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near the grave, for which purpose sometimes special tri-
clinia (/rzV/zWizy^^e^Jra) were built. Sometimes games were
provided for the general multitude, who were likewise re-
galed with food and presents of money.

Offerings to Mars.
We haA^e now tried to describe the home life, both
public and private, of the Roman citizen. We must ob-
serve that the whole tendency of such a life was in the
direction of immediate, practical ends. They were not,
like the Greeks, discussing questions of deep philosophical
and scientific import, or deciding points in fine art ; but
more practical questions engaged their attention ; how con-
duct this war ; how govern that province ; how get the
most tribute from such a people. They examined, every
question from such a stand point. And to their credit, be


it said, that every subject they had to settle they generally
settled in a most enduring manner. To make foreign con-
quests, disciplined soldiers were needed ; accordingly the
Roman army was drilled as soldiers never were before.
To get the most good out of conquered provinces, some-
thing more was necessary than to simply extort a vast
tribute ; accordingly, for the first time in the history of the
world, an intelligent attempt was made to fuse the various
conquered people into a homogeneous whole. To attract
commerce to the shores, it was necessary to treat foreign-
ers justly, extend to them the protection of laws, an idea
unknown to the older tribal law ; hence in Rome we find
the law for foreigners, or equity, taking its rise.'^ When
the time at length arrived for the old tribal customs to be
codified and enlarged to suit new ideas, we find the Ro-
mans evolving that splendid product of their genius, the
Roman Civil Law.

The statements just made will go far to explain the
sudden rise to power of the Roman commonwealth. If we
recall the political history of Rome,® we find that in a
short time, comparatively speaking, the Romans reduced
to their dominion the then known world. It is no easy
matter to explain this fact. A mere knowledge of the pro-
gress of the various conquests, of the successive campaigns,
of victorious battles, of the deeds of this or that general,
will afford no explanation of the sudden splendor of the
Roman conquest and civilization. This same phenomenon
attracted the attention of ancient writers as early as the
second century before Christ. At that era, we find Poly-
bius, a Grreek historian, who, as a statesman, was frequently
engaged in settling political affairs with Roman generals,
and who, besides, was the personal friend of Scipio Afri-

1 This Series, Vol. II. p. 231. 2 Above ch. iv.


canus, writing a large work on the liistory of tlie then
known world with the express intention of accounting for
the sudden growth of the Roman commonwealth — that
growth being by far the most striking fact of classical an-

It is a common-place statement, that the wisdom, the
valor, the self-restraint, in one word, that the domestic vir-
tues of the Romans were chiefly instrumental in bringing
to pass the great facts of their history. In almost every
hand-book of history, we find the author pointing to the
virtues of a Cincinnatus, Regulus, Fabius Cunctator, Ca-
millus, Scipio, Cato, etc., etc., as the real main-spring of
Roman greatness. Now, while far from denying the bene-
ficial influence of domestic virtue, although nobody will
deny the great advantage accruing to a nation that can
boast of such men, yet it is clear that these virtues, in
themselves, are not suflScient to produce results equal to
those that we find in the history of Rome. For every
Roman who excelled in virtue of any kind, we can find a
Greek who cultivated the same kind of virtue with equal

The Romans, themselves, taught their children to look
to the heroes of Grreece as their models and ideals, and the
noblest Roman youth had no higher ambition than to copy
the glorious king of Macedonia, Alexander the Great.
The Roman historians, especially Livy and Cornelius
Nepos, constantly hold up the warriors and sages of Greece
as the patterns of morality, of all -social and political wis-
dom. The Romans, themselves, therefore, never hesitated
to confess that, as far as virtue and morality are con-
cerned, other nations were on a par with them. "We must
look, then, for other causes, which are more or less inde-
pendent of private morality, for an explanation of the


sudden and great rise in power of the Roman common-

Polybius, writing as we have observed in the second
century b. c, found an answer to this query in the form of
government adopted by the Romans. In attempting to
follow Polybius in his reasoning, we will be struck with
the conservatism of the old Patrician tribes of Rome and
their practical, sound sense. They indeed clung tenaciously
to their rights, but were ready to yield when they saw that
further resistance was useless. And, in thus yielding
gracefully, they not only made the best terms for them-
selves, but they effected a compromise, which in turn led
to the form of government which attracted the admiration
of Polybius.

