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The Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 online

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The evil effects of the system, however, soon
began to outweigh its advantages. To secure a
monopoly of commerce for themselves, the
Romans restricted or even prohibited trade
among the subject communities. Over all the
empire they acquired vast estates, which they
worked by slave labor, thus destroying every-
where the free peasantry. Their policy of farm-
ing the taxes was also unjust and oppressive



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The governors, too, with rare exceptions made
office a means of amassing fortunes. In these
ways the administrative and capitalist classes
recklessly exploited the provinces for their own
profit. At the same time commercial restrictions
and the competition of slave labor were ruining
the farmers and business men of Italy, and a
worthless, dangerous mob was growing up in
the capital.

The early government of Rome by magis-
trates, senate, and assemblies, although admirably
adapted to a small community, proved unequal
to its new and complex functions. The assem-
blies, now becoming corrupt, were in the hands
of magistrates, ministers of the senate, which as
a whole was controlled by a small knot of mem-
bers, the curule ex-magistrates. This inner
circle formed in the beginning a nobility of
merit; it saved the state from Hannibal and
conquered the Mediterranean world. But it
soon transformed itself into an hereditary caste,
which, monopolizing the domestic and imperial
offices, used them as a means of absorbing the
wealth of the world. In brief the nobility
degenerated into a corrupt, self-seeking plutoc-
racy. As to the general condition of the world
at this time it should be noted that the want of
competition, such as exists among nations of
approximately equal power, by reducing the
vitality of mankind, stopped progress, and decay
was already setting in. Thorough reform was
needed even to postpone the collapse of ancient
civilization.

The Gracchi sacrificed their lives in a vain
attempt to regenerate the peasantry and to re-
store Italy to its old condition of economic
health ; at the same time they showed the enor-
mous power of the plebeian tribunate for
purposes of reform or revolution. Far prefera-
ble to government by the corrupt aristocracy or
by the mob, which Gaius Gacchus organized,
would be the strong rule of one man; and the
task of creating in the army a solid foundation
for a government of the kind was accomplished
by Gaius Marius. After him the governor
(proconsul) of a military province employed his
position as a means of acquiring an army for
political use; and the proconsuls became rivals
for the mastery of Rome. Finally Gaius Julius
Caesar, an aristocrat by birth but a champion of
the people, allying himself with the tribunes,
overthrew the republic and created a virtual
monarchy. By radical reform of the entire ad-
ministration this great creative statesman
arrested the decay of civilization and gave the
institutions of the ancient world a new lease of
life. The assassination of the monarch, far from
restoring the republic, was followed by a war of
succession, in which his grand-nephew Octavius
— after 27 B.C. Augustus — won the imperial
prize (31 b.c).

VIII. The Empire at Its Height, 27 B. C-
180 A. D.— Instead of recurring to the autocracy
of Caesar, Augustus hit upon a compromise be-
tween republic and monarchy (27 B.C.). The
senate through its magistrates and promagis-
trates was still to govern Rome, Italy, and the
peaceful provinces, while Augustus as holder of
the military authority (imperator, hence em-
peror) was to rule directly the exposed and
unquiet provinces and to exercise supervision
even over those administered by the senate; the
republic was to continue for Italy, the monarchy



was established for the subject countries. In
Rome Augustus held the tribunician power, and
was sometimes elected to republican offices; but
his chief influence over the home government
was exercised not through office but in the
capacity of political " boss," — a position which
the Romans dignified with the name of prince ps
(foremost citizen). The prince and the senate
had not only their separate fields of administra-
tion but also separate treasuries and separate
sets of officials. Augustus concealed the inde-
pendent position of the prince ; Tiberius brought
the dyarchic antithesis into bold relief; the
Claudian and Flavian princes, by gradual en-
croachment on the senatorial prerogatives, aimed
to convert the dyarchy into a monarchy. As
the senate declined, the officials of the prince,
originally his friends and household servants,
developed into an imperial bureaucracy. After
the tyranny of Domitian the " Good Emperors "
(96-180 a.d.), in reconciling the nobility to the
principate, laid more firmly the constitutional
basis of their power. The government may now
be termed a monarchy, although some elements
of the dyarchy remained, and though the senate,
with its republican traditions, continued to be a
material check upon the powers of the prince.

