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The old Roman world : the grandeur and failure of its civilization online

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Received October, 1894.
Accessions No./0 . Class No.











Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by

In the Clerk s Office of the District Court for the District of Connecticut








Early History of Rome Wars under the Kings Their Results

Gradual Subjection of Italy Great Heroes of the Repub
lic Their Virtues and Victories Military Aggrandizement

The Carthaginian, Macedonian, and Asiatic Wars Their
Consequences Civil Wars of Marius and Sulla, of Pompey
and Caesar The Conquests of the Barbarians Extension of
Roman Dominion in the East Conquests of the Emperors
The Military Forces of the Empire Military Science The
Roman Legion The Military Genius of the Romans, 19



The vast Extent of the Empire Boundaries Rivers and
Mountains The Mediterranean and its Islands The Prov
inces Principal Cities Great Architectural Monuments
Roads Commerce Agriculture Manufactures Wealth

Population Unity of the Empire, 71



Original Settlement The Seven Hills Progress of the City

Principal Architectural Monuments A Description of the
Temples, Bridges, Aqueducts, Forums, Basilicas, Palaces, Am
phitheatres, Theatres, Circuses, Columns, Arches, Baths, Obe-

iv Contents.


lisks, Tombs Miscellaneous Antiquities Streets Gardens

Private Houses Populous Quarters Famous Statues and
Pictures General Magnificence Population, 100



The great Wonders of Ancient Architecture, Sculpture, and
Painting Famous Artists of Antiquity How far the Ro
mans copied the Greeks How far they extended Art Its
Principles Its Perfection Causes of its Decline Perma
nence of its grand Creations, 139



The Original Citizens Comitia Calata Comitia Curiata
Comitia Centuriata Comitia Tributa The Plebs Great
Patrician Families The Aristocratic Structure of ancient Ro
man Society The Dignity and Power of the Senate The
Knights The Growth of the Democracy Contests between
Patricians and Plebeians Rise of Tribunes Popular Lead
ers Their Laws The Great Officers of State Provincial
Governors Usurpations of fortunate Generals The Revo
lution under Julius Cassar and Augustus Imperial Despotism

Preservation of the Forms of the Republic, and utter Pros*
tration of its Spirit, 189



Genius of the Romans for Government and Laws Develop
ment of Jurisprudence Legislative Sources Judicial Power

Courts of Law The Profession of Law Great Lawyers
and Jurists Ancient Codes Imperial Codes The Law of
Persons Rights of Citizens, of Foreigners, of Slaves Laws
of Marriage, of Divorce, of Adoption Paternal Power
Guardianship Laws relating to Real Rights Law of Obli
gations Laws of Succession Testaments and Legacies
Actions and Procedure in Civil Suits Criminal Law, 2"23




The Grecian Models How far they contributed to Roman Cre
ations The Development of the Latin Language The Or
ators, Poets, Dramatists, Satirists, Historians, and their chief
Works How far Literature was cultivated Schools Li
braries Literary Legacies of the Romans, 262



Its gradual Development from Thales to Aristotle How far
the Romans adopted the Greek Philosophy What Additions
they made to it How far it modified Roman Thought and
Life Influence of Philosophy on Christianity Influence on
modern Civilization, 30G



The Mathematical Genius of the Old Astronomers Their La
bors and Discoveries Extent of Astronomical Knowledge
The Alexandrian School The Science of Geometry and how
far carried Great Names Medicine Geography Other
Physical Sciences and their limited Triumphs, 353



The Vices and Miseries of Roman Society Social Inequalities
Disproportionate Fortunes The Wealth and Corruption
of Nobles Degradation of the People Vast Extent of Slav
ery The Condition of AVomen Demoralizing Games and
Spectacles Excessive Luxury and squalid Misery Money-
makingimperial Misrule Universal Egotism and Insen
sibility to grand Sentiments Hopelessness of Reform Prep
aration for Ruin, , 387

vi Contents.




