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Beacon Lights of History, Volume III by John Lord

Part 4 out of 4

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Cicero was now sixty-three, prematurely old, discouraged, and
heart-broken. And yet he braced himself up for one more grand
effort,--for a life and death struggle with Antony, one of the ablest
of Caesar's generals; a demagogue, eloquent and popular, but
outrageously cruel and unscrupulous, and with unbridled passions. Had it
not been for his infatuated love of Cleopatra, he probably would have
succeeded to the imperial sceptre, for it was by the sword that he too
sought to suppress the liberties of the Senate and people. Against him,
as the enemy of his country, Cicero did not scruple to launch forth the
most terrible of his invectives. In thirteen immortal philippics--some
of which, however, were merely written and never delivered, after the
fashion of Demosthenes, with whom as an orator and a patriot he can
alone be compared--he denounced the unprincipled demagogue and general
with every offensive epithet the language afforded,--unveiling his
designs, exposing his forgeries, and proving his crimes. Nobler
eloquence was never uttered, and wasted, than that with which Cicero
pursued, in passionate vengeance, the most powerful and the most
unscrupulous man in the Roman Empire. And Cicero must have anticipated
the fate which impended over him if Antony were not decreed a public
enemy. But the protests of the orator were in vain. He lived to utter
them, as a witness of truth; and nothing was left to him but to die.

Of course Antony, when he became Triumvir,--when he made a bargain that
he never meant to keep with Octavius and Lepidus for a division of the
Empire between them,--would not spare such an enemy as Cicero. The
broken-hearted patriot fled mechanically, with a vacillating mind, when
his proscription became known to him,--now more ready to die than live,
since all hope in his country's liberties was utterly crushed. Perhaps
he might have escaped to some remote corner of the Empire. But he did
not wish for life, any more than did Socrates when summoned before his
judges. Desponding, uncertain, pursued, he met his fate with the heroism
of an ancient philosopher. He surrendered his wearied and exhausted body
to the hand of the executioner, and his lofty soul to the keeping of
that personal and supreme God in whom he believed as firmly as any man,
perhaps, of Pagan antiquity. And surely of him, more than of any other
Roman, could it be said,--as Sir Walter Scott said of Pitt, and as
Gladstone quoted, and applied to Sir Robert Peel,--

"Now is the stately column broke,
The _beacon light_ is quenched in smoke;
The trumpet's silver voice is still,
The warder silent on the hill."

With the death--so sad--of the most illustrious of the Romans whose fame
was not earned on the battlefield, I should perhaps close my lecture.
Yet it would be incomplete without a short notice of those services
which--as statesman, orator, and essayist--he rendered to his country
and to future ages and nations.

In regard to his services as a statesman, they were rendered chiefly to
his day and generation, for he elaborated no system of political wisdom
like Burke, which bears (except casually and indirectly) on modern
governments and institutions. It was his aim, as a statesman, to
continue the Roman Constitution and keep the people from civil war. Nor
does he seem to have held, like Rousseau, the _vox populi_ as the voice
of God. He could find no language sufficiently strong to express his
abhorrence of those who led the people for their own individual
advancement. He was equally severe on corrupt governors and venal
judges. He upheld morality and justice as the only guides in public
affairs. He loved popularity, but he loved his country better. He hated
anarchy as much as did Burke. Like Bright, he looked upon civil war as
the greatest of national calamities. He advocated the most enlightened
views, based on the principles of immutable justice. He wished to
preserve his country equally from unscrupulous generals and unprincipled

As for his orations, they also were chiefly designed for his own
contemporaries. They are not particularly valuable to us, except as
models of rhetorical composition and transcendent beauty and grace of
style. They are not so luminous with fundamental principles as they are
vivid with invective, sarcasm, wit, and telling exaggeration,--sometimes
persuasive and working on the sensibilities, and at other times full of
withering scorn. They are more like the pleadings of an advocate than an
appeal to universal reason. He lays down no laws of political
philosophy, nor does he soar into the region of abstract truth, evolving
great deductions in morals. But as an orator he was transcendently
effective, like Demosthenes, though not equal to the Greek in force. His
sentences are perhaps too involved for our taste; yet he always swayed
an audience, whether the people from the rostrum, or the judges at the
bar, or the senators in the Curia. He seldom lost a case; no one could
contend with him successfully. He called out the admiration of critics,
and even of actors. He had a wonderful electrical influence; his very
tones and gestures carried everything before him; his action was superb;
and his whole frame quivered from real (or affected) emotion, like
Edward Everett in his happiest efforts. He was vehement in gesture, like
Brougham and Mirabeau. He was intensely earnest and impressive, like
Savonarola. He had exceeding tact, and was master of the passions of his
audience. There was an irresistible music in his tones of voice, like
that of St. Bernard when he fanned crusades. He was withering in his
denunciations, like Wendell Phillips, whom in person he somewhat
resembled. He was a fascination like Pericles, and the people could not
long spare him from the excitement he produced. It was their desire to
hear him speak which had no small share in producing his recall from
banishment. They crowded around him as the people did around Chrysostom
in Antioch. He amused like an actor, and instructed like a sage. His
sentences are not short, terse, epigrammatic, and direct, but elaborate
and artificial. Yet with all his arts of eloquence his soul, fired with
great sentiments, rose in its inspired fervor above even the melody of
voice, the rhythm of language, and the vehemence of action. A listener,
who was not a critic, might fancy it was gesture, voice, and language
combined; but, after all, it was the _man_ communicating his soul to
those who hung upon his lips, and securing conviction by his sincerity
and appeals to conscience. He must have had a natural gift for oratory,
aside from his learning and accomplishments and rhetorical arts,--a
talent very rare and approaching to creative genius. But to his natural
gifts--like Luther, or Henry Clay, born an orator--he added marvellous
attainments. He had a most retentive memory. He was versed in the whole
history of the world. He was always ready with apt illustrations, which
gave interest and finish to his discourses. He was the most industrious
and studious man of his age. His attainments were prodigious. He was
master of all the knowledge then known, like Gladstone of our day. He
was not so learned a man as Varro; but Varro's works have perished, as
the great monuments of German scholars are perhaps destined to perish,
for lack of style. Cicero's style embalmed his thoughts and made them
imperishable. No writer is immortal who is not an artist; Cicero was a
consummate artist, and studied the arrangement of sentences, like the
historian Tacitus and the Grecian Thucydides.

But greater than as an artist was he in the loftiness of his mind. He
appealed to what is noblest in the soul. Transcendent eloquence ever
"raises mortals to the skies" and never "pulls angels down." Love of
country, love of home, love of friends, love of nature, love of law,
love of God, is brought out in all his discourses, exalting the noblest
sentiments which move the human soul. He was the first to give to the
Latin language beauty and artistic finish. He added to its richness,
copiousness, and strength; he gave it music. For style alone he would be
valued as one of the immortal classics. All men of culture have admired
it, from Augustine to Bossuet, and acknowledged their obligations to
him. We accord to the great poets the formation of languages,--Homer,
Dante, Chaucer, Shakspeare; but I doubt if either Virgil or Horace
contributed to the formation of the Latin language more than Cicero.
Certainly they have not been more studied and admired. In every
succeeding age the Orations of Cicero have been one of the first books
which have been used as textbooks in colleges. Is it not something to
have been one of the acknowledged masters of human composition? What a
great service did Cicero render to the education of the Teutonic races!
Whatever the Latin language has done for the modern world, Cicero comes
in for a large share of the glory. More is preserved of his writings
than of any other writer of antiquity.

But not for style alone--seen equally in his essays and in his
orations--is he admirable. His most enduring claim on the gratitude of
the world is the noble tribute he rendered to those truths which save
the world. His testimony, considering he was a pagan, is remarkable in
reference to what is sound in philosophy and morals. His learning, too,
is seen to most advantage in his ethical and philosophical writings. It
is true he did not originate, like Socrates and Plato; but he condensed
and sifted the writings of the Greeks, and is the best expounder of
their philosophy. Who has added substantially to what the Greeks worked
out of their creative brain? I know that no Roman ever added to the
domain of speculative thought, yet what Roman ever showed such a
comprehension and appreciation of Greek philosophy as did Cicero? He was
profoundly versed in all the learning the Grecians ever taught. Like
Socrates, he had a contempt for physical science, because science in his
day was based on imperfect inductions. There were not facts enough known
of the material world to construct sound theories. Physical science at
that time was the most uncertain of all knowledge, although there were
great pretenders then, as now, who maintained it was the only certainty.
But the speculations of scientists disgusted him, for he saw nothing in
them upon which to base incontrovertible truth. They were mere dreams
and baseless theories on the origin of the universe. They were even
puerile; and they were then, as now, atheistic in their tendency. They
mocked the consciousness of mankind. They annihilated faith and
Providence. At best, they made all things subject to necessity, to an
immutable fate, not to an intelligent and ever-present Creator. But
Cicero, like Socrates, believed in God and in providential
interference,--in striking contrast with Caesar, who believed nothing.
He taught moral obligation, on the basis of accountability to God. He
repudiated expediency as the guide in life, and fell back on the
principles of eternal right. As an ethical writer he was profounder and
more enlightened than Paley. He did not seek to overturn the popular
religion, like Grecian Sophists, only (like Socrates) to overturn
ignorance, before a sound foundation could be laid for any system of
truth. Nor did he ridicule religion, as Lucian did in after-times, but
soared to comprehend it, like the esoteric priests of Egypt in the time
of Moses or Pythagoras. He cherished as lofty views of God and his moral
government as any moralist of antiquity. And all these lofty views he
taught in matchless language,--principles of government, principles of
law, of ethics, of theology, giving consolation not only to the men of
his day, but to Christian sages in after-times. And there is nothing
puerile or dreamy or demoralizing in his teachings; they all are
luminous for learning as well as genius. He rivalled Bacon in the
variety and profundity of his attainments. He gloried in the certitudes
which consciousness reveals, as well as in the facts which experience
and history demonstrate. With these he consoled himself in trouble; on
these he reposed in the hour of danger. Like Pascal he meditated on the
highest truths which task the intellect of man, but, unlike him, did not
disdain those weapons which _reason_ forged, and which no one used more
triumphantly than Pascal himself. And these great meditations he
transmitted for all ages to ponder, as among the most precious of the
legacies of antiquity.