The emperors made few permanent con-
quests, — chiefly Britain and the Danubian prov-
inces. Their fundamental task was to extend
Latin civilization to the un-Hellenized parts of
their dominion. In Africa west of Egypt, not-
withstanding the survival of the Phoenician
language in private life, Latin civilization took
deep root. Spain and southern Gaul became
perhaps even more thoroughly Latinized.
Northern Gaul was less affected, and Britain
still less, by the Romans, while the northern
provinces east of Gaul varied greatly in their
receptivity of Latin culture. The principal
factor in the work of civilization was the city;
in most of their European domains the Romans
superseded the old tribal organization by the
Italian municipal system, which gave the nations
the refining and disciplining influence of com-
fortable homes, useful and artistic public works,
schools, courts of justice, and local self-govern-
ment. Each city was a centre from which Latin
modes of life and Latin ideas radiated. Imperial
rule cured most of the ills of republican admin-
istration. Abolishing the farming of direct
taxes, it placed their collection in the hands of
imperial officials, and distributed them on the
basis of a careful census. The governors, now
drawing their salaries from Rome, and deprived
of their former unlimited opportunity for extor-
tion, were held responsible to the emperor. The
armies, placed under strict discipline and con-
trolled by one will, no longer wasted the empire
by civil wars. For the vast extent of the fron-
tier the soldiers were few, and the burden of
their support was light. The republic had looked
upon the provinces as its estates; in the 2d
century a.d. the emperor came to regard himself
as the parent of the subject peoples, whom he
was in duty bound to treat with love as well as
with justice. Though oppression was not wholly
eradicated, the imperial government was in a
high degree efficient, just, and humane. The
progress of civilization was followed by the ex-
tension of the Roman citizenship. The liberal
policy of Claudius in bestowing it was continued
by his successors, till shortly after the period



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HISTORY, ANCIENT



under discussion all freemen of the empire be-
came Romans by the edict of Caracalla
(212 A.D.).

In this period was tried the experiment of
maintaining profound and lasting peace over the
large area comprising the interior provinces.
Prominent among the results was a material
prosperity far greater than has ever blessed those
countries in any other age. Another result was
the development of the ^feminine virtues. 8
Men ^became chaste, tender-hearted, loyal,
religious, capable of infinite endurance in a good
cause 8 (Seeley, < Roman Imperialism*). They
began to regard women as their equals, to treat
children and slaves humanely, to show kindness
even to animals, and in spite of gladiatorial con-
tests, to abhor bloodshed. Morals, at their
lowest ebb in the Rome of Nero, were rapidly
purified by the coming in of the best families
from the provinces, so that under the Good
Emperors morality in the capital reached a high
level. The spirit of the age expressed itself not
only in the private and social virtues, but also
in the Civil Law, which rested upon the princi-
ples of justice, kindliness, and equality among
men.

The unimaginative Romans failed to produce
a literature of the highest rank. In the late
republic lived Lucretius, a poet of real genius,
ana Cicero, the versatile author of orations,
philosophic works, and private correspondence.
The Augustan age created the epic and rural
poetry of Virgil, the < Odes ) and ( Satires* of
Horace on social and moral topics, and Livy's
stately history of the republic. The most splen-
did Latin writers of the age of the Good Em-
perors were the satirist Juvenal and Tacitus, the
historian of the early empire. Among the most
famous writers in the ureek language at this
time were Pausanias, author of a ( Tour of
Greece, } Appian, the historian, and Plutarch,
the biographer of eminent men. Hellenism con-
tinued to be the chief liberalizing and refining
force in the empire. Its highest intellectual
product from Roman soil was Stoicism, which
found its best expression in the writings and
character of Marcus Aurelius.

IX. From Limited Monarchy to Despotism;
the Reorganisation of Diocletian and Constan-
tine; the Barbarian Invasions and the Decline
of the Empire, 180-500 A. D. — Writers generally
agree in making the decline begin with the
reign of Commodus (180-192 a.d.), though dis-
integrating forces had long been in operation and
though for generations afterward the empire at
times, as under Septimius Severus and Diocle-
tian, showed great recuperative power. The
century which intervened between the death of
Marcus Aurelius and the accession of Diocletian
(180-284 a.d.) we may regard as a period of
revolution. The happiness of the Roman world
under the Good Emperors had been chiefly due
to the wisdom of a succession of rulers who
were able to secure the good will of the senate
and of the populace of Rome, the subordination
of the pretorians and of the army, and the
respect of surrounding nations. The weak,
brutish Commodus allowed these nicely adjusted
forces to conflict, and the result was civil war
and anarchy. The revolution, sweeping away
the influence of pretorians, populace, and senate,
almost of Rome itself, brought new principles
of government into play. The emperor was to
be a despot of the Oriental type, — a God on



earth, — who surrounded himself with stately
splendor, and governed through a complex
bureaucracy. He appointed a colleague, and two
Caesars were named as heirs of the emperors,
all four dignitaries being men of eminent mili-
tary ability. The empire was reorganized in
prefectures, dioceses, and provinces under ap-
propriate magistrates. These arrangements
chiefly the work of Diocletian (284-305 a.d.)
and Constantine (sole emperor 324-537 a.d.).
were in the main permanent. In making better
use of the resources of the empire for the pur-
poses of defense the new organization brought
fresh strength, but rivalry between the emperors
again caused civil wars with all their evil conse-
quences. Under Constantine, who removed the
capital to Byzantium, thereafter called Constanti-
nople, the two imperial offices were again vested
in one person, and were not definitely separated
till the accession of Arcadius and Honorius, sons
of Theodosius (395 a.d.). Even then the theory
of a single empire ruled by two colleagues con-
tinued; and when in 476 a.d. Romulus "Augus*
tulus* was deposed at Rome and the imperial
trappings were sent to Constantinople, people
understood merely that the collegial government
had once more given way to monarchy.

Meanwhile from the heart outward through
every limb the empire was falling to decay.
The underlying cause, already referred to, was
declining vitality, fundamentally due to lack of
interest in the welfare of the state, of the com-
munity, of future generations. As the civilized
part of the human race lost love of life and hope
for the future, it began to die out. A related
cause was slavery, which long before Marcus
Aurelius had been destroying the free popula-
tion; in his time the plague, and after him
foreign and civil wars, continued to waste life,
while the burden of taxation, always increas-
ing, made life every day more wretched. The
wealth of the empire flowed to the East in ex-
change for useless luxuries; and for want of
gold and silver the coinage was debased ; at the
same time the cost of living became excessive.
Then, too, the growing splendor of the imperial
courts added to the burden. With their scant
means many found it impossible to support
families, and even the slaves grew fewer. In
these conditions most of the lower population,
free and slave, became hereditary serfs — coloni
— bound to the soil and to the payment of fixed
dues to their lords. But it was not only the poor
who suffered. The municipalities had once en-
joyed freedom in local affairs, each governed by
a senate, whose members — decuriones — were
the wealthier men of the community. Gradually
the emperors encroached upon the liberty of
these cities, till they had converted even the
privileges of the senators into intolerable bur-
dens. For as these officials were responsible for
the taxes due from their districts, many of them,
unable to wring the required amount from the
poorer classes, were themselves reduced to pov-
erty. Nevertheless they could in no way shirk
their duty, but were held for life by an iron
hand to the unenviable task of collecting and of
paying oppressive taxes. Artisans and traders,
too, were bound strictly to their hereditary voca-
tions, in order that the government might be
sure oi tuc dues to whirh they were subject
In brief, society was forced into a rigid *•»«**-
like system, which crushed freedom and ma«i:
the life of rich and poor, bond and free, almost



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HISTORY. MEDIAEVAL



equally wretched. As under these circumstances
the population grew unwarlike, the government
found it more and more necessary to make up
the armies of Germans, who consequently settled
in the empire in ever increasing numbers. Al-
though they readily adopted Roman civilization,
their independent spirit, out of harmony with the
conditions above described, acted as a new
disintegrating force. Another power, which
while aiming to make the world over on its own
model tended to destroy ancient ideas and insti-
tutions, — including the empire itself, — was
Christianity. Rome, essentially polytheistic, al-
ways tolerated the religions of the nations which
she conquered ; in the adoption of their gods into
her pantheon she found a means of political
centralization. Judaism, however, she regarded
with disfavor, and attempted to suppress Chris-
tianity. These exceptions to her policy of tol-
eration were due to the irreconcilable conflict
between monotheism and polytheism and to the
leveling tendency of the Christian religion.
The apostles of Christ taught that the gods of
Rome were demons, that the worship of the
emperor was sinful, that all men from the em-
peror to the slave were equal before God, that
the neaping up of wealth was an abomination;
in brief their religion seemed to the Romans
subversive of all the principles on which the
empire rested. But although Christianity and
Germanism were disintegrating the empire, they
were destined in combination to make the old
world new. The estimate of their value as
creative agencies belongs to the mediaeval
period.

In appearance more formidable than internal
decay were the hostile nations outside the em-
pire. In the 3d century the Germans, who had
long been threatening, began to break through
the northern frontier. The Franks flung them-
selves upon Gaul ; the Goths occupied Dacia and
crossed the Danube, to defeat and kill an em-
peror. In the East, too, a new danger ap-
peared; on the ruins of the old Seleucid power
had arisen the Parthian empire, which in the
3d century was supplanted by a new, vigorous
Persian empire. The warlike Persian monarchs
nearly made good their threat to drive the
Romans from Asia.

Early in the 5th century the Germans began
to establish their states within the empire, — the
Visigothic kingdom in Gaul and Spain (415
a.d.), that of the Vandals in Africa, and of the
Burgundians in the Rhone valley. About the
middle of the century the Angles and Saxons
began to overrun Britain; a little later the
Franks, who long before had crossed the Rhine,
began the conquest of Gaul (486 a.d.) ; and in
493 a.d. the Ostrogoths conquered Italy. Before
the end of the century the western branch of the
empire had fallen into the hands of Germanic
chiefs, who while vaguely recognizing the em-
peror at Constantinople as their lord were in
reality sovereign kings of the countries they
ruled. Here ancient history ends; the inter-
action between Roman and German life under
Christian influence is the subject of mediaeval
history.

Literature. — For the method of history see
Bemheim, ^ehrbuch der historischen Methode*
(4th ed. t Leipsic 1903) ; for an elementary
sketch, Botsford, c Ancient History > (New York
1902) , a philosophic view may be found in An-



drews, < Brief Institutes of General History } (6th
ed., Boston 1000) ; by far the best detailed work
is Meyer, ( Geschichte des Altertums ) (I.-V.,
reaching to the middle of the 4th century B.C.,
Stuttgart and Berlin 1884-1902) ; for a satisfac-
tory treatment of the period following this date
it is necessary to depend on the histories of
special countries and periods, for example,
Holm, ^History of Greece ) (III., IV., translated
from the German, New York 1896-8) ; Momm-
sen, ( History of Rome ) (translated from the
German, 5 vols., conformed to the 8th ed., New
York 1895) ; < Provinces of the Roman Empire,*
2 vols. (New York 1886) ; Duruy, ( History of
Rome ) (8 vols., Boston), valuable for the im-
perial period; cf. also Duncker, ( Geschichte des
Altertums ) (3d-6th ed., 9 vols., Leipsic 1874-^86) ;
6 vols, translated by Abbott (London 1877-86) ;
Oncken, ( Allgemeine Geschichte in Einzeldar-
stellungen,* by various authors (Berlin 1878-
90) ; Helmholt, 'History of the World ) (Vols.
I.-IV., New York 1902) ; Philippson, ( Das Mit-
telmeergebiet : seine geographische und kultur-
elle Eigenart ) (Leipsic 1904), valuable for
physical environment; Cunningham, < Western
Civilization in its Economic Aspects J (Cambridge
1898) ; Webster, < General History of Commerce*
(Boston 1903) ; Perrot et Chipiez, <Histoire de
l'Art dans l'Antiquite> (8 vols., Paris 1882-
1903) J for general tendencies, Freeman, ( Chief
Periods of European History > (New York 1886) ;
especially fresh and suggestive are the articles by
E. Meyer, Diels, Wilamowitz-Mollendorff, Sol-
tau, and Hirschfeld in the historians' History
of the World,* III.-VI. (New Yorkand London
1904) ; the best encyclopedias for Greece and
Rome, containing much information also regard-
ing the Orient, are Daremberg et Sagho, ( Dic-
tionnaire des Antiquit£s grecques et Romaines*
(3 vols, ready, Paris 1873-1904) ; Pauly-Wissowa,
( Real-Encyclopadie der cl. Altertumswissen-
schaft* (4 vols, ready, Stuttgart 1894-1901) ; the
best periodical is ( Beitrage zur alten Geschichte^
edited by Lehmann (Leipsic 1901 — ) ; for bibli-
ography past and current, ( Jahresbericht uber
die Fortschritte der cl. Altertumswissenschaft, )
including ( Bibliotheca philol. cl.,* edited by
Bursian (Berlin) ; for bibliographies of special
countries see the articles on Egypt, Chaldea,
Babylonia, Assyria, Greece, and Rome.

