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Title: Rome
Author: Fowler, W. Warde (William Warde)
Language: English
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                        HOME UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
                          OF MODERN KNOWLEDGE
                                 No. 30

                      HERBERT FISHER, M.A., F.B.A.
              Prof. GILBERT MURRAY, Litt.D., LL.D., F.B.A.
                     Prof. J. ARTHUR THOMSON, M.A.
                    Prof. WILLIAM T. BREWSTER, M.A.

              16mo cloth, 50 cents _net_, by mail 56 cents

                         _HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY_
                           _Already Published_

  THE DAWN OF HISTORY                          By J. L. Myres
  ROME                                         By W. Warde Fowler
  THE PAPACY AND MODERN TIMES                  By William Barry
  MEDIEVAL EUROPE                              By H. W. C. Davis
  THE FRENCH REVOLUTION                        By Hilaire Belloc
  THE IRISH NATIONALITY                        By Mrs. J. R. Green
  CANADA                                       By A. G. Bradley
  THE CIVIL WAR                                By Frederic L. Paxson
  HISTORY OF OUR TIME (1885-1911)              By C. P. Gooch
  POLAR EXPLORATION (with maps)                By W. S. Bruce
  THE OPENING UP OF AFRICA                     By Sir H. H. Johnston
  THE CIVILIZATION OF CHINA                    By H. A. Giles
  A SHORT HISTORY OF WAR AND PEACE             By G. H. Perris
  MODERN GEOGRAPHY                             By Marion Newbigin

                             _Future Issues_

  A SHORT HISTORY OF EUROPE                    By Herbert Fisher
  ANCIENT GREECE                               By Gilbert Murray
  THE REFORMATION                              By Principal Lindsay
  A SHORT HISTORY OF RUSSIA                    By Prof. Milyoukov
  PEOPLES AND PROBLEMS OF INDIA                By Sir T. W. Holderness
  FRANCE OF TO-DAY                             By Gabriel Monod
  THE EVOLUTION OF CITIES                      By Patrick Geddes
  ANCIENT EGYPT                                By F. L. Griffith
  THE COLONIAL PERIOD                          By Charles M. Andrews
  FROM JEFFERSON TO LINCOLN                    By William MacDonald
  RECONSTRUCTION AND UNION (1865-1912)         By Paul L. Haworth
  LATIN AMERICA                                By W. R. Shepherd


                         W. WARDE FOWLER, M.A.

    [Illustration: Οὐ πολλὰ ἀλλὰ πολύ]

                                NEW YORK
                         HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
                          WILLIAMS AND NORGATE

                            Copyright, 1912,
                         HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY


  CHAP.                                                             PAGE
  I Introductory                                                        7
  II The Advance of Rome in Italy                                      28
  III The Training of the Roman Character                              55
  IV The Struggle with Carthage and Hannibal                           84
  V Dominion and Degeneracy                                           111
  VI The Revolution: Act I.                                           136
  VII The Revolution: Act II.                                         161
  VIII Augustus—The Revival of the Roman Spirit                       187
  IX Life in the Roman Empire                                         212
  X The Empire under the Antonines—Conclusion                         229
    Bibliography                                                      253
    Index                                                             255


                               CHAPTER I

Let us suppose an ordinary Englishman, with no special knowledge of
classical history, to be looking at a collection of Roman antiquities in
the cases of a museum. He will probably not linger long over these
cases, but will pass on to something more likely to attract his
interest. The objects he is looking at are, for the most part, neither
striking nor beautiful, and the same are presented for his inspection
over and over again as collections from various Roman sites. They are
chiefly useful things, implements and utensils of all kinds, and
fragments of military weapons and armour. In the coins he can take no
delight, because, apart from the fact that, uninterpreted, they have no
tale to tell him, they do not excite his admiration by beauty of design
and workmanship. If, indeed, he were visiting a museum at Rome, he would
find plenty of beautiful things in it; but these are works of Greek
artists, imported by wealthy or tasteful Romans in the later ages of
Rome’s history. A typical collection of genuine Roman antiquities would
probably have the effect I describe. Utility, not beauty, would seem to
have been the motive of the people who left these things behind them.

The same motive will also be suggested to us if we visit any of the
larger Roman works either in this country or on the Continent. Most of
us know the look of a Roman road running straight over hill and valley,
and meant mainly for military purposes, to enable troops to move rapidly
and to survey the country as they marched. In the towns which have been
excavated, we usually find that the most spacious and striking buildings
must have been the meeting-halls (_basilicæ_), in which business of all
kinds was transacted, and especially business connected with law and
government. Very often, though not in the comparatively poor province of
Britain, this characteristic of utility is combined with
another—solidity and imposing size. In this well-watered island the
Romans did not need aqueducts to bring a constant supply of water to
their towns, but in Italy and the south of France these great works are
sometimes unnecessarily huge and imposing. Even when they left the path
of strict utility, as in their triumphal arches and gateways, for which
we must go to Trier in Germany, or to Orange in the south of France, or
to Italy itself, they held strongly to the principles of solidity and
imposing size. A writer who knew their art well has said that their
notion of the highest of all things, their _summum bonum_, was not the
beautiful, but the powerful, and that they thought they had as a people
received this notion from heaven.

It would, indeed, be wrong to say that there is no beauty in Roman art;
but it is quite in accordance with what has just been said, that even in
the best of it there is a strong tendency to realism, to matter of fact.
In their sculpture they were especially strong in portraiture, and in
depicting scenes of human life they never or rarely idealise. A battle
scene, or a picture on stone of life in a city, is crowded with figures,
just because it really was so, and the work is without that restfulness
for the eye which the perfect grouping of a Greek artist so often
supplies. So, too, in literature; all their greatest poetry has a
strictly practical object, and bears directly on human life. The great
philosophical poem of Lucretius was meant to rescue the Romans from
religious superstition; the object of the _Æneid_ of Virgil, of which I
shall have more to say in another chapter, was to recall the degenerate
Roman of that day to the sense of duty in the home and in the State.
Their one original invention in literary form was satire, by which they
meant comment, friendly or hostile, on the human life around them. Their
myths and legends, of which there was no such abundant crop as in
Greece, dealt chiefly with the founding of cities, or with the heroic
deeds of human beings.[1] On the whole they excelled most in oratory and
history; and their prose came to perfection earlier than their poetry.

One other feature of their character shall be mentioned here, which is
entirely in keeping with the rest, and often escapes notice. If in the
works of their hands and their brains they were not an imaginative
people, we can well understand that they had not this gift in practical
life. Imagination in action takes the form of adventurousness, as we may
see in our own history; the literary imaginativeness of Elizabethan
England has its counterpart in the adventurous voyages of Elizabethan
seamen. The Romans were not an adventurous people; they were not
imaginative enough to be so. They penetrated, indeed, into unknown
countries; Cæsar reached Britain and bridged the Rhine, but that great
man, a true Roman born, had a temperament rather scientific than
romantic. He did as almost all conquering Romans had done before him,
and were to do after him—he advanced solidly, making his way safe behind
him and feeling carefully in front of him. His book about his wars in
Gaul was written without a touch of imagination, and for strictly
practical purposes. There is, indeed, in the generation before Cæsar, an
exception so striking that it may be said to prove the rule; he who
reads Plutarch’s charming life of Sertorius, an Italian from the
mountains of central Italy, will find both romance and adventure in his

It is plain, then, that we have to do in this volume with a people not
of imagination, but of action: a people intensely alive to the
necessities and difficulties of human life. The Romans were, in fact,
the most practical people in history; and this enabled them to supply
what was wanting to the civilisation of the Mediterranean basin in the
work of the Greeks. They themselves were well aware of this quality, and
proud of it. We find it expressed by the elder Cato quite at the
beginning of the best age of Roman literature; his ideal Roman is _vir
fortis et strenuus_—a man of strong courage and active energy. Tacitus,
in the later days of that literature, says that all designs and deeds
should be directed to the practical ends of life (_ad utilitatem vitæ_).
Midway between these two, we have the great Latin poets constantly
singing of the hardihood and the practical virtues which had made Rome
great, and Italy great under Rome’s leadership. “A race of hardy breed,
we carry our children to the streams and harden them in the bitter, icy
water; as boys they spend wakeful nights over the chase, and tire out
the whirlwind, but in manhood, unwearied by toil and trained to poverty,
they subdue the soil with their mattocks, or shake towns in war” (Virg.,
_Æn._ ix. 607 foll.). These lines, though applied to an Italian stock,
were meant to remind the Roman of a life that had once been his. The
words in which the Romans delighted as expressing their national
characteristics, all tell the same tale: _gravitas_, the seriousness of
demeanour which is the outward token of a steadfast purpose;
_continentia_, self-restraint; _industria_ and _diligentia_, words which
we have inherited from them, needing no explanation; _constantia_,
perseverance in conduct; and last, not least, _virtus_, manliness, which
originally meant activity and courage, and with ripening civilisation
took on a broader and more ethical meaning. Quotations might be
multiplied a thousandfold to prove the honest admiration of this people
for their own nobler qualities. As exemplified in an individual,
Plutarch’s life of the elder Cato, which can be read as well in English
as in the original Greek, will give a good idea of these.

But it is essential to note that this hard and practical turn of the
Roman mind was in some ways curiously limited. It cannot be said that
they excelled either in industrial or commercial pursuits. Agriculture
was their original occupation, and trade-gilds existed at Rome very
early in her history; but the story of their agriculture is rather a sad
one, and Rome has never become a great industrial city. Their first book
about husbandry was translated from the Carthaginian, and their methods
of commerce they learnt chiefly from the Greeks. It was in another
direction that their genius for practical work drew them: to the arts
and methods of discipline, law, government.

We can see this peculiar gift showing itself at all stages of their
development: in the agricultural family which was the germ of all their
later growth, in the city-state which grew from that germ, and in the
Empire, founded by the leaders of the city-state, and organised by
Augustus and his successors. It is seen, too, in their military system,
which won them their empire; they did not fight merely for spoil or
glory, but for clearly realised practical purposes. As Tacitus says of a
single German tribe which possessed something of this gift, the Romans
did not so much go out to battle as to war. True, they constantly made
blunders and suffered defeat; they often “muddled through” difficulties
as we do ourselves; but they refused to recognise defeat, and profited
by adverse fortune. Listen once more to a few words of old Cato; in his
_Origins of Rome_, written for his son, he wrote: “Adversity tames us,
and teaches us our true line of conduct, while good fortune is apt to
warp us from the way of prudence.” Thus they went on from defeat to
victory, conquest, and government. It is worth while not only to lay to
heart, but to learn by heart, the famous lines in which Virgil sums up
the Roman’s conception of his own work in the world—

  “Others will mould their bronzes to breathe with a tenderer grace,
  Draw, I doubt not, from marble a vivid life to the face,
  Plead at the bar more deftly, with sapient wands of the wise,
  Trace heaven’s courses and changes, predict us stars to arise.
  Thine, O Roman, remember, to reign over every race!
  These be thine arts, thy glories, the ways of peace to proclaim,
  Mercy to show to the fallen, the proud with battle to tame!”
                                                    _Æneid_, vi. 847-853
                                                  (Bowen’s translation).

It was this power of ruling, which itself implies a habit of discipline,
that marked out Rome as the natural successor of Greece in European
civilisation; and it grew naturally out of the purely practical bent of
the early Romans, who were unhampered in their constant activity by
fancy, reflection, or culture. Without it, we may doubt if the work of
the Greeks would have been saved for us when the storms from the north,
invasions of barbarian peoples, fell at last upon the sunny lands filled
with the spirit of Greek thought and the divine works of Greek artists.
To Roman discipline, law, and government, we owe not only much that even
now is every day of practical benefit to us, but the preservation of
what we still possess of the treasures of Hellenic genius.

For this reason I assume that this book will be taken up by most readers
after they have made some acquaintance with the history and thought of
the Greeks. It is true that the history of the two peoples is best
looked at as one great whole; there is a general likeness in their
institutions; the form of the State, and the ideas of government, with
which each grew to maturity, were in the main the same. But Roman mental
development was much slower than Greek; and Greece was already beginning
to lose her vitality when Rome was still illiterate and unable to record
her own history adequately. Thus Greek influence was the first to tell
upon the world; the basin of the Mediterranean was already permeated by
the Greek spirit when Roman influence began to work upon it; and there
can be no doubt that he who begins with Roman history and then goes on
to Greek is reversing the natural order of things.

I will also assume that those who have begun to read this book are
provided with some knowledge of that Mediterranean basin which is the
scene of Græco-Roman history; such as can be gained by frequent
contemplation of a good map. They will be familiar with Sicily and south
Italy, which were teeming with Greek settlements when Roman history
really begins. They will probably have realised how short a step it is
from Italy to Africa, whether or no Sicily be taken as a stepping-stone;
Cato could show fresh figs in the Roman senate which had been grown in
Carthaginian territory. They will have realised that you can pass from
the “heel” of Italy to the Hellenic peninsula in a single night, as
Cæsar did when he embarked his army at Brindisi to attack his rival;
such geographical facts are of immense importance in explaining not only
the foreign policy of Rome, but also the development of her culture. And
thus furnished, they will begin to be curious about the destiny of the
Italian peninsula, of which Greek history has had little to tell them.
Leaving that question for the present, they will wish to know why the
Greeks did not colonise the centre and north of Italy as they did the
south and south-west, but left room enough for a new type of
civilisation to grow up there. And above all, they will wish to know how
and why a single city on the western coast should have succeeded in
building up a great power in Italy quite independent of Greece, and
destined eventually to supersede her, which may be reckoned as a factor
almost as important in the making of our modern civilisation as Hellas

This last question is the one which I must try to answer in the earlier
part of this book; in the later chapters I shall have to deal with
another one—how this single city-state contrived to weld together the
whole Mediterranean civilisation, strongly enough to give it several
centuries of security against uncivilised enemies in the north, and
half-civilised enemies in the east. But for the moment let us see why
the Greeks did not permeate Italy with their own civilisation as they
did Sicily: how it was that they left room for a new power, capable
eventually of shielding them and their work from destruction. To answer
this question we must consider the nature of the Italian peninsula, and
the character of the races then living in it.

The simple fact is, that though the shrewd commercial Greek had seized
on all the best harbours in the long, narrow peninsula, these harbours
were all in the south coast, about the “heel” of Italy, or in the
south-west coast, in the volcanic region of the modern Naples, which was
itself one of these Greek settlements. The east coast north of the
“heel” is almost harbourless, as will be realised by any one who takes
the route by rail to Brindisi on his way to Egypt or India. _Italy is a
mountainous country_—a fact never to be forgotten in Roman history—and
its mountains, the long chain of the Apennines, have their spinal ridge
much nearer the east than the west coast, and descend upon the sea so
sharply on that side that for long distances road or railway only just
finds a passage. All along this east coast there was nothing to tempt
Greeks to settle, and as they rarely or never penetrated far inland from
their settlements, their influence never spread into this mountainous
region from the many seacoast towns of Magna Græcia, as their part of
Italy was called. On the Bay of Naples they had, indeed, a better
chance; here there was a rich fertile plain stretching away to the
hills, which on this side come down less steeply than on the eastern;
this we shall hear of again as the Plain of Campania, in which Greek
influence was very strong and active, capable of penetrating beyond its
limits northward. But north of this again they left no permanent
settlements; good harbours are wanting, and such as there are were
occupied about the eighth century B.C. by a people at that time as
enterprising as themselves, the Etruscans. These, too, had been recent
immigrants into the peninsula from the east, and together with the
Greeks they formed the only obstacles to the growth of a native Italian
power—a power, that is, belonging to the older races that had long been
settled there. The Greeks were not likely to interfere with such a
growth, as we have seen; whether the Etruscans were to do so we have yet
to see.

It was, in fact, this Etruscan people who first gave an Italian stock
the chance of rising into a great Mediterranean power; and in order to
understand how this was, we must look at a good map of central Italy,
which gives a fair idea of the elevations in this part of the peninsula.
Looking at such a map, it is easy to see that the long, narrow leg of
Italy is cloven in twain about the middle by a river, the Tiber, the
only river of considerable size and real historical importance, south of
the Po. It is formed of several streams which descend from the central
mass of the Apennines, now called the Abruzzi, but soon gathers into a
swift though not a wide river, and emerges from that mountainous
district some five-and-twenty miles from the sea, into what we now call
the Roman Campagna, the Latium of ancient times; skirting the northern
edge of this comparatively level district it falls into the sea, without
forming a natural harbour, about half-way up the western coast of the
peninsula. To the north of it and of the plain were settled a number of
cities, more or less independent of each other, forming the Etruscan
people, whose origin we do not yet know for certain, and whose language
has never been deciphered from the inscriptions they have left behind
them; a mysterious race, active in war and commerce, who had subdued but
not exterminated the native population around them. To the east and
south of the Tiber, stretching far along the mountainous region and its
western outskirts, was a race of hardy mountaineers, broken up, as hill
peoples usually are, into a number of communities without any principle
of cohesion except that of the various tribes to which they belonged.
The northern part of this sturdy hill-folk was known as Umbrians and
Sabines; the southern part as Samnites or Oscans. They all spoke
dialects of the same tongue, a tongue akin to those which most European
peoples still speak. Lastly, immediately to the south of the Tiber in
the last part of its course, occupying the plain which stretches here
between the mountains, the river, and the sea, there was settled another
branch of this same stock, speaking another dialect destined to be known
for ever as Latin. These three sub-races of a great stock—Umbrians,
Samnites, and Latins—are meant when we speak of a native Italian
population as opposed to Greek or Etruscan immigrants. Doubtless they
were not the aboriginal inhabitants of the country, but of older stocks
history knows nothing that concerns us in this book. These are the
peoples who were destined to be supreme in the Mediterranean basin, and
eventually to govern the whole civilised world.

It is as well to be quite clear at once that the acquisition of this
supremacy was not the work of one only of these peoples, the Latins, or
of one city only of the Latins, _i.e._ Rome. It was the work of all
these stocks which I have called native Italian. Roman is a convenient
word, and Rome was all along the leader in action and the organising
power; but the material, and in a great part as time went on the
brain-power also, was contributed by all these peoples taken together.
They had first to submit to the great leader and organiser, Rome, a fate
against which, as we shall see, they struggled long; but no sooner had
they submitted than they were added to the account of Italian
development, and with few exceptions played their new part with a good

So much, then, for the Italian peoples who were to supersede the Greeks
in the world’s history. But let us now return for a moment to the Tiber,
and fix our eyes on the last five-and-twenty miles of its course, where
it separates the plain of Latium from the Etruscan people to the north.
The Latin-speaking stock were far more in danger from these Etruscans
than the Umbrian and Samnite mountaineers; nothing but the river was
between them and their enemies, for enemies they undoubtedly were, bent
on pushing farther south, like the Danes in England in the ninth century
of our era. The Latins had, indeed, a magnificent natural fortress in
the middle of their plain, in the extinct volcano of the Alban mountain,
some 3000 feet above sea-level; and here, according to a sure tradition,
was their original chief city, Alba Longa. But this was of no avail
against an invader from the north; it was the river that was the vital
concern of Latium when once the Etruscans had become established to the
north of it. Now at one point, some twenty miles by water from the
river’s mouth, was a group of small hills, rising to a height of about
160 feet, three of them almost isolated and abutting on the stream, and
the others in reality a part of the plain to the south, with their
northern sides falling somewhat steeply towards the Tiber. Here, too,
was an island in the river, which might give an enemy an easy chance of
crossing. On this position there arose at some uncertain date, but
beyond doubt as a fortress against the Etruscan power, a city called
_Roma_; and there a city has been ever since, known by the same name. It
is likely enough that it was an outpost founded by the city of Alba
Longa, which eventually itself vanished out of history; and this was the
tradition of later days. If we can accept the motive of the
foundation—the defence of Latium against her foe, we need not trouble
about the many legends of it.

Rome started on her wonderful career as a military outpost of a people
akin to her, and face to face with an enemy with whom she had no sort of
relationship. If she could but hold her position there was obviously a
great future for her. The position on the Tiber was, in fact,
strategically the best in Italy. It is, as a great Roman historian said,
just in the centre of the peninsula. There was easy access to the sea
both by land and water, and a way open into central Italy up the Tiber
valley—the one great natural entrance from the sea. She was far enough
from the sea to be safe from raiders, yet near enough to be in
communication with other peoples by means of shipping. If enemies
attacked her from different directions inland, she could move against
them on what in military language we may call “inner lines”—she could
strike simultaneously from a common base. From the sea no power dared
attack her, until in her degenerate days Genseric landed at Ostia in
A.D. 455. On the whole, we may say that no other city in Italy had the
same chance, as regards position, of dominating the whole of Italy, and
that in those early days of her history the Etruscans unwittingly taught
her how to use this great advantage. Just as the kingdom of the West
Saxons, and their supremacy in England, was built up by the stern
necessity of having to resist the Danes, so the Romans became a leading
people in Italy by virtue of having to withstand the Etruscans.

In my next chapter I propose to tell the story in outline (and in detail
it cannot be told for want of knowledge) of the advance of the Roman
power to the leadership of Italy. Then I will try and explain the
qualities and the organisation which enabled her to turn her chances to

                               CHAPTER II
                      THE ADVANCE OF ROME IN ITALY

I said in the last chapter that if Rome could only hold the line of the
lower Tiber against the Etruscans, great possibilities of advance were
open to her. How long she held it we do not know; but there is hardly a
doubt that in course of time—some time probably in the sixth century
B.C.—she lost it, and even herself fell into the hands of the enemy. The
tale is not told in her legendary annals; but we have other convincing
evidence. The last three kings of Rome seem to have been Etruscans. The
great temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline hill, which was founded at
this time, was in the Etruscan style, and built on foundations of
Etruscan masonry, some of which can still be seen in the garden of the
German embassy in modern Rome. Below this temple, as you go to the
river, was a street called the street of the Etruscans, and there are
other signs of the conquest which need not be given here. On the whole
we may believe that this persistent enemy crossed the Tiber higher up,
where she already had a footing, and so took the city in flank and rear.

Fortunately, the Etruscans were not in the habit of destroying the
cities they took: they occupied and made use of them. They seem to have
used Rome to spread their influence over Latium: they built a temple of
Jupiter on the Alban hill, the old centre of a Latin league: and there
is strong evidence that they made Rome the head of another and later
league, with a religious centre in a temple of Diana, who was not
originally a Roman deity, on the Aventine hill overlooking the Tiber.
All events in this Etruscan period are very dim and doubtful, but it
looks as if the very loss of the line of defence had only given the
conquered city a new lease of life, with a widened outlook and fresh
opportunities. But was she to continue as an Etruscan city? The question
reminds us of a crisis in our own history: was England to become a
Norman-French country after the Conquest?

At this time it seems that the Etruscans were being harassed from the
north by Gallic tribes, who had already spread over northwest Europe,
and were conquering the valley of the Po and pressing farther south.
This may account for the undoubted fact that about the end of the sixth
century B.C. Rome did succeed in throwing off the Etruscan yoke: that
the old Roman families united to expel their foreign king, and to
establish an aristocratic republic. Henceforward the very name of king
(_rex_) was held in abhorrence by the Romans, and the government passed
into the hands of two yearly elected magistrates, with absolute power as
leaders in war, and a limited power within the city. In the next chapter
I will explain this new form of government more fully: here it will be
enough to say that they were called consuls, and that they had an
advising body (as the kings probably had before them) of the heads of
noble families, called _senatus_, or a body of elderly men. At present
let us go on with the story of Rome’s advance in Italy.

According to the legend, the Etruscans made a vigorous attempt to
recover Rome. This is a picturesque story, and is admirably told in one
of Macaulay’s famous _Lays of Ancient Rome_. But we must pass it over
here, for we have no means of testing the truth of it. Soon afterwards
we come upon what seems to be a real historical fact, a treaty between
Rome and the other Latin cities, the text of which was preserved for
many centuries. This treaty shows plainly that henceforward we have to
reckon Rome and Latium as one power in Italy; and this is the first real
forward step in the advance of Rome. It guaranteed in the first place
mutual support in war; Rome needed support against the Etruscans, and
the Latin cities at the southern end of the plain were liable to be
attacked by hill tribes from the east and south. Still more important as
showing the advance of civilisation was the sanction of a common system
of private law. Any citizen of a Latin city (including, of course, Rome
) was to be able to buy and sell, to hold and inherit property, in any
other city, in full confidence that he would be protected by the law of
that city in so doing; and if he married a woman of another city his
marriage was legitimate and his children could inherit his property
according to law.[2] This was going a long way towards making a single
state of the whole of Latium. All the communities were on equal terms,
and all had certain legal relations with each other; and these are two
of the chief features of a true federation. Now all federations were an
improvement on the isolation of the single city-state, which was
helpless in those days of turbulence and invasion. This one looks like
the work of a statesman; and if that statesman was a Roman, Spurius
Cassius, as tradition asserted, then Rome had achieved her first victory
in the arts of statesmanship and diplomacy with which she was destined
to rule the world.

Before we go on with our story let us notice how well Latium was
geographically fitted to develop a federation, as compared with the more
mountainous districts of Italy. Latium was a plain, as its name seems to
imply; and like Bœotia in Greece it was naturally suited for federative
union, while tribes living in the highlands always found it difficult to
unite. Again, the Latins were jammed into a comparatively small space
between the hills and the sea, and their strength was concentrated by
their position: while the Etruscans, and the various Italian stocks,
were continually moving onward to look for better quarters, and losing
their strength and their cohesion in doing so.

In these early federations of cities there was always a tendency for one
particular city to slip into the position of leader, just as in modern
federations, that of Switzerland for example, there is a continual
tendency for the central authority to extend its influence. In Latium
there can be no doubt that Rome very soon began to assume some kind of
headship. Her position on the Tiber, and the constant strain that she
had to undergo in resisting the Etruscans, gave her an advantage over
the other Latin cities, who had to resist less constant annoyance from
less highly civilised enemies. I mean that the Roman people had both
nerve and brain so continually exercised that they developed not only
brute courage, but endurance, diplomatic skill and forethought. For a
whole century after they expelled their Etruscan kings they had to keep
up a continual struggle with the great Etruscan city of Veii, which was
only a few miles to the north of the river, on very high ground, and
with the smaller town of Fidenæ on the Tiber above Rome, which the
Veians could make use of to attack them from that side. No wonder that
when at last they succeeded in taking Veii they burnt it to the ground.
It is said that they thought of migrating to that lofty site themselves,
and abandoning the position on the Tiber; but they wisely gave up the
idea, and Veii was sacked and her goddess Juno brought to Rome. The site
is a deserted spot at the present day.

It was this prolonged struggle, in which the Latins were of course
called upon to help, that placed Rome in the position of leader of the
league, and from the moment it was over we find her attitude towards the
Latins a changed one. It is likely enough that she had long been growing
overbearing and unpopular with the other cities, but of this, if it was
so, we have no certain details. What we do know is that at the beginning
of the fourth century B.C., when a terrible disaster overtook Rome, the
Latins failed to serve her.

This disaster was the capture and sack of Rome by a wandering tribe of
Gauls from the north, who descended the valley of the Tiber, took the
Romans by surprise, and utterly routed them at the little river Allia,
twelve miles from the city. These Gauls were formidable in battle and
fairly frightened the Romans; but, like other Celtic peoples, they were
incapable of settling down into a solid State, or of making good use of
their victories. They vanished as quickly as they had come, and left
nothing behind them but an indelible memory of the terror they had
inspired, and many stories of the agony of that catastrophe. The most
characteristic of these shows the veneration of the Romans for what was
perhaps their greatest political institution, the Senate. The citizens
had fled to the Capitol, where they contrived to hold out till relief
came; but meanwhile the older Senators, men who were past the age of
fighting, determined to meet their death, and devoted themselves,
according to an old religious practice resorted to in extreme peril, to
the infernal deities. Each then took his seat in state robes at the door
of his house. There the Gauls found them and marvelled, taking them for
more than human. At last a Gaul ventured to stroke the beard of one of
them named Papirius, who immediately struck him with his ivory wand: he
was instantly slain, and of the rest not one survived. We need not ask
whether this story is true or not, for it is impossible to test it: but
it is truly Roman in feeling, and from a religious point of view it
falls in line with others that were told of the sacrifice of the
individual for the State.

