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phically important. In Sicily, the chief ones are the
Giarretta and the Fiume Salso ; in Sardinia, the Tyrso
and the Flumendosa.

The mountains which have been enumerated yield few
valuable minerals. The rivers are nearly useless for
commercial navigation, owing to the want of tides in the
seas into which they flow. Having hardly any deep in-
dentations, the coast affords few facilities for the forma-
tion of harbours ; and the position of the peninsula in
the Mediterranean, which, as long as eastern commerce
was conducted overland to the Levant, favoured its com-
munication with the great mart of Asiatic merchandise,
has had the very opposite effect since the discovery of
the passage by the Cape of Good Hope. Italy is natur-
ally an agricultural country, with a fertility of soil and
mildness of climate which bestow a plentiful increase
even on careless cultivation, and would perhaps, under
better laws and better management, make it, as Sicily once
was, the granary of Europe. The geographical situation of
this fine peninsula, open so extensively to the sea, exposes
it to attack on almost every point ; and its seeming ram-
parts the Alps, which have never stopped the march of
any brave invader, are now traversed by military roads in
all directions. Its clmiate, except in a few spots, is
healthy ; and, if we are told that it is a cause of degene-
racy or effeminacy, we may answer that it is unchanged,


since the period when its air was breathed in Upper Italy
by the Insubrian Gauls, in I\Iiddle Italy by the Romans,
in Lower Italy by the fierce Bruttians, and in Sicily by
the Syracusan Greeks who humbled Athens.

In the last few sentences are stated some of the
facts which have most strongly influenced the fate
of Italy, and will continue to aid m determinmg her
place among the nations. The details of her physical
structure and aspect, as well as of her history, political,
moral, and intellectual, will open themselves to us as we
proceed ; while the adventures, the characters, and the
monuments, which are to pass in review before us, will
constantly suggest interestmg speculations. The thought
which first arises in the mind, is that wliich will also
the most frequently recur, in innumerable shapes and
combinations. . Italy stands unexampled m Europe,
— indeed unexampled upon earth. She alone of all the
ancient nations, after slumbering through the darkness
which for centuries covered the world, awoke stronger
than before. The changes of character which distinguish
the modern people from the ancient, as well as the
numerous points of identity, present the most curious
subjects of inquiry. A yet more momentous problem
respects their final destiny. The Italians were fallen
in the dark ages, and they rose again. They are fallen
now : is there yet a second redemption for them I



The Political History of Italy till the Fall of the Roman


First Age (ending a. u. 244) : — The Primitive Italian Tribes —
The Pelasgi — The Etruscans — The Latins — The Kings of Rome
— The Greeks in Italy and Sicily. Second Age (a. u. 244 —
A. u. 468) : — Rome a Repubhc — Its External History — Con-
quests — The Greek Colonies — The Constitutional History of
Rome — The Early Constitution — Classification of the Citizens —
The Hereditary Nobility — Their Vassals — The Free Commoners
— The Senate — The Two Conventions — Constitutional Peculi-
arities — Commencement of the Plebeian Struggle — Institution of
the Tribunes — Rise of a Third Convention — Prosecution of the
Struggle— The Twelve Tables — The Licinian Laws — The Pub-
lilian Laws — The Democracy perfected. Third Age ( a. u. 468
—A. u. 722) :— The Character of the Times— The New Aristo-
cracy — The Populace — The External History — The Roman
Dominions in Magna Graecia — In Sicily — Abroad — The Punic
Wars — Tlie Constitutional History — Three Stages: — ]. (a. u.
468 — A. u. 620) — Changes on the Senate — On the Conventions
—2. (a. u. 620— A. u. 671)— The Gracchi— The Italian Allies
—The Ballot— The Army and Marius— 3. (a. u. 671- a. u. 722)
— Sylla's Reign and Pohcy — The last Republican Times — Pom-
pey, Caesar, Cicero, Cato — Caesar King — His Assassination —
Octavius Emperor — The Republican Administration and
Finance — The Italian Provinces — The Municipalities — The
State Expenditure — The Revenues — Description of the Taxes —
The Administration of the Revenues.