False Security of the Roman People Their stupendous Delu
sions The Invasion of Barbarians Their Characteristics
Their alternate Victory and Defeat Desolation of the Prov-
inces The Degeneracy of the Legions General Imbecility
and Cowardice Great public Misfortunes General Union
of the Germanic Nations Their Leaders Noble but vain
Efforts of a Succession of warlike Emperors The rising
Tide of Barbarians Their irresistible Advance The Siege
and Sack of Rome The Fall of Cities Miseries of all
Classes Universal Despair and Ruin The Greatness of the
Catastrophe Reflections on the Fall of Rome, 436



Necessary Corruption of all Institutions under Paganism Glory
succeeded by Shame The Army a worn-out Mechanism
The low Aims of Government Difficulties of the Emperors
Laws perverted or unenforced The Degeneracy of Art
The Frivolity of Literature The imperfect Triumph of Phi
losophy Nothing Conservative in human Creations Neces
sity of Aid from foreign and Divine Sources, 493



The Victories of Christianity came too late Small Number of
Converts when Christianity was a renovating Power Their
comparative Unimportance in a political and social View for
three Centuries The Church constructs a Polity for Itself
rather than seeks to change established Institutions Rapid
Corruption of Christianity when established, and Adoption of
Pagan Ideas and Influences No Renovation of worn-out
Races No Material on which Christianity could work Not

Contents. v


the Mission of the Church to save Empires, but the Race
A diseased Body must die, 537



The great Ideas which the Fathers propounded The Principle of
Self-sacrifice, seen especially in early Martyrdoms The Idea
of Benevolence in connection with public and private Chari
tiesImportance of public Preaching Pulpit Oratory
The Elaboration of Christian Doctrine Its Connection with
Philosophy Church Psalmody The Principle of Christian
Equality Its Effects on Slavery and the Elevation of the
People The Social Equality of the Sexes Superiority in
the condition of the modern over the ancient Woman The
Idea of Popular Education The Unity of the Church, 576



I PROPOSE to describe the Greatness and the Misery of
the old Roman world ; nor is there any thing in history
more suggestive and instructive.

A little city, founded by robbers on the banks of the
Tiber, rises gradually into importance, although the great
cities of the East are scarcely conscious of its existence. Its
early struggles simply arrest the attention, and excite the
jealousy, of the neighboring nations. The citizens of this
little state are warriors, and, either for defense or glory,
they subdue one after another the cities of Latium and
Etruria, then the whole of Italy, and finally the old
monarchies and empires of the world. In two hundred
and fifty years the citizens have become nobles, and a
great aristocracy is founded, which lasts eight hundred
years. Their aggressive policy and unbounded ambition
involve the whole world in war, which does not cease
until all the nations known to the Greeks acknowledge
their sway. Everywhere Roman laws, language, and in
stitutions spread. A vast empire arises, larger than the
Assyrian and the Macedonian combined, a universal
empire, a great wonder and mystery, having all the
grandeur of a providential event. It becomes too great
to be governed by an oligarchy of nobles. Civil wars
create an imperator, who, uniting in himself all the great
offices of state, and sustained by the conquering legions,
rules from East to West and from North to South, with
absolute and undivided sovereignty. The Caesars reach
the summit of human greatness and power, and the city

10 Introduction.

of Romulus becomes the haughty mistress of the world.
The emperor is worshiped as a deity, and the proud me
tropolis calls herself eternal. An empire is established by
force of arms and by a uniform policy, such as this world
has not seen before or since.

Early Roman history is chiefly the detail of successful
wars, aggressive and uncompromising, in which we see a
fierce and selfish patriotism, an indomitable will, a hard
unpitying temper, great practical sagacity, patience, and
perseverance, superiority to adverse fortune, faith in na
tional destinies, heroic sentiments, and grand ambition.
We see a nation of citizen soldiers, an iron race of con
querors, bent on conquest, on glory, on self-exaltation,
attaching but little value to the individual man, but exalt
ing the integrity and unity of the state. We see no fitful
policy, no abandonment to the enjoyment of the fruits of
victory, no rest, no repose, no love of art or literature, but
an unbounded passion for domination. The Romans toiled,
and suffered, and died, never wearied, never discour
aged, never satisfied, until their mission was accomplished
and the world lay bleeding and prostrate at their feet.

