John Lord.

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

. (page 8 of 50)
Online LibraryJohn LordThe Old Roman World, : the Grandeur and Failure of Its Civilization → online text (page 8 of 50)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

reduction of Numantia, a city of the Celtiberians in the valley of the
Douro, and its siege is more famous than that of Carthage, having defied
for a long time the whole power of the empire, as Tyre did Alexander,
and Jerusalem the armies of Titus. It yielded to the genius of Scipio,
the conqueror of Africa, as La Rochelle, in later times, fell before
Richelieu, but not until famine had done its work. The civilization of
Spain was rapid after the fall of Numantia, and in the time of the
Antonines was one of the richest and most prized of the Roman provinces.
It embraced the whole peninsula, from the Pillars of Hercules to the
Pyrenees; and the warlike nations who composed it became completely
Latinized. It was divided into three provinces - Boetica, Lusitania, and
Tarraconensis - all governed by praetors, the last of whom had consular
power, and resided in Carthago Nova, on the Mediterranean. Under
Constantine, Spain, with its islands, was divided into seven provinces,
and stood out from the rest of the empire like a round bastion tower
from the walls of an old fortified town. This magnificent possession,
extending four hundred and sixty miles from north to south, and five
hundred and seventy from east to west, including, with the Balearic
Isles, 171,300 square miles, with a rich and fertile soil and
inexhaustible mineral resources, was worth more to the Romans than all
the conquests of Pompey and Sulla, since it furnished men for the
armies, and materials for a new civilization. It furnished corn, oil,
wine, fruits, pasturage, metals of all kinds, and precious stones.
Boetica was famed for its harvests, Lusitania for its flocks,
Tarraconensis for its timber, and the fields around Carthago Nova for
materials of which cordage was made. But the great value of the
peninsula to the eyes of the Romans was in its rich mines of gold,
silver, and other metals. The bulk of the population was Iberian. The
Celtic element was the next most prominent. There were six hundred and
ninety-three towns and cities in which justice was administered. New
Carthage, on the Mediterranean, had a magnificent harbor, was strongly
fortified, and was twenty stadia in circumference, was a great emporium
of trade, and was in the near vicinity of the richest silver mines of
Spain, which employed forty thousand men. Gades (New Cadiz), a
Phoenician colony, on the Atlantic Ocean, was another commercial centre,
and numbered five hundred Equites among the population, and was
immensely rich. Corduba, on the Boetis (Guadalquivir), the capital of
Boetica, was a populous city before the Roman conquest, and was second
only to Gades as a commercial mart. It was the birthplace of Seneca and

[Sidenote: Richness of Gaul.]

[Sidenote: Population and cities.]

[Sidenote: Splendor of Gaulish cities.]

Gaul, which was the first of Caesar's most brilliant conquests, and which
took him ten years to accomplish, was a still more extensive province.
It was inhabited chiefly by Celtic tribes, who, uniting with Germanic
nations, made a most obstinate defense. When incorporated with the
empire, Gaul became rapidly civilized. It was a splendid country,
extending from the Pyrenees to the Rhine, with a sea-coast of more than
six hundred miles, and separated from Italy by the Alps, having 200,000
square miles. Great rivers, as in Spain, favored an extensive commerce
with the interior, and on their banks were populous and beautiful
cities. Its large coast on both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic gave
it a communication with all the world. It produced corn, oil, and wine,
those great staples, in great abundance. It had a beautiful climate, and
a healthy and hardy population, warlike, courageous, and generous. Gaul
was a populous country even in Caesar's time, and possessed twelve
hundred towns and cities, some of which were of great importance.
Burdigala, now Bordeaux, the chief city of Aquitania, on the Garonne,
was famous for its schools of rhetoric and grammar. Massolia
(Marseilles), before the Punic wars was a strong fortified city, and was
largely engaged in commerce. Vienne, a city of the Allobroges, was
inclosed with lofty walls, and had an amphitheatre whose long diameter
was five hundred feet, and the aqueducts supplied the city with water.
Lugdunum (Lyons) on the Rhone, was a place of great trade, and was
filled with temples, theatres, palaces, and aqueducts. Nemausus (NOEmes)
had subject to it twenty-four villages, and from the monuments which
remain, must have been a city of considerable importance. Its
amphitheatre would seat seventeen thousand people; and its aqueduct
constructed of three successive tiers of arches, one hundred and fifty-
five feet high, eight hundred and seventy feet long, and fifty feet
wide, is still one of the finest monuments of antiquity, built of stone
without cement. It is still solid and strong, and gives us a vivid
conception of the magnificence of Roman masonry. Narbo (Narbonne) was
another commercial centre, adorned with public buildings which called
forth the admiration of ancient travelers. The modern cities of Treves,
Boulogne, Rheims, Chalons, Cologne, Metz, Dijon, Sens, Orleans,
Poictiers, Clermont, Rouen, Paris, Basil, Geneva, were all considerable
places under the Roman rule, and some were of great antiquity.