The liistorical outline wliich is here presented will
chiefly invite the reader's attention to two sections in


the annals of the Romans ; namely, the growth of their
sovereignty over Italy, and the principles and progress
of their political constitution. The chronicles of their
wars abound beyond all similar records in vigorous
characters and heroic adventures ; but the incidents are
familiar to every one, and neither our purpose nor our
limits allow us to dwell long on spectacles of bloodshed.
The constitution of the republic deserves for many rea-
sons to be more closely examined. It is the department
in which the revolutions of that extraordinary people
possess the highest value as lessons, and in w4iich also
our popular works on their history offer least infonna-

This chapter and the next will delineate the skeleton
of the political institutions in the commonwealth and
the empire ; and subsequent portions of the volume will
attempt to exhibit the most interesting of those other
features which, when grouped together, complete in
the imagination a picture of the ancient Roman world.
The vicissitudes and remains of literature and the fine
arts will successively come into view ; those scenes will
be described Avhich have become places of pilgrimage for
the classical student ; and our inquiry into the state of
Heathen Italy will not close till we have surveyed the
most characteristic details of private life and manners,
with one or two branches of the national statistics.

The times preceding the foundation of the empire
class themselves chronologically in three divisions. The
first is that legendary age which we have called the
First Secondary Period. Of the other two, compre-
hending together the five republican centuries of the
Ancient Illustrious Period, the earlier ends with the
complete development of the democracy, while the later
embraces the decline and overthrow of freedom.



ENDING A. U. 244, OR B.C. 610.*

The Primitive Inhabitants of Italy. \ — Amidst the tra-
ditional obscurity which covers the remotest times of
Italian history, the principal fact which may be re-
garded as certain is this ; that, besides the race or races
which originally occupied the peninsula, the greater por-
tion of it was at one period, before the foundation of Rome,
possessed by that smgular tribe which, commonly knoAvn
by the name of Pelasgi, united with the Hellenes to
form the ancient Greek nation. We discover the Pelasgi
through the disguise of poetical fable, in the legends
both of Grecian and Roman writers. We trace them
again in those massive architectural remains which are
still scattered over the country, from the northern ex-
tremities of Tuscany to the southern slopes of the
central Apennmes. Lastly, we recognise their influence
and fix them down as having inhabited Latium, when
we perceive the Hellenic element which is so copiously
infused into the Latin language, and which, it is demon-
strable, must have formed part of it in its earliest stages.

The older Italian nations, on whom the Pelasgians in-
truded, and by whom they appear to have been m turn
subdued, could not be very briefly classified, nor even
enumerated. It is enough to allude to the Ligurians,
with those other northern tribes whom the Gauls soon
invaded; and to those rude hordes of the south who
were speedily hemmed in by the Greek colonies. The

* By the common reckonintr (after Varro), which is here adopt-
ed, the foundation of Rome is placed in the year before Christ 76S.

t The most authoritative writers of the present age, on the
early antiquities of Italy, are Niebuhr, in his History of Rome ;
Miiller, in his work on the Etruscans ; and Micali, in his Italia
avanti il Dominio de' Romani, 4 vols, 1810, or in his Antichi
Popoli d'ltalia, 3 vols, 1832, which is an improved and enlarged edi-
tion of the former. Among the older works, the most interesting
is Lanzi's Saggio di Lingua Etrusca, 1789. The view in the text
is in substance Niebuhr's.


inhabitants of the intermediate space require more minute
notice. The Umbrians are said to have been the abori-
gines of Italy, and to have once possessed a very wide
territory. The Sabines, a mountain-tribe, were also
believed to be extremely ancient, — perhaps Umbrians, —
and were certainly the nucleus of several greater nations.
Their settlements extended westward as far as Rome,
and eastward over Picenum : to the south they seem to
have sent out the Hernicians, Marsians, Pelignians, and
other tribes of the central Apennines ; and still farther
south was the powerful people of the Samnites, the
greatest of their colonies. These southern swarms of
the Sabines partially dispossessed the Opicians or Oscans,
a race whose name disappeared early, but to whose
blood belonged the Auruncians, and perhaps the -^quans
and Volscians. The origin of these various races is a
question to be solved on the narrowest grounds ; but
certainly none of them were Pelasgians. These last,
however, evidently intermixed with them at different
points over nearly the whole peninsula, and were
gradually lost in the union.