Thus did he live, a shining light in a corrupt and godless age, in spite
of all the faults which modern critics have enlarged upon in their
ambitious desire for novelties, or in their thoughtless or malignant
desire? to show up human frailties. He was a patriot, taking the side of
his country's highest interests; a statesman, seeking to conserve the
wisdom of his ancestors; an orator, exposing vices and defending the
innocent; a philosopher, unfolding the wisdom of the Greeks; a moralist,
laying down the principles of immutable justice; a sage, pondering the
mysteries of life; ever active, studious, dignified; the charm and
fascination of cultivated circles; as courteous and polished as the
ornaments of modern society; revered by friends, feared by enemies,
adored by all good people; a kind father, an indulgent husband, a
generous friend; hospitable, witty, magnificent,--a most accomplished
gentleman, one of the best men of all antiquity. What if he was vain and
egotistical and vacillating, and occasionally weak? Can you expect
perfection in him who "is born of a woman"? We palliate the backslidings
of Christians; we excuse the crimes of a Constantine, a Theodosius, a
Cromwell: shall we have no toleration for the frailties of a Pagan, in
one of the worst periods of history? I have no patience with those
critics who would hurl him from the pedestal on which he has stood for
two thousand years. Contrast him with other illustrious men. How few
Romans or Greeks were better than he! How few have rendered such exalted
services! And even if he has not perpetuated a faultless character, he
has yet bequeathed a noble example; and, more, has transmitted a legacy
in the richness of which we forget the faults of the testator,--a legacy
of imperishable thought, clothed in the language of imperishable art,--a
legacy so valuable that it is the treasured inheritance of all civilized
nations, and one which no nation can afford to lose.

* * * * *


Plutarch's Life of Cicero, Appian, Dion Cassius, Villeius Paterculus,
are the original authorities,--next to the writings of Cicero himself,
especially his Letters and Orations. Middleton's Life is full, but
one-sided. Forsyth takes the opposite side in his Life. The last work in
English is that of Anthony Trollope. In Smith's Biographical Dictionary
is an able article. Dr. Vaughan has written an interesting lecture.
Merivale has elaborately treated this great man in his valuable History
of the Romans. Colley Cibber's Character and Conduct of Cicero,
Drumann's Roman History, Rollin's Ancient History, Biographic
Universelle. Mr. Froude alludes to Cicero in his Life of Caesar, taking
nearly the same view as Forsyth.


69-30 B.C.


It is my object in this lecture to present the condition of woman under
the influences of Paganism, before Christianity enfranchised and
elevated her. As a type of the Pagan woman I select Cleopatra, partly
because she was famous, and partly because she possessed traits and
accomplishments which made her interesting in spite of the vices which
degraded her. She was a queen, the heir of a long line of kings, and
ruled over an ancient and highly civilized country. She was
intellectual, accomplished, beautiful, and fascinating. She lived in one
of the most interesting capitals of the ancient world, and by birth she
was more Greek than she was African or Oriental. She lived, too, in a
great age, when Rome had nearly conquered the world; when Roman senators
and generals had more power than kings; when Grecian arts and literature
were copied by the imperial Romans; when the rich and fortunate were
luxurious and ostentatious beyond all precedent; when life had reached
the highest point of material splendor, and yet when luxury had not
destroyed military virtues or undermined the strength of the empire. The
"eternal city" then numbered millions of people, and was the grandest
capital ever seen on this earth, since everything was there
concentrated,--the spoils of the world, riches immeasurable, literature
and art, palaces and temples, power unlimited,--the proudest centre of
civilization which then existed, and a civilization which in its
material aspects has not since been surpassed. The civilized world was
then most emphatically Pagan, in both spirit and forms. Religion as a
controlling influence was dead. Only a very few among speculative
philosophers believed in any god, except in a degrading sense,--as a
blind inexorable fate, or an impersonation of the powers of Nature. The
future state was a most perplexing uncertainty. Epicurean
self-indulgence and material prosperity were regarded as the greatest
good; and as doubt of the darkest kind hung over the future, the body
was necessarily regarded as of more value than the soul. In fact, it was
only the body which Paganism recognized as a reality; the soul, God, and
immortality were virtually everywhere ignored.

It was in this godless, yet brilliant, age that Cleopatra appears upon
the stage, having been born sixty-nine years before Christ,--about a
century before the new revolutionary religion was proclaimed in Judea.
Her father was a Ptolemy, and she succeeded him on the throne of Egypt
when quite young,--the last of a famous dynasty that had reigned nearly
three hundred years. The Ptolemies, descended from one of Alexander's
generals, reigned in great magnificence at Alexandria, which was the
commercial centre of the world, whose ships whitened the
Mediterranean,--that great inland lake, as it were, in the centre of the
Roman Empire, around whose shores were countless cities and villas and
works of art. Alexandria was a city of schools, of libraries and
museums, of temples and of palaces, as well as a mart of commerce. Its
famous library was the largest in the world, and was the pride of the
age and of the empire. Learned men from all countries came to this
capital to study science, philosophy, and art. It was virtually a
Grecian city, and the language of the leading people was Greek. It was
rivalled in provincial magnificence only by Antioch, the seat of the old
Syrian civilization, also a Greek capital, so far as the governing
classes could make it one. Greece, politically ruined, still sent forth
those influences which made her civilization potent in every land.

Cleopatra, the last of the line of Grecian sovereigns in Egypt, was
essentially Greek in her features, her language, and her manners. There
was nothing African about her, as we understand the term African, except
that her complexion may have been darkened by the intermarriage of the
Ptolemies; and I have often wondered why so learned and classical a man
as Story should have given to this queen, in his famous statue, such
thick lips and African features, which no more marked her than Indian
features mark the family of the Braganzas on the throne of Brazil. She
was not even Coptic, like Athanasius and Saint Augustine. On the ancient
coins and medals her features are severely classical.

Nor is it probable that any of the peculiarities of the ancient Egyptian
kings marked the dynasty of the Ptolemies. No purely Egyptian customs
lingered in the palaces of Alexandria. The old deities of Isis and
Osiris gave place to the worship of Jupiter, Minerva, and Venus. The
wonders of pristine Egypt were confined to Memphis and Thebes and the
dilapidated cities of the Nile. The mysteries of the antique Egyptian
temples were no more known to the learned and mercantile citizen of
Alexandria than they are to us. The pyramids were as much a wonder then
as now. The priests and jugglers alike mingled in the crowd of Jews,
Syrians, Romans, Greeks, Parthians, Arabs, who congregated in this
learned and mercantile city.

So we have a right to presume that Cleopatra, when she first appeared
upon the stage of history as a girl of fourteen, was simply a very
beautiful and accomplished Greek princess, who could speak several
languages with fluency, as precocious as Elizabeth of England, skilled
in music, conversant with history, and surrounded with eminent masters.
She was only twenty-one when she was an object of attraction to Caesar,
then in the midst of his triumphs. How remarkable must have been her
fascinations if at that age she could have diverted, even for a time,
the great captain from his conquests, and chained him to her side! That
refined, intellectual old veteran of fifty, with the whole world at his
feet, loaded down with the cares of government, as temperate as he was
ambitious, and bent on new conquests, would not have been chained and
enthralled by a girl of twenty-one, however beautiful, had she not been
as remarkable for intellect and culture as she was for beauty. Nor is it
likely that Cleopatra would have devoted herself to this weather-beaten
old general, had she not hoped to gain something from him besides
caresses,--namely, the confirmation of her authority as queen. She also
may have had some patriotic motives touching the political independence
of her country. Left by her father's will at the age of eighteen joint
heir of the Egyptian throne with her brother Ptolemy, she soon found
herself expelled from the capital by him and the leading generals of the
army, because they did not relish her precocious activity in
government. Her gathered adherents had made but little advance towards
regaining her rights when, in August, 48, Caesar landed in pursuit of
Pompey, whom he had defeated at Pharsalia. Pompey's assassination left
Caesar free, and he proceeded to Alexandria to establish himself for the
winter. Here the wily and beautiful young exile sought him, and won his
interest and his affection. After some months of revelry and luxury,
Caesar left Egypt in 47 to chastise an Eastern rebel, and was in 46
followed to Rome by Cleopatra, who remained there in splendid state
until the assassination of Caesar drove her back to Egypt. Her whole
subsequent life showed her to be as cunning and politic as she was
luxurious and pleasure-seeking. Possibly she may have loved so
interesting and brilliant a man as the great Caesar, aside from the
admiration of his position; but he never became her slave, although it
was believed, a hundred years after his death, that she was actually
living in his house when he was assassinated, and was the mother of his
son Caesarion. But Froude doubts this; and the probabilities are that he
is correct, for, like Macaulay, he is not apt to be wrong in facts, but
only in the way he puts them.

Cleopatra was twenty-eight years of age when she first met Antony,--"a
period of life," says Plutarch, "when woman's beauty is most splendid,
and her intellect is in full maturity." We have no account of the style
of her beauty, except that it was transcendent,--absolutely
irresistible, with such a variety of expression as to be called
infinite. As already remarked, from the long residence of her family in
Egypt and intermarriages with foreigners, her complexion may have been
darker than that of either Persians or Greeks. It probably resembled
that of Queen Esther more than that of Aspasia, in that dark richness
and voluptuousness which to some have such attractions; but in grace and
vivacity she was purely Grecian,--not like a "blooming Eastern bride,"
languid and passive and effeminate, but bright, witty, and intellectual.
Shakspeare paints her as full of lively sallies, with the power of
adapting herself to circumstances with tact and good nature, like a
Madame Recamier or a Maintenon, rather than like a Montespan or a
Pompadour, although her nature was passionate, her manner enticing, and
her habits luxurious. She did not weary or satiate, like a mere
sensual beauty.

"Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety."

She certainly had the power of retaining the conquests she had
won,--which rarely happens except with those who are gifted with
intellectual radiance and freshness. She held her hold on Antony for
eleven years, when he was burdened with great public cares and duties,
and when he was forty-two years of age. Such a superior man as he was
intellectually, and, after Caesar, the leading man of the empire,--a
statesman as well as soldier,--would not have been enslaved so long by
Cleopatra had she not possessed remarkable gifts and attainments, like
those famous women who reigned in the courts of the Bourbons in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and who, by their wit and social
fascinations, gathered around their thrones the most distinguished men
of France, and made them friends as well as admirers. The Pompadours of
the world have only a brief reign, and at last become repulsive. But
Cleopatra, like Maintenon, was always attractive, although she, could
not lay claim to the virtues of the latter. She was as politic as the
French beauty, and as full of expedients to please her lord. She may
have revelled in the banquets she prepared for Antony, as Esther did in
those she prepared for Xerxes; but with the same intent, to please him
rather than herself, and win, from his weakness, those political favors
which in his calmer hours he might have shrunk from granting. Cleopatra
was a politician as well as a luxurious beauty, and it may have been her
supreme aim to secure the independence of Egypt. She wished to beguile
Antony as she had sought to beguile Caesar, since they were the masters
of the world, and had it in their power to crush her sovereignty and
reduce her realm to a mere province of the empire. Nor is there
evidence that in the magnificent banquets she gave to the Roman general
she ever lost her self-control. She drank, and made him drink, but
retained her wits, "laughing him out of patience and laughing him into
patience," ascendant over him by raillery, irony, and wit.

And Antony, again, although fond of banquets and ostentation, like other
Roman nobles, and utterly unscrupulous and unprincipled, as Roman
libertines were, was also general, statesman, and orator. He grew up
amid the dangers and toils and privations of Caesar's camp. He was as
greedy of honors as was his imperial master. He was a sunburnt and
experienced commander, obliged to be on his guard, and ready for
emergencies. No such man feels that he can afford to indulge his
appetites, except on rare occasions. One of the leading peculiarities of
all great generals has been their temperance. It marked Caesar,
Charlemagne, Gustavus Adolphus, Frederic the Great, Cromwell, and
Napoleon. When Alexander gave himself up to banquets, his conquests
ended. Even such a self-indulgent, pleasure-seeking man as Louis XIV.
always maintained the decencies of society amid his dissipated
courtiers. We feel that a man who could discourse so eloquently as
Antony did over the dead body of Caesar was something more than a
sensualist or a demagogue. He was also the finest-looking man in Rome,
reminding the people, it is said, of the busts of Hercules. He was
lavish, like Caesar, but, like him, sought popularity, and cared but
little what it cost. It is probable that Cicero painted him, in his
famous philippics, in darker colors than he deserved, because he aimed
to be Caesar's successor, as he probably would have been but for his
infatuation for Cleopatra. Caesar sent him to Rome as master of the
horse,--a position next in power to that of dictator. When Caesar was
assassinated, Antony was the most powerful man of the empire. He was
greater than any existing king; he was almost supreme. And after
Caesar's death, when he divided his sovereignty of the world with
Octavius and Lepidus, he had the fairest chance of becoming imperator.
He had great military experience, the broad Orient as his domain, and
half the legions of Rome under his control.

It was when this great man was Triumvir, sharing with only two others
the empire of the world, and likely to overpower them, when he was in
Asia consolidating and arranging the affairs of his vast department,
that he met the woman who was the cause of all his calamities. He was
then in Cilicia, and, with all the arrogance of a Roman general, had
sent for the Queen of Egypt to appear before him and answer to an
accusation of having rendered assistance to Cassius before the fatal
battle of Philippi. He had already known and admired Cleopatra in Rome,
and it is not improbable that she divined the secret of his judicial
summons. His envoy, struck with her beauty and intelligence, advised her
to appear in her best attire. Such a woman scarcely needed such a hint.
So, making every preparation for her journey,--money, ornaments,
gifts,--a kind of Queen of Sheba, a Zenobia in her pride and glory, a
Queen Esther when she had invited the king and his minister to a
banquet,--she came to the Cydnus, and ascended the river in a
magnificent barge, such as had never been seen before, and prepared to
meet her judge, not as a criminal, but as a conqueror, armed with those
weapons that few mortals can resist.

"The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
Burn'd on the water; the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were love-sick with them: the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water, which they beat, to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar'd all description: she did lie
In her pavilion (cloth-of-gold of tissue)
O'er-picturing that Venus, where we see
The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With diverse-color'd fans....
Her gentlewomen, like the Nereides,
So many mermaids, tended her i' the eyes.
... At the helm
A seeming mermaid steers....
... From the barge
A strange invisible perfume hits the sense
Of the adjacent wharves. The city cast
Her people out upon her; and Antony,
Enthroned i' the market-place, did sit alone,
Whistling to th' air; which, but for vacancy,
Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too,
And made a gap in nature."

On the arrival of this siren queen, Antony had invited her to
supper,--the dinner of the Romans,--but she, with woman's instinct, had
declined, till he should come to her; and he, with the urbanity of a
polished noble,--for such he probably was,--complied, and found a
banquet which astonished even him, accustomed as he was to senatorial
magnificence, and which, with all the treasures of the East, he could
not rival. From that fatal hour he was enslaved. She conquered him, not
merely by her display and her dazzling beauty, but by her wit. Her very
tones were music. So accomplished was she in languages, that without
interpreters she conversed not only with Greeks and Latins, but with
Ethiopians, Jews, Arabians, Syrians, Medes, and Parthians. So dazzled
and bewitched was Antony, that, instead of continuing the duties of his
great position, he returned with Cleopatra to Alexandria, there to keep
holiday and squander riches, and, still worse, his precious time, to the
shame and scandal of Rome, inglorious and without excuse,--a Samson at
the feet of Delilah, or a Hercules throwing away his club to seize the
distaff of Omphale, confessing to the potency of that mysterious charm
which the sage at the court of an Eastern prince pronounced the
strongest power on earth. Never was a strong man more enthralled than
was Antony by this bewitching woman, who exhausted every art to please
him. She played at dice with him, drank with him, hunted with him,
rambled with him, jested with him, angled with him, flattering and
reproving him by turn, always having some new device of pleasure to
gratify his senses or stimulate his curiosity. Thus passed the winter of
41-40, and in the spring he was recalled to Borne by political
dissensions there.

At this stage, however, it would seem that ambition was paramount with
him, not love; for his wife Fulvia having died, he did not marry
Cleopatra, but Octavia, sister of Octavius, his fellow-triumvir and
general rival. It was evidently from political considerations that he
married Octavia, who was a stately and noble woman, but tedious in her
dignity, and unattractive in her person. And what a commentary on Roman
rank! The sister of a Roman grandee seemed to the ambitious general a
greater match than the Queen of Egypt. How this must have piqued the
proud daughter of the Ptolemies,--that she, a queen, with all her
charms, was not the equal in the eyes of Antony to the sister of
Caesar's heir! But she knew her power, and stifled her resentment, and
waited for her time. She, too, had a political end to gain, and was too
politic to give way to anger and reproaches. She was anything but the
impulsive woman that some suppose,--but a great actress and artist, as
some women are when they would conquer, even in their loves, which, if
they do not feign, at least they know how to make appear greater than
they are. For about three years Antony cut loose from Cleopatra, and
pursued his military career in the East, as the rival of Octavius might,
having in view the sovereignty that Caesar had bequeathed to the
strongest man.

But his passion for Cleopatra could not long be suppressed, neither from
reasons of state nor from the respect he must have felt for the
admirable conduct of Octavia, who was devoted to him, and who was one of
the most magnanimous and reproachless women of antiquity. And surely he
must have had some great qualities to call out the love of the noblest
and proudest woman of the age, in spite of his many vices and his
abandonment to a mad passion, forgetful alike both of fame and duty. He
had not been two years in Athens, the headquarters of his Eastern
Department, before he was called upon to chastise the Parthians, who had
thrown off the Roman yoke and invaded other Roman provinces. But hardly
had he left Octavia, and set foot again in Asia, before he sent for his
Egyptian mistress, and loaded her with presents; not gold, and silver,
and precious stones, and silks, and curious works of art merely, but
whole provinces even,--Phoenicia, Syria, Cilicia, and a part of Judea
and Arabia,--provinces which belonged not to him, but to the Roman
Empire. How indignant must have been the Roman people when they heard of
such lavish presents, and presents which he had no right to give! And
when the artful Cleopatra feigned illness on the approach of Octavia,
pretending to be dying of love, and wasting her body by fasting and
weeping by turns, and perhaps tearing her hair in a seeming paroxysm of
grief,--for an actress can do even this,--Antony was totally disarmed,
and gave up his Parthian expedition altogether, which was treason to the
State, and returned to Alexandria more submissive than ever. This
abandonment of duty and official trust disgusted and incensed the
Romans, so that his cause was weakened. Octavius became stronger every
day, and now resolved on reigning alone. This meant another civil war.
How strong the party of Antony must have been to keep together and
sustain him amid such scandals, treasons, and disgrace!

