Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

A History of Rome, Vol 1 by A H.J. Greenidge

Part 1 out of 11

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Keren Vergon,
Charlie Kirschner and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.

A HISTORY OF ROME

DURING THE LATER REPUBLIC AND
EARLY PRINCIPATE

BY

A. H. J. GREENIDGE, M. A., D. LITT.
TUTOR AND LATE FELLOW OF HERTFORD COLLEGE AND LECTURER IN ANCIENT
HISTORY AT BRASENOSE COLLEGE, OXFORD

VOLUME I

FROM THE TRIBUNATE OF TIBERIUS GRACCHUS TO
THE SECOND CONSULSHIP OF MARIUS
B.C. 133-104

WITH TWO MAPS

TO

B. G.

AND

T. G.

PREFACE

This work will be comprised in six volumes. According to the plan which
I have provisionally laid down, the second volume will cover the period
from 104 to 70 B.C., ending with the first consulship of Pompeius and
Crassus; the third, the period from 70 to 44 B.C., closing with the
death of Caesar; the fourth volume will probably be occupied by the
Third Civil War and the rule of Augustus, while the fifth and sixth will
cover the reigns of the Emperors to the accession of Vespasian.

The original sources, on which the greater part of the contents of the
present volume is based, have been collected during the last few years
by Miss Clay and myself, and have already been published in an
abbreviated form. Some idea of the debt which I owe to modern authors
may be gathered from the references in the footnotes. As I have often,
for the sake of brevity, cited the works of these authors by shortened
and incomplete titles, I have thought it advisable to add to the volume
a list of the full titles of the works referred to. But the list makes
no pretence to be a full bibliography of the period of history with
which this volume deals. The map of the Wäd Mellag and its surrounding
territory, which I have inserted to illustrate the probable site of the
battle of the Muthul, is taken from the map of the "Medjerda supérieure"
which appears in M. Salomon Reinach's _Atlas de la Province Romaine
d'Afrique_.

I am very much indebted to my friend and former pupil, Mr. E.J. Harding,
of Hertford College, for the ungrudging labour which he has bestowed on
the proofs of the whole of this volume. Many improvements in the form of
the work are due to his perspicacity and judgment.

A problem which confronts an author who plunges into the midst of the
history of a nation (however complete may be the unity of the period
with which he deals) is that of the amount of introductory information
which he feels bound to supply to his readers. In this case, I have felt
neither obligation nor inclination to supply a sketch of the development
of Rome or her constitution up to the period of the Gracchi. The amount
of information on the general and political history of Rome which the
average student must have acquired from any of the excellent text-books
now in use, is quite sufficient to enable him to understand the
technicalities of the politics of the period with which I deal; and I
was very unwilling to burden the volume with a _précis_ of a subject
which I had already treated in another work. On the other hand, it is
not so easy to acquire information on the social and economic history of
Rome, and consequently I have devoted the first hundred pages of this
book to a detailed exposition of the conditions preceding and
determining the great conflict of interests with which our story opens.

A. H. J. G.

OXFORD,
_August_, 1904

CONTENTS

CHAPTER I: Characteristics of the period. Recent changes in the
conditions of Roman life. Close of the period of expansion by means of
colonies or land assignments. Reasons for social discontent. The life of
the wealthier classes. The expenses of political life. Attempts to check
luxury. Motives for gain amongst the upper classes. Means of acquiring
wealth open to members of the nobility; those open to members of the
commercial class. The political influence of the Equites. The business
life of Rome; finance and banking. Foreign trade. The condition of the
small traders. Agriculture. Diminution in the numbers of peasant
proprietors. The Latifundium and the new agricultural ideal. Growth of
pasturage. Causes of the changes in the tenure of land. The system of
possession. Future prospects of agriculture. Slave labour; dangers
attending its employment; revolts of slaves in Italy. The servile war in
Sicily (_circa_ 140-131 B.C.). The need for reform.

CHAPTER II: The sources from which reform might have come, too. Attitude
of Scipio Aemilianus. Tiberius Gracchus; his youth and early career. The
affair of the Numantine Treaty. Motives that urged Tiberius Gracchus to
reform. His tribunate (B.C. 133). Terms of the agrarian measure which he
introduced. Creation of a special agrarian commission. Opposition to the
bill. Veto pronounced by Marcus Octavius. Tiberius Gracchus declares a
Justitium. Fruitless reference to the senate. Deposition of Octavius.
Passing of the agrarian law; appointment of the commissioners; judicial
power given to the commissioners. Employment of the bequest of Attalus.
Attacks on Tiberius Gracchus. His defence of the deposition of Octavius.
New programme of Tiberius Gracchus; suggestion of measures dealing with
the army, the law-courts and the Italians. Tiberius Gracchus's attempt
at re-election to the tribunate. Riot at the election and death of
Tiberius Gracchus, Consequences of his fall.

CHAPTER III: Attitude of the senate after the fall of Tiberius Gracchus.
Special commission appointed for the trial of his adherents (B.C. 132).
Fate of Scipio Nasica. Permanence of the land commission and
thoroughness of its work. Difficulties connected with jurisdiction on
disputed claims. The Italians appeal to Scipio Aemilianus. His
intervention; judicial power taken from the commissioners (B.C. 129).
Death of Scipio Aemilianus. Tribunate of Carbo (B.C. 131); ballot law
and attempt to make the tribune immediately re-eligible. The Italian
claims; negotiations for the extension of the franchise. Alien act of
Pennus (B.C. 126). Proposal made by Flaccus to extend the franchise
(B.C. 125). Revolt of Fregellae. Foundation of Fabrateria (B.C. 124).
Foreign events during this period; the kingdom of Pergamon. Bequest of
Attains the Third (B.C. 133). Revolt of Aristonicus (B.C. 132-130).
Organisation of the province of Asia (B.C. 129-126). Sardinian War (B.C.
126-125). Conquest and annexation of the Balearic Islands
(B.C. 123-132).

CHAPTER IV: The political situation at the time of the appearance of
Caius Gracchus as a candidate for the tribunate (B.C. 124). Early career
of Caius Gracchus. First tribunate of Caius Gracchus (B.C. 123). Laws
passed or proposed during this tribunate; law protecting the Caput of a
Roman citizen. Impeachment of Popillius. Law concerning magistrates who
had been deposed by the people. Social reforms. Law providing for the
cheapened sale of corn. Law mitigating the conditions of military
service, 208. Agrarian law. Judiciary law. Law permitting a criminal
prosecution for corrupt judgments. Law concerning the province of Asia.
The new balance of power created by these laws in favour of the Equites.
Law about the consular provinces. Colonial schemes of Caius Gracchus.
The Rubrian law for the renewal of Carthage. Law for the making of
roads. Election of Fannius to the consulship and of Caius Gracchus and
Flaccus to the tribunate. Activity of Caius Gracchus during his second
tribunate (B.C. 122). The franchise bill. Opposition to the bill.
Exclusion of Italians from Rome; threat of the veto, and suspension of
the measure. Proposal for a change in the order of voting in the Comitia
Centuriata. New policy of the senate; counter-legislation of Drusus.
Colonial proposals of Drusus. His measure for the protection of the
Latins. The close of Caius Gracchus's second tribunate. His failure to
be elected tribune for the third time. Proposal for the repeal of the
Rubrian law. The meeting on the Capitol and its consequences (B.C. 121).
Declaration of a state of siege. The seizure of the Aventine; defeat of
the Gracchans; death of Caius Gracchus and Flaccus. Judicial prosecution
of the adherents of Caius Gracchus. Future judgments on the Gracchi. The
closing years of Cornelia. Estimate of the character and consequences of
the Gracchan reforms.

CHAPTER V: The political situation after the fall of Caius Gracchus.
Prosecution and acquittal of Opimius (B.C. 120). Publius Lentulus dies
in exile. Prosecution and condemnation of Carbo (B.C. 119). Lucius
Crassus. Policy of the senate towards the late schemes of reform. Two
new land laws (_circa_ 121-119 B.C.). The settlement of the land
question with respect to Ager Publicus in Italy (B.C. III). Limitations
on the power of the nobility; the Equestrian courts; trials of Scaevola
(B.C. 120) and Cato (B.C. 113). Consulship of Scaurus (B.C. 115); law
concerning the voting power of freedmen. Sumptuary law; activity of the
censors Metellus and Domitius (B.C. 115). Triumphs of Domitius, Fabius
(B.C. 120) and Scaurus (B.C. 115), for military successes. Confidence of
the electors in the ancient houses. Recognition of talent by the
nobility; career of Scaurus (B.C. 163-115). The rise of Marius; his
early career (B.C. 157-119). Tribunate of Marius (B.C. 119). His law
about the method of voting in the Comitia carried in spite of the
opposition of the senate. He opposes a measure for the distribution of
corn. Marius elected praetor; accused and acquitted of Ambitus (B.C.
116). His praetorship (B.C. 115), and pro-praetorship in Spain (B.C.
114). Further opposition to the senate; foundation of Narbo Martius
(B.C. 118). Glaucia; his tribunate and his law of extortion (_circa_ 111
B.C.). The spirit of unrest; religious fears at Rome (B.C. 114). First
trial of the vestals (B.C. 114). Second trial of the vestals (B.C. 113).
Human sacrifice. Great fire at Rome (B.C. III).

CHAPTER VI: The kingdom of Numidia. The races of North Africa. The
Numidians. The Numidian monarchy. Reign of Micipsa (B.C. 148-118). Early
years of Jugurtha. Jugurtha at Numantia (B.C. 134-133). Joint rule of
Jugurtha, Adherbal and Hiempsal (B.C. 118). Murder of Hiempsal (_circa_
116 B.C.); war between Jugurtha and Adherbal. Both kings send envoys to
Rome; the appeal of Adherbal. Decision of the senate. Numidia divided
between the claimants. Renewal of the war between Jugurtha and Adherbal
(_circa_ 114 B.C.). Siege of Cirta (B.C. 112). Embassy from Rome
neglected by Jugurtha. Renewed appeal of Adherbal. Another commission
sent by Rome. Surrender of Cirta and murder of Adherbal. Massacre of
Italian traders. Its influence on the commercial classes at Rome;
protest by Memmius. Declaration of war against Jugurtha. Command of
Bestia in Numidia (B.C. III). Attitude of Bocchus of Mauretania.
Negotiations of Bestia with Jugurtha; conclusion of peace. Excitement in
Rome on the news of the agreement with Jugurtha. Activity of Memmius.
Jugurtha induced to come to Rome (B.C. III). Jugurtha at Rome; the scene
at the Contio. Murder of Massiva. Jugurtha leaves Rome and the war is
renewed, 365. Spurius Albinus in Numidia. He returns to Rome leaving
Aulus Albinus in command. Enterprise of Aulus Albinus; his defeat and
compact with Jugurtha (B.C. 109). Reception of the news at Rome; the
senate invalidates the treaty. Return of Spurius Albinus to Africa. The
Mamilian Commission (B.C. 110). Metellus appointed to Numidia
(B.C. 109).

CHAPTER VII: Metellus restores discipline in the army. Jugurtha attempts
negotiation; Metellus intrigues with the envoys. First campaign of
Metellus (B.C. 109). Seizure of Vaga. Battle of the Muthul. Reception of
the news at Rome. Second campaign of Metellus (B.C. 108). Siege of Zama.
Correspondence of Metellus with Bomilcar. Negotiations with Jugurtha.
Discontent in the province of Africa at the progress of the war;
ambitions of Marius. Plans for securing the command for Marius. Massacre
of the Roman garrison at Vaga. Recovery of Vaga by Metellus. Trial and
execution of Turpilius, Intrigues of Bomilcar. Bomilcar put to death by
Jugurtha. Marius returns to Rome. His election to the consulship (B.C.
108 or 107); Numidia assigned as his province. Enrolment of the Capite
Censi in the legions. Metellus's expedition to Thala (B.C. 107); capture
of the town, Leptis Major appeals for, and receives, Roman help.
Jugurtha finds help amongst the Gaetulians. Junction of Jugurtha and
Bocchus. Metellus moves to Cirta. Close of Metellus's command.

CHAPTER VIII: Marius arrives in Africa (B.C. 107). Return of Metellus to
Rome: his triumph. First campaign of Marius. Expedition to Capsa and
destruction of the town. Second campaign of Marius (B.C. 106);
operations on the Muluccha. Arrival of Sulla with cavalry from Italy.
Early career of Sulla. Renewed coalition of Jugurtha and Bocchus.
Retirement of Marius on Cirta; battles on the route. Marius approached
by Bocchus; Sulla and Manlius sent to interview Bocchus. Envoys from
Bocchus reach Sulla in the Roman winter-camp (B.C. 105). Armistice made
with Bocchus; he is then granted conditional terms of alliance by the
Roman senate. The mission of Sulla to Bocchus. The advocates of Numidia
and Rome at the Mauretanian court. Sulla urges Bocchus to surrender
Jugurtha. Betrayal of the Numidian king; conclusion of the war;
settlement of Numidia. Fate of Jugurtha. Triumph of Marius. Lessons of
the Numidian War. Growing rivalry between Marius and Sulla. Internal
politics of Rome; reaction in favour of the nobility; election of
Serranus and Caepio (B.C. 107). The judiciary law of Caepio (B.C. 106).
The measure supported by Crassus. Reaction against the proposal; victory
of the Equites; renewed coalition against the senate due to the conduct
of the campaign in the North. The consular elections for the year 105
B.C. Effect of the defeat at Arausio (6th Oct. 105 B.C.). Election of
Marius to a second consulship.