In the latter days of the Republic, the Roman citizen,
originally contented with a few acres in the plains and val
leys through which the Tiber flowed, becomes a great
landed proprietor, owning extensive estates in the con
quered territories, an aristocrat, a knight, a senator, a no
ble, while his dependents disdained to labor and were fed
at the public expense. The state could afford to give
them corn, oil, and wine, for it was the owner of Egypt,
of Greece, of Asia Minor, of Syria, of Spain, of Gaul, of
Africa, a belt of territory around the Mediterranean
Sea one thousand miles in breadth, embracing the whole
temperate zone, from the Atlantic Ocean to the wilds of
Scythia. The Romans revel in the spoils of the nations
they have conquered, adorn their capital with the won
ders of Grecian art, and abandon themselves to pleasure

Introduction. 11

and money-making. The Roman grandees divide among
themselves the lands and riches of the world, and this
dwelling-place of princes looms up the proud centre of
mundane glory and power.

In the great success of the Romans, we notice not only
their own heroic qualities, but the hopeless degeneracy of
the older nations and the reckless turbulence of the west
ern barbarians, both of whom needed masters.

The conquered world must be governed. The Romans
had a genius for administration as well as for war. While
war was reduced to a science, government became an art.
Seven hundred years of war and administration gave ex
perience and skill, and the wisdom thus learned became a
legacy to future civilizations.

It was well, both for enervated orientals and wild bar
barians, to be ruled by such iron masters. The nations
at last enjoyed peace and prosperity, and Christianity was
born and spread. A new power silently arose, which was
destined to change government, and science, and all the
relations of social life, and lay a foundation for a new and
more glorious structure of society than what Paganism
could possibly create. We see the hand of Providence in
all these mighty changes, and it is equally august in over
ruling the glories and the shame of a vast empire for the
ultimate good of the human race.

If we more minutely examine the history of either Re
publican or Imperial Rome, we read lessons of great sig
nificance. In the Republic we see a constant war of
classes and interests, plebeians arrayed against patri
cians ; the poor opposed to the rich ; the struggle be
tween capital and labor, between an aristocracy and ole-
mocracy. Although the favored classes on the whole
retained ascendancy, yet the people constantly gained priv
ileges, and at last were enabled, by throwing their influ
ence into the hands of demagogues, to overturn the consti
tution. Julius Caesar, the greatest name in ancient his-

12 Introduction.

tory, himself a patrician, by courting the people triumphed
over the aristocratical oligarchy and introduced a new
regime. His dictatorship was the consummation of the
victories of the people over nobles as signally as the sub
mission of all classes to fortunate and unscrupulous gen

We err, however, in supposing that the Republic was
ever a democracy, as we understand the term, or as it was
understood in Athens. Power was always in the hands
of senators, nobles, and rich men, as it still is in England,
and was in Venice. Popular liberty was a name, and
democratic institutions were feeble and shackled. The
citizen-noble was free, not the proletarian. The latter had
the redress of laws, but only such as the former gave.
How exclusive must have been an aristocracy when the
Claudian family boasted that, for five hundred years, it
had never received any one into it by adoption, and when
the Emperor Nero was the first who received its privi
leges ! It is with the senatorial families, who contrived
to retain all the great offices of the state, that everything
interesting in the history of Republican Rome is identified,
whether political quarrels, or private feuds, or legisla
tion, or the control of armies, or the improvements of the
city, or the government of provinces. It was they, as sen
ators, governors, consuls, generals, quaestors, who gave the
people baths, theatres, and temples. They headed factions
as well as armies. They were the state.

The main object to which the reigning classes gave
their attention was war, the extension of the empire.
" Ubi castra^ ibi respublica.* Republican Rome was a
camp, controlled by aristocratic generals. Dominion and
conquest were their great ideas, their aim, their ambition.
To these were sacrificed pleasure, gain, ease, luxury,
learning, and art. And when they had conquered they
sought to rule, and they knew how to rule. Aside from
conquest and government there is nothing peculiarly im-

Introduction. 13

pressive in Roman history, except the struggles of political
leaders and the war of classes.