Antony, perceiving a desperate contest before him, ending in his
supremacy or ruin, put forth all his energies, assisted by the
contributions of Cleopatra, who furnished two hundred ships and twenty
thousand talents,--about twenty million dollars. He had five hundred
war-vessels, beside galleys, one hundred thousand foot and twelve
thousand horse,--one of the largest armies that any Roman general had
ever commanded,--and he was attended by vassal kings from the East. The
forces of Octavius were not so large, though better disciplined; nor was
he a match for Antony in military experience. Antony with his superior
forces wished to fight upon the land, but against his better judgment
was overruled by Cleopatra, who, having reinforced him with sixty
galleys, urged him to contend upon the sea. The rivals met at Actium,
where was fought one of the great decisive battles of the world. For a
while the fortunes of the day were doubtful, when Cleopatra, from some
unexplained motive, or from panic, or possibly from a calculating
policy, was seen sailing away with her ships for Egypt. And what was
still more extraordinary, Antony abandoned his fleet and followed her.
Had he been defeated on the sea, he still had superior forces on the
land, and was a match for Octavius. His infatuation ended in a weakness
difficult to comprehend in a successful Roman general. And never was
infatuation followed by more tragic consequences. Was this madness sent
upon him by that awful Power who controls the fate of war and the
destinies of nations? Who sent madness upon Nebuchadnezzar? Who blinded
Napoleon at the very summit of his greatness? May not that memorable
defeat have been ordered by Providence to give consolidation and peace
and prosperity to the Roman Empire, so long groaning under the
complicated miseries of anarchy and civil war? If an imperial government
was necessary for the existing political and social condition of the
Roman world,--and this is maintained by most historians,--how fortunate
it was that the empire fell into the hands of a man whose subsequent
policy was peace, the development of resources of nations, and a
vigorous administration of government!

It is generally conceded that the reign of Octavius--or, as he is more
generally known, Augustus Caesar--was able, enlightened, and efficient.
He laid down the policy which succeeding emperors pursued, and which
resulted in the peace and prosperity of the Roman world until vices
prepared the way for violence. Augustus was a great organizer, and the
machinery of government which he and his ministers perfected kept the
empire together until it was overrun by the New Germanic races. Had
Antony conquered at Actium, the destinies of the empire might have been
far different. But for two hundred years the world never saw a more
efficient central power than that exercised by the Roman emperors or by
their ministers. Imperialism at last proved fatal to genius and the
higher interests of mankind; but imperialism was the creation of Julius
Caesar, as a real or supposed necessity; it was efficiently and
beneficently continued by his grand-nephew Augustus; and its
consolidated strength became an established institution which the
civilized world quietly accepted.

The battle of Actium virtually settled the civil war and the fortunes of
Antony, although he afterwards fought bravely and energetically; but all
to no purpose. And then, at last, his eyes were opened, and Shakspeare
makes him bitterly exclaim,--

"All is lost!
This foul Egyptian hath betrayed me.
... Betray'd I am:
O this false soul of Egypt!"

And with his ruin the ruin of his paramour was also settled; yet her
resources were not utterly exhausted. She retired into a castle or
mausoleum she had prepared for herself in case of necessity, with her
most valuable treasures, and sent messengers to Antony, who reported to
him that she was dead,--that she had killed herself in despair. He
believed it all. His wrath now vanished in his grief. He could not live,
or did not wish to live, without her; and he fell upon his own sword.
The wound was mortal, but death did not immediately follow. He lived to
learn that Cleopatra had again deceived him,--that she was still alive.
Even amid the agonies of the shadow of death, and in view of this last
fatal lie of hers, he did not upbraid her, but ordered his servants to
bear him to her retreat. Covered with blood, the dying general was
drawn up by ropes and through a window--the only entrance to the queen's
retreat that was left unbarred--into her presence, and soon expired.
Shakspeare has Antony greet Cleopatra with the words, "I am dying,
Egypt, dying!" This suggestive theme has been enlarged in a modern song
of pathetic eloquence:--

I am dying, Egypt, dying,
Ebbs the crimson life-tide fast,
And the dark Plutonian shadows
Gather on the evening blast;
Let thine arms, O Queen, enfold me,
Hush thy sobs and bow thine ear,
Listen to the great heart-secrets
_Thou_, and thou _alone_, must hear.

* * * * *

Should the base plebeian rabble
Dare assail my name at Rome,
Where my noble spouse Octavia
Weeps within her widow'd home,
Seek her; say the gods bear witness--
Altars, augurs, circling wings--
That her blood, with mine commingled,
Yet shall mount the throne of kings.

As for thee, star-ey'd Egyptian!
Glorious sorceress of the Nile!
Light the path to Stygian horrors
With the splendors of thy smile
I can scorn the Senate's triumphs,
Triumphing in love like thine.

* * * * *

Ah! no more amid the battle
Shall my heart exulting swell:
Isis and Osiris guard thee!

Thus perished the great Triumvir, dying like a Roman, whose blinded but
persistent love, whatever were its elements, ever shall make his name
memorable. All the ages will point to him as a man who gave the world
away for the caresses of a woman, and a woman who deceived and
ruined him.

As for her,--this selfish, heartless sorceress, gifted and beautiful as
she was,--what does she do when she sees her lover dead,--dying for her?
Does she share his fate? Not she. What selfish woman ever killed
herself for love?

"Some natural tears she shed, but wiped them soon."

She may have torn her clothes, and beaten her breast, and disfigured her
face, and given vent to mourning and lamentations. But she does not seek
death, nor surrender herself to grief, nor court despair. She renews her
strength. She reserves her arts for another victim. She hopes to win
Octavius as she had won Julius and Antony; for she was only thirty-nine,
and still a queen. And for what? That she might retain her own
sovereignty, or the independence of Egypt,--still the most fertile of
countries, rich, splendid, and with grand traditions which went back
thousands of years; the oldest, and once the most powerful of
monarchies. _Her_ love was ever subservient to her interests. Antony
gave up ambition for love,--whatever that love was. It took possession
of his whole being, not pure and tender, but powerful, strange;
doubtless a mad infatuation, and perhaps something more, since it never
passed away,--admiration allied with desire, the worship of dazzling
gifts, though not of moral virtues. Would such a love have been
permanent? Probably not, since the object of it did not shine in the
beauty of the soul, but rather in the graces and adornments of the body,
intensified indeed by the lustre of bewitching social qualities and the
brightness of a cultivated intellect. It is hard to analyze a passionate
love between highly gifted people who have an intense development of
both the higher and the lower natures, and still more difficult when the
idol is a Venus Polyhymnia rather than a Venus Urania. But the love of
Antony, whether unwise, or mysterious, or unfortunate, was not feigned
or forced: it was real, and it was irresistible; he could not help it.
He was enslaved, bound hand and foot. His reason may have rallied to his
support, but his will was fettered. He may have had at times dark and
gloomy suspicions,--that he was played with, that he was cheated, that
he would be deserted, that Cleopatra was false and treacherous. And yet
she reigned over him; he could not live without her. She was all in all
to him, so long as the infatuation lasted; and it had lasted fourteen
years, with increasing force, in spite of duty and pressing labors, the
calls of ambition and the lust of power. In this consuming and abandoned
passion, for fourteen years,--so strange and inglorious, and for a woman
so unworthy, even if he were no better than she,--we see one of the
great mysteries of our complex nature, not uncommon, but insoluble.

I have no respect for Antony, and but little admiration. I speak of such
mad infatuation as a humiliating exhibition of human weakness. Any one
under its fearful spell is an object of pity. But I have more sympathy
for him than for Cleopatra, although she was doubtless a very gifted
woman. He was her victim; she was not his. If extravagant and reckless
and sensual, he was frank, generous, eloquent, brave, and true to her.
She was artful, designing, and selfish, and used him for her own ends,
although we do not know that she was perfidious and false to him. But
for her he would have ruled the world. He showed himself capable of an
enormous sacrifice. She made no sacrifices for him. She could even have
transferred her affections, since she afterwards sought to play her
blandishments upon his rival. Conceive of Antony, if you can, as loving
any one else than her who led him on to ruin. In the very degradation
of love we see its sacredness. In his fidelity we find some palliation.
Nor does it seem that Octavia, the slighted wife of Antony, gave way to
vengeance. Her sense of injury was overshadowed by her pity. This lofty
and dignified matron even took his six surviving children, three of whom
were Cleopatra's, and brought them up in her own house as her own. Can
Paganism show a greater magnanimity?

The fate of Cleopatra was tragic also. She too destroyed herself, not
probably by the bite of asps, as is the popular opinion, but by some
potent and subtile poison that she ever carried with her, and which had
the effect of benumbing the body and making her insensible to pain. Yet
she does not kill herself because she cannot survive the death of
Antony, but because she is too proud to be carried to Rome to grace the
triumph of the new Caesar. She will not be led a captive princess up the
Capitoline Hill. She has an overbearing pride. "Know, sir," says she to
Proculeius, "that I

"Will not wait pinion'd at your master's court,
Nor once be chastis'd with the sober eye
Of dull Octavia....
... Rather a ditch in Egypt
Be gentle grave to me!"

But whether pride or whether shame was the more powerful motive in
committing suicide, I do not read that she was a victim of remorse. She
had no moral sense. Nor did she give way to sentimental grief on the
death of Antony. Her grief was blended with disappointment and rage. Nor
did she hide her head, but wore a face of brass. She used all her arts
to win Octavius. Her resources did not fail her; but she expended them
on one of the coldest, most politic, and most astute men that ever
lived. And the disappointment that followed her defeat--that she could
not enslave another conqueror--was greater than the grief for Antony.
Nor during her whole career do we see any signs of that sorrow and
humility which, it would seem, should mark a woman who has made so great
and fatal a mistake,--cut off hopelessly from the respect of the world
and the peace of her own soul. We see grief, rage, despair, in her
miserable end, as we see pride and shamefacedness in her gilded life,
but not remorse or shame. And when she dies by her own hand, it is not
in madness, but to escape humiliation. Suicide was one of the worst
features of Pagan antiquity. It was a base and cowardly reluctance to
meet the evils of life, as much as indifference to the future and a
blunted moral sense.