These Italian tribes do not emerge from obscurity till
they successively appear as contending with Rome, and
defeated by her. In the period immediately preceding
their fall, they were distinguished for little except that
military courage and talent, of which all gave proofs so
deadly. In the infancy of the great city, however, the
Etruscans, a separate race, whose origin is still quite
uncertain, were in a situation remarkably different.
They were a powerful, though declining nation ; they
were active by sea in commerce and in piracy ; they
were wealthy, and had used their riches, and their in-
tercourse with the Greek colonies and other foreign
states, for the acquisition of a singular proficiency in archi-
tecture, painting, and sculpture. At one time, their rule,
and perhaps their population, extended from the Alps
to Latium or Campania, and across the whole breadth of
Italy ; but at the commencement of their struggle against
Rome, their dominion was nearly restricted to Etruria


Proper. This province was not then united into one state ;
hut its different cantons had formed themselves into a
federal league, the cohesion of which had hecome very
slight. Their confederation is said to have always con-
sisted of twelve towns, with the district attached to each ;
and their governments were oligarchical, with hut few-
exceptions, such as Veil, and perhaps Clusium, which
were ruled by kings. The mass of the people are stated
to have been serfs in the hands of the nobilit}^ (the Lucu-
mones) ; and if it be true that this race invaded the
Pelasgians, and reduced them to bondage, the fact would
account for the Greek character, which pervades much
even of the earliest Etruscan works of art, and also for
the Pelasgic style of their antique fortresses.'" The
priesthood of Etniria composed no separate class, but its
functions were, exclusively m the hands of the nobles,
who enveloped their gloomy superstition in a thick veil
of ritual observances, and skilfully used these rites and
their pretences to the gift of divination, to form the
groundwork of an immense power in the state. The
Roman chiefs borrowed from the Etruscans both their
religious ceremonies and their political application of
them ; and the nation at large owed to this singular
people the first steps of their civilisation.

The Latins, and the Origin of Rome. — The Romans
traced their immediate descent to the Latins, a powerful
tribe, different from any of those now enumerated ; but
their national pride and Greek learning have wrapt up
the history of these ancestors in a cloud of fable. The
most probable account of their origin sets out from the
fact, that the Pelasgians at one time occupied the plains
of Latium, either as first settlers, or by subduing earlier
inhabitants. They were attacked by a race whom the
Sabines had dislodged from the mountains, and whom,
on a comparison of the non-Grecian part of the Latin
language with extant inscriptions, we are warranted in
pronouncing to have been Oscans. The Pelasgians and

* See a paper on Etruscan Antiquities, by Mr Millingen :
Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature, vol. ii. 1834.


that people coalesced, and formed the Latin league and
the older Latin tongue. Virgil's fable, and some historical
facts, indicate that they were at one time divided into two
confederations, the southern having its seat at Ardea, the
northern at Lavinium or Laurentum. The former dis-
appeared early, probably on being conquered by the
Volscians. The latter continued to exist ; but Alba be-
came its principal town, and attained a power which is
attested by its public works, if it be true (and it is more
than probable) that the extraordinary tunnel of the
Alban Lake, the merit of which is claimed by the Ro-
mans, was really executed before they conquered Alba.
The Latin league is said to have always consisted of
thirty towns, each of which had a senate, and an elective
chief magistrate, called a dictator.

From the conflicting accounts of the foundation of
Rome by Romulus we may collect at least a plausible
theory of its origin. The first and most important
body of its inhabitants, who, it is agreed, had their seat
on the Palatine Hill, consisted of Latins belonging to the
mixed race of Oscans and Pelasgians. The spot on which
they fixed themselves had clearly been occupied before
the events with which tradition associates the name of
the founder. If the poetical fables have any historical
basis, the older town or \Tllage of the Palatine must have
been built by the Pelasgians before they merged in the
Latin race. At the formation of the town of Romulus,
the Sabines, as it is with much probability conjectured,
had a settlement covering the Capitoline and Quiriual
Hills ; and the Roman legend intimates that this town
and that on the Palatine were formed into one, and their
citizens into one community, in which the Latin
language and influence continued to rule. The original
constitution of the dimmutive state thus composed, is
represented to have been an elective and limited mo-
narchy,* which was forcibly abolished on the misconduct