George Willis Botsford,
Adjunct Professor of Ancient History, Columbia
University.

History, Mediaeval. Definition.— Mediaeval
history may be most easily defined as the middle
period between ancient and modern history.
Some scholars have wished to do away with
the term entirely, and to use only two divisions,
ancient and modern. In fact, in Oriental his-
tory there is no mediaeval period. But most
students prefer to keep to the threefold division
for European history. This is due largely to
the fact that the mediaeval period can be pre-
sented with greater unity than either ancient or
modern.

Mediaeval history began with the disintegra-
tion of the Roman Empire in the 5th century,
the ruin of paganism, and the migrations.
Without arguing the merits of the various dates
which may be assigned for the end of the Mid-
dle Ages (q.v.), we shall here discuss the his-
tory to about 1500 a.d. During this period of



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one thousand years, the most marked character-
istic is the dominant influence of the Church.
The most important peoples are the Germanic
races, who emerged slowly from barbarism, and
gradually assimilated some of the features of the
Roman civilization. Based upon the ruins of the
older rose a new civilization, which caused a
radical transformation in political, social, and
religious ideals.

Contrast Between Romans and Germans.-^
The Romans had a highly developed and very
complex civilization. From their Greek sub-
jects, they had acquired the knowledge of art,
literature, science, and philosophy. Under the
Roman peace, an active commerce had grown
up throughout the empire, supplying to each
province the products of all of the others. In
law and administration the Romans had reached
such excellence that we still imitate them.
Moreover, Christianity had become the state
religion.

The Germans were barbarians, having the
virtues and vices of their savage state, and
resembling, in many respects, the North Ameri-
can Indians. But they were a vigorous race,
with a great capacity for learning. Some of
them had been converted to Christianity before
they entered the Roman Empire, but most of
them were still pagans.

Migrations. — The Roman Empire had for
centuries held the barbarians in check, by the
prestige of its name, by the payment of tribute,
or by the policy of exciting dissension among
its enemies. This last is well summed up in
the Roman 'proverb, Divide et impera, which
may be paraphrased, "Cause divisions and strife
among those whom you fear and thus rule over
them.® In the latter part of the 4th century,
however, the terrors inspired by the advance of
the Huns (q.v.) into Europe, the knowledge of
the weakness of the Roman Empire, and their
own desire for more fertile lands, caused the
Visigoths (q.v.) to enter upon their great migra-
tion. Their example was followed by other
German tribes, and the movement continued
throughout the 5th and 6th centuries. By the
year 600, all the European portion of the West-
ern Empire, except a few positions in Italy, was
held by the Germans.

During the period of the migrations, there
was a great destruction of life and property.
But the conquered inhabitants were neither
exterminated nor driven out. The German in-
vaders were relatively few in number, and, in
many sections, they found unoccupied lands suf-
ficient for their needs. The conquerors and the
conquered lived in constant contact with one
another, and the resultant civilization was partly
Roman and partly German. See Migrations.

Fusion of the Two Civilisations.— The 7th
and 8th centuries were the period of fusion.
By the year 800, the terms Roman and Barbarian
were no longer used. The inhabitants formed
a single people, with a civilization much lower
than the Roman but much higher than that of
the Germans when the latter had entered the
Empire. In this new composite civilization, the
Roman influence was greater in language, me-
chanical arts, business arrangements, and munici-
pal, intellectual, and ecclesiastical affairs. The
German influence was greater in military mat-
ters and judicial procedure.

The fusion was practically completed by the



time of Charles the Great. He realized clearly
the task of the Middle Ages, and did all in his
power, on the one hand to retain all that was
best of the older German customs, and, on the
other hand, to introduce from Italy such Roman
customs as his subjects were able to adopt. He
did much to foster education, which followed
Roman models. By his wars, he brought under
his sword all of the German peoples.

The Neiv Empire. — In 800, Charles's services
received fitting recognition in his election as em-
peror of the Roman Empire. The idea of a



Online LibraryWilfrid RichmondThe Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 → online text (page 158 of 185)