So much for the woman herself, her selfish spirit, her vile career; but
as Cleopatra is one of the best known and most striking examples of a
Pagan woman, with qualities and in circumstances peculiarly
characteristic of Paganism, I must make a few remarks on these points.

One of the most noticeable of these is that immorality seems to have
been no bar to social position. Some of those who were most attractive
and sought after were notoriously immoral. Aspasia, whom Socrates and
Pericles equally admired, and whose house was the resort of poets,
philosophers, statesmen, and artists, and who is said to have been one
of the most cultivated women of antiquity, bore a sullied name. Sappho,
who was ever exalted by Grecian poets for the sweetness of her verses,
attempted to reconcile a life of pleasure with a life of letters, and
threw herself into the sea because of a disappointed passion. Lais, a
professional courtesan, was the associate of kings and sages as well as
the idol of poets and priests. Agrippina, whose very name is infamy, was
the admiration of courtiers and statesmen. Lucilla, who armed her
assassins against her own brother, seems to have ruled the court of
Marcus Aurelius.

And all these women, and more who could be mentioned, were--like
Cleopatra--cultivated, intellectual, and brilliant. They seem to have
reigned for their social fascinations as much as by their physical
beauty. Hence, that class of women who with us are shunned and excluded
from society were not only flattered and honored, but the class itself
seems to have been recruited by those who were the most attractive for
their intellectual gifts as well as for physical beauty. No woman, if
bright, witty, and beautiful, was avoided because she was immoral. It
was the immoral women who often aspired to the highest culture. They
sought to reign by making their homes attractive to distinguished men.
Their houses seem to have been what the _salons_ of noble and
fascinating duchesses were in France in the last two centuries. The
homes of virtuous and domestic women were dull and wearisome. In fact,
the modest wives and daughters of most men were confined to monotonous
domestic duties; they were household slaves; they saw but little of what
we now call society. I do not say that virtue was not held in honor. I
know of no age, however corrupt, when it was not prized by husbands and
fathers. I know of no age when virtuous women did not shine at home, and
exert a healthful influence upon men, and secure the proud regard of
their husbands. But these were not the women whose society was most
sought. The drudgeries and slaveries of domestic life among the ancients
made women unattractive to the world. The women who were most attractive
were those who gave or attended sumptuous banquets, and indulged in
pleasures that were demoralizing. Not domestic women, but bright women,
carried away those prizes which turned the brain. Those who shone were
those that attached themselves to men through their senses, and
possibly through their intellects, and who were themselves strong in
proportion as men were weak. For a woman to appear in public assemblies
with braided and decorated hair and ostentatious dress, and especially
if she displayed any gifts of eloquence or culture, was to proclaim
herself one of the immoral, leisurely, educated, dissolute class. This
gives point to Saint Paul's strict injunctions to the women of Corinth
to dress soberly, to keep silence in the assemblies, etc. The modest
woman was to "be in subjection." Those Pagan converts to the "New Way"
were to avoid even the appearance of evil.

Thus under Paganism the general influence of women was to pull men down
rather than to elevate them, especially those who were attractive in
society. Virtuous and domestic women were not sufficiently educated to
have much influence except in a narrow circle. Even they, in a social
point of view, were slaves. They could be given in marriage without
their consent; they were restricted in their intercourse with men; they
were confined to their homes; they had but few privileges; they had no
books; they led a life of terror from the caprices of their lords and
masters, and hence inspired no veneration. The wives and daughters of
the rich tyrannized over their servants, decked themselves with costly
ornaments, and were merely gilded toys, whose society was vapid and
uninteresting. The wives and daughters of the poor were drudges and
menials, without attraction or influence; noisy, quarrelsome, garrulous
women, who said the least when they talked the most.

Hence under Paganism home had none of those attractions which, in
Christian countries, invest it with such charms. The home of the poor
was squalid and repulsive; the home of the rich was gaudy and tinselled
enough, but was dull and uninspiring. What is home when women are
ignorant, stupid, and slavish? What glitter or artistic splendor can
make home attractive when women are mere butterflies or slaves with
gilded fetters? Deprive women of education, and especially of that
respect which Christian chivalry inspires, and they cannot rise to be
the equal companions of men. They are simply their victims or their
slaves. What is a home where women are treated as inferiors? Paganism
never recognized their equality with men; and if they ever ruled men, it
was by appealing to their lower qualities, or resorting to arts and
devices which are subversive of all dignity of character. When their
personal beauty fled, their power also departed. A faded or homely
woman, without intelligence or wit, was a forlorn object in a Pagan
home,--to be avoided, derided, despised,--a melancholy object of pity or
neglect, so far as companionship goes. She may have been valued as a
cook or drudge, but she was only a menial. Of all those sins of omission
of which Paganism is accused, the worst was that it gave to women no
mental resources to assist them in poverty, or neglect, or isolation,
when beauty or fortune deserted them. No home can be attractive where
women have no resources; and women can have no resources outside of
domestic duties, unless educated to some art or something calculated to
draw out their energies and higher faculties by which they win the
respect and admiration, not of men only, but of their own sex.

It was this lack of education which Paganism withheld from women which
not only destroyed the radiance of home, but which really made women
inferior to men. All writers, poets, and satirists alike speak of the
inferiority of women to men,--not physically only, but even
intellectually; and some authors made them more vicious than men in
natural inclination. And when the mind was both neglected and
undervalued, how could respect and admiration be kindled, or continue
after sensual charms had passed away? Paganism taught the inequality of
the sexes, and produced it; and when this inequality is taught, or
believed in, or insisted upon, then farewell to the glory of homes, to
all unbought charms, to the graces of domestic life, to everything that
gilds our brief existence with the radiance of imperishable joy.

Nor did Paganism offer any consolations to the down-trodden, injured,
neglected, uninteresting woman of antiquity. She could not rise above
the condition in which she was born. No sympathetic priest directed her
thoughts to another and higher and endless life. Nobody wiped away her
tears; nobody gave encouragement to those visions of beauty and serenity
for which the burdened spirit will, under any oppressions, sometimes
aspire to enjoy. No one told her of immortality and a God of
forgiveness, who binds up the bleeding heart and promises a future peace
and bliss. Paganism was merciful only in this,--that it did not open
wounds it could not heal; that it did not hold out hopes and promises it
could not fulfil; that it did not remind the afflicted of miseries from
which they could not rise; that it did not let in a vision of glories
which could never be enjoyed; that it did not provoke the soul to
indulge in a bitterness in view of evils for which there was no remedy;
that it did not educate the mind for enjoyments which could never be
reached; that it did not kindle a discontent with a condition from which
there is no escape. If one cannot rise above debasement or misery, there
is no use in pointing it out. If the Pagan woman was not seemingly aware
of the degradation which kept her down, and from which it was impossible
to rise, Paganism did not add stings to her misery by presenting it as
an accident which it was easy to surmount. There would be no
contentment or submission among animals if they were endowed with the
reason of men. Give to a healthy, but ignorant, coarse, uncultivated
country girl, surrounded only with pigs and chickens, almost without
neighbors, a glimpse of the glories of cities, the wonders of art, the
charms of social life, the triumphs of mind, the capacities of the soul,
and would she be any happier, if obliged to remain for life in her
rustic obscurity and labor, and with no possible chance of improving her
condition? Such was woman under Paganism. She could rise only so far as
men lifted her up; and they lifted her up only further to consummate her

But there was another thing which kept women in degradation. Paganism
did not recognize the immaterial and immortal soul: it only had regard
to the wants of the body. Of course there were exceptions. There were
sages and philosophers among the men who speculated on the grandest
subjects which can elevate the mind to the regions of immortal
truth,--like Socrates, Plato, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius,--even as there
were women who rose above all the vile temptations which surrounded
them, and were poets, heroines, and benefactors,--like Telessa, who
saved Argos by her courage; and Volumnia, who screened Rome from the
vengeance of her angry son; and Lucretia, who destroyed herself rather
than survive the dishonor of her house. There are some people who rise
and triumph over every kind of oppression and injury. Under Paganism
there was the possibility of the emancipation of the soul, but not the
probability. Its genius was directed to the welfare of the body,--to
utilitarian ends of life, to ornaments and riches, to luxury and
voluptuousness, to the pleasures which are brief, to the charms of
physical beauty and grace. It could stimulate ambition and inculcate
patriotism and sing of love, if it coupled the praises of Venus with the
praises of wine. But everything it praised or honored had reference to
this life and to the mortal body. It may have recognized the mind, but
not the soul, which is greater than the mind. It had no aspirations for
future happiness; it had no fears of future misery. Hence the frequency
of suicide under disappointment, or ennui, or satiated desire, or fear
of poverty, or disgrace, or pain.

And thus, as Paganism did not take cognizance of the soul in its future
existence, it disregarded man's highest aspirations. It did not
cultivate his graces; it set but a slight value on moral beauty; it
thought little of affections; it spurned gentleness and passive virtues;
it saw no lustre in the tender eye; it heard no music in the tones of
sympathy; it was hard and cold. That which constitutes the richest
beatitudes of love it could not see, and did not care for. Ethereal
blessedness it despised. That which raises woman highest, it was
indifferent to. The cold atmosphere of Paganism froze her soul, and made
her callous to wrongs and sufferings. It destroyed enthusiasm and poetic
ardor and the graces which shine in misfortune. Woman was not kindled by
lofty sentiments, since no one believed in them. The harmonies of home
had no poetry and no inspiration, and they disappeared. The face of
woman was not lighted by supernatural smiles. Her caresses had no
spiritual fervor, and her benedictions were unmeaning platitudes. Take
away the soul of woman, and what is she? Rob her of her divine
enthusiasm, and how vapid and commonplace she becomes! Destroy her
yearnings to be a spiritual solace, and how limited is her sphere! Take
away the holy dignity of the soul, and how impossible is a lofty
friendship! Without the amenities of the soul there can be no real
society. Crush the soul of a woman, and you extinguish her life, and
shed darkness on all who surround her. She cannot rally from pain, or
labor, or misfortune, if her higher nature is ignored. Paganism ignored
what is grandest and truest in a woman, and she withered like a stricken
tree. She succumbed before the cold blasts that froze her noblest
impulses, and sunk sullenly into obscurity. Oh, what a fool a man is to
make woman a slave! He forgets that though he may succeed in keeping her
down, chained and fettered by drudgeries, she will be revenged; that
though powerless, she will instinctively learn to hate him; and if she
cannot defy him she will scorn him,--for not even a brute animal will
patiently submit to cruelty, still less a human soul become reconciled
to injustice. And what is the possession of a human body without the
sympathy of a living soul?