MAPS

The Wäd Mellag and the surrounding territory.
Numidia and the Roman Province of Africa.
Titles of modern works referred to in the notes.

_Does the Eagle know what is in the pit?
Or wilt thou go ask the Mole?
Can Wisdom be put in a silver rod?
Or Love in a golden bowl?_
BLAKE

A HISTORY OF ROME

CHAPTER I

The period of Roman history on which we now enter is, like so many that
had preceded it, a period of revolt, directly aimed against the existing
conditions of society and, through the means taken to satisfy the fresh
wants and to alleviate the suddenly realised, if not suddenly created,
miseries of the time, indirectly affecting the structure of the body
politic. The difference between the social movement of the present and
that of the past may be justly described as one of degree, in so far as
there was not a single element of discontent visible in the revolution
commencing with the Gracchi and ending with Caesar that had not been
present in the earlier epochs of social and political agitation. The
burden of military service, the curse of debt, the poverty of an
agrarian proletariate, the hunger for land, the striving of the artisan
and the merchant after better conditions of labour and of trade--the
separate cries of discontent that find their unison in a protest against
the monopoly of office and the narrow or selfish rule of a dominant
class, and thus gain a significance as much political as social--all
these plaints had filled the air at the time when Caius Licinius near
the middle of the fourth century, and Appius Claudius at its close,
evolved their projects of reform. The cycle of a nation's history can
indeed never be broken as long as the character of the nation remains
the same. And the average Roman of the middle of the second century
before our era[1] was in all essential particulars the Roman of the
times of Appius and of Licinius, or even of the epoch when the ten
commissioners had published the Tables which were to stamp its perpetual
character on Roman law. He was in his business relations either
oppressor or oppressed, either hammer or anvil. In his private life he
was an individualist whose sympathies were limited to the narrow circle
of his dependants; he was a trader and a financier whose humanitarian
instincts were subordinated to a code of purely commercial morality, and
who valued equity chiefly because it presented the line of least
resistance and facilitated the conduct of his industrial operations.
Like all individualists, he was something of an anarchist, filled with
the idea, which appeared on every page of the record of his ancestors
and the history of his State, that self-help was the divinely given
means of securing right, that true social order was the issue of
conflicting claims pushed to their breaking point until a temporary
compromise was agreed on by the weary combatants; but he was hampered in
his democratic leanings by the knowledge that democracy is the fruit of
individual self-restraint and subordination to the common
will--qualities of which he could not boast and symbols of a prize which
he would not have cared to attain at the expense of his peculiar ideas
of personal freedom--and he was forced, in consequence of this
abnegation, to submit to an executive government as strong, one might
almost say as tyrannous, as any which a Republic has ever displayed--a
government which was a product of the restless spirit of self-assertion
and self-aggrandisement which the Roman felt in himself, and therefore
had sufficient reason to suspect in others.

The Roman was the same; but his environment had changed more startlingly
during the last fifty or sixty years than in all the centuries that had
preceded them in the history of the Republic. The conquest of Italy had,
it Is true, given to his city much that was new and fruitful in the
domains of religion, of art, of commerce and of law. Bat these
accretions merely entailed the fuller realisation of a tendency which
had been marked from the earliest stage of Republican history--the
tendency to fit isolated elements in the marvellous discoveries made by
the heaven-gifted race of the Greeks into a framework that was
thoroughly national and Roman. Ideas had been borrowed, and these ideas
certainly resulted in increased efficiency and therefore in increased
wealth. But the gross material of Hellenism, whether as realised in
intellectual ideas or (the prize that appealed more immediately to the
practical Roman with his concrete mind) in tangible things, had not been
seized as a whole as the reward of victory: and no great attempt had
been made in former ages to assimilate the one or to enjoy the other.
The nature of the material rewards which had been secured by the epochs
of Italian conquest had indeed made such assimilation or enjoyment
impossible. They would have been practicable only in a state which
possessed a fairly complete urban life; and the effect of the wars which
Rome waged with her neighbours in the peninsula had been to make the
life of the average citizen more purely agricultural than it had been in
the early Republic, perhaps even in the epoch of the Kings. The course
of a nation's political, social and intellectual history is determined
very largely by the methods which it adopts for its own expansion at the
inevitable moment when its original limits are found to be too narrow to
satisfy even the most modest needs of a growing population. The method
chosen will depend chiefly on geographical circumstances and on the
military characteristics of the people which are indissolubly connected
with these. When the city of Old Greece began to feel the strength of
its growing manhood, and the developing hunger which was both the sign
and the source of that strength, it looked askance at the mountain line
which cut it off from the inland regions, it turned hopeful eyes on the
sea that sparkled along its coasts; it manned its ships and sent its
restless youth to a new and distant home which was but a replica of the
old. The results of this maritime adventure were the glories of urban
life and the all-embracing sweep of Hellenism. The progress of Roman
enterprise had been very different. Following the example of all
conquering Italian peoples,[2] and especially of the Sabellian invaders
whose movements immediately preceded their own, the Romans adopted the
course of inland expansion, and such urban unity as they had possessed
was dissipated over the vast tract of territory on which the legions
were settled, or to which the noble sent his armed retainers, nominally
to keep the land as the public domain of Rome, in reality to hold it for
himself and his descendants. At a given moment (which is as clearly
marked in Roman as in Hellenic history) the possibility of such
expansion ceased, and the necessity for its cessation was as fully
exhibited in the policy of the government as in the tastes of the
people. No Latin colony had been planted later than the year 181, no
Roman colony later than 157,[3] and the senate showed no inclination to
renew schemes for the further assignment of territory amongst the
people. There were many reasons for this indifference to colonial
enterprise. In the first place, although colonisation had always been a
relief to the proletariate and one of the means regularly adopted by
those in power for assuaging its dangerous discontent, yet the
government had always regarded the social aspect of this method of
expansion as subservient to the strategic.[4] This strategic motive no
longer existed, and a short-sighted policy, which looked to the present,
not to the future, to men of the existing generation and not to their
sons, may easily have held that a colony, which was not needed for the
protection of the district in which it was settled, injuriously affected
the fighting-strength of Rome. The maritime colonies which had been
established from the end of the great Latin war down to the close of the
second struggle with Carthage claimed, at least in many cases, exemption
from military service,[5] and a tradition of this kind tends to linger
when its justification is a thing of the past. But, even if such a view
could be repudiated by the government, it was certain that the levy
became a more serious business the greater the number of communities on
which the recruiting commander had to call, and it was equally manifest
that the veteran who had just been given an allotment on which to
establish his household gods might be inclined to give a tardy response
to the call to arms. The Latin colony seemed a still greater anachronism
than the military colony of citizens. The member of such a community,
although the state which he entered enjoyed large privileges of
autonomy, ceased to be a Roman citizen in respect to political rights,
and even at a time when self-government had been valued almost more than
citizenship, the government had only been able to carry out its project
of pushing these half-independent settlements into the heart of Italy by
threatening with a pecuniary penalty the soldier who preferred his
rights as a citizen to the benefits which he might receive as an
emigrant.[6] Now that the great wars had brought their dubious but at
least potential profits to every member of the Roman community, and the
gulf between the full citizens and the members of the allied communities
was ever widening, it was more than doubtful whether a member of the
former class, however desperate his plight, would readily condescend to
enroll himself amongst the latter. But, even apart from these
considerations, it must have seemed very questionable to any one, who
held the traditional view that colonisation should subserve the purposes
of the State, whether the landless citizen of the time could be trusted
to fulfil his duties as an emigrant. As early as the year 186 the consul
Spurius Postumius, while making a judicial tour in Italy, had found to
his surprise that colonies on both the Italian coasts, Sipontum on the
Upper, and Buxentum on the Lower Sea, had been abandoned by their
inhabitants: and a new levy had to be set on foot to replace the
faithless emigrants who had vanished into space.[7] As time went on the
risk of such desertion became greater, partly from the growing
difficulty of maintaining an adequate living on the land, partly from
the fact that the more energetic spirits, on whom alone the hopes of
permanent settlement could depend, found a readier avenue to wealth and
a more tempting sphere for the exercise of manly qualities in the
attractions of a campaign that seemed to promise plunder and glory,
especially when these prizes were accompanied by no exorbitant amount of
suffering or toil. Thus when it had become known that Scipio Africanus
would accompany his brother in the expedition against Antiochus, five
thousand veterans, both citizens and allies, who had served their full
time under the command of the former, offered their voluntary services
to the departing consul,[8] and nineteen' years later the experience
which had been gained of the wealth that might be reaped from a campaign
in Macedonia and Asia drew many willing recruits to the legions which
were to be engaged in the struggle with Perseus.[9] The
semi-professional soldier was in fact springing up, the man of a spirit
adventurous and restless such as did not promise contentment with the
small interests and small rewards of life in an Italian outpost. But, if
the days of formal colonisation were over, why might not the concurrent
system be adopted of dividing conquered lands amongst poorer citizens
without the establishment of a new political settlement or any strict
limitation of the number of the recipients? This 'viritane' assignation
had always run parallel to that which assumed the form of colonisation;
it merely required the existence of land capable of distribution, and
the allotments granted might be considered merely a means of affording
relief to the poorer members of existing municipalities. The system was
supposed to have existed from the times of the Kings; it was believed to
have formed the basis of the first agrarian law, that of Spurius Cassius
in 486;[10] it had been employed after the conquest of the Volscians in
the fourth century and that of the Sabines in the third;[11] it had
animated the agrarian legislation of Flaminius when in 232 he romanised
the _ager Gallicus_ south of Ariminum without planting a single colony
in this region;[12] and a date preceding the Gracchan legislation by
only forty years had seen the resumption of the method, when some Gallic
and Ligurian land, held to be the spoil of war and declared to be
unoccupied, had been parcelled out into allotments, of ten _jugera_ to
Roman citizens and of three to members of the Latin name.[13] But to the
government of the period with which we are concerned the continued
pursuance of such a course, if it suggested itself at all, appealed in
the light of a policy that was unfamiliar, difficult and objectionable.
It is probable that this method of assignment, even in its later phases,
had been tinctured with the belief that, like the colony, it secured a
system of military control over the occupied district: and that the
purely social object of land-distribution, if it had been advanced at
all, was considered to be characteristic rather of the demagogue than
the statesman. From a strategic point of view such a measure was
unnecessary; from an economic, it assumed, not only a craving for
allotments amongst the poorer class, of which there was perhaps little
evidence, but a belief, which must have been held to be sanguine in the
extreme, that these paupers, when provided for, would prove to be
efficient farmers capable of maintaining a position which many of them
had already lost. Again, if such an assignment was to be made, it should
be made on land immediately after it had passed from the possession of
the enemy to that of Rome; if time had elapsed since the date of
annexation, it was almost certain that claims of some kind had been
asserted over the territory, and shadowy as these claims might be, the
Roman law had, in the interest of the State itself, always tended to
recognise a _de facto_ as a _de jure_ right. The claims of the allies
and the municipalities had also to be considered; for assignments to
Roman citizens on an extensive scale would inevitably lead to difficult
questions about the rights which many of these townships actually
possessed to much of the territory whose revenue they enjoyed. If the
allies and the municipal towns did not suffer, the loss must fall on the
Roman State itself, which derived one of its chief sources of stable and
permanent revenue--the source which was supposed to meet the claims for
Italian administration[14]--from its domains in Italy, on the
contractors who collected this revenue, and on the Enterprising
capitalists who had put their wealth and energy into the waste places to
which they had been invited by the government, and who had given these
devastated territories much of the value which they now possessed.
Lastly, these enterprising possessors were strongly represented in the
senate; the leading members of the nobility had embarked on a new system
of agriculture, the results of which were inimical to the interest of
the small farmer, and the conditions of which would be undermined by a
vast system of distribution such as could alone suffice to satisfy the
pauper proletariate. The feeling that a future agrarian law was useless
from an economic and dangerous from a political point of view, was
strengthened by the conviction that its proposal would initiate a war
amongst classes, that its failure would exasperate the commons and that
its success would inflict heavy pecuniary damage on the guardians of
the State.

