Theodor Mommsen.

The History of Rome, Book V The Establishment of the Military Monarchy online

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Influence on the Capitalist System

It was a task far more difficult than the checking of official
irregularities, to deliver the provincials from the oppressive
ascendency of Roman capital. Its power could not be directly broken
without applying means which were still more dangerous than the evil;
the government could for the time being abolish only isolated abuses -
as when Caesar for instance prohibited the employment of the title
of state-envoy for financial purposes - and meet manifest acts of violence
and palpable usury by a sharp application of the general penal laws
and of the laws as to usury, which extended also to the provinces;(88)
but a more radical cure of the evil was only to be expected
from the reviving prosperity of the provincials under a better
administration. Temporary enactments, to relieve the insolvency
of particular provinces, had been issued on several occasions
in recent times. Caesar himself had in 694 when governor
of Further Spain assigned to the creditors two thirds
of the income of their debtors in order to pay themselves
from that source. Lucius Lucullus likewise when governor of Asia Minor
had directly cancelled a portion of the arrears of interest
which had swelled beyond measure, and had for the remaining portion
assigned to the creditors a fourth part of the produce of the lands
of their debtors, as well as a suitable proportion of the profits
accruing to them from house-rents or slave-labour. We are not expressly
informed that Caesar after the civil war instituted similar
general liquidations of debt in the provinces; yet from what
has just been remarked and from what was done in the case of Italy,(89)
it can hardly be doubted that Caesar likewise directed his efforts
towards this object, or at least that it formed part of his plan.

While thus the Imperator, as far as lay within human power,
relieved the provincials from the oppressions of the magistrates
and capitalists of Rome, it might at the same time be with certaint
expected from the government to which he imparted fresh vigour,
that it would scare off the wild border-peoples and disperse
the freebooters by land and sea, as the rising sun chases away
the mist. However the old wounds might still smart, with Caesar
there appeared for the sorely-tortured subjects the dawn
of a more tolerable epoch, the first intelligent and humane government
that had appeared for centuries, and a policy of peace which rested
not on cowardice but on strength. Well might the subjects above all
mourn along with the best Romans by the bier of the great liberator.

The Beginning of the Helleno-Italic State

But this abolition of existing abuses was not the main matter
in Caesar's provincial reform. In the Roman republic, according
to the view of the aristocracy and democracy alike, the provinces
had been nothing but - what they were frequently called - country-estates
of the Roman people, and they were employed and worked out as such.
This view had now passed away. The provinces as such were gradually
to disappear, in order to prepare for the renovated Helleno-Italic nation
a new and more spacious home, of whose several component parts no one
existed merely for the sake of another but all for each and each for all;
the new existence in the renovated home, the fresher, broader, grander
national life, was of itself to overbear the sorrows and wrongs
of the nation for which there was no help in the old Italy. These ideas,
as is well known, were not new. The emigration from Italy
to the provinces that had been regularly going on for centuries
had long since, though unconsciously on the part of the emigrants
themselves, paved the way for such an extension of Italy. The first
who in a systematic way guided the Italians to settle beyond the bounds
of Italy was Gaius Gracchus, the creator of the Roman democratic monarchy,
the author of the Transalpine conquests, the founder of the colonies
of Carthage and Narbo. Then the second statesman of genius
produced by the Roman democracy, Quintus Sertorius, began to introduce
the barbarous Occidentals to Latin civilization; he gave to the Spanish
youth of rank the Roman dress, and urged them to speak Latin
and to acquire the higher Italian culture at the training institute
founded by him in Osca. When Caesar entered on the government,
a large Italian population - though, in great part, lacking stability
and concentration - already existed in all the provinces and client-
states. To say nothing of the formally Italian towns in Spain
and southern Gaul, we need only recall the numerous troops of burgesses
raised by Sertorius and Pompeius in Spain, by Caesar in Gaul,
by Juba in Numidia, by the constitutional party in Africa, Macedonia,
Greece, Asia Minor, and Crete; the Latin lyre - ill-tuned doubtless -
on which the town-poets of Corduba as early as the Sertorian war
sang the praises of the Roman generals; and the translations
of Greek poetry valued on account of their very elegance of language,
which the earliest extra-Italian poet of note, the Transalpine
Publius Terentius Varro of the Aude, published
shortly after Caesar's death.