But in these there is wonderful fascination. The
mythic period under kings ; the contests with Latins,
Etruscans, Volscians, Samnites, and Gauls; the legends
of Porsenna, of Cincinnatus, of Coriolanus, of Virginia ;
the heroism of Camillus, of Fabius, of Decius, of Scipio ;
the great struggle with Pyrrhus and Hannibal ; the wars
with Carthage, Macedonia, and Asia Minor ; the rivalries
between patrician and plebeian families ; the rise of trib
unes ; the Maenian, Hortensian, and Agrarian laws; the
noble efforts of the Gracchi ; the censorship of Cato ; the
civil wars of Marius and Sulla, and their exploits, followed
by the still greater conquests of Pompey and Julius ; these,
and other feats of heroism and strength, are full of interest
which can never be exhausted. We ponder on them in
youth ; we return to them in old age.

And yet the real grandeur of Rome is associated with
the emperors. With their accession there is a change in
the policy of the state from war to peace. There is a
greater desire to preserve than extend the limits of the
empire. The passion for war is succeeded by a passion for
government and laws. Labor and toil give place to leisure
and enjoyment. Great works of art appear, and these be
come historical, the Pantheon, the Forum Augusti, the
Flavian Amphitheatre, the Column of Trajan, the Baths
of Caracalla, the Aqua Claudia, the golden house of Nero,
the Mausoleum of Hadrian, the Temple of Venus and
Rome, the Arch of Septimus Severus. The city is
changed from brick to marble, and palaces and theatres
and temples become colossal. Painting and sculpture or
nament every part of the city. There are more marble
busts than living men. Life becomes more complicated
and factitious. Enormous fortunes are accumulated. A
liberal patronage is extended to artists. Literature de
clines, but great masterpieces of genius are still produced.

14 Introduction.

Medicine, law, and science flourish. A beautiful suburban
life is seen on all the hills, while gardens and villas are the
object of perpetual panegyric. From all corners of the
earth strangers flock to see the wonders of the mighty me
tropolis, more crowded than London, more magnificent
than Paris, more luxurious than New York. Fetes, shows,
processions, gladiatorial combats, chariot races, form the
amusement of the vast populace. A majestic centralized
power controls all kingdoms, and races, and peoples. The
highest state of prosperity is reached that the ancient world
knew, and all bow down to Caesar and behold in him the
representative of divine providence, from whose will there
is no appeal, and from whose arm it is impossible to fly.

But mene, mene, tekel, upharsin, is written on the walls
of the banqueting chambers of the palace of the Caesars.
The dream of omnipotence is disturbed by the invasion of
Germanic barbarians. They press toward the old seats
of power and riches to improve their condition. They are
warlike, fierce, implacable. They fear not death, and are
urged onward by the lust of rapine and military zeal.
The old legions, which penetrated the Macedonian pha
lanx and withstood the Gauls, cannot resist the shock of
their undisciplined armies ; for martial glory has fled, and
the people prefer their pleasures to the empire. Great
emperors are raised up, but they are unequal to the task
of preserving the crumbling empire. The people, ener
vated and egotistical, are scattered like sheep or are made
slaves. The proud capitals of the world fall before the
ruthless invaders. Desolation is everywhere. The bar
barians trample beneath their heavy feet the proud tro
phies of ancient art and power. The glimmering life-
sparks of the old civilization disappear. The world is
abandoned to fear, misery, and despair, and there is no
help, for retributive justice marches on with impressive
solemnity. Imperial despotism, disproportionate fortunes,
unequal divisions of society, the degradation of woman,

Introduction. 15

slavery, Epicurean pleasures, practical atheism, bring forth
their wretched fruits. The vices and miseries of society
cannot be arrested. Glory is succeeded by shame ; all
strength is in mechanism, and that wears out ; vitality
passes away ; the empire is weak from internal decay, and
falls easily into the hands of the new races. " Violence
was only a secondary cause of the ruin ; the vices of self-
interest were the primary causes. A world, as fair and
glorious as our own, crumbles away." Our admiration
is changed to sadness and awe. The majesty of man is
rebuked by the majesty of God.

Such a history is suggestive. Why was such an empire
permitted to rise over the bleeding surface of the world,
and what was its influence on the general destiny of the
race ? How far has its civilization perished, and how far
has it entered into new combinations ? Was its strength
material, or moral, or intellectual? How far did litera
ture, art, science, laws, philosophy, prove conservative
forces? Why did Christianity fail to arrest so total an
eclipse of the glory of man ? Why did a magnificent civ
ilization prove so feeble a barrier against corruption and
decay ? Why was the world to be involved in such uni
versal gloom and wretchedness as followed the great catas
trophe ? Could nothing arrest the stupendous downfall ?