And hence women, under Paganism,--having no hopes of future joy, no
recognition of their diviner attributes, no true scope for energies, no
field of usefulness but in a dreary home, no ennobling friendships, no
high encouragements, no education, no lofty companionship; utterly
unappreciated in what most distinguishes them, and valued only as
household slaves or victims of guilty pleasure; adorned and bedecked
with trinkets, all to show off the graces of the body alone, and with
nothing to show their proud equality with men in influence, if not in
power, in mind as well as heart,--took no interest in what truly
elevates society. What schools did they teach or even visit? What
hospitals did they enrich? What miseries did they relieve? What
charities did they contribute to? What churches did they attend? What
social gatherings did they enliven? What missions of benevolence did
they embark in? What were these to women who did not know what was the
most precious thing they had, or when this precious thing was allowed to
run to waste? What was there for a woman to do with an unrecognized
soul but gird herself with ornaments, and curiously braid her hair, and
ransack shops for new cosmetics, and hunt for new perfumes, and recline
on luxurious couches, and issue orders to attendant slaves, and join in
seductive dances, and indulge in frivolous gossip, and entice by the
display of sensual charms? Her highest aspiration was to adorn a
perishable body, and vanity became the spring of life.

And the men,--without the true sanctities and beatitudes of married
life, without the tender companionship which cultivated women give,
without the hallowed friendships which the soul alone can keep alive,
despising women who were either toys or slaves,--fled from their dull,
monotonous, and dreary homes to the circus and the theatre and the
banqueting hall for excitement or self-forgetfulness. They did not seek
society, for there can be no high society where women do not preside and
inspire and guide. Society is a Christian institution. It was born among
our German ancestors, amid the inspiring glories of chivalry. It was
made for women as well as men of social cravings and aspirations, which
have their seat in what Paganism ignored. Society, under Paganism, was
confined to men, at banquets or symposia, where women seldom entered,
unless for the amusement of men,--never for their improvement, and still
less for their restraint.

It was not until Christianity permeated the old Pagan civilization and
destroyed its idols, that the noble Paulas and Marcellas and Fabiolas
arose to dignify human friendships, and give fascination to reunions of
cultivated women and gifted men; that the seeds of society were sown. It
was not until the natural veneration which the Gothic nations seem to
have had for women, even in their native forests, had ripened into
devotion and gallantry under the teachings of Christian priests, that
the true position of women was understood. And after their equality was
recognized in the feudal castles of the Middle Ages, the _salons_ of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries established their claims as the
inspiring geniuses of what we call society. Then, and not till then, did
physical beauty pale before the brilliancy of the mind and the radiance
of the soul,--at last recognized as the highest charm of woman. The
leaders of society became, not the ornamented and painted _heterae_
which had attracted Grecian generals and statesmen and men of letters,
but the witty and the genial and the dignified matrons who were capable
of instructing and inspiring men superior to themselves, with eyes
beaming with intellectual radiance, and features changing with perpetual
variety. Modern society, created by Christianity,--since only
Christianity recognizes what is most truly attractive and ennobling
among women--is a great advance over the banquets of imperial Romans
and the symposia of gifted Greeks.

But even this does not satisfy woman in her loftiest aspirations. The
soul which animates and inspires her is boundless. Its wants cannot be
fully met even in an assemblage of wits and beauties. The soul of Madame
de Stael pined amid all her social triumphs. The soul craves
friendships, intellectual banquetings, and religious aspirations. And
unless the emancipated soul of woman can have these wants gratified, she
droops even amid the glories of society. She is killed, not as a hero
perishes on a battle-field; but she dies, as Madame de Maintenon said
that she died, amid the imposing splendors of Versailles. It is only the
teachings and influences of that divine religion which made Bethany the
centre of true social banquetings to the wandering and isolated Man of
Sorrows, which can keep the soul alive amid the cares, the burdens, and
the duties which bend down every son and daughter of Adam, however
gilded may be the outward life. How grateful, then, should women be to
that influence which has snatched them from the pollutions and heartless
slaveries of Paganism, and given dignity to their higher nature! It is
to them that it has brought the greatest boon, and made them triumphant
over the evils of life. And how thoughtless, how misguided, how
ungrateful is that woman who would exchange the priceless blessings
which Christianity has brought to her for those ornaments, those
excitements, and those pleasures which ancient Paganism gave as the only
solace fox the loss and degradation of her immortal soul!

* * * * *


Plutarch's Lives; Froude's Caesar; Shakspeare's Antony and Cleopatra;
Plato's Dialogues; Horace, Martial, and Juvenal, especially among the
poets; Lord's Old Roman World; Suetonius's Lives of the Caesars; Dion
Cassius; Rollin's Ancient History; Merivale's History of the Romans;
Biographic Universelle; Rees's Encyclopedia has a good article.



50 B.C.

We have now surveyed what was most glorious in the States of antiquity.
We have seen a civilization which in many respects rivals all that
modern nations have to show. In art, in literature, in philosophy, in
laws, in the mechanism of government, in the cultivated face of Nature,
in military strength, in aesthetic culture, the Greeks and Romans were
our equals. And this high civilization was reached by the native and
unaided strength of man; by the power of will, by courage, by
perseverance, by genius, by fortunate circumstances. We are filled with
admiration by all these trophies of genius, and cannot but feel that
only superior races could have accomplished such mighty triumphs.

Yet all this splendid exterior was deceptive; for the deeper we
penetrate the social condition of the people, the more we feel disgust
and pity supplanting all feelings of admiration and wonder. The Roman
empire especially, which had gathered into its strong embrace the whole
world, and was the natural inheritor of all the achievements of all the
nations, in its shame and degradation suggests melancholy feelings in
reference to the destiny of man, so far as his happiness and welfare
depend upon his own unaided efforts.

It is a sad picture of oppression, injustice, crime, and wretchedness
which I have now to present. Glory is succeeded by shame, strength by
weakness, and virtue by vice. The condition of the mass is deplorable,
and even the great and fortunate shine in a false and fictitious light.
We see laws, theoretically good, practically perverted, and selfishness
and egotism the mainsprings of life; we see energies misdirected, and
art corrupted. All noble aspirations have fled, and the good and the
wise retire from active life in despair and misanthropy. Poets flatter
the tyrants who trample on human rights, while sensuality and luxurious
pleasure absorb the depraved thoughts of a perverse generation.

The first thing which arrests our attention as we survey the civilized
countries of the old world, is the imperial despotism of Rome. The
empire indeed enjoyed quietude, and society was no longer rent by
factions and parties. Demagogues no longer disturbed the public peace,
nor were the provinces ransacked and devastated to provide for the
means of carrying on war. So long as men did not oppose the government
they were safe from molestation, and were left to pursue their business
and pleasure in their own way. Imperial cruelty was not often visited on
the humble classes. It was the policy of the emperors to amuse and
flatter the people, while depriving them of political rights. Hence
social life was free. All were at liberty to seek their pleasures and
gains; all were proud of their metropolis, with its gilded glories and
its fascinating pleasures. Outrages, extortions, and disturbances were
punished. Order reigned, and all classes felt secure; they could sleep
without fear of robbery or assassination. In short, all the arguments
which can be adduced in favor of despotism in contrast with civil war
and violence, show that it was beneficial in its immediate effects.

Nevertheless, it was a most lamentable change from that condition of
things which existed before the civil wars. Roman liberties were
prostrated forever; noble sentiments and aspirations were rebuked. Under
the Emperors we read of no more great orators like Cicero, battling for
human rights and defending the public weal. Eloquence was suppressed.
Nor was there liberty of speech even in the Senate. It was treason to
find fault with any public acts. From the Pillars of Hercules to the
Caspian Sea one stern will ruled all classes and orders. No one could
fly from the agents and ministers of the Emperor; he controlled the
army, the Senate, the judiciary, the internal administration of the
empire, and the religious worship of the people; all offices, honors,
and emoluments emanated from him. All influences conspired to elevate
the man whom no one could hope successfully to rival. Revolt was
madness, and treason absurdity. Nor did the Emperors attempt to check
the gigantic social evils of the empire. They did not seek to prevent
irreligion, luxury, slavery, and usury, the encroachments of the rich
upon the poor, the tyranny of foolish fashions, demoralizing sports and
pleasures, money-making, and all the follies which lax principles of
morality allowed; they fed the rabble with corn, oil, and wine, and thus
encouraged idleness and dissipation. The world never saw a more rapid
retrogression in human rights, or a greater prostration of liberties.
Taxes were imposed according to the pleasure or necessities of the
government. Provincial governors became still more rapacious and cruel;
judges hesitated to decide against the government. Patriotism, in its
most enlarged sense, became an impossibility; all lofty spirits were
crushed. Corruption in all forms of administration fearfully increased,
for there was no safeguard against it.

Theoretically, absolutism may be the best government, if rulers are
wise and just; but practically, as men are, despotisms are generally
cruel and revengeful. Despotism implies slavery, and slavery is the
worst condition of mankind.