* Livii Histor. lib. i. cap. 49. Dionys. Halicarn. Antiquit
Roman, lib. ii. cap. 14 ; lib. iv. cap. 80.


of its seventh king.* The history of these chiefs, and
even the names and existence of some of them, are matter
of great doubt, wliile the period assigned to tlieir dynasty
is manifestly erroneous. There are strong indications
also, that before the expulsion of the kings the dominion
of Rome extended much farther than the received ac-
count, reaching northward into Etruria and southward as
far as Terracina. The new republic lost for a time the
greater part of this territory, and therefore the historians
concealed the fact that it had ever been acquued. Before
the revolution the militaiy spirit of the Romans was
formed and the outline of their political constitution

The Greek Colonies in Italy and Sicily. — While Rome
was gradually becoming the head of a powerful state in
Central Italy, the southern coasts received a succession
of foreign settlers, possessing an amount of wealth, of
commercial activity, of skill in the arts, and of literary
and philosophical cultivation, which even the Etrus-
cans had never approached, and to which all the other
Italians were still total strangers. These colonists were
the foi^nders of the Greek republican cities, lining the
portion of the mainland which was called from them
Magna Grsecia, and occupying many points on the coasts
of SicUy. Almost all of these were established before
the Roman revolution, but no considerable intercourse
subsisted between them and Rome tUl they submitted to
her armies late in the fifth century of the city. It is neces-
sary, however, to remark the existence of these polished
communities of foreigners at a time when the natives were
so utterly uncultivated. Tradition carried back the
origin of Cumse, a colony of Ionic Greeks, to the year b. c.
1030 ; and this town, besides giving birth to Neapolis,
founded Zancle, afterwards called Messana, the earliest
Grecian settlement in Sicily. The aristocratic govern-

• A. u. L Romulus. a. u. 137. Tarquinius Priscus.
37. Numa Pompilius. 176. Servius Tullius.

80. T'illus Hostilius. 220. Tarquinius Superbus

114. Ancus Martius. expelled in 244.


ment of Cumse was temporarily subverted by Aristode-
mus, who appears in the liistory of the new Roman repub-
lic. Rhegium was another Ionic commonwealth. The
Doric Tarentum, planted about the year b. c. 707, became
at length the wealthiest of the seaports belongmg to the
Italiot Greeks. Croton, and the powerful and luxurious
colony of Sybaris, were Achaean. Locri, for which Zaleucus
legislated about 660 b. c, was another eminent commu-
nity ; and settlers from these to\ATis were spread over the
whole southern coast of Ital}^ The territory of the cities
in no instance extended far into the interior of the country ;
and their ruin was prepared by the frequent attacks of
the natives, and by the disunion of the several republics
among themselves.

Down to the time of the Roman revolution, the Greek
colonies in Sicily were rapidly increasing in strength and
numbers. The Doric Syracuse, the most poweiful of
them, planted by Corinthians in the year b. c. 757, was
still republican. Gela, also Doric, and dating from b. c.
7lo, had sent out emigrants to Agrigentum ; and, besides
several smaller cities of the same race, there already ex-
isted Naxos, Catana, Taurominium, and other flourishing
Ionic settlements. The Carthaginians, whose capital lay
within a day's sail of Sicily, had already made establish-
ments on its nearest shores, and were about to enter on that
attempt to subjugate the whole island which at last em-
broiled them with the Romans. The native inhabitants,
who evidently belonged to some one or more of the tribes
composing the oldest Italian population, appear for a
time in the history of the country as useful auxiliaries to
their Greek, Punic, or Roman masters, but were finally
lost among the foreign settlers. Sardinia, in which the
Greeks at an early epoch had planted two colonies,
Caralis and Oibia, was now entirely subject to Carthage ;
and tills state had also made itself master of one or
two havens in Corsica, founded b}" the Etruscans.




THE democracy:
A. u. 244-^68, or s. c. 510—286.