On the other hand the interpenetration of the Latin and Hellenic
character was, we might say, as old as Rome. On occasion
of the union of Italy the conquering Latin nation had assimilated
to itself all the other conquered nationalities, excepting only
the Greek, which was received just as it stood without any attempt
at external amalgamation. Wherever the Roman legionary went,
the Greek schoolmaster, no less a conqueror in his own way, followed;
at an early date we find famous teachers of the Greek language
settled on the Guadalquivir, and Greek was as well taught as Latin
in the institute of Osca. The higher Roman culture itself
was in fact nothing else than the proclamation of the great gospel
of Hellenic manners and art in the Italian idiom; against the modest
pretension of the civilizing conquerors to proclaim it first of all
in their own language to the barbarians of the west the Hellene
at least could not loudly protest. Already the Greek every where -
and, most decidedly, just where the national feeling was purest
and strongest, on the frontiers threatened by barbaric denationalization,
e. g. in Massilia, on the north coast of the Black Sea,
and on the Euphrates and Tigris - descried the protector and avenger
of Hellenism in Rome; and in fact the foundation of towns by Pompeius
in the far east resumed after an interruption of centuries
the beneficent work of Alexander.

The idea of an Italo-Hellenic empire with two languages
and a single nationality was not new - otherwise it would have been
nothing but a blunder; but the development of it from floating projects
to a firmly-grasped conception, from scattered initial efforts
to the laying of a concentrated foundation, was the work of the third
and greatest of the democratic statesmen of Rome.

The Ruling Nations
The Jews

The first and most essential condition for the political
and national levelling of the empire was the preservation and extension
of the two nations destined to joint dominion, along with the absorption
as rapidly as possible of the barbarian races, or those termed barbarian
existing by their side. In a certain sense we might no doubt name
along with Romans and Greeks a third nationality, which vied with them
in ubiquity in the world of that day, and was destined to play
no insignificant part in the new state of Caesar. We speak of the Jews.
This remarkable people, yielding and yet tenacious, was in the ancient
as in the modern world everywhere and nowhere at home, and everywhere
and nowhere powerful. The successors of David and Solomon were of hardly
more significance for the Jews of that age than Jerusalem for those
of the present day; the nation found doubtless for its religious
and intellectual unity a visible rallying-point in the petty kingdom
of Jerusalem, but the nation itself consisted not merely of the subjects
of the Hasmonaeans, but of the innumerable bodies of Jews
scattered through the whole Parthian and the whole Roman empire.
Within the cities of Alexandria especially and of Cyrene the Jews
formed special communities administratively and even locally distinct,
not unlike the "Jews' quarters" of our towns, but with a freer position
and superintended by a "master of the people" as superior judge
and administrator. How numerous even in Rome the Jewish population
was already before Caesar's time, and how closely at the same time
the Jews even then kept together as fellow-countrymen, is shown
by the remark of an author of this period, that it was dangerous
for a governor to offend the Jews, in his province, because he might
then certainly reckon on being hissed after his return by the populace
of the capital. Even at this time the predominant business of the Jews
was trade; the Jewish trader moved everywhere with the conquering Roman
merchant then, in the same way as he afterwards accompanied the Genoese
and the Venetian, and capital flowed in on all hands to the Jewish,
by the side of the Roman, merchants. At this period too we encounter
the peculiar antipathy of the Occidentals towards this so thoroughly
Oriental race and their foreign opinions and customs. This Judaism,
although not the most pleasing feature in the nowhere pleasing picture
of the mixture of nations which then prevailed, was nevertheless
a historical element developing itself in the natural course of things,
which the statesman could neither ignore nor combat, and which Caesar
on the contrary, just like his predecessor Alexander, with correct
discernment of the circumstances, fostered as far as possible.
While Alexander, by laying the foundation of Alexandrian Judaism,
did not much less for the nation than its own David by planning
the temple of Jerusalem, Caesar also advanced the interests of the Jews
in Alexandria and in Rome by special favours and privileges,
and protected in particular their peculiar worship against the Roman
as well as against the Greek local priests. The two great men
of course did not contemplate placing the Jewish nationality
on an equal footing with the Hellenic or Italo-Hellenic.
But the Jew who has not like the Occidental received the Pandora's gift
of political organization, and stands substantially in a relation
of indifference to the state; who moreover is as reluctant
to give up the essence of his national idiosyncrasy, as he is ready
to clothe it with any nationality at pleasure and to adapt himself
up to a certain degree to foreign habits - the Jew was for this
very reason as it were made for a state, which was to be built
on the ruins of a hundred living polities and to be endowed
with a somewhat abstract and, from the outset, toned-down nationality.
Even in the ancient world Judaism was an effective leaven
of cosmopolitanism and of national decomposition, and to that extent
a specially privileged member in the Caesarian state, the polity
of which was strictly speaking nothing but a citizenship of the world,
and the nationality of which was at bottom nothing but humanity.