This experience was a terrible discipline for the Romans, but no sooner
had the Gauls departed than they began to turn it to practical account.
They saw that they must secure the country to the north of them more
effectually, and they did so by making large portions of it Roman
territory, and by establishing two colonies there, _i.e._ garrisoned
fortresses on military roads. Then they turned to deal with their own
confederates, who perhaps had felt a secret satisfaction in the
humiliation of a leader of whom they were jealous, and were now,
especially the two great neighbouring cities of Tibur and Præneste
(Tivoli and Palestrina), beginning to rise in open revolt. Knowing what
happened afterwards, we can say that these Latin cities were standing in
the way of Italian progress: but to the ancient city-state independence
was the very salt of life.

All public records and materials for history, except those engraved on
stone, were destroyed in the capture and burning of Rome by the Gauls,
so that up to this time Roman “history” is not really worthy of the
name. But from this time onward certain official records were preserved,
and we gradually pass into an age which may truly be called historical.
In detail it will still be questionable, chiefly owing to the tendency
of Roman leading families to glorify the deeds of their own ancestors at
the expense of truth, and so to hand on false accounts to the age when
history first came to be written down. But in the fourth and third
centuries B.C. it becomes fairly clear in outline. I said in the last
chapter that the Romans were curiously destitute of the imaginative
faculty. But no people is entirely without imagination, and it is most
interesting to find the Romans using their moderate allowance in
inventing the details of noble deeds and honourable services to the
State. Provoking as it is to us, and provoking even to the Roman
historian Livy himself, who was well aware of it, this habit has its own
value as a feature of old Roman life and character.

But I must return to the story of the advance of Rome in Italy. It seems
clear that after the Gallic invasion the Latins became more and more
discontented with Roman policy, which probably aimed at utilising all
the resources of the league and at the same time getting complete
control of its relations to other powers. We have the text in Greek,
preserved by the historian Polybius, of a treaty with Carthage, then the
greatest naval power in the Mediterranean, which well illustrates this:
the date is 348 B.C. Rome acts for Latium in negotiating this treaty;
and Carthage undertook not to molest the Latin cities, _provided that
they remained faithful to Rome_; nay, even to restore to the power of
the leading city any revolting Latin community that might fall into
their hands. This plainly shows that revolt was expected, and a few
years later it became general. But in spite of the support of the
Campanians in the rich volcanic plain farther south, and indeed of
danger so great that it gave rise to another story of the “devotio” of a
Roman consul to the infernal deities on behalf of the State, the Latins
were completely beaten at the battle of Mount Vesuvius, and the Romans
were able so to alter the league as to deprive it of all real claim to
be called a federation.

We saw that any citizen of a Latin city could buy and hold property,
marry and have legitimate children, in any other Latin city, knowing
that he was protected by the law in the enjoyment of these rights. But
after the rebellion this was all changed. A citizen could enjoy these
rights in his own city, or at Rome, but nowhere else, while a Roman
could enjoy them everywhere. A citizen of Præneste, for example, could
enjoy them at Præneste or Rome, but not in the neighbouring cities of
Tibur or Tusculum: while a Roman could do business in all these cities,
and be supported in all his dealings by the Roman law, which now began
gradually to permeate the whole of Latium. Rome thus had a monopoly of
business with the other cities, which were effectually isolated from
each other. To us this seems a cruel and selfish policy, and so in
itself it was. But we must remember that Rome had been all but destroyed
off the face of the earth, and that the Latins had done nothing, so far
as we know, to help her. To resist another such attack as that of the
Gauls, it was absolutely necessary for Rome to control the whole
military resources of Latium, and this she could not do in a loose and
equal federation. She was liable not only to assaults from the Gauls,
but from Etruscans, and, as we shall see directly, from Samnites, and,
if we find that in the struggle for existence she was at times unjust,
we may remember that there has hardly been a successful nation of which
the same might not be said. She saw that Latium must become Roman if
either Rome or the Latins were to survive, and she devised the principle
of isolation with this object.

From this time all Latins served in Roman armies nominally as allies,
but in reality as subjects; and all Latins who became Roman citizens
served in the Roman legions. When a military colony was founded, it
might be either Roman or Latin; but a Latin colony meant not necessarily
a collection of Latins; it might admit any one—Roman, Latin or other,
who threw in his lot with the new city and accepted the two rights of
trade and marriage described above. Thus the term Latin came to mean not
so much a man of a certain stock as a man with a certain legal position,
and so it continued for many centuries, while the new power rising to
prominence in the world came to be known not as Latin, but as Roman.

The last and decisive battle with the Latins took its name, as we saw,
from Mount Vesuvius, and the reader who knows the map of Italy will ask
how it came to be fought so far south of Latium, in the large and
fertile plain of Campania, near the modern city of Naples. The answer is
that a powerful State, such as Rome was now becoming, is liable to be
appealed to by weaker communities when in trouble; and the Campanians,
attacked by the hill-men from the central mountainous region of the
Samnites, had appealed for help to Rome. This was given, but the Romans
found it necessary to make peace with these Samnites, and left the
Campanians in the lurch, and then the latter threw in their lot with the
Latins, and the Latin war drifted south to Campania. At the end of that
war they were treated in much the same way as the Latins; and thus Rome
now found herself presiding with irresistible force over a territory
that included both the plains of western Italy and all its most valuable
land, and over a confederacy in which all the advantages were on her
side, and all the resources of the members under her control.

But to be mistress of these two plains was not as yet to be mistress of
Italy. Those plains, and especially the southern and more valuable one,
had to be defended from the mountaineers of the central highlands of the
peninsula: a region which the reader should at this point of our story
study carefully in his map. Towards the end of the Latin war these
highlanders, Samnites, as the Romans called them, had ceased raiding the
Campanian plain, for they in their turn had to defend southern Italy
against an unexpected enemy. The strong and wealthy Greek merchant-city
of Tarentum, just inside the “heel” of Italy, destined to play an
important part in Italian history for the next century, had lately had
its lands raided by the Samnites and their kin the Lucanians to the
south of them, and had called in Greeks from oversea to help them. Here
we come into touch with Greek history, just at the time when Alexander
the Great was the leading figure in the Greek world. A Spartan king came
over to aid Tarentum, and lost his life in so doing; then Alexander of
Epirus was induced to come, an uncle of the great conqueror: and after a
period of success against the Samnites, he was assassinated. It is said
that Rome came to an understanding with him, and it is likely enough;
there must have been men in the great Council at Rome who were already
accustomed to look far ahead, and keep themselves informed of what was
going on far away in Italy and even beyond the Italian seas. Her long
struggle for existence had taught her venerable statesmen the arts of
diplomacy, and we are not surprised to learn that after the death of
Alexander she began to form alliances in that far country between the
Samnites and Tarentum, much of which was rich and fertile, in order that
when the inevitable struggle with the hill-men should come, she might
have them enclosed between two foes—herself and Latium on the north and
west, and the Apulians and Greeks in the south and east. It seemed as if
her power and prestige must continually go forward, or collapse
altogether; the same alternative that faced the English in India in the
eighteenth century and later. In neither case did the advancing power
fully realise what the future was to be.

The inevitable struggle with the Samnites came, and lasted many years.
We need not pursue it in detail, and indeed the details are quite
untrustworthy as they have come down to us; but one episode in it is
told so explicitly and has become so famous, that it deserves a place in
our sketch as showing that hard feeling of national self-interest,
without a touch of chivalry, that is gradually emerging as the guide of
Roman action in her progress towards universal dominion.

A strong Roman army, under the command of both consuls, was pushing to
the south through the mountains, and fell into a trap in a defile called
the Caudine Forks,[3] a name never forgotten by the Romans. All attempts
to escape were vain, and they were forced to capitulate. The terms
dictated by Pontius the Samnite general were these: the consuls were to
bind themselves on behalf of the Senate to agree to evacuate Samnium and
Campania and the fortresses (_coloniæ_) which had been planted there,
and to make peace with the Samnites as with an equal power. The consuls
bound themselves by a solemn rite, and the army was allowed to go home,
after being sent under the yoke, _i.e._ under a kind of archway
consisting of one spear resting on two upright ones: this was an old
Italian custom of dealing with a conquered army, which may have
originally had a religious signification. When the disgraced legions
reached Rome, and the consuls summoned the Senate to ratify their bond
with Pontius, the Fathers, as they were called, positively refused to do
so. The consuls and all who had made themselves responsible for the
terms were sent back to Pontius as his prisoners, _but not the army_.
His indignation was great, for he knew that Samnium had lost her chance,
and would never have it again. The consuls, of course, had no power to
bind the Senate, and the Samnite terms were such as the Senate could not
accept as the result of a single disaster caused by a general’s blunder:
that was not the way in which the Romans carried on war. But the
disgraced army should have been sent back too, and the Senate and people
knew it. The speech which the later Roman historian puts into the mouth
of Pontius to express his indignation, shows that some feeling of shame
at this dishonourable action had come down in the minds of many

The last effort of this long struggle against Rome was a desperate
attempt to combine the forces of Samnites, Etruscans and Gauls: the idea
was to separate her armies and thus crush her in detail. Even this was a
failure, and without going into the doubtful stories of the fighting, we
may ask why it was so. Beyond all doubt the Roman power was for a time
in very great peril; but in the end it prevailed, and this is a good
moment for pausing to think about the advantages that Rome’s genius for
organisation had secured for herself; advantages which no other Italian
stock seemed able to acquire.

First, she had learnt how to use with profit her geographical position;
to north, south and east she could send armies to strike in different
directions at the same time; and she must have devised some means
(though we do not know the method) of keeping up communication between
these armies. The stories seem to suggest that the commanders of this
period belonged to a very few noble families whose members had spent
their whole lives in fighting—not indeed merely in fighting battles, but
in carrying on war: the Fabii and Papirii are particularly prominent.
These veterans must have come to know the art of war thoroughly, as it
could then be applied in Italy, and also the details of the country in
which they had to fight.

Secondly, the efforts of these tough old heroes were admirably seconded
by the home government, _i.e._ the Senate, because this assembly
consisted of men of the like military experience, and the leaders among
them were themselves generals, men who had been consuls and had led
armies. Though at this very time, as we shall see, there was a strong
tendency towards popular government, yet in the direction of war we find
no sign that the monopoly of the old families was questioned; and as
their interests and their experience were all of the same type, they
could act together with a unanimity which was probably unknown to their
enemies. The fact that Rome always at this time, and indeed at all
times, negotiated and kept in touch with the _aristocracies_ in the
Italian cities, shows how completely the noble families had gained
control over the management of diplomacy as well as war.

Thirdly, Rome was now beginning to learn the art of securing the
conquered country by means of military roads and fortresses (_coloniæ_):
an art to which she held firmly throughout her history, and to which the
geography even of Roman Britain bears ample testimony. My readers will
do well to fix their attention for a moment on three of these colonies
which were founded during this long war; they are by no means the only
ones, but they serve well to show the extent of the Roman power in Italy
at this time, as well as the means taken to secure it. The first is
Narnia, far up the Tiber valley (founded 299 B.C.) on a military road
afterwards known as the Flaminian Way: this was an outpost, with quick
communication with Rome, against both Etruscans and Gauls. The second,
Fregellæ, a city with a sad future, was some seventy miles to the
south-east of Rome, on a road called the Latin Way, but beyond the
limits of Latium proper, commanding, in fact, the passes between Latium
and Campania; it was in a beautiful situation near the junction of two
rivers, and became in time a most prosperous city. For the third colony
we must look much further south on the map, at the south-eastern end of
the mass of the Samnite highlands: this was Venusia, with 20,000
colonists, destined to separate the Samnites from the Greeks and other
inhabitants of the heel and toe of Italy. It stood on the most famous of
all the great roads, the Via Appia, which after leaving Rome ran nearer
the coast than the Latin Way, but joined it in Campania, and then ran
across the hilly country to Venusia, and eventually to Brundisium
(Brindisi), which also became a colony fifty years later.

These three advantages, duly considered, will help the reader to
understand to some extent how the prize of Italian presidency fell to
Rome and not to another city: and they will also explain why Rome
emerged safe and stronger than ever from another peril that was now to
threaten her existence.

The great colony of Venusia, as we saw, was meant to separate the Greeks
of southern Italy from the highlanders of Samnium. Of the Greek cities
by far the most powerful was Tarentum, then ruled by a selfish and
ill-conditioned democracy, apt to be continually worrying its
neighbours. That Rome should sooner or later come into collision with
Tarentum was inevitable; but the Senate tried to avoid this, knowing
that the Tarentines would appeal to some Greek power beyond sea to help
them. Now just across the Adriatic, in Epirus, there was a king of Greek
descent who was looking out for a chance of glory by imitating Alexander
the Great; for Alexander’s marvellous career had stirred up a restless
spirit of adventure in the free-lances of the generation that succeeded
him. Pyrrhus seems to have fancied that he could act the part of a
knight-errant in freeing the Greeks of the west from the barbarians—from
the Romans that is, and the Carthaginians, who were at the moment in
alliance. When the inevitable quarrel with Rome came, and Tarentum
invited him, he crossed the sea with a small but capable force,
determined to put an end to this new power that was threatening to
swallow up the Greek cities. But he had to learn, and through him the
Greek world had to learn as a whole, that the new power was made of
sterner stuff than any that had yet arisen in the Mediterranean basin.

Pyrrhus began with a victory, not far from Tarentum; it was won chiefly
by some elephants which he had brought with him to frighten the Roman
cavalry. This shook the loyalty of many Italian communities, but the
Senate was unmoved. The ablest diplomatist in Pyrrhus’s service made no
impression on that body of resolute men, trained by long experience to
look on a single defeat as only a “regrettable incident” in a long war.
“Rome never negotiates while foreign troops are on Italian soil;” so,
according to the story, the aged Appius Claudius told the Greek envoy in
the Senate-house. Then Pyrrhus tried a march on Rome; but he had to
learn, like another invader after him, that the nearer he drew to the
city the more difficult his task became. A second victory was far less
decisive and almost fruitless, and Pyrrhus most unwisely evacuated
Italy. Tarentum had turned against him, unwilling to submit to his
discipline, and now that wayward city fell a victim to the Roman power.
The king crossed to Sicily to deliver the Sicilian Greeks from Carthage,
and this he did brilliantly, but there, too, the fickle Greeks grew
tired of him. Returning to Italy, he fought one more battle with the
Romans, at Beneventum in Samnium, and lost it. Foiled everywhere, he
left Italy, with Rome more firmly established than ever in the supremacy
of the whole peninsula: for Tarentum, with its fine harbour, its almost
impregnable citadel, and its fleet, fell soon afterwards into the hands
of the Romans.

Almost the whole Italian peninsula was now Roman; or perhaps it is truer
to say that Rome had become an Italian state. It was a wonderful work:
perhaps the most wonderful that Rome ever achieved. The military part of
it was the result mainly of _constantia_, steady perseverance and
refusal to accept defeat; the political organisation was the result of
good sense and good temper combined with an inflexible will, and a
shrewd perception of the real and permanent interests of Rome. In the
third century B.C., at which we have now arrived, Italy may be described
as a kind of federation, in which each city has its own alliance with
the leading one, and no alliance with any other. Each has its own
government and administers its own law, but places all its military
resources at the disposal of the Roman government. The fighting power of
the future was to be Italy under Roman leadership, and all questions of
foreign policy were decided by Rome alone. There was no general council
of the whole confederacy. The Roman Senate controlled an ever-increasing
mass of detailed and varied business, having to deal with Latins,
Italians of the old stocks, Etruscans, Greeks and Gauls. How the
business was done we cannot tell: not a single contemporary record of it
is left. One glimpse of that wonderful Senate at work would be worth all
descriptions of the battles of that century.

Before the close of the third century B.C. that Senate, instead of
directing a further steady advance, had been forced to defend the State
against an invader, in the most terrible life and death struggle ever
experienced by any people. But in the next chapter I must pause to try
and explain wherein consisted the nerve-power, the mental and material
fibre, of the people destined to rule the world.

                              CHAPTER III

I have mentioned some outward circumstances which gave Rome an early
training in war and diplomacy, and in particular her geographical
position, exposing her to constant attack, and yet giving her good
chance of striking back and advancing. But to accomplish all that was
told of her in the last chapter, more than this was surely needed. There
must have been a quality in this people, individually and as a whole,
fitting them to withstand so much storm and stress, and to emerge from
disaster with renewed strength to take in hand the work of conquest and
government. We need not, indeed, assume that the people of this one city
were naturally of stronger character than others, than their kinsfolk of
the Latin cities or other Italians of the same great race. All these
immigrating stocks, which spread themselves, long before history begins,
over a primitive population of which we know little or nothing, were
probably much the same in physical and mental build; a fact which will
help us to understand how they all came eventually to be able to unite
together as the centre of a great empire. But the quality or character,
which I am to try and explain in this chapter, was more strongly stamped
upon the citizens of Rome than on those of other cities, owing to the
more continual call for them in her case; for all our qualities and
habits can be made more sure and lasting by constant exercise.

Discipline and duty are the two words which best explain, if they do not
exactly express, the quality here meant; the habit of obedience to
authority, which is the necessary condition of the power of governing,
and that sense of duty which lies at the root of the habit and the
power. This aptitude for discipline and this sense of duty can be traced
both in the private and the public life of early Rome, in the life of
the family and in the life of the State. Let us be clear at once that
the individual as such was not as yet an important item of society;
society was based on a system of groups, and the individual played no
part in it in these early times except as the member of a group, either
a group of kin (_gens_), or a local and administrative group (_pagus_,
_curia_). But the only group with which we are concerned in this little
book, the smallest of all, was the _familia_, another of those immortal
words which we have inherited from the Latin language. This shall be
explained first, in order to find the discipline and duty of that family
life: then we will take the State, and follow out the same habits
reproducing themselves in a more complicated social and political union.

This word _familia_ did not mean exactly what we mean by family;
household would perhaps come nearer to it, if we understand by household
a group of individuals supporting itself on the land. It meant not only
father, mother, and children, but also their dependents, whether bond or
free. These, if bond, were slaves (_servi_), prisoners of war and the
children of such prisoners, or persons who had forfeited their liberty
by debt: if free, they were clients, who for some reason had become
attached to the _familia_ in an inferior position, and looked to it for
subsistence and protection. And our picture is not complete unless we
take into account also the divine members of the group, dwelling in the
house or on the land, to whom the human members looked for protection
and prosperity in all the walks of life. Chief among these were the
spirit of the hearth-fire, Vesta; Penates, the spirits of the
store-closet and its contents: the Lar, the guardian spirit of the
cultivated land, or, as some think, of a departed ancestor; and the
Genius of the head of the family, which enabled him to beget children
and so continue the collective life of the group. Though these
spirits—they are hardly yet deities—naturally seem to us mere fancies of
the primitive Roman mind, they were to that mind itself as real and
active as any human member of the group, and we must try to think of
them as such, for they played a very important part in the development
of the quality we wish to realise.

Now this group, or rather the human part of it, lived under a very
simple and effective form of government. It was under the absolute
control of a head, the father and husband; or, if more than one family
lived together, the oldest living father and husband. Over wife and
children he had a father’s power (_patria potestas_), and they were said
to be in his _hand_; over the slaves he had a master’s power
(_dominium_): to his clients he was _patronus_, or quasi-father. His
power over wife and children was absolute, but it was kept from being
arbitrary by a wholesome custom, of immense importance in all its
results throughout Roman history, of seeking the advice of a council of
relations before taking any extreme step in the way of punishment for
serious offences. This was an obligation, a duty, on his part, enforced
by no law, but by what may be well called an even more powerful
sovereign than law—the custom of the ancestors (_mos majorum_). His
power over his client, or his freed slave if he had any such, was
restrained by customs of mutual obligation, which eventually found their
way into law. His power over his slaves was, however, not only absolute
but arbitrary, and so continued down to the latest period of Roman
history; yet the slave, we must not forget, was really a member of the
_familia_, and as such was probably treated as a human being, necessary
to the life of the group, and even partaking to some extent in its
religious worship.

Let us see how this system of government would work out in the practical
life of a _familia_ settled on the land, as all such groups were during
at least a great part of the period we have been tracing: for the city
itself was mainly used as a fortress, into which the farming families
would come in time of peril, and in which they would in course of time
possess a town dwelling as well as a farm, like the leading families of
our English shires in the Middle Ages. The paterfamilias directed all
the operations of the farm, no one disputing his authority: and he
decided all quarrels among his subjects and punished all offences. The
necessary work of the house, the cooking, and the spinning of wool for
the garments of the members (which were then entirely woollen), he left
to his wife and daughters: and thus the wife came to exercise a kind of
authority of her own, which raised her far above the position of a
“squaw,” and gave her in course of time a great influence, though an
indirect one, in social life. And not only had all the members their
work to do, under this strict control, in keeping themselves alive and
clothed, but they all had their duties to the divine members, on whom
they believed themselves dependent for their health and wealth. There
were simple acts of worship every day and at every meal, in which the
children joined; we may almost think of the Head as a priest and of the
children as his acolytes. And at certain days, fixed in ancient times by
a council of Heads, and later in the city by a calendar, the families of
a district (_pagus_) would join together in religious festivities, after
harvest, for example, or after the autumn sowing, to honour and
propitiate the spirit of the harvested grain or of the sown seed. These
were often accompanied by games and races, and so the life was saved
from becoming too sombre and monotonous. But though discipline was not
allowed to destroy freedom and enjoyment, the life was on the whole a
routine of command and obedience, of discipline and duty.

What of the education which should perpetuate these habits? Unluckily we
have no contemporary record of it for these early times, and must guess
at it chiefly from what we know of the bringing up of his son by the
elder Cato, a strenuous believer in the old methods, in the second
century B.C. As we might expect, it seems to have been an education in
the active practical life of the farm, and in reverence, obedience, and
modesty of demeanour. Cato taught his boy not only to work, to ride, to
box, and to swim, but to shun all indecency; and was himself “as careful
not to utter an indecent word before his son, as he would have been in
the presence of the Vestal virgins.” He wrote histories for his son in
large letters, so that he might learn something of the illustrious deeds
of the ancient Romans, and of their customs. In his time an education of
the mind was beginning to come into vogue, as well as one of the will;
but in the period we have been surveying this must have been of the most
meagre kind. Yet it is possible that the idea of active duty to the
State and its deities, as well as to the family and its presiding
spirits, was all the more vividly kept up in the absence of intellectual
interests. As life in the city became more usual, the boys of good
families had more opportunity of learning what was meant by duty to the
State; they accompanied their fathers to hear funeral orations on
eminent citizens, and were even admitted to meetings of the Senate. In
this way they must have developed a shrewdness and practical sagacity
invaluable to them in after life.

There is a story of a Roman boy, preserved by Cato, which so well
illustrates this and other features of that early Roman life, that I
shall insert it here, whether or no it be strictly true. A boy who had
been with his father to the Senate was asked by an inquisitive mother
what the Fathers of the Senate had been discussing. The boy answered
that he was strictly forbidden to tell, which only excited his mother’s
curiosity the more, and made her press him hard. At last he invented
what Cato calls a shrewd and witty falsehood: he said that the Senate
had been discussing whether it were better for the State that one man
should have two wives, or one wife two husbands. Much alarmed, she went
and told other matrons, and next day they crowded weeping to the Senate
House, to petition that one wife might have two husbands rather than one
husband two wives. The astonishment of the senators was dispelled by the
boy, who stood out in the midst and told his tale; and from that time no
boy was allowed to be present at debate save this one, who was thus
rewarded for his honesty and shrewdness.

This good old Roman story may aptly bring us to the second part of my
subject in this chapter, the training of the citizen in the service of
the State. But let us pause here for a moment to consider what was the
Roman idea of the State and its function.

In Italy, as in Greece, the State took the form of a city, with more or
less of territory on which to subsist; in the heart of the city was the
life of the State. And it is true of Italy as of Greece that the process
of rising to the city from the life of farm or village was one of
immense importance for humanity, enabling man to advance from the idea
of a bare material subsistence to that of moral and intellectual
progress. This is the advance to what Aristotle called “good life” as
distinguished from life simply. He meant that in the lower stage man has
not time or stimulus to develop art, literature, law, philosophy: all
his strength is spent in struggle and endeavour—struggle partly with
Nature, partly with human enemies whom he is ill able to resist. The
city-state supplied him not only with opportunity for a higher life, but
with nutriment to maintain it.

But the Italians never drew from this new form of social life the same
amount, the same quality of nutriment, as did the Greeks. Rome did
indeed draw enough to fertilise the germs of much that was most valuable
in her own character, and to educate herself for the practical work she
was to do in the world. But the last chapter will have shown that,
unlike most Greek city-states, she was forced by circumstances to
continue for centuries a life of struggle and endeavour. She had
constant difficulty in keeping herself alive and free, and as we shall
see, she was hardly ever without internal as well as external perils. In
Greece many States found leisure to rest and enjoy the exercise of their
higher instincts—enjoyment which led to the production of works of art
and literature: leisure, too, to reflect and inquire about Nature in man
and outside him, and so to develop philosophy and science for the
eternal benefit of mankind. But all the strength of Rome was used in the
struggle for existence, which gradually led her on to conquest and
dominion. As we left her at the end of the last chapter, the leading
city of Italy, she might indeed have passed from struggle to leisure,
and so to thought and inquiry, turning to account the gifts of the
various peoples of Italy, Etruscans, Gauls, Greeks, as well as her own
kin. But the long and terrible struggle with Carthage, to be told in the
next chapter, effectually destroyed this chance. Her strength was spent
when it was over, and when her chance came to sit down (so to speak),
and think, she could not do it. Still, her long training in practical
endeavour had its due result; and the ideas of duty and discipline, of
law and order, which had carried her through so many perils, never
wholly vanished from the Roman mind. Let us turn to trace the progress
of those ideas in the life of the city-state of Rome.

When we first begin to see clearly into the working of the Roman State,
what chiefly strikes us is the unlimited power of the magistrate in all
the departments of government. Just as the head of the family had an
absolute power over its members, so had the king (_rex_) an unlimited
power over the citizens. In the family the word for this power was
_potestas_, but in the State it was called _imperium_—one of the
greatest words ever coined, surviving to the present day in many
familiar forms. For the Roman it expressed more strikingly than any
other the idea of discipline in the State: it stamped on his mind the
inherited conviction that lawful authority must be implicitly obeyed.
Not unlawful authority, ill gotten by fraud or violence; for such power
the word _imperium_ could never be used: but authority entrusted to an
individual by the human members of the State, and sanctioned by the
consent of its divine members. For the _imperium_ must be conferred upon
its holder by an act of the people, and the gods must give their consent
by favourable omens; both processes, the passing of the law, and the
obtaining of the _auspicia_, must be gone through according to certain
traditional methods, and the slightest flaw in these would make the
choice of the magistrate invalid. But once legally in his hands, the
_imperium_ was irresistible; its outward symbols, the rods and axes of
the lictors, accompanied its holder wherever he went, to remind the
Roman that the first duty of a citizen was obedience to constituted

This word _imperium_ stood for three different kinds of power. First,
the king was supreme in matters of religion, for he was responsible for
the good relations between the human and divine inhabitants of the city,
for “the peace of the gods” as it was called. If this peace, or
covenant, were not kept up, it was believed that the State could not
prosper—the very life of the State depended on it.