Thus the simple system of territorial expansion, which had continued in
an uninterrupted course from the earliest days of conquest, might be now
held to be closed for ever. From the point of view of the Italian
neighbours of Rome it was indeed ample time that such a closing period
should be reached. If we possessed a map of Italy which showed the
relative proportions of land in Italy and Cisalpine Gaul which had been
seized by Rome or left to the native cities or tribes, we should
probably find that the possessions of the conquering State, whether
occupied by colonies, absorbed by the gift of citizenship, or held as
public domain, amounted to nearly one half of the territory of the whole
peninsula.[15] The extension of such progress was clearly impossible
unless war were to be provoked with the Confederacy which furnished so
large a proportion of the fighting strength of Rome; but, if it was
confessed that extension on the old lines was now beyond reach of
attainment and yet it was agreed that the existing resources of Italy
did not furnish an adequate livelihood to the majority of the citizens
of Rome, but two methods of expansion could be thought of as practicable
in the future. One was agrarian assignation at the expense either of the
State or of the richer classes or of both; the other was enterprise
beyond the sea. But neither of these seemed to deserve government
intervention, or regulation by a scheme which would satisfy either
immediate or future wants. The one was repudiated, as we have already
shown, on account of its novelty, its danger and its inconvenience; the
other seemed emphatically a matter for private enterprise and above all
for private capital. It could never be available for the very poor
unless it assumed the form of colonisation, and the senate looked on
transmarine colonisation with the eye of prejudice.[16] It took a
different view of the enterprise of the foreign speculator and merchant;
this it regarded with an air of easy indifference. Their wealth was a
pillar on which the State might lean in times of emergency, but, until
the disastrous effects of commercial enterprise on foreign policy were
more clearly seen, it was considered to be no business of the government
either to help or to hinder the wealthy and enterprising Roman in his
dealings with the peoples of the subject or protected lands.

Rome, if by this name we mean the great majority of Roman citizens, was
for the first time for centuries in a situation in which all movement
and all progress seemed to be denied. The force of the community seemed
to have spent itself for the time; as a force proceeding from the whole
community it had perhaps spent itself for ever. A section of the
nominally sovereign people might yet be welded into a mighty instrument
that would carry victory to the ends of the earth, and open new channels
of enterprise both for the men who guided their movements and for
themselves. But for the moment the State was thrown back upon itself; it
held that an end had been attained, and the attainment naturally
suggested a pause, a long survey of the results which had been reached
by these long years of struggle with the hydra-headed enemy abroad. The
close of the third Macedonian war is said by a contemporary to have
brought with it a restful sense of security such as Rome could not have
felt for centuries.[17] Such a security gave scope to the rich to enjoy
the material advantages which their power had acquired; but it also gave
scope to the poor to reflect on the strange harvest which the conquest
of the great powers of the world had brought to the men whose stubborn
patience had secured the peace which they were given neither the means
nor the leisure to enjoy. The men who evaded or had completed their
service in the legions lacked the means, although they had the leisure;
the men who still obeyed the summons to arms lacked both, unless the
respite between prolonged campaigns could be called leisure, or the
booty, hardly won and quickly squandered, could be described as means.
Even after Carthage had been destroyed Rome, though doubly safe, was
still busy enough with her legions; the government of Spain was one
protracted war, and proconsuls were still striving to win triumphs for
themselves by improving on their predecessors' work.[18] But such war
could not absorb the energy or stimulate the interest of the people as a
whole. The reaction which had so often followed a successful campaign,
when the discipline of the camp had been shaken off and the duties of
the soldier were replaced by the wants of the citizen, was renewed on a
scale infinitely larger than before--a scale proportioned to the
magnitude of the strain which had been removed and the greatness of the
wants which had been revived. The cries for reform may have been of the
old familiar type but their increased intensity and variety may almost
be held to have given them a difference of quality. There is a stage at
which a difference of degree seems to amount to one of kind: and this
stage seems certainly to have been reached in the social problems
presented by the times. In the old days of the struggle between the
orders the question of privilege had sometimes overshadowed the purely
economic issue, and although a close scrutiny of those days of turmoil
shows that the dominant note in the conflict was often a mere pretext
meant to serve the personal ambition of the champions of the Plebs, yet
the appearance rather than the reality of an issue imposes on the
imagination of the mob, and political emancipation had been thought a
boon even when hard facts had shown that its greater prizes had fallen
to a small and selfish minority. Now, however, there could be no
illusion. There was nothing but material wants on one side, there was
nothing but material power on the other. The intellectual claims which
might be advanced to justify a monopoly of office and of wealth, could
be met by an intellectual superiority on the part of a demagogue
clamouring for confiscation. The ultimate basis of the life of the State
was for the first time to be laid bare and subjected to a merciless
scrutiny; it remained to be seen which of the two great forces of
society would prevail; the force of habit which had so often blinded the
Roman to his real needs; or the force of want which, because it so
seldom won a victory over his innate conservatism, was wont, when that
victory had been won, to sweep him farther on the path of reckless and
inconsistent reform than it would have carried a race better endowed
with the gift of testing at every stage of progress the ends and needs
of the social organism considered as a whole.

An analysis of social discontent at any period of history must take the
form of an examination of the wants engendered by the age, and of the
adequacy or inadequacy of their means of satisfaction. If we turn our
attention first to the forces of society which were in possession of the
fortress and were to be the object of attack, we shall find that the
ruling desires which animated these men of wealth and influence were
chiefly the product of the new cosmopolitan culture which the victorious
city had begun to absorb in the days when conquest and diplomacy had
first been carried across the seas. To this she fell a willing victim
when the conquered peoples, bending before the rude force which had but
substituted a new suzerainty for an old and had scarcely touched their
inner life, began to display before the eyes of their astonished
conquerors the material comfort and the spiritual charm which, in the
case of the contact of a potent but narrow civilisation with one that is
superbly elastic and strong in the very elegance of its physical
debility, can always turn defeat into victory. But the student who
begins his investigation of the new Roman life with the study of Roman
society as it existed in the latter half of the second century before
our era, cannot venture to gather up the threads of the purely
intellectual and moral influences which were created by the new
Hellenistic civilisation. He feels that he is only at the beginning of a
process, that he lacks material for his picture, that the illustrative
matter which he might employ is to be found mainly in the literary
records of a later age, and that his use of this matter would but
involve him in the historical sins of anticipation and anachronism. Of
some phases of the war between the old spirit and the new we shall find
occasion to speak; but the culminating point attained by the blend of
Greek with Roman elements is the only one which is clearly visible to
modern eyes. This point, however, was reached at the earliest only in
the second half of the next century. It was only then that the fusion of
the seemingly discordant elements gave birth to the new "Romanism,"
which was to be the ruling civilisation of Italy and the Western
provinces and, in virtue of the completeness of the amalgamation and the
novelty of the product, was itself to be contrasted and to live for
centuries in friendly rivalry with the more uncompromising Hellenism of
Eastern lands. But some of the economic effects of the new influences
claim our immediate attention, for we are engaged in the study of the
beginnings of an economic revolution, and an analysis must therefore be
attempted of some of the most pressing needs and some of the keenest
desires which were awakened by Hellenism, either in the purer dress
which old Greece had given it or in the more gorgeous raiment which it
had assumed during its sojourn in the East.

A tendency to treat the city as the home, the country only as a means of
refreshment and a sphere of elegant retirement during that portion of
the year when the excitement of the urban season, its business and its
pleasure, were suspended, began to be a marked feature of the life of
the upper classes. The man of affairs and the man of high finance were
both compelled to have their domicile in the town, and, if agriculture
was still the staple or the supplement of their wealth, the needs of the
estate had to be left to the supervision of the resident bailiff.[19]
This concentration of the upper classes in the city necessarily entailed
a great advance in the price and rental of house property within the
walls. It is true that the reckless prices paid for houses, especially
for country villas, by the grandees and millionaires of the next
generation,[20] had not yet been reached; but the indications with which
we are furnished of the general rise of prices for everything in Rome
that could be deemed desirable by a cultivated taste,[21] show that the
better class of house property must already have yielded large returns,
whether it were sold or let, and we know that poor scions of the
nobility, if business or pleasure induced them to spend a portion of the
year in Rome, had soon to climb the stairs of flats or lodgings.[22] The
pressure for room led to the piling of storey on storey. On The roof of
old houses new chambers were raised, which could be reached by an
outside stair, and either served to accommodate the increased retinue of
the town establishment or were let to strangers who possessed no
dwelling of their own;[23] the still larger lodging-houses or "islands,"
which derived their name from their lofty isolation from neighbouring
buildings,[24] continued to spring up, and even private houses soon came
to attain a height which had to be restrained by the intervention of the
law. An ex-consul and augur was called on by the censors of 125 to
explain the magnitude of a villa which he had raised, and the altitude
of the structure exposed him not only to the strictures of the guardians
of morals but to a fine imposed by a public court.[25] Great changes
were effected in the interior structure of the houses of the
wealthy--changes excused by a pardonable desire for greater comfort and
rendered necessary both by the growing formality of life and the large
increase in the numbers of the resident household, but tending, when
once adopted, to draw the father of the family into that most useless
type of extravagance which takes the form of a craze for building. The
Hall or Atrium had once been practically the house. It opened on the
street. It contained the family bed and the kitchen fire. The smoke
passed through a hole in the roof and begrimed the family portraits that
looked down on the members of the household gathered round the hearth
for their common meal. The Hall was the chief bedroom, the kitchen, the
dining-room and the reception room, and it was also the only avenue from
the street to the small courtyard at the back. The houses of the great
had hitherto differed from those of the poor chiefly in dimensions and
but very slightly in structure. The home of the wealthy patrician had
simply been on a larger scale of primitive discomfort; and if his large
parlour built of timber could accommodate a vast host of clients, the
bed and the cooking pots were still visible to every visitor. The chief
of the early innovations had been merely a low portico, borrowed from
the Greeks by the Etruscans and transmitted by them to Rome, which ran
round the courtyard, was divided into little cells and chambers, and
served to accommodate the servants of the house.[26] But now fashion
dictated that the doorway should not front the street but should be
parted from it by a vestibule, in which the early callers gathered
before they were admitted to the hall of audience. The floor of the
Atrium was no longer the common passage to the regions at the back, but
a special corridor lying either on one or on both sides of the Hall[27]
led past the Study or Tablinum, immediately behind it, to the inner
court beyond. Even the sanctity of the nuptial couch could not continue
to give it the publicity which was irksome to the taste of an age which
had acquired notions of the dignity of seclusion, of the comfort that
was to be found in retirement, and of the convenience of separating the
chambers that were used for public from those which were employed for
merely private purposes. The chief bedrooms were shifted to the back,
and the sides of the courtyard were no longer the exclusive abode of the
dependants of the household. The common hearth could no longer serve as
the sphere of the culinary operations of an expensive cook with his
retinue of menials; the cooking fire was removed to one of the rooms
near the back-gate of the house, which finally became an ample kitchen
replete with all the imported means of satisfying the growing luxury of
the table; and the member of the family loitering in the hall, or the
visitor admitted through its portals, was spared the annoyances of
strong smells and pungent smoke. The Roman family also discovered the
discomfort of dining in a large and scantily furnished room, not too
well lit and accessible to the intrusions of the chance domestic and the
caller. It was deemed preferable to take the common meal in a light and
airy upper chamber, and the new type of Coenaculum satisfied at once the
desire for personal comfort and for that specialisation in the use of
apartments which is one of the chief signs of an advancing material
civilisation. The great hall had become the show-room of the house, but
even for this purpose its dimensions proved too small. Such was the
quantity of curios and works of art collected by the conquering or
travelled Roman that greater space was needed for the exhibition of
their rarity or splendour. This space was gained by the removal from the
Atrium of all the domestic obstacles with which it had once been
cumbered. It might now be made slightly smaller in its proportion to the
rest of the house and yet appear far more ample than before. The space
by which its sides were diminished could now be utilised for the
building of two wings or Alae, which served the threefold purpose of
lighting the hall from the sides, of displaying to better advantage, as
an oblong chamber always does, the works of art which the lord of the
mansion or his butler[28] displayed to visitor or client, and lastly of
serving as a gallery for the family portraits, which were finally
removed from the Atrium, to be seen to greater advantage and in a better
light on the walls of the wings. These now displayed the family tree
through painted lines which connected the little shrines holding the
inscribed _imagines_ of the great ancestors of the house.[29] It is also
possible that the Alae served as rooms for more private audiences than
were possible in the Atrium.[30] From the early morning crowd which
thronged the hall individuals or groups might have been detached by the
butler, and led to the presence of the great statesman or pleader who
paced the floor in the retirement of one of these long side-galleries.
[31] Business of a yet more private kind was transacted in the still
greater security of the Tablinum, the archive room and study of the
house. Here were kept, not only the family records and the family
accounts, but such of the official registers and papers as a magistrate
needed to have at hand during his year of office.[32] The domestic
transaction of official business was very large at Rome, for the State
had given its administrators not even the skeleton of a civil service,
and it was in this room that the consul locked himself up with his
quaestor and his scribes, as it was here that, as a good head of the
family and a careful business man, he carefully perused the record of
income and expenditure, of gains and losses, with his skilled Greek
accountant.