[Sidenote: Illyricum.]

Illyricum is not famous in Roman history, but was a very considerable
province, equal to the whole Austrian empire in our times, and was as
completely reclaimed from barbarism as Gaul or Spain. Both Jerome and
Diocletian were born in a little Dalmatian town.

[Sidenote: Cultivated face of nature.]

[Sidenote: Agricultural wealth.]

Nothing could surpass the countries which bordered on the Mediterranean
in all those things which give material prosperity. They were salubrious
in climate, fertile in soil, cultivated like a garden, abounding in
nearly all the fruits, vegetables, and grains now known to civilization.
The beautiful face of nature was the subject of universal panegyric to
the fall of the empire. There were no destructive wars. All the various
provinces were controlled by the central power which emanated from Rome.
There was scope for commerce, and all kinds of manufacturing skill.
Italy, Sicily, and Egypt were especially fertile. The latter country
furnished corn in countless quantities for the Roman market. Italy could
boast of fifty kinds of wine, and was covered with luxurious villas in
which were fish-ponds, preserves for game, wide olive groves and
vineyards, to say nothing of the farms which produced milk, cheese,
honey, and poultry. Syria was so prosperous that its inhabitants divided
their time between the field, the banquet, and the gymnasium, and
indulged in continual festivals. It was so rich that Antiochus III. was
able to furnish at one time a tribute of 15,000 talents, beside 540,000
measures of wheat. The luxury of Nineveh and Babylon was revived in the
Phoenician cities.

[Sidenote: Natural productions of the various provinces.]

Spain produced horses, mules, wool, oil, figs, wine, corn, honey, beer,
flax, linen, beside mines of copper, silver, gold, quicksilver, tin,
lead, and steel. Gaul was so cultivated that there was little waste
land, and produced the same fruits and vegetables as at the present
day. Its hams and sausages were much prized. Sicily was famous for
wheat, Sardinia for wool, Epirus for horses, Macedonia for goats,
Thessaly for oil, Boeotia for flax, Scythia for furs, and Greece for
honey. Almost all the flowers, herbs, and fruits that grow in European
gardens were known to the Romans - the apricot, the peach, the
pomegranate, the citron, the orange, the quince, the apple, the pear,
the plum, the cherry, the fig, the date, the olive. Martial speaks of
pepper, beans, pulp, lentils, barley, beets, lettuce, radishes, cabbage
sprouts, leeks, turnips, asparagus, mushrooms, truffles, as well as all
sorts of game and birds. [Footnote: Martial, B. 13.] In no age of the
world was agriculture more honored than before the fall of the empire.

[Sidenote: Roads.]

And all these provinces were connected with each other and with the
capital by magnificent roads, perfectly straight, and paved with large
blocks of stone. They were originally constructed for military purposes,
but were used by travelers, and on them posts were regularly
established. They crossed valleys upon arches, and penetrated mountains.
In Italy, especially, they were great works of art, and connected all
the provinces. Among the great roads which conveyed to Rome as a centre
were the Clodian and Cassian roads which passed through Etruria; the
Amerina and Flavinia through Umbria; the Via Valeria, which had its
terminus at Alternum on the Adriatic; the Via Latina, which, passing
through Latium and Campania, extended to the southern extremity of
Italy; the Via Appia also passed through Latium, Campania, Lucania,
Iapygia to Brundusium, on the Adriatic. Again, from the central terminus
at Milan, several lines passed through the gorges of the Alps, and
connected Italy with Lyons and Mayence on the one side, and with the
Tyrol and Danubian provinces on the other. Spain and southern Gaul were
connected by a grand road from Cadiz to Narbonne and Arles. Lyons was
another centre from which branched out military roads to Saintes,
Marseilles, Boulogne, and Mayence. In fact, the Roman legion could
traverse every province in the empire over these grandly built public
roads, as great and important in the second century as railroads are at
the present time. There was an uninterrupted communication from the Wall
of Antonius through York, London, Sandwich, Boulogne, Rheims, Lyons,
Milan, Rome, Brundusium, Dyrrachium, Byzantium, Ancyra, Tarsus, Antioch,
Tyre, Jerusalem - a distance of 3740 miles. And these roads were divided
by milestones, and houses for travelers erected every five or six miles.