But now let us note a point of the utmost importance in the development
of Roman public life. The king could not perform this duty entirely by
himself; no single man could have the necessary knowledge of all the
details of ancient religious custom. So he was assisted by a small board
of skilled experts called _pontifices_, perhaps also by another board of
_augurs_, skilled in the methods of discovering the divine will by
omens. Thus the _imperium_ in religious matters, though still legally
unlimited, was saved from becoming arbitrary and violating ancestral
custom: the king is entrusted with power which he uses in accordance
with the advice of sages.

Secondly, _imperium_ stood for the supreme judicial power, for the
maintenance of peace between individual citizens. The king had an
unlimited power not only in deciding disputes but in inflicting
punishments, even that of death. But here again, though his power was
absolute, it was not arbitrary. Custom governed the State even more than
he did, and his work was to see that custom was obeyed. In order to make
sure that this duty was rightly performed, he was provided with a
council of elderly men (_senatores_), fathers of families, whose advice
custom compelled him to ask, though it did not compel him to take it.
Here, then, the exercise of discipline was combined with a sense of duty
and obligation, as in the life of the family; the Senate of the State
was the same in principle as the council of relations in the family.

Thirdly, _imperium_ stood for the absolute power of the commander in
war: and here, as we might expect, custom seems hardly to have
interfered with it. A Roman king in war was outside the custom of his
own State, beyond the reach of the protection of his own deities, and
under the influence of unknown ones. Both before starting on a campaign,
and before entering the city on its return, the army had to undergo
certain religious rites, which show how nervous even Romans were about
leaving their own land and gods. Custom could not rule here, and the
power of the general in the field remained throughout Roman history not
only absolute but arbitrary. Doubtless he could, and often did, not only
ask advice but take it, but he was never even morally obliged to do so:
in this one department of State activity the wise judgment of the Romans
left the _imperium_ practically unhampered.

Such, then, was the _imperium_ in the hands of the chief magistrate, the
foundation-stone of the Roman government in all periods. But what of the
people who obeyed it? Of the people we unluckily know hardly anything
until nearly the end of the monarchical period. We do, indeed, know
that, as in many Greek city-states, there was a privileged and an
unprivileged class, and of these two classes a word shall be said
directly. What needs here to be made clear is how this population was
placed as regards duty and discipline, and our first real knowledge of
this dates traditionally from the reign of the last king but one. Here
we find the whole free population, privileged and unprivileged, serving
in the army as a civic duty, and paying such taxes as were necessary
mainly for military purposes. They served without pay, and the
infantry—that is, by far the greater part, provided their own arms and
equipment; the cavalry were provided with horses by the State, for
horses were expensive. Those who had most property were considered as
having the largest stake in the State, and therefore as bound to bear
the heaviest burden. This may be seen in the order of the army for
battle, for those who could afford the best equipment fought in front,
the poorest and worst armed in the rear. This was the wholesome
principle that governed the Roman army during the period of advance and
conquest in Italy. It was an army of citizens (_populus_), all of whom
served as a matter of duty, and paid taxes as a matter of duty according
to their means, leaving all command to the holder of _imperium_, and the
officers whom he appointed to carry out his orders.

Thus when the last king was expelled, and the kingship came to an end,
the people were thoroughly well trained in the ideas of duty and
discipline, and the practical results of such a training were obedience
as a habit, respect for authority and knowledge, steadiness and coolness
in danger. This people did not give way to excitement, either in civil
or military crises. They not only obeyed their rulers, but trusted them.
They were not much given to talking, but contented themselves with
action: and as talk is a more effective stimulus to quarrelling than
action, they did not as yet quarrel. Though Rome was destined to pass
through many political as well as military dangers in the generations to
come, it was nearly four centuries before blood was shed in civil strife
in her streets.

I must close this chapter with a very brief sketch of the political
history of the period of advance in Italy, in order to show how their
training in duty and discipline kept the people steady and sound at

After the expulsion of the last king the Roman State became a
_respublica_—that is, literally translated, a public thing—or as we may
perhaps call it, a free State. This is another of the immortal words
bequeathed to modern European language by Latin speech, and its meaning
is still the same for us as it was for the Romans. When Cicero, almost
at the end of the life of the Roman free State, wrote to a friend, “We
have completely lost the _respublica_,” he meant that it had passed from
public management into the hands of private and irresponsible
individuals. What were the essential marks of this “public thing,” or
free State? As we might expect, they are to be found in the treatment of
the _imperium_, the governmental centre of gravity, by the founders of
the _respublica_.

1. To abolish the _imperium_ was out of the question; no Roman ever
dreamed of such a thing, for it would be like digging up the foundations
of a building already in part constructed. But the _imperium_ was no
longer to be held for life, nor to be held by a single person. It was
now to be entrusted to two magistrates instead of one, and for a year
only; at the end of the year the holders, henceforward to be called
Consuls or Prætors, were to lay down their insignia and resign their
power, becoming simply private citizens again. Meanwhile new consuls had
been elected; and the voice of the whole people was to be heard in the
election, for it was to be effected by the army of citizens, arranged
according to property as in military service. Every Roman who was to
obey the _imperium_ was to have a voice in the election of its holders,
but those who had most stake in the State, and served in the front ranks
in war, were to have a preponderating voice.

2. The dread _imperium_ was now not only limited in the period of its
tenure, but the possibility of an arbitrary use of it was averted in two
ways. First, the two consuls had a veto on each other’s action, and both
at home and in the field they took it in turn to exercise the
_imperium_. Secondly, they could not put a citizen to death in the city
unless the people in their assembly sanctioned it; in the field the
Romans wisely left the _imperium_ unlimited, feeling, as we still feel,
that military discipline needs a more forceful sanction than civil. And
besides these two restrictions, the council of elders, the Senate, was
retained to act as a general advising body for the consuls, who,
however, themselves had the power of filling up vacancies in it from
time to time. We do not know exactly what its composition was at this
time; but it is certain that all who had held the _imperium_ had seats
in it, as men whose service and experience best entitled them to advise
and criticise their successors. This principle, that ex-magistrates
should be members of the Senate, was adhered to at all times, and
eventually made this great council into the most effective assembly of
men of capacity and experience in practical life that the world has ever

Before we leave the _imperium_, for the present, one interesting fact
must be noted. The Romans were not afraid to withdraw for a time these
restrictions on the magistrate’s power, and to revert to absolute
government, if they thought it necessary for the safety of the State. In
moments of great peril, civil or military, the consul, on the advice of
the Senate, would appoint a single individual to hold office for a fixed
time with unlimited _imperium_; and in this case the assembly was not
called on even to ratify the choice, so great was the trust reposed in
the Fathers of the State. They did not call this single magistrate by
the hated name of Rex, but used another word well known in Latium,
Dictator. The institution was of the utmost value to a people constantly
in a state of struggle and endeavour, and shows well the practical
sagacity which a long training in duty and discipline had already

But this practical sagacity was to be put to many a hard test in the
period we sketched in the last chapter. No sooner was the _respublica_
established, than a great question pressed for solution, that of the
mutual relations of the privileged and unprivileged classes. What was
really the origin of this distinction of class we do not yet know, and
perhaps never shall. Here the fact must suffice, that the privileged,
the patricians as they were called, the representatives of families
belonging to the old clans (_gentes_) were alone deemed capable of
preserving the peace between citizens and gods, or between the citizens
themselves, and therefore they alone could hold the _imperium_ and take
the auspices. Both classes served in the army and voted at elections,
but without the chance of holding the _imperium_ the plebeians were
helpless. Yet it is quite certain that they had grievances of their own,
and real ones. We must think of them as in the main small holders of
land, with little or no capital, and constantly obliged to borrow either
in the form of money or stock. They became debtors to the rich, who
would usually be the patricians, and the old customary law of debt was
hard and even savage.

The result of this was, according to the traditional story, that once at
least, if not twice, they actually _struck_; they left their work and
went off in a body, threatening to found a new city some miles farther
up the Tiber. They knew well that they were indispensable to the State
as soldiers, and the patricians knew it too. Fortunately, the plebeians
also knew that the State, with all its traditions of religion and
government, of duty and discipline, was indispensable to themselves.
They knew nothing of the forms and formulæ which were deemed necessary
for the maintenance of peace with gods and men. They could not carry
away with them the gods of the city, under whose protection they and
their forefathers had lived. They would simply be adrift, without oars
or rudder, and such a position was absolutely unthinkable. So they
returned to the city—so the story runs—and the result was a compromise,
the first of a long series of compromises which finally made Rome into a
compact and united commonwealth, and enabled her to tide over three
centuries of continual struggle and endeavour. The story of these
compromises is too long and complicated to be told in this book, but the
successive stages can briefly be pointed out.

Soon after the strike, or secession, the plebeians were authorised to
elect magistrates, or more strictly officers, of their own, to protect
them from any arbitrary use of the _imperium_; these were called
Tribunes, because the assembly that chose them was arranged according to
tribes, local divisions in which both patricians and plebeians were
registered for taxpaying purposes. The good-will of the patricians in
making this concession is seen in the fact that the tribunes of the
plebs (as they were henceforward called), were placed under the
protection of the gods (_sacrosancti_), so that any one violating them
was made liable to divine anger. As the plebeians grew more numerous and
indispensable, their assembly and officers became steadily more
powerful, and eventually won the right to pass laws binding the whole

Again, it was not long before their ignorance of the customary law and
its methods of procedure found a remedy. A code of law was drawn up in
twelve tables, containing partly old customs now for the first time
written down, partly new rules, some of them perhaps imported from
Athens. Of this code we still possess many fragments, which show plainly
that it was meant for all citizens, whatever their social standing. “The
idea of legislating for a class ... is strikingly absent. The code is
thoroughly Roman in its caution and good sense, its respect for the
past, which it disregards only when old customs violate the rules of
common sense, and its judicious disregard of symmetry.”[4] As the
historian Tacitus said of it long afterwards, it was “the consummation
of equal right.” And it was the source of the whole mighty river of
Roman law, ever increasing in volume, which still serves to irrigate the
field of modern European civilisation.

There was to be a long and bitter contest before the plebeians forced
their way into the central patrician stronghold of the _imperium_, but
even this was accomplished without civil war or bloodshed. We hear of a
series of evasive manœuvres by the patricians, who naturally believed
that all would go wrong if the duty of keeping “the peace of the gods”
were committed to men whom the gods could not be supposed to take count
of. But these patrician consuls and senators were responsible for the
State’s existence, and it could not exist without the plebeians; the two
classes were authorised by law to intermarry, which (strange to say) had
been unlawful hitherto, and then the old class-feeling and prejudice,
far exceeding in force any such feeling known to us now, gradually
subsided. By the middle of the fourth century B.C., not only could a
plebeian be consul, but one of the two consuls _must_ be a plebeian. And
before that century was over the old patrician nobility was beginning to
disappear, giving way to a new one based on the leading idea of _good
service done for the State_. If a man had held the consulship, no matter
whether he were patrician or plebeian, he became _nobilis_—_i.e._
distinguished—and so, too, did his family. The great Roman aristocracy
of later times consisted of the descendants of men who had thus become

I will conclude this chapter with a few words about one remarkable
institution which well illustrates the Roman instinct for duty and
discipline. It was in this period, 443 B.C., according to the
traditional date, that a new magistracy was established, intended at
first merely to relieve the consuls of difficult duties for which in
that warlike age they had no sufficient leisure, but destined eventually
to become even a higher object of ambition than the consulship itself.
The Roman love of order made it necessary to be sure that every citizen
was justly and legally a citizen, that he fulfilled his duties in the
army, and paid his taxes according to a right estimate of his property.
Every four or five years an inquiry had to be made with this object in
view, and two censors, holding office for a year and a half, were now
elected to undertake it. These censors, though they had no _imperium_,
were irresponsible; their decisions were final, and they could not be
called to account for any official act. They were almost always—in later
times invariably—reverend seniors who had held the consulship, men in
whose justice and wisdom the people could put implicit confidence. And
such confidence was needed; for their power of examination easily became
extended from details of registration to the personal conduct of the
citizen in almost every relation of life. All heads of families might be
questioned about their performance of family duties, and any shameful
cruelty to a slave, or injustice to a client, or neglect of children,
might be punished by removal from the list of tribesmen; and this meant
loss of civil rights, and _infamia_ (civic disgrace), a terrible word,
greatly dreaded by the Roman. Neglect of land or other property, useless
luxury, bad faith in contracts or legal guardianship—all came in course
of time to be taken count of by the censors. A senator might have his
name struck off the list of the Senate, and a cavalry soldier might be
removed from the roll, if the horse provided him by the State were ill
cared for, or if in any other way he were deemed unworthy of his

It may be hard for us to understand how such a power of inquisition can
have been submitted to in a free State. But apart from the age and
standing of the holders of this office, and the Roman habit of obedience
to constituted authority, there are two facts that will help us to
understand it. One is simple: the censors were _collegæ_ like the
consuls; each had a veto on the action of the other, and if that veto
were not used, if they were unanimous in condemning a citizen, the
authority of their decision was naturally irresistible. The other fact
is harder for a modern to understand. There was a religious element in
the work of the censors; the final act of a censorship was the religious
“purification” (_lustratio_) of the whole citizen body, with sacrifice
and prayer, in the field of Mars outside the walls of the city. What
exactly a Roman of that day believed, or rather felt, to be the result
of this rite, we can only guess; but we can be sure that he was
convinced that the life of the State would be imperilled without it, and
that this conviction was strong enough to compel him to submit to the
whole process of which it was the consummation.

                               CHAPTER IV

In these days sober students of history wisely leave the oft-told
stories of war and battle, and busy themselves rather with questions of
social life, public and private economy, and the history of religion,
morals and scientific inquiry. But there are a few wars, great struggles
of nation against nation, which will always have an absorbing interest:
partly because of their dramatic character, partly because of their
far-reaching consequences; and the long fight between Rome and Carthage
is assuredly one of these. On the Carthaginian side it produced two of
the most extraordinary men, father and son, of whom history has anywhere
to tell; and on the Roman side it gives us a vivid picture of the most
marvellous endurance during long years of extreme peril that we can find
in the annals of any people. And probably no war was ever so pregnant of
results for good and ill alike. It welded the whole of Italy south of
the Alps into a united country under the rule of Rome, and launched the
Romans on a new career of conquest beyond the sea; it laid the
foundations of the Roman Empire as we now think of that great system.
Yet it left Italy in a state of economic distress from which it is
hardly untrue to say that she has never fully recovered, and it changed
the character of the Roman people, rich and poor alike, for the worse
rather than the better.

In order to see clearly how it came about, we must once more look at the
map of Italy; a map of modern Italy will do well enough. Let the reader
remember that as yet Rome had control only over the central and southern
parts of the whole of what is now the kingdom of Italy, and that two
other parts of that kingdom, which every Italian now regards as
essential to its unity, were in other hands. These were: first, the
great alluvial plain of the river Po (Padus); secondly, the island of
Sicily: strategically speaking, these lie on the two flanks of the Roman
dominion, to north and south respectively. Any power holding central
Italy, to be safe from invasion, must be in possession of these two
positions, as a long series of wars has clearly shown, beginning with
the two now to be sketched. The magnificent plain of the Po, stretching
from the great Alpine barrier to the Apennines which look down on the
Gulf of Genoa, the richest land in all Italy, was then in the hands of
warlike Gallic tribes, who had settled there before the time when they
struck southward and captured Rome itself; these might again become a
serious danger, as indeed they proved to be in this very war. The island
of Sicily was, and had long been, a bone of contention between the Greek
settlers who had long ago built cities on the most favourable points of
its coast, and the traders of the Phœnician city of Carthage just
opposite to it on the coast of Africa. Sicily was rich in harbours, and
like the plain of the Po, also rich in corn, olive, and vine; and the
Greeks had held on to it so persistently that with the recent help of
Pyrrhus they had for a moment been in almost complete possession of the
island. But they foolishly deserted Pyrrhus at the critical moment, and
now again the Carthaginians had recovered it, all but the kingdom of
Hiero of Syracuse, stretching along the eastern coast under Mount Etna.
Carthaginian fleets cruised round the island, and were often seen off
the coasts of Italy as well. For Carthage was the mistress of the seas
in all the western part of the Mediterranean basin.

Carthage was a daughter of the Canaanite city of Tyre, belonging to that
seafaring people known in history as Phœnicians, whom the Israelites had
pushed down to the coast of Palestine without subduing them. The genius
of the Phœnicians was for trade, and the splendid position of Carthage,
near the modern Tunis, with a rich corn-growing country in the rear, had
helped her merchant princes to establish by degrees what may loosely be
called an empire of trading settlements extending not only along the
African coast, but over that of Sardinia and southern and eastern Spain,
and including Sicily, as we have seen. To maintain this empire she had
to keep up great fleets, and huge docks in her own port; but as her
Phœnician population was largely occupied with trade, she had to rely
for her crews and also for her land forces largely on the native
Africans whom she had subdued, or on mercenaries hired from other races
with whom she came in contact. Though this was a weak point in her
armour, she was far the greatest power in the western seas, and any
other people ambitious of power in that region would have to reckon with
her. So far she had been on friendly terms with Rome, and we still have
the text of three treaties between the two states; but the latest of
these shows signs of mutual distrust, and Rome had now risen so high
that a collision was all but inevitable. A people ruling in Italy cannot
afford to have a rival in Sicily and also in undisputed command of the

The collision came in the year 264 B.C., and it was the immediate result
of an act of bad judgment and also of bad faith on the part of the
Romans. There would be no need to mention this here if it did not
illustrate a trait in the Roman character which is becoming more marked
as Rome is drawn more and more into diplomatic relations with other
states. The habit of order and discipline at home did not bring with it
a sense of justice and honour in dealing with foreigners. The Roman
practical view of life, which did not include education of the mind and
feeling, was not favourable to the growth of generous conduct except
towards a fellow-citizen. The Latin word _virtus_, which expresses the
practical duties of a citizen, does not suggest honourable dealing
outside the civic boundary. Some mental imagination was needed for
higher aims to make themselves felt in public life; “slimness,” as the
Boers of the Transvaal used to call it, is too often characteristic of
Roman diplomacy; and hardness, not always stopping short of cruelty, is
henceforward constantly to be found in their conduct towards a beaten

A rascally band of mercenaries, Italians by birth, who had been in the
Syracusan service, had seized on the old Greek city of Messana—the same
Messina which quite recently met with so terrible a fate in the great
earthquake. The city lay on the Sicilian side of the strait which still
bears its name, and looked at from an Italian point of view, might be
called the key to Sicily. Exactly opposite to it was Rhegium (Reggio),
another Greek city which had been treated in the same way by another
band of brigands; but these had been at once cleared out by orders from
Rome. In the case of Messana the task naturally developed on Hiero, the
king of Syracuse, a young man of ability who had lately made a treaty
with Rome; but when he made the attempt, the brigands appealed for help
both to Rome and to Carthage. The plain duty of the Senate was to
support their ally Hiero, or to leave the applicants to their fate. But
the Carthaginians might then establish themselves at Messana, and that
must have seemed to a Roman a thing not to be permitted. The Senate
hesitated for once, and finally referred the matter to the people, who
voted to support the mercenaries against an ally of the Roman State.
This act of bad faith and bad policy cost the Romans a valuable ally,
and a war with Carthage that lasted without a break for twenty-three

It would be waste of space in this little book to go into the details of
this long and wearisome war, which can be read in any history of Rome.
It was, of course, in the main a naval war, and the Romans had as yet no
fleet to speak of. But now was seen the advantage of a united Italy. The
difficulty was overcome by enlisting the services of Greek and Etruscan
sailors and ship-builders; a Carthaginian war-vessel, wrecked on the
Italian coast, served as a model, and a large fleet was soon ready for
sea, with which, strange to say, the Roman commanders succeeded in the
course of a few years in clearing the Italian and Sicilian seas of the
enemy, and even contrived to transport an army of invasion to
Carthaginian territory. This astonishing feat was accomplished simply by
the invention of a device for grappling with the enemy’s ships, so that
they could be boarded by Roman soldiers acting as “marines.” And during
this first half of the war they also renewed their alliance with Hiero,
and conquered the whole of Sicily, with the exception of the strong city
of Lilybæum (now Marsala).

But all these good results were thrown away by the folly of the Roman
Senate. Now that they had crossed the sea and entered on a new sphere of
action, they seemed for the moment to have lost the prudence and wisdom
that had won them the headship of Italy. They had two consular armies in
Africa which seemed to have Carthage herself in their grip; but when she
sued for peace they offered her impossible terms, and about the same
time actually recalled one of the two consuls with his army to Italy.
The old Phœnician spirit revived, and turned to desperate courage: an
able Greek soldier of fortune, Xanthippus, took the Carthaginian army in
hand, and before long, the remaining Roman army was utterly destroyed
and its commander Regulus was a prisoner. This is the Regulus of one of
the most famous of Roman stories, and one of the most beautiful of
Horace’s _Odes_. He is said to have gone to Rome on _parole_ with an
embassy, and on its failure to have returned a captive to Carthage,
where he was put to a cruel death. Many critics now reject this tale as
pure legend, without sufficient reason. It is probably true in outline,
and it is certain that it took firm possession of the Roman mind. It
thus bears witness to the strong Roman feeling of the binding power of
an oath, even when given to an enemy; for Regulus had sworn to return if
the mission failed.

It took Rome many years and enormous efforts to recover from this
disaster, and from the destruction of her fleets by tempests which
unluckily followed and gave Carthage once more the mastery of the sea.
Carthage, too, had found a man of genius, Hamilcar Barca, whose intense
hatred of Rome, ever growing as she gradually prevailed, inspired his
people to continue the struggle by sea, and his own forces to hold on
grimly to a mountain fortress in the north-west of Sicily, Mount Eryx,
the scene of the games in the fifth book of Virgil’s _Æneid_. Both sides
were exhausted and indeed permanently damaged; but the strength of Rome
was more enduring, and in 241 B.C. Hamilcar consented himself to
negotiate a peace, by which Sicily and the adjacent smaller islands
passed into the hands of Rome for ever. Soon afterwards, taking
advantage of a deadly war which Carthage had to wage with her own
mercenaries, Rome contrived, in that spirit of “slimness” already
noticed, to get possession of both Sardinia and Corsica. This shows that
the Senate understood the importance of these islands for a power in
command of the western seas; but unjust dealing brought its own reward.
It is possible that the great Hamilcar might have forgiven Rome her
injuries to his country but for this. As it was, his hatred of her sunk
into his soul more deeply than ever, and that hatred, springing up
afresh in the breast of his son Hannibal, all but destroyed his enemy
off the face of the earth. He retired to Spain, to organise a
Carthaginian dominion there, of which he was himself practically king,
and which he destined as a base of operations against Rome in another
war; and before he started, as Hannibal himself told the story long
afterwards, the father made his boy of nine years old take a solemn oath
to cherish an eternal hatred of the enemies of his country.

The plan of invading Italy from Spain was forced upon Hamilcar by the
fact that Rome was in command of the sea; it was no longer possible for
Carthage to strike at her from Africa without a greater effort to
recover that command than her government of merchant princes was now
disposed to make. And the fact that Hannibal was actually able to carry
out the invasion by land was due to the genius and personal influence of
his father in building up a solid dominion in southern Spain with New
Carthage (now Cartagena) as its capital. Some historians have thought
that of these two extraordinary men the father was the greatest; and it
is at least true that his was a noble work of construction, while his
son’s brilliant gifts were wasted in the attempt to destroy the great
fabric which Rome had reared in Italy. The attempt was unavailing; the
solid Roman structure survived all the assaults of the greatest captain
of the ancient world. The glamour of Hannibal’s splendid victories must
not blind us to the fact that he made two serious miscalculations: he
believed that the Italians hated Rome as he did himself, and would join
him to crush her; and he hoped, if he did not believe, that Carthage
would give him substantial help. Had he judged rightly on the former
point, Rome’s fate was sealed. But the Italian kinsmen of Rome, who had
come to recognise in her their natural leader, never even faltered in
their loyalty,[5] and Carthage did but little to help him till it was
too late. Thus we have in this terrible war the strange spectacle of a
single man of marvellous genius pitting himself against the whole
strength of a united Italy with military resources, as we know from the
accurate Greek historian, Polybius, amounting to some 770,000 men
capable of bearing arms.

Fascinating as we may find Hannibal’s wonderful career, much as we may
admire his nobility of character, a sober judgment must lead to the
conclusion that no great man ever did less for the good of his
fellow-creatures. During the fifteen years of his stay in Italy he did
irreparable damage to the fair peninsula, and he hardened the hearts of
the Romans for all their future dealings with their foes. When at last
he left it he was unable to save his own country, and spent his last
years in exile, ever plotting against the enemy that had escaped him. A
man who is actuated all his life through by a single motive of hatred
and revenge, can never be reckoned among those who have done something
for the benefit of humanity.

While Hannibal was gaining the loyalty of the southern Spaniards, and
organising their resources, Rome was occupied in trying to extend her
power over the Gauls settled in the plain of the Po, and so to make sure
of her northern flank, as she had already secured Sicily in the south.
The Senate knew something of Hannibal’s design, and hoped to anticipate
him in getting a hold on that valuable region, the strategical key to
Italy. But here there was no question of gaining the loyalty of the
tribes; the Gauls were restless and hostile, and had quite lately made
another determined attempt to reach Rome; they actually came within
three days’ march of the city before they were defeated in a great
battle. In 219-218 B.C. Roman armies were still busy in driving roads
northward, and planting two colonies, Placentia and Cremona, on Gallic
soil and on the Po, when Hannibal descended on them from the Alps. He
had found a pretext for war, gathered a force of 100,000 men, passed the
Pyrenees and reached the Rhone before the Senate knew what he was about,
and eluded a consular army dispatched to stop him. Scipio, its
commander, with true military instinct, sent his army on to Spain, to
cut his communications with the base he had been preparing so long. This
line of communication Hannibal never recovered for ten years, and was
forced to maintain and recruit his army on Italian soil.

That army, from a purely military point of view, was without doubt one
of the best known to history. It consisted chiefly of thoroughly trained
Spanish infantry, officered by Carthaginians, and of the best cavalry in
the world, recruited from the Numidians of the western region of North
Africa. It was one of those armies that can go anywhere and do anything
at the bidding of its general, because entire trust in him was the one
motive actuating it. It was a professional army, a perfect instrument of
war, a weapon admirably fitted to destroy, but without constructive
value—with no sap of civilisation giving it permanent vital energy.
Luckily for Rome, this army had shrunk to very moderate dimensions when
it reached Italy; the length of the march, the necessity of leaving some
troops in Spain, and the terrible trials of the crossing of the Alps,
where the native tribes combined with rock, snow and ice to wear it out,
had reduced it to less than 30,000 men.

Yet after a few days’ rest Hannibal went straight for the nearest Roman
force. This force was now on the north bank of the Po under Scipio, who
had returned from the Rhone to Italy. Pushing it back to the new colony
of Placentia, where it was joined by that of the other consul
Sempronius, Hannibal utterly defeated the combined Roman armies on the
little river Trebbia which runs down to that city (now Piacenza) from
the Apennines. The Roman power in the plain of the Po was instantly
paralysed by this defeat, and the victor at once set himself to organise
alliances with the Gallic tribes while he rested and recruited his weary
troops. But from the Gauls he got no substantial help; that fickle
people had no great reason to welcome an invader when once he was in
their territory. And perhaps this was fortunate for him; for if he had
marched into central Italy as leader of a Gallic army he would have
strengthened, not weakened, the resistance of the whole Italian
federation that Rome had so solidly organised. His knowledge of the
motives which held this federation together must surely have been
seriously imperfect.