The whole tendency of the reforms in domestic architecture was to
differentiate between the public and private life of the man of business
or affairs. His public activity was confined to the forepart of the
house; his repose, his domestic joys, and his private pleasures were
indulged in the buildings which lay behind the Atrium and its wings. As
each of the departments of life became more ambitious, the sphere for
the exercise of the one became more magnificent, and that which fostered
the other the scene of a more perfect, because more quiet, luxury. The
Atrium was soon to become a palatial hall adorned with marble
colonnades;[33] the small yard with its humble portico at the back was
to be transformed into the Greek Peristyle, a court open to the sky and
surrounded by columns, which enclosed a greenery of shrubs and trees and
an atmosphere cooled and freshened by the constant play of fountains.
The final form of the Roman house was an admirable type of the new
civilisation. It was Roman and yet Greek[34]--Roman in the grand front
that it, presented to the world, Greek in the quiet background of
thought and sentiment.

The growing splendour of the house demanded a number and variety in its
human servitors that had not been dreamed of in a simpler age. The slave
of the farm, with his hard hands and weather-beaten visage, could no
longer be brought by his elegant master to the town and exhibited to a
fastidious society as the type of servant that ministered to his daily
needs. The urban and rustic family were now kept wholly distinct; it was
only when some child of marked grace and beauty was born on the farm,
that it was transferred to the mansion as containing a promise that
would be wasted on rustic toil.[35] In every part of the establishment
the taste and wealth of the owner might be tested by the courtliness and
beauty of its living instruments. The chained dog at the gate had been
replaced by a human janitor, often himself in chains.[36] The visitor,
when he had passed the porter, was received by the butler in the hall,
and admitted to the master's presence by a series of footmen and ushers,
the show servants of the fore-part of the house, men of the impassive
dignity and obsequious repose that servitude but strengthens in the
Oriental mind.[37] In the penetralia of the household each need created
by the growing ideal of comfort and refinement required its separate
band of ministers. The body of the bather was rubbed and perfumed by
experts in the art; the service of the table was in the hands of men who
had made catering and the preparation of delicate viands the sole
business of their lives. The possession of a cook, who could answer to
the highest expectations of the age, was a prize beyond the reach of all
but the most wealthy; for such an expert the sum of four talents had to
be paid;[38] he was the prize of the millionaire, and families of more
moderate means, if they wished a banquet to be elegantly served, were
forced to hire the temporary services of an accomplished artist.[39] The
housekeeper,[40] who supervised the resources of the pantry, guided the
destinies of the dinner in concert with the _chef_; and each had under
him a crowd of assistants of varied names and carefully differentiated
functions.[41] The business of the outer world demanded another class of
servitors. There were special valets charged with the functions of
taking notes and invitations to their masters' friends; there was the
valued attendant of quick eye and ready memory, an incredibly rich
store-house of names and gossip, an impartial observer of the ways and
weaknesses of every class, who could inform his master of the name and
attributes of the approaching stranger. There were the lackeys who
formed the nucleus of the attendant retinue of clients for the man when
he walked abroad, the boys of exquisite form with slender limbs and
innocent faces, who were the attendant spirits of the lady as she passed
in her litter down the street. The muscles of the stouter slaves now
offered facilities for easy journeying that had been before unknown. The
Roman official need not sit his horse during the hot hours of the day as
he passed through the hamlets of Italy, and the grinning rustic could
ask, as he watched the solemn and noiseless transit of the bearers,
whether the carefully drawn curtains did not conceal a corpse.[42]

The internal luxury of the household was as fully exhibited in lifeless
objects as in living things. Rooms were scented with fragrant perfumes
and hung with tapestries of great price and varied bloom. Tables were
set with works of silver, ivory and other precious material, wrought
with the most delicate skill. Wine of moderate flavour was despised;
Falernian and Chian were the only brands that the true connoisseur would
deem worthy of his taste. A nice discrimination was made in the
qualities of the rarer kinds of fish, and other delicacies of the table
were sought in proportion to the difficulty of their attainment. The
fashions of dress followed the tendency of the age; the rarity of the
material, its fineness of texture, the ease which it gave to the body,
were the objects chiefly sought. Young men were seen in the Forum in
robes of a material as soft as that worn by women and almost transparent
in its thinness. Since all these instruments of pleasure, and the luxury
that appealed to ambition even more keenly than to taste, were pursued
with a ruinous competition, prices were forced up to an incredible
degree. An amphora of Falernian wine cost one hundred denarii, a jar of
Pontic salt-fish four hundred; a young Roman would often give a talent
for a favourite, and boys who ranked in the highest class for beauty of
face and elegance of form fetched even a higher price than this.[43] Few
could have been inclined to contradict Cato when he said in the
senate-house that Rome was the only city in the world where a jar of
preserved fish from the Black Sea cost more than a yoke of oxen, and a
boy-favourite fetched a higher price than a yeoman's farm.[44] One of
the great objects of social ambition was to have a heavier service of
silver-plate than was possessed by any of one's neighbours. In the good
old days,--days not so long past, but severed from the present by a gulf
that circumstances had made deeper than the years--the Roman had had an
official rather than a personal pride in the silver which he could
display before the respectful eyes of the distinguished foreigner who
was the guest of the State; and the Carthaginian envoys had been struck
by the similarity between the silver services which appeared at the
tables of their various hosts. The experience led them to a higher
estimate of Roman brotherhood than of Roman wealth, and the silver-plate
that had done such varied duty was at least responsible for a moral
triumph.[45] Only a few years before the commencement of the first war
with Carthage Rufinus a consular had been expelled from the senate for
having ten pounds of the wrought metal in his keeping,[46] and Scipio
Aemilianus, a man of the present age, but an adherent of the older
school, left but thirty-two pounds' weight to his heir. Less than forty
years later the younger Livius Drusus was known to be in possession of
plate that weighed ten thousand pounds,[47] and the accretions to the
primitive hoard which must have been made by but two or three members of
this family may serve as an index of the extent to which this particular
form of the passion for display had influenced the minds and practice of
the better-class Romans of the day.

There were other objects, valued for their intrinsic worth as much as
for the distinction conveyed by their possession, which attracted the
ambition and strained the revenues of the fashionable man. Works of art
must once have been cheap on the Roman market; for, even if we refuse to
credit the story of Mummius' estimate of the prize which fallen Corinth
had delivered into his hands,[48] yet the transhipment of cargoes of the
priceless treasures to Rome is at least an historic fact, and the
Gracchi must themselves have seen the trains of wagons bearing their
precious freight along the Via Sacra to the Capitol. The spoils of the
generous conqueror were lent to adorn the triumphs, the public buildings
and even the private houses, of others; but much that had been yielded
by Corinth had become the property neither of the general nor of the
State. Polybius had seen the Roman legionaries playing at draughts on
the Dionysus of Aristeides and many another famous canvas which had been
torn from its place and thrown as a carpet upon the ground;[49] but many
a camp follower must have had a better estimate of the material value of
the paintings of the Hellenic masters, and the cupidity of the Roman
collector must often have been satisfied at no great cost to his
resources. The extent to which a returning army could disseminate its
acquired tastes and distribute its captured goods had been shown some
forty years before the fall of Corinth when Manlius brought his legions
back from the first exploration of the rich cities of Asia. Things and
names, of which the Roman had never dreamed, soon gratified the eye and
struck the ear with a familiar sound. He learnt to love the bronze
couches meant for the dining hall, the slender side tables with the
strange foreign name, the delicate tissues woven to form the hangings of
the bed or litter, the notes struck from the psalter and the harp by the
fingers of the dancing-women of the East.[50] This was the first
irruption of the efflorescent luxury of Eastern Hellenism; but some
five-and-twenty years before this date Rome had received her first
experience of the purer taste of the Greek genius in the West. The whole
series of the acts of artistic vandalism which marked the footsteps of
the conquering state could be traced back to the measures taken by
Claudius Marcellus after the fall of Syracuse. The systematic plunder of
works of art was for the first time given an official sanction, and the
public edifices of Rome were by no means the sole beneficiaries of this
new interpretation of the rights of war. Much of the valuable plunder
had found its way into private houses,[51] to stimulate the envious
cupidity of many a future governor who, cursed with the taste of a
collector and unblessed by the opportunity of a war, would make subtle
raids on the artistic treasures of his province a secret article of his
administration. When the ruling classes of a nation have been
familiarised for the larger part of a century with the easy acquisition
of the best material treasures of the world, things that have once
seemed luxuries come to fill an easy place in the category of accepted
wants. But the sudden supply has stopped; the market value, which
plunder has destroyed or lessened, has risen to its normal level;
another burden has been added to life, there is one further stimulus to
wealth and, so pressing is the social need, that the means to its
satisfaction are not likely to be too diligently scrutinised before they
are adopted.

More pardonable were the tastes that were associated with the more
purely intellectual elements in Hellenic culture--with the influence
which the Greek rhetor or philosopher exercised in his converse with the
stern but receptive minds of Rome, the love of books, the new lessons
which were to be taught as to the rhythmic flow of language and the
rhythmic movement of the limbs. The Greek adventurer was one of the most
striking features of the epoch which immediately followed the close of
the great wars. Later thinkers, generally of the resentfully national,
academic and pseudo-historical type, who repudiated the amenities of
life which they continued to enjoy, and cherished the pleasing fiction
of the exemplary _mores_ of the ancient times, could see little in him
but a source of unmixed evil;[52] and indeed the Oriental Greek of the
commoner type, let loose upon the society of the poorer quarters, or
worming his way into the confidence of some rich but uneducated master,
must often have been the vehicle of lessons that would better have been
unlearnt. But Italy also saw the advent of the best professors of the
age, golden-mouthed men who spoke in the language of poetry, rhetoric
and philosophy, and who turned from the wearisome competition of their
own circles and the barren fields of their former labours to find a
flattering attention, a pleasing dignity, and the means of enjoying a
full, peaceful and leisured life in the homes of Roman aristocrats,
thirsting for knowledge and thirsting still more for the mastery of the
unrivalled forms in which their own deeds might be preserved and through
which their own political and forensic triumphs might be won. Soon towns
of Italy--especially those of the Hellenic South--would be vying with
each other to grant the freedom of their cities and other honours in
their gift to a young emigrant poet who hailed from Antioch, and members
of the noblest houses would be competing for the honour of his
friendship and for the privilege of receiving him under their roof.[53]
The stream of Greek learning was broad and strong;[54] it bore on its
bosom every man and woman who aimed at a reputation for elegance, for
wit or for the deadly thrust in verbal fence which played so large a
part in the game of politics; every one that refused to float was either
an outcast from the best society, or was striving to win an eccentric
reputation for national obscurantism and its imaginary accompaniment of
honest rustic strength.

Acquaintance with professors and poets led to a knowledge of books; and
it was as necessary to store the latter as the former under the
fashionable roof. The first private library in Rome was established by
Aemilius Paulus, when he brought home the books that had belonged to the
vanquished Perseus;[55] and it became as much a feature of conquest
amongst the highly cultured to bring home a goodly store of literature
as to gather objects of art which might merely please the sensuous taste
and touch only the outer surface of the mind.[56]

But it was deemed by no means desirable to limit the influences of the
new culture to the minds of the mature. There was, indeed, a school of
cautious Hellenists that might have preferred this view, and would at
any rate have exercised a careful discrimination between those elements
of the Greek training which would strengthen the young mind by giving it
a wider range of vision and a new gallery of noble lives and those which
would lead to mere display, to effeminacy, nay (who could tell?) to
positive depravity. But this could not be the point of view of society
as a whole. If the elegant Roman was to be half a Greek, he must learn
during the tender and impressionable age to move his limbs and modulate
his voice in true Hellenic wise. Hence the picture which Scipio
Aemilianus, sane Hellenist and stout Roman, gazed at with astonished
eyes and described in the vigorous and uncompromising language suited to
a former censor. "I was told," he said, "that free-born boys and girls
went to a dancing school and moved amidst disreputable professors of the
art. I could not bring my mind to believe it; but I was taken to such a
school myself, and Good Heavens! What did I see there! More than fifty
boys and girls, one of them, I am ashamed to say, the son of a candidate
for office, a boy wearing the golden boss, a lad not less than twelve
years of age. He was jingling a pair of castanets and dancing a step
which an immodest slave could not dance with decency." [57] Such might
have been the reflections of a puritan had he entered a modern
dancing-academy. We may be permitted to question the immorality of the
exhibition thus displayed, but there can be no doubt as to the social
ambition which it reveals--an ambition which would be perpetuated
throughout the whole of the life of the boy with the castanets, which
would lead him to set a high value on the polish of everything he called
his own--a polish determined by certain rigid external standards and to
be attained at any hazard, whether by the ruinous concealment of honest
poverty, or the struggle for affluence even by the most
questionable means.