The External Histoiv/ of Borne. — During this age the
foreign relations of the new republican state underwent
some remarkable vicissitudes, the earlier details of which
have not reached us without much obscurity and evident
distortion. Besides acquiring, before the revolution, the
absolute dominion of a considerable territory, the Romans
had contrived not only to obtain a place in the federative
league of the Latin towns, but to arrogate the presidency
of the confederation. On this prerogative they speedily
grounded extravagant claims of superiority. Their en-
croachments, and the intrigues of their banished princes,
immediately mvolved the republic in wars both with the
Latins and with several other neighbouring nations. The
earliest of the great military names of the time was that
of Quinctius Cincirmatus, who was succeeded in his cele-
brity by Marcus Furius Camillas. In the Etruscan war,
headed by Porsena, prince of Clusium, to which belong
the stories of Codes and Mucins Scsevola, with so many
others of the heroic Roman legends, it is quite clear that
the city was actually taken, and the commonwealth com-
pelled to surrender a large portion of her territory. Her
next war with the same tribes, in wliich Camillus was the
hero and Veii the principal enemy, was more successful.
It ended by bringing back the ceded districts with
large additions, while it nearly annihilated the Etruscan
league. A few years later Rome was on the brink of ruin.
Colonies of Gauls had previously crossed the Alps and
established themselves in the north of Italy ; and now
either these settlers alone, or more probably a new horde
aided by them, invaded Etruria and Latium, and (a. u.
365, B. c. 389) took and burned Rome. The Romans
purchased, by a heavy ransom, the departure of those
barbarians, who probably retired upon Cisalpine Gaul.


Rome, with that elastic strength which so finely distin-
guishes her republican history, quickly recovered from
the shock, and pursued vigorously her plan, already
matured, for the entire subjugation of Italy. Before
tlie end of her fourth century, in spite of internal dis-
cord and foreign enemies, she had again reduced the
greater part of Latium to a precarious subjection, and
had engaged in wars with more distant tribes, including
the Volscians, ^Equans, and Auruncans.

The first half of her fifth century was chiefly occupied
by the heroic Samnite war, carried on resolutely, and
with complete success, against the bravest of her Italian
rivals. She was soon able to strengthen her dominion
over almost all the provinces from Samnium to the frontier
of Cisalpine Gaul, and only waited for a pretence to
attack the Greek colonies and Carthage.

The half century just named abounds more than any
other period of the repubKcan history in deeds of military
prowess, and there are no Roman heroes whose characters
we can admire so unliesitatingly as those who figure in
this series of wars. If we examine deeply into the con-
duct of the most prominent persons who flourished in
the preceding age, we shall detect in them bad citizens
and bad men, oppressors of the people, and unscru-
pulous avengers of attacks on their own privileged
order. This, which was the character of Cincinnatus,
was also, with the addition of avarice and dishonesty,
that of the vaunted Camillus. But in the Samnite
period, as we shall see, the two orders of the state had
been just amalgamated into one : — the fierce quarrels
between the noble and the commoner were transmuted
into a generous emulation, and the patriotic enthusiasm
burnt for a time with a flame so warm and radiant as
had never yet shone on Rome, and never afterwards visit-
ed her. The devotion to country indeed was in such
excess, that self-love and the domestic affections were
equally weak against its pressure. The patrician Manlius,
a descendant of the unfortunate Marcus, first became ce-
lebrated for his filial piety, and then for his single combat


with the Ganl on the Salarian Bridge over the Aiiio,
where he gained the chain which gave him his name of
Torquatus. A few years later, a similar conflict Avith
another Gaul in the Pontine Flats, earned the surname
of Corvus for the excellent Marcus Valerius. In the
same generation, during a war against the Latins, Torqua-
tus, then consul, performed near Capua that teiTible act
of rigour which is so famous, by executing his own valiant
son for a breach of discipline ; and a few days afterwards
his plebeian colleague Decius Mus, who had on a pre-
vious occasion chivalrously saved a consular army in
Campania, crowTied a worthy life by devoting himself to
death for the state in conformity with a national super-
stition. The self-sacrifice of Decius, inspiring courage
and revenge in his soldiers, procured the victory for
Rome ; and on another such emergency, in a battle
with the Gauls and Samnites in Etruria, his son pur-
chased a second victory at a similar price.

Online LibraryWilliam SpaldingItaly and the Italian islands, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 35)