But the Latin and Hellenic nationalities continued to be
exclusively the positive elements of the new citizenship.
The distinctively Italian state of the republic was thus at an end;
but the rumour that Caesar was ruining Italy and Rome on purpose
to transfer the centre of the empire to the Greek east and to make
Ilion or Alexandria its capital, was nothing but a piece of talk -
very easy to be accounted for, but also very silly - of the angry
nobility. On the contrary in Caesar's organizations the Latin
nationality always retained the preponderance; as is indicated
in the very fact that he issued all his enactments in Latin,
although those destined for the Greek-speaking countries were
at the same time issued in Greek. In general he arranged the relations
of the two great nations in his monarchy just as his republican
predecessors had arranged them in the united Italy; the Hellenic
nationality was protected where it existed, the Italian was extended
as far as circumstances permitted, and the inheritance
of the races to be absorbed was destined for it. This was necessary,
because an entire equalizing of the Greek and Latin elements
in the state would in all probability have in a very short time
occasioned that catastrophe which Byzantinism brought about
several centuries later; for the Greek element was superior
to the Roman not merely in all intellectual aspects, but also
in the measure of its predominance, and it had within Italy itself
in the hosts of Hellenes and half-Hellenes who migrated compulsorily
or voluntarily to Italy an endless number of apostles apparently
insignificant, but whose influence could not be estimated
too highly. To mention only the most conspicuous phenomenon
in this respect, the rule of Greek lackeys over the Roman monarchs
is as old as the monarchy. The first in the equally long and repulsive
list of these personages is the confidential servant of Pompeius,
Theophanes of Mytilene, who by his power over his weak master
contributed probably more than any one else to the outbreak of the war
between Pompeius and Caesar. Not wholly without reason he was
after his death treated with divine honours by his countrymen;
he commenced, forsooth, the -valet de chambre- government
of the imperial period, which in a certain measure was just
a dominion of the Hellenes over the Romans. The government
had accordingly every reason not to encourage by its fostering action
the spread of Hellenism at least in the west. If Sicily was not simply
relieved of the pressure of the -decumae- but had its communities
invested with Latin rights, which was presumably meant to be followed
in due time by full equalization with Italy, it can only have been
Caesar's design that this glorious island, which was at that time
desolate and had as to management passed for the greater part
into Italian hands, but which nature has destined to be not so much
a neighbouring land to Italy as rather the finest of its provinces,
should become altogether merged in Italy. But otherwise
the Greek element, wherever it existed, was preserved and protected.
However political crises might suggest to the Imperator the demolition
of the strong pillars of Hellenism in the west and in Egypt, Massilia
and Alexandria were neither destroyed nor denationalized.


On the other hand the Roman element was promoted by the government
through colonization and Latinizing with all vigour and at the most
various points of the empire. The principle, which originated
no doubt from a bad combination of formal law and brute force,
but was inevitably necessary in order to freedom in dealing
with the nations destined to destruction - that all the soil
in the provinces not ceded by special act of the government
to communities or private persons was the property of the state,
and the holder of it for the time being had merely an heritable
possession on sufferance and revocable at any time - was retained
also by Caesar and raised by him from a democratic party-theory
to a fundamental principle of monarchical law.