It cannot be questioned that many virtuous princes reigned at Rome, who
would have ornamented any age or country. Titus, Hadrian, Marcus
Aurelius, Antoninus Pius, Alexander Severus, Tacitus, Probus, Carus,
Constantine, Theodosius, were all men of remarkable virtues as well as
talents. They did what they could to promote public prosperity. Marcus
Aurelius was one of the purest and noblest characters of antiquity.
Theodosius for genius and virtue ranks with the most illustrious
sovereigns that ever wore a crown,--with Charlemagne, with Alfred, with
William III., with Gustavus Adolphus.

But it matters not whether the Emperors were good or bad, if the regime
to which they consecrated their energies was exerted to crush the
liberties of mankind. The imperial despotism, whether brilliant or
disgraceful, was a mournful retrograde step in civilization; it implied
the extinction of patriotism and the general degradation of the people,
and would have been impossible in the days of Cato, Scipio, or Metellus.

If we turn from the Emperors to the class which before the dictatorship
of Julius Caesar had the ascendency in the State, and for several
centuries the supreme power, we shall find but little that is
flattering to a nation or to humanity. Under the Emperors the
aristocracy had degenerated in morals as well as influence. They still
retained their enormous fortunes, originally acquired as governors of
provinces, and continually increased by fortunate marriages and
speculations. Indeed, nothing was more marked and melancholy at Rome
than the vast disproportion in fortunes. In the better days of the
republic, property was more equally divided; the citizens were not
ambitious for more land than they could conveniently cultivate. But the
lands, obtained by conquest, gradually fell into the possession of
powerful families. The classes of society widened as great fortunes were
accumulated; pride of wealth kept pace with pride of ancestry; and when
plebeian families had obtained great estates, they were amalgamated with
the old aristocracy. The equestrian order, founded substantially on
wealth, grew daily in importance. Knights ultimately rivalled senatorial
families. Even freedmen in an age of commercial speculation became
powerful for their riches. The pursuit of money became a passion, and
the rich assumed all the importance and consideration which had once
been bestowed upon those who had rendered great public services.

As the wealth of the world flowed naturally to the capital, Rome became
a city of princes, whose fortunes were almost incredible. It took
eighty thousand dollars a year to support the ordinary senatorial
dignity. Some senators owned whole provinces. Trimalchio, a rich
freedman whom Petronius ridiculed, could afford to lose thirty millions
of sesterces in a single voyage without sensibly diminishing his
fortune. Pallas, a freedman of the Emperor Claudius, possessed a fortune
of three hundred millions of sesterces. Seneca, the philosopher, amassed
an enormous fortune.

As the Romans were a sensual, ostentatious, and luxurious people, they
accordingly wasted their fortunes by an extravagance in their living
which has had no parallel. The pleasures of the table and the cares of
the kitchen were the most serious avocation of the aristocracy in the
days of the greatest corruption. They had around them regular courts of
parasites and flatterers, and they employed even persons of high rank as
their chamberlains and stewards. Carving was taught in celebrated
schools, and the masters of this sublime art were held in higher
estimation than philosophers or poets. Says Juvenal,--

"To such perfection now is carving brought,
That different gestures by our curious men
Are used for different dishes, hare or hen."

Their entertainments were accompanied with everything which could
flatter vanity or excite the passions; musicians, male and female
dancers, players of farce and pantomime, jesters, buffoons, and
gladiators exhibited, while the guests reclined at table after the
fashion of the Orientals. The tables were made of Thuja-root, with claws
of ivory or Delian bronze. Even Cicero, in an economical age, paid six
hundred and fifty pounds for his banqueting-table. Gluttony was carried
to such a point that the sea and earth scarcely sufficed to set off
their tables; they ate as delicacies water-rats and white worms. Fish
were the chief object of the Roman epicures, of which the _mullus_, the
_rhombus_, and the _asellus_ were the most valued; it is recorded that a
mullus (sea barbel), weighing but eight pounds, sold for eight thousand
sesterces. Oysters from the Lucrine Lake were in great demand; snails
were fattened in ponds for cooking, while the villas of the rich had
their piscinae filled with fresh or salt-water fish. Peacocks and
pheasants were the most highly esteemed among poultry, although the
absurdity prevailed of eating singing-birds. Of quadrupeds, the greatest
favorite was the wild boar,--the chief dish of a grand _coena_,--coming
whole upon the table; and the practised gourmand pretended to
distinguish by the taste from what part of Italy it came. Dishes, the
very names of which excite disgust, were used at fashionable banquets,
and held in high esteem. Martial devotes two entire books of his
"Epigrams" to the various dishes and ornaments of a Roman banquet.

The extravagance of that period almost surpasses belief. Cicero and
Pompey one day surprised Lucullus at one of his ordinary banquets, when
he expected no guests, and even that cost fifty thousand
drachmas,--about four thousand dollars; his table-couches were of
purple, and his vessels glittered with jewels. The halls of Heliogabalus
were hung with cloth of gold, enriched with jewels; his table and plate
were of pure gold; his couches were of massive silver, and his
mattresses, covered with carpets of cloth of gold, were stuffed with
down found only under the wings of partridges. His suppers never cost
less than one hundred thousand sesterces. Crassus paid one hundred
thousand sesterces for a golden cup. Banqueting-rooms were strewed with
lilies and roses. Apicius, in the time of Trajan, spent one hundred
millions of sesterces in debauchery and gluttony; having only ten
millions left, he ended his life with poison, thinking he might die of
hunger. Things were valued for their cost and rarity rather than their
real value. Enormous prices were paid for carp, the favorite dish of the
Romans as of the Chinese. Drusillus, a freedman of Claudius, caused a
dish to be made of five hundred pounds weight of silver. Vitellius had
one made of such prodigious size that he was obliged to build a furnace
on purpose for it; and at a feast which he gave in honor of this dish,
it was filled with the livers of the scarrus (fish), the brains of
peacocks, the tongues of parrots, and the roes of lampreys caught in the
Carpathian Sea.

The nobles squandered money equally on their banquets, their stables,
and their dress; and it was to their crimes, says Juvenal, that they
were indebted for their gardens, their palaces, their tables, and their
fine old plate.

Unbounded pride, insolence, inhumanity, selfishness, and scorn marked
this noble class. Of course there were exceptions, but the historians
and satirists give the saddest pictures of their cold-hearted depravity.
The sole result of friendship with a great man was a meal, at which
flattery and sycophancy were expected; but the best wine was drunk by
the host, instead of by the guest. Provinces were ransacked for fish and
fowl and game for the tables of the great, and sensualism was thought to
be no reproach. They violated the laws of chastity and decorum; they
scourged to death their slaves; they degraded their wives and sisters;
they patronized the most demoralizing sports; they enriched themselves
by usury and monopolies; they practised no generosity, except at their
banquets, when ostentation balanced their avarice; they measured
everything by the money-standard; they had no taste for literature, but
they rewarded sculptors and painters who prostituted art to their vanity
or passions; they had no reverence for religion, and ridiculed the gods.
Their distinguishing vices were meanness and servility, the pursuit of
money by every artifice, the absence of honor, and unblushing

Gibbon has eloquently abridged the remarks of Ammianus Marcellinus
respecting these people:--

"They contend with each other in the empty vanity of titles and
surnames. They affect to multiply their likenesses in statues of bronze
or marble; nor are they satisfied unless these statues are covered with
plates of gold. They boast of the rent-rolls of their estates; they
measure their rank and consequence by the loftiness of their chariots
and the weighty magnificence of their dress; their long robes of silk
and purple float in the wind, and as they are agitated by art or
accident they discover the under garments, the rich tunics embroidered
with the figures of various animals. Followed by a train of fifty
servants, and tearing up the pavement, they move along the streets as if
they travelled with post-horses; and the example of the senators is
boldly imitated by the matrons and ladies, whose covered carriages are
continually driving round the immense space of the city and suburbs.
Whenever they condescend to enter the public baths, they assume, on
their entrance, a tone of loud and insolent command, and maintain a
haughty demeanor, which perhaps might have been excused in the great
Marcellus after the conquest of Syracuse. Sometimes these heroes
undertake more arduous achievements: they visit their estates in Italy,
and procure themselves, by servile hands, the amusements of the chase.
And if at any time, especially on a hot day, they have the courage to
sail in their gilded galleys from the Lucrine Lake to their elegant
villas on the sea-coast of Puteoli and Cargeta, they compare these
expeditions to the marches of Caesar and Alexander; yet should a fly
presume to settle on the silken folds of their gilded umbrellas, should
a sunbeam penetrate through some unguarded chink, they deplore their
intolerable hardships, and lament, in affected language, that they were
not born in the regions of eternal darkness. In the exercise of domestic
jurisdiction they express an exquisite sensibility for any personal
injury, and a contemptuous indifference for the rest of mankind. When
they have called for warm water, should a slave be tardy in his
obedience, he is chastised with a hundred lashes; should he commit a
wilful murder, his master will mildly observe that he is a worthless
fellow, and shall be punished if he repeat the offence. If a foreigner
of no contemptible rank be introduced to these senators, he is welcomed
with such warm professions that he retires charmed with their
affability; but when he repeats his visit, he is surprised and mortified
to find that his name, his person, and his country are forgotten. The
modest, the sober, and the learned are rarely invited to their sumptuous
banquets, only the most worthless of mankind,--parasites who applaud
every look and gesture, who gaze with rapture on marble columns and
variegated pavements, and strenuously praise the pomp and elegance
which he is taught to consider as a part of his personal merit. At the
Roman table the birds, the squirrels, the fish, which appear of uncommon
size, are contemplated with curious attention, and notaries are summoned
to attest, by authentic record, their real weight. Another method of
introduction into the houses of the great is skill in games, which is a
sure road to wealth and reputation. A master of this sublime art, if
placed at a supper below a magistrate, displays in his countenance a
surprise and indignation which Cato might be supposed to feel when
refused the praetorship. The acquisition of knowledge seldom engages the
attention of the nobles, who abhor the fatigue and disdain the
advantages of study; and the only books they peruse are the 'Satires of
Juvenal,' or the fabulous histories of Marius Maximus. The libraries
they have inherited from their fathers are secluded, like dreary
sepulchres, from the light of day; but the costly instruments of the
theatre--flutes and hydraulic organs--are constructed for their use. In
their palaces sound is preferred to sense, and the care of the body to
that of the mind. The suspicion of a malady is of sufficient weight to
excuse the visits of the most intimate friends. The prospect of gain
will urge a rich and gouty senator as far as Spoleta; every sentiment of
arrogance and dignity is suppressed in the hope of an inheritance or
legacy, and a wealthy, childless citizen is the most powerful of the
Romans. The distress which follows and chastises extravagant luxury
often reduces the great to use the most humiliating expedients. When
they wish to borrow, they employ the base and supplicating style of the
slaves in the comedy; but when they are called upon to pay, they assume
the royal and tragic declamations of the grandsons of Hercules. If the
demand is repeated, they readily procure some trusty sycophant to
maintain a charge of poison or magic against the insolent creditor, who
is seldom released from prison until he has signed a discharge of the
whole debt. And these vices are mixed with a puerile superstition which
disgraces their understanding. They listen with confidence to the
productions of haruspices, who pretend to read in the entrails of
victims the signs of future greatness and prosperity; and this
superstition is observed among those very sceptics who impiously deny or
doubt the existence of a celestial power."

