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Italy and the Italian islands, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) online

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copied and freely circulated. Although Augustus stop-
ped the publication of the reports,§ the restraint was
soon afterwards withdrawn ; and ever after their intro-
duction by Julius, these and all other archives of the

* Plautus in Persa, act. iii, scon. 2. v. 60-68. Suetonius De
Ulustribus Graminaticis, cap. 8- Plinii lib. iii. epist. 5.

■Y Consult Dothvell, Praelcctiones Camdenianae (Oxon. 1692) :
Praelect. xi. et Appendicis Prsefat. — Eschenbach De Scribis Ve-
terum, ap. Polenum, torn. iii. — Ersch und Gruber, Encyclopadie,
ad vocem " Acta."— Ze!l in tbe IMorgenblatt, June 1835.

4: Cicero De Oratore, lib. ii. cap. 2; Ad Familiare?, lib. i.
epist. 2. (a. v. 697). See al-o Cicero's Letters cited afterwards.

§ Suetonius in Julio, cap. 20 ; in Augusto, cap. 36.


state were so unreservedly open to the public, and their
contents were diffused in so many shapes, that we are
often uncertain whether the sources to which the Roman
authors refer are these official reports, or the notes of
professional shorthand writers, or, finally, those collec-
tions of common news that were handed about with the
other pieces of information.

But we are less curious to disentangle this confusion,
than to learn some of the subjects which were discussed
in the news-journals. The accounts of the political de-
bates embraced the acts and resolutions, the rescripts of
the emperors, the reports of magistrates or committees,
the names of the voters (like that of Thrasea Psetus,
whose silent dissent was watched with such eagerness by
the provincials), the speeches, their reception, and the
squabbles of the debaters."' Stray articles of law-intel-
ligence seem to have found their way into these collec-
tions.t There were likewise occasional notices extracted
from the local registers of births, and announcements
of marriages, divorces, deaths, and funerals,^ as also
descriptions of new public buildings, shows of gladiators,
and such ordinary themes.§ Julius Caesar, who read
the news-sheets every morning, gave strict orders that
Cicero's witty sayings should be regularly added to the
other current matter. || The joumals, too, like our
own, were the receptacles for all tragical and marvellous
occurrences, and Pliny derived from them many of the
odd stories inserted in his encyclopaedia, among which
the following may be cited. The gazettes related that

* Cicero Ad Atticum, lib. vi. epist. 2; Ad Fatniliares, lib. n.
ep. 15, lib. xii. ep. 23; Philippica Prima, cap. 3. Taciti An-
nal. lib. xv. cap. 74 ; lib. xvi. cap. 22. De Claris Oratoribus,
cap. 37. Plinii lib. v. epist. 14 ; lib. vii. ep. 33 ; lib. viii. ep. 6.

-|- Cicero Ad Familiares, lib. ii. ep. 8 (a. o. 702). Taciti Annal.
lib. vi. cap. 47.

+ Suetonius in Tiberio, cap, 5 ; in Caligula, cap. 8. Juvenalis
Satir. i. v. 136. Seneca De Beneficiis, lib. vii. cap. 16. Taciti
Annal. lib. iii. cap. 3.

§ Cicero Ad Familiares, lib. ii. ep. 8; lib. viii. ep. 1, 2.
Taciti Annal. lib. xiii. cap. 31.

II Cicero Ad Familiares, lib. ix. ep. 16.


on the day when Cicero defended Milo there fell a
shower of hricks ; that under Augustus a burgher of
Fcesulae walked to the Capitol in a procession formed by
his own sixty- three descendants ; that when a slave of
the unfortunate Titius Sabinus had been executed by
Tiberius, his dog watched the corpse, carried food to its
mouth, and, on its being thrown into the Tiber, swam
after it, and strove to bring it to land ; and that in the
reign of Claudius a phoenix from Egypt was publicly
exliibitcd in Rome ; which last story, however, Pliny
truly pronounces to be a manifest invention.*

As the contents of the gazettes became more objection-
able, their popularity increased in due proportion, and
was especially high among the females of rank, many of
■whom acquired a taste for this sort of amusement,
while some even maintained readers or secretaries, of the
other sex as well as their own.t It was the fashion of
the emperors publicly to keep diaries of their personal
history ; and Augustus, the earliest of the imperial
autobiographers, went so far as to attempt imposing
some laws of decency on the women of his house-
hold, by ordering an officer of the palace to write a regu-
lar journal of their transactions. The noble Romans
imitated the example of their masters, and the pomp-
ous folly which distinguished many of those patrician
memoirs is wittily exposed by a debauched but most
observant contemporary of Nero.;]: The monarch's cha-
racter and that of his satellites being matters of para-
mount importance, the professed news-writers greedily
gleaned on this head all they could, as well from the
journals as from the communications of the slaves in

* Plinii Hist. Nat. lib. ii. cap. 56; lib. vii. cap. 13; lib. viii.
cap. 40; lib. x. cap. 2.

-f- Juvenalis Satir. vii. v. 104 ; Satir. vi. v. 480. Pignorius
De Servis, ap. Polenum, torn. iii. p. 1203. Gorius De Libertorura
Liviae Columbario, Inscript. Ko. 100.

X Suetonius in Augusto, cap. 64, 85 ; in Tiberio, cap. 61 ; in
Claudio, cap. 41. Historiae Augustae Scriptores : in Hadriano, cap.
16; in Commodo, cap. 15; in Septimio Severe, cap. 3. Petronius
Arbiter in Satyrico.



the imperial and noble families. The newspapers, the
pasquinades which we see to have been common from
Julius downwards, and the graver annals, became more
and more like each other, till all were completely amal-
gamated in the scandalous collection entitled the Augus-
tan Histories.

Classes of Society.

It has been already necessary to mention, as a fact in
the political history of the empire, the early disappear-
ance of a middle class in society. The relations of the
lowest order to the highest are best explained by exa-
mining the position of the slaves and freedmen, with the
nature of the public spectacles ; and to the facts which
will thus gradually evolve themselves, it needs only to be
added, that haughtiness and distance towards dependents
speedily rose to a height at once foolish and most deeply
perilous. We conceive Msecenas himself to have been
a very aristocratic personage from the tardy condescen-
sion with which he requited Horace's humble devoirs ;
and, if there is a little spleen in Juvenal's description
of the treatment which the rich gave to their poorer
associates, that other picture is unexaggerated and good-
humoured which Pliny draws of the table of a rich
acquaintance, where we behold a ceremonial correspond-
ing to that old one of the seat below the salt in our own
country."^ But if the indigent citizens in the imperial
times were numerous and the rich few, the slaves com-
posed a multitude amidst which the whole free popula-
tion was a mere handful.

From the seventh century of the city the market-
places in Rome were, on the days of sale, not at all
unlike what an eastern slave-bazaar is at present. The
slave-merchants, a class notorious for dishonesty, and
strictly watched by the police, kept their victims in large

• Horatii lib. i. Satir. vi. v, 52-65. Juvenalis Satir. v. Plinii
lib. ii. epist. 6.


Online LibraryWilliam SpaldingItaly and the Italian islands, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 31 of 35)