John Lord.

The Old Roman World, : the Grandeur and Failure of Its Civilization online

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had only ten legions to effect the conquest of Gaul, and none of these
were of Italian origin. At the great decisive battle of Pharsalia, when
most of the available forces of the empire were employed, on one side or
the other, Pompey commanded a legionary army of forty-five thousand men;
and the cavalry amounted to seven thousand more, but among them were
included the flower of the Roman nobility. The auxiliary force has not
been computed, although it was probably numerous. Caesar had under him
only twenty-two thousand of legionaries and one thousand cavalry. But
every man in both armies was prepared to conquer or die. The forces were
posted on the open plain, and the battle was really a hand-to-hand
encounter, in which the soldiers, after hurling their lances, fought
with their swords chiefly. And when the cavalry of Pompey rushed upon
the legionaries of Caesar, no blows were wasted on the mailed panoply of
the mounted Romans, but were aimed at the face alone, as that alone was
unprotected. The battle was decided by the coolness, bravery, and
discipline of veterans, inspired by the genius of the greatest general
of antiquity. Less than one hundred thousand men, in all probability,
were engaged in one of the most memorable conflicts which the world has
seen.

[Sidenote: Gradual organization of military power.]

[Sidenote: Magnanimity of the early generals.]

Thus it was, by unparalleled heroism in war, and a uniform policy in
government, that Rome became the mistress of the world. The Roman
conquests have never been surpassed, for they were retained until the
empire fell. I wish that I could have dwelt on these conquests more in
detail, and presented more fully the brilliant achievements of
individuals. It took nearly two hundred years, after the expulsion of
the kings, to regain supremacy over the neighboring people, and another
century to conquer Italy. The Romans did not contend with regular armies
until they were brought in conflict with the king of Epirus and the
phalanx of the Greeks, "which improved their military tactics, and
introduced between the combatants those mutual regards of civilized
nations which teach men to honor their adversaries, to spare the
vanquished, and to lay aside wrath when the struggle is ended." In the
fifth century of her existence, the republic appears in peculiar
splendor. Military chieftains do not transcend their trusts; the
aristocracy are equally distinguished for exploits and virtues; the
magistrates maintain simplicity of manners and protect the rights of the
citizens; the citizens are self-sacrificing and ever ready to obey the
call to arms, laying aside great commands and retiring poor to private
stations. Marcus Valerius Corvus, after filling twenty-one curule
offices, returns to agricultural life; Marcus Curius Dentatus retains no
part of the rich spoils or the Sabines; Fabricius rejects the gold of
the Samnites and the presents of Pyrrhus. The most trustworthy are
elevated to places of dignity and power. Senators mingle in the ranks of
the legions, and eighty of them die on the field of Cannae. Discipline is
enforced to cruelty, and Manlius Torquatus punishes with death a
disobedient son. Soldiers who desert the field are decimated or branded
with dishonor. Faith is kept even with enemies, and Regulus returns a
voluntary prisoner to his deadly enemies.

[Sidenote: Results of different wars.]

After the consolidation of Roman power in Italy, it took one hundred and
fifty years more only to complete the conquest of the world - of Northern
Africa, Spain, Gaul, Illyria, Epirus, Greece, Macedonia, Asia Minor,
Pontus, Syria, Egypt, Bithynia, Cappadocia, Pergamus, and the islands of
the Mediterranean. The conquest of Carthage left Rome without a rival in
the Mediterranean, and promoted intercourse with the Greeks. The
Illyrian wars opened to the Romans the road to Greece and Asia, and
destroyed the pirates of the Adriatic. The invasion of Cisalpine Gaul,
now that part of Italy which is north of the Apennines, protected Italy
from the invasion of barbarians. The Macedonian War against Philip put
Greece under the protection of Rome, and that against Antiochus laid
Syria at her mercy; and when these kingdoms were reduced to provinces,
the way was opened to further conquests in the East, and the
Mediterranean became a Roman lake.

[Sidenote: Effect of Roman conquests on society.]

[Sidenote: Degeneracy of morals undermines military power.]