Such, in the latter days of the empire, was the leading class at Rome,
and probably also in the cities which aped the fashions of the capital.
Frivolity and luxury loosened all the ties of society. They were bound
up in themselves, and had no care for the people except as they might
extract more money from them.

As for the miserable class whom the patricians oppressed, their
condition became worse every day from the accession of the Emperors. The
plebeians had ever disdained those arts which now occupied the middle
classes; these were intrusted to slaves. Originally, they employed
themselves upon the lands which had been obtained by conquest; but these
lands were gradually absorbed or usurped by the large proprietors. The
small farmers, oppressed with debt and usury, parted with their lands to
their wealthy creditors. Even in the time of Cicero, it was computed
that there were only about two thousand citizens possessed of
independent property. These two thousand persons owned the world; the
rest were dependent and powerless, and would have perished but for
largesses. Monthly distributions of corn were converted into daily
allowance for bread. The people were amused with games and festivals,
fed like slaves, and of course lost at last even the semblance of
manliness and independence. They loitered in the public streets, and
dissipated in gaming their miserable pittance; they spent the hours of
the night in the lowest resorts of crime and misery; they expired in
wretched apartments without attracting the attention of government;
pestilence, famine, and squalid misery thinned their ranks, and they
would have been annihilated but for constant accession to their numbers
from the provinces.

In the busy streets of Rome might be seen adventurers from all parts of
the world, disgraced by all the various vices of their respective
countries. They had no education, and but small religious advantages;
they were held in terror by both priests and nobles,--the priest
terrifying them with Egyptian sorceries, the nobles crushing them by
iron weight; like lazzaroni, they lived in the streets, or were crowded
into filthy tenements; a gladiatorial show delighted them, but the
circus was their peculiar joy,--here they sought to drown the
consciousness of their squalid degradation; they were sold into slavery
for trifling debts; they had no homes. The poor man had no ambition or
hope; his wife was a slave; his children were precocious demons, whose
prattle was the cry for bread, whose laughter was the howl of
pandemonium, whose sports were the tricks of premature iniquity, whose
beauty was the squalor of disease and filth; he fled from a wife in whom
he had no trust, from children in whom he had no hope, from brothers for
whom he felt no sympathy, from parents for whom he felt no reverence;
the circus was his home, the fights of wild beasts were his consolation;
the future was a blank, death was the release from suffering. There were
no hospitals for the sick and the old, except one on an island in the
Tiber; the old and helpless were left to die, unpitied and unconsoled.
Suicide was so common that it attracted no attention.

Superstition culminated at Rome, for there were seen the priests and
devotees of all the countries that it governed,--"the dark-skinned
daughters of Isis, with drum and timbrel and wanton mien; devotees of
the Persian Mithras; emasculated Asiatics; priests of Cybele, with their
wild dances and discordant cries; worshippers of the great goddess
Diana; barbarian captives with the rites of Teuton priests; Syrians,
Jews, Chaldaean astrologers, and Thessalian sorcerers.... The crowds
which flocked to Rome from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean
brought with them practices extremely demoralizing. The awful rites of
initiation, the tricks of magicians, the pretended virtues of amulets
and charms, the riddles of emblematical idolatry with which the
superstition of the East abounded, amused the languid voluptuaries who
had neither the energy for a moral belief nor the boldness requisite for
logical scepticism."

We cannot pass by, in this enumeration of the different classes of Roman
society, the number and condition of slaves. A large part of the
population belonged to this servile class. Originally brought in by
foreign conquest, it was increased by those who could not pay their
debts. The single campaign of Regulus introduced as many captives as
made up a fifth part of the whole population. Four hundred were
maintained in a single palace, at a comparatively early period; a
freedman in the time of Augustus left behind him forty-one hundred and
sixteen; Horace regarded two hundred as the suitable establishment for a
gentleman; some senators owned twenty thousand. Gibbon estimates the
number of slaves at about sixty millions,--one-half of the whole
population. One hundred thousand captives were taken in the Jewish war,
who were sold as slaves, and sold as cheap as horses. William Blair
supposes that there were three slaves to one freeman, from the conquest
of Greece to the reign of Alexander Severus. Slaves often cost two
hundred thousand sesterces, yet everybody was eager to possess a slave.
At one time the slave's life was at the absolute control of his master;
he could be treated at all times with brutal severity. Fettered and
branded, he toiled to cultivate the lands of an imperious master, and at
night was shut up in a subterranean cell. The laws hardly recognized his
claim to be considered a moral agent,--he was _secundum hominum genus_;
he could acquire no rights, social or political,--he was incapable of
inheriting property, or making a will, or contracting a legal marriage;
his value was estimated like that of a brute; he was a thing and not a
person, "a piece of furniture possessed of life;" he was his master's
property, to be scourged, or tortured, or crucified. If a wealthy
proprietor died under circumstances which excited suspicion of foul
play, his whole household was put to torture. It is recorded that on the
murder of a man of consular dignity by a slave, every slave in his
possession was condemned to death. Slaves swelled the useless rabbles of
the cities, and devoured the revenues of the State. All manual labor
was done by slaves, in towns as well as the country; they were used in
the navy to propel the galleys. Even the mechanical arts were cultivated
by the slaves. Nay more, slaves were schoolmasters, secretaries, actors,
musicians, and physicians, for in intelligence they were often on an
equality with their masters. Slaves were procured from Greece and Asia
Minor and Syria, as well as from Gaul and the African deserts; they were
white as well as black. All captives in war were made slaves, also
unfortunate debtors; sometimes they could regain their freedom, but
generally their condition became more and more deplorable. What a state
of society when a refined and cultivated Greek could be made to obey the
most offensive orders of a capricious and sensual Roman, without
remuneration, without thanks, without favor, without redress! What was
to be expected of a class who had no object to live for? They became the
most degraded of mortals, ready for pillage, and justly to be feared in
the hour of danger.

Slavery undoubtedly proved the most destructive canker of the Roman
State. It was this social evil, more than political misrule, which
undermined the empire. Slavery proved at Rome a monstrous curse,
destroying all manliness of character, creating contempt of honest
labor, making men timorous yet cruel, idle, frivolous, weak, dependent,
powerless. The empire might have lasted centuries longer but for this
incubus, the standing disgrace of the Pagan world. Paganism never
recognized what is most noble and glorious in man; never recognized his
equality, his common brotherhood, his natural rights. It had no
compunction, no remorse in depriving human beings of their highest
privileges; its whole tendency was to degrade the soul, and to cause
forgetfulness of immortality. Slavery thrives best when the generous
instincts are suppressed, when egotism, sensuality, and pride are the
dominant springs of human action.

The same influences which tended to rob man of the rights which God has
given him, and produce cruelty and heartlessness in the general
intercourse of life, also tended to degrade the female sex. In the
earlier age of the republic, when the people were poor, and life was
simple and primitive, and heroism and patriotism were characteristic,
woman was comparatively virtuous and respected; she asserted her natural
equality, and led a life of domestic tranquillity, employed upon the
training of her children, and inspiring her husband to noble deeds. But
under the Emperors these virtues had fled. Woman was miserably educated,
being taught by a slave, or some Greek chambermaid, accustomed to ribald
conversation, and fed with idle tales and silly superstitions; she was
regarded as more vicious in natural inclination than man, and was
chiefly valued for household labors; she was reduced to dependence; she
saw but little of her brothers or relatives; she was confined to her
home as if it were a prison; she was guarded by eunuchs and female
slaves; she was given in marriage without her consent; she could be
easily divorced; she was valued only as a domestic servant, or as an
animal to prevent the extinction of families; she was regarded as the
inferior of her husband, to whom she was a victim, a toy, or a slave.
Love after marriage was not frequent, since woman did not shine in the
virtues by which love is kept alive. She became timorous or frivolous,
without dignity or public esteem; her happiness was in extravagant
attire, in elaborate hair-dressings, in rings and bracelets, in a
retinue of servants, in gilded apartments, in luxurious couches, in
voluptuous dances, in exciting banquets, in demoralizing spectacles, in
frivolous gossip, in inglorious idleness. If virtuous, it was not so
much from principle as from fear. Hence she resorted to all sorts of
arts to deceive her husband; her genius