[Sidenote: Commerce.]

[Sidenote: Objects of ancient commerce.]

Commerce under the emperors was not what it now is, but still was very
considerable, and thus united the various provinces together. The most
remote countries were ransacked to furnish luxuries for Rome. Every year
a fleet of one hundred and twenty vessels sailed from the Red Sea for
the islands of the Indian Ocean. But the Mediterranean, with the rivers
which flowed into it, was the great highway of the ancient navigator.
Navigation by the ancients was even more rapid than in modern times
before the invention of steam, since oars were employed as well as
sails. In summer one hundred and sixty-two Roman miles were sailed over
in twenty-four hours. This was the average speed, or about seven knots.
From the mouth of the Tiber, vessels could usually reach Africa in two
days, Massilia in three, Tarraco in four, and the Pillars of Hercules in
seven. From Puteoli the passage to Alexandria had been effected, with
moderate winds, in nine days. But these facts apply only to the summer,
and to objects of favorable winds. The Romans did not navigate in the
inclement seasons. But in summer the great inland sea was white with
sails. Great fleets brought corn from Gaul, Spain, Sardinia, Africa,
Sicily, and Egypt. This was the most important trade. But a considerable
commerce was carried on in ivory, tortoise-shell, cotton and silk
fabrics, pearls and precious stones, gums, spices, wines, wool, oil.
Greek and Asiatic wines, especially the Chian and Lesbian, were in great
demand at Rome. The transport of earthenware, made generally in the
Grecian cities; of wild animals for the amphitheatre; of marble, of the
spoils of eastern cities, of military engines, and stores, and horses,
required very large fleets and thousands of mariners, which probably
belonged, chiefly, to great maritime cities like Alexandria, Corinth,
Carthage, Rhodes, Cyrene, Massalia, Neapolis, Tarentum, and Syracuse.
These great cities with their dependencies, required even more vessels
for communication with each other than for Rome herself - the great
central object of enterprise and cupidity.

[Sidenote: The metropolis of the empire.]

[Sidenote: The centre and the pride of the world.]

[Sidenote: Its varied objects of interest.]

In this survey of the provinces and cities which composed the empire of
the Caesars, I have not yet spoken of the great central city - the City of
the Seven Hills, to which all the world was tributary. Rome was so
grand, so vast, so important in every sense, political and social; she
was such a concentration of riches and wonders, that it demands a
separate and fuller notice than what I have been able to give of those
proud capitals which finally yielded to her majestic domination. All
other cities not merely yielded precedence, but contributed to her
greatness. Whatever was costly, or rare, or beautiful in Greece, or
Asia, or Egypt, was appropriated by her citizen kings, since citizens
were provincial governors. All the great roads, from the Atlantic to the
Tigris, converged to Rome. All the ships of Alexandria and Carthage and
Tarentum, and other commercial capitals, were employed in furnishing her
with luxuries or necessities. Never was there so proud a city as this
"Epitome of the Universe." London, Paris, Vienna, Constantinople, St.
Petersburg, Berlin, are great centres of fashion and power; but they are
rivals, and excel only in some great department of human enterprise and
genius, as in letters, or fashions, or commerce, or manufactures -
centres of influence and power in the countries of which they are
capitals, yet they do not monopolize the wealth and energies of the
world. London may contain more people than ancient Rome, and may possess
more commercial wealth; but London represents only the British monarchy,
not a universal empire. Rome, however, monopolized everything, and
controlled all nations and peoples. She could shut up the schools of
Athens, or disperse the ships of Alexandria, or regulate the shops of
Antioch. What Lyons or Bordeaux is to Paris, Corinth or Babylon was to
Rome - secondary cities, dependent cities. Paul condemned at Jerusalem,
stretched out his arms to Rome, and Rome protects him. The philosophers
of Greece are the tutors of Roman nobility. The kings of the East resort
to the palaces of Mount Palatine for favors or safety. The governors of
Syria and Egypt, reigning in the palaces of ancient kings, return to
Rome to squander the riches they have accumulated. Senators and nobles
take their turn as sovereign rulers of all the known countries of the
world. The halls in which Darius, and Alexander, and Pericles, and
Croesus, and Solomon, and Cleopatra have feasted, if unspared by the
conflagrations of war, witness the banquets of Roman proconsuls. Babylon
and Thebes and Athens were only what Delhi and Calcutta are to the
English of our day - cities to be ruled by the delegates of the Roman
Senate. Rome was the only "home" of the proud governors who reigned on
the banks of the Thames, of the Seine, of the Rhine, of the Nile, of the
Tigris. After they had enriched themselves with the spoils of the
ancient monarchies they returned to their estates in Italy, or to their
palaces on the Aventine, for the earth had but _one_ capital - one
great centre of attraction. To an Egyptian even, Alexandria was only
provincial. He must travel to the banks of the Tiber to see something
greater than his own capital. It was the seat of government for one
hundred and twenty millions of people. It was the arbiter of taste and
fashion. It was the home of generals and senators and statesmen, of
artists and scholars and merchants, who were renowned throughout the
empire. It was enriched by the contributions of conquered nations for
eight hundred years. It contained more marble statues than living
inhabitants. Every spot was consecrated by associations; every temple
had a history; every palace had been the scene of festivities which made
it famous; every monument pointed to the deeds of the illustrious dead,
and swelled the pride of the most powerful families which aristocratic
ages had created.