We must recall the constitution of tribal society in a
normal state. There is first the tribal chief, an elected
officer, but whose office tends to become hereditary, aiid
whose powers, especially in times of war, are very great.
Next, the tribal council, composed of the chiefs of the
various phratries and gentes — all elected officers — who ad-
vised the head chief on all important matters, and whose
decision even he is bound to obey. Finally, the general
assembly of the people, which must be convened to discuss
all laws and all proposed measures.^ Now, as civilization
advanced, the natural tendency would be for each of these
departments of government to develop at the expense of
the other two. The result would be, that, in the course of
time and among different people, we would find represen-
tatives of the three different forms of government known
to the ancients. If the office of head-chief developed at
the expense of the other departments until the powers of
government were absorbed by this one office, the result

1 This Series, Vol. II cb. ii.



was a monarcliy. If the council thus developed, the result
■was an oligarchy; or, if the general assembly absorbed
these powers, the result was a democracy.

The above represents what we might call the natural
development of government. But we, of course, under-
stand that the form of government was often subverted
by force. Now the ancients were acquainted with these

Naval Battle.
three forms of government and discussed the strong points
of each ; for, as all are aware, each had its strong and
weak points. The trouble with many of the Grrecian
states, for instance, was that they were divided into fac-
tions, each clamoring for its desired form of government,
and when one party, as at Athens,gained the ascendency,
the other was almost extirpated.



Now Polybius concludes, from a study of the Roman
state, that it alone of all the states of his time had a sys-
tem of government, which combined the strong points of
the three systems. If that be so, then, in the case of
Rome, we have a normal development of tribal society,
which, as above remarked, is a striking proof of the prac-
tical conservatism of the people. Turning to the gov-

AucLience with a Roman Emperor.
ernment of Rome we find much to confirm this conclusion.
A number of officers still exercised powers analogous to
those of the old rex or tribal-chief. Such were the con-
suls, in a less degree the censors, and in times of emergency
the dictators. The consuls were really year-kings, and
the direct heirs of the older life-kings. Like the old
tribal chiefs, their powers were greatest in times of war.


In point of fact, the dictator exercised greater power tlian
a king.

The tribal council survived in the senate of Rome.
It consisted of the best and wisest and, to some extent,
the worthiest citizens of the state. In its meetings, the
more important topics of the state were the subjects of
deliberation. It was a corporation, which, in its dignity
and in its wisdom, made the impression of a collection
of kings. The senate occupied a position half-way between
the legislative and the monarchial powers. Instead of
interfering with the machinery of the state, it served as
a sound and healthy check in times of political fury ; and
thus it promoted the welfare of the state and acquired
a respect and esteem which made its decrees and ordi-
nances, in course of time, equal to laws passed by the
whole nation. It was the senate of Rome that drew up
treaties, ordained regulations for conquered nations, car-
ried on the immense political business of the city, regu-
lated the forces of the most distant provinces, sent out
armies and directed their marches.

As for the general assembly of the people, it is well
known that it was in full vigor at Rome. All laws,
properly so-called, were passed in the assemblies, or as
the Romans called them, in the comitia, where every Ro-
man citizen had a right to cast his vote. This assembly
was indeed considered the supreme power of the Roman
commonwealth, inasmuch as all was depending on laws,
and laws could not be enacted by any other power than
by the general assembly. It was there that the great
magistrates^ — the consuls, the censors, the praetors — ^were
appointed ; it was there that the great leaders of the ar-
mies were elected.