Cisalpine Gaul

Gaul, of course, fell to be primarily dealt with in the extension
of Roman nationality. Cisalpine Gaul obtained throughout -
what a great part of the inhabitants had long enjoyed -
political equalization with the leading country by the admission
of the Transpadane communities into the Roman burgess-union,
which had for long been assumed by the democracy as accomplished,(90)
and was now (705) finally accomplished by Caesar. Practically
this province had already completely Latinized itself during
the forty years which had elapsed since the bestowal of Latin rights.
The exclusives might ridicule the broad and gurgling accent
of the Celtic Latin, and miss "an undefined something of the grace
of the capital" in the Insubrian or Venetian, who as Caesar's legionary
had conquered for himself with his sword a place in the Roman Forum
and even in the Roman senate-house. Nevertheless Cisalpine Gaul
with its dense chiefly agricultural population was even before
Caesar's time in reality an Italian country, and remained
for centuries the true asylum of Italian manners and Italian culture;
indeed the teachers of Latin literature found nowhere else
out of the capital so much encouragement and approbation.

The Province of Narbo

While Cisalpine Gaul was thus substantially merged in Italy,
the place which it had hitherto occupied was taken by the Transalpine
province, which had been converted by the conquests of Caesar
from a frontier into an inland province, and which by its vicinity
as well as by its climate was fitted beyond all other regions
to become in due course of time likewise an Italian land.
Thither principally, according to the old aim of the transmarine
settlements of the Roman democracy, was the stream of Italian
emigration directed. There the ancient colony of Narbo was reinforced
by new settlers, and four new burgess-colonies were instituted
at Baeterrae (Beziers) not far from Narbo, at Arelate (Aries)
and Arausio (Orange) on the Rhone, and at the new seaport Forum Julii
(Frejus); while the names assigned to them at the same time preserved
the memory of the brave legions which had annexed northern Gaul
to the empire.(91) The townships not furnished with colonists appear,
at least for the most part, to have been led on toward Romanization
in the same way as Transpadane Gaul in former times(92) by the bestowal
of Latin urban rights; in particular Nemausus (Nimes), as the chief place
of the territory taken from the Massiliots in consequence of their revolt
against Caesar,(93)was converted from a Massiliot village into a Latin
urban community, and endowed with a considerable territory and even
with the right of coinage.(94) While Cisalpine Gaul thus advanced
from the preparatory stage to full equality with Italy, the Narbonese
province advanced at the same time into that preparatory stage;
just as previously in Cisalpine Gaul, the most considerable
communities there had the full franchise, the rest Latin rights.

Northern Gaul

In the other non-Greek and non-Latin regions of the empire,
which were still more remote from the influence of Italy and the process
of assimilation, Caesar confined himself to the establishment
of several centres for Italian civilization such as Narbo had hitherto
been in Gaul, in order by their means to pave the way for a future
complete equalization. Such initial steps can be pointed out
in all the provinces of the empire, with the exception of the poorest
and least important of all, Sardinia. How Caesar proceeded
in Northern Gaul, we have already set forth;(95) the Latin language
there obtained throughout official recognition, though not yet
employed for all branches of public intercourse, and the colony
of Noviodunum (Nyon) arose on the Leman lake as the most northerly town
with an Italian constitution.


In Spain, which was presumably at that time the most densely peopled
country of the Roman empire, not merely were Caesarian colonists
settled in the important Helleno-Iberian seaport town of Emporiae
by the side of the old population; but, as recently-discovered
records have shown, a number of colonists probably taken
predominantly from the proletariate of the capital were provided for
in the town of Urso (Osuna), not far from Seville in the heart
of Andalusia, and perhaps also in several other townships
of this province. The ancient and wealthy mercantile city of Gades,
whose municipal system Caesar even when praetor had remodelled
suitably to the times, now obtained from the Imperator the full rights
of the Italian -municipia-(705) and became - what Tusculum had been
in Italy(96) - the first extra-Italian community not founded by Rome
which was admitted into the Roman burgess-union. Some years
afterwards (709) similar rights were conferred also on some other
Spanish communities, and Latin rights presumably on still more.