But the burdens on the wealth of the great were by no means limited to
those imposed by merely social canons. Political life at Rome had always
been expensive in so far as office was unpaid and its tenure implied
leisure and a considerable degree of neglect of his own domestic
concerns in the patriot who was willing to accept it. But the State had
lately taken on itself to increase the financial expenditure which was
due to the people without professing to meet the bill from the public
funds. The 'State' at Rome did not mean what it would have meant in such
a context amongst the peoples of the Hellenic world. It did not mean
that the masses were preying on the richer classes, but that the richer
classes were preying on themselves; and this particular form of
voluntary self-sacrifice amongst the influential families in the senate
was equivalent to the confession that Rome was ceasing to be an
Aristocracy and becoming an Oligarchy, was voluntarily placing the
claims of wealth on a par with those of birth and merit, or rather was
insisting that the latter should not be valid unless they were
accompanied by the former. The chief sign of the confession that
political advancement might be purchased from the people in a legitimate
way, was the adoption of a rule, which was established about the time of
the First Punic War, that the cost of the public games should not be
defrayed exclusively by the treasury.[58] It was seldom that the people
could be brought to contribute to the expenses of the exhibitor by
subscriptions collected from amongst themselves;[59] they were the
recipients, not the givers of the feast, and the actual donors knew that
the exhibition was a contest for favour, that reputations were being won
or lost on the merits of the show, and that the successful competitor
was laying up a store-house of gratitude which would materially aid his
ascent to the highest prizes in the State. The personal cost, if it
could not be wholly realised on the existing patrimony of the
magistrate, must be assisted by gifts from friends, by loans from
money-lenders at exorbitant rates of interest and, worst but readiest of
all methods, by contributions, nominally voluntary but really enforced,
from the Italian allies and the provincials. As early as the year 180
the senate had been forced to frame a strong resolution against the
extravagance that implied oppression;[60] but the resolution was really
a criticism of the new methods of government; the roots of the evil (the
burden on the magistracy, the increase in the number of the regularly
recurring festivals) they neither cared nor ventured to remove. The
aedileship was the particular magistracy which was saddled with this
expenditure on account of its traditional connection with the conduct of
the public games; and although it was neither in its curule nor plebeian
form an obligatory step in the scale of the magistracies, yet, as it was
held before the praetorship and the consulship, it was manifest that the
brilliant display given to the people by the occupant of this office
might render fruitless the efforts of a less wealthy competitor who had
shunned its burdens.[61] The games were given jointly by the respective
pairs of colleagues,[62] the _Ludi Romani_ being under the guidance of
the curule,[63] the _Ludi Plebeii_ under that of the plebeian
aediles.[64] Had these remained the only annual shows, the cost to the
exhibitor, although great, would have been limited, But other festivals,
which had once been occasional, had lately been made permanent. The
games to Ceres (_Cerialia_), the remote origins of which may have dated
back to the time of the monarchy, first appear as fully established in
the year 202;[65] the festival to Flora (_Floralia_) dates from but 238
B.C.,[66] but probably did not become annual until 173;[67] while the
games to the Great Mother (_Megalesia_) followed by thirteen years the
invitation and hospitable reception of that Phrygian goddess by the
Romans, and became a regular feature in their calendar in 191.[68] This
increase in the amenities of the people, every item of which falls
within a term of fifty years, is a remarkable feature of the age which
followed Rome's assumption of imperial power. It proved that the Roman
was willing to bend his austere religion to the purposes of
gratification, when he could afford the luxury, that the enjoyment of
this luxury was considered a happy means of keeping the people in good
temper with itself and its rulers, and that the cost of providing it was
considered, not merely as compatible with the traditions of the existing
regime, but as a means of strengthening those traditions by closing the
gates of office to the poor.

The types of spectacle, in which the masses took most delight, were also
new and expensive creations. These types were chiefly furnished by the
gladiatorial shows and the hunting of wild beasts. Even the former and
earlier amusement had had a history of little more than a hundred years.
It was believed to be a relic of that realistic view of the after life
which lingered in Italy long after it had passed from the more spiritual
civilisation of the Greeks. The men who put each other to the sword
before the eyes of the sorrowing crowd were held to be the retinue which
passed with the dead chieftain beyond the grave, and it was from the
sombre rites of the Etruscans that this custom of ceremonial slaying was
believed to have been transferred to Rome. The first year of the First
Punic War witnessed the earliest combat that accompanied a Roman
funeral,[69] and, although secular enjoyment rapidly took the place of
grim funereal appreciation, and the religious belief that underlay the
spectacle may soon have passed away, neither the State nor the relatives
were supposed to have done due honour to the illustrious dead if his own
decease were not followed by the death-struggle of champions from the
rival gladiatorial schools, and men who aspired to a decent funeral made
due provision for such combats in their wills. The Roman magistrate
bowed to the prevalent taste, and displays of gladiators became one of
the most familiar features of the aediles' shows. Military sentiment was
in its favour, for it was believed to harden the nerves of the race that
had sprung from the loins of the god of war,[70] and humane sentiment
has never in any age been shocked at the contemporary barbarities which
it tolerates or enjoys. But a certain element of coarseness in the
sport, and perhaps the very fact that it was of native Italian growth,
might have given it a short shrift, had the cultured classes really
possessed the power of regulating the amusements of the public. Leaders
of society would have preferred the Greek _Agôn_ with its graceful
wrestling and its contests in the finer arts. But the Roman public would
not be hellenised in this particular, and showed their mood when a
musical exhibition was attempted at the triumph of Lucius Anicius Gallus
in 167. The audience insisted that the performers should drop their
instruments and box with one another.[71] This, although not the best,
was yet a more tolerable type of what a contest of skill should be. It
was natural, therefore, that the professional fighting man should become
a far more inevitable condition of social and political success than the
hunter or the race-horse has ever been with us. Some enterprising
members of the nobility soon came to prefer ownership to the hire system
and started schools of their own in which the _lanista_ was merely the
trainer. A stranger element was soon added to the possessions of a Roman
noble by the growing craze for the combats of wild beasts. The first
recorded "hunt" of the kind was that given in 186 by Marcus Fulvius at
the close of the Aetolian war when lions and panthers were exhibited to
the wondering gaze of the people.[72] Seventeen years later two curule
aediles furnished sixty-three African lions and forty bears and
elephants for the Circensian games.[73] These menageries eventually
became a public danger and the curule aedile (himself one of the chief
offenders) was forced to frame an edict specifying the compensation for
damage that might be committed by wild beasts in their transit through
Italy or their residence within the towns.[74] The obligation of wealth
to supply luxuries for the poor--a splendid feature of ancient
civilisation in which it has ever taken precedence of that of the modern
world--was recognised with the utmost frankness in the Rome of the day;
but it was an obligation that had passed the limits at which it could be
cheerfully performed as the duty of the patriot or the patron; it had
reached a stage when its demoralising effects, both to giver and to
receiver, were patent to every seeing eye, but when criticism of its
vices could be met by the conclusive rejoinder that it was a vital
necessity of the existing political situation.[75]

The review which we have given of the enormous expenditure created by
the social and political appetites of the day leads up to the
consideration of two questions which, though seldom formulated or faced
in their naked form, were ever present in the minds of the classes who
were forced to deem themselves either the most responsible authors, or
the most illustrious victims, of the existing standards both of politics
and society. These questions were "Could the exhausting drain be
stopped?" and "If it could not, how was it to be supplied?" A city in a
state of high fever will always produce the would-be doctor; but the
curious fact about the Rome of this and other days is that the doctor
was so often the patient in another form. Just as in the government of
the provinces the scandals of individual rule were often met by the
severest legislation proceeding from the very body which had produced
the evil-doers, so when remedies were suggested for the social evils of
the city, the senate, in spite of its tendency to individual
transgression, generally displayed the possession of a collective
conscience. The men who formulated the standard of purity and
self-restraint might be few in number; but, except they displayed the
irritating activity and the uncompromising methods of a Cato, they
generally secured the support of their peers, and the sterner the
censor, the more gladly was he hailed as an ornament to the order. This
guardian of morals still issued his edicts against delicacies of the
table, foreign perfumes and expensive houses;[76] as late as the year
169 people would hastily put out their lights when it was reported that
Tiberius Sempronius Graccus was coming up the street on his return from
supper, lest they should fall under the suspicion of untimely
revelry,[77] and the sporadic activity of the censorship will find ample
illustration in the future chapters of our work. Degradation from the
various orders of the State was still a consequence of its
animadversions; but a milder, more universal and probably far more
efficacious check on luxury--the system, pursued by Cato, of adopting an
excessive rating for articles of value[78] and thus of shifting the
incidence of taxation from the artisan and farmer to the shoulders of
the richest class[79]--had been taken out of its hands by the complete
cessation of direct imposts after the Third Macedonian War.[80]

Meanwhile sumptuary laws continued to be promulgated from the Rostra and
accepted by the people. All that are known to have been initiated or to
have been considered valid after the close of the great wars have but
one object--an attack on the expenses of the table, a form of sensuous
enjoyment which, on account of the ease and barbaric abundance with
which wealth may vaunt itself in this domain, was particularly in vogue
amongst the upper classes in Rome. Other forms of extravagance seem for
the time to have been left untouched by legislation, for the Oppian law
which had been due to the strain of the Second Punic War had been
repealed after a fierce struggle in 193, and the Roman ladies might now
adorn themselves with more than half an ounce of gold, wear robes of
divers colours and ride in their carriages through any street they
pleased.[81] The first enactment which attempted to control the
wastefulness of the table was an Orchian law of 181, limiting the number
of guests that might be invited to entertainments. Cato was consistent
in opposing the passing of the measure and in resisting its repeal. He
recognised a futile law when he saw it, but he did not wish this
futility to be admitted.[82] Twenty years later[83] a Fannian law grew
out of a decree of the senate which had enjoined that the chief men
(_principes_) of the State should take an oath before the consuls not to
exceed a certain limit of expense in the banquets given at the
Megalesian Games. Strengthened with a measure which prescribed more
harassing details than the Orchian law. The new enactment actually
determined the value and nature of the eatables whose consumption was
allowed. It permitted one hundred asses to be spent on the days of the
Roman Games, the Plebeian Games and the Saturnalia, thirty asses on
certain other festival occasions, and but ten asses (less than twice the
daily pay of a Roman soldier) on every other meal throughout the year;
it forbade the serving of any fowl but a single hen, and that not
fattened; it enjoined the exclusive consumption of native wine.[84] This
enactment was strengthened eighteen years later by a Didian law, which
included in the threatened penalties not only the giver of the feast
which violated the prescribed limits, but also the guests who were
present at such a banquet. It also compelled or induced the Italian
allies to accept the provisions of the Fannian law[85]--an unusual step
which may show the belief that a luxury similar to that of Rome was
weakening the resources of the confederacy, on whose strength the
leading state was so dependent, or which may have been induced by the
knowledge that members of the Roman nobility were taking holiday trips
to country towns, to enjoy the delights which were prohibited at home
and to waste their money on Italian caterers.[86]

The frequency of such legislation, which we shall find renewed once
again before the epoch of the reforms of Sulla[87] seems to prove its
ineffectiveness,[88] and indeed the standard of comfort which it desired
to enjoin was wholly incompatible with the circumstances of the age. The
desire to produce uniformity[89] of standard had always been an end of
Roman as of Greek sumptuary regulation, but what type of uniformity
could be looked for in a community where the extremes of wealth and
poverty were beginning to be so strongly marked, where capital was
accumulating in the hands of the great noble and the great trader and
being wholly withdrawn from those of the free-born peasant and artisan?
The restriction of useless consumption was indeed favourable to the more
productive employment of capital; but we shall soon see that this
productive use, which had as its object the deterioration of land by
pasturage and the purchase of servile labour, was as detrimental to the
free citizen as the most reckless extravagance could have been. There is
no question, however, that both the sumptuary laws and the censorian
ordinances of the period did attempt to attain an economic as well as a
social end; and, however mistaken their methods may have been, they
showed some appreciation of the industrial evils of the time. The
provision of the Fannian law in favour of native wines suggests the
desire to help the small cultivator who had substituted vine-growing for
the cultivation of cereals, and foreshadows the protective legislation
of the Ciceronian period.[90] Much of this legislation, too, was
animated by the "mercantile" theory that a State is impoverished by the
export of the precious metals to foreign lands[91]--a view which found
expression in a definite enactment of an earlier period which had
forbidden gold or silver to be paid to the Celtic tribes in the north of
Italy in exchange for the wares or slaves which they sold to Roman
merchants.[92]

Another series of laws aimed at securing the purity of an electorate
exposed to the danger of corruption by the overwhelming influence of
wealth. Laws against bribery, unknown in an earlier period,[93] become
painfully frequent from the date at which Rome came into contact with
the riches of the East. Six years after the close of the great Asiatic
campaign the people were asked, on the authority of the senate, to
sanction more than one act which was directed against the undue
influence exercised at elections;[94] in 166 fresh scandals called for
the consideration of the Council of State;[95] and the year 159 saw the
birth of another enactment.[96] Yet the capital penalty, which seems to
have been the consequence of the transgression of at least one of these
laws,[97] did not deter candidates from staking their citizenship on
their success. The still-surviving custom of clientship made the object
of largesses difficult to establish, and the secrecy of the ballot,
which had been introduced for elections in 139, made it impossible to
prove that the suspicious gift had been effective and thus to construct
a convincing case against the donor.