Some modern writers think with Polybius, that here


is the explanation of the sudden rise of Rome. It gives
us some light but does not explain all. We need but go
a little way back in time to find the same government in
Greece.^ But by the second century b. c, the ancient in-
stitutions in that country had largely disappeared, owing
to the incessant conflict between the ruling and subject
classes.^ Rome had indeed this same conflict to meet,^
but though clinging tenaciously to their ancient customs,
they granted from time to time such concessions to the
people as enabled them to retain a large measure of their

It now only remains to inquire what were the pecu-
liar characteristics of Roman civilization, what was their
part in developing Aryan civilization in general, and what
was their great legacy to the civilization of the present.
The Romans were not distinguished in the field of litera-
ture, science, and art. That was the province of Grecian
civilization. They were distinguished in' the direction of
government. Away back in the night of time, we see the
three tribes^ of singular ethnical mixture^ that composed
the Patricians of Rome, rising on the banks of the Tiber.
After some centuries of time, they succeeded in reducing
to their power a large portion of Italy. ^ In the meantime
they had passed through the conflict which came to all the
tribal societies of antiquity; the conflict between the ruling
tribes and their subject people, who were continually pres-
sing for a share in the government. And we have just
pointed out how from this conflict they had emerged, in
■ the early days of the Republic, with a government which
attracted the admiration of the ancients.

1 Recall the kings, ephors, gerushla, and assembly in Sparta; the
archons, council, and assembly in Athens. This Series "Vol. II. p. 185
et seq. 2 This conflict is traced in Vol. .II. p. 187 et seq. 3 Ibid. p.

195 et seq. * Vol. II. p. 198. B Above p. 266. 6 Above p. 274.



These centuries of conflict had trained them in the art
of governing. The whole aim of the Patrician tribes was
toretain the practical advantages of their position. This
was the question that confronted the Roman citizen
from childhood to old age. Their education and man-
ner of life show that this was the main aim. We
need not wonder, then, that we have before us such a pro-
saic matter-of-fact people, who cared little for merely in-
tellectual pursuits, and disdained many of the more inno-
cent enjoyments of other nations. On the contrary they

A Bakery in Rome.

delighted in the brutal games of the amphitheater, and
lived only to extend their power and influence, to in-
crease their wealth and luxury.

Their power, skill in diplomacy, and vigorous intellect
were now united for the conquest of the world, and one
people after another fell before them. They did not hes-
itate to use treachery if it would advance their ends.
They understood well the art of fanning the flames of in-
ternal dissentions among a people they wished to subdue.


It is, perhaps, not surprising tliat tlaey succeeded, and re-
duced the whole world to their power. But to their credit
be it said, that the conquered provinces were organized,
governors were appointed, cities built, roads surveyed and
laid out, and the Roman law gradually extended over

Here then we see their great influence on Aryan
civilization. It was a great step in advance when the
numerous independent and war-like tribes of a country,
like Graul for instance, were brought under subjection to
one central power, under the workings of one system of
laws. Development in civilization went forward rapidly.
With consummate wisdom also, the ruling powers at Rome,
from time to time, extended the benefits of Roman citizen-
ship to the more prominent leaders in their provinces.
Thus was gradually built up a state of vast power, poses-
sing a civilization, which, if it lacked the polish of Grecian
civilization, embodied a great store of practical wisdom,
better suited perhaps to the real wants of practical life.

One inquiry yet remains before us, what was the great
legacy of the Romans to our present civilization. After our
remark on the skill of the Romans in the difficult task
of governing, it may not occasion surprise to learn that the
answer to the question is — The Civil Law. People who
would govern well must know how to legislate well.
When we treated of Greek civilization, we drew the at-
tention of our readers repeatedly to the fact that the great
merit of that civilization was chiefly in the field of art.
There Grecian genius showed itself at its best and in that
field they continue to be the masters of the world. In
Roman civilization, we find an analogous fact. The Ro-
mans were the first and the most perfect teachers of law;
and their laws have come down to us in a form so lucid.