In Africa the project, which Gaius Gracchus had not been allowed
to bring to an issue, was now carried out, and on the spot
where the city of the hereditary foes of Rome had stood, 3000 Italian
colonists and a great number of the tenants on lease and sufferance
resident in the Carthaginian territory were settled; and the new
"Venus-colony," the Roman Carthage, throve with amazing rapidity
under the incomparably favourable circumstances of the locality.
Utica, hitherto the capital and first commercial town in the province,
had already been in some measure compensated beforehand,
apparently by the bestowal of Latin rights, for the revival
of its superior rival. In the Numidian territory newly annexed
to the empire the important Cirta and the other communities assigned
to the Roman condottiere Publius Sittius for himself and his troops(97)
obtained the legal position of Roman military colonies.
The stately provincial towns indeed, which the insane fury of Juba
and of the desperate remnant of the constitutional party had converted
into ruins, did not revive so rapidly as they had been reduced to ashes,
and many a ruinous site recalled long afterwards this fatal period;
but the two new Julian colonies, Carthage and Cirta, became
and continued to be the centres of Africano-Roman civilization.

The East

In the desolate land of Greece, Caesar, besides other plans
such as the institution of a Roman colony in Buthrotum (opposite Corfu),
busied himself above all with the restoration of Corinth. Not only
was a considerable burgess-colony conducted thither, but a plan
was projected for cutting through the isthmus, so as to avoid
the dangerous circumnavigation of the Peloponnesus and to make
the whole traffic between Italy and Asia pass through the Corintho-
Saronic gulf. Lastly even in the remote Hellenic east the monarch
called into existence Italian settlements; on the Black Sea,
for instance, at Heraclea and Sinope, which towns the Italian
colonists shared, as in the case of Emporiae, with the old inhabitants;
on the Syrian coast, in the important port of Berytus,
which like Sinope obtained an Italian constitution; and even in Egypt,
where a Roman station was established on the lighthouse-island
commanding the harbour of Alexandria.

Extension of the Italian Municipal Constitution to the Provinces

Through these ordinances the Italian municipal freedom was carried
into the provinces in a manner far more comprehensive than had been
previously the case. The communities of full burgesses - that is,
all the towns of the Cisalpine province and the burgess-colonies
and burgess-municipia - scattered in Transalpine Gaul and elsewhere -
were on an equal footing with the Italian, in so far as they administered
their own affairs, and even exercised a certainly limited jurisdiction;
while on the other hand the more important processes came before
the Roman authorities competent to deal with them - as a rule the governor
of the province.(98) The formally autonomous Latin and the other
emancipated communities-thus including all those of Sicily
and of Narbonese Gaul, so far as they were not burgess-communities,
and a considerable number also in the other provinces - had not merely
free administration, but probably unlimited jurisdiction; so that
the governor was only entitled to interfere there by virtue of his -
certainly very arbitrary - administrative control. No doubt even earlier
there had been communities of full burgesses within the provinces
of governors, such as Aquileia, and Narbo, and whole governors'
provinces, such as Cisalpine Gaul, had consisted of communities
with Italian constitution; but it was, if not in law, at least
in a political point of view a singularly important innovation,
that there was now a province which as well as Italy was peopled
solely by Roman burgesses,(99) and that others promised to become such.

Italy and the Provinces Reduced to One Level

With this disappeared the first great practical distinction
that separated Italy from the provinces; and the second - that ordinarily
no troops were stationed in Italy, while they were stationed
in the provinces - was likewise in the course of disappearing;
troops were now stationed only where there was a frontier to be defended,
and the commandants of the provinces in which this was not the case,
such as Narbo and Sicily, were officers only in name. The formal
contrast between Italy and the provinces, which had at all times
depended on other distinctions,(100) continued certainly

Online LibraryTheodor MommsenThe History of Rome, Book V The Establishment of the Military Monarchy → online text (page 53 of 65)