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Chap. XXXIV.] Leading Roman Families. 479

State. The Senate was made up from their members, and
was the mainstay of Roman nobility. The equites, or eques.
trian order, was also composed of the patricians and wealthy
plebeians. Noble youths gradually withdrew from serving
in the infantry, and the legionary cavalry became a close
aristocratic corps. Not only were the nobles the possessors
of senatorial privileges, and enrolled among the equites, but
they had separate seats from the people at the games and at
the theatres. The censorship also became a prop to the
stability of the aristocratic class.

We have some idea of the influence of the aristocracy from
the families which furnished the higher offices of Lpaflin „
the State. For three centuries the consuls were faimhes -
chiefly chosen from powerful families. The Cornelii gentes
furnished fifteen consuls in one hundred and twelve years,
and the Valerii, ten. And, what is more remarkable, for the
following one hundred and fifty years these two families fur-
nished nearly the same number. In one hundred and twelve
years fifteen families gave seventy consuls to the State : the
Cornelii, fifteen ; the Valerii, ten ; the Claudii, four ; the
JEmilii, nine; the Fabii, six; the Manilii, four ; the Postu-
mii, two; the Servilii, three; the Sulpicii, six; and also
about the same number the following one hundred and fifty
years, thereby showing that old families, whether patrician
or plebeian, were long kept in sight, and monopolized political
power. This was also seen in the elevation of young men of
these ranks to high office before they had reached the lawful
age. M. Valerius Corvus was consul at twenty-three, Scipio
at thirty, and Flaminius at twenty-nine.

The control of Rome over conquered provinces introduced
a new class of magistrates, selected by the Senate, Provincial

it n i i mi governors.

and chosen from the aristocratic circles. I hese were
the provincial governors or praetors, who had great power,
and who sometimes appeared in all the pomp of kings. They
resided in the ancient palaces of the kings, and had great
opportunities for accumulating fortunes. Nor could the gov-
ernors be called to account, until after their term of office



4S0 Roman Civilization. [Chap, xxxiy.

expired, which rarely happened. The governors were, virtu-
ally, sovereigns while they continued in office — were satraps,
who conducted a legalized tyranny abroad, and returned
home arrogant and accustomed to adulation — a class of men
who proved dangerous to the old institutions, those which
recognized equality within the aristocracy and the subordi-
nation of power to the senatorial college.

The burgesses, or citizens, before this period, were a very
respectable body, patriotic and sagacious. They occupied
chiefly Latium, a part of Campania, and the maritime colo-
Deciine of nies. But gradually, a rabble of clients grew

the bur- ,° . . .

gesses. up on footing equality with these independent

burgesses. These clients, as the aristocracy increased in
wealth and power, became parasites and beggars, and under-
mined the burgess class, and controlled the Comitia. This
class rapidly increased, and were clamorous for games, fes-
tivals, and cheap bread, for corn was distributed to them
by those who wished to gain their favor at elections, at less
than cost. Hence, festivals and popular amusements became
Public rapidly a great feature of the times. For five hun-

amusements. d re <j years the people had been contented with
one festival in a year, and one circus. Flaminius added
another festival, and another circus. In the year 550 of the
city, there were five festivals. The candidates for the con-
sulship spent large sums on these games, the splendor of
which became the standard by which the electoral body
measured the fitness of candidates. A gladiatorial show
cost seven hundred and twenty thousand sesterces, or thirty-
six thousand dollars.

And corruption extended to the army. The old burgess
militia were contented to return home with some trifling
gift as a memorial of victory, but the troops of Scipio, and
Decay of the veterans of the Macedonian and Asiatic wars,
spirit. came back enriched with spoils. A decay of a

warlike spirit was observable from the time the burgesses
converted war into a traffic in plunder. A great passion also
arose for titles and insignia, which appeared under different



Chap. XXXIV.] Cato. 481

forms, especially for the honors of a triumph, originally
granted only to the supreme magistrate who had signally
augmented the power of the State. Statues and monuments
were often erected at the expense of the person whom they
purported to honor. And finally, the ring, the robe, and the
amulet case distinguished not only the burgesses from the
foreigners and slaves, but also the person who was Distinctions
born free from one who had been a slave, the son m soclet y-
of the free-born from the son of the manumitted, the son of a
knight from a common burgess, the descendant of a curule
house from the common senators. These distinctions in rank
kept pace with the extension of conquests, until, at last, there
was as complete a net work of aristocratic distinctions as in
England at the present day.