The moral control exercised by the magistrate and the sumptuary or
criminal ordinances expressed in acts of Parliament might serve as
temporary palliatives to certain pronounced evils of the moment; but
they were powerless to check the extravagance of an expenditure which
was sanctioned by custom and in some respects actually enforced by law.
One of the greatest of the practical needs of the new Roman was to
increase his income in every way that might be deemed legitimate by a
society which, even in its best days, had never been overscrupulous in
its exploitation of the poor and had been wont to illustrate the
sanctity of contract by visible examples of grinding oppression. The
nature and intensity of the race for wealth differed with the needs of
the anxious spendthrift; and in respect both to needs and to means of
satisfaction the upper middle class was in a far more favourable
position than its noble governors. It could spend its unfettered
energies in the pursuit of the profits which might be derived from
public contracts, trade, banking and money-lending, while it was not
forced to submit to the drain created by the canvass for office and the
exorbitant demands made by the electorate on the pecuniary resources of
the candidate. The brilliancy of the life of the mercantile class, with
its careless luxury and easy indifference to expenditure, set a standard
for the nobility which was at once galling and degrading. They were
induced to apply the measure of wealth even to members of their own
order, and regarded it as inevitable that any one of their peers, whose
patrimony had dwindled, should fill but a subordinate place both in
politics and society;[98] while the means which they were sometimes
forced to adopt in order to vie with the wealth of the successful
contractor and promoter were, if hardly less sound from a moral point of
view, at least far more questionable from a purely legal standpoint.

A fraction of the present wealth which was in the possession of some of
the leading families of the nobility may have been purely adventitious,
the result of the lucky accident of command and conquest amidst a
wealthy and pliant people. The spoils of war were, it is true, not for
the general but for the State; yet he exercised great discretionary
power in dealing with the movable objects, which in the case of Hellenic
or Asiatic conquest formed one of the richest elements in the prize, and
the average commander is not likely to have displayed the self-restraint
and public spirit of the destroyer of Corinth. Public and military
opinion would permit the victor to retain an ample share of the fruits
of his prowess, and this would be increased by a type of contribution to
which he had a peculiar and unquestioned claim. This consisted in the
honorary offerings made by states, who found themselves at the feet of
the victor and were eager to attract his pity and to enlist on their
behalf his influence with the Roman government. Instances of such
offerings are the hundred and fourteen golden crowns which were borne in
the triumph of Titus Quinctius Flamininus,[99] those of two hundred and
twelve pounds' weight shown in the triumph of Manlius,[100] and the
great golden wreath of one hundred and fifty pounds which had been
presented by the Ambraciots to Nobilior.[101] But the time had not yet
been reached when the general on a campaign, or even the governor of a
district which was merely disturbed by border raids, could calmly demand
hard cash as the equivalent of the precious metal wrought into this
useless form, and when the "coronary gold" was to be one of the regular
perquisites of any Roman governor who claimed to have achieved military
success.[102] Nor is it likely that the triumphant general of this
period melted down the offerings which he might dedicate in temples or
reserve for the gallery of his house, and we must conclude that the few
members of the nobility who had conducted the great campaigns were but
slightly enriched by the offerings which helpless peoples had laid at
their feet. It would be almost truer to say that the great influx of the
precious metals had increased the difficulties of their position; for,
if the gold or silver took the form of artistic work which remained in
their possession, it but exaggerated the ideal to which their standard
of life was expected to conform; and if it assumed the shape of the
enormous amount of specie which was poured into the coffers of the State
or distributed amongst the legionaries, its chief effects were the
heightening of prices and a showy appearance of a vast increase of
wealth which corresponded to no real increase in production.

But, whatever the effects of the metallic prizes of the great campaigns,
these prizes could neither have benefited the members of the nobility as
a whole nor, in the days of comparative peace which had followed the
long epoch of war with wealthy powers, could they be contemplated as a
permanent source of future capital or income. When the representative of
the official caste looked round for modes of fruitful investment which
might increase his revenues, his chances at first sight appeared to be
limited by legal restrictions which expressed the supposed principles of
his class. A Clodian law enacted at the beginning of the Second Punic
War had provided that no senator or senator's son should own a ship of a
burden greater than three hundred amphorae. The intention of the measure
was to prohibit members of the governing class from taking part in
foreign trade, as carriers, as manufacturers, or as participants in the
great business of the contract for corn which placed provincial grain on
the Roman market; and the ships of small tonnage which they were allowed
to retain were intended to furnish them merely with the power of
transporting to a convenient market the produce of their own estates in
Italy.[103] The restriction was not imposed in a self-regarding spirit;
it was odious to the nobility, and, as it was supported by Flaminius,
must have been popular with the masses, who were blind to the fact that
the restriction of a senator's energies to agriculture would be
infinitely more disastrous to the well-being of the average citizen than
the expenditure of those energies in trade. The restriction may have
received the support of the growing merchant class, who were perhaps
pleased to be rid of the competition of powerful rivals, and it
certainly served, externally at least, to mark the distinction between
the man of large industrial enterprises and the man whose official rank
was supported by landed wealth--a distinction which, in the shape of the
contrast drawn between knights and senators, appears at every turn in
the history of the later Republic. But, whatever the immediate motives
for the passing of the measure, a great and healthy principle lay behind
it. It was the principle that considerations of foreign policy should
not be directly controlled or hampered by questions of trade, that the
policy of the State should not become the sport of the selfish vagaries
of capital. The spirit thus expressed was directly inimical to the
interests of the merchant, the contractor and the tax-farmer. How
inimical it was could not yet be clearly seen; for the transmarine
interests of Rome had not at the time attained a development which
invited the mastery of conquered lands by the Roman capitalist. But,
whether this Clodian law created or merely formulated the antithesis
between land and trade, between Italian and provincial profits, it is
yet certain that this antithesis was one of the most powerful of the
animating factors of Roman history for the better part of the two
centuries which were to follow the enactment. It produced the conflict
between a policy of restricted enterprise, pursued for the good of the
State and the subject, and a policy of expansion which obeyed the
interests of capital, between a policy of cautious protection and that
madness of imperialism which is ever associated with barbarism,
brigandage or trade.

But, if we inquire whether this enactment attained its ostensible object
of completely shutting out senators from the profits of any enterprise
that could properly be described as commercial, we shall find an
affirmative answer to be more than dubious. The law was a dead letter
when Cicero indicted Verres,[104] but its demise may have been reached
through a long and slow process of decline. But, even if the provisions
of the law had been adhered to throughout the period which we are
considering, the avenue to wealth derived from business intercourse with
the provinces would not necessarily have been closed to the official
class. We shall soon see that the companies which were formed for
undertaking the state-contracts probably permitted shares to be held by
individuals who never appeared in the registered list of partners at
all, and we know that to hold a share in a great public concern was
considered one of the methods of business which did not subject the
participant to the taint of a vulgar commercialism.[105] And, if the
senator chose to indulge more directly in the profits of transmarine
commerce, to what extent was he really hindered by the provisions of the
law? He might not own a ship of burden, but his freedmen might sail to
any port on the largest vessels, and who could object if the returns
which the dependant owed his lord were drawn from the profits of
commerce? Again there was no prohibition against loans on bottomry, and
Cato had increased his wealth by becoming through his freedman a member
of a maritime company, each partner in which had but a limited liability
and the prospect of enormous gains.[106] The example of this energetic
money-getter also illustrates many ways in which the nobleman of
business tastes could increase his profits without extending his
enterprises far from the capital. It was possible to exploit the growing
taste in country villas, in streams and lakes and natural woods; to buy
a likely spot for a small price, let it at a good rental, or sell it at
a larger price. The ownership of house property within the town, which
grew eventually into the monopoly of whole blocks and streets by such a
man as Crassus,[107] was in every way consistent with the possession of
senatorial rank. It was even possible to be a slave-dealer without loss
of dignity, at least if one transacted the sordid details of the
business through a slave. The young and promising boy required but a
year's training in the arts to enable the careful buyer to make a large
profit by his sale.[108] Yet such methods must have been regarded by the
nobility as a whole as merely subsidiary means of increasing their
patrimony: and, in spite of the fact that Cato took the view that
agriculture should be an amusement rather than a business,[109] there
can be no doubt that the staple of the wealth of the official class was
still to be found in the acres of Italy. It was not, however, the wealth
of the moderate homestead which was to be won from a careful tillage of
the fields; it was the wealth which, as we shall soon see, was
associated with the slave-capitalist, the overseer, a foreign method of
cultivation on the model of the grand plantation-systems of the East,
and a belief in the superior value of pasturage to tillage which was to
turn many a populous and fertile plain into a wilderness of danger and
desolation.

But, strive as he would, there was many a nobleman who found that his
expenditure could not be met by dabbling in trade where others plunged,
or by the revenues yielded by the large tracts of Italian soil over
which he claimed exclusive powers. The playwright of the age has figured
Indigence as the daughter of Luxury;[110] and a still more terrible
child was to be born in the Avarice which sprang from the useless
cravings and fierce competitions of the time.[111] The desire to get and
to hold had ever been a Roman vice; but, it had also been the unvarying
assumption of the Roman State, and the conviction of the Roman
official--a conviction so deeply seated and spontaneous as to form no
ground for self-congratulation that the lust for acquisition should
limit itself to the domain of private right, and never cross the rigid
barrier which divided that domain from the sphere of wealth and power
which the city had committed to its servant as a solemn trust. The
better sort of overseer was often found in the crabbed man of
business--a Cato, for example--who would never waive a right of his own
and protected those of his dependants with similar tenacity and passion.
The honour which prevailed in the commercial code at home was considered
so much a matter of course in all dealings with the foreign world, that
the State scorned to scrutinise the expenditure of its ministers and was
spared the disgrace of a system of public audit. Even in this age, which
is regarded by the ancient historians as marking the beginning of the
decline in public virtue, Polybius could contrast the attitude of
suspicion towards the guardians of the State, which was the
characteristic of the official life of his own unhappy country, with the
well-founded confidence which Rome reposed in the honour of her
ministers, and could tell the world that "if but a talent of money were
entrusted to a magistrate of a Greek state, ten auditors, as many seals
and twice as many witnesses are required for the security of the bond;
yet even so faith is not observed; while the Roman in an official or
diplomatic post, who handles vast sums of money, adheres to his duty
through the mere moral obligation of the oath which he has sworn"; that
"amongst the Romans the corrupt official is as rare a portent as is the
financier with clean hands amongst other peoples".[112] When the elder
Africanus tore up the account books of his brother--books which recorded
the passage of eighteen thousand talents from an Asiatic king to a Roman
general and from him to the Roman State[113]--he was imparting a lesson
in confidence, which was immediately accepted by the senate and people.
And it seems that, so far as the expenditure of public moneys was
concerned, this confidence continued to be justified. It is true that
Cato had furiously impugned the honour of commanders in the matter of
the distribution of the prizes of war amongst the soldiers and had drawn
a bitter contrast between private and official thieves. "The former," he
said, "pass their lives in thongs and iron fetters, the latter in purple
and gold." [114] But there were no fixed rules of practice which guided
such a distribution, and a commander, otherwise honest, might feel no
qualms of conscience in exercising a selective taste on his own behalf.
On the other hand, deliberate misappropriation of the public funds seems
to have been seldom suspected or at least seldom made the subject of
judicial cognisance, and for many years after a standing court was
established for the trial of extortion no similar tribunal was thought
necessary for the crime of peculation.[115] Apart from the long,
tortuous and ineffective trial of the Scipios,[116] no question of the
kind is known to have been raised since Manius Acilius Glabrio, the
conqueror of Antiochus and the Aetolians, competed for the censorship.
Then a story, based on the existence of the indubitable wealth which he
was employing with a lavish hand to win the favour of the people, was
raked up against him by some jealous members of the nobility. It was
professed that some money and booty, found in the camp of the king, had
never been exhibited in the triumph nor deposited in the treasury. The
evidence of legates and military tribunes was invited, and Cato, himself
a competitor for the censorship, was ready to testify that gold and
silver vases, which he had seen in the captured camp, had not been
visible in the triumphal procession. Glabrio waived his candidature, but
the people were unwilling to convict and the prosecution was
abandoned.[117] Here again we are confronted by the old temptation of
curio-hunting, which, the nobility deemed indecent in so "new" a man as
Glabrio; the evidence of Cato--the only testimony which proved
dangerous--did not establish the charge that money due to the State had
been intercepted by a Roman consul.