But in the spring he crossed the Apennines, and made his way through the
marshy and malarious district around the lower Arno, where it is said he
lost an eye from ophthalmia, to meet the consul Flaminius, who had been
sent to cover the approach to Rome with a large army. Slipping past
Flaminius, Hannibal concealed his army among the hills and woods on the
eastern shore of the lake of Trasimene, along the western bank of which
the railway now runs on its way from Florence to Rome; and here he lay
in wait for his prey. Flaminius walked into the trap laid for him; his
army was totally destroyed, and he himself was killed. There was now
nothing to stop the conqueror if he chose to march straight on Rome.

But Hannibal’s plans did not include a siege of Rome; he had brought no
siege apparatus, and at no time during the war did he succeed in getting
any from Carthage, or in making it in Italy. His real object was to
bring the Italians over to his side, to isolate Rome, and to put a free
Italy (so he is said to have phrased it) in place of a Roman dominion.
So he turned his back on Rome, and made his way at leisure down the
eastern coast of central Italy to the corn-lands of Apulia, which were
henceforward to serve as his chief base of operations. Hence he might
easily reach the great sea-ports of Tarentum and Croton, and so get into
touch once more with Carthage, and perhaps, too, with another power from
whom he was already looking for help, Philip, king of Macedon. But
during this southward march he learnt, apparently for the first time,
that Italy was studded with Roman and Latin colonies, each a fortress,
each provisioned and ready to resist him: each, too, a miniature Rome,
disseminating among the Italians the honour and pride of Roman
citizenship, and the animating spirit of Italian unity under Roman
leadership. One or two of these fortresses he vainly tried to take, and
he must at this time have begun at last to realise that the mortal
hatred of an individual is no match in the long run for the organised
vitality of a practical people.

His one chance was to win another great battle, and so to overawe south
Italy, to make his base absolutely secure, and to force gradually
northward the leaven of anti-Roman feeling on which he calculated. For
the rest of that year, 217 B.C., he could not get this chance; the
Senate, still cool-headed, had appointed a cool-headed dictator,[6] who
knew that his slow and steady citizen soldiers were no good match for a
mobile professional army skilfully handled, and steadily refused to
accept battle. Not even when Hannibal forced his way northward to the
rich plain of Campania, and tried to gain over the wealthy city of
Capua, would Fabius be tempted to fight; he dogged the enemy’s
footsteps, and once tried to catch him in a snare, from which Hannibal
escaped by a clever ruse. But next year the Senate dispatched the two
new consuls, with an army not far short of 100,000 men, to deal with the
enemy in southern Italy; and here, reluctant though one at least of them
was, Hannibal enticed them into a battle by seizing a valuable dépôt of
stores at a town called Cannæ, near the sea, in the plain of Apulia.
Though far inferior in numbers, he contrived by consummate tactics to
draw the solid Roman legions into a net, and then used his mobile
Numidian cavalry to prevent their escape to the rear. The fight became a
butchery, in which 80,000 Romans are said to have fallen. The largest
army ever yet sent out from Rome was totally destroyed, and it would
seem as if she could no longer escape from her deadly foe.

At this point, the high-water mark of Hannibal’s successes, we may pause
to see how the Senate met the news of this most terrible disaster. At no
moment in Roman history is the sterling quality of the Roman character
and spirit so conspicuously shown. The Senate had to meet not only the
immediate military crisis in Italy, but the problems of military and
naval policy in Spain, in Sicily, and in the plain of the Po. At home,
too, they had to deal with what we may call a religious panic; the
people, and especially the women, were beginning to lose nerve, and to
fancy that their gods had forsaken them. We can believe the Roman
historian when he says that any other people would have been crushed by
a catastrophe like this. But the wise men of the Senate simply sat down
to repair it, never dreaming of giving in. The city was made safe, fresh
legions were enrolled, and thanks were voted to the surviving consul
“for not despairing of the republic.” They would not ransom the
prisoners in Hannibal’s hands, nor receive the officer whom he sent for
this purpose. They were not moved even by the news that southern Italy,
the Bruttians, Lucanians, Apulians, and most of the Samnites, had joined
the enemy, and that isolated towns farther north had deserted them.
Capua, the second city of Italy, was betrayed to Hannibal, and he was
thus enabled to advance his base from Apulia into the plain of Campania,
without leaving an enemy in his rear: but the Senate did not despair. In
due time the ranks of this Senate, sadly thinned since the war began,
were filled up by a dictator with the best and most experienced citizens
available. All possible means were adopted of keeping up the idea of
“the peace of the gods”; an embassy was even sent to Delphi; the
religious panic speedily quieted down. At the beginning of the next year
provision was made as usual for the military commands in Sicily,
Sardinia, and Spain, and also for a fleet which was being got together
at Ostia, the port at the mouth of the Tiber. Within a few months after
the battle all was going on in Rome as usual.

So the overwhelming defeat of Cannæ did but lead the Romans to
victory—to a victory of all the nobler elements in their character over
momentary doubt and despair. A people that could recover from that
disaster, and go quietly about the work of repairing it, was not likely
to be crushed out of existence even by a Hannibal; and though he was to
remain as a standing menace for many years on Italian soil, it may
fairly be said that henceforward he had no real chance of ultimate
success. Two moments of grave anxiety were still to come, but Rome
survived them both. One of these came three years later, when a
desperate effort was being made to snatch Capua out of Hannibal’s grasp.
To induce the Roman government to raise the siege, he made a sudden
march on Rome, knowing that no covering army was between him and the
capital. He encamped on the Anio, three miles above the city, and rode
with an escort of cavalry right up to the gates. But it was all in vain;
the Senate had gathered levies amply sufficient to hold the walls, and
after plundering the Roman lands Hannibal fell away again, like a
sea-wave spent and broken on a rocky shore.

The last moment of extreme peril came five years later, in 207 B.C. The
wise foresight of the Senate at the outset of the war had so far secured
the Roman hold on Spain, and no reinforcements had reached Hannibal from
that source. At last his loyal and able brother Hasdrubal eluded the
Roman army there, and by taking a new route—that of Wellington in the
Peninsular War—avoided all opposition from the Romans in northern Spain.
Communications with Italy were now at last open, though not by sea, as
they should have been had the government at Carthage thrown its whole
strength into the work of building up its naval power afresh. Hasdrubal
was forced to cross the Alps, and this he did with better knowledge and
with less loss than his brother. He made his way through the Gallic
territory and reached Ariminum (Rimini). Hannibal was in Apulia, where
one consul was holding him in check and dealing with disaffected
Italians; the other was waiting for the invader on the great coast road
south of Ariminum. Hasdrubal sent dispatches to his brother informing
him of his arrival and suggesting plans of co-operation; but there were
Roman troops everywhere, and the messengers fell into the hands of the
enemy. The consul in the south, Claudius Nero, discovering thus the
danger, took a step, without orders from the Senate, which has made his
name for ever famous. He left sufficient force to hold Hannibal, and
slipped away with 7000 picked men, without being discovered even by the
most wily of commanders. He marched into the camp of Livius, the other
consul, by night, after a march of some 200 miles, all the loyal people
of central Italy feeding and blessing his army as he went. Two days
later the most decisive battle of the war was fought on the banks of the
little river Metaurus, which runs into the sea from the Apennines a few
miles south of Ariminum. The Romans were this time completely
victorious; the invading army was utterly destroyed, and Hasdrubal was
killed fighting hard to the last. Nero went swiftly southwards to his
original station, and flung the head of Hasdrubal—so it was said—into
his brother’s camp. For the first time during the long weary years of
the war Rome was mad with joy; and almost for the first time in her
history we note a genuine outburst of gratitude to the gods for this
their inestimable blessing. Gratitude, whether to god or man, was not a
conspicuous trait in the Roman character; but now, in a moment of real
religious emotion, the first thought is one of thankfulness that “the
peace of the gods” is fully restored. It was not only that the Senate
ordered a public thanksgiving of three days, but that men and women
alike took advantage of it to press in crowds to the temples, the
mothers, in their finest robes, bringing their children with them.

The rest of the war-story is soon told. The man who had let Hasdrubal
escape him in Spain was a young Scipio, son of a Scipio who had done
good work and lost his life there earlier in the war. He himself was a
young man of real ability, whose character has always been to some
extent a mystery. He was a new type of Roman, one not wholly without
imagination, and the long years that he spent in Spain without rivals to
check him had perhaps made him cherish and develop his own individuality
more than was possible for the staid Roman noble of the old type at
home. He believed profoundly in himself, and had the gift of making
others believe in him. Returning home the year after the Metaurus
battle, he was elected consul, though not yet of the legal age, and had
Sicily given him as his province, where after many vicissitudes the
Romans were now supreme. He at once proposed to invade Africa, and so to
force Hannibal to leave Italy; and the Senate, though they could not or
would not risk a large force, gave him leave to make the attempt.

Scipio crossed to Africa in 204 B.C., and ere long the Carthaginian
government recalled Hannibal. The great general obeyed, sadly and
unwillingly, and in 202 met Scipio in battle at Zama and was beaten; the
undisciplined levies given him by the government were no match for Roman
veterans. He himself now advised his people to make peace, and conducted
the negotiations, thus doing what he could to make up for the
irreparable damage done her in the war by his own implacable hatred of
her rival. Carthage was no longer to be a naval power—that was
definitely secured by the terms accorded her. She surrendered Spain to
the victors, and agreed to pay a large war indemnity by instalments
during fifty successive years. Her foreign policy was to be guided by
Rome: she could no longer be called an independent State.

So ended this great trial of Roman endurance. No people has ever gone
through a harder test and survived. The sense of duty and discipline
never once failed them; Romans and Italians alike were ready to face
death at any moment in defence of their country. But war, always
mischievous, when prolonged can sow the seeds of much evil in the
future; and we must confess with regret that we are to see but little
more of the heroic qualities that had carried Rome through this great

                               CHAPTER V
                        DOMINION AND DEGENERACY

“It was not merely that the disasters of the war had opened the eyes of
public men to abuses which had grown up among them; it was not that they
hastened to take measures by which such disasters might be prevented
from occurring again. Not so much foresight as this was required. The
question was at once simpler and more urgently pressing: it was how to
prevent the cultivation of the country from falling into a condition of
permanent decay.... Not only did it become necessary to inquire of
political economy what means there were of increasing the wealth of a
whole nation at once, but other reforms, less obviously adapted to the
immediate need, were now eagerly carried into effect.”[7]

This passage does not refer to Italy and the Roman government after the
great war, but to Prussia after she had succumbed to Napoleon and was
forced to rest from sheer exhaustion. This rest, skilfully used by
statesmen of genius, meant for Prussia recovery, and the opening of a
great era of prosperity. If Rome in like manner could have given rest to
a weary Italy, and brought all her practical skill to bear on the work
of healing and mending, the next two centuries might have been far
happier ones for her and for the world. But it is hard for young
nations, as for young men, to realise the need of rest, and all the
harder in ancient Italy, where fighting had hardly ceased to be looked
on as “the natural industry of a vigorous State.” The Roman Senate was
not ripe enough in knowledge of human nature to understand the mischief,
moral as well as material, that a long war can cause, especially if the
enemy has been in your country harrying and devouring, no one knowing
when his turn will come to be ruined. And, indeed, we may doubt whether
even if Rome’s leading men had been able to understand the nature of the
mischief, they would have had the skill to discover and apply the
necessary remedies.

This mischief and its results must be the subject of this chapter, for
without getting some idea of it we cannot understand the perils to which
civilisation was exposed in the next two hundred years by Roman
degeneracy, or the way in which they were eventually overcome. But I
must just glance, to start with, at the policy actually pursued by the
Senate in the period following the war, which placed Rome in the
position of arbiter of the whole Mediterranean world, and mistress of a
territory many times as large as Italy.

The two recent invasions of Italy by formidable enemies must have taught
the Senate the necessity of making it impossible that there should be
another. But another might yet be looked for—so at least they
believed—not from Spain or Africa, but from the great military power of
Macedon. Philip of Macedon had been among Rome’s enemies since Cannæ;
but not even Hannibal could persuade him to attack her with vigour, and
he missed his chance. Roman diplomacy had stirred up the Greeks against
him, and he had plenty to do at home. But no sooner was Carthage crushed
than the Senate coaxed the tired and unwilling people into declaring war
against him, and this led in the course of the next half-century to the
overthrow of the Macedonian kingdom, and finally to its absorption into
what we must now begin to call the Roman Empire. At the same time, Rome
acquired a protectorate over the whole of Greece, at first honestly
meant to defend her against Macedon, but destined to pass rapidly into
dominion. The Greeks in their leagues and cities were never again really
free. If they could have kept from quarrelling among themselves, they
might have endured this protectorate with profit; but ere Rome had done
with them they were to feel her heavy hand.

Thus the “peasants of the Tiber” became masters of the Balkan peninsula
as well as of that of Italy. In the same period they completed the
conquest of Italy up to the Alps, not without difficulties and defeats,
and went on driving their roads and planting colonies in all parts. In
the Spanish peninsula, from which the Carthaginians had been finally
driven, they now established two permanent commands (_provinciæ_), one
in the basin of the Ebro in the north-east, and the other in the fertile
valleys of the Guadiana and Guadalquivir, as the two great rivers of
southern Spain are now called. From these they slowly but persistently,
after their manner, and in spite of many defeats and even disgraces,
pushed up into the high tablelands of central Spain, until they had
brought the greater part of the peninsula under their sway. Here they
had to deal with a people very different from the weary and exhausted
Greeks and Macedonians; a people only half civilised, but lively,
intelligent and capable of making excellent soldiers, as Hannibal had
found. It is to the credit of the Romans that, in spite of much cruelty
and misgovernment, they gave this peninsula a real civilisation, of
which the traces are still abundant especially in the south, and a
beautiful language, which descends directly from their own.

In order to maintain their communications with Spain by land as well as
by sea, they also had to look to the coast between the western Alps and
the Pyrenees. Here they made a lasting alliance with the ancient and
flourishing Greek colony, Massilia (Marseille); and in defending
Massilia from the attacks of mountain tribes they were gradually drawn
into the acquisition of a permanent hold on the lower valley of the
Rhone. This, again, in due time very naturally became the starting-point
for fresh advance into the heart of modern France. No one who has seen
the Rhone from Lyons to Marseilles can resist the conclusion that a
power in possession of its lower reaches must inevitably advance along
it northward.

There is yet a fourth peninsula in this land-locked sea, known for want
of a better name as Asia Minor, which juts out from the Asiatic
continent, and forms a meeting-place for Eastern and Western
civilisations. This was in the last three centuries B.C. the
fighting-ground of the successors of Alexander the Great, kings of
Macedon, Pergamum, Syria and Egypt, who wasted the vigour of humanity in
wars that to us seem needless. The Romans were soon drawn into a war
with the king of Syria, an ally of Philip of Macedon, and won a great
victory in this peninsula in the year 190 B.C. But they annexed no
territory here until the last king of Pergamum left his kingdom to Rome
by will some sixty years later. The Senate preferred to act as
arbitrator, to make alliances, to reward friendly states, to use
diplomacy rather than force; and on the whole they succeeded. Their
policy was often tortuous, sometimes even mean, but in the long run it
did more good than harm to humanity that a young and virile people
should interfere among these monarchies.

Thus, whether we look west or east in the Mediterranean, we find the
Roman power predominant everywhere within eighty years from the end of
the war with Hannibal. It is not easy to explain in a few words what
drove this power onwards. It was not simply the commercial motive, as
with Carthage. It was not simply the desire to conquer and annex, for
the Senate was slow to undertake new duties of government abroad if
their object could be attained in some other way. But what was that
object? Undoubtedly it was self-defence to begin with; but self-defence,
once successful, only too easily slips into self-assertion. This
self-assertion, as we see it in Roman policy, may perhaps be compared
with that which governs German foreign policy now—the determination to
have a voice in all matters within her “sphere of interest.” No Roman
senator had a doubt that his people were the strongest and most
competent to control the world, which is exactly what the patriotic
German believes now. And the constant assertion of this proud conviction
brought many suitors and suppliants to Rome, whose presence flattered
Roman pride, and whose diplomacy sometimes involved the government in
new wars, giving ambitious consuls their opportunity of increasing the
fame and the wealth of themselves and their families. So in due time
there arose a dominion of the following military commands or provinces:
one in Sicily, one in Sardinia, two in Spain, one in southern Gaul, one
in Macedonia with Greece attached to it, one in Asia Minor, and one in
Africa, after the destruction of Carthage by her old enemy in 146 B.C.
Of the method of governing these provinces I will say something in
another chapter. Now let us try to estimate some of the results of these
continuous wars in distant parts, taken together with the long struggle
with Carthage. We shall find a change in every department of the
people’s life, and in almost all a change for the worse.

First, let us look at that family life which formed the essential fibre
of the old body politic, and provided the most powerful factor in the
Roman character. We have but to think of the immense numbers of citizens
killed or captured in war, or carried off by the pestilences that always
follow war, to see what paralysis of family life there must have been.
Fathers and grown-up sons innumerable never came home at all; and long
service far from home would, in any case, deprive the family of the
natural influence and authority of its head. Mothers might do much to
fill up the gap, and the tradition of the dignified and righteous Roman
lady was not as yet wholly weakened; but there are signs that the women
in this period were getting steadily more excitable, more
self-asserting, more luxurious. It is in this age that divorce begins to
make its appearance, a sure sign of the decay of the old family life.
There were rumours, too, of the poisoning of husbands by their wives,
and on one occasion two noble ladies were put to death for this crime by
the verdict of a council of relations. In an extraordinary attempt to
introduce into Italy the exciting orgies of the Greek religion of
Dionysus, women were among the most prominent offenders. The changing
position of women at this time is illustrated by a famous saying of
Cato, that “all men rule over women, we Romans rule over all men, and
our wives rule over us.”

With the decay of the old family life, the wholesome training of the
children in manly conduct (_virtus_) and sense of duty (_pietas_) could
not but suffer, too. Old-fashioned families would keep it up, but among
the lower classes it was hard to do so owing to bad housing and crowding
in the city; and in the noble families there was undoubtedly a change
for the worse, though we know of one or two great men of this age who
took pains with the moral as well as the intellectual training of their
boys.[8] For a people controlling the Mediterranean world it was
necessary to educate the mental faculties, and more especially to teach
a boy to speak and read Greek, which was the language of half the
civilised world, and the language of commerce everywhere. Now Rome could
not supply teachers for this kind of education; Romans were not
competent, nor would they have condescended to such work. The Greeks
were the one people who could undertake what we call the higher
education, and they were now beginning to swarm in Rome. Some Greek
teachers were free men, but the greater number were slaves captured in
the wars; and thus the first requisite in a school-master, that he
should be looked up to and willingly obeyed, was too often absent in
this new education. It is men, not methods, that really tell in
education. In his heart, as we know from many striking passages in Roman
literature, the grown-up Roman despised the Greek, and we may be sure
that the Roman boy did too. Greek literature and rhetoric, now fast
becoming the staple of the higher education, could never make up for the
lack of moral discipline. If we find a spirit of lawlessness in the
coming age, and a want of self-restraint in dealing with enemies or
opponents, we shall not be far wrong in ascribing it in great part to
the loss of the wholesome home influence, and to the introduction of an
education outside the home, which entirely failed to make up for the
decay of the simple old training in duty and discipline.

The fact is that the Romans were now coming under the influence of a new
idea of life, in which the individual played a more important part than
ever before at Rome. The Roman of the past had grown up modelled on a
type and fixed in a group, so that the individual had little chance of
asserting himself; but now we find him asserting himself in every
direction, and in every class of society. To think for oneself, even in
matters of religion; to speak from personal motives in the senate or
law-courts; to aim at one’s own advancement in position or wealth—all
this seemed natural and inevitable to the men of that day. And so by
degrees the individual became the mainspring of action instead of the
State. There were some noble exceptions, but most of the leading men
played their own game, and often won it at the expense of the State.
Many a general hurried on operations towards the close of his command so
as not to be superseded before he could earn a triumph, and pass in
splendid procession up to the temple on the Capitol, with chained
captives following his chariot. And the small men became more and more
unwilling to serve as soldiers in distant lands, and more and more
rebellious against discipline. In little more than half-a-century after
Hannibal had left Italy the Roman armies were beginning to be incapable
of their work.

Along with this too rapid growth of the individual, we have to take
account of the sudden incoming of wealth and growth of capital. The old
Roman family group had no capital except its land and stock. But now, as
the result of plunder and extortion in the provinces, most men of the
upper classes had some capital in money, and this was almost always
invested in public works and State undertakings of all kinds, _e.g._ the
raising of taxes and the fitting out of fleets and armies. These things
were all done by contract, and the contracts were taken by companies, in
which every man was a shareholder who had anything to invest. Thus the
inflow of wealth brought with it the desire of making money, and the
forum of Rome became a kind of stock-exchange in which the buying and
selling of shares was always going on, and where every man was trying to
outwit his neighbour. Of a really productive use of capital in industry
or commerce we hear very little; and it would seem that the Roman of
that day had no idea of using his means or opportunities in ways likely
to produce well-being in the world.

If we turn to rural Italy, the prospect is hardly less dreary.
Incalculable damage had been done to agriculture in the great war, and
agriculture, in the broad sense of the word, was almost the only Italian
industry. Corn, wine, oil, wool and leather had formerly been produced
in sufficient quantities to keep the inhabitants in food and clothing,
each community growing what it needed, as in mediæval England. But this
simple form of agricultural economy must have suffered a severe shock,
not only from the ravages of armies, but from the decrease of the
working population owing to war and pestilence.

In order to restore a decaying industry you must have the men to work
it. Depopulation as the result mainly of war was a disease epidemic in
the Mediterranean in this age; and in Italy we know for certain how rife
it was, for we have the records of the census of the body of Roman
citizens, which show a steady falling-off in this period, and we must
suppose that the same causes were at work among the non-Roman population
of the peninsula. There was, indeed, a remedy, but it was almost worse
than the disease—I mean the vast numbers of slaves now available for
labour. The unskilled slaves, captured or kidnapped in Spain, Gaul,
Epirus, Thrace or Asia Minor, were cheap in the Roman market, and would
do well enough to run a farm with, especially if that farm were chiefly
a pastoral one, with flocks and herds needing no great experience or
skill to look after. This cheapness, and the physical conditions of
rural life in a mountainous country, made cattle-running and
sheep-tending a profitable industry. Large districts of Italy,
especially in the centre and south, became covered in this period with
huge estates owned by capitalists, and worked by rough and often savage
slaves, who were locked up at night in underground prisons and treated
simply as “living tools.” No ray of hope ever broke in on these
miserable beings; no free citizen gave a thought either to their
condition or the economic danger of the system; philanthropy and
political economy were unknown in the Roman world, for imagination and
reflection were alike foreign to the Roman mental habit

Even on the estates of moderate size which were not entirely pastoral,
slave-labour was the rule. We know something of such a farm from the
treatise on agriculture written by Cato at this time, which has come
down to us entire; and it is plain from what he says that though free
labour might be employed at certain seasons, _e.g._ at harvest, the
economic basis of the business was slave-labour. There is no doubt that
all over Italy the small farm and the free cultivator were fast
disappearing, with the rapid growth of capital and the cheapness of
slaves. In the city of Rome, now beginning to harbour a vast population
of many races, the number of domestic slaves tended constantly to
increase; they were employed in every capacity by men of wealth and
business. Many of them were cultivated men, Greeks for example, who
could act as clerks, secretaries or teachers, and these had a fair
chance of earning their freedom in time; but great numbers were low and
vicious beings, who had no moral standard but that of obedience to a
master, no moral sanction except punishment.

Thus, though the shrinkage of the free population was evil enough, the
remedy for it was even worse. The slave, plucked up by the roots from
the soil in which he had flourished in his native land, deprived of
family, property, religion, must in the majority of cases become a
demoralised and hopeless being. In the plays of Plautus, which date from
this period, the slave is a liar and a thief, and apparently without a
conscience. For the slave-owner, too, the moral results were bad enough,
though not so obvious at first sight. A man who is served by scores of
fellow-creatures who are absolutely at his mercy is liable to have his
sense of duty gradually paralysed. Towards them he has no obligations,
only rights; and thus his sense of duty towards his free fellow-citizens
is apt to be paralysed too. A habit of mind acquired in dealing with one
set of men naturally extends itself and affects all human relations. And
so the Roman character, naturally hard enough, came in the later days of
the Republic to be harder than ever. In our next two chapters we shall
meet with unmistakable proofs of this. Incredible cruelty, recklessness
of human life, callousness in dealing with the vanquished and the
subject peoples, meet us at every turn in that dark age of Mediterranean
history. Under the baleful influence of slavery the hard Roman nature
had become brutalised; and we have to wait for the Christian era before
we find any sign of sympathy with that vast mass of suffering humanity
with which the Roman dominion was populated.

We must glance in the last place at the change brought about by the wars
in another department of Roman life, viz. in the working of the
constitution. The reader will remember that in early Rome the salient
feature in that constitution was the _imperium_ of the magistrate, just
as in private life the salient feature was the discipline of the family
under the rule of the head of the household. The man who held the
_imperium_ was irresistible so long as he held it, though a wise custom
made it necessary for him to seek the advice of his council, the Senate,
in all questions of grave importance. But now the long wars took the
consul and his _imperium_ away from the city for long periods, and as
the Empire began to grow up and include provinces beyond sea, those
periods became longer and longer. There were, indeed, always two
magistrates with _imperium_ in Rome, the prætors, who for long past had
been elected yearly to help the consuls in judicial business; but the
prestige of their _imperium_ never reached the level of that of the
consuls. And even when a consul returned home, though the majesty of the
_imperium_ was present in his person as ever, it was not his hand that
was really on the helm. The decision of great questions did not lie with
him, but with his Council, whose knowledge of affairs and whose “courage
never to submit or yield,” had carried Rome safely through a long series
of unexampled trials.

In the period after the war with Hannibal, the Senate, not the
_imperium_, is clearly the paramount power in the working of the
constitutional machinery. To take a single instance: when the people
declined to sanction the war with Philip of Macedon, the Senate directed
the consul to convince them that they were wrong, and both consul and
people bowed to its will. They had other agents in the tribunes of the
people, if the consuls failed them, and would now and then even coerce a
consul by means of the power of the tribune. But what chiefly gave the
Senate its power was the fact that it was the only permanent part of the
government. A senator held office for life unless ejected by the Censor
for immorality, while all the magistrates were elected for a year only.
In the Senate there sat for life every man who had held high office and
done the State good service, and as there were some three hundred of
these, it was almost impossible for the yearly holders of _imperium_ to
resist their deliberate judgments. And for those judgments the Senate
was responsible to no man.

Probably no assembly has ever comprised so much practical wisdom and
experience as the Roman Senate of this period; but that wisdom and that
experience was limited to the working of the constitution, the control
of foreign affairs, and the direction and supply of armies. As has
already been hinted, when it came to providing remedies for economic and
moral evils such as I have been sketching, the Senators were useless;
they had no training in the art of the State physician, and no desire to
learn how to diagnose disease. They were almost all men of the same
type, and with the same public and private interests. They belonged, in
fact, to a few noble families, and new blood was seldom to be found in
their ranks; for though they had all at one time or other been elected
to office by the people, the choice of the people almost always fell
upon members of the old tried families. The principle that the son of a
family that has done good service to the State will be likely himself to
do such service, seems to have taken firm hold of the mind of the Roman
voter; and thus it came about that the Senate, in spite of its great
capacity for business, gradually became an _oligarchical_ body—the
mouthpiece of one class of society. The principle is by no means a bad
one in some stages of social growth, but it is sure in the long run to
produce the vices as well as the virtues of oligarchy—the dislike of any
kind of change, the narrow view of social life, the want of sympathy
with other classes and of the desire to understand their needs. We shall
see in the next two chapters how these oligarchical weaknesses brought
the Senatorial government to an ignominious end. It had saved the State
from its deadliest enemy; it had laid the foundations of the Roman
Empire; but it failed utterly when called on to do the nobler work of
justice and humanity.

This aptly brings us to our last point in this chapter. As the Roman
oligarchy stood to the people, so Rome herself stood as an oligarchy to
the populations of her Empire. The Roman citizen was the one most highly
privileged person in the civilised world of that day. The great prize of
his citizenship was not, as we might suppose it would be, the right to
vote in the assemblies, to choose magistrates and pass or reject laws,
nor the right to hold office if elected, for to that distinction very
few could aspire; it was really the legal protection of his person and
his property wherever he might be in the Empire. No one could maltreat
his person with impunity; a fact well illustrated in the life of St.
Paul (Acts xxii. 25 foll.). He could do business everywhere with the
certainty that his sales, purchases, contracts, would be recognised and
defended by Roman law, while the non-citizen had no such guarantees for
his transactions. No other city in the Mediterranean had a citizenship
to compare with this in practical value, for the Roman law was gradually
becoming the only system of law with a real force behind it. To live a
life of security and prosperity you must be a Roman citizen.

We, in these days of comparative enlightenment, might perhaps imagine
that with a gift like this citizenship in their hands the Romans would
have been quick to reward their faithful Italian allies, who had served
in their armies all through these wars, by lifting them to their own
level of social and political privilege. But if so, we should be
ascribing to the human nature of Roman times a degree of generosity and
sympathy which was, in fact, almost unknown. We might fancy that they
would have grasped the fact that their old city-state had outgrown its
cradle, that Italy and not the city of Rome now really supplied the
force with which the world was ruled, and that they would put the
Italians on the same level of advantage as themselves, at least as
regards the protection of person and property. But after the war with
Hannibal the tendency was rather in the other direction. All allied
Italian cities continued to have to supply contingents to Roman armies
and fleets; yet Rome offered them no privileges to make up for these
burdens, and her magistrates got more and more into the habit of
treating them as inferiors. The Latins, too, that is the old cities of
the Latin league, and the colonies with Latin _right_, as it was now
called, who already had some of the privileges of citizenship, were
carefully prevented from acquiring more, from becoming full citizens of
Rome. In this exclusive policy, which seems to us mean and ungrateful,
the Roman government undoubtedly lost a great chance, and had to pay
dearly later on for her negligence.

The fact was that the imperial idea had taken hold of the governing
Romans with a force to which that of our British “imperialism” cannot
compare for a moment. They were so busy governing, negotiating,
arbitrating and making money, that the condition and claims of their own
city and country failed to attract the attention of any but a very few
among the educated aristocracy. Depopulation, decline of agriculture,
slavery and its accompanying evils, injustice to the Italian allies and
the ever-growing discontent occasioned by it, misgovernment and plunder
in the provinces, all these sources of mischief were now accumulating
force, and were before long to bring the whole Roman system to the brink
of ruin. But Rome on the brink of ruin meant civilisation in imminent
danger; for no other power could any longer withstand the barbarians of
northern Europe, who were even now beginning to press down into sunny
southern lands. So it is that the story of the succeeding century, the
last before the Christian era, is one of the most thrilling interest.
How did Rome survive and overcome these dangers with renewed strength,
and succeed in organising an Empire on the firm foundations of law and
justice, destined to hold the barbarians at bay long enough to inspire
them with profound respect for the civilisation they were attacking?
This question we will try to answer in the remaining chapters of this

                               CHAPTER VI
                         THE REVOLUTION: ACT I

Enough was said in the last chapter to show that the age we are now
coming to, the last century before Christ, was one full of great
issues—not only for Rome, but for all western civilisation. The perils
threatening, both internal and external, were so real as to call for
statesmen and soldiers of the highest quality; and as we shall see, this
call was answered. It was this century that produced most of the famous
Romans whose names are familiar to us: the two Gracchi, Marius, Sulla,
Pompey, Cicero, Cæsar, and finally Augustus, all of whom helped in
various ways to save Italy and the Empire from premature dissolution. It
was, in fact, an age of great personalities, and one, too, in which
personal character became as deeply interesting to the men of the time
as it is even now to us. For as the disciplinary force of the State
waned, the individual was left freer to make his own force felt; and so
great was that force at times, that we are tempted to fix our attention
on the man, and to forget the complicated motives and interests of the
world in which he was acting. Undoubtedly we should be wrong in doing
so; for a very small acquaintance with the facts would show us these
great men struggling incessantly with difficulties, and carried out of
their own natural course by adverse currents. But none the less it is
true that hardly any other period of history shows so much, for good and
evil alike, depending on individual character. So as the last chapter
dealt mainly with perils and problems, our next two will be occupied
with the efforts of these famous men to meet the perils and solve the

Depopulation and the decline of agriculture were the first of the perils
to be considered seriously. This was done in the year 133 B.C., not by
the Senate, whose business it really was, but by a young and
enthusiastic noble, in some ways one of the finest characters in Roman
history. Tiberius Gracchus had the right instinct of the old Roman for
duty, and for a Roman he had an unusually tender and generous nature;
but he had not the experience and knowledge necessary for one who would
take this difficult problem in hand, which in our day would be prepared
for legislation by careful inquiry about facts, conducted by authorised
experts. His education had been mainly Greek, and a study of hard facts
did not form a part of it.

Still, he was able to enlist the help of some capable men, and produced
and finally carried a bill which may be called a Small Holdings Act. No
one was henceforward to hold more than 500 _jugera_ (about 300 acres) of
_public land_, or if he had sons, 250 more for each of two. Public land
was land owned by the State, but occupied by private men who paid (or
ought to have paid) rent for it in some form. Land owned as well as
occupied by private men could not be touched; but there was abundance of
the other, for the State had retained its hold on a large part of the
land of Italy acquired by Rome. This land was now to be divided up in
allotments, the State retaining its ownership and forbidding sale, a
futile attempt to keep the settlers on the land, even against their
will. This courageous plan for bringing the people back to the land was
put in action at once, and we still have a few of the inscribed boundary
stones set up by the commissioners chosen to carry it out. And there is
reason to believe that it did some good in regard both to depopulation
and agriculture. The Senate made no serious attempt to interfere with it
when once it was passed, and it continued in force for many years.

But unluckily the Senate had done all it could to prevent the bill
passing; they would have nothing to say to it, and they put up a tribune
to veto it. The veto of the tribune of the plebs was an essential part
of the constitution, and could not be disregarded; but Gracchus, also a
tribune, had but one year of office, and if he could not get his bill
through during that year, he must give up the attempt for a long while.
Enthusiasm got the better of prudence; he deliberately broke with law
and usage; he defied the Senate and its prerogative, and he carried a
bill deposing the tribune who acted for the Senate. He also proposed to
offer himself as a candidate for re-election, contrary to the custom if
not the law of the constitution. With the highest motives he thus laid
himself open to the charge of making himself master of the State, by
violating the custom of its forefathers (_mos majorum_). It had always
been a maxim of Roman law that the man who aimed at tyranny might be
slain by any one; and now that even the best aristocrats believed
Gracchus guilty, this was the fate that overtook him. He was killed on
the Capitol, and the cowardly rabble made no attempt to save him.

The story is perhaps the saddest in Roman history. A little more
patience and practical wisdom, a little more of the spirit of compromise
on either side, might have saved the situation. The old Roman discipline
had avoided violence, and got over constitutional difficulties by
consent; now Gracchus laid a violent hand on the constitution, and was
repaid with violence by its unworthy defenders. Intending only reform,
he ended with starting revolution.

There was another enemy within the gates beside depopulation, one not
less to be feared, but less easy to realise as an enemy; I mean
slave-labour. Gracchus may be pardoned for making no direct attempt to
attack it, though just before his tribunate there had been a rising of
slaves in Sicily which showed the military as well as the economic
danger of the situation. It is said that 200,000 slaves were in
rebellion there at one time, and the war was only ended after a long
struggle. These risings, more of which followed at intervals, and
finally a most formidable one in Italy sixty years later, were symptoms
of a disease calling for a very skilful physician; but no physician was
to be found until Cæsar tried to make a beginning. As yet the Romans had
not had time to realise this danger; living in an atmosphere of
slave-labour, they believed that they throve on it. And as this was in
one sense true, owing to the decrease of the free labouring population,
the evil was too subtle for an uncritical people to discern. In spite of
all these dangerous risings, there is no sign in the copious literature
of this last century of the Republic of any consciousness of the poison
at work.

Nine years after the murder of Tiberius Gracchus, his younger brother
Gaius, elected tribune, took up his work and went far beyond his
designs. In this most interesting and able man we come at last upon a
Roman statesman of the highest order; a practical man, no mere idealist
of the new Greek school, and yet a man of genius and a born leader of
men. We possess a picture of him, evidently drawn from the life by one
who knew him, which shows these gifts at a glance.[9] When he was at the
height of his activity, busy with a multitude of details, he seems to
have given that eyewitness the impression that he was almost a monarch.
But a close study of all we are told about him seems to prove that he
was in reality one of those rare men, like Cæsar later on, who
profoundly believe that they can do the work needed by the State better
than any other man, and who are justified in that belief. He would see
to the carrying out of his own measures with astonishing speed, sparing
no pains, amazing even his enemies by the unflagging energy with which
he worked, and by the way he contrived to get work out of others.
Perhaps the secret was that he was a gentleman in the best and noblest
sense of that word; for Plutarch says that in his dealings with men he
was _always_ _dignified, yet always courteous_, invariably giving to
every man his due.

In fact, the personality of this man is the real explanation of his
work. If it had been possible for him to retain that personal influence
which Plutarch emphasises, and to keep his legislative power even for a
few years, as a modern statesman may expect to keep it, it is quite
possible that Rome might have escaped an era of danger and degeneracy.
But that could not be. A triple-headed Cerberus was guarding the path
that led to effectual reform: the forms of the old constitution, out of
date many of them, and unsuited to the needs of a great empire: the
narrow spirit of the oligarchical faction, opposed, for self-regarding
reasons, to all change: and lastly, the mean and fickle temper of the
mongrel city populace, whose power was sovereign in legislation and
elections. In the effort to overcome this Cerberus Gracchus lost his
precious personal influence, and found his original designs warped from
their true bearing. He survived through two tribunates, in the course of
which he did much valuable work, but in the third year he was brutally
and needlessly slain by his political enemies. Already Rome had put to
death two of the most valuable men she ever produced, and in the coming
century she was to put to death many more.

He had begun his work by a noble effort so to mend the constitution that
a reformer might be able to pass his laws without breaking it, as
Tiberius had been tempted to do. He tried to increase the numbers of the
Senate, so as to leaven that great council, which he rightly looked on
as the working centre of the constitution, with new ideas and wider
interests. And he sought, too, to solve the great problem of
citizenship, by giving the Italians some effectual share in it, and so
at least the chance of making their voice heard in Roman politics. But
for such measures of real progress neither Senate nor people were ready:
the Senate was the stronghold of old prejudices, and the people were not
pleased to admit Italians to its privileges. Both these great projects,
which show how far-reaching Gracchus’s views as a statesman were, proved
complete failures.

To conciliate the Senate became more and more hopeless as Gracchus lost
his personal influence, and he gave up the attempt. Instead, he dealt
the senatorial oligarchy a heavy blow by depriving senators of the right
to sit in judgment on ex-provincial governors accused of extortion (a
crime now becoming only too common), and giving it to the class below,
the Equites, or men of business. Thus he made a split between the two
upper classes of society, which had very unfortunate results. Not less
unhappy was another measure, meant to conciliate the hungry free
population of the city, on which he must depend for the passing of his
laws. There had long been a difficulty in feeding this population: for
its number had increased beyond all expectation, the corn-supply was not
properly organised, and the price of grain was constantly fluctuating.
Recognising the fact that any legislator was in peril who could not make
it impossible that the price should rise suddenly, he fixed a permanent
price, more than half below the normal, to be maintained at State cost,
whether or no the State were a loser. But here he went too far, and gave
later and less scrupulous demagogues the chance of making still more
serious mischief. No doubt he thought that the State need not be a
loser, if production, transport, warehousing and finance were organised
as he meant to organise them; but there is also little doubt that he was
mistaken, and that henceforward the “people” were really being fed
largely at the expense of the State, and lapsing into a condition of

I have said enough to show how sad was the failure of the first real
statesman produced by Rome. Yet Gracchus was able to do some useful work
which survived. Under his auspices was passed a great law, of the text
of which we still possess about one-third, for the trial of provincial
governors accused of extortion: and we know of another, bearing his own
name, which regulated the succession to these governorships with justice
and wisdom. Also he took up his brother’s land bill, and carried it on
with that practical persistency which is reflected, as we saw, in
Plutarch’s life of him. But in spite of high aims and some successes,
his story is a sad one; and the loss to Italy and the Empire at that
moment of a man of righteous aims and practical genius was simply

Whatever else the Gracchi did, or failed to do, they undoubtedly
succeeded, both in their lives and in their deaths, in shaking the power
and prestige of the senatorial government; and nothing had been put in
its place, nor had it even been reformed. Henceforward for a long period
there was no constitution that could claim an honest man’s loyalty or
devotion; the idea of the State was growing dim, and the result was
inefficiency in every department. The governing class was corrupt and
the army undisciplined, and this at a time when there was coming upon
Rome, and upon the civilised world, a period of extreme peril from
foreign enemies. This corruption and inefficiency became obvious a few
years after the death of the younger Gracchus in a long struggle with a
Numidian chief in the province of Africa, who contrived to outwit and
defy Roman envoys and Roman armies, by taking advantage of the
corruptibility of the one and the indiscipline of the other. Luckily for
Rome this war produced a great soldier in Gaius Marius, a “new man” of
Italian birth, and another in L. Cornelius Sulla, a man of high
patrician family; and these two, though destined to be the bitterest
foes, brought the war to a successful end.

But a far greater peril was threatening Italy herself. As we look at the
map of Italy, or better still (if we have the chance) as we look up at
the huge rampart of the Alps from the plain of the Po, we are tempted to
think of this great barrier as impenetrable. But mountain ranges are
always weak lines of defence, and history, ancient and modern alike, has
abundantly proved that Italy is open to invasion from the north.
Hannibal and his brother had pierced the western flank of the range,
where later on there were regular thoroughfares between Rome and her
western provinces; and at the eastern end, where the passes gradually
lessen in height, access was easy into Italy from the north-east. Beyond
this mountain barrier, at the time we have now reached, there was much
disturbance going on: hungry masses of population were moving about in
search of fertile land to settle in, themselves pressed on by other
peoples in the same restless condition. In 113 B.C. a great migrating
host, apparently of Germans, but probably gathering other peoples as it
advanced, seemed to threaten the weak point of the eastern Alps.

A consul with an army was in Illyria, and tried to stop them in the
country now called Carinthia, but was badly beaten. If there had been a
man of genius at their head, the enemy might have penetrated into Italy;
as happened again just a century later, there was nothing to stop them
between the Alps and Rome. But the great host was not tempted, and
pursued its way westward. In 109 they suddenly appeared beyond the
western Alps, where they destroyed another consular army, and yet
another fell before the Gauls of that region. Then in 105, at Orange, in
Roman territory, while trying to cover the road to Massilia and so into
Italy, the Romans experienced a defeat almost as terrible as that of
Cannæ and half the Empire lay open to the victors. But once again they
left their prey untouched, and passed westwards in search of easier

Rome had a breathing-time of nearly three years, and she also had the
right man to save her. Marius remodelled the army, revolutionising it in
equipment, tactics, and discipline. For material he was driven hard, and
had to find recruits as best he could, drawing them from all parts of
the Empire: but he had time to drill them into fine soldiers, and to lay
the foundation of a marvellously perfect human defence for Mediterranean
civilisation. The result was one great victory near Marseilles, and
another at the eastern end of north Italy, into which the barbarians had
at last penetrated: and Italy was once more secure.

Now we have to see how this peril, or rather the effort made to escape
it, led to changes of the most far-reaching character in the Roman power
and polity. Italy had not been saved by Roman armies or the Roman
government, but by Marius and the army which he had created. For five
successive years Marius was consul, contrary to all precedent, away from
Rome; and the army he created looked to him, not to Rome, for pay,
promotion, and discharge. We may call that host of his a Mediterranean
army under the command of an Italian. It was far more like Hannibal’s
army than like the old Roman citizen armies that had won the supremacy
in Italy; it was a professional army devoted to its general, but with
little thought of the Roman State whose servant he was. And
henceforward, until Augustus restored the sense of duty to the State,
the Roman armies, excellent now as fighting machines, and destined to
secure effective frontiers for the Empire, were the men of Marius,
Sulla, Pompey, Cæsar, and a constant source of anxiety and danger for
the State whom they were supposed to serve.

This “long-service army” brought Rome face to face with another
difficulty, and led indirectly to another great peril. When the soldiers
returned home after many years of service in distant regions, what was
to be done with them? Many, perhaps most of them, had no homes to go to.
The veterans might naturally demand some permanent settlement, but the
Senate showed no sign of appreciating the problem, and in this matter
the general was helpless without the Senate. So it happened that many of
them lapsed into the crowded city, to pick up a living we know not how,
with the help of the distribution of cheap corn. Among them were beyond
doubt numbers of non-citizens, who could not legally vote in elections
or legislation, and were inadequately protected in regard to person and
property, in spite of all the long service they had gone through. These
men began to offer themselves as voters, and to exercise the rights of
citizenship illegally; yet the confusion of the registers was such that
they could not be detected. At last the adulteration of the Roman
citizen body became so obvious that the consuls of 95 B.C. passed a law
with the object of making it clear who was a citizen and who was not,
and of eliminating those who were not really privileged.

But it was now too late to take such a step. News of it spread over all
Italy, and it was construed as a deliberate attempt to exclude Italians
from the citizenship. Five years later another vain attempt was made by
a noble tribune to do as Gracchus had wished to do, to extend the
citizenship and to enlarge the Senate: but he was assassinated before
his laws were passed, and then at last there followed the inevitable
outbreak, perhaps long meditated. The social war, as it is called, in
reality a civil war, was a crisis in the history of European
development. When it was over, the ancient city-state of the Greeks and
Italians had vanished in Italy, and in its place arose a new form of
polity, for which there was then no name.

The sturdy peoples of central Italy entered on the desperate venture of
setting up a rival power against Rome; a plan which, if successful,
would have paralysed Rome’s work in the world whether for good or evil.
They chose the city of Corfinium, in the heart of the Apennines, some
hundred miles east of Rome, gave it the new significant name Italica,
and made it, as Washington is now, the city-centre of a federation,
where deputies from the various members should meet and deliberate under
the presidency of consuls. But now was seen the value of the strategical
position of Rome. She could strike in any direction from inner lines,
while safe from attack or blockade by sea; but Corfinium had no such
natural strategic advantage, nor any unifying power. Yet the Italians
were for some time successful in the field, and Rome was for a whole
year in the utmost peril. At the end of that year (90 B.C.) the
Etruscans and Umbrians to north and east joined the confederates, and
then for the first time Rome was likely to be put on the defensive, with
enemies on her left flank, as well as on her right and in front. So a
law was hastily passed giving the precious citizenship to all who had
not taken up arms; and this was the beginning of a process by which, in
some few years, the whole of Italy became Roman in the eye of the law,
while, on the other hand, it might be said not untruly that Rome became
Italian. Henceforward we have to think of the whole peninsula as forming
the material support of Mediterranean civilisation.

With this great change one might have expected that peace and harmony
would return to Italy. But, on the contrary, she is now about to enter
on the most terrible time that she has ever known; even her miserable
feuds of the late Middle Ages never quite reached the horror of those of
Marius and Sulla. It is hard to explain this; but looking back at what
was said in the last chapter about the causes of demoralisation, it is
possible to make a guess. We have to think of a vast slave State, worn
out in the struggle with dangers within and without, enfeebled by
constant warfare, and now given over into the hands of powerful military
masters, with hosts of veterans at their beck and call. The State seemed
to have lost its claim to loyalty, even to consideration: and in its
place were rival generals, leaders also of political factions—in these
years two, Marius the self-seeking champion of the Italians and the
Roman plebs, and Sulla the self-seeking champion of the old aristocracy.
All principles were lost on either side in the intensely bitter hatred
of the parties and the personal rivalry of the leading men. It happened
that a war was threatening in the East, of which we shall hear more in
the next chapter; and the command in this war, the great prize of the
moment, became a bone of contention outweighing all interest of the

The prize fell to Sulla; but no sooner was his back turned on Italy than
the Marian faction fell on their political enemies and sought to destroy
them by wholesale murder. Compromise was utterly forgotten; all the
brutality of unbridled human nature was let loose. And when Sulla
returned from the East, after driving the enemy out of Roman territory,
the massacres were revenged by more massacres. The loss to Italy of many
thousands of her best men, and among them scores who might have done
good work in the world, was a calamity never to be repaired.

Where, one may ask, was the old Roman _gravitas_ and _pietas_, the
self-restraint and sense of duty that had won an empire? It would seem
as if the capacity for discipline were entirely lost, except in the
long-service army. But the mere fact that in the army this survived is
one not to be neglected, even if it were exercised less on behalf of the
State than in the interest of the individual commander. For if there
could be found a statesman-soldier who could identify himself with the
true interest of the State, and so bring back not only the army, but the
people to a right idea of Rome’s position and duty in the world, the
Empire and civilisation might yet be saved. Without the army these could
not be defended; and the one thing wanting was to make the army loyal to
the State as well as to its general. Only the general himself could
secure this loyalty, by making himself the true servant of the State.

But the man into whose hands Rome had now fallen was one who could not
possibly identify himself with the best interests of the State, because
an unsympathetic nature had denied him the power of discerning what
those interests were. Sulla has been compared to Napoleon, and in one or
two points the comparison holds good; but the two were utterly unlike in
the main point, the power of sympathetic discernment. Napoleon, cruel
and unscrupulous as he often was, showed plainly, when he organised the
institutions of France, or Switzerland, or Egypt, that he understood the
needs of those nations: he divined what would enable them to advance out
of stagnation to some better form of life, social and political. But
Sulla, though he saw that the call of the moment was for order at almost
any price, for peace, strong government, and reform, went about his work
in a way which proved that he did not delight in it, or care for the
people for whom he was legislating. He did what was necessary for the
moment, but did it with force ill concealed under constitutional forms.
So no wise man rejoiced in his work, and the Roman people as a whole
felt no loyalty towards him. He provided in many State departments an
excellent machinery, but not the motive force to work it.

Nothing in history shows better how much in remedial legislation depends
on the spirit in which it is undertaken. Sulla saw that the great
council, the Senate, must be the central point and pivot of government,
unless indeed there were a master at hand, like himself, to undertake
it; that the popular assemblies, untrained in discussion and affairs,
could not do the work of administration. Though the theory of the
constitution had always been that the people were sovereign, he
contrived that the Senate, which had so long practically governed under
an unwritten constitution, should now rule without let or hindrance on a
basis of statute law; and here we see an unwritten constitution growing
into a written one, as with us Britons at this moment. By a great law of
treason, the first on the Roman statute book, he made it almost
impossible to defy the Senate without the risk of political effacement.

This may be called reactionary, but under the circumstances it was not a
reaction to be complained of. The pity was that this master legislator
had really none to be grateful or loyal to him but his own army and
followers. His constitutional legislation was for the most part swept
away soon after his death, and there was no one to lament. On the other
hand, all that he did that was not strictly political, and in particular
his reorganisation of what we may call the civil service, and of the
criminal law and procedure, was so obviously progressive and valuable
that no one ever attempted to destroy it; and some of his laws of this
kind held good throughout Roman history.

Sulla attained his power in 81 B.C., resigned it in 79, and died next
year at his villa on the warm Campanian coast, where he had gone to
enjoy himself in self-indulgence and literary dilettantism. Here he
wrote that autobiography of which some few fragments have come down to
us in Plutarch’s _Life_ of him—a life which will repay the reader, even
in translation. One of these fragments has always seemed to me to throw
real light on the man’s strange nature, and on the imperfection of his
work. “All my most happy resolutions,” he wrote, “have been the result,
not of reasoning, but of momentary inspiration.” In other words, Sulla
did not believe in thinking over a problem, and herein he was a true
Roman. He hoped to do the right thing on the spur of the moment. Thus it
was that no one ever knew what he would do; no one could trust him nor
believe in him. Like so many in that and succeeding ages he believed
profoundly in Fortune: he called himself Sulla the Fortunate, and gave
like names to his two children. What exactly he meant by Fortuna we
cannot say; but we may be sure that it was no such conception of a power
ruling the world as might guide a statesman’s feet out of the path of
self-seeking into a more bracing region of high endeavour.

                              CHAPTER VII
                         THE REVOLUTION: ACT II

With the death of Sulla ends what we may call the first act of the Roman
Revolution. We are now in the middle of a revolution in more than one
sense of that word. The constitution and the government of Rome are
being slowly but surely changed, and at the same time the era of the
free and independent city-state of the Græco-Roman world is being
brought to an end. Both these changes, as we can see now, were
inevitable; without them the civilised world could not have been
defended against barbarian invasion, or Italy united into a contented
whole possessed of Roman citizenship. In the first act, as I have called
it, the immediate danger of invasion was checked, both in north and
east, and Italy had become Roman, enjoying perfect equality with Rome
under the great body of Roman law now being rapidly developed.

But, in truth, this inevitable work of change was not as yet half done.
It was soon found that both in north and east some definite system of
frontier must be fixed, or the Empire would be in continual peril from
without. It was also found that Sulla’s constitution would not work, and
that to defend the frontiers of civilisation effectively there must be a
government of sterner force, whatever form that force might take. Thus
in the second act of the Revolution we have two main points to attend
to: first, the settlement of the frontiers against Oriental despots and
wandering hordes of Germans: secondly, the acquisition of power by a
great soldier-statesman, Julius Cæsar, and the abandonment, as a working
power, of the ancient polity of Senate and people. And inasmuch as this
period of revolution was also the age of the best and purest bloom of
Latin literature, I must find space for a few words about Cicero,
Lucretius, and Catullus.

I said in the last chapter that there was a very dangerous enemy
threatening the eastern or Greek part of the Empire. This was
Mithradates, king of Pontus, that part of Asia Minor which borders on
the Euxine (Black Sea) eastwards: a man of genius and ambition, and by
no means to be reckoned a barbarian. It is curious that he began his
great career by protecting Greek cities against their enemies, and one
is tempted to ask whether he might not have been at least as beneficent
a champion and master for the Greek world as Rome herself. But we must
look at things with Roman eyes if we are to understand the work of Rome
in the world; we must think of Mithradates as the Romans then did, as
the deadly enemy alike of Greek freedom and of Roman interests.

His armies had invaded Greece in 87 B.C. and had even occupied Athens,
while the Greek cities of Asia Minor had willingly submitted to him: the
whole Hellenic world was fast coming under his sway. Then Sulla had
expelled his generals from Greece proper, and had forced him to accept
such conditions of peace as kept him quiet for a few years. But when
Sulla was dead he started on a fresh career of conquest, and once more
the Roman protectorate of Greek civilisation was broken down. For a time
it looked as if no power could restore it. The sea was swarming with
pirates from Cilicia, who constantly harassed the Roman fleets, and
ventured even as far as Italy, snapping up prisoners for sale as slaves
in the great slave-market at Delos. And behind Mithradates and these
pirates there was another power even more formidable. Tigranes, king of
Armenia, had also been extending his dominions southward, and was even
in possession of Syria and Judæa at the time of which we are now
speaking, 75 B.C. Should the two kings unite their forces and policy, it
would be all but impossible for Rome to remain the mistress of the
eastern Mediterranean and the Hellenic world. It was another example of
Rome’s wonderful good fortune that this alliance was never solidly
effected till too late.

The Senate, left by Sulla to govern the world, soon showed that it was
incapable of grasping the necessity of vigorous action in the East. It
was not till 74, four years after Sulla’s death, that they sent out a
really capable general with an adequate force. Lucullus, whose name has
become a by-word for wealth and luxury, was in his prime a soldier of
great ability, and he soon broke the power of Mithradates, who
immediately fled for refuge to Tigranes. This made it absolutely
necessary to deal with that king also; and Lucullus invaded Armenia and
captured the king’s new capital, Tigranocerta. Unluckily, he had not
that supreme gift of a great commander which enables him, as it
afterwards enabled Cæsar, to lead his men where and when he will; the
army mutinied, refusing to go farther into the wild Armenian mountains,
the most distant and formidable region a Roman army had as yet
penetrated. Lucullus had to retreat.

Then, under pressure from the men of business who were losing money by
the instability of Roman dominion in Asia, Senate and people agreed to
supersede Lucullus by a younger man, reckoned the best soldier of the
day, and a military pupil of Sulla. This was the famous Gnæus Pompeius,
known to us familiarly as Pompey. In 67 he had been commissioned to
clear the sea of pirates, and did it effectually. Now, with a
combination of civil and military power such as no Roman had yet
enjoyed, he took over Lucullus’s army, made short work of Mithradates,
and utterly broke up the empire of Tigranes. He overran Syria, the
region between the Mediterranean and the desert stretching to the
Euphrates, penetrated to Judæa and took Jerusalem. This famous event is
the first in the long and sad story of the relations of Rome with Judæa.
At Jericho, before he reached the holy city, he received the dispatch
which told him of the death of Mithradates, the removal from the scene
of one who had been for thirty years Rome’s most dangerous enemy.

The result of the efforts of Lucullus and Pompey was the establishment
of a frontier system in the East which may be said to have held good for
the rest of Roman history. The principle of it is not easy to explain;
but if the reader will take a map and trace the river Euphrates from its
sources in western Armenia to the Arabian desert, and then make it clear
to himself that all within that line was to be either Roman or under
Roman suzerainty, he will be able to form some idea of its importance in
history. There were to be three new Roman provinces: Pontus with
Bithynia in the north of Asia Minor, Cilicia on its south-eastern coast,
and Syria, the coast region from Cilicia southwards to the frontier of
Egypt. But between these and the Euphrates there were two kingdoms,
Cappadocia and Galatia, and other smaller ones, which formed _a Roman
sphere of influence_ where Rome herself could not as yet be constantly
present. Imperfect as this system seems, it was quite strong enough to
spread the prestige of the Roman Empire far and wide in the East, and
the great king of Parthia, beyond the Euphrates, might well begin to be
alarmed for his own safety.

Now in settling this frontier system Pompey had, of course, to attend to
an infinite number of details, and to make decisions, convey privileges,
negotiate treaties, and grant charters, in dealing with those cities new
and old which formed a most important part of his plan of settlement and
defence. All this had to be done on his own responsibility, but would
need the sanction of the Senate to be recognised as legally valid. When
he returned home in 62 B.C. he expected that the Senate would give this
sanction, especially as he had just disbanded his army, with which he
might, if he had chosen, have enforced his claims. But the Senatorial
government was reduced to such a state of imbecility that the majority
would have nothing to do with Pompey’s invaluable work: they were
jealous, they were lazy, and, above all, they were ignorant. So he had
to fall back after a year or two on the consul of 59, C. Julius Cæsar,
who undertook to get the necessary sanction from the people if not from
the Senate. In return Pompey was to help him to get a long command in
Gaul, so that the work of frontier defence there begun by Marius might
be resumed and completed. At this very moment a German people, the
Suebi, whose name still survives in the modern Swabia, were threatening
the rich plains of what is now eastern France: and then, just as a peace
had been patched up with them, a Gallic tribe, the Helvetii, suddenly
issuing from its home in (modern) Switzerland in search of new
settlements, or pressed on by other tribes beyond it, was about to break
into the Roman province of Transalpine Gaul. But Cæsar had now done his
part by Pompey, though not, indeed, without straining the constitution;
and moving with the wonderful swiftness that afterwards became
characteristic of him as a general, he reached Geneva just in time to
stop them, and soon afterwards beat them in a great battle and forced
them back to their homes.

This was the beginning of a career of conquest which made the glorious
country we know as France into the most valuable part of the Roman
Empire, and later on into the most compact and gifted nationality in
Europe. What motives inspired Cæsar in all he did during the nine years
he spent there we need not ask, for we can only guess the answer; though
he has left us his own story of his campaigns in simple straightforward
Latin, he has not chosen to tell us what was all along at the back of
his mind. Ambition, says the superficial historian; the desire to make
himself in due time tyrant of Rome and the Empire. But we may take it as
certain that Cæsar, a man whose health was never strong, would not have
exposed himself to constant peril of his life for nine successive years
had he really all the time been nursing a secret ambition which death or
serious illness might at any time destroy. What he really seems to have
loved, like C. Gracchus, was work—steady, hard work with no one to
hinder him, and with a definite practical object before him. Doubtless
further hopes or fears were in his mind, but this great practical
genius, with an intellect characteristically Roman,[10] though more
scientific in its tendency than that of any other Roman known to us, was
always bent on the work immediately in front of him, and never rested
till it was completed to his satisfaction.

When Cæsar hurried up to check the Helvetii in 58 B.C. there was but one
Roman province in Gaul, the south-eastern part of modern France (which
still teems with Roman remains and inscriptions), together with a
considerable district to the west of it at the foot of the Pyrenees.
When he finally left Gaul at the end of 50, the whole of modern France
and Belgium had been added to the Empire, though not as yet organised
into provinces. He did not take long to reach our Channel and to subdue
the tribes on the coast; he began the written history of our island by
invading it twice, and recording such information as he could gain about
its geography and inhabitants. He crossed the Rhine into Germany by a
bridge constructed for him by his engineers: and the method of building
this bridge survives in his book to puzzle the ingenuity of scholars as
well as school-boys. The Gauls were doubtless amazed at these
performances, as he meant them to be; and, after one heroic effort to
save themselves from becoming an appendage of a Mediterranean empire,
they had to submit. While we can feel with these noble efforts for
freedom, or blame Cæsar for what sometimes seems unnecessary cruelty, we
must remember that from this time forward the country from the Rhine to
the ocean becomes a great factor in European civilisation.

There was still, indeed, a gap in the line of frontier; how was the
eastern end of the Alps to be protected from invasion? There, as we saw,
the great rampart was lowest, and beyond it the barbarians were an
unknown quantity. Here the river Danube eventually became the frontier,
and was carefully connected with that of the Rhine; but this completion
of the great work had to wait for half-a-century, and in the meantime
luckily no inroad was made or threatened. It was Tiberius, afterwards
emperor, another great soldier, with an army almost as devoted to its
general as that of Cæsar who after long steady effort planted the Roman
power firmly in this region. From a military point of view the Roman
Empire, and therefore Western civilisation as a whole, owed its very
existence for centuries to Pompey, Cæsar and Tiberius, with their
splendidly trained armies and their skilful engineers.

All this work of conquest and settlement was not the work of the State,
or due to the old civic sense of duty and discipline; it was the work of
the armies, due to their good discipline, and to their loyalty to their
leaders. This being so, it was of course only natural that the armies
and their leaders should claim to control the action and policy of an
enfeebled State, as Sulla had already claimed it. This is really, put in
a very few words, the secret of the Roman imperial system that was to
come; so, too, in England, in Cromwell’s time, the State passed into the
hands of the army, because that army (though in our case but for a short
time) represented the best instincts and purposes of the nation. But the
question of the moment was whether the commander of one of these Roman
armies could so identify himself and his soldiers with the State and its
true interests, as to become the means of establishing a sound and
efficient government for the Mediterranean world. Sulla had failed so to
identify himself: he had neither knowledge enough nor sympathy enough.
The chance had been open to Pompey when he returned from the East in 62,
but he had disbanded his army and declined it; he was in many ways a
valuable man, but he was not the stuff that real statesmen are made of.
After the long war in Gaul the chance was open to Cæsar, and he accepted
it without hesitation.

He accepted it, but in truth he had to fight for it. For years his
operations in Gaul had been looked on at Rome with suspicion, especially
by a clique of personal enemies led by the famous Cato, a descendant of
the old Cato whom we met in the previous century. These men looked on
Cæsar as dangerous to the State—and dangerous indeed he was, to that old
form of State which neither they nor he could make vigorous and
efficient. They clung to the worn-out machinery of the constitution, to
the checks, the vetoes, the short tenure of office, to the exclusive
right of the Senate to deal with the ever-increasing administrative
business of the Empire. Knowing, or guessing, that Cæsar, like Gaius
Gracchus, would force his personal will on the State if he judged it
necessary, they were determined to prevent his becoming a political
power, and they brought Pompey to the same view, and armed him with
military force to be used against Cæsar—against the man, that is, who
had spent the best years of his life in indefatigable work for the
Empire and civilisation. The result was civil war once more; civil war
that might unquestionably have been averted by a wider outlook, a more
generous feeling, a spirit of compromise, on the part of the high
aristocrats who, like Cato, believed themselves to be struggling for
liberty. The liberty they were struggling for was in reality the liberty
to misgovern the Empire, and to talk without acting efficiently.

It is plain, as we may learn from the abundant correspondence of the
time,[11] that they did not know the man they had to deal with. Cæsar
took them completely by surprise; in a few weeks he had cleared Pompey
and Senate and their army out of Italy, had provided for the government,
and gone off to Spain to secure the West by turning the Pompeian armies
out of that peninsula also. After a brilliant campaign of six weeks,
admirably described by himself in his work on the Civil War, he forced
those armies to surrender and then let them go, as he had done just
before in Italy. His clemency took the world by surprise as much as his

But the worst was not over for him. Pompey was gathering all the
resources of the East against him, and concentrating them in Epirus with
a view to the re-conquest of Italy. Again Cæsar’s rapidity saved him; he
was just in time to strike the first blow by crossing the sea from
Brindisi—a rash expedient—and hampering Pompey before his concentration
was effected. Here, however, in his eagerness to bring the campaign to
an issue, he made a serious blunder, and had to pay for it by defeat and
a retreat to the corn-growing plain of Thessaly. Pompey unwisely
followed him, instead of invading Italy; and here, in August 48, was
utterly beaten at the battle of Pharsalia. The worn-out old soldier fled
to Egypt, where he was treacherously murdered by one of the king’s
generals. He was an estimable man with many excellent qualities, and in
a more tranquil age might have well become what Cicero wished to make
him, the presiding genius of the Roman State.

Cæsar had yet much war before him—war in Egypt, in Asia Minor, in Africa
and in Spain, against the supporters of the old régime, for nothing he
could do in the way of conciliation would persuade them to forgive him
the crime of seeking to identify himself with the State. In doing so
they deprived him of the time which he might have spent to far better
purpose at Rome on the work of efficient government. As it was, he had
been able to spend but a few months in all at home, when on March 15, 44
B.C., he was murdered at a meeting of the Senate, at the feet of
Pompey’s statue, by a small group of assassins, some of whom were
intimate friends of his own. They thought he was on the point of
assuming a visible despotism, and they had some justification for the
suspicion, though it was probably a delusion. To kill a tyrant, they
thought, was to do a noble work in true old Roman fashion. So did the
murderers of the Gracchi.

From what little we know about such work of reform as Cæsar had time
for, we may take it as certain that these deluded assassins made a sad
blunder. Cæsar’s legislative work was fragmentary, but every item of it
shows intelligence and political insight. He did not attempt to turn out
a new constitution in black and white; he did the work of government
mainly himself for the time being, and we do not know how he meant to
provide for it after his death. In the most important matter of all, the
adjustment of the Empire to the home government, and especially the
subordination of the provincial governors to a central authority, he
forestalled the imperial system of the future: he made himself the
central authority, to whom the governors were to be responsible. The
other most important question of government, that of the power and
composition of the Senate, he answered by raising the number of Senators
to 900, as Gaius Gracchus had wished to do, and thus destroying the
power of the old narrow oligarchical cliques. But perhaps his practical
wisdom is best seen in his economic legislation for Rome and Italy. He
was the first statesman to try and check the over-abundance of
slave-labour; the first, too, to lay the foundation of a reasonable
bankruptcy law. He regulated the corn-supply in the city, and brought
down the number of recipients of corn-doles to less than one-half of
what it had lately been. Again, he laid down general rules for the
qualification of candidates for municipal office in Italy, and arranged
for the taking of a census in all the cities every five years, the
records of which were to be deposited at Rome. It would seem as if he
meant to work out the enfranchisement of Italy to its natural
conclusion: for he not only completed it by extending it to the Alps,
which had never yet been done, but went beyond the bounds of Italy,
offering the citizenship freely both to Gauls and Sicilians.

Attempts have been made to depict Cæsar as almost more than human; and
of late again there has been a reaction against him of no less
absurdity, holding him up to contempt as a weak but lucky opportunist.
As we have his own military writings, a life by Plutarch, a few letters
written by or addressed to him, and innumerable allusions to him in
contemporary literature, we ought to be able to form some just idea of
him. As one who has been familiar with all these materials, and many
others of less value, during the greater part of a lifetime, I say
without hesitation that Cæsar was the one man of his time really gifted
with _scientific intelligence_—with the power of seeing the facts before
him and adjusting his action to them. This intelligence, combined with
great strength of will, made him master of the Roman Empire; and though
his character was by no means perfect, he seems to have used his
mastership, not like a capricious Oriental despot, but with a real sense
of responsibility. A man who combines the qualities of an intelligent
statesman in bad times with a generous temper, good taste and good
scholarship, surely deserves to be thought of as one altogether out of
the common. In Shakespeare’s picture of him, derived from Plutarch’s
biography, and representing only the last two days of his life, he seems
weak in body and overweening in spirit, and is probably meant to seem so
by the dramatist for his own purposes. But no sooner have the murderers
done with him than the true greatness of the man begins to make itself
felt, and is impressed on us in page after page to the end of the play,
of which the action may be said to be pivoted on the idea of the horror
and the uselessness of their deed.

So far in this chapter and the last I have been treating of this age as
one of action. It is indeed filled full of human activity, in spite of
the laziness of the governing class as a whole. But this activity was
shown not only in war and politics; this is also an age of great poets
and real men of letters. I must say a word about the two greatest poets,
Lucretius and Catullus; but among the men of letters there stands out
one far above the rest whose life and genius it would take a long
chapter to explain. Cicero’s pre-eminence is not easy to understand even
after long study of his voluminous works: yet I must try to make it
clear that he was, in fact, one of the greatest of all Romans.

Of Lucretius it is our fate to know nothing except his poem in six books
on “The Nature of Things.” But his name is Roman, and the poem has the
true Roman characteristic of being essentially practical in its object.
That object will seem a singular one to those who are unacquainted with
the Greek and Roman culture of this age. What roused a poet’s passion in
this man’s mind was simply the desire to free others, as he had freed
himself, from the fetters of superstition, or, as he calls it,
_religion_; to make them abandon the delusive dream of a life after
death, to repudiate the old stories of torment in Hades, and all foolish
legends of the gods, who in his view took no interest whatever in human
life. All this was, of course, derived from Greek philosophy, the
doctrine of the Epicurean school, but no Greek had ever put such passion
into a creed as Lucretius. His poetry at times almost reminds us of the
grandeur and authority of the Hebrew prophets, so ardently did he
believe in his own creed, and in his mission to enforce it on others.
Uncouth and dry as much of it is—for he has to explain that Epicurean
theory of the universe known still to science as the atomic theory—he
breaks out now and again into strains of magnificent verse which reveal
a mind all burning within. Here is a specimen: it must be in prose, for
no verse translation seems adequate—

  “What hast thou, O mortal, so much at heart, that thou goest such
  lengths in sickly sorrows? Why bemoan and bewail death? for say that
  thy life past and gone has been welcome to thee, and that thy
  blessings have not all, as if they were poured into a sieve, run
  through and been lost without avail: why not then take thy departure
  like a guest filled with life, and with resignation, thou fool, enter
  upon untroubled rest? But if all that thou hast enjoyed has been
  squandered and lost, and if life is a grievance, why seek to make any
  addition, ... why not rather make an end of life and travail? for
  there is nothing which I can contrive or discover for thee to give
  pleasure: all things are ever the same” (iii. 933 foll.).

The other poet, Catullus, was not of Roman birth, but, like so many
literary men of this and the following age, an Italian from the basin of
the Po. He had no practical aim in writing poetry: he simply wrote
because he could not help it, about himself and his friends and his
loves. It was his own self that inspired him chiefly, and it is still
himself that interests us. According to his own mood, now fresh with the
happiness of an artist, now darkened by anger or self-indulgence, his
poems are exquisite or repulsive; but they are always true and honest
lyrics, and interesting because they are so full of life and passion.
Catullus is one of the world’s best lyric poets. Here is one of his

  “Is aught of pleasure, aught of solace sweet
    Permitted, Calvus, to the silent grave,
  What time the tale of sorrow we repeat,
    Yearning o’er memories we fain would save?

  Know this. From Love and Friendship if a tear
    Can make its way into that silentness,
  Quintilia feels untimely Death less drear,
    For hearing of the love that still can bless.”
                                           Catullus, xcvi. (by S. T. I).

Lastly, we come to the man of letters who has given his name to this
period of literature, which indeed draws more than half its interest
from him and from his works. Marcus Tullius Cicero was an Italian, and
had little of the Roman character in his make; he came from the town of
Arpinum, among the foothills of the Apennines some sixty miles
south-east of Rome. He made his way into Roman society by his social and
conversational powers, and by his capacity for friendship, and into the
field of politics by his great gift of oratory, which was now
indispensable for public men. As a “new man” he never was really at home
with the high aristocracy, but he was a man of many friends for all
that, and reckoned among them all the great men of his time, including
both Cæsar and Pompey. His best and truest friend, who worked for him
all his life with unsparing care, was a man of business who stood
outside of politics, Pomponius Atticus; and of Cicero’s letters to this
faithful friend and adviser nearly four hundred survive to prove the
reality of that lifelong devotion. Some five hundred letters to and from
other correspondents are also extant, and the whole collection forms the
most fascinating record of a great man’s life and thoughts that has come
down to us from classical antiquity.

Since Mommsen wrote his famous _History of Rome_, in which he was almost
ignored, Cicero has often been treated with contempt as a shallow
thinker, deriving all his inspiration from Greek originals, and as a
feeble statesman, brilliant only as an orator. It is true that there is
a want of _grit_ in much that Cicero wrote: he was the child of his age,
never tired of writing and talking, little used to profound thinking,
and rarely acting with independent vigour. But he has two claims on the
gratitude of posterity which should never be forgotten. First, he made
Latin into the most perfect language of prose that the world as yet has
known. The echoes of his beautiful style can be heard centuries
afterwards in the Latin fathers of Christianity, especially St.
Augustine and Lactantius, and they are still audible in the best French
and Italian prose-writers of to-day. Secondly, of all Romans Cicero is
the one best known to us as an individual human being: and few indeed
who have had the chance to become really familiar with him can fail to
love him as his own friends loved him. He was not the stuff of which
strong statesmen are made; he was too dependent on the support and
approval of others to inspire men with zeal for a cause—especially for a
losing cause. His own consulship was brilliant, for he was able to
combine the best elements in the State in the cause of order as against
anarchy—anarchy which threatened the very existence of Rome as a city;
and at the end of his life he showed the same ability to use a strong
combination to good purpose in the political field. But he was not of
such strong growth as to mark out a line of his own, and at some unhappy
moments of his life his weakness is apt to move our pity, if not our

But with all his weak points Cicero is one of the best and greatest of
all Romans. His gifts were rich, and he used them well. We know him as a
man of pure life in an impure age, and as one who never used his gifts
or opportunities to do harm to others, whether political enemies or
helpless provincials. We know him, too, as a faithful husband and a
devoted father. And lastly, we know that he was not lacking in courage
when the assassin overtook him—the last of a long list of great men of
that age to die a violent death.

                              CHAPTER VIII

The death of Julius Cæsar seemed to plunge the world once more into
darkness. We have evidence enough of the general feeling of horror and
despair,—a despair hard to realise in our days, when settled and orderly
government saves us from all serious anxiety about our lives and
property. Power fell into the hands of a far more unscrupulous man than
Cæsar, the Mark Antony of Shakespeare’s play; but he had a rival in
Cæsar’s nephew and adopted son, afterwards known as Augustus. Civil war,
of course, followed: first, war between these two and the murderers of
Julius, and then war between the two victors. Antony, who had in a
division of the Empire taken the eastern half, and married Cleopatra,
the beautiful queen of Egypt, was crushed at the naval battle of Actium:
the Empire became once more united, and hope began to spring up afresh.

Instead of following the melancholy history of these years (44 to 31
B.C.) let us try to realise the need of a complete change in men’s minds
and in the ways of government, if the Roman Empire was to be preserved,
and Mediterranean civilisation with it. We can best do this by learning
something of the two men who more than all others brought about the
change: Virgil, the greatest of Roman poets, and Augustus, the most
fortunate and discerning of Roman statesmen. Augustus began a new system
of government, based, no doubt, on the ideas of Julius, which lasted,
gradually developing itself, till the fifth century of our era. Virgil,
the poet of the new Roman spirit, kept that spirit alive into the Middle
Ages, and rightly read, he keeps it still before us.

If Virgil had lived in an ordinary age, when the flow of events was
smooth and unruffled, he might have been a great poet, but hardly one of
the world’s greatest. But he lived in a crisis of the history of
civilisation, and he was called to do his part in it. For a century
before he wrote, the one great fact in the world was the marvellous
growth of the Roman dominion. When he was born, seventy years before the
Christian era, Rome was the only great civilised power left, and a few
years later it looked as if she had not even a barbarian rival to menace
her, except the Parthians far away in the East. The Roman was
everywhere, fighting, trading, ruling; nothing of importance could be
done without the thought—What will Rome say to it?

Yet just as Virgil was growing to manhood it became obvious, as we have
seen, that this great power was in reality on the verge of breaking up.
She had abandoned justice and duty, and given herself to greed and
pleasure. Her government was rapacious: she was sucking the life-blood
of the nations. She had lost her old virtues of self-sacrifice, purity
of family life, reverence for the divine. The rulers of the world had
lost the sense of duty and discipline; they were divided into jarring
political factions, and had felt the bitterness of civil war, in which
men killed each other in cold blood almost for the sake of killing. But
with Julius Cæsar’s strong hand and generous temper it must have seemed
to many that a better time was coming, and among these was the young
poet from Mantua under the rampart of the Alps.

No one who knows Virgil’s poems well can have any doubt that all his
hopes for himself and his family, for Italy and the Empire, were bound
up with the family of the Cæsars. The sub-alpine region in which he was
born and bred had been for ten years of his boyhood and youth under the
personal rule of the great Julius, and had supplied him with the flower
of that famous army that had conquered first Gaul and then the world. It
is possible that the poet owed his position as a Roman citizen to the
enlightened policy of Cæsar. Even now we cannot read without a thrill of
horror the splendid lines in which he records the eclipse of the sun and
the mourning of all nature when the great man was murdered by so-called
patriots.[12] With such patriots, with the rapacious republican
oligarchy, he could have had no sympathy, and there is not a trace of it
in his poems. When, during the civil wars that followed the murder, he
was turned out of his ancestral farm near Mantua to make room for
veteran soldiers, he owed the recovery of it to the master of those
soldiers, the second Cæsar, whom henceforward he regarded not only as
his own protector and friend, but as the one hope of the Empire.

Now this younger Cæsar, nephew and adopted son of Julius, though not a
great soldier or a hero in any sense, was yet one of those rare men who
learn wisdom in adversity, and use it to overcome passion and violence
in themselves and others. He came gradually to see that Italy and the
world could not be rescued from misery and despair by war and strong
government alone. He grasped the fact, which Sulla had missed, that the
one thing wanting was loyalty—loyalty to himself and belief in his
mission: loyalty to Rome and Italy, and belief in their mission in the
world. Confidence in him, and in the destiny of Rome, might create in
men’s minds a hope for the future, a new self-respect, almost a new
faith. Divided and depressed as they were, he wanted to set new ideals
before them, and to get them to help him loyally towards the realisation
of those ideals. Economically, morally, religiously, Italy was to rise
to new life in an era of peace and justice.

This may seem too grand an ideal for a man like Augustus Cæsar, who (as
I have said) was no hero, and who certainly was no philosopher. But it
is none the less true that he understood that “peace hath her victories
no less renowned than war”: and that his own conviction, based, perhaps,
on shrewd political reasonings, inspired his poets and historians to
hail a new age of peace and prosperity. In one way or another they all
fell in with his ideas. Their themes are the glory and beauty of Italy,
the greatness of Rome, the divine power which had given her the right to
rule the world, and the story of the way in which she had come to
exercise that right. But as Virgil is the greatest figure in the group,
so is his _Æneid_ the greatest work in which those ideas are
immortalised. The Roman Empire has vanished, the ancient city, which
rose in fresh magnificence under Augustus, has crumbled away; but the
_Æneid_ remains the one enduring monument of that age of new hope.

It is said that Augustus himself suggested to the poet the subject of
the _Æneid_. If so, it was characteristic of a man who used every chance
of extending his own fame and influence without forcing them on the
attention of his people. If a poem was to be written on the great theme
of the revival of Rome and Italy, Augustus himself could not of course
be the hero of it, nor even Julius: political and artistic feeling alike
forbade. But a hero it must have, and he must be placed, not in the
burning light of the politics of the day, but in the dim distance of the
past. Such a hero was found in the mythical ancestor of the Julian
family, Æneas, son of Venus and Anchises. A legend, familiar to educated
Romans, told how this Trojan hero, whose personality appears in Homer,
wandered over the seas after the fall of Troy, and landed at last in
Italy; how he subdued the wild tribes then dwelling in Latium, brought
peace and order and civilisation, and was under the hand of destiny the
founder of the great career of Rome. His son Iulus, whose name the Julii
believed themselves to bear, was in the legend the founder of the city
from which Rome herself was founded; and thus the family of the Cæsars,
the rescue of Italy from barbarism, and the foundation of the Eternal
City, might all be brought into connexion with the story of Æneas the
Trojan. Here, then, was the hero, the type of which the antitype was to
be found in Augustus.

And this is how the _Æneid_ became a great national and a great imperial
poem. It created a national hero, and endowed him with the best
characteristics of his race, and especially with that sense of duty
which the Romans called _pietas_: this is why it became a great national
poem. It connected him with the famous stories of Greece and of Troy,
and made him prophetically the ancestor of the man who was rescuing the
Empire from ruin: this is why it became a great imperial poem. The idea
was a noble one, and Virgil rose to his subject. Though the _Æneid_ has
drawbacks which for a modern reader detract from the general effect, yet
whenever the poet comes upon his great theme the tone is that of a full
organ. Even in a translation, though he cannot feel the witchery of
Virgil’s magic touch, the reader may recognise and welcome the
recurrence of that great theme, and so learn how its treatment made the
poem the world’s second great epic. It instantly took a firm hold on the
Roman mind; it came to be looked on almost as a sacred book, loved and
honoured as much by Christian Fathers as by pagan scholars. Italy has
given the world two of the greatest poems ever written: the _Æneid_ of
Virgil, and the _Divina Commedia_ of Dante, in which the younger poet
took the imaginary figure of his predecessor as his guide and teacher in
his travel through the scenes of the nether world.

But we must now leave poetry for fact and action, and try to gain some
idea of that work of Augustus which laid the solid foundation of a new
imperial system; a system of which we moderns not only see the relics
still around us, but feel unconsciously the influence in many ways.
Augustus had found time to discover, since the death of Julius, that the
work to be done would fall mainly into two great departments: (1) Rome
and Italy must be loyal, contented, and at peace; (2) the rest of the
Empire must be governed justly and efficiently. To this we must add that
the whole must contribute, each part in due proportion, to its own
defence and government, both by paying taxes and by military service.

1. The city of Rome, with a population of perhaps half a million, of all
races and degrees, had been a constant anxiety to Augustus so far, and
had exercised far more power in the Empire than such a mixed and idle
population was entitled to. He saw that this population must be well
policed, and induced to keep itself in order as far as possible; that it
must be made quite comfortable, run no risk of starvation, have
confidence in the good-will of its gods, and enjoy plenty of amusement.
Above all, it must believe in himself, in order to be loyal to his
policy. When he returned to Rome after crushing Antony and Cleopatra,
the Romans were already disposed to believe in him, and he did all he
could to make them permanently and freely loyal. He divided the city
into new sections for police purposes, and recruited corps of “watchmen”
from the free population; he restored temples and priesthoods, erected
many pleasant and convenient public buildings (thus incidentally giving
plenty of employment), organised the supply of corn and of water, and
encouraged public amusements by his own presence at them. He took care
that no one should starve, or become so uncomfortable as to murmur or

But, on the other hand, he did not mean this motley population to
continue to have undue influence on the affairs of the Empire. True, he
gave them back their Free State (_respublica_), and you might see
magistrates, Senate, and assemblies in the city, just as under the
Republic. But the people of the city had henceforth little political
power. The consuls and Senate were indeed far from idle, but the
assemblies for election and legislation soon ceased to be realities. In
elections no money was now to be gained by a vote, and in legislation
the “people” were quite content with sanctioning the wisdom of Augustus
and his advisers. At the beginning of the next reign it was possible to
put nearly the whole of this business into the hands of the Senate, and
the Roman people made no objection. Seeing that they were only a
fraction of the free population of the Empire, it was as well that this
should be so; the rest of the citizen body could not use their votes at
a distance from Rome, and the Senate and the _princeps_[13] (as Augustus
and his immediate successors were called) represented the interests of
the Empire far better than the crowd of voters.

Of the work of Augustus in Italy we unluckily know very little, but what
we do know shows that he worked on much the same principles as in the
city. Italy was made safe and comfortable, and was now free from all
warlike disturbance for a long period. Brigandage was suppressed: roads
were repaired: agriculture and country life were encouraged in all
possible ways. A book on agriculture written even in Augustus’s earlier
years boasts of the prosperity of rural Italy, and Virgil’s poem on
husbandry is full of the love and praise of Italian life and scenery.
Here is a specimen—

  “But no, not Medeland with its wealth of woods,
  Fair Ganges, Hermus thick with golden silt,
  Can match the praise of Italy....
  Here blooms perpetual spring, and summer here
  In months that are not summer’s; twice teem the flocks:
  Twice does the tree yield service of her fruit.
  . . . . . . .
  Mark too her cities, so many and so proud,
  Of mighty toil the achievement, town on town
  Up rugged precipices heaved and reared,
  And rivers gliding under ancient walls.”[14]

2. The peaceful state of Rome and Italy made it possible for Augustus to
undertake, in person to a great extent, the more important work of
organising the rest of the Empire. He found it in a state of chaos
almost as great as that of the Turkish Empire in our own time. He left
it a strongly compacted union of provinces and dependent kingdoms
grouped around the Mediterranean, which for a long time to come served
two valuable purposes. First, it protected Mediterranean civilisation
against barbarian attack, the most valuable thing done for us (as I said
in my first chapter) by Roman organisation. Secondly, it gave free
opportunity for the growth of that enlightened system of law which has
been the other chief gift of Rome to modern civilisation. And also,
though without any purpose on the part of the government—nay, in spite
of its strenuous opposition—it made possible the rapid growth of
Christianity, during the next half-century, which seized on the great
towns and the main lines of communication to spread itself among the
masses of the people.

Augustus was able to do all this work beyond Italy quite legally, and as
a servant of the State. He had succeeded in identifying himself, his
family, and all his interests, with the State and its interests, in a
way of which Sulla had never dreamt, and which had not been possible for
Julius Cæsar. When he restored the Free State he divided the work of
government with the Senate and the magistrates, and in this division he
took care that the whole range of what we should call imperial and
foreign affairs should fall to himself, with the sole command of the
army. Thus he became supreme ruler of all provinces on or near the
frontiers, appointed their governors, and kept them responsible to
himself. If there was war on a frontier, it was carried through by his
lieutenants, under his _imperium_ and his auspices. For a governor to
wage war on his own account was no longer possible, for it was made high
treason under a new and stringent law. The safety of the Empire, and
especially of the frontier provinces, depended on the army, and the army
was now identified once more in interest through Augustus with the

But of course a system like this would not work of itself; it needed
constant looking after. Augustus knew this well, and knew also that he
could not by himself either set it going or continue to look after it.
It was part of his good fortune that he found a really capable and loyal
helper in Agrippa, a tried soldier and organiser, who till his death in
12 B.C., during the most prosperous years of Augustus’s power, was able
to identify his own interests with those of his friend and the State.
The two worked admirably together, and between them found time to travel
over the whole Empire, working hard at settlements of all kinds, and
conducting military operations where they were absolutely necessary. It
was the same kind of work, but on a far larger scale, as that of
Pompeius after his conquests in the East: founding new cities, and
settling the status of old ones: making treaties with kings and
chieftains: arranging the details of finance, land-tenure, and so on.
Let us notice two important points in all this work of organisation,
which will help to show how greatly in earnest Augustus was in his task
of welding the Empire into real unity, and ruling it on rational

First, he instituted for the first time (though Julius is said to have
contemplated it) a complete survey, or _census_ as the Romans called it,
of all the material resources of the Empire, in order to ascertain what
taxes all its free inhabitants ought to pay for purposes of government.
Under the Republic there had never been such a survey, and the result
was that abundant opportunity had been found for unfair taxation, and
for extortion by corrupt officials. Now every house, field, and wood was
duly valued by responsible officials, so that unjust exactions could be
easily detected. By accurate keeping of accounts the government was able
to tell what sums it ought to receive, and how much it had to spend; and
we know that Augustus’s foreign policy was greatly influenced by such
financial considerations. He kept a kind of yearly balance-sheet
himself, and his successor found the affairs of the Empire in perfect

Secondly, each province was now for the first time given a kind of
corporate existence, and became something more than the military command
of a Roman magistrate. A council of the province met once a year at its
chief town, and transacted a certain amount of business. True, this did
not give the province any measure of real self-government, but it had
some useful results, and it is not impossible that Augustus may have
intended that more should eventually follow. This meeting of a
provincial council brought each province into direct touch with the home
government, and in particular enabled it to make complaint of its
governor if he had been unpopular and oppressive. And one most
interesting feature of these councils was that they had a worship of
their own, meant, no doubt, to dim the lustre of local and tribal
worships, and to keep the idea of Rome and her rulers constantly before
the minds of the provincials. For the divine objects of worship were
Augustus himself or his Genius, in combination with the new goddess
Roma. The most famous example of this worship is found at Lugdunum, now
Lyons, where there was an altar dedicated to Rome and Augustus, at the
junction of Rhone and Saone, which served as a religious centre for the
three provinces into which Augustus now divided the great area of the
Gallic conquests of Julius.

Though his object was undoubtedly peace, Augustus could not, of course,
entirely escape war on his frontiers. He could not have finally settled
the frontier on the line of the Danube, which was far the most valuable
military work of his time, without wars which were both long and
dangerous. It was absolutely necessary to cover Italy on the northeast,
where the passes over the Alps are low and comparatively easy, and also
to shield the Greek peninsula from attack by the wild tribes to the
north of it. I have already alluded to the great work of Tiberius (the
stepson of Augustus) in this quarter, which marks him as the third of
the great generals who saved the civilisation of the Mediterranean for
us. At one time Augustus thought of advancing the frontier from the
Rhine to the Elbe, and so of connecting Elbe and Danube in one
continuous line of defence. But this plan made it necessary to enclose
all Germany west of the Elbe in the Roman Empire, and it was soon found
that the Germans were not to be made into Roman provincials without a
prolonged struggle for which Augustus had neither money nor inclination.
So the frontier came back to the Rhine, and the Rhine and the sea marked
the Roman frontier on north and west, until Claudius, the third
successor of Augustus, added our island, or rather the southern part of
it, to the Empire, in A.D. 43.

In the East Augustus contrived to do without war, trusting, and rightly
trusting, to the enormous prestige he had won by overcoming Antony and
Cleopatra, and annexing the ancient kingdom of Egypt. His fame spread to
India, and probably even to China, with the caravans of merchants who
then as now passed along fixed routes from Syria and Egypt to the Far
East. We Britons know what _prestige_ can do among Orientals; it is a
word that has often been in disfavour, but it means that there are ways
of avoiding war without withdrawing just claims to influence. Augustus
contrived on the strength of his prestige to keep an honourable peace
with the Parthians and Armenians who bordered on the Empire along the
line of the Euphrates, and his successors would have kept it too had
they always followed out his policy. Tiberius, his faithful pupil and
successor, did follow out that policy, and showed consummate skill in
handling it.

The mention of Tiberius, who succeeded to the position of Augustus at
the end of his long life, suggests a few words about a weak point in the
new system, which was to give some trouble in the future. How was the
succession to be effected? Augustus had not made a new constitution; he
had only engrafted his own position of authority on the old republican
constitution. So at least he wished his position to be understood, and
so he was careful to describe it in the record of his deeds which he
left behind him, engraved on the walls of the great tomb which he built
for himself and his family. In dignity and consequence he wished to be
considered the first citizen; and this he expressed by the word
_Princeps_, _i.e._ the first man in the State: by the name Augustus,
which suggested to a Roman ear something in the nature of religious
sanctity: by the honorary title _pater patriæ_ (father of his country),
and in other ways. The real power in his hands had its basis and
guarantee in the army, of which his _imperium_ made him (as we should
say) commander-in-chief; but the army was on the frontiers doing duty
for the Empire, all but invisible to the Roman and Italian. Thus his
_imperium_, though it might be legally used in Italy, was primarily a
military power indispensable for the guardian of the frontiers. To the
Italians it might well seem that the Free State was still maintained,
and that no new permanent power had been established; though Greeks and
foreigners might be, and indeed were, more discerning as to what had
really happened.

But when Augustus died, in A.D. 14, how was a succession to be effected?
Or was there to be a succession at all—would it not be better to let the
State pass back again into the hands of the Senate and people? This last
was the only logical way, and it was the plan actually adopted in form.
A position like that of Augustus could not pass to a successor, unless
the State in its old constitutional form chose to appoint such a
successor with the same authority as that of Augustus. To this, however,
we must add (and it well shows the real change that had been effected by
the long revolution) that no choice of Senate and people could hold good
unless the consent of the army could be had.

Of course, Augustus had considered all this, and had made his own plans.
He would choose a member of his own family, one, that is, who inherited
the name and fame of Cæsar by blood or adoption, would adopt him as a
son (for he had no son of his own), make him his heir, associate him as
far as possible in his own dignity and authority, and thus mark him out
as the natural heir to the principate. This would make it difficult for
Senate or army to refuse him; beyond that Augustus knew that he could
not go. He was unlucky in losing one after another the youths whom he
thus destined to succeed him, and eventually had to fall back on his
stepson Tiberius: a great soldier, as we have seen, and a man of
integrity and ability, but of reserved and even morose temper, and one
with whom the shrewd and genial Augustus had little in common.

When Augustus died there was an anxious moment. There was no reason why
the principate should be confined to the family of the Cæsars, nor any
reason but expediency for having a _princeps_ at all. But, after all,
the will of the dead ruler prevailed, and Tiberius slipped into his
place without opposition; the Senate accepted him as plainly marked out
by Augustus, and the army raised no difficulty, though his nephew
Germanicus Cæsar was young, popular, and in actual command of the army
on the Rhine. Some mocking voices were heard, and throughout his
principate of twenty-three years Tiberius had to endure continual
annoyance from the old republican families, but there was no real
attempt to quarrel with the principate as an institution of the Roman

I have dwelt on this point at some length in order to show what a
singular creation this principate of Augustus was. To proclaim monarchy
outright would probably have been fatal; to take the whole work on
himself would be to leave the old governing families idle and
discontented; on the other hand, to do the necessary work as a yearly
elected magistrate, according to the old practice, was plainly
impossible. Election by the people of the Roman city would have little
force in the eyes of the Empire, and it was this Empire as a whole that
Augustus wished to represent. The course he took shows him a shrewd,
observant, tactical diplomatist, if ever there was one. He is not a man
on whose character we dwell with sympathy or enthusiasm; he does not
kindle our admiration like C. Gracchus or Cæsar; but he was essentially
the man for the hour.

To him we owe in large measure the glories of “the Augustan age,” with
its poets, historians, and artists; it was the “Augustan peace,” and the
encouragement and patronage of Augustus, that enable Horace to write his
perfect lyrics and his good-natured comments on human life, Ovid to pour
forth his abundant stream of beautiful versification, Tibullus and
Propertius to sing of the Italian country and its deities and festivals,
and Livy, the greatest of Roman historians, to do in noble prose what
Virgil had done in noble verse—to inspire Romans and Italians with
enthusiasm for the great deeds of their ancestors. But the world owes
Augustus a still greater debt than this; for he laid securely the
foundations of an imperial system strong enough to save for us, through
centuries of danger, the priceless treasures of Græco-Roman

                               CHAPTER IX
                        LIFE IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE

Now that we have seen the Empire made comparatively secure by Augustus,
and set in the way of development on what seem to be rational
principles, let us pause and try to gain some idea of the social life
going on within it: excluding that of the city of Rome, which is no
longer of the old paramount importance. How did the inhabitants of the
Empire live and occupy themselves during the first two centuries of our

The first point to make quite sure of is that this life was in the main
a life in towns. Roman policy had always favoured the maintenance of
existing towns, except in the very rare cases where they were deemed too
dangerous. Carthage and Corinth had been destroyed by Rome on this
pretext, but they had been founded afresh by Julius Cæsar, and were now
beginning a long and vigorous city life. In the East, where city-states
abounded, Rome retained and adorned them, or built new ones, as Pompey
did after crushing Mithradates and Tigranes. In the West, in Gaul and
Spain, where they did not exist at all, she founded some, and by a
wonderfully wise policy favoured the natural growth of others. The
people of these western provinces lived chiefly in some kind of
villages, scattered over a district which we may call a canton, often,
perhaps, as big as an English county of to-day. The Roman policy was
either to found a city to serve as the centre of the canton, and to
endow it with magistrates and senate on the Roman model: or to give the
canton its senate and magistrates, and leave it to develop its own

This policy shows extremely well the genius of Rome for civilising, or
Romanising, without destroying the grouping and the habits of the people
to be civilised, or Romanised. The old tribal (or cantonal) system
remained, and its officers were the chiefs of the old population; but
they now bore Roman names, _duoviri_, _quæstores_, and so on, and sat in
an assembly called _ordo_—i.e. senate. If a town were not founded at
once, in which the business of the canton could be carried on, it was
certain to grow of itself. A purely rural region, where the people live
in villages only, was contrary to Roman interests and traditions; it was
inconvenient for raising taxes, and it did not give those opportunities
of culture and amusement which the Roman looked for when he travelled or
settled in a province. The provincials, too, were in this way made more
happy and contented; town life greatly helped in civilising them,
attracting the better or richer people from the villages.

To help us in realising this urban character of Roman provincial life,
we may compare it with that of our fellow-subjects in India at the
present day. India is in the main a rural country, and by far the great
majority of its inhabitants live on the land and support themselves by
agriculture. Only about 30,000,000 live in towns, as against 235,000,000
in the rural districts, and the few great cities are rather industrial
and commercial centres than homes of culture and amusement. The economic
unit of India is the village, and this simple fact is enough to explain
why India never has been Anglicised. Instinctively the Romans perceived
that if a province were to be Romanised, the process could not be set
going in villages; and where there were only villages, they gave the
districts the opportunity of developing towns in their midst. The
opportunity, we may reasonably suppose, was rarely missed, for at all
times in their history the Romans had a wonderful power of making their
subjects eager to imitate their own institutions. Thus Spain, Gaul, and
even Britain, became rich in towns after the Roman model—towns which
served to humanise the people, while making them obedient subjects.

Let us now see, with the help of a few striking examples, how, by the
second century of our era, the Empire was covered with towns. For Italy
and Greece we do not need illustrations—we are already well aware of the
fact. But even far away in the East, in regions where the Greeks had
never settled, if the Romans came to stay they left cities behind them.
Look, for example, at a map of Syria or Palestine, and note the great
caravan route leading from Damascus southwards on the east side of the
Jordan, a road important to Rome because it carried the merchandise of
the Far East to Damascus and the Mediterranean by way of the Persian
Gulf and Petra. Before the traveller of to-day has gone far south from
Damascus he will come on the splendid ruins of two successive cities
built by the Romans in this period, Gerasa and Philadelphia, where the
sheep now graze among the ruins of temples, theatres, and baths. A
famous English traveller[15] wrote of them long ago that they enabled
him to form some conception of the grandeur and might of the Roman
Empire: “That cities so far removed from the capital, and built almost
in the desert, should have been adorned with so many splendid monuments,
afforded one of the most striking proofs of the marvellous energy and
splendid enterprise of that great people who had subjected the world.”

The mention of Damascus may remind us of a traveller of the first
century A.D. whose journeys are fortunately recorded and admirably
illustrate the fact that in Asia Minor and Greece the life of the people
was centred in the great cities. St. Paul went from city to city,
choosing by preference for his missionary work the most populous ones,
such as Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Corinth and Athens.

Passing westwards, and leaving out of account the many cities of Egypt,
we shall find that what has been so far said holds good of the Roman
province of Africa. This province eventually became one of the most
highly cultured as well as populous, mainly owing to its numerous towns.
Of many of these the remains still astonish the traveller. A photograph
lies before me of one of them which still stands almost in the desert,
silent and abandoned, with temples, streets, and all the belongings of a
great city as perfect as at the excavated Pompeii, which was overwhelmed
in this period by the great eruption of Vesuvius. An inscription tells
us that Thamugadi was founded in the year A.D. 100, and built with the
help of a legion of Roman soldiers to guard civilisation against the
marauders of the desert. Another of these towns is a good example of the
way in which the army contributed to the policy of creating
town-centres; Lambæsis, now called Djebel-Aures, was the permanent
station of a military force, round which there grew up a civil
population of traders and camp-followers. Great roads, here as
everywhere in the Empire, connected these towns with each other and with
the capital of the province, in this case Carthage.

If we cross the sea from Africa to Gaul or Spain we shall find the same
process going on. Spain we must pass by; but in Gaul we land at the
ancient Greek city of Massilia, which, as Marseilles, is still the great
port of southern France. A little to the north, Nismes (Nemausus) was
formed into a city by Augustus out of a rural population; its vast Roman
amphitheatre and an exquisitely beautiful temple belong to the second
century, and still stand in the middle of the modern city. Lyons was
also founded by Augustus, as we saw in the last chapter, with a special
purpose. Farther north the cities on the great roads were gradually
formed, out of tribal populations living in villages, and many of them
still bear the names of those tribes: Paris is the town-centre of the
Parisii, Rheims of the Remisii, Soissons of the Suessiones, Trier of the
Treveri. This last city, on the Moselle, now a German one, can boast of
more imposing Roman work than any north of Italy, and is within
comparatively easy reach of visitors from our shores.

Britain, which was invaded and made a province in the reign of Claudius,
was never so fully Romanised as other provinces, partly owing to the
wild and stubborn nature of its inhabitants; but even in our midst the
Roman has left obvious traces of his belief in town life. London was a
trading centre before the coming of the Romans, and they maintained it
as such; but nearly all their other towns had a more directly military
origin and object. The oldest of them is Colchester, a military colony,
which still has its Roman walls. Then came St. Albans (Verulamium),
Gloucester, Chester, Lincoln and York, strategical points of importance,
where populous cities still stand. In a few cases towns have
disappeared, and have only been recovered by excavation, _e.g._ Calleva
(Silchester, near Basingstoke), the town-centre of the Atrebates; but
many of our country towns, besides those just mentioned, still stand on
ancient Roman sites, and even without much excavation have yielded
traces of their Roman inhabitants. One, and one only, Dorchester, still
boasts of a complete little amphitheatre, which stands just outside the
town between the Great Western and South Western railways, and has been
used by Mr. Thomas Hardy for a scene in one of his novels. All our towns
and villages of which the names contain the word _chester_ or _cester_
are Roman in origin, though they may not have been large cities like
Gloucester (Glevum); for _chester_ is only our English form of _castra_,
the Latin for a military encampment.

If it is now quite clear that the town is the unit of civilisation in
the Empire, what was the social and political life of the town? Of this
we know now much more than we used to do, for it is mirrored in the many
thousands of inscriptions from every Roman province, which have now at
last been collected and correctly published under the direction of the
famous Theodor Mommsen, whose name cannot be omitted entirely, even in
such an unpretending book about Rome as this. In records on stone there
is, indeed, something lacking that can only be supplied by literature,
which reports more elaborately and earnestly the thoughts and feelings
of men; and in the Empire, apart from Italy and Rome, there is but
little literature to help us out. But the inscriptions supply us with
the necessary facts.

First, of the political condition of these innumerable towns we may say
that it shows diversity in unity. There were several grades of privilege
among them. Some were nominally independent of the Roman government, and
in alliance with it, but these were few; Athens is the most famous
example. Others were communities of Roman citizens; and many had the
Latin right, _i.e._ inferior privilege. Lastly, there were great numbers
of cities—a majority of the whole number—whose inhabitants were not
Roman citizens at all, but directly under the control of the governor of
their province, who was limited in his authority over the more
privileged and independent towns. So much for diversity.

But all the cities were in reality governed and organised in much the
same way. In each there was a constitution closely resembling that of
Rome, and in most instances modelled directly upon it. As at Rome, they
had yearly elected magistrates, who, after holding office, passed into a
senate of advisers and councillors; and these magistrates were elected
by the _populus_, or the whole body of citizens. Here was plenty of
useful work to do, as we can guess from our own experience of local
self-government. Plutarch, writing in this period of his own little town
of Chæronea in Greece, realises this to the full, and urges that the
work of the magistrate is honourable work, and the more so as it is
combined with the sense of citizenship in a great empire.

There was, however, a tendency in these provincial towns, as in the city
of Rome itself, for the magistrate, who must be a man of substance, to
undertake the expense of amusing the people; a tendency to make the
people dependent on the rich for their comforts rather than on their own
industry and exertion. The magistrate, besides paying a large fee on his
accession to office, was expected to give public games, to feast the
people, or to give them a present of money all round. And he would wish,
too, to distinguish his magistracy by erecting some public buildings—a
bath, aqueduct, or theatre; or to endow a school. So it came to pass in
course of time that his burdens were heavier than he could bear, and
that the whole class to which he belonged, the senatorial one, was
involved in the same difficulties. This class could not be recruited
from the common people, who rarely had the means, or, indeed, the
energy, to rise to affluence; and the tendency as time went on was to
draw the line ever more sharply between the dignity of the various
classes. But the ruin of the senatorial class, or _curiales_, lies
outside our limits.

The lower class was engaged in industry, either on the land, or in the
town itself. This industry was not to any large extent employed by
capital, nor was it in competition with slave-labour, of which in
provincial towns we do not hear much. The members of the various trades
and callings worked on their own account, but were almost invariably
grouped together in gilds or associations, and these are one of the most
interesting features in the life of this period. Each of these gilds was
licensed, or should have been licensed, by the central government at
Rome—a good example of the way in which the long arm of that government
reached to every provincial town through the agency of the provincial
governor and his officials. Illegal association was a serious crime, and
this was one of the reasons why the small Christian communities were
looked on with suspicion by the government.

What was the object of these associations? The question has often been
asked whether they were in any sense provident societies like our
friendly societies, and, on the whole, the conclusion of investigators
has been that they were not. If we had more literature dealing with
provincial life, or such a correspondence as that of Cicero and his
friends, we could give a more certain answer.

But in one sense at least they may be called provident societies. All,
or nearly all, of them had as one main object the assurance of a proper
tomb and decent funeral for the members. This object can only be fully
appreciated after some real study of the social life and religion of
that and the preceding age, but when it is understood it is
inexpressibly touching. It would seem that the life of the working man
of that day was by no means an unhappy one, that he was not driven or
enslaved by an employer nor forced to live in grimy and unwholesome
surroundings. So far as we can tell he had little anxiety in this life,
and worshipped his gods, and performed his vows to them, with genuine
gratitude. But that he should be utterly neglected and forgotten after
death, thrown into some common grave to moulder away unnoticed, “where
no hand would bring the annual offering of wine and flowers”—this seems
to have been the shadow ever hanging over his life. We may doubt whether
the hope of immortality had, as a rule, anything to do with this
anxiety. It was rather an inherited instinct than a faith or creed that
moved these poor people. Originally it had been the desire not to have
to wander as a ghost for want of due burial; now it is rather the fear
that they might be forgotten by those left behind, or, indeed, by future

The instinct of association is common to man, and in a vast empire,
where the tendency was, and long had been, to obliterate the old social
grouping of kinship, real or supposed, it would be some consolation to
belong to a club of friends with common interests, accustomed to share
the joys and perils of life, and bent on decent burial when death should
overtake them. Even in this life they would meet from time to time to
eat, drink and enjoy themselves.

On the whole, we may conclude that this life of the towns was a happy
one, so long as the frontiers were well guarded and no sudden raid or
invasion by an enemy was likely; so long, too, as person and property
were securely protected under Roman law administered without corruption,
and amusements and conveniences were to be had for little or nothing.
But undoubtedly something was wanting; there was mischief in the social
system somewhere, though it was not easy to lay finger upon it. The sap
was running in the plant too feebly; there was a lack of keen industrial
energy and of the instinct of self-help. As time went on, the central
government grew too paternal, interfered too much in the life of these
towns, and so encouraged the tendency to “slackness.” And more and more,
as pressure came on the Empire from without, the play of life in these
once happy cities became an automatic movement of machinery, the central
wheel of which was the Cæsar at Rome.

Another aspect of the life of the provincial towns must be mentioned
here, which suggests that the trend of the time was not entirely
healthy. I said at the beginning of this book that the great monuments
left behind her by Rome were mainly of a useful and practical kind,
_e.g._ roads, aqueducts, places of business. This is true, but it is now
necessary to add that some of the most imposing of these fabrics were,
in the period we have now reached, entirely devoted to amusement, and
amusement of a kind neither educating nor humane. The taste had long
been growing at Rome for spectacles of bloodshed—combats of gladiators,
and the hunting of wild beasts in a confined space; and from Rome this
degraded taste passed only too rapidly into the provinces. Most large
provincial towns had their amphitheatre, in imitation of the huge one at
Rome, which we know as the Coliseum; and the more fully Romanised a
province was, the more of these homes of inhumanity were to be found in
it. The most magnificent one still standing outside Italy, that at
Nismes, dates, strange to say, from the mild and enlightened age of the
Antonines, to which we are coming in the next chapter. The Greeks,
indeed, never took much interest in such shows; but in the western
provinces, where the best and most virile populations of the Empire were
now to be found, their effect was beyond doubt pernicious, for they
encouraged not only inhumanity, but idleness. Day after day the greater
part of the population of a city might sit and watch lazily these bloody
entertainments, on which, perhaps, some wealthy citizen was wasting his
capital to his own ruin.

As may, perhaps, be said of ourselves in this present age, the Romans of
the Empire were being encouraged to live too much in the enjoyment of
the present, without anxiety for the future. So, too, the cultured
classes gradually came to look back at the past, to the great
achievements of Rome in war and literature, as all in all to them, and
lost the desire to strike out new lines, to make new discoveries, to try
new experiments. “Over all, to our eyes, there broods the shadow which
haunts the life that is nourished only by memories, and to which the
future sends no call and offers no promise.”[16]

                               CHAPTER X

The chief work of Rome in the world, as has often been said in this
little book, was the defence of Mediterranean civilisation against
external enemies. That work was of a double nature. It could not be done
simply by marking out and holding lines of frontier; it was also
necessary so to organise the Empire within its frontiers that the whole
should contribute to the common object, with men, money and public
spirit. The last two chapters will have shown that from the time of
Julius and Augustus Roman rulers fully recognised this twofold nature of
their task. Augustus in particular, while gradually settling the
frontiers on a system well thought out, and adapted to his means and
experience, also spent much time and pains on internal organisation. He
found the Empire a loose collection of subject territories, each
governed, well or ill as it might happen, by an officer almost
independent of the central authority; he left it, at the end of his long
life, in the way of becoming a well-compacted whole, in which every part
felt more or less the force of a just central government; a civilised
State “standing out in clear relief against the surrounding barbarism.”

In such an empire there must, of course, be differences of race and
language—differences, too, of habits, feelings, modes of thought; but
under just and wise rule such differences need be no hindrance to the
political unity of the whole. There is a book of this period, within the
reach of every one, which illustrates better than any other this unity
in diversity of the Roman Empire—I mean the Acts of the Apostles. It
should be studied carefully, with maps and such other helps as may be
available, down to the last chapter, where it leaves St. Paul at Rome,
living in his own hired house, in the centre of Mediterranean life and

Under the immediate successors of Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius and Nero,
his policy was, on the whole, maintained with good faith and discretion;
and at the close of the first century A.D. Vespasian and his two sons,
Titus and Domitian, did little more than improve the working of the
machinery of his government. More and more, it is true, the constitution
became a real monarchy; the part played in it by the Senate of the free
State was getting steadily narrowed; but this was all in the interest of
efficiency, and, so far as we can see, it was necessary to the internal
development of the Empire. The Cæsars of the first century must have the
credit of ruling wisely, with the help of their advisers, on the
Augustan principles. True, the great literary genius of the age, the
historian Tacitus, by drawing brilliant and lurid portraits of some of
them, has diverted our attention from their work as agents of a great
system; but to tell their story as Tacitus has told it is neither
possible nor necessary here. I may pass them over and go on to the
second century and the age of the Antonines, which has rightly been
judged by historians to be the most brilliant and the happiest in all
Roman history.

That four men of what seems to us “right judgment in all things” should
succeed each other in power at this critical time, is one more example
of the wonderful good fortune of Rome. All were men of capacity and
education, hard workers and conscientious, and they seem to have
communicated their good qualities to their subordinates, for they never
wanted for loyal helpers. The Senate, indeed, was now of little avail
for actual work, and the greater part of the business had long been done
by Cæsar[17] and his own “servants,” freedmen for the most part, often
ambitious and unscrupulous Greeks; but in this period, as we shall see
directly, the civil service, as we may call it, was placed on a sound
and honourable basis. It would seem as if the ideas of duty and
discipline were once more to prevail throughout the Roman official

The first of the four rulers, Ulpius Trajanus, known to us all as
Trajan, was not of Roman or even Italian birth, but came from the
province of further Spain: a fact which marks the growth of the idea
that every part of the Empire may now be turned to account for the
common good. Trajan was a soldier by breeding and disposition, and his
contribution to the work of this period was mainly a military one. The
frontier along the Danube, the last (as we have seen) to be settled, had
always been the weakest; and yet here henceforward was to be the most
dangerous point in the Empire’s line of defence. Along the whole length
of the lower Danube a great mass of barbarian tribes was already
pressing, pressed themselves from behind by others to north and east.
And here, to the north of the river, a great kingdom had been founded by
a king of the Dacian people, which corresponds roughly with the modern
Roumania. A glance at a map of the Empire will show that such a kingdom
would be a standing menace to Italy, to Greece, and even to the
peninsula of Asia Minor, and from the Roman point of view Trajan was
quite justified in his determination to conquer and annex it. He carried
out this policy in two successive wars, with consummate daring and
skill. Dacia became a Roman province, and lasted as such long enough
(about 200 years) to be an effectual help to imperial defence in this
quarter. The story of the two wars is told in the marvellous series of
sculptures forming a spiral round the column of Trajan, which stood and
still stands at Rome in the forum built by him and called by his name.

Towards the end of his life Trajan embarked on a new policy in the East,
and failed to carry it out. The shrewd Augustus, as we saw, had trusted
here to his prestige, knowing that war in this region was both perilous
and expensive. Since then both peril and expense had been incurred here
under Nero, and no definite results had been gained. Trajan, however,
provoked by a move of the Parthian king, made up his mind to seize
Armenia, the old bone of contention between Rome and Parthia, and not
only did this, but added by conquest two other provinces, Mesopotamia
and Assyria. Some historians have thought his judgment as good here as
it was on the Danube. The best way of deciding the question is to look
carefully at a map of the Empire and then to ask oneself whether these
territories were really needed for the protection of Mediterranean
civilisation. For myself I unhesitatingly answer in the negative; but
there is no need to dispute the point here, as Trajan died before he had
made his conquests secure. The Jews dispersed all over these regions,
urged by their implacable hatred of Rome, stirred up rebellion in
Trajan’s rear with alarming ferocity, and in the middle of this turmoil
he died on his way back to Rome. His successor Hadrian at once renounced
any attempt to keep the new provinces.

It would be unjust to the memory of a great man if we were to think of
Trajan as a soldier only. He was a strenuous man, unsparing of himself
in any part of his duty. He pursued a policy of public benefit in Italy,
striving, like Augustus, to encourage agriculture and population, and
carrying out a plan of his predecessor Nerva for providing a fund for
the education of poor children. This last institution became an
important one, and shows well how really benevolent—perhaps even to
excess—how anxious for the well-being of Italy, were the Cæsars of the
second century. Money was lent by the State to the Italian farmers in
need of it, and the interest, at five per cent., was appropriated to the
education of boys up to eighteen and girls up to fourteen years of age.

Trajan bestowed the same minute care on the provinces. In most of these
there was no trouble, but in one case, Bithynia, which had been under
Senatorial governors, he had to send out a special commissioner to
repair neglect and mischief. Luckily for us it happened that this
commissioner was Pliny the younger, nephew of the great encyclopædist of
the same name; and Pliny was so prominent a figure of the time that his
correspondence has been preserved. That part of it which contains his
letters to Trajan, and Trajan’s brief and pithy answers, is one of the
most precious treasures that have survived from ancient literature.
Pliny consults him on a variety of details, some of them almost
ludicrously petty, some of them of general importance, such as a famous
one about his policy towards the Christians; and the answers show us
Trajan as a shrewd and sensible man, fully aware that in such a unity as
the Roman Empire there must needs be diversity, and that governors must
learn to adapt themselves to such diversity without losing hold of the
principles of justice and equity. Before we leave this subject it may be
as well to mention that this constant interchange of letters between
persons more than a thousand miles apart need astonish no one. In the
interest of imperialism the public posts had been thoroughly organised
by Augustus; the roads were excellent, the shipping well seen to, and
travelling was at least as easy and rapid as it was in England less than
a century ago.

Trajan’s strong and rather rugged features, familiar to all students of
the Empire, are in striking contrast to those of his three successors.
He was clean shaven, but his next successor, Hadrian, introduced the
practice of wearing his beard, and this was adhered to. All the imperial
portraits of this age, as preserved on coins and sculptures, are
perfectly authentic, and the likenesses are consistent. In the British
Museum the reader may see the features of these great Cæsars as
faithfully reproduced as those of British statesmen in the National
Portrait Gallery.

Trajan was succeeded by his cousin Hadrian, beyond doubt one of the most
capable and efficient men who ever wielded great power. No one can study
his reign without feeling that it was better in this age, if an
efficient man could be found, that his hand alone should be on the helm.
Probably Hadrian was only one of many who might have done as well as he
did, for there was now a spirit abroad of intelligent industry directed
to the good of the State; yet it is almost certain that the Empire was
the better for not having the sovereignty put into commission. It has
been well said of Hadrian that he desired “to see himself all that was
to be seen, to know all that was to be known, to do all that was to be
done”; and subsequent events proved that this intelligent industry could
hardly have been carried all through the imperial work with equal
effect, had it been shared with others.

Hadrian accomplished his work by two long periods of travel, each
lasting some four years. Without any pomp or state he made himself
acquainted with all parts of the Empire and their needs, as no ruler had
done since Augustus and Agrippa shared such a task between them. The
more immediate object was to inspect the frontiers and secure them, and
as Hadrian was a trained soldier, with much experience under Trajan,
this was to him familiar work. But he was so full of curiosity, so
anxious to see all that the Empire had to show him, that while he
practised his indefatigable industry he could also gratify his
intelligence. In this he was more like Julius Cæsar than any other Roman
we know of, though in most traits of character he was very different
from that great man. It is not possible here to describe Hadrian’s
frontier work in detail, but a specimen of it shall be given which
should be interesting to British readers.

Britain had been invaded by Claudius in the previous century, and the
southern part of the island had been made into a Roman province. Since
then the frontier had been pushed farther north, and the frontier
strongholds were no longer Colchester and Gloucester, but Lincoln,
Chester and York. Hadrian spent several months here in the course of his
first journey, and his visit had a remarkable result which we can see
with our eyes at this moment. He must have noted two facts: first, the
unsettled and rebellious condition of the natives of Yorkshire and
Northumberland (Brigantes): and secondly, the narrow waist of the island
between the Solway Firth and the mouth of the Tyne. He must have
reasoned that if Roman forces could be permanently established on a
fortified line between the two seas, this line would serve as a check on
the Brigantes, and also as a base of operations for further advance

Thus it is that “Hadrian’s wall” remains as the most striking of all
Roman works in our island. It is about seventy miles long, and consisted
eventually (for we cannot be sure that it was completed by Hadrian) of a
stone wall on the northern side, twenty feet high, an earthen rampart on
the southern side, and a military road between them. At intervals there
were fortified stations, seventeen in all, including the two which
connected the lines with the sea; of these two the eastern one, near
Newcastle, now famous for its collieries, is still known as _Wallsend_.
The wall enabled the Romans to advance northwards, and soon another
fortification was built on a smaller scale between the Forth and Clyde,
about which a large volume has just been published by Dr. G. Macdonald,
of Edinburgh. The conquest of the Highlands was never, indeed, carried
out; but Hadrian’s great work had an immense moral effect on the
population to the south of it, and Britain became very substantially
Romanised. Towns and country houses (_villæ_) sprang up in abundance
along or near the military roads. As I write these lines in North
Oxfordshire, I have the remains of several of these _villæ_ within easy
reach, and can visit, each in a day, at least four considerable Roman
towns, viz. Cirencester, Gloucester, Silchester (Calleva), and last, but
not least, Bath (Aquæ Sulis), where the Romans found and used, as they
always did in such spots, the magnificent hot springs, building noble
baths about them which may be seen to this day.

Hadrian’s care for the good working of the civil government was as great
as his zeal for frontier defence. Two forward steps were taken by him in
this department, both of which helped on that consolidation of the
Empire which was his constant aim.

First, he organised and dignified the Civil Service, on which the actual
good working of the whole system depended. Cæsar’s share in this work
had steadily been increasing while that of the Senate diminished; yet
Cæsar had so far done his part, as we saw just now, with the help only
of his own personal “servants,” who were mostly freedmen, _i.e._ slaves
by origin, and many of them Greeks. Hadrian now established a public
imperial civil service, of which the members must be Roman knights,
_i.e._ men of a certain consequence in regard to birth and property.
These new civil servants were excused all military service, and could
thus be trained to the work without interruption, during their earlier

Secondly, we may date from Hadrian’s reign the beginning of the
consolidation of Roman law, and the rise of a school of great lawyers
such as the world has never known since. Apart from the defence of
Mediterranean civilisation, to which, indeed, its indirect contribution
was not small, this was the most valuable legacy of Rome to modern
Europe. Law had originally consisted mainly of the old legal rules of
the city-state of Rome, embodied in the Twelve tables, and a few
statutes; but, in course of time, through the need of interpreting
these, and adjusting them to the customs of other peoples in the Empire,
an immense body of what we may call _judge-made law_ had arisen in the
form of edicts or public notices of magistrates, issued both in Italy
and the provinces. As these customs were now well known, and as the
Empire had reached its limits, it was possible to close and consolidate
this huge body of official decisions and precedents; and this was done
under Hadrian’s direction. The other two sources of law were still to
grow largely before they could be welded into the great “Body of Law”
(_Corpus Juris_) compiled under the orders of Justinian in the sixth
century, which is still the chief European textbook of legal studies.
These two sources were the delivered opinions of wise lawyers on points
of law, and the decisions of the Cæsars in various forms, all of which
had the force of law.

The death of Hadrian in A.D. 138 brings us to the third of the great
Cæsars of this age, Titus Antoninus, a man who, at fifty-two, had
already done excellent work for the Empire. He is known to history as
Antoninus Pius, and this last name, given him apparently on his
accession, may be a reminiscence of Virgil’s epithet for his hero, and
may be due to the strong sense of duty which marked his whole life,
public and private. He seems, indeed, vividly to recall the ideal of the
Roman character as we traced it in the third chapter of this book; yet
he was not Italian by birth. His family belonged to Nismes in southern
Gaul, and that ancient city still honours him with a “Place Antonin,” in
which his statue stands. His features, as they appear on portrait busts,
entirely confirm the account of him left us by his nephew and successor.
Grave and wise, gentle yet firm, religious in the true old Roman sense,
pure in life, and simple in all his needs and pleasures, he ruled over a
peaceful and contented empire, devoting himself to the work of
humanising and softening the life and lot of his subjects.

Let us glance, for example, at his attitude towards slavery, which, when
we last noticed it, was threatening to become a deadly poison in the
Roman system. During the first century of the Empire, chiefly under the
influence of the Stoic philosophy, as later on under that of
Christianity, there had been growing up a feeling that a slave was,
after all, a human being, and had some claim to be treated as such under
the Roman law, beneficent in its dealings with all other human beings.
Antoninus followed out this new idea both in legislation and in his
private life, as did his successor also, who adored his memory. They
limited the right of a master over his slaves in several ways; ordaining
that if cruelty were proved against a master, he should be compelled to
sell the slave he had ill-treated. It is noteworthy, too, that the
philosopher in whom they most delighted, Epictetus, had himself
originally been a slave. There is no better way of realising the spirit
of humanity which actuated Antoninus and his successor than by making
some acquaintance with the moral philosophy of Epictetus, and the
_Meditations_ of Marcus Aurelius. The _Golden Sayings of Epictetus_, in
the Golden Treasury Series,[18] and Dr. Rendall’s translation of the
_Meditations_, will be of use to those who do not read Greek.

Hadrian had left the Empire well guarded, and it does not seem to have
occurred to Antoninus to see for himself that Hadrian’s vigilance was
maintained. This was the one weak point of his reign, and it cost his
successors dear. He only once left Italy, and his mind was never
occupied with wars or rumours of wars; he lived tranquilly, and died
peacefully, without trouble or anxiety. But we know that even before his
death clouds were beginning to gather on the northern frontier; and we
cannot but feel that the beautiful tranquillity of Antoninus’s life was
hardly compatible with the duty of an imperial guardian.

Marcus Aurelius, the author of the _Meditations_, succeeded his uncle
and adoptive father in A.D. 161. Though not the greatest of the four as
a ruler, he was the most remarkable as a man, and holds a higher place
than the others in the world’s esteem. We may find parallels in history
to Trajan, less easily, perhaps, to Hadrian and Antoninus; but there is
no monarch like Marcus, not even in the history of the Jews. It is,
indeed, astonishing that Rome, Rome of the hard practical temperament,
should have produced a ruler who was a philosopher and almost a saint,
and yet capable of government. It is the last striking manifestation of
the old Roman spirit of duty and discipline, now kindled into a real
ethical emotion by the teaching of the Stoics, far the most inspiring
creed then available for a man of action. Without any aid from
Christianity, which, indeed, he could not understand and occasionally
persecuted, Marcus learnt not only how to make his own life pure, but
how to live and work for the world of his day.

But saintliness on the throne, as in the case of St. Louis of France,
has its drawbacks in practical work. It is, perhaps, true that the mind
of Marcus was more active, and found greater satisfaction, in
questioning itself than in anxious inquiry into the state of the Empire.
He was not one of those of whom our poet says that they do Duty’s work
_and know it not_; and as a consequence his days were not serene and
bright. He had a tendency to be morbid, and, like all morbid men, he was
serious even to sadness. It has been well said of him that he is always
insisting on his faith in a universe in which, nevertheless, he can find
nothing but disappointment.

His sensitiveness about his duty sometimes warped his judgment and
blunted his discernment of character. At the outset he made a bad
blunder in dividing the imperial power with his brother by adoption,
Lucius Verus, who had little principle and much leaning to pleasure. To
him he committed the charge of a war with Parthia which became
inevitable, and though the Roman arms were successful, this was not due
to the skill or energy of either Marcus or Verus. Had a strong
scientific mind been in command, it might have been possible to avert or
mitigate a calamity which now fell on the Mediterranean world, and had a
share, perhaps a large one, in the decay and fall of the Empire. The
legions brought back with them from the East one of the most terrible
plagues known to history, which can only be compared for its effects
with the Black Death in the fourteenth century.

Not only in the East, but nearer home, Marcus had to meet formidable
foes who broke through the frontiers with which Hadrian had taken such
pains. Pushed forward by pressure from the rear, German tribes
unwillingly made their way into Roman territory, overran the new
province of Dacia, crossed the Danube, and even passed over the Alps
into Italy. Marcus’s difficulties were great, but he met them with
patience and courage. The pestilence had so greatly thinned the
population that both men and money were wanting for the war, and the
struggle to drive back the unwilling invaders was prolonged for thirteen
years. It was still going on when Marcus died of fever in camp at
Vienna. As he closed his eyes in his tent he must have felt that he had
spent himself in vain, and that evil days were in store for the Empire.
He left a worthless son, Commodus, who failed to understand the danger,
and let things go.

We need not follow the Empire in its downward course. We have seen what
the work of Rome in the world was to be, and how at last she
accomplished it in spite of constant peril and frequent disaster. From
Marcus Aurelius onwards the strain of self-defence was too great to
allow of progress in any social or political sense. The monarchy became
more absolute, the machinery of government more complicated; the masses
were over-taxed, and the middle classes ruined. Depopulation again set
in, and attempts to remedy it by settling barbarian invaders within the
frontiers had some bad results. In less than a century from the death of
Marcus the Empire had been divided into two halves of east and west,
with a new capital for the eastern half at Byzantium (Constantinople).
This, like all the changes of the later Empire, was meant strictly for
the purpose of resisting the invaders; but, none the less, they broke at
last through all barriers.

Yet this did not happen before the name and fame of Rome had made such
deep impression on their minds that they sought to deserve the
inheritance which had thus fallen to them; despising, indeed, the
degenerate provincials who struck no blow in their own defence, but full
of respect for the majestic power which had for so many centuries
confronted and instructed them.[19] They never swept away the
civilisation of the Mediterranean; from Julius onwards the Roman rulers
had done so much to defend it, had raised its prestige so high, had so
thoroughly organised its internal life, that uncivilised peoples neither
could nor would destroy it.

We still enjoy its best fruits—the art, science and literature of
Hellas, the genius of Rome for law—for “the just interference of the
State in the interests and passions of humanity.”[20] We may be apt at
the present day, when science has opened out for us so many new paths of
knowledge, and inspired us with such enthusiasm in pursuing them, to
forget the value of the inheritance which Rome preserved for us. But
this is merely a passing phase of feeling; it is really quite
inconsistent with the character of an age which recognises the doctrine
of evolution as its great discovery. It is natural to civilised man to
go back upon his past, and to be grateful for all profit he can gain
from the study of his own development. So we may be certain that the
claim of Greece and Rome to our eternal gratitude will never cease to be
asserted, and their right to teach us still what we could have learnt
nowhere else, will never be successfully disputed.

  _November, 1911._


The following books are suggested as among those most likely to be
useful to students who wish to pursue the subject further—

I. Large Histories. Mommsen: _History of Rome to the Death of Cæsar_,
with an additional volume entitled _The Provinces of the Roman Empire_;
the whole, in the English translation, is in seven volumes. Heitland:
_The Roman Republic_, in three volumes (a recent publication). Gibbon:
_The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_, edited by Prof. Bury.

II. Smaller histories in one volume. Pelham: _Outlines of Roman History_
(a masterly work). How and Leigh: _A History of Rome to the Death of
Cæsar_. Bury: _The Student’s Roman Empire_. There are many school
histories, but these are rather fuller and more interesting.

III. Books on special subjects of Roman life, etc. Greenidge: _Roman
Public Life_, in Macmillan’s Handbooks of Art and Archæology. Warde
Fowler: _Social Life at Rome in the Age of Cicero_. _Life of Cicero_, by
Strachan-Davidson, and _Life of Cæsar_, by Warde Fowler, both in
Putnam’s series of “Heroes of the Nations.” _Cæsar’s Conquest of Gaul_,
by T. Rice Holmes. Dill: _Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius_.

IV. Ancient authorities in translation. Plutarch’s _Roman Lives_ may be
read with advantage in any translation, _e.g._ that of Langhorne. The
most valuable lives are those of Cato the Elder, Æmilius Paullus, the
two Gracchi, Marius and Sulla, Pompey and Cæsar, Brutus and Antony.
There is a translation of the whole _Correspondence of Cicero with his
Friends_, by E. S. Shuckburgh, published by Bell & Sons.


    [1]The best known of these, and perhaps the most beautiful, is that
    of Coriolanus, which has descended from Plutarch to Shakespeare, and
    so become immortal.

    [2]The Latin words which expressed these two mutual rights,
    _commercium_ and _connubium_, are still in use in various forms in
    the languages of modern Europe.

    [3]The Latin word is _fauces_, i.e. jaws, etymologically the same
    word as the _hause_ of our Lakeland, which means a narrow pass.

    [4]Greenidge, _Roman Public Life_, p. 105.

    [5]With the exception of the southern Samnites, who joined Hannibal
    after Cannæ.

    [6]This was Fabius Maximus, who has given his name to the familiar
    phrase, “Fabian tactics.”

    [7]Seeley’s _Life of Stein_, II. 422.

    [8]Plutarch’s _Lives of Cato the Elder and Æmilius Paullus_, which
    can be read in a translation, will give examples of this better type
    of education.

    [9]In Plutarch’s _Life_ of him, especially chaps, v. and vi., where
    Plutarch is plainly reproducing the evidence of an eyewitness.

    [10]He came of an old Roman patrician family.

    [11]See below, p. 184.

    [12]_Georgics_ I, 463 foll.

    [13]See below, p. 206.

    [14]From Mr. James Rhoades’s version.

    [15]Sir A. H. Layard.

    [16]Dill, _Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire_,
    1st edn., p. 163.

    [17]This is the title by which the _princeps_ was usually known in
    the Empire; see _e.g._ Matt. xxii. 17 foll., or Acts xxv. 10 foll.

    [18]By Hastings Crossley: Macmillan & Co.

    [19]Bryce, _Holy Roman Empire_.

    [20]This is Mommsen’s definition of Law.


  Actium, battle of, 187
  Agrippa, M. Vipsanius, 201
  Alps, the, 98, 148, 171
  Antoninus Pius, 243 foll.
  Antony, Mark, 187
  Apennines, the, 20
  Armenia, 165, 234
  Army, the Roman, 70 foll., 130, 207, 217
  Augustus, 188, 192, 199 foll., 210
  Auspices, 67

  Brindisi, 49, 175
  Britain, 170, 219 foll., 239 foll.
  Byzantium, 249

  Cæsar, Julius, 11, 168 foll., 173 foll.
  Cæsar in Shakespeare, 179
  Campania, 20, 41, 102, 104
  Cannæ, battle of, 102
  Carthage, 38, 86 foll., 212
  Cato the Elder, 12 foll., 15, 18, 61, 63, 120, 126
  Cato the younger, 173
  Catullus, poet, 182
  Caudine Forks, 44
  Censors, 81 foll.
  Census under Empire, 202
  Cicero, M. Tullius, 183 foll.
  Citizenship, 132 foll., 152, 178
  Colonies, 40, 48, 101
  Commercium, 32, 39
  Consuls, 30, 45, 73 foll.
  Corfinium, 153

  Dictator, 75

  Education, 61, 120, 235
  Etruscans, 21 foll., 24 foll.

  Familia, 57 foll.
  Flaminius, C., 99 foll.
  Fregellæ, 49
  Frontiers, 166, 171, 200, 204 foll., 233 foll., 239

  Gauls, 35, 86, 96 foll., 99, 168 foll.
  Gilds under Empire, 223 foll.
  Gracchus, Gaius, 141 foll.
  Gracchus, Tiberius, 137 foll.

  Hadrian, Emperor, 237 foll.
  Hamilcar Barca, 93 foll.
  Hannibal, 94 foll., 113
  Hasdrubal, 106

  Imperium, 66 foll., 73 foll., 128, 207
  Inscriptions, 220

  Jupiter, 28 foll.

  Latins, 23, 31, 33 foll., 36, 38 foll., 134
  Law, Roman, 31, 78, 158, 242, 250
  Livy, historian, 38, 210
  Lucretius, poet, 10, 180
  Lucullus, L., 164
  Lugdunum (Lyons), 204

  Marcus Aurelius, 245 foll.
  Marius, 147, 149 foll.
  Massilia, 115
  Messana, 89
  Metaurus, battle of, 107
  Mithradates, 162 foll.

  Nismes, 218, 227, 243
  Nobilitas, 80

  Paterfamilias, 58 foll.
  Patricians and plebeians, 77
  Paul, St., 216, 230
  Pharsalia, battle of, 175
  Philip of Macedon, 101, 113 foll.
  Pliny the younger, 236
  Pompeius, Gn., 165 foll.
  Pontifices, 68
  Princeps, 197, 206
  Provinces, 118, 203, 213, 217 foll.
  Pyrrhus, 50 foll.

  Regulus, 92
  Respublica, 72, 197

  Samnites, 23, 42 foll.
  Scipio Africanus, 108
  Senate, 30, 35, 47, 53, 63, 69, 103, 129, 144, 158, 197
  Sicilian Greeks, 52, 86
  Slavery, 57, 59, 125 foll., 141, 244
  Spain, 94, 115
  Sulla, L. Cornelius, 147, 155

  Tacitus, historian, 12, 14, 231
  Tarentum, 42, 50, 52
  Tiber, river, 22, 24, 26
  Tiberius, Emperor, 206
  Tigranes of Armenia, 164 foll.
  Trajan, Emperor, 232 foll.
  Trasimene, battle of, 100
  Tribunes of the people, 78, 139

  Umbrians, 23

  Veii, 34
  Via Appia, 49
  Via Flaminia, 48
  Via Latina, 49
  Virgil, 10, 13, 15, 188 foll., 198

  Zama, battle of, 109

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Retained copyright information from the printed edition: this eBook is
  public-domain in the country of publication.

—Silently corrected a few palpable typos.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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