But these conquests introduce luxury, wealth, pride, and avarice, with
arts, refinements, and literature. These degrade while they elevate.
Civilization becomes the alternate triumph of good and evil influences,
and a doubtful boon. Successful war creates great generals, and founds
great families, increases slavery, and promotes inequalities. Demagogues
arise who seduce and deceive the people, and they enroll themselves
under the standards of their idols. Rome is governed by an oligarchy of
military chieftains, and has become more aristocratic and more
democratic at the same time. The people gain rights, only to yield to
the supremacy of demagogues. The Senate is humbled, but remains the
ascendant power, for generals compose it, and those who have held great
offices. Meanwhile the great generals struggle for supremacy. Civil wars
follow in the train of foreign conquests. Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Julius,
Antony, Augustus, sacrifice the state to their ambition. Good men
lament, and protest, and hide themselves. Cato, Cicero, Brutus, speak in
vain. Degenerate morals keep pace with civil contests. Rome revels in
the spoils of all kingdoms and countries, is intoxicated with power,
becomes cruel and tyrannical, and, after yielding up the lives of
citizens to fortunate generals, yields at last her liberties, and
imperial despotism begins its reign, - hard, immovable, resolute, - under
which genius is crushed, and life becomes epicurean, but under which
property and order are preserved. The regime is bad; but it is a change
for the better. War has produced its fruits. It has added empire, but
undermined prosperity; it has created a great military monarchy, but
destroyed liberty; it has brought wealth, but introduced inequalities;
it has filled the city with spoils, but sown the vices of self-interest.
The machinery is perfect, but life has fled. It is henceforth the labor
of emperors to keep together their vast possessions with this machinery,
which at last wears out, since there is neither genius to repair it nor
patriotism to work it. It lasts three hundred years, but is broken to
pieces by the Goths and Vandals.

* * * * *

The highest authority in relation to the construction of an army is
Polybius, who was contemporary with Scipio, at a period when Roman
discipline was most perfect. A fragment from his sixth book gives
considerable information. A chapter of Livy - the eighth - is also very
much prized. Salmasius and Lepsius have also written learned treatises.
Smith's Dictionary, which is full of details in every thing pertaining
to the weapons, the armor, the military engines, the rewards and
punishments of the soldiers, refers to Folard's _Commentaire_, to
_Memoires Militaires sur les Grecs et les Remains_, by Guischard,
and to the _Histoire des Campagnes d'Hannibal en Italie_, by
Vaudencourt. Tacitus, Sallust, Livy, Dion Cassius, Pliny, and Caesar
reveal incidentally much that we wish to know. Gibbon gives some
important facts in his first chapter. The subject of ancient machines is
treated by Folard's Commentary attached to his translation of Polybius.
Caesar's Commentaries give us, after all, the liveliest idea of the
military habits and tactics of the Romans. Josephus describes with great
vividness the siege of Jerusalem. The article on _Exercitus_, by
Prof. Ramsay, in Smith's Dictionary, is the fullest I have read
pertaining to the structure of a Roman army.

For the narrative of wars, the reader is referred to ordinary Roman
histories - to Livy and Caesar especially; to Niebuhr, Mommsen, Arnold,
and Liddell. See also Durny, _Hist. des Romains;_ Michelet,
_Hist. de Rom._ Napoleon's History of Caesar should be read,
admirable in style, and interesting in matter, although a sophistical
defense of usurpation.




CHAPTER II.

THE MATERIAL GRANDEUR AND GLORY OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.


To the eye of an ancient traveler there must have been something very
grand and impressive in the external aspects of wealth and power which
the Roman Empire, in the period of its greatest glory, presented in
every city and province. It will therefore be my aim in this chapter to
present those objects of pride and strength which appealed to the senses
of an ordinary observer, and such as would first arrest his attention
were he to describe the wonders he beheld to those who were imperfectly
acquainted with them.

[Sidenote: Culmination of Roman greatness.]

It is generally admitted that Roman greatness culminated during the
reigns of the Antonines, about the middle of the second century of the
Christian era. At that period we perceive the highest triumphs of
material civilization and the proudest spirit of panegyric and self-
confidence. To the eye of contemporaries it seemed that Rome was
destined to be the mistress of the world forever.

[Sidenote: Extent of the empire.]

[Sidenote: Square miles.]

[Sidenote: Seas and rivers.]

[Sidenote: Boundaries.]

[Sidenote: Scandinavia.]

[Sidenote: Sarmatia.]

[Sidenote: Mountains.]