But the regard for the property of the State was unfortunately not
extended to the property of its clients. Even before the provinces had
yielded a prey rendered easy by distance and irresponsibility, Italian
cities had been forced to complain of the violence and rapacity of Roman
commanders quartered in their neighbourhood,[118] and the passive
silence with which the Praenestines bore the immoderate requisitions of
a consul, was a fatal guarantee of impunity which threatened to alter
for ever the relations of these free allies to the protecting
power.[119] But provincial commands offered greater temptations and a
far more favourable field for capricious tyranny; for here the exactions
of the governor were neither repudiated by an oath of office nor at
first even forbidden by the sanctions of a law. Requisitions could be
made to meet the needs of the moment, and these needs were naturally
interpreted to suit the cravings and the tastes of the governor of the
moment.[120] Cato not only cut down the expenses that had been
arbitrarily imposed on the unhappy natives of Sardinia,[121] but seems
to have been the author of a definite law which fixed a limit to such
requisitions in the future.[122] But it was easier to frame an ordinance
than to guarantee its observation, and, at a time when the surrounding
world was seething with war, the regulations made for a peaceful
province could not touch the actions of a victorious commander who was
following up the results of conquest. Complaints began to pour in on
every hand--from the Ambraciots of Greece, the Cenomani of Gaul[123]
--and the senate did its best, either by its own cognisance or by the
creation of a commission of investigation, to meet the claims of the
dependent peoples. A kind of rude justice was the result, but it was
much too rude to meet an evil which was soon seen to be developing into
a trade of systematic oppression. A novel step was taken when in 171
delegates from the two Spains appeared in the Curia to complain of the
avarice and insolence of their Roman governors. A praetor was
commissioned to choose from the senatorial order five of such judges as
were wont to be selected for the settlement of international disputes
(_recuperatores_), to sit in judgment on each of the indicted
governors,[124] and the germ of a regular court for what had now become
a regular offence was thus developed. The further and more shameful
confession, that the court should be permanent and interpret a definite
statute, was soon made, and the Calpurnian law of 149[125]was the first
of that long series of enactments for extortion which mark the futility
of corrective measures in the face of a weak system of legal, and a
still weaker system of moral, control. Trials for extortion soon became
the plaything of politics, the favourite arena for the exercise of the
energies of a young and rising politician, the favourite weapon with
which old family feuds might be at once revenged and perpetuated. They
were soon destined to gain a still greater significance as furnishing
the criteria of the methods of administration which the State was
expected to employ, as determining the respective rights of the
administrator and the capitalist to guide the destinies of the
inhabitants of a dependent district. Their manifold political
significance destroys our confidence in their judgments, and we can
seldom tell whether the acquittal or the condemnation which these courts
pronounced was justified on the evidence adduced. But there can be no
question of the evil that lay behind this legislative and judicial
activity. The motive which led men to assume administrative posts abroad
was in many cases thoroughly selfish and mean,--the desire to acquire
wealth as rapidly as was consistent with keeping on the safe side of a
not very exacting law. No motive of this kind can ever be universal in a
political society, and in Rome we cannot even pronounce it to be
general. Power and distinction attracted the Roman as much as wealth,
and some governors were saved from temptation by the colossal fortunes
which they already possessed. But how early it had begun to operate in
the minds of many is shown by the eagerness which, as we shall see, was
soon to be displayed by rival consuls for the conduct of a war that
might give the victor a prolonged control over the rich cities which had
belonged to the kingdom of Pergamon, if it is not proved by the strange
unwillingness which magistrates had long before exhibited to assume some
commands which had been entrusted to their charge.[126]

A suspicion of another type of abuse of power, more degrading though not
necessarily more harmful than the plunder of subjects, had begun to be
raised in the minds of the people and the government. It was held that a
Roman might be found who would sell the supposed interests of his
country to a foreign potentate, or at any rate accept a present which
might or might not influence his judgment, A commissioner to Illyria had
been suspected of pocketing money offered him by the potentates of that
district in 171,[127] and the first hint was given of that shattering of
public confidence in the integrity of diplomatists which wrought such
havoc in the foreign politics of the period which forms the immediate
subject of our work. The system of the Protectorate, which Rome had so
widely adopted, with its secret diplomatic dealings and its hidden
conferences with kings, offered greater facilities for secret
enrichment, and greater security for the enjoyment of the acquired
wealth, even than the plunder of a province. The proof of the committal
of the act was difficult, in most cases impossible. We must be content
to chronicle the suspicion of its growing frequency, and the suspicion
is terrible enough. If the custom of wringing wealth from subjects and
selling support to potentates continued to prevail, the stage might soon
be reached at which it could be said, with that element of exaggeration
which lends emphasis to a truth, that a small group of men were drawing
revenues from every nation in the world.[128]

Such were the sources of wealth that lay open to men, to whom commerce
was officially barred and who were supposed to have no direct interest
in financial operations. Far ampler spheres of pecuniary enrichment,
more uniformly legal if sometimes as oppressive, were open to the class
of men who by this time had been recognised as forming a kind of second
order in the State. The citizens who had been proved by the returns at
the census to have a certain amount of realisable capital at their
disposal--a class of citizens that ranged from the possessors of a
moderate patrimony, such as society might employ as a line of
demarcation between an upper and a lower middle class, to the
controllers of the most gigantic fortunes--had been welded into a body
possessing considerable social and political solidarity. This solidarity
had been attained chiefly through the community of interest derived from
the similar methods of pecuniary investment which they employed, but
also through the circumstance (slight in itself but significant in an
ancient society which ever tended to fall into grades) that all the
members of this class could describe themselves by the courtesy title of
"Knights"--a description justified by the right which they possessed of
serving on their own horses with the Roman cavalry instead of sharing
the foot-service of the legionary. A common designation was not
inappropriate to men who were in a certain sense public servants and
formed in a very real sense a branch of the administration. The knight
might have many avocations; he might be a money-lender, a banker, a
large importer; but he was preeminently a farmer of the taxes. His
position in the former cases was simply that of an individual, who might
or might not be temporarily associated with others; his position in the
latter case meant that he was a member of a powerful and permanent
corporation, one which served a government from which it might wring
great profits or at whose hands it might suffer heavy loss--a government
to be helped in its distress, to be fought when its demands were
overbearing, to be encouraged when its measures seemed progressive, to
be hindered when they seemed reactionary from a commercial point of
view. A group of individuals or private firms could never have attained
the consistency of organisation, or maintained the uniformity of policy,
which was displayed by these societies of revenue-collectors; even a
company must have a long life before it can attain strength and
confidence sufficient to act in a spirited manner in opposition to the
State; and it seems certain that these societies were wholly exempted
from the paralysing principle which the Roman law applied to
partnership--a principle which dictated that every partnership should be
dissolved by the death or retirement of one of the associates.[129] The
State, which possessed no civil service of its own worthy of the name,
had taken pains to secure permanent organisations of private
share-holders which should satisfy its needs, to give them something of
an official character, and to secure to each one of them as a result of
its permanence an individual strength which, in spite of the theory that
the taxes and the public works were put up to auction, may have secured
to some of these companies a practical monopoly of a definite sphere of
operations. But a company, at Rome as elsewhere, is powerful in
proportion to the breadth of its basis. A small ring of capitalists may
tyrannise over society as long as they confine themselves to securing a
monopoly over private enterprises, and as long as the law permits them
to exercise this autocratic power without control; but such a ring is
far less capable of meeting the arbitrary dictation of an aristocratic
body of landholders, such as the senate, or of encountering the
resentful opposition of a nominally all-powerful body of consumers, such
as the Comitia, than a corporation which has struck its roots deeply in
society by the wide distribution of its shares. We know from the
positive assurance of a skilled observer of Roman life that the number
of citizens who had an interest in these companies was particularly
large.[130] This observer emphasises the fact in order to illustrate the
dependence of a large section of society on the will of the senate,
which possessed the power of controlling the terms of the agreements
both for the public works which it placed in the hands of contractors
and for the sources of production which it put out to lease;[131] but it
is equally obvious that the large size of the number of shareholders
must have exercised a profoundly modifying influence on the arbitrary
authority of a body such as the senate which governed chiefly through
deference to public opinion; and we know that, in the last resort, an
appeal could be made to the sovereign assembly, if a magistrate could be
found bold enough to carry to that quarter a proposal that had been
discountenanced by the senate.[132] In such crises the strength of the
companies depended mainly on the number of individual interests that
were at stake; the shareholder is more likely to appear at such
gatherings than the man who is not profoundly affected by the issue, and
it is very seldom that the average consumer has insight enough to see,
or energy enough to resist, the sufferings and inconveniences which
spring from the machinations of capital. It may have been possible at
times to pack a legislative assembly with men who had some financial
interest, however slight, in a dispute arising from a contract calling
for decision; and the time was soon to come when such questions of
detail would give place to far larger questions of policy, when the
issues springing from a line of foreign activity which had been taken by
the government might be debated in the cold and glittering light of the
golden stakes the loss or gain of which depended upon the policy
pursued. Nor could it have been easy even for the experienced eye to see
from the survey of such a gathering that it represented the army of
capital. Research has rendered it probable that the companies of the
time were composed of an outer as well as of an inner circle; that the
mass of shareholders differed from those who were the promoters,
managers and active agents in the concern, that the liability of the
former at least was limited and that their shares, whether small or
great, were transmissible and subject to the fluctuations of the
market.[133] But, even if we do not believe that this distinction
between _socii_ and _participes_ was legally elaborated, yet there were
probably means by which members of the outside public could enter into
business relations with the recognised partners in one of these concerns
to share its profits and its losses.[134] The freedman, who had invested
his small savings in the business of an enterprising patron, would
attach the same mercantile value to his own vote in the assembly as
would be given to his suffrage in the senate by some noble peer, who had
bartered the independence of his judgment for the acquisition of more
rapid profits than could be drawn from land.

The farmers of the revenue fell into three broad classes. First there
were the contractors for the creation, maintenance and repair of the
public works possessed or projected by the State, such as roads,
aqueducts, bridges, temples and other public buildings. Gigantic profits
were not possible in such an enterprise, if the censors and their
advisers acted with knowledge, impartiality and discretion; for the
lowest possible tender was obtained for such contracts and the results
might be repudiated if inspection proved them to be unsatisfactory.
Secondly there were the companies which leased sources of production
that were owned by the State such as fisheries, salt-works, mines and
forest land. In some particular cases even arable land had been dealt
with in this way, and the confiscated territories of Capua and Corinth
were let on long leases to _publicani_. Thirdly there were the
societies, which did not themselves acquire leases but acted as true
intermediaries between the State and individuals[135] who paid it
revenue whether as occupants of its territory, or as making use of sites
which it claimed to control, or as owing dues which had been prescribed
by agreement or by law. These classes of debtors to the State with whom
the middlemen came into contact may be illustrated respectively by the
occupants of the domain land of Italy, the ship-masters who touched at
ports, and the provincials such as those of Sicily or Sardinia who were
burdened with the payment of a tithe of the produce of their lands.[136]
If we consider separately the characteristics of the three classes of
state-farmers, we find that the first and the second are both direct
employers of labour, the third reaping only indirect profits from the
production controlled by others. It was in this respect, as employers of
labour, that the societies of the time were free from the anxieties and
restrictions that beset the modern employment of capital. Except in the
rare case where the contractors had leased arable land and sublet it to
its original occupants,--the treatment which seems to have been adopted
for the Campanian territory[137]--there can be no question that the
work which they controlled was done mainly by the hands of slaves. They
were therefore exempt from the annoyance and expense which might be
caused by the competition and the organised resistance of free labour.
The slaves employed in many of these industries must have been highly
skilled; for many of these spheres of wealth which the State had
delegated to contractors required peculiar industrial appliances and
unusual knowledge in the foremen and leading artificers. The weakness of
slave-labour,--its lack of intelligence and spirit--could not have been
so keenly felt as it was on the great agricultural estates, which
offered employment chiefly for the unskilled; and the difficulties that
might arise from the lack of strength or interest, from the possession
of hands that were either feeble or inert, were probably overcome in the
same uncompromising manner in the workshop of the contractor and on the
domains of the landed gentry. The maxim that an aged slave should be
sold could not have been peculiar to the dabbler in agriculture, and the
_ergastulum_ with its chained gangs must have been as familiar to the
manufacturer as to the landed proprietor.[138] As to the promoters and
the shareholders of these companies, it could not be expected that they
should trace in imagination, or tremble as they traced, the heartless,
perhaps inhuman, means by which the regular returns on their capital
were secured.[139] Nor is it probable that the government of this period
took any great care to supervise the conditions of the work or the lot
of the workman. The partner desired quick and great returns, the State
large rents and small tenders. The remorseless drain on human energy,
the waste of human life, and the practical abeyance of free labour which
was flooding the towns with idlers, were ideas which, if they ever
arose, were probably kept in the background by a government which was
generally in financial difficulties, and by individuals animated by all
the fierce commercial competition of the age.