SO instructive, so fell arranged, that the majority of Ro-
mance nations could onlyaccept them in spite of the fact
that many of the4 had already developed a legal system
of their own. In the field of legal science, then, we find
the most importaht feature of Roman civilization. They

Roman Judgment Hall.
were at once the greatest law-givers, the best lawyers,
and the most profound jurists. . We will therefore point out
the most salient points of their legal system in order to


illustrate its vast influence on the course' of general civili-

The Romans themselves used to complain that they
had too many laws ; but in fact, if we compare the number
of their laws with those of a modern nation, we will be
struck with their small number. They had, comparatively
speaking, few laws and their laws were expressed in a terse,
short, technical language, which however, every body
understood, because every body participated more or less in
the jurisprudence of the Republic. The Romans from the
very first established the jury system. Every civil case
was decided by a juror — eventually by three jurors — and
this is one of the marked differences between the Roman
and the English system. The great number of English
jurors (twelve) is recognized as one of the great draw-backs
of the system. In Rome one juror, as a rule, decided a
case, though he generally called to his assistance two or
three of the well known and learned jurists of the city, who
formed his council. It is not surprising, then, that every
educated Roman acquired a very adequate knowledge of the
laws of his country.

In England and America, the development of law
rests chiefly with the judges, and consequently every lawyer
is compelled to form a vast library containing the various
legal reports. In Rome, the development of law rested^
entirely with the jurists ; and in their writings, they en-
larged, commented upon, and revised the laws given in
the legislature and in the senate. It is interesting to
notice the form in which their writings have come down
to us. In the sixth century after Christ, Justinian deter-
mined to collect the most important parts of the numerous
writings of the Roman jurists into one vast collection. He
entrusted his chancellor, Tribonian, with the task of coUect-



ing and sifting this great mass of judicial lore. He, assis-
ted by a number of other great lawyers and jurists, suc-
ceeded in making an abstract of the writings of thirty-nine of
the best and most renowned Roman jurists, which were
published under the title of "Digest".

One of the most ancient copies of this collection, a
manuscript of the seventh century, inestimable in value, is
still extant in Florence. It is kept under a glass cover,
constantly guarded, no body being permitted to touch it
unless by special permission of the municipality. In fact,
so great is the value attributed to this manuscript that a
formal ceremony is enacted while the spectators gaze on it.
Amongst others, servants with torches in hand and sol-
diers with drawn swords stand around during the exam-
ination. This manuscript has been copied by various hands
and its contents form the foundation of law and jurisprudence
in most of the countries of Europe; though England
refused to accept the Roman system of laAv, and, conse-
quently, American courts, as a rule, do not pay much
attention to the study of Roman jurists.

To the law of the Romans, then, we ascribe the vast im-
portance of Roman civilization; for, as a matter of course,
their law was a direct outcome of their civilization. We
should estimate the value of the influence of different na-
tions on civilization according to the lasting benefit that
they were able to confer upon the world. Perhaps no
nation of modern times, can compare in this respect with
the Romans. We can not point to any one element in
our civilization, as derived directly from the Semitic na-
tions of antiquity. The influence of these people, though
doubtless very great in developing civilization, is lost in
the distance. This is true of the Assyrians and Baby-
lonians, though they established vast empires, ruled many


millions of people, built numberless edifices of great beauty,
collected large libraries, and conquered immense terri-
tories. But in the case of the Romans, we can say that
they continue to exercise a great influence in the field of
legal science. Every day, cases of the utmost importance
arfe decided on the strength of the reasoning employed by
some of the old jurists of Rome.

We have now finished our brief outline of Roman civ-
ilization. We have traced the rise of this people, have
studied their national character, and have pointed out the
direction in which they exerted their greatest influence in
the development of Aryan civilization. Let us notice
the rapidly widening sweep of Aryan culture. How con-
tracted the area of Grecian civilization appears as com-
pared with that of the Roman ! And yet, less than half of
Europe was brought under the sway of Rome. In tracing
the political history of Rome, we have seen how that
country, enervated by luxury, hopelessly divided by in-
ternal dissensions, finally disappeared as a political power
before the ruthless march of the Teutonic tribes. But their
culture did not disappear. It conquered the Teutonic in-
vaders and was by them disseminated throughout the
length and breadth of Aryan Europe. Let us now follow
it into this, its third and last stage of development in the
Medieval World.



INTEODUCTION — Kight Ideas as to the Middle Ages — Feudalism — Its Ori-
gin — Feudal Tenure — Ceremonies attendingthe Transference of a Fief
— Duties of the Vassal — Military Service — Feudal Incidents — Reliefs —
Fines — Forfeitures — Aids — Feudal Nobility — Origin of Classes — Free
m.en— Villeins — Medieval Slavery — ■ Feudalism, a Development of
Tribal Society — Feudal Jurisdiction — Wager of Battle — Origin of this
Custom — Rise of Free Cities — ^^Chivalry — Its Origin — Influence of the
Church in this Matter — The Page and his Duties — Squires and their
Duties — Modes of Conferring Knighthood — The Ancient Ceremony —
The Shortened Cererhony of Later Times — Classes of Knights — The
Tournament — Knight Errantry — Estimation of Feudalism — Picture
of the Middle Ages — The Crusades and their Influence — Powers of
the Church — Estimation of Church Influence — Church Influence in
the Matter of Advancing Knowledge — Trade in the Middle Ages —
Social Life, etc. — Conclusion.

WIDENING- stream of Aryan cul-
ture now enters on its third stage
of development. By the end of the
fifth century of our era, the Roman
Empire, as a great political power,
had disappeared. From out of the
confused scenes of those far away centuries, "we have
traced the gradual rise of the present nations of Europe.
We have yet before us the study of the culture of the
Middle Ages. Greece was the solitary peak which first
caught the glow of the rising sun ; Rome, the mountain
range shining afar ; the Middle Ages, all Europe basking
in the light of culture. Let us, then, enter on an investi-




gation of the culture of this last period, and learn what
we can of the culture of Europe in the Middle Ages,
which, in a general way, may be taken to mean the thousand
years preceding the discovery of America.-^

The middle ages have been called the dark ages, a
period of superstition, an age of church rule, and similar
expressions — all denoting a retrograde state of civilization,
all expressive of a stage of development inferior to that of
the present. It is customary to look down upon those
times and to decry the customs and habits of the nations
and people. It is almost generally accepted, as a state-
ment admitting of no doubt, that the middle ages form
the dark part of European history, that there is an ugly
gap between the brilliant times of classical antiquity and
the still greater splendor of our own modern age. It is
still further held that during that time, science and litera-
ture had scarcely an existence ; that people in general
were indiscribably ignorant and entertained the most
ridiculous opinions. Ifo doubt, it is easy to point to many
erroneous ideas prevailing throughout that period. It is
one of the easiest things to discover fault in other people;
or, as in our case, in the culture of other ages.

Many of the opinions universally accepted in the
middle ages are now known to be errors. We no longer
'believe, as did the people of that time, that since the cap-
ture of Jerusalem, all children are born with four teeth
less than before. In general, we no longer believe in

1 In our view of the middle ages, we have followed several of the
best acknowledged authorities about the history and institutions of those
times. Our main guides were the impartial Hallam, whose statements
we frequently thought of accepting in his own words without constantly
alleging his name ; next in importance and as a controlling check to the
Protestant Hallam, we followed the Catholic Cantu, the great Italian his-
torian. Furthermore, K. F. Eichhon, as a guide in the legal field ; Mich -
aud, as to the crusades; John Selden, concerning knighthood ; Muratori,
concerning the church and general history, etc.


witchcraft and sorcery, though, in the middle ages, almost
every one, even those most enlightened, believed in both.
In the middle ages, the power of the church was supreme,
and the mfluence of the clergy on the mental as well as
temporal well-being of the people was enormous. These
things have changed; and, at the present -time, science and

Online LibraryEmory Adams AllenHistory of civilization .. → online text (page 34 of 46)