And when we pass from the great facts of Roman his
tory to the questions which it suggests to a contemplative
mind in reference to the state of society among ourselves,
on which history ought to shed light, what enigmas remain
to be solved. Does moral worth necessarily keep pace
with aesthetic culture, or intellectual triumphs, or material
strength? Do the boasted triumphs of civilization create
those holy certitudes on which happiness is based ? Can
vitality in states be preserved by mechanical inventions ?
Does society expand from inherent laws of development,
or from influences altogether foreign to man ? Is it the
settled destiny of nations to rise to a certain height in wis-

16 Introduction.

dom and power, and then pass away in ignominy and
gloom ? Is there permanence in any human institutions ?
Will society move round in perpetual circles, incapable of
progression and incapable of rest, or will it indefinitely im
prove ? May there not be the highest triumphs of art,
literature, and science, where the mainsprings of society
are sensuality and egotism? Is the tendency of society
to democratic, or aristocratic, or despotic governments?
Does Christianity, in this dispensation, merely furnish
witnesses of truth, or will it achieve successive conquests
over human degeneracy till the race is emancipated and
saved ? Can it arrest the downward tendency of society,
when it is undermined by vices which blunt the conscience
of mankind, and which are sustained by all that is proud
in rank, brilliant in fashion, and powerful in wealth ?

These are inquiries on which Roman history sheds light.
If history is a guide or oracle, they are full of impressive
significance. Can we afford to reject all the examples of
the past in our sanguine hopes for the future? Human
nature is the same in any age, and human experiences
point to some great elemental truths, which the Bible con
firms. We may be unmoved by them, but they remain in
solemn dignity for all generations ; " and foremost of
them," as Charles Kingsley has so well said, " stands a
law which man has been trying in all ages, as now, to
deny, or at least to ignore, and that is, that as the fruit
of righteousness is wealth and peace, strength and honor,
the fruit of unrighteousness is poverty and anarchy, weak
ness and shame ; for not upon mind, but upon morals, is
human welfare founded. Science is indeed great ; but she
is not the greatest. She is an instrument, and not a
power. But her lawful mistress, the only one under
whom she can truly grow, and prosper, and prove her
divine descent, is Virtue, the likeness of Almighty God,
an ancient doctrine, yet one ever young, and which no
discoveries in science will ever abrogate."

Introduction. 17

Hence the great aim of history should be a dispassionate
inquiry into the genius of past civilizations, especially in a
moral point of view. Wherein were they weak or strong,
vital or mechanical, permanent or transient? We wish to
know that we may compare them with our own, and learn
lessons of wisdom. The rise and fall of the Roman Em
pire is especially rich in the facts which bear on our own
development. Nor can modern history be comprehended
without a survey of the civilization which has entered into
our own, and forms the basis of many of our own institu
tions. Rome perished, but not wholly her civilization.
So far as it was founded on the immutable principles of
justice, or beauty, or love, it will never die, but will re
main a precious legacy to all generations. So far as it was
founded on pride, injustice, and selfishness, it ignobly dis
appeared. Men die, and their trophies of pride are buried
in the dust, but their truths live. All truth is indestructi
ble, and survives both names and marbles.

Roman history, so grand and so mournful, on the whole
suggests cheering views for humanity, since out of the
ruins, amid the storms, aloft above the conflagration, there
came certain indestructible forces, which, when united with
Christianity, developed a new and more glorious condition
of humanity. Creation succeeded destruction. All that
was valuable in art, in science, in literature, in philosophy,
in laws, has been preserved. The useless alone has per
ished with the worn-out races themselves. The light
which scholars, and artists, and poets, and philosophers,
and lawgivers kindled, illuminated the path of the future
guides of mankind. And especially the great ideas which
the persecuted Christians unfolded, projected themselves

Online LibraryJohn LordThe old Roman world : the grandeur and failure of its civilization → online text (page 1 of 50)