emperors from Hadrian to
Numerian (A.D. 117-284), was begun under Diocletian and finished under
Constantine by six writers--Aelius Spartianus, Julius Capitolinus,
Vulcacius Gallicanus, Trebellius Pollio, Aelius Lampridius, and Flavius
Vopiscus. Most of them, if not all, were officials of the imperial court,
and had free access to the registers of the senate as well as to more
private sources of information. The extreme feebleness of the contents of
this curious work is only exceeded by the poverty and childishness of the
writing. History had sunk into a collection of trivial gossip and details
of court life, couched in a language worthy of a second-rate chronicler
of the Dark Ages. The mere outward circumstances of the men whose lives
they narrated--the _purpurati Augusti,_ as one of the authors calls them
in a romantically sonorous phrase--were indeed of world-wide importance,
and among the masses of rubbish of which the memoirs chiefly consist
there is included much curious information and striking incident. But
their main interest is in the light they throw on the gradual sinking of
the splendid administrative organisation of the second century towards
the sterile Chinese hierarchy of the Byzantine Empire, and the concurrent
degradation of paganism, both as a political and a religious system.

Vopiscus, the last of the six authors, apologises, in drawing the work to
a close, for his slender literary power, and expresses the hope that his
material at least may be found useful to some "eloquent man who may wish
to unlock the actions of princes." What he had in his mind was probably
not so much regular history as the panegyrical oratory which about this
same time became a prominent feature of the imperial courts, and gave
their name to a whole school of writers known as the Panegyrici. Gaul,
for a long time the rival of Africa as the nurse of judicial oratory, was
the part of the Empire where this new form of literature was most
assiduously cultivated. Up to the age of Constantine, it had enjoyed
practical immunity from barbarian invasion, and had only had a moderate
share of the civil wars which throughout the third century desolated all
parts of the Empire. In wealth and civilisation, and in the arts of
peace, it probably held the foremost place among the provinces.
Marseilles, Narbonne, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Autun, Rheims, and Trèves all
possessed famous and flourishing schools of oratory. The last-named town
was, after the supreme power had been divided among two or more Augusti,
a frequent seat of the imperial government of the Western provinces, and,
like Milan, became a more important centre of public life than Rome. Of
the extant collection of panegyrics, two were delivered there before
Diocletian's colleague, the Emperor Maximianus. A florid Ciceronianism
was the style most in vogue, and the phraseology, at least, of the old
State religion was, until the formal adoption of Christianity by the
government, not only retained, but put prominently forward. Eumenius of
Autun, the author of five or more pieces in the collection, delivered at
dates between the years 297 and 311, is the most distinguished figure of
the group. His fluent and ornate Latin may be read with some pleasure,
though the purpose of the orations leaves them little value as a record
of facts or a candid expression of opinions. Under the influence of these
nurseries of rhetoric a new Gallic school of Christian writers rose and
flourished during the fourth century. Hilarius of Poitiers, the most
eminent of the Gallic bishops of this period, wrote controversial and
expository works in the florid involved style of the neo-Ciceronian
orators, which had in their day a high reputation. As the first known
author of Latin hymns, he is the precursor of Ambrose and Prudentius.
Ambrose himself, though as Bishop of Milan he belongs properly to the
Italian school of theological writers, was born and probably educated at
Trèves. But the literature of the province reached its highest point
somewhat later, in one of the most important authors of the century,
Decimus Magnus Ausonius of Bordeaux.

Ausonius was of Gallic blood by both parents; he was educated in grammar
and rhetoric at the university of Bordeaux, and was afterwards for many
years professor of both subjects at that of Trèves. As tutor to Gratian,
son and successor of the Emperor Valentinian, he established himself in
court favour, and fulfilled many high State offices. After Gratian was
succeeded by Theodosius he retired to a lettered ease near his native
town, where he lived till nearly the end of the century. His numerous
poetical works are of the most miscellaneous kind, ranging from Christian
hymns and elegies on deceased relations to translations from the Greek
Anthology and centos from Virgil. Among them the volume of _Idyllia_
constitutes his chief claim to eminence, and gives him a high rank among
the later Latin poets. The gem of this collection is the famous
_Mosella,_ written at Trèves about the year 370. The most beautiful of
purely descriptive Latin poems, it is unique in the felicity with which
it unites Virgilian rhythm and diction with the new romantic sense of the
beauties of nature. The feeling for the charm of landscape which we had
occasion to note in the letters of the younger Pliny is here fully
developed, with a keener eye and an enlarged power of expression. Pliny's
description of the Clitumnus may be interestingly compared with the
passage of this poem in which Ausonius recounts, with fine and observant
touches, the beauties of his northern river--the liquid lapse of waters,
the green wavering reflections, the belt of crisp sand by the water's
edge and the long weeds swaying with the stream, the gleaming gravel-beds
under the water with their patches of moss and the quick fishes darting
hither and thither over them; or the oftener-quoted and not less
beautiful lines where he breaks into rapture over the sunset colouring of
stream and bank, and the glassy water where, at evening, all the hills
waver and the vine-tendril shakes and the grape-bunches swell in the
crystal mirror. In virtue of this poem Ausonius ranks not merely as the
last, or all but the last, of Latin, but as the first of French poets.
His feeling for the country of his birth has all the romantic patriotism
which we are accustomed to associate with a much earlier or a much later
age. The language of Du Bellay in the sixteenth century--

    _Plus que le marbre dur me plaist l'ardoise fine,
    Plus mon Loire Gaulois que le Tybre Latin--_

is anticipated here. The softer northern loveliness, _la douceur
Angevine_, appeals to Ausonius more than all the traditional beauties of
Arcadia or Sicily. It is with the Gallic rivers that he compares his
loved Moselle: _Non tibi se Liger anteferet, non Axona praeceps ... te
sparsis incerta Druentia ripis._

    _O lordly flow the Loire and Seine
    And loud the dark Durance!--_

we seem to hear the very words of the modern ballad: and at the end of
the poem his imagination returns, with the fondness of a lover, to the
green lakes and sounding streams of Aquitaine, and the broad sea-like
reaches of his native Garonne.

In this poem, alike by the classic beauty of his language and the
modernism of his feeling, Ausonius marks one of the great divisions in
the history of poetry. He is the last of the poets of the Empire which
was still nominally co-extensive with the world, which held in itself
East and West, the old and the new. The final division of the Roman
world, which took place in the year 395 between the two sons of
Theodosius, synchronises with a division as definite and as final between
classical and mediaeval poetry; and in the last years of the fourth
century the parting of the two streams, the separation of the dying from
the dawning light, is placed in sharp relief by the works of two
contemporary poets, Claudian and Prudentius. The singular and isolated
figure of Claudian, the posthumous child of the classical world, stands
alongside of that of the first great Christian poet like the figures
which were fabled to stand, regarding the rising and setting sun, by the
Atlantic gates where the Mediterranean opened into the unknown Western
seas.

Claudius Claudianus was of Asiatic origin, and lived at Alexandria until,
in the year of the death of Theodosius, he passed into Italy and became
the laureate of the court of Milan. Till then he had, according to his
own statement, written in Greek, his life having been passed wholly in
the Greek-speaking provinces. But immediately on his arrival at the seat
of the Western or Latin Empire he showed himself a master of the language
and forms of Latin poetry such as had not been known since the end of the
first century. His poems, so far as they can be dated, belong entirely to
the next ten years. He is conjectured not to have long survived the
downfall of his patron Stilicho, the great Vandal general who, as
guardian of the young Emperor Honorius, was practically ruler of the
Western Empire. He was the last eminent man of letters who was a
professed pagan.

The historical epics which Claudian produced in rapid succession during
the last five years of the fourth and the first five of the fifth century
are now little read, except by historians who refer to them for details
of the wars or court intrigues of the period. A hundred years ago, when
Statius and Silius Italicus formed part of the regular course of
classical study, he naturally and properly stood alongside of them. His
Latin is as pure as that of the best poets of the Silver Age; in wealth
of language and in fertility of imagination he is excelled, if at all, by
Statius alone. Alone in his age he inherits the scholarly tradition which
still lingered among the libraries of Alexandria. Nonnus, the last and
not one of the least learned and graceful of the later Greek epicists,
who probably lived not long after Claudian, was also of Egyptian birth
and training, and he and Claudian are really the last representatives of
that Alexandrian school which had from the first had so large and deep an
influence over the literature of Rome. The immense range of time covered
by Greek literature is brought more vividly to our imagination when we
consider that this single Alexandrian school, which began late in the
history of Greek writing and came to an end centuries before its
extinction, thus completely overlaps at both ends the whole life of the
literature of Rome, reaching as it does from before Ennius till after
Claudian.

These historical epics of Claudian's--_On the Consulate of Stilicho, On
the Gildonic War, On the Pollentine War, On the Third, Fourth, and Sixth
Consulates of Honorius_--are accompanied by other pieces, written in the
same stately and harmonious hexameter, of a more personal interest:
invectives against Rufinus and Eutropius, the rivals of his patron; a
panegyric on Stilicho's wife, Serena, the niece of Theodosius; a fine
epithalamium on the marriage of Honorius with Maria, the daughter of
Stilicho and Serena; and also by a number of poems in elegiac metre, in
which he wrote with equal grace and skill, though not with so singular a
mastery. Among the shorter elegiac pieces, which are collected under the
title of _Epigrams,_ one, a poem on an old man of Verona who had never
travelled beyond his own little suburban property, is among the jewels of
Latin poetry. The lines in which he describes this quiet garden life--

    _Frugibus alternis, non consule computat annum;
        Auctumnum pomis, ver sibi flore notat;
    Idem condit ager soles idemque reducit,
        Metiturque suo rusticus orbe diem,
    Ingentem meminit parvo qui germine quercum
        Aequaevumque videt consenuisse nemus--_

are in grace and feeling like the very finest work of Tibullus; and the
concluding couplet--

    _Erret, et extremos alter scrutetur Hiberos,
        Plus habet hic vitae, plus habet ille viae--_

though, in its dependence on a verbal point, it may not satisfy the
purest taste, is not without a dignity and pathos that are worthy of the
large manner of the classical period.

Claudian used the heroic hexameter for mythological as well as historical
epics. Of his _Gigantomachia_ we possess only an inconsiderable fragment;
but the three books of the unfinished _Rape of Proserpine_ are among the
finest examples of the purely literary epic. The description of the
flowery spring meadows where Proserpine and her companions gather
blossoms for garlands is a passage perpetually quoted. It is interesting
to note how the rising tide of romanticism has here, as elsewhere, left
Claudian wholly untouched. The passage, though elaborately ornate, is
executed in the clear hard manner of the Alexandrian school; it has not a
trace of that sensitiveness to nature which vibrates in the _Pervigilium
Veneris_. We have gone back for a moment to that poetical style which
perpetually reminds us of the sculptured friezes of Greek art, severe in
outline, immensely adroit and learned in execution, but a little chilly
and colourless except in the hands of its greatest masters. After paying
to the full the tribute of admiration which is due to Claudian's refined
and dignified workmanship, we are still left with the feeling that this
kind of poetry was already obsolete. It is not only that, as has been
remarked with truth of his historical epics, the elaboration of the
treatment is disproportionate to the importance or interest of the
subject. _Materiam superabat opus_ might be said with equal truth of much
of the work of his predecessors. But a new spirit had by this time
penetrated literature, and any poetry wholly divorced from it must be not
only artificial--for that alone would prove nothing against it--but
unnatural. Claudian is a precursor of the Renaissance in its narrower
aspect; the last of the classics, he is at the same time the earliest,
and one of the most distinguished, of the classicists. It might seem a
mere chance whether his poetry belonged to the fourth or to the sixteenth
century.

In Claudian's distinguished contemporary, the Spanish poet Aurelius
Prudentius Clemens, Christian Latin poetry reached complete maturity. His
collected poems were published at Rome in 404, the year celebrated by
Claudian as that of the sixth consulship of Honorius. Before Prudentius,
Christian poetry had been slight in amount and rude or tentative in
manner. We have already had occasion to notice its earliest efforts in
the rude verses of Commodianus. The revival of letters in the fourth
century, so far as it went, affected Christian as well as secular poetry.
Under Constantine, a Spanish deacon, one Gaius Vettius Aquilinus
Juvencus, put the Gospel narrative into respectable hexameters, which are
still extant. The poems and hymns which have come down under the name of
Bishop Hilary of Poitiers are probably spurious, and a similar doubt
attaches to those ascribed to the eminent grammarian and rhetorician,
Gaius Marius Victorinus, after his conversion. Before Prudentius
published his collection, the hymns of St. Ambrose had been written, and
were in use among the Western Churches. But these, though they formed the
type for all later hymn-writers, were few in number. Out of the so-called
Ambrosian hymns a rigorous criticism only allows five or six as
authentic. These, however, include two world-famed pieces, still in daily
use by the Church, the _Aeterne rerum Conditor_ and the _Deus Creator
omnium,_ and the equally famous _Veni Redemptor_.

To the form thus established by St. Ambrose, Prudentius, in his two books
of lyrical poems, gave a larger volume and a more sustained literary
power. The _Cathemerina,_ a series of poems on the Christian life, and
the _Peristephanon,_ a book of the praise of Christian martyrs--St.
Lawrence, St. Vincent, St. Agnes, among other less celebrated names--at
once represent the most substantial addition made to Latin lyrical poetry
since Horace, and the complete triumph of the new religion. They are not,
like the Ambrosian hymns, brief pieces meant for actual singing in
churches. Out of the twenty-six poems only three are under one hundred
lines in length, and that on the martyrdom of St. Romanus of Antioch runs
to no less than eleven hundred and forty, almost the proportions of a
small epic. But in the brilliance and vigour of their language, their
picturesque style, and the new joy that, in spite of their asceticism,
burns throughout them, they gave an impulse of immense force towards the
development of Christian literature. In merely technical quality they are
superior to any poetry of the time, Claudian alone excepted; in their
fullness of life, in the exultant tone which kindles and sustains them,
they make Claudian grow pale like a candle-flame at dawn.

With Prudentius, however, as with Claudian, we have almost passed beyond
the strict limit of a history of ancient Latin literature: and any fuller
discussion, either of these remarkable lyrical pieces, or of his more
voluminous expository or controversial treatises in hexameter, properly
belongs to a history of the Christian Church. The two most eminent and
copious prose writers of the later fourth century, Jerome and Augustine,
occupy the same ambiguous position. Apart from them, and from the less
celebrated Christian writers who were their predecessors or
contemporaries, the prose of the fourth century is both small in amount
and insignificant in quality. The revival in verse composition which
followed the settlement of the Empire under Constantine scarcely spread
to the less imitable art of prose. The school of eminent Roman
grammarians who flourished about the middle of the century, and among
whom Servius and Donatus are the leading names, while they commented on
ancient masterpieces with inexhaustible industry, and often with really
sound judgment, wrote themselves in a base and formless style. A few
authors of technical manuals and epitomes of history rise a little above
the common level, or have a casual importance from the contents of their
works. The treatises on husbandry by Palladius, and on the art of war by
Flavius Vegetius Renatus, became, to a certain degree, standard works;
the little handbooks of Roman history written in the reigns of
Constantius and Valens by Aurelius Victor and Eutropius are simple and
unpretentious, but have little positive merit, The age produced but one
Latin historian, Ammianus Marcellinus. Like Claudian, he was of Asiatic
origin, and Greek-speaking by birth, but, in the course of his service on
the staff of the captain-general of the imperial cavalry, had spent much
of his life in the Latin provinces of Gaul and Italy; and his history was
written at Rome, where he lived after retiring from active service. The
task he set himself, a history of the Empire, in continuation of that of
Tacitus, from the accession of Nerva to the death of Valens, was one of
great scope and unusual complexity. He brought to it some at least of the
gifts of the historian: intelligence, honesty, tolerance, a large amount
of good sense. But his Latin, which he never came to write with the ease
of a native, is difficult and confused; and to this, probably, should be
ascribed the early disappearance of the greater part of his history. The
last eighteen books, containing the history of only five and twenty
years, have survived. The greater part of the period which they cover is
one of decay and wretchedness; but the account they give of the reign of
Julian (whom Ammianus had himself accompanied in his Persian campaign) is
of great interest, and his portrait of the feeble incapable rule of
Julian's successors, distracted between barbarian inroads and theological
disputes, is drawn with a firm and almost a masterly hand.

The Emperor Valens fell, together with nearly the whole of a great Roman
army, in the disastrous battle of Adrianople. A Visigothic horde, to the
number of two hundred thousand fighting men, had crossed the Danube; and
the Huns and Alans, names even more terrible, joined the standards of
Fritigern with a countless host of Mongolian cavalry. The heart of the
Empire lay helpless; Constantinople itself was besieged by the
conquerors. The elevation of Theodosius to the purple bore back for a
time the tide of disaster; once more the civilised world staggered to its
feet, but with strength and courage fatally broken. At this dramatic
moment in the downfall of the Roman Empire the last of the Latin
historians closes his narrative.



VIII.

THE BEGINNINGS OF THE MIDDLE AGES.


In August 410, while the Emperor Honorius fed his poultry among the
impenetrable marshes of Ravenna, Rome was sacked by a mixed army of Goths
and Huns under the command of Alaric. Eight hundred years had elapsed
since the imperial city had been in foreign possession; and, though it
had ceased to be the actual seat of government, the shock spread by its
capture through the entire Roman world was of unparalleled magnitude. Six
years later, a wealthy and distinguished resident, one Claudius Rutilius
Namatianus, was obliged to take a journey to look after the condition of
his estates in the south of France, which had been devastated by a band
of wandering Visigoths. A large portion is extant of the poem in which he
described this journey, one of the most charming among poems of travel,
and one of the most interesting of the fragments of early mediaeval
literature. Nowhere else can we see portrayed so strongly the fascination
which Rome then still possessed for the whole of Western Europe, and the
adoration with which she was still regarded as mother and light of the
world. The magical statue had been cast away, with other heathen idols,
from the imperial bedchamber; but the _Fortuna Urbis_ itself, the
mystical divinity which the statue represented, still exercised an
overwhelming influence over men's imagination. After all the praises
lavished on her for centuries by so many of her illustrious children, it
was left for this foreigner, in the age of her decay, to pay her the most
complete and most splendid eulogy:--

    _Quod regnas minus est quam quod regnare mereris;
        Excedis factis grandia fata tuis:
    Nam solis radiis aequalia munera tendis,
        Qua circumfusus fluctuat oceanus.
    Fecisti patriam diversis gentibus unam:
        Profuit invitis te dominante capi;
    Dumque offers victis proprii consortia iuris,
        Urbem fecisti quod prius orbis erat._

In this noble apostrophe Rutilius addressed the fading mistress of the
world as he passed lingeringly through the Ostian gate. Far away in
Northern Africa, the most profound thinker and most brilliant writer of
the age, as deeply but very differently moved by the ancestral splendours
of the city and the tragedy of her fall, was then composing, with all the
resources of his vast learning and consummate dialectical skill, the
epitaph of the ancient civilisation. It was the capture of Rome by Alaric
which induced St. Augustine to undertake his work on the _City of God_.
"In this middle age," he says,--_in hoc interim seculo_--the two cities
with their two citizenships, the earthly and the heavenly, are
inextricably enwound and intermingled with each other. Not until the Last
Judgment will they be wholly separated; but the philosophy of history is
to trace the steps by which the one is slowly replaced by, or transformed
into, the other. The earthly Empire, all the splendid achievement in
thought and arts and deeds of the Roman civilisation, already fades away
before that City of God on which his eyes are fixed--_gloriosissimam
Civitatem Dei, sive in hoc temporum cursu cum inter impios peregrinatur
ex fide vivens, sive in illa stabililate sedis aeternae, quam nunc
exspectat per patientiam, quoadusque iustitia convertatur in iudicium._

The evolution of this change was, even to the impassioned faith of
Augustine, slow, intermittent, and fluctuating: nor, among many landmarks
and turning-points, is it easy to fix any single one as definitely
concluding the life of the ancient world, and marking the beginning of
what St. Augustine for the first time called by the name, which has ever
since adhered to it, of the Middle Age. The old world slid into the new
through insensible gradations. In nearly all Latin literature after
Virgil we may find traces or premonitions of mediaevalism, and after
mediaevalism was established it long retained, if it ever wholly lost,
traces of the classical tradition. Thus, while the beginning of Latin
literature may be definitely placed in a particular generation, and
almost in a single year, there is no fixed point at which it can be said
that its history concludes. Different periods have been assigned from
different points of view. In the year 476, Romulus Augustulus, the last
of the Western Emperors, handed over the name as well as the substance of
sole power to the Herulian chief Odoacer, the first King of Italy; and
the Roman Senate, still in theory the supreme governing body of the
civilised world, formally renounced its sovereignty, and declared its
dominions a diocese of the Byzantine Empire. This is the date generally
adopted by authors who deal with literature as subordinate to political
history. But the writer of the standard English work on Latin grammar
limits his field to the period included between Plautus and Suetonius;
while another scholar, extending his scope three centuries and a half
further, has written a history of Latin literature from Ennius to
Boethius. Suetonius and Boethius probably represent the extreme variation
of limit which can be reasonably adopted; but between them they leave
room for many points of pause. Up to the end of the fourth century we
have followed a stream of tendency, not, indeed, continuous, but yet
without any absolute rupture. Between the writers of the fourth century
and their few successors of the fifth there is no marked change in
language or manner. Sidonius Apollinaris continues more feebly the style
of poetry initiated a century before him by Ausonius. Boethius wrote his
fine treatise _On the Consolation of Philosophy_ half a century after the
extinction of the Empire of the West. By a strange freak of history, it
was at the Greek capital that Latin scholarship finally faded away.
Priscian and Tribonian wrote at Constantinople; and the Western world
received its most authoritative works on Latin grammar and Roman law, not
from the Latin Empire, nor from one of the Latin-speaking kingdoms which
rose on its ruins, but from the half-oriental courts of Anastasius and
Justinian.

The two long lives of the great Latin fathers, Jerome and Augustine,
cover conjointly a space of just a century. Jerome was born probably a
few months after the main seat of empire was formally transferred to New
Rome by Constantine. Augustine, born twenty-three years later, died in
his cathedral city of Hippo during its siege by Genseric in the brief war
which transformed Africa from a Roman province to a Vandal kingdom. The
_City of God_ had been completed four years previously. A quarter of a
century before the death of Augustine, Jerome issued, from his monastery
at Bethlehem, the Latin translation of the Bible which, on its own
merits, and still more if we give weight to its overwhelming influence on
later ages, is the greatest literary masterpiece of the Lower Empire. Our
own Authorised Version has deeply affected all post-Shakespearian
English; the _Vulgate_ of Jerome, which was from time to time revised in
detail, but still remains substantially as it issued from his hands, had
an equally profound influence over a vastly greater space and time. It
was for Europe of the Middle Ages more than Homer was to Greece. The year
405, which witnessed its publication and that of the last of the poems of
Claudian to which we can assign a certain date, may claim to be held, if
any definite point is to be fixed, as marking the end of ancient and the
complete establishment of mediaeval Latin.

In the six and a half centuries which had passed since the Greek prisoner
of war from Tarentum produced the first Latin play in the theatre of the
mid-Italian Republic which was celebrating her victories over the
formidable sea-power of Carthage, Latin literature had shared the
vicissitudes of the Roman State; and the successive stages of its
development and decay are intimately connected with the political and
social changes which are the matter of Roman history. A century passed
between the conclusion of the first Punic war and the tribunate of
Tiberius Gracchus. It was a period for the Republic of internal
tranquillity and successful foreign war. At its conclusion, Italy was
organised under Roman control. Greece, Macedonia, Spain, and Africa had
become subject provinces; a Roman protectorate was established in Egypt,
and the Asiatic provinces of the Macedonian Empire only preserved a
precarious and partial independence. During this century, Latin
literature had firmly established itself in a broad and vigorous growth.
Dramatic and epic poetry, based on diligent study of the best Greek
models, formed a substantial body of actual achievement, and under Greek
impulse the Latin language was being wrought into a medium of expression
at once dignified and copious, a substance capable of indefinite
expansion and use in the hands of trained artists. Prose was rapidly
overtaking verse. The schools of law, and the oratory of the senate-house
and the forum, were developing national forms of literature on
distinctively Roman lines: a beginning had been made in the more
difficult field of history; and the invention and popularisation of the
satire, or mixed form of familiar prose and verse, began to enlarge the
scope of literature over a broader field of life and thought, while
immensely adding to the flexibility and range of the written language.

A century followed during which Roman rule was extended and consolidated
over the whole area of the countries fringing the Mediterranean, while
concurrently a long series of revolutions and counter-revolutions ended
in the overthrow of the republican oligarchy, and the establishment of
the imperial government. Beginning with the democratic movement of the
Gracchi, this century includes the civil wars of Marius and Sulla, the
temporary reconstitution of the oligarchy, the renewed outbreak of war
between Julius Caesar and the senate, and the confused period of
administrative anarchy which was terminated by the rise of Augustus to a
practical dictatorship, and the arrangement by him of a working
compromise between the two great opposing forces. During this century of
revolution the whole attitude of Rome towards the problems both of
internal and of foreign politics was forced through a series of important
changes. The revolt of Italy, which, after bringing Rome to the verge of
destruction, was finally crushed by the Asiatic legions of Sulla, was
almost immediately followed by the unification of Italy, and her
practical absorption into the Roman citizenship. With renewed and
enlarged life, Rome then entered on a second extension of her dominions.
The annexation of Syria and the conquest of Gaul completed the circle of
her empire; the subjugation of Spain was completed, and the Eastern
frontier pushed towards Armenia and the Euphrates; finally Egypt, the
last survivor of the kingdoms founded by Alexander's generals, passed
wholly into Roman hands with the extinction of its own royal house.

During this period of perpetual excitement and high political tension,
literature, in the forms both of prose and verse, rapidly grew towards
maturity, and, in the former field at least, reached its perfection.
Oratory, the great weapon of politicians under the unique Republican
constitution, was in its golden age. Greek culture had permeated the
governing class. History began to be written by trained statesmen, whose
education for the command of armies and the rule of provinces had been
based on elaborate linguistic and rhetorical study. Alongside of grammar
and rhetoric, poetry and philosophy took a place as part of the higher
education of the citizen. The habit and capacity of abstract thought
reached Rome from the schools of Athens; with the growing power of
expression and the increased tension of actual life, the science of
politics and the philosophy of life and conduct became the material of a
new and splendid literature. Along with the world of ideas diffused by
Athens there arrived the immense learning and high technical skill of the
Alexandrian scholars and poets. Roman poetry set itself anew to learn the
Greek lesson of exquisite form and finish. In the hands of two poets of
the first order, and of a crowd of lesser students, the conquest of
poetical form passed its crucial point, and the way was prepared for the
consummation of Latin poetry in the next age.

Another century carries us from the establishment of the Empire by
Augustus to the extinction of his family at the death of Nero. At the
opening of this period the Empire was exhausted by civil war, and
welcomed any form of settled rule. The settlement of the constitution,
based as it was on a number of elaborate legal fictions meant to combine
republican forms with the reality of a strong monarchical government,
left the political situation in a state of very unstable equilibrium; all
through the century the government was in an uncertain or even a false
position, and, when Nero's misrule had made it intolerable, it collapsed
with a crash which almost shivered the Empire into fragments. But it had
lasted long enough to lay the foundations of the new and larger Rome
broadly and securely. The provinces, while still in a sense subordinate
to Italy, had already become organic parts of the Empire, instead of
subject countries. The haughty and obstinate Roman oligarchy was tamed by
long years of proscription, confiscation, perpetual surveillance, careful
exclusion from great political power. The municipal institutions and
civic energy of Rome were multiplied in a thousand centres of local life.
Internal peace allowed commerce and civilisation to spread; in spite of
the immense drain caused by the extravagance of the capital and the
expense of the great frontier armies, the provinces generally rose to a
higher state of material welfare than they had enjoyed since their
annexation.

The earlier years of this century are the most brilliant in the history
of Latin literature. During the last fifty years of the Republic a series
of Roman authors of remarkable genius had gradually met and mastered the
technical problems of both prose and verse. The new generation entered
into their labours. In prose there was little, if any, advance remaining
to be made. In the fields of oratory and philosophy it had already
reached its perfection; in that of history it acquired further amplitude
and colour. But the achievement of the new age was mainly in verse.
Profound study of the older poetry, and the laborious training learned
from the schools of Alexandria, now bore fruit in a body of poetry which,
in every field except that of the drama, excelled what had hitherto been
known, and was at once the model and the limit for succeeding
generations. Latin poetry, like the Empire itself, took a broader basis;
the Augustan poets are still Romans, but this is because Rome had
extended itself over Italy, The copious and splendid production of the
earlier years of the principate of Augustus was followed by an almost
inevitable reaction. The energy of the Latin speech had for the time
exhausted itself; and the political necessities of the uneasy reigns
which followed set further barriers in the way of a weakening literary
impulse. Then begins the movement of the Latin-speaking provinces. Rome
had absorbed Italy; Italy in turn begins to absorb and coalesce with
Gaul, Spain, and Africa. The first of the provinces in the field was
Spain, which had become Latinised earlier than either of the others. At
the court of Nero a single brilliant Spanish family founded a new and
striking style, which for the moment eclipsed that formed by a purer
taste amid a graver and a more exclusive public.

A hundred years from the downfall of Nero carry us down to the reign of
Marcus Aurelius. The Empire, when it recovered from the collapse of the
year 69, assumed a settled and stable organisation. Traditions of the old
jealousies and discontents lingered during the reigns of the three
Flavian Emperors; but the imperial system had now got into permanent
working order. The cataclysm which followed the deposition of Nero is in
the strongest contrast to the ease and smoothness, only broken by a
trifling mutiny of the praetorian guards, with which the principate
passed into the hands of Nerva after the murder of Domitian.

This century is what is properly known as the Silver Age. A school of
eminent writers, in whom the provincial and the Italian quality are now
hardly to be distinguished, produced during its earlier years a large
body of admirable prose and not undistinguished verse. But before the
century was half over, the signs of decay began to appear. A mysterious
languor overcame thought and art, as it did the whole organism of the
Empire. The conquests of Trajan, the peace and material splendour of the
reign of Hadrian, were followed by a series of years almost without
events, suddenly broken by the appalling pestilence of the year 166, and
the outbreak, at the same time, of a long and desperate war on the
northern frontiers. During these eventless years Latin literature seemed
to die away. The classical impulse was exhausted; the attempts made
towards founding a new Latin bore, for the time, little fruit. Before
this period of exhaustion and reaction could come to a natural end, two
changes of momentous importance had overtaken the world. The imperial
system broke down under Commodus. All through the third century the civil
organisation of the Empire was at the mercy of military adventurers.
Twenty-five recognised Emperors, besides a swarm of pretenders, most of
them raised to the purple by mutinous armies, succeeded one another in
the hundred years between Commodus and Diocletian. At the same time the
Christian religion, already recognised under the Antonines as a grave
menace to the very existence of the Empire, was extending itself year by
year, rising more elastic than ever from each fresh persecution, and
attracting towards itself all the vital forces which go to make
literature.

The coalition between the Empire and the Church, which, after various
tentative preliminaries, was finally effected by Constantine, launched
the world upon new paths: and his transference of the main seat of empire
to the shores of the Bosporus left Western Europe to pursue fragmentary
and independent courses. The Latin-speaking provinces were falling away
in great lumps. An independent empire of Britain had already existed for
six or seven years under the usurper Carausius. After the middle of the
fourth century Gaul was practically in possession of the Visigoths and
the Salian Franks. During the reign of Honorius mixed hordes of Vandals,
Suabians, and Alans poured through Gaul across the Pyrenees, and divided
Spain into barbarian monarchies. A few years later the Vandals, called
across the Straits of Gibraltar by the treachery of Count Boniface,
overran the province of Africa, and established a powerful kingdom, whose
fleets, issuing from the port of Carthage, swept the Mediterranean and
sacked Rome itself. Rome had, by the famous edict of Antoninus Caracalla,
given the world a single citizenship; to give organic life to that
citizenship, and turn her citizens into a single nation, was a task
beyond her power. So long as the Latin-speaking world remained nominally
subject to a single rule, exercised in the name of the Senate and People
of Rome, Latin literature had some slight external bond of unity; after
the Western Empire was shattered into a dozen independent kingdoms, the
phrase almost ceases to have any real meaning. Latin, in one form or
another, remained an almost universal language; but we must speak
henceforth of the literatures of France or Spain or Britain, whether the
work produced be written in a provincial dialect or in the international
language handed down from the Empire and preserved by the Church.

For the Catholic Church now became the centre of European cohesion, and
gave continuity and common life to the scattered remains of the ancient
civilisation. Already, in the fifth century, Pope Leo the Great is a more
important figure than his contemporary, Valentinian the Second, for
thirty years the shadowy and impotent Emperor of the West. Christian
literature had taken firm root while the classical tradition was still
strong; in the hands of men like Jerome and Augustine that tradition was
caught up from the wreck of the Empire and handed down, not unimpaired,
yet still in prodigious force and vitality, to the modern world.

Latin is now no longer a universal language; and the direct influence of
ancient Rome, which once seemed like an immortal energy, is at last, like
all energies, becoming slowly absorbed in its own results. Yet the Latin
language is still the necessary foundation of one half of human
knowledge, and the forms created by Roman genius underlie the whole of
our civilisation. So long as mankind look before and after, the name of
Rome will be the greatest of those upon which their backward gaze can be
turned. In Greece men first learned to be human: under Rome mankind first
learned to be civilised. Law, government, citizenship, are all the
creations of the Latin race. At a thousand points we still draw directly
from the Roman sources. The codes of Latin jurists are the direct source
of all systems of modern law. The civic organisation which it was the
great work of the earlier Roman Empire to spread throughout the provinces
is the basis of our municipal institutions and our corporate social life.
The names of our months are those of the Latin year, and the modern
calendar is, with one slight alteration, that established by Julius
Caesar. The head of the Catholic Church is still called by the name of
the president of a Republican college which goes back beyond the
beginnings of ascertained Roman history. The architecture which we
inherit from the Middle Ages, associated by an accident of history with
the name of the Goths, had its origin under the Empire, and may be traced
down to modern times, step by step, from the basilica of Trajan and the
palace of Diocletian. These are but a few instances of the inheritance we
have received from Rome. But behind the ordered structure of her law and
government, and the majestic fabric of her civilisation, lay a vital
force of even deeper import; the strong grave Roman character, which has
permanently heightened the ideal of human life. It is in their literature
that the inner spirit of the Latin race found its most complete
expression. In the stately structure of that imperial language they
embodied those qualities which make the Roman name most abidingly great--
honour, temperate wisdom, humanity, courtesy, magnanimity; and the
civilised world still returns to that fountain-head, and finds a second
mother-tongue in the speech of Cicero and Virgil.



INDEX OF AUTHORS


Accius, L. ... 12

Aelius, P. ... 29

Aelius, Sex. ... 29

Aemilianus, Palladius Rutilius Taurus ... 272

Afranius, L. ... 15

Africanus, P. Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus ... 33

Agrippa, M. ... 162

Albinus, Clodius ... 262

Alimentus, L. Cincius ...28

Ambrosius ... 265, 271

Andronicus, L. Livius ... 4

Antias, Valerius ... 37

Antipater, L. Caelius ... 33

Antonius, M. ... 36

Apollinaris, _see_ Sidonius.

Apuleius, L. ... 238

Arbiter, Petronius ... 183

Arnobius ... 255

Asconius, _see_ Pedianus.

Asper, Aemilius ... 204

Atta, Quinctius ... 15

Atticus, T. Pomponius ... 74, 86

Augustus, G. Julius Caesar Octavianus ... 121, 162

Ausonius, Dec. Magnus ... 265

Bassus, Caesius ... 178

Bassus, Saleius ... 192

Boethius, Anicius Manlius Torquatus Severinus ... 278

Brutus, M. Junius ... 30

Caecilius, Statius ... 16

Caecus, Ap. Claudius ... 30

Caelius, _see_ Antipater.

Caelius, _see_ Rufus.

Caesar, G. Julius ... 78

Caesar, Tib. Claudius Drusus Nero ... 157

Calpurnius, _see_ Siculus.

Calvus, G. Licinius Macer ... 53

Capitolinus, Julius ... 263

Carus, T. Lucretius ... 39

Cassius, _see_ Hemina.

Cato, M. Porcius ... 30

Catullus, G. Valerius ... 53

Celsus, A. Cornelius ... 165

Cicero, M. Tullius  ... 62

Cicero, Q. Tullius  ... 86

Cincius, _see_ Alimentus.

Cinna, G. Helvius ... 52

Claudianus, Claudius ... 267

Claudius, _see_ Caecus.

Clemens, Aurelius Prudentius ... 270

Columella, L. Junius Moderatus ... 181

Commodianus ... 257

Corbulo, Domitius ... 180

Cornificius ... 36

Crassus, L. Licinius ... 36

Crispus, G. Sallustius ... 82

Curtius, _see_ Rufus.

Cyprianus, Thascius Caecilius ... 254


Donatus, Aelius ... 272


Ennius, Q ... 7

Eumenius ... 265

Eutropius ... 273


Fabius, _see_ Pictor.

Fannius, G. ... 33

Felix, Minucius ... 249

Festus, Sex. Pompeius ... 165

Flaccus, Q. Horatius ... 106

Flaccus, A. Persius ... 178

Flaccus, G. Valerius ... 190

Flaccus, M. Verrius ... 165

Florus, Julius (_or_ Lucius) Annaeus ... 229

Frontinus, Sex. Julius ... 197

Fronto, M. Cornelius ... 234

Frugi, L. Calpurnius Piso ... 28


Gaius ... 229

Gallicanus, Vulcacius ... 263

Gallus, G. Cornelius ... 122

Gellius, A. ... 231

Germanicus ... 157

Gordianus, M. Antonius ... 262

Gracchus, G. Sempronius ... 36

Gratius (_or_ Grattius) ... 122


Hemina, L. Cassius ... 28

Hilarius ... 265, 271

Hirtius, A. ... 81

Honoratus, Marius (_or_ Maurus) Servius ... 272

Horace, _see_ Flaccus.

Hortalus, Q. Hortensius ... 65, 86

Hortensius, _see_ Hortalus.

Hyginus, G. Julius ... 164


Italicus, Tib. Catius Silius ... 191


Javolenus, _see_ Priscus.

Julianus, Salvius ... 229

Junior, Lucilius ... 182

Justinus, M. Junianus ... 163, 229

Juvenalis, D. Junius ... 221

Juvencus, G. Vettius Aquilinus ... 271


Laberius, Dec. ... 87

Lactantius, L. Caecilius Firmianus ... 255, 258

Laelius, G. ... 33

Lampridius, Aelius ... 263

Livius, _see_ Andronicus,

Livius, T. ... 145

Lucanus, M. Annaeus ... 175

Lucilius, G.  ... 33

Lucilius, _see_ Junior.

Lucretius, _see_ Carus.

Lygdamus ... 130


Macer, Aemilius ... 122

Macer, G. Licinius ... 37

Macer, _see_ Calvus.

Maecenas, G. Cilnius ... 162

Manilius, G. (_or_ M.). ... 158

Manilius, M. ... 30

Marcellinus, Aramianus ... 273

Marius, _see_ Maximus.

Marius, _see_ Victorinus.

Maro, P. Vergilius ... 91

Martialis, M. Valerius ... 192

Maternus, Curiatius ... 192

Matius, Gn. ... 38

Maurus, Terentianus ... 261

Maximus, Marius ... 261

Maximus, Valerius ... 164

Mela, Pomponius ... 180

Melissus, Laevius ... 38

Minucius, _see_ Felix.


Naevius, Gn. ... 5

Namatianus, Claudius Rutilius ... 275

Naso, P. Ovidius ... 135

Nemesianus, M. Aurelius Olympius ... 262

Nepos, Cornelius ... 84


Oppius, G. ... 81

Ovid, _see_ Naso.


Pacuvius, M. ... 11

Palaemon, Q. Remmius ... 165

Palladius, _see_ Aemilianus.

Papinianus, Aemilius ... 260

Paterculus, G. Velleius ... 163

Paulinus, G. Suetonius ... 180

Paulinus, Meropius Pontius Anicius ... 257

Paulus (Diaconus) ... 165

Paulus, Julius ... 261

Pedianus, Q. Asconius ... 204

Pedo, Albinovanus ... 157

Persius, _see_ Flaccus.

Petronius, _see_ Arbiter.

Phaedrus ... 160

Philus, L. Furius ... 33

Pictor, Q. Fabius ... 28

Piso, _see_ Frugi.

Plautus, T. Maccius ... 17

Pliny, _see_ Secundus.

Pollio, G. Asinius ... 121, 162

Pollio, Trebellius ... 263

Pollio, Vitruvius ... 166

Priscianus ... 278

Priscus, Javolenus ... 229

Probus, M. Valerius ... 204

Propertius, Sex. ... 123

Prudentius, _see_ Clemens.

Publilius, _see_ Syrus.


Quadrigarius, Q. Claudius ... 36

Quintilianus, M. Fabius ... 197


Rabirius ... 157

Renatus, Flavius Vegetius ... 273

Rufus, M. Caelius ... 75

Rufus, Q. Curtius ... 180

Rufus, Ser. Sulpicius ... 75

Rufus, L. Varius ... 121, 122

Rutilius, _see_ Namatianus.


Sabinus ... 157

Sallust, _see_ Crispus.

Sammonicus, _see_ Serenus.

Scaevola, Q. Mucius ... 29

Scipio, _see_ Africanus.

Secundus, G. Plinius (major) ... 195

    "           "    (minor) ... 225

Seneca, L. Annaeus (major) ... 167

    "           "  (minor) ... 171

Serenus, Q. Sammonicus ... 261

Servius, _see_ Honoratus.

Severus, Cornelius ... 157

Siculus, T. Calpurnius ... 181

Sidonius, G. Sollius Apollinaris ... 278

Silius, _see_ Italicus.

Sisenna, L. Cornelius ... 37

Spartianus, Aelius ... 263

Statius, P. Papinius ... 187

Stella, L. Arruntius ... 192

Suetonius, _see_ Tranquillus.

Sulla, L. Cornelius ... 36

Sulpicia (major) ... 130, 134

Sulpicia (minor) ... 192

Sulpicius, _see_ Rufus.

Syrus, Publilius ... 87


Tacitus, Cornelius ... 205

Terentianus, _see_ Maurus.

Terentius, P. ... 22

Tertullianus, Q. Septimius Florens ... 251

Tiberianus ... 263

Tiberius, _see_ Caesar.

Tibullus, Albius ... 130

Tiro, M. Tullius ... 87

Titinius ... 15

Tranquillus, G. Suetonius ... 229

Tribonianus ... 278

Trogus, Gn. Pompeius ... 163

Turpilius ... 16


Ulpianus, Domitius ... 260


Valerius, _see_ Antias.

Valerius, _see_ Flaccus.

Valerius, _see_ Maximus.

Varius, _see_ Rufus.

Varro, M. Terentius ... 85

Varro, P. Terentius (Atacinus) ... 87

Vegetius, _see_ Renatus.

Verrius, _see_ Flaccus.

Victor, Aurelius ... 273

Victor (Pope) ... 248

Victorinus, G. Marius ... 271

Virgil, _see_ Maro.

Vitruvius, _see_ Pollio.

Vopiscus, Flavius ... 263



FOOTNOTES:


1. One of the great speeches in this play was probably made use of by
Livy in his account of the address of Paulus to the people after his
triumph in 167 B.C., which has again been turned into noble tragic verse
by Fitzgerald, _Literary Remains_, vol. ii. p. 483.

2. The repetition of this word from the lovely lyric, _Ille mi par esse_,
where it occurs in the same place of the verse, is a stroke of subtle and
daring art.

3. The subject was a quite usual one among the Alexandrian poets whom
Catullus read and imitated. Cf. _Anthologia Palatina_, vi. 51, 217-220.

4. _Confess_., III. iv.

5. _Historia scribitur ad narrandum non ad probandum:_ Inst. Or.,
X. i. 31.

6. _Confess._, I. xiii.

7. _Supra,_ p. 68.

8. _Supra,_ p. 48.

9. These are the two parts of what the MSS. and the older editions give
as Book ii. The division was made, on somewhat inconclusive grounds, by
Lachmann.

10. It is one of these which opens with the two sonorous lines--

    _Aesopi statuam ingentem posuere Attici
    Servumque aeterna collocarunt in basi_,

which so powerfully affected the imagination of De Quincey.

11. In the poem as it has come down to us the refrain comes in at
irregular intervals; but the most plausible reconstitution of a somewhat
corrupt and disordered text makes it recur after every fourth line, thus
making up the twenty-two stanzas mentioned in the title.





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