All these distinctions and changes were bitterly deplored

by Marcus Portius Cato — the last <n-eat statesman

i ■ Cato -

of the older school — a genuine Roman of the

antique stamp. He was also averse to schemes of universal
empire. He was a patrician, brought up at the plow, and
in love with his Sabine farm. Yet he rose to the consulship,
and even the censorship. He served in w T ar under Marcellus,
Fabius, and Scipio, and showed great ability as a soldier.
He w T as as distinguished in the forum as in the camp and
battle-field, having a bold address, pungent wit, and great
knowledge of the Roman laws. He was the most influential
political orator of his clay. He was narrow in his political
ideas, conservative, austere, and upright ; an enemy to all
corruption and villainy, also to genius, and culture, and inno-
vation. He was the protector of the Roman farmer, plain,
homely in person, disdained by the ruling nobles, but fear-
less in exposing corruption from any quarter, and irrecon-
cilably at war with aristocratic coteries, like the Scipios
and Flaminii. He was publicly accused twenty-four times,
but he was always backed by the farmers, notwithstanding
the opposition of the nobles. He erased, while censor, the
name of the brother of Flaminius from the roll of senators,

and the brother of Scipio from that of the equites. He
31



4S2 Roman Civilization. [Chap. XXXIV

attempted a vigorous reform, but the current of corruption
could only be stemmed for awhile. The effect of the sump-
tuary laws, which were passed through his influence, was
temporary and unsatisfactory. No legislation has proved
of avail against a deep-seated corruption of morals, for the
laws will be avoided, even if they are not defied. In
vain was the eloquence of the hard, arbitrary, narrow,
worldly wise, but patriotic and stern old censor. The age
of Grecian culture, of wealth, of banquets, of palaces, of
games, of effeminate manners, had set in with the conquest
of Greece and Asia. The divisions of society widened, and
the seeds of luxury and pride were to produce violence and
decay.

Still some political changes were effected at this time. The
Political Comitia Centuriata was remodeled. The equites
changes. rj0 i on g er voted first. The five classes obtained
an equal number of votes, and the freedmen were placed on
an equal footing with free-born. Thus terminated the long
conflict between patricians and plebeians. But although
the right of precedence in voting was withdrawn from the
equites, still the patrician order was powerful enough to fill,
frequently, the second consulship and the second censorship,
which were open to patricians and plebeians alike, with men
of their own order. At this time the office of dictator went
into abeyance, and was practically abolished ; the priests were
elected by the whole community ; the public assemblies inter-
fered with the administration of the public property — the
exclusive prerogative of the Senate in former times — and thus
transferred the public domains to their own pockets. These
were changes which showed the disorganization of the gov-
ernment rather than healthy reform. To this period we date
„. , the rise of demao-o^ues, for a minority in the

liise of » » : J

demagogues. Senate had the right to appeal to the Comitia,
which opened the way for wealthy or popular men to thwart
the wisest actions and select incompetent magistrates and
generals. Even Publius Scipio'was not more distinguished
for his arrogance and title-hunting than for the army of



Chap, xxxiv.] Slavery. 483

clients he supported, and for the favor which he courted,
of both legions and people, by his largesses of grain.

At this period, agriculture had reached considerable per-
fection, but Cato declared that his fancy farm was
not profitable. Figs, apples, pears were cultivated,
as well as olives and grapes — also shade-trees. The rearing
of cattle was not of much account, as the people lived chiefly
on vegetables, and fruits and corn. Large cattle were kept
only for tillage. Considerable use was made of poultry and
pigeons — kept in the farm-yard. Fish-ponds and hare-pre-
serves were also common. The labor of the fields was per-
formed by oxen, and asses for carriage and the turning of
mills. The human labor on farms was done by slaves.
Vineyards required more expenditure of labor than ordinary
tillage. An estate of one hundred jugera, with vine planta-
tions, required one plowman, eleven slaves, and two herds-
men. The slaves were not bred on the estate, but were pur-
chased. They lived in the farm-buildings, among cattle and
produce. A separate house was erected for the master. A
steward had the care of the slaves. The stewardess attended
to the baking and cooking:, and all had the same

° °' The slaves.

fare, delivered from the produce of the farm on
which they lived. Great unscrupulousness pervaded the
management of these estates. Slaves and cattle were placed
on the same level, and both were fed as long as they could
work, and sold when they were incapacitated by age or sick-
ness. A slave had no recreations or holidays. His time was
spent between working and sleeping. And when we remem-
ber that these slaves were white as well as black, and had
once been free, their condition was hard and inhuman. No
negro slavery ever was so cruel as slavery among the
Romans. Great labors and responsibilities were imposed
upon the steward. He was the first to rise in the morning,
and the last to go to bed at night ; but he was not doomed
to constant labor, like the slaves whom he superintended.
He also had few pleasures, and was obsequious to the land-
lord, who performed no work, except in the earlier ages. The



484 Roman Civilization. [Chap. XXXI V.

small farmer worked himself with the slaves and his
Small children. He more frequently cultivated flowers

farmers. an ^ vegetables for the market of Rome. Pastoral
husbandry was practiced on a great scale, and at least eight
hundred jugera were required. On such estates, horses, oxen,
mules, and asses were raised, also herds of swine and goats.
The breeding of sheep was an object of great attention and
interest, since all clothing was made of wool. The shepherd-
slaves lived in the open air, remote from human habita-
tions, under sheds and sheep-folds.

The prices of all produce were very small in comparison
with present rates, and this was owing, in part, to the
immense quantities of corn and other produce delivered by
provincials to the Roman government, sometimes gratuitous-
ly. The armies were supported by transmarine corn. ' The
government regulated prices. In the time of Scipio, African
Decline of wheat was sold as low as twelve ases for six modii
agriculture. — ^ one an( j a j ia if bushel) — about sixpence. At
one time two hundred and forty thousand bushels of Sicilian
grain were distributed at this price. The rise of demagogism
promoted these distributions, which kept prices down, so that
the farmers received but a small reward for labors, which
made, of course, the condition of laborers but little above
that of brutes : when the people of the capital paid but six-
pence sterling for a bushel and a half of wheat, or one hun-
dred and eighty pounds of dried figs, or sixty pounds of oil, or
seventy-two pounds of meat, or four and a half gallons of wine
sold only for fivepence, or three-fifths of a denarius. In the
time of Polybius, the traveler was charged for victuals and
lodgings at an inn only about two farthings a day, and a bushel
of wheat sold for fourpenee. At such prices there was very
little market for the farmer. Sicily and Sardinia were the
real granaries of Rome. Thus were all the best interests of
The farmers tnc country sacrificed to the unproductive popu-
uie city d to ^' 10n °f tne city. Such was the golden age of the
population, republic— a state of utter misery and hardship
among the productive classes, and idleness among the Roman



Chap, xxxiv.] Business and Money. 4S5

people — a state of society which could but lead to ruin. The
farmers, without substantial returns, lost energy and spirit,
and dwindled away. Their estates fell into the hands of
great proprietors, who owned great numbers of slaves. They
themselves were ruined, and sunk into an ignoble class.
The cultivation of grain in Italy was gradually neglected,
and attention was given chiefly to vines, and olives, and
wool. The rearing of cattle became more profitable than
tillage, and small farms were absorbed in great estates.

The monetary transactions of the Romans were pre-
eminently conspicuous. No branch of commer-

• ! ■ -i -i-i ii Money.

cial industry was prosecuted with more zeal than
money-lending. The bankers of Rome were a great class,
and were generally rich. They speculated in corn and all
articles of produce. Usury was not disdained even by the
nobles. Money-lending became a great system, and all the
laws operated in favor of capitalists.

Industrial art did not keep pace with usurious calculations,
and trades were concentrated in the capital. Mechanical
skill was neglected in all the rural districts.

Business operations were usually conducted by slaves.
Even money-lenders and bankers made use of them. Business
Every one who took contracts for building, bought °i ,eiations -
architect slaves. Every one who provided spectacles pur-
chased a band of serfs expert in the art of fighting. The
merchants imported wares in vessels managed by slaves.
Mines were worked by slaves. Manufactories were con-
ducted by slaves. Everywhere were slaves.

While the farmer obtained only fourpence a bushel for his
wheat, a penny a gallon for his wine, and fivepence for sixty
pounds of oil, the capitalists, centered in Rome, possessed
fortunes which were vastly disproportionate to Great for-
those which are seen in modern capitals. Paulus tunes '
was not reckoned wealthy for a senator, but his estate was
valued at sixty talents, nearly £15,000, or $75,000. In other
words, the daily interest of his capital was fifteen dollars,
enough to purchase one hundred and eighty bushels of



48 G Roman Civilization. [Chap. XXXIY.

wheat — as much as a farmer could raise in a year on eight
jugcra — a farm as large as that of Cincinnatus. Each of the
daughters of Scipio received as a dowry fifty talents, or
$60,000. The value of this sum, in our money, when measured
by the scale of wheat, or oil, or wine — allowing wheat now
to be worth five shillings sterling a bushel — against fivepence
in those times, would make gold twelve times more valuable
then than now. And hence, Scipio left each of his daughters
a sum equal to 8720,000 of our money. In estimating the
fortune of a Roman, by the prices charged at an inn per day,
a penny would go further then than a dollar would now. But
I think that gold and silver, in the time of Scipio, were about
the same value as in England at the time of Henry VII,
about twenty times our present standard.

Every law at Rome tended in its operation to the benefit
of the creditor, and to vast accumulations of property ; for
The rich the government being in the hands of the rich,
favored. as m England a century since, and in France
before the Revolution, favored the rich at the expense of the
poor. It became disgraceful at Rome to perform manual
labor, and a wall separated the laboring classes from the cap-
italists, which could not be passed. Industrial art took the
lowest place in the scale of labor, and was in the hands of
slaves. The traffic in money, and the farming of the reve-
nue formed the mainstay and stronghold of the Roman
economy. The free population of Italy declined, while the
city of Rome increased. The loss was supplied by slaves.
In the year 502 of the city, the Roman burgesses in Italy
numbered two hundred and ninety-eight thousand men
capable of bearing arms. Fifty years later, the number
was only two hundred and fourteen thousand. The nation
visibly diminished, and the community was resolved into
masters and slaves. And this decline of citizens and in-
crease of slaves were beheld with indifference, for pride, and
cruelty, and heartlessness were the characteristics of the
higher classes.

With the progress of luxury, and the decline of the rural



Chap. XXXIV.] Education. 487

population, and the growth, of disproportionate fortunes,
residence in the capital became more and more Extravagant

prices for

coveted, and more and more costly. Kents rose luxuries.
to an unexampled height. Extravagant prices were paid for
luxuries. When a bushel of corn sold for fivepence, a barrel
of anchovies from the Black Sea cost £14, and a beautiful
boy twenty-four thousand sesterces (£246), more than a
farmer's homestead. Money came to be prized as the end of
life, and all kinds of shifts and devices were made to secure
it. Marriage, on both sides, became an object of mercantile
speculation.

In regard to education, there was a higher development
than is usually supposed, and literature and art were culti-
tivated, even while the nation declined in real virtue and
strength. By means of the Greek slaves, the

_. _ . . Education.

Greek language and literature reached even the
lower ranks, to a certain extent. " The comedies indicate
that the humblest classes were familiar with a sort of Latin,
which could no more be understood without a knowledge of
Greek, than Wieland's German without a knowledge of
French." Greek was undoubtedly spoken by the higher
classes, as French is spoken in all the courts of Europe. In
the rudiments of education, the lowest people were instructed,
and even slaves were schoolmasters. At the close of the Pu-
nic wars, both comedy and tragedy were among the great
amusements of the Romans, and great writers arose, who
wrote, however, from the Greek models. Livius translated
Homer, and N"a3vius popularized the Greek drama. Plautus,
it is said, wrote one hundred and thirty plays. The trage-
dies of Ennius were recited to the latter days of the empire.
The Romans did not, indeed, make such advance in literature
as the Greeks, at a comparatively early period of their his-
tory, but their attainments were respectable when Carthage
was destroyed.



CHAPTER XXXY.

THE REFORM MOVEMENT OF THE GRACCHI.

A new era in the history of Rome now commences, a
period of glory and shame, when a great change took place
in the internal structure of the State, now corrupted by the
introduction of Greek and Asiatic refinements, and the vast
wealth which rolled into the capital of the world.

"For a whole generation after the battle of Pyclna, the
Rome after Roman State enioyed a profound calm, scarcely

the battle of .) J f J

Pydna. varied by a ripple here and there upon the surface.

Its dominion extended over three continents ; all eyes rested
on Italy ; all talents and all riches flowed thither ; it seemed
as if a golden age of peaceful prosperity and intellectual en-
joyment of life had begun. The Orientals of this period told
each other with astonishment of the mighty republic of the
West. And such was the glory of the Romans, that no one
usurped the crown, and no one glittered in purple dress;
but they obeyed whomsoever from year to year they made
their master, and there was among them neither envy nor
discord."

So things seemed at a distance. But this splendid external
was deceptive. The government of the aristocracy was has-
tening to its ruin. There was a profound meaning, says
Mommsen, in the question of Cato : " What was to become of
Theineffl- Rome when she should no longer have any State

ciencyofthe . . . .

government, to fear? All her neighbors were now politically
annihilated, and the single thought of the aristocracy was
how they should perpetuate their privileges. A government
of aristocratic nobodies was now inaugurated, which kept
new men of merit from doing any thing, for fear they should



Chap. XXXV.] Aristocratic Life. 4S9

belong to their exclusive ranks. Even an aristocratic con-
queror was inconvenient.

Still opposition existed to this aristocratic regime, and
some reforms had been carried out. The adminis- Opposition
tration of justice was improved, lne senatorial classes.
commissions to the provinces were found inadequate. An
effort was made to emancipate the Comitia from the prepon-
dering influence of the aristocracy. The senators were com-
pelled to renounce their public horse on admission to the
Senate, and also the privilege of voting in the eighteen eques-
trian centuries. But there was the semblance of increased
democratic power rather than the reality. All the great
questions of the day turned upon the election of the curule
magistracies, and there was sufficient influence among the
nobles to secure these offices. Young men from noble fami'
lies crowded into the political arena, and claimed what once
was the reward of distinguished merit. Powerful connec-
tions were indispensable for the enjoyment of political power,
as in England at the time of Burke. A large body of clients
waited on their patron early every morning, and the candi-
dates for office used all those arts which are customary when
votes were to be bought. The government no longer dis-
posed of the property of burgesses for the public good, nor
favored the idea among them that they were exempted from
taxes. Political corruption reached through all grades and
classes. Capitalists absorbed the small farms, and

'. , „ Capitalists.

great fortunes were the scandal of the times. Capi-
tal was more valued than labor. Italian farms depreciated
from the conversion of tillage into pasture lands and parks,
as in England at the present day. Slavery inordinately
increased from the captives taken in war. Western Asia
furnished the greatest number of this miserable population,
and Cretan and Cilician slave-hunters were found on all
the coasts of Syria and Greece. Delos was the great slave-
market of the world, where the slave-dealers of

' . Slaves.

Asia Minor disposed of their wares to Italian specu-
lators. In one day as many as ten thousand slaves were



490 The Brform Movement. [Chap. xxxv.

disembarked and sold. Farms, and trades, and mines
were alike carried on by these slaves from Asia, and their
sufferings and hardships were vastly greater than ever en-
dured by negroes on the South Carolinian and Cuban plan-
tations. But they were of a different race — men who had
seen better days, and accustomed to civilization — and hence
they often rose upon their masters. Servile wars were of
common occurrence. Sicily at one time had seventy thousand
slaves in arms, and when consular armies were sent to sup-
press the revolt, the most outrageous cruelties were inflicted.
Twenty thousand men, at one time, were crucified in Sicily
by Publius Rupilius.

At this crisis, when disproportionate wealth and slavery
were the great social evils, Tiberius Gracchus arose — a young
Tiberius maxl °^ ^s' 1 rank, chivalrous, noble, and eloquent.
Gracchus. jj^ s mo ther, Cornelia, was the daughter of Scipio
Africanus, and therefore belonged to the most exclusive of
the aristocratic circles. Tiberius Gracchus was therefore the
cousin of Scipio ^Emilianus, under whom he served with dis-
tinction in Africa. He was seconded in his views of reform
by some stern old patriots and aristocrats, who had not



Online LibraryJohn LordAnceint states and empires → online text (page 41 of 55)