The desire of contractors and lessees for larger profits naturally took
the form of an eagerness to extend their sphere of operations. Every
advance in the Roman sphere of military occupation implied the making of
new roads, bridges and aqueducts; every extension of this sphere was
likely to be followed by the confiscation of certain territories, which
the State would declare to be public domains and hand over to the
company that would guarantee the payment of the largest revenue. But the
sordid imperialism which animated the contractor and lessee must have
been as nothing to that which fed the dreams of the true
state-middleman, the individual who intervened between the taxpayer and
the State, the producer and the consumer. Conquest would mean fresh
lines of coast and frontier, on which would be set the toil-houses of
the collectors with their local directors and their active "families" of
freedmen and slaves. It might even mean that a more prolific source of
revenue would be handed over to the care of the publican. The spectacle
of the method in which the land-tax was assessed and collected in Sicily
and Sardinia may have already inspired the hope that the next instance
of provincial organisation might see greater justice done to the
capitalists of Rome. When Sicily had been brought under Roman sway, the
aloofness of the government from financial interests, as well as its
innate conservatism, justified by the success of Italian organisation,
which dictated the view that local institutions should not be lightly
changed, had led it to accept the methods for the taxation of land which
it found prevalent in the island at the time of its annexation. The
methods implied assessment by local officials and collection by local
companies or states.[140] It is true that neither consequence entirely
excluded the enterprise of the Roman capitalists; they had crossed the
Straits of Messina on many a private enterprise and had settled in such
large numbers in the business centres of the island that the charter
given to the Sicilian cities after the first servile war made detailed
provision for the settlement of suits between Romans and natives.[141]
It was not to be expected that they should refrain from joining in, or
competing with, the local companies who bid for the Sicilian tithes, nor
was such association or competition forbidden by the law. But the
scattered groups of capitalists who came into contact with the Sicilian
yeomen did not possess the official character and the official influence
of the great companies of Italy. No association, however powerful, could
boast a monopoly of the main source of revenue in the island. But what
they had done was an index of what they might do, if another opportunity
and a more complaisant government could be found. Any individual or any
party which could promise the knights the unquestioned control of the
revenues of a new province would be sure of their heartiest sympathy
and support.

And it would be worth the while of any individual or party which
ventured to frame a programme traversing the lines of political
orthodoxy, to bid for the co-operation of this class. For recent history
had shown that the thorough organisation of capital, encouraged by the
State to rid itself of a tiresome burden in times of peace and to secure
itself a support in times of need, might become, as it pleased, a
bulwark or a menace to the government which had created it. The useful
monster had begun to develop a self-consciousness of his own. He had his
amiable, even his patriotic moments; but his activity might be
accompanied by the grim demand for a price which his nominal master was
not prepared to pay. The darkest and the brightest aspects of the
commercial spirit had been in turn exhibited during the Second Punic
War. On the one hand we find an organised band of publicans attempting
to break up an assembly before which a fraudulent contractor and wrecker
was to be tried;[142] on the other, we find them meeting the shock of
Cannae with the offer of a large loan to the beggared treasury, lent
without guarantee and on the bare word of a ruined government that it
should be met when there was money to meet it.[143] Other companies came
forward to put their hands to the public works, even the most necessary
of which had been suspended by the misery of the war, and told the
bankrupt State that they would ask for their payment when the struggle
had completely closed.[144] A noble spectacle! and if the positions of
employer and employed had been reversed only in such crises and in such
a way, no harm could come of the memory either of the obligation or the
service. But the strength shown by this beneficence sometimes exhibited
itself in unpleasant forms and led to unpleasant consequences. The
censorships of Cato and of Gracchus had been fierce struggles of
conservative officialdom against the growing influence and (as these
magistrates held) the swelling insolence of the public companies; and in
both cases the associations had sought and found assistance, either from
a sympathetic party within the senate, or from the people. Cato's
regulations had been reversed and their vigorous author had been
threatened with a tribunician prosecution before the Comitia;[145] while
Gracchus and his colleague had actually been impeached before a popular
court.[146] The reckless employment of servile labour by the companies
that farmed the property of the State had already proved a danger to
public security. The society which had purchased from the censors the
right of gathering pitch from the Bruttian forest of Sila had filled the
neighbourhood with bands of fierce and uncontrolled dependants, chiefly
slaves, but partly men of free birth who may have been drawn from the
desperate Bruttians whom Rome had driven from their homes. The
consequences were deeds of violence and murder, which called for the
intervention of the senate, and the consuls had been appointed as a
special commission to inquire into the outrages.[147] Nor were
complaints limited to Italy; provincial abuses had already called for
drastic remedies. A proof that this was the case is to be found in the
striking fact that on the renewed settlement of Macedonia in 167 it was
actually decreed that the working of the mines in that country, at least
on the extended scale which would have required a system of contract,
should be given up. It was considered dangerous to entrust it to native
companies, and as to the Roman-their mere presence in the country would
mean the surrender of all guarantees of the rule of public law or of the
enjoyment of liberty by the provincials.[148] The State still preferred
the embarrassments of poverty to those of overbearing wealth; its choice
proved its weakness; but even the element of strength displayed in the
surrender might soon be missed, if capital obtained a wider influence
and a more definite political recognition. As things were, these
organisations of capital were but just becoming conscious of their
strength and had by no means reached even the prime of their vigour. The
opening up of the riches of the East were required to develop the
gigantic manhood which should dwarf the petty figure of the agricultural
wealth of Italy.

Had the state-contractors stood alone, or had not they engaged in varied
enterprises for which their official character offered a favourable
point of vantage, the numbers and influence of the individuals who had
embarked their capital in commercial enterprise would have been far
smaller than they actually were. But, in addition to the publican, we
must take account of the business man (_negotiator_) who lent money on
interest or exercised the profession of a banker. Such men had pecuniary
interests which knew no geographical limits, and in all broad questions
of policy were likely to side with the state-contractor.[149] The
money-lender (_fenerator_) represented one of the earliest, most
familiar and most courted forms of Roman enterprise--one whose intrinsic
attractions for the grasping Roman mind had resisted every effort of the
legislature by engaging in its support the wealthiest landowner as well
as the smallest usurer. It is true that a taint clung to the trade--a
taint which was not merely a product of the mistaken economic conception
of the nature of the profits made by the lender, but was the more
immediate outcome of social misery and the fulminations of the
legislature. Cato points to the fact that the Roman law had stamped the
usurer as a greater curse to society than the common thief, and makes
the dishonesty of loans on interest a sufficient ground for declining a
form of investment that was at once safe and profitable.[150] Usury, he
had also maintained, was a form of homicide.[151] But to the majority of
minds this feeling of dishonour had always been purely external and
superficial. The proceedings were not repugnant to the finer sense if
they were not made the object of a life-long profession and not
blatantly exhibited to the eyes of the public. A taint clung to the
money-lender who sat in an office in the Forum, and handed his loans or
received his interest over the counter;[152] it was not felt by the
capitalist who stood behind this small dealer, by the nobleman whose
agent lent seed-corn to the neighbouring yeomen, by the investor in the
state-contracts who perhaps hardly realised that his profits represented
but an indirect form of usury. But, whatever restrictions public opinion
may have imposed on the money-lender as a dealer in Rome and with
Romans, such restrictions were not likely to be felt by the man who had
the capital and the enterprise to carry his financial operations beyond
the sea. Not only was he dealing with provincials or foreigners, but he
was dealing on a scale so grand that the magnitude of the business
almost concealed its shame. Cities and kings were now to be the
recipients of loans and, if the lender occupied a political position
that seemed inconsistent with the profession of a usurer, his
personality might be successfully concealed under the name of some local
agent, who was adequately rewarded for the obloquy which he incurred in
the eyes of the native populations, and the embarrassing conflicts with
the Roman government which were sometimes entailed by an excess of zeal.
Cato had swept both principals and agents out of his province of
Sardinia;[153] but he was a man who courted hostility, and he lived
before the age when the enmity of capital would prove the certain ruin
of the governor and a source of probable danger to the senate. In the
operations of the money-lender we find the most universal link between
the Forum and the provinces. There was no country so poor that it might
not be successfully exploited, and indeed exploitation was often
conditioned by simplicity of character, lack of familiarity with the
developed systems of finance, and the lack of thrift which amongst
peoples of low culture is the source of their constant need. The
employment of capital for this purpose was always far in advance of the
limits of Roman dominion. A protectorate might be in the grasp of a
group of private individuals long before it was absorbed into the
empire, the extension of the frontiers was conditioned by considerations
of pecuniary, not of political safety, and the government might at any
moment be forced into a war to protect the interests of capitalists
whom, in its collective capacity as a government, it regarded as the
greatest foes of its dominion.

A more beneficent employment of capital was illustrated by the
profession of banking which, like most of the arts which exhibit the
highest refinement of the practical intellect, had been given to the
Romans by the Greeks.[154] It had penetrated from Magna Graecia to
Latium and from Latium to Rome, and had been fully established in the
city by the time of the Second Punic War.[155] The strangers, who had
introduced an art which so greatly facilitated the conduct of business
transactions, had been welcomed by the government, and were encouraged
to ply their calling in the shops rented from the State on the north and
south sides of the Forum. These _argentarii_ satisfied the two needs of
the exchange of foreign money, and of advances in cash on easier terms
than could be gained from the professional or secret usurer, to citizens
of every grade[156] who did not wish, or found it difficult, to turn
their real property into gold. Similar functions were at a somewhat
later period usurped by the money-testers (_nummularii_), who perhaps
entered Rome shortly after the issue of the first native silver coinage,
and competed with the earlier-established bankers in most of the
branches of their trade.[157] Ultimately there was no department of
business connected with the transference and circulation of money which
the joint profession did not embrace. Its representatives were concerned
with the purchase and sale of coin, and the equalisation of home with
foreign rates of exchange; they lent on credit, gave security for
others' loans, and received money on deposit; they acted as
intermediaries between creditors and debtors in the most distant places
and gave their travelling customers circular notes on associated houses
in foreign lands; they were equally ready to dissipate by auction an
estate that had become the property of a congress of creditors or a
number of legatees. Their carefully kept books improved even the
methodical habits of the Romans in the matter of business entries, and
introduced the form of "contract by ledger" (_litterarum obligatio_),
which greatly facilitated business operations on an extended scale by
substituting the written record of obligation for other bonds more
difficult to conclude and more easy to evade.

The business life of Rome was in every way worthy of her position as an
imperial city, and her business centre was becoming the greatest
exchange of the commercial world of the day. The forum still drew its
largest crowds to listen to the voice of the lawyer or the orator; but
these attractions were occasional and the constant throng that any day
might witness was drawn thither by the enticements supplied by the
spirit of adventure, the thirst for news and the strain of business
life. The comic poet has drawn for us a picture of the shifting crowd
and its chief elements, good and bad, honest and dishonest. He has shown
us the man who mingles pleasure with his business, lingering under the
Basilica in extremely doubtful company; there too is a certain class of
business men giving or accepting verbal bonds. In the lower part of the
Forum stroll the lords of the exchange, rich and of high repute; under
the old shops on the north sit the bankers, giving and receiving loans
on interest.[158]

The Forum has become in common language the symbol of all the ups and
downs of business life,[159] and the moralist of later times could refer
all students, who wish to master the lore of the quest and investment of
money, to the excellent men who have their station by the temple of
Janus.[160] The aspect of the market place had altered greatly to meet
the growing needs. Great Basilicae--sheltered promenades which probably
derived their names from the Royal Courts of the Hellenic East--had
lately been erected. Two of the earliest, the Porcian and Sempronian,
had been raised on the site of business premises which had been bought
up for the purpose,[161] and were meant to serve the purposes of a
market and an exchange.[162] Their sheltering roofs were soon employed
to accommodate the courts of justice, but it was the business not the
legal life of Rome that called these grand edifices into existence.

The financial activity which centred in the Forum was a consequence, not
merely of the contract-system encouraged by the State and of the
business of the banker and the money-lender, but of the great foreign
trade which supplied the wants and luxuries of Italy and Rome. This was
an import trade concerned partly with the supply of corn for a nation
that could no longer feed itself, partly with the supply of luxuries
from the East and of more necessary products, including instruments of
production, from the West. The Eastern trade touched the Euxine Sea at

Book of the day: