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his own hand; on the siege of Veii, itself, a city as large as Rome,
lasting ten years, and only finally taken by draining the Alban lake; on
the pride and avarice of the banished Camillus, and his subsequent
rescue of Rome from the Gauls; on the sacred geese of the capitol, and
Manlius who slew its assailants; on the siege of the capitol for seven
months by these Celtic invaders, and the burning and sack of the city,
and its deliverance by the great Camillus. These legends are not
legitimate history, but they show the self-devotion and bravery, the
simplicity and virtue of those primitive ages, when luxury was unknown
and crime was severely punished. It was in those days of danger and
hardship that the foundation of the future military strength of the
empire was laid. We do not read of military science, of war as an art or
trade, or even of great military ambition, for the sphere of military
operations was narrow and obscure, but of preparation for victories,
under men of genius, in the time to come. That part of Roman history
bears the same relation to the age of Marius and Sulla, that the
conquests of the Puritans over the Indians, and the difficulties with
which they contended, do to the gigantic warfare of the North and South
in the late rebellion. The Puritans laid the foundation of the military
virtues of the Americans, in their colonial state, as the Patricians of
Rome did for one hundred and fifty years after the expulsion of the
kings. Those petty wars with Volscians and Acquians brought out the
Roman character, and are the germ of subsequent greatness. They took
place in the infancy of the republic, under the rule of Patricians, who
were not then great nobles, but brave and poor citizens, animated with
patriotic zeal and characterized, like the Puritans, for stern and lofty
virtues and religious faith, - superstitious and unenlightened, yet
elevated and grand, - qualities on which the strength of man is based. It
is not puerile to dwell with delight on the legends of that heroic age,
for the philosopher sees in those little struggles the germs of imperial
power. They were small and insignificant, like the battles of the
American Revolution, when measured with the marshaling of vast armies on
the plains of Pharsalia or Waterloo, but they were great in their
inherent heroism, and in their future results. Who shall say which is
greater to the eye of the Infinite - the battle of Leipsic, or the fight
on Bunker Hill? It is the cause, the principles involved, the spirit of
a contest, which give dignity and importance to the battle-field. Hence
all nations and ages have felt great interest in the early struggles of
Rome. They are full of poetry and philosophical importance. The Roman
historians themselves dwelt upon them with peculiar enthusiasm; and the
record of them lives in the school-books of all generations, and has not
been deemed unworthy of the critical genius of Niebuhr, of Arnold, or of

[Sidenote: The complete independence of Rome.]

[Sidenote: The Gaulish Invasion.]

The result of this protracted warfare with petty cities and states for
one hundred and fifty years was the complete independence of the City of
the Seven Hills, the regaining of the conquests lost by the expulsion of
Tarquin, the conquest of Latium, the dissolution of the Latin League,
the possession of the Pontine district, and the extension of Roman power
to the valleys of the Apennines. The war with the Gauls was not a
systematic contest. It was a raid of these Celts across the Apennines,
and the temporary humiliation of the Roman capital. The Gauls burned and
sacked the city, but soon retreated, and Rome was never again invaded by
a foreign foe until the hordes of Alaric appeared. The disaster was soon
recovered, and the Romans made more united by the lesson.

With the retreat of the Gauls, B.C. 350, and the recovery of Latium,
B.C. 341 and four hundred and sixteen years from the foundation of the
city, the aggressive period of Roman warfare begins. By this time the
Plebeians made their power felt, and had obtained one of the two
consulships; but for a long time after, the Patricians, though shorn of
undivided sovereignty, still monopolized most of the great offices of
state - indeed were the controlling power, socially and politically. At
no period was Rome a democratic state; never had Plebeians the
ascendency. But now the plebeian influence begins to modify the old
constitution. All classes, after incessant warfare for a century and a
half, and exposed to innumerable feuds, united in enterprises of
conquest. Rome begins to appear on the stage of political history.

[Sidenote: War with the Samnites.]

[Sidenote: Decisive battle of Sentinum.]

The aggressive nature of Roman warfare commenced with Samnium. The
Samnites were a warlike and pastoral people who inhabited the rugged
mountain district between the valleys of the Vulturnus and the Calor,
but they were nevertheless barbarians, and the contest between them and
the Romans was for the sovereignty of Italy. I need not mention the
alleged causes, or the details of a sanguinary war. The alleged causes
were not the true ones, and the details are complicated and obscure. We
deal with results. The war began B.C. 326, and lasted, with short
intervals of peace, thirty-six years. The Roman heroes were M. Valerius
Corvus, L. Papirius Cursor, Q. Fabius Maximus, and P. Decius the
younger. All of these were great generals, and were consuls or
dictators. As in all great contests, lasting a whole generation, there
was alternate victory and defeat, disgraced by treachery and bad faith.
The Romans fought, assisted by Latins, Campanians, and Apulians. The
Samnites defended themselves in their mountain fastnesses with
inflexible obstinacy, and obtained no assistance from allies until
nearly worn out, when Umbrians, Etrurians, and Senonian Gauls came to
the rescue. About sixty thousand men fought on each side. The battle of
Sentinum determined the fate of Samnium and Italy, gained by Fabius and
Decius, and the Samnites laid down their arms and yielded to their
rivals. Their brave general, Pontius, was beheaded in the prison under
the capitol, - an act of inhumanity which sullied the laurels of Fabius.
The Roman power is now established over central and lower Italy, and
with the exception of a few Greek cities on the coast, Latium, Campania,
Apulia, and Samnium are added to the territories of the republic.

[Sidenote: Works of Appius Claudius.]

In the mean time the political inequality between Patricians and
Plebeians had been removed, and a plebeian nobility had grown up,
created by success in war and domestic factions. The great man in civil
history, during this war, was Appius Claudius the Censor, a proud and
inflexible Patrician. His, great works were the Appian road and
aqueduct. The road led to Capua through the Pontine marshes one hundred
and twenty miles, and was paved with blocks of basalt; the aqueduct
passed under ground, and was the first of those vast works which
supplied the city with water.

About ten years elapsed between the conquest of the Samnites and the
landing of Pyrrhus in Italy, B.C. 280, during which the Romans were
brought in contact with Magna Grecia and Syracuse.

[Sidenote: Tarentum invokes the aid of Phyrrus.]

The chief of the Greek-Italian cities was Tarentum, a very ancient
Lacedaemonian colony. It was admirably situated for commerce on the gulf
which bears its name, was very rich, and abounded in fearless sailors.
But like most commercial cities, it intrusted its defense to
mercenaries. It viewed with alarm the growing power of Rome, and unable
to meet her face to face, called in the aid of Pyrrhus, king of Epirus,
the greatest general of the age, which was followed by a general rising
of the Italian states, to shake off the Roman yoke.

[Sidenote: Expedition of Pyrrhus into Italy.]

[Sidenote: He is defeated at the battle of Beneventum.]

Pyrrhus was a soldier of fortune, and practiced war as an art, and
delighted in it like Alexander or Charles XII. He readily responded to
the overture of the Tarentine Ambassador, and sent over a general with
three thousand men to secure a footing, and soon followed with twenty
thousand foot, five thousand horse, and a number of elephants. Among his
troops were five thousand Macedonian soldiers, a phalanx such as the
Romans had never encountered. The Macedonians fought in masses; the
Romans in lines. The first encounter was disastrous to the Romans, whose
cavalry was frightened by the elephants. But Pyrrhus, contented with
victory, did not pursue his advantages, and advanced with easy marches
towards Rome with seventy thousand men. The battle of Heraclea, however,
had greatly weakened his forces; his allies proved treacherous; and he
was glad to offer terms of peace, which were promptly rejected by the
Senate. After spending nearly three years in Italy he retired to
Syracuse, but again tried his fortune against the Romans, and was
signally routed at the battle of Beneventum by Curius Dentatus. He
hastily left Italy to her fate, and the fall of Tarentum speedily
followed, which made the Romans masters of the whole peninsula. The
Macedonian phalanx, which had conquered Asia, yielded to the Roman
legion, and a new lesson was learned in the art of war.

[Sidenote: Results of the Fall of Tarentum.]

[Sidenote: The Romans complete masters of Italy.]

The Romans, by the fall of Tarentum, were now the undisputed masters of
Italy, and had made the first great step towards the conquest of the
world. The city of Romulus was now four hundred and eighty years old,
and the national domain extended from the Ciminian wood in Etruria to
the middle of the Campania. It was called the Ager Romanus, in which was
a population of two hundred and ninety-three thousand men capable of
bearing arms; and the citizens of the various conquered cities, who had
served certain magistracies in them, were enrolled among Roman citizens,
with all the rights to which the citizens of the capital were entitled, -
absolute authority over wife, children, and slaves, security from
capital punishment except by a vote of the people, or under military
authority in the camp, access to all the honors and employments of the
state, the right of suffrage, and the possession of Quirinal property.
They felt themselves to be allies of Rome, and henceforward lent
efficient aid in war. To all practical intents, they were Romans as
completely as the inhabitants of Marseilles are French. Tarentum,
Neapolis, Tibur, Praeneste, and other large cities, enjoyed peculiar
privileges; but armed garrisons were maintained in them, under the form
of colonies. The administration of them was organized after the model of
Rome. Military roads were constructed between all places of importance.

[Sidenote: The virtues of eminent Patricians.]

The same sterling virtues which characterized the absolute rule of the
Patricians still continued, and patriotism partook of the nature of
religious sentiment. Three Decii surrendered their lives for the Roman
army, and Manlius immolated his son to the genius of discipline; Runnus
is degraded from the Senate for possessing ten pounds of silver plate,
although twice consul and once dictator; Regulus, twice consul,
possessed no more than one little field in the barren district of
Papinice. Curius like Fabricius prepared his simple meal with his own
hand, and refused the gold of the Samnites, as Fabricius refused that of
Pyrrhus. The new masters of Italy deserved their empire. There was union
because there was now political equality. The "new men, like Fabricius
and Curius Dentatus, were not less numerous in the Senate than the old
Curial families. The aristocracy of blood was blended with the
aristocracy of merit. The consulship gave unity of command, the Senate
wisdom and the proper strength, preserving a happy equilibrium of
forces, - the combination of royalty, aristocracy, and democracy, which,
with military virtues and austere manners, made an irresistible force."
[Footnote: Durny, _Hist. des Romains_] This period, the fifth
century of the existence of the Roman state, was its heroic age.

[Sidenote: Rome prepares for aggressive and unjust war.]

But now military aggrandizement became the master-passion of the people,
and the uniform policy of the government. Military virtues still
remained, but the morals of state began to decline. Aggressive wars, for
conquest and power, henceforth, mark the progress of the Romans; and not
merely aggressive wars, but unjust and foreign wars. The step of the
Roman is now proud and defiant. Visions of unlimited conquest rise up
before his eye. He is cold, practical, imperious. The eagles of the
legions are the real objects of pride and reverence. Mars is the
presiding deity. Success is the only road to honor.

[Sidenote: Rivalry between Carthage and Rome.]

While Rome was completing the reduction of Italy, Carthage, a Tyrian
colony on the opposite coast of Africa, was extending her conquests in
the Islands of the Mediterranean. The Greek colonies of Sicily had
fallen under her sway. She was a rival whose power was formidable,
enriched by the commerce of the world, and proud in the number of her
allies. The city contained seven hundred thousand inhabitants, and the
walls measured twenty miles in circumference.

[Sidenote: Shall Rome or Carthage have the preeminence.]

[Sidenote: Carthage falls after a long and memorable struggle.]

[Sidenote: Territories acquired by the fall of Carthage.]

Between such ambitious and unscrupulous rivals, peace could not long be
maintained. To the eye of the philosopher the ascendency of Carthage or
of Rome over the countries which border on the Mediterranean was clearly
seen. Which were better? Shall the world be governed by a martial, law-
making, law-loving, heroic commonwealth, not yet seduced and corrupted
by luxury and wealth, or by a commercial, luxurious, selfish nation of
merchants, whose only desire is self-indulgence and folly. Providence
sides with Rome - although Rome cannot be commended, and is ruled by
ambitious and unscrupulous chieftains whose delight is power. If there
is to be one great empire more, before Christianity is proclaimed, which
shall absorb all other empires, now degenerate and corrupt, let that be
given to a people who know how to civilize after they have conquered.
Let the sword rather than gold rule the world - enlightened statesmen
rather than self-indulgent merchants. So Carthage falls, after three
memorable struggles, extending over more than a century, during which
she produced the greatest general of antiquity, next to Caesar and
Alexander. But not even Hannibal could restore the fortunes of his
country, after having inflicted a bitter humiliation on his enemies.
That city of merchants, like Tyre and Sidon, must drink of the cup of
divine chastisement. Another type of civilization than that furnished by
a "mistress of the sea," was needed for Europe, and another rule for
Asia and Africa. The Carthaginians taught the Romans, in their contest,
how to build ships of war and fight naval battles. As many as three
hundred thousand men were engaged in that memorable sea-fight of Ecnomus
which opened to Regulus the way to Africa. Three times did the Romans
lose their fleets by tempests, and yet they persevered in building new
ones. The fortitude of the Romans, in view of the brilliant successes of
Hannibal, can never be sufficiently admired. The defeat at Cannae was a
catastrophe, but the troops of Fabius, to whom was left the defense of
the city, were not discouraged, and with Scipio - religious, self-reliant,
and lofty - the tide of victory turned. By the first Punic war, which
lasted twenty-two years, Rome gained Sicily; by the second, which opened
twenty-three years after the first, and lasted seventeen years, she
gained Sardinia, a foothold in Spain and Gaul, and a preponderance
throughout the western regions of Europe and Africa; by the third, which
occurred fifty years after the second, and continued but four years, she
gained all the provinces of Africa ruled by Carthage, and a great part
of Spain. Nothing was allowed to remain of the African capital. The
departing troops left behind complete desolation. The captives were sold
as slaves, or put to death, and enough of spoil rewarded the victors to
adorn a triumph only surpassed by that of Paulus on his return from the
conquest of Greece.

[Sidenote: Condition of the Macedonian empire.]

[Sidenote: Principles and passions which led to the conquest of Greece.]

In the mean time, in the interval between the second and third Punic
wars, occurred the Macedonian wars, which prepared the way for conquests
in the East. The great Macedonian empire was split up into several
monarchies among the generals of Alexander and their successors. The
Ptolemies reigned in Egypt; the successors of Seleucus in Babylonia;
those of Antigonus in Syria and Asia Minor; those of Lysimachus in
Thrace; and of Cassander in Macedonia. It was the mission of Rome to
subdue these monarchies, or rather her good fortune, for she was
destined to conquer the world. The principles which animated these wars
cannot be defended on high moral grounds, any more than the conquest of
India by England, or of Algeria by France. They were based entirely upon
ambition - upon the passion for political aggrandizement. I confess I
have no sympathy with them. Roman liberties were not jeopardized, nor
were these monarchies dangerous rivals like Carthage. The subjugation of
Italy was in accordance with what we now call the Monroe doctrine - to
obtain the ascendency on her own soil; and even the conquest or of
Sicily was no worse than the conquest of Ireland, or what would be the
future absorption of Cuba and Jamaica within the limits of the United
States. The Emperor Napoleon would probably justify both the humiliation
of Carthage and the conquest of Greece and Asia and Egypt, and others
would echo his voice in defense of aggressive domination, on some plea
of pretended schemes of colonization, and the progress of civilization.
But I do not believe in overturning the immutable laws of moral
obligation for any questionable policy of expediency. I look upon the
great civil wars of the Romans, which followed these conquests, in which
so much blood was shed, and in which Marius and Sulla and Caesar and
Pompey exhausted the resources of the state, and made an imperial
_regime_ necessary, only as the visitation of God in rebuke of such
wicked ambition.

[Sidenote: Greece reaps the penalty of the unscrupulous wars of

[Sidenote: Degeneracy of the Greeks.]

[Sidenote: Spoils of Greece fall into the hands of the Romans.]

[Sidenote: The triumph of Paulus.]

[Sidenote: Grecian provinces added to the empire.]

The conquest over the Macedonians, however, by the Romans, was not an
unmixed calamity, and was a righteous judgment on the Greeks. Nothing
could be more unscrupulous than the career of Alexander and his
generals. Again, the principle which had animated the Oriental kings
before him was indefensible. We could go back still further, and show
from the whole history of Asiatic conquests that their object was to
aggrandize ambitious conquerors. The Persians, at first, were a brave
and religious people, hardy and severe, and their conquest of older
monarchies resulted in a certain good. But they became corrupt by
prosperity and power, and fell a prey to the Greeks. The Greeks, at that
period, were the noblest race of the ancient world - immortal for genius
and art. But power dazzled them, and little remained of that glorious
spirit which was seen at Thermopylae and Marathon. The Greek ascendency
in Asia and Egypt was followed by the same luxury and extravagance and
effeminacy that resulted from the rule of Persia. The Greeks had done
great things, and contributed to the march of civilization, but they had
done their work, and their turn of humiliation must come. Their vast
empire fell into the hands of the Romans, and the change was beneficial
to humanity. They who had abused their trust were punished, and those
were exalted above them who were as yet uncorrupted by those vices which
are most fatal to nations. The great fruit of these wars were the
treasures of Greece, especially precious marbles, and other works of
art. The victory at Pydna, B.C. 168, which gave the final superiority to
the Roman legion over the Macedonian phalanx, was followed by the
triumph of Paulus himself - the grandest display ever seen at Rome. First
passed the spoils of Greece - statues and pictures - in two hundred and
fifty wagons; then the arms and accoutrements of the Macedonian
soldiers; then three thousand men, each carrying a vase of silver coin;
then victims for sacrifice, with youths and maidens with garlands; then
men bearing vases of gold and precious stones; then the royal chariot of
the conquered king laden with armor and trophies; then his wife and
children, and the fallen monarch on foot; then the triumphal car of the
victorious general, preceded by men bearing four hundred crowns of gold -
the gift of the Grecian cities - and followed by his two sons on
horseback, and the whole army in order. The sack of Corinth by Mummius
was the finale of Grecian humiliation, soon followed by the total
subjection of Macedonia, Greece, and Illyria, forming three provinces.
Nine provinces now composed the territories of Rome, while the kings of
Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt were vassals rather than allies, B.C. 133.

[Sidenote: Change of manners and morals at Rome.]

[Sidenote: Reforms of Cato the Censor.]

[Sidenote: Great degeneracy produced by the Grecian wars.]

The manners and habits of the imperial capital had undergone a gradual
change since the close of the second Punic War. During these fifty
years, the sack of so many Grecian cities, the fall of Carthage, and the
prestige of so many victories, had filled Rome with pride and luxury. In
vain did M. Portius Cato, the most remarkable man who adorned this
degenerate age, lift up his voice against increasing corruption. In vain
were his stringent measures as censor. In vain did he strike senators
from the list, and make an onslaught on the abuses of his day. In vain
were his eloquence, his simple manners, his rustic garb, and his
patriotic warnings. That hard, narrow, self-sufficient, arbitrary,
worldly-wise old statesman, whose many virtues redeemed his defects, and
whose splendid abilities were the glory of his countrymen, could not
restore the simplicities of former times. An age of "progress" had set
in, of Grecian arts and culture, of material wealth, of sumptuous
banquets, of splendid palaces, of rich temples, of theatrical shows, of
circus games, of female gallantries, of effeminated manners - all the
usual accompaniments of civilization, when it is most proud of its
triumphs; and there was no resisting its march - to the eye of many a
great improvement; to the eye of honest old Cato, the _descensus
averi_. Wealth had become a great power; senatorial families grew
immensely rich; the divisions of society widened; slavery was enormously
increased, while the rural population lost independence and influence.

Then took place the memorable struggles of Rome, not merely with foreign
enemies, but against herself. Factions and parties convulsed the city;
civil war wasted the national resources.

[Sidenote: Wars with the Cimbri and Teutones.]

[Sidenote: Success of Marius, who rolls back the tide of northern

It was in that period of civic strife, when factions and parties
struggled for ascendency - when the Gracchi were both reformers and
demagogues, patriots and disorganizes, heroes and martyrs - when
fortunate generals aimed at supreme power, and sought to overturn the
liberties of their country, that Rome was seriously threatened by the
barbarians. Both Celts and Teutones, from Gaul and Germany, formed a
general union for the invasion of Italy. They had successively defeated
five consular armies, in which one hundred and twenty thousand men were
slain. They rolled on like a devastating storm - some three hundred
thousand warriors from unconquered countries beyond the Alps. They were
met by Marius the hero of the African war, who had added Numidia, to the
empire - now old, fierce, and cruel, a plebeian who had arisen by force
of military genius - and the Gaulish hordes were annihilated on the Rhone
and the Po. The Romans at first viewed those half-naked warriors - so
full of strength and courage, so confident of victory, so reckless of

Online LibraryJohn LordThe Old Roman World, : the Grandeur and Failure of Its Civilization → online text (page 3 of 50)