* * * * *

For the ancient authorities, see Strabo, Pliny, Polybius, Diodorus
Siculus, Titus Livius, Pausanias, and Herodotus. There is an able
chapter on Mediterranean prosperity in Napoleon's _History of
Caesar_. Smith, _Dictionary of Ancient Geography_, is exhaustive.
See, also, Muller, article on _Atticus_, in Ersch, and Gruber's
_Encyclopedia_, translated by Lockhart; Stuart and Revett,
_Antiquities of Atticus_; Dodwell, _Tour through Greece_; Wilkinson,
_Hand-book for Travelers in Egypt_; Becker, _Hand-book of Rome_.
Anthon has compiled a useful work on ancient geography, but the most
accessible and valuable book on the material aspects of the old
Roman world is the great dictionary of Smith, from which this chapter is
chiefly compiled.



[Sidenote: Early inhabitants of Italy.]

The great capital of the ancient world had a very humble beginning, and
that is involved in myth and mystery. Even the Latin stock, inhabiting
the country from the Tiber to the Volscian mountains, which furnished
the first inhabitants of the city, cannot be clearly traced, since we
have no traditions of the first migration of the human race into Italy.
It is supposed by Mommsen that the peoples which inhabited Latium belong
to the Indo-Germanic family. Among these were probably the independent
cantons of the Ramnians, Tities, and Luceres, which united to form a
single commonwealth, and occupied the hills which arose about fourteen
miles from the mouth of the Tiber. Around these hills was a rural
population which tilled the fields. From these settlements a fortified
fort arose on the Palatine Hill, fitted to be a place of trade from its
situation on the Tiber, and also a fortress to protect the urban
villages. Though unhealthy in its site, it was admirably adapted for
these purposes, and thus early became an important place.

[Sidenote: Foundation of Rome.]

[Sidenote: Settlement under Romulus.]

[Sidenote: Extent of the city at the death of Romulus.]

The legends attribute a different foundation of the "Eternal City." But
these also assign the Palatine as the nucleus of ancient Rome. It was on
this hill that Romulus and Remus grew up to manhood, and it was this
hill which Romulus selected as the site of the city he was so desirous
to build. But modern critics suppose that he did not occupy the whole
hill, but only the western part of it. Varro, whose authority is
generally received, assigns the year 753 before Christ as the date for
the foundation of the city. The first memorable incident in the history
of this little city of robbers was the care of Romulus to increase its
population by opening an asylum for fugitive slaves on the Capitoline
Hill. But this supplied only males who had no wives. And when the
proposal of the founder to solicit intermarriage with the neighboring
nations was rejected, he resorted to stratagem and force. He invites the
Sabines and the people of other Latin towns to witness games. A crowd of
men and women are assembled, and while all are intent on the games, the
unmarried women are seized by the Roman youth. Then ensues, of course, a
war with the Sabines, the result of which is that the Sabines are united
with the Romans and settle on the Quirinal. The Saturnian Hill is left
in possession of the Sabines, while Romulus assumes the Sabine name of
Quirinus, from which we infer that the Sabines had the best of the
conflict. Callius, who, it is said, assisted Romulus, receives as a
compensation the hill known as the Caelian. At the death of Romulus, who
reigned thirty-seven years, Rome comprised the Palatine, the Quirinal,
the Caelian, and the Capitoline hills. [Footnote: M. Ampere, _Hist.
Rom._, tom. i. ch. xii.] The Sabines thus occupy two of the seven
hills, and furnish not only people for the infant city, but laws,
customs, and manners, especially religious observances.

[Sidenote: The public works of Numa.]

The reign of Numa was devoted to the consolidation of the power which
Romulus had acquired, to the civilization of his subjects, and the
improvement of the city. He fixed his residence between the Roman and
the Sabine city, and erected adjoining to the Regia a temple to Vesta,
which was probably only an _oedes sacra_. It was probably along with
these buildings that the Sacra Via came into existence. The Regia became
in after times the residence of the Pontifex Maximus. Numa established
on the Palatine the Curia Saliorum, and built on the Quirinal a temple
of Romulus, afterwards rebuilt by Augustus. He also erected on the
Quirinal a citadel connected with a temple of Jupiter, with cells of
Juno and Minerva. He converted the gate which formed the entrance of the
Sabine city into a temple of Janus, and laid the foundation upon the
Capitoline of a large temple to Fides Publica, the public faith.

[Sidenote: The reign of Tullus Hostilius.]

[Sidenote: Improvement of the city made by Tullus.]

Under the reign of Tullus Hostilius was the capture of Alba Longa, the
old capital of Latium, where Numa had reigned, and the transfer of its
inhabitants to Rome, which thus became the chief city of the Latin
league. They were located on the Caelian, which also became the residence
of the king. He built the Curia Hostilia, a senate chamber, to
accommodate the noble Alban families, in which the Roman Senate
assembled, at the northwest corner of the Forum, to the latest times of
the republic. It was a templum, but not dedicated for divine services,
adjoining the eastern side of the Vulcanal. Out of the spoils of Alba
Longa, Tullus improved the Comitium, a space at the northwest end of the
Forum, fronting the Curia, the common meeting place of the Romans and
Sabines. On the Quirinal Hill he erected a Curia Saliorum in imitation
of that of Numa on the Palatine, devoted to the worship of Quirinus.

[Sidenote: Growth of Rome during the reign of Ancus Martius.]

Ancus Martius, a grandson of Numa, succeeded Tullus after a reign of
thirty-two years. Under him the city was greatly augmented by the
inhabitants of various Latin cities which he subdued. These settled on
the Aventine, and in the valley which separated it from the Palatine,
supposed by Niebuhr to be the origin of the Roman Plebs, though it is
maintained by Lewis that the Plebeian order was coaeval with the
foundation of the city. Ancus fortified Mons Janiculus, the hill on the
western bank of the Tiber, for the protection of the city. He connected
it with Rome by the Pons Sublicius, the earliest of the Roman bridges,
built on piles. The Janiculum was not much occupied by residences until
the time of Augustus. Ancus founded Ostia, at the mouth of the Tiber,
which became the port of Rome. It was this king who built the famous
Mamertine Prison, near the Forum, below the northern height of the

[Sidenote: Tarquinius Priscus.]

[Sidenote: The Cloaca Maxima.]

[Sidenote: Temple of the Capitoline Jupiter.]

A new dynasty succeeded this king, who reigned twenty-four years; that
of the Tarquins, an Etrurian family of Greek extraction, which came from
Corinth, the cradle of Grecian art, celebrated as the birth-place of
painting and for its works of pottery and bronze. Tarquinius Priscus
constructed the Cloaca Maxima, that vast sewer which drained the Forum
and Velabrum, and which is regarded by Niebuhr as one of the most
stupendous monuments of antiquity. It was composed of three semicircular
arches inclosing one another, the innermost of which had a diameter of
twelve feet, large enough to be traversed by a Roman hay-cart.
[Footnote: Arnold, _Hist. of Rom._, vol. i. p. 52.] It was built
without cement, and still remains a magnificent specimen of the
perfection of the old Tuscan masonry. Along the southern side of the
Forum this enlightened monarch constructed a row of shops occupied by
butchers and other tradesmen. At the head of the Forum and under the
Capitoline he founded the Temple of Saturn, the ruins of which attest
considerable splendor. But his greatest work was the foundation of the
Capitoline Temple of Jupiter, completed by Tarquinius Superbus, the
consecrated citadel in which was deposited whatever was most valued by
the Romans.

[Sidenote: Accession of Servius Tullius.]

During the reign of Servius Tullius, who succeeded Tarquin B.C. 578, the
various elements of the population were amalgamated, and the seven
hills, namely, the Palatine, the Capitoline, the Quirinal, the Caelian,
the Viminal, the Esquiline, and the Aventine, were covered with houses,

Online LibraryJohn LordThe Old Roman World, : the Grandeur and Failure of Its Civilization → online text (page 8 of 50)