We naturally glance, in the first place, to the extent of that vast
empire which has had no parallel in ancient or modern times, and which
was erected on the ruins of all the powerful states of antiquity. It was
a most wonderful centralization of power, spreading its arms of hopeless
despotism from the Pillars of Hercules to the Caspian Sea; from the
Rhine and the Danube to the Euphrates and Tigris; from the forests of
Sarmatia to the deserts of Africa. The empire extended three thousand
miles from east to west, and two thousand from north to south. It
stretched over thirty-five degrees of latitude, and sixty-five of
longitude, and embraced within its limits nearly all the seas, lakes,
and gulfs which commerce explored. It contained 1,600,000 square miles,
for the most part cultivated, and populated by peoples in various stages
of civilization, some of whom were famous for arts and wealth, and could
boast of heroes and cities, - of a past history brilliant and impressive.
In nearly the centre of this great empire was Mediterranean Sea, which
was only, as it were, an inland lake, upon whose shores the great cities
of antiquity had flourished, and towards which the tide of Assyrian and
Persian conquests had rolled and then retreated forever. The great
rivers - the Nile, the Po, and the Danube - flowed into this basin and its
connecting seas, wafting the produce of distant provinces to the great
central city on the Tiber. The boundaries of the empire were great
oceans, deserts, and mountains, beyond which it was difficult to extend
or to retain conquests. On the west was the Atlantic Ocean, unknown and
unexplored - that mysterious expanse of waters which filled navigators
with awe and dread, and which was not destined to be crossed until the
stars should cease to be the only guide. On the northwest was the
undefined region of Scandinavia, into which the Roman arms never
penetrated, peopled by those barbarians who were to be the future
conquerors of Rome, and the creators of a new and more glorious
civilization, - those Germanic tribes which, under different names, had
substantially the same manners, customs, and language, - a race more
unconquerable and heroic than the Romans themselves, the future lords of
mediaeval Europe, the ancestors of the English, the French, the
Spaniards, and the Germans. On the northwest were the Sarmatians and
Scythians - Sclavonic tribes, able to conquer, but not to reconstruct;
savages repulsive and hideous even to the Goths themselves. On the east
lay the Parthian empire, separated from Roman territories by the
Euphrates, the Tigris, and the Armenian mountains. The Caucasian range
between the Euxine and the Caspian seas presented an insuperable
barrier, as did the deserts of Arabia to the Roman legions. The Atlas,
the African desert, and the cataracts of the Nile formed the southern
boundaries. The vulnerable part of the empire lay between the Danube and
Rhine, from which issued, in successive waves, the Germanic foes of
Rome. To protect the empire against their incursions, the Emperor Probus
constructed a wall, which, however, proved but a feeble defense.

[Sidenote: Provinces.]

[Sidenote: Results of successive conquests.]

[Sidenote: Vastness of the political power.]

[Sidenote: Empire universal.]

This immense empire was divided into thirty-six provinces, exclusive of
Italy, each of which was governed by a proconsul. The most important of
these were Spain, Gaul, Sicily, Achaia, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt.
Gaul was more extensive than modern France. Achaia included Greece and
the Ionian Islands. The empire embraced the modern states of England,
France, Spain, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Bavaria, Austria, Styria,
the Tyrol, Hungary, Egypt, Morocco, Algiers, and the empire of Turkey
both in Europe and Asia. It took the Romans nearly five hundred years to
subdue the various states of Italy, the complete subjugation of which
took place with the fall of Tarentum, a Grecian city, which introduced
Grecian arts and literature. Sicily, the granary of Rome, was the next
conquest, the fruit of the first Punic War. The second Punic War added
to the empire Sardinia, Corsica, and the two Spanish provinces of Baetica
and Tarraconensis - about two thirds of the peninsula - fertile in the
productions of the earth, and enriched by mines of silver and gold, and
peopled by Iberians and Celts. The rich province of Illyricum was added
to the empire about one hundred and eighty years before Christ. Before
the battle of Actium, the empire extended over Achaia, Asia Minor,
Macedonia, Narbonensic Gaul, Cyrenaica, Crete, Cilicia, Cyprus,
Bithynia, Syria, Aquitania, Belgic and Celtic Gaul. Augustus added
Egypt, Lusitania, Numidia, Galatia, the Maritime Alps, Noricum,
Vindelicia, Rhaetia, Pannonia, and Mosia. Tiberius increased the empire
by the addition of Cappadocia. Claudius incorporated the two
Mauritanias, Lycia, Judaea, Thrace, and Britain. Nero added Pontus. These
various and extensive countries had every variety of climate and
productions, and boasted of celebrated cities. They composed most of the
provinces known to the ancients west of the Euphrates, and together
formed an empire in comparison with which the Assyrian and Egyptian
monarchies, and even the Grecian conquests, were vastly inferior. The
Saracenic conquests in the Middle Ages were not to be compared with
these, and the great empires of Charlemagne and Napoleon could be
included in less than half the limits. What a proud position it was to
be a Roman emperor, whose will was the law over the whole civilized
world! Well may the Roman empire be called universal, since it
controlled all the nations of the earth known to the Greeks. It was the
vastest centralization of power which this world has seen, or probably
will ever see, extending nearly over the whole of Europe, and the finest
parts of Asia and Africa. We are amazed that a single city of Italy
could thus occupy with her armies and reign supremely over so many
diverse countries and nations, speaking different languages, and having
different religions and customs. And when we contemplate this great
fact, we cannot but feel that it was a providential event, designed for
some grand benefit to the human race. That benefit was the preparation
for the reception of a new and universal religion. No system of "balance
of power," no political or military combinations, no hostilities could
prevent the absorption of the civilized world in the empire of the
Caesars.

[Sidenote: The Mediterranean the centre of the empire.]

If we more particularly examine this great empire, we observe that it
was substantially composed of the various countries and kingdoms which
bordered on the Mediterranean, and those other seas with which it was
connected. Roman power was scarcely felt on the shores of the Baltic, or
the eastern coasts of the Euxine, or on the Arabian and Persian gulfs.
The central part of the empire was Italy, the province which was first
conquered, and most densely populated. It was the richest in art, in
cities, in commerce, and in agriculture.

[Sidenote: Italy.]

[Sidenote: Natural productions.]

[Sidenote: Population.]

[Sidenote: Cities.]

[Sidenote: Italian Cities.]

[Sidenote: Memorable cities.]

Italy itself was no inconsiderable state - a beautiful peninsula,
extending six hundred and sixty geographical miles from the foot of the
Alps to the promontory of Leucopetra. Its greatest breadth is about one
hundred and thirty miles. It was always renowned for beauty and
fertility. Its climate on the south was that of Greece, and on the north
that of the south of France. The lofty range of the Apennines extended
through its entire length, while the waters of the Mediterranean and the
Adriatic tempered and varied its climate. Its natural advantages were
unequaled, with a soil favorable to agriculture, to the culture of
fruits, and the rearing of flocks. Its magnificent forests furnished
timber for ships; its rich pastures fed innumerable sheep, goats,
cattle, and horses; its olive groves were nowhere surpassed; its
mountains contained nearly every kind of metals; its coasts furnished a
great variety of fish; while its mineral springs supplied luxurious
baths. There were no extremes of heat and cold; the sky was clear and
serene; the face of the country was a garden. It was a paradise to the
eye of Virgil and Varro, the most favored of all the countries of
antiquity in those productions which sustain the life of man or beast.
The plains of Lombardy furnished maize and rice; oranges grew to great
perfection on the Ligurian coast; aloes and cactuses clothed the rocks
of the southern provinces; while the olive and the grape abounded in
every section. The mineral wealth of Italy was extolled by the ancient
writers, and the fisheries were as remarkable as agricultural products.
The population numbered over four millions who were free, and could
furnish seven hundred thousand foot and seventy thousand horse for the
armies of the republic, if they were all called into requisition. The
whole country was dotted with beautiful villas and farms, as well as
villages and cities. It contained twelve hundred cities or large towns
which had municipal privileges. Mediolanum, now Milan, the chief city in
Cisalpine Gaul, in the time of Ambrose, was adorned with palaces and
temples and baths. It was so populous that it lost it is said at one
time three hundred thousand male citizens in the inroads of the Goths.
It was surrounded with a double range of walls, and the houses were
elegantly built. It was also celebrated as the seat of learning and
culture. Verona had an amphitheatre of marble, whose remains are among
the most striking monuments of antiquity, capable of seating twenty-two
thousand people. Ravenna, near the mouth of the Padus (Po), built on
piles, was a great naval depot, and had an artificial harbor capable of
containing two hundred and fifty ships of war, and was the seat of
government after the fall of the empire. Padua counted among its
inhabitants five hundred Roman knights, and was able to send twenty
thousand men into the field. Aquileia was a great emporium of the trade
in wine, oil, and salted provisions. Pola had a magnificent
amphitheatre. Luna, now Spezzia, was famous for white marbles, and for
cheeses which often weighed a thousand pounds. Arutium, now Avezzo, an
Etrurian city, was celebrated for its potteries, many beautiful
specimens of which now ornament the galleries of Florence. Cortona had
walls of massive thickness, which can be traced to the Pelasgians.
Clusium, the capital of Porsenna, had a splendid mausoleum. Volsinii
boasted of two thousand statues. Veii had been the rival of Rome. In
Umbria, we may mention Sarsina, the birthplace of Plautus; Mevania, the
birthplace of Propertius; and Sentinum, famous for the self-devotion of
Decius. In Picenum were Ancona, celebrated for its purple dye; and
Picenum, surrounded by walls and inaccessible heights, memorable for a
siege against Pompey. Of the Sabine cities were Antemnae, more ancient
than Rome; Nomentum, famous for wine; Regillum, the birthplace of Appius
Claudius, the founder of the great Claudian family; Reate, famous for
asses, which sometimes brought the enormous price of 60,000 sesterces,
about $2320; Cutiliae, celebrated for its mineral waters; and Alba, in
which captives of rank were secluded. In Latium were Ostia, the seaport
of Rome; Laurentum, the capital of Latinus; Lavinium, fabled to have
been founded by Aeneas; Lanuvium, the birthplace of Roscius and the
Antonines; Alba Longa, founded four hundred years before Rome; Tusculum,
where Cicero had his villa; Tibur, whose temple was famous through
Italy; Praeneste, now Palestrio, remarkable for its citadel and its
temple of Fortune; Antium, to which Coriolanus retired after his
banishment, a favorite residence of Augustus, and the birthplace of
Nero, celebrated also for a magnificent temple, amid whose ruins was
found the Apollo Belvidere; Forum Appii, mentioned by St. Paul, from
which travelers on the Appian Way embarked on a canal; Arpinum, the
birthplace of Cicero; Aquium, where Juvenal and Thomas Aquinas were
born, famous for a purple dye; Formiae, a favorite residence of Cicero.
In Campania were Cumae, the abode of the Sibyl; Misenum, a great naval
station; Baiae, celebrated for its spas and villas; Puteoli, famous for
sulphur springs; Neapolis, the abode of literary idlers; Herculaneum and
Pompeii, destroyed by an eruption of Vesuvius; Capua, the capital of
Campania, and inferior to Rome alone; and Salernum, a great military
stronghold. In Samnium were Bovianum, a very opulent city; Beneventum,
and Sepinum. In Apulia were Sarinum; Venusia, the birthplace of Horace;
Cannae, memorable for the great victory of Hannibal; Brundusium, a city
of great antiquity on the Adriatic, and one of the great naval stations
of the Romans; and Tarentum, the rival of Brundusium, a great military
stronghold. In Lucania were Metapontum, at one time the residence of
Pythagoras; Heraclea, the seat of a general council; Sybaris, which once
was the mistress of twenty-five dependent cities, fifty stadia in
circumference, and capable of sending an army of three hundred
thousand [Footnote: Anthon, _Geog_. _Diet_.] men into the field,
- a city so prosperous and luxurious that the very name of
Sybarite was synonymous with voluptuousness.

[Sidenote: Pompeii.]

Such were among the principal cities of Italy. More than two hundred and
fifty towns or cities are historical, and were famous for the residence
of great men, or for wines, wool, dyes, and various articles of luxury.
The ruins of Pompeii prove it to have been a city of great luxury and
elegance. The excavations, which have brought to light the wonders of
this buried city, attest a very high material civilization; yet it was
only a second-rate provincial town, of which not much is commemorated in
history. It was simply a resort for Roman nobles who had villas in its
neighborhood. It was surrounded with a wall, and was built with great
regularity. Its streets were paved, and it had its forum, its
amphitheatre, its theatre, its temples, its basilicas, its baths, its
arches, and its monuments. The basilica was two hundred and twenty feet
in length by eighty feet in width, the roof of which was supported by
twenty-eight Ionic columns. The temple of Venus was profusely ornamented
with paintings. One of the theatres was built of marble, and was capable
of seating five thousand spectators, and the amphitheatre would seat ten
thousand.

[Sidenote: Sicily and Sardinia.]

[Sidenote: Richness of Sicily.]

[Sidenote: Syracuse.]

But Italy, so grand in cities, so varied in architectural wonders, so
fertile in soil, so salubrious in climate, so rich in minerals, so
prolific in fruits and vegetables and canals, was only a small part of
the empire of the Caesars. The Punic wars, undertaken soon after the
expulsion of Pyrrhus, resulted in the acquisition of Sicily, Sardinia,
and Africa, from which the Romans were supplied with inexhaustible
quantities of grain, and in the creation of a great naval power. Sicily,



Online LibraryJohn LordThe Old Roman World, : the Grandeur and Failure of Its Civilization → online text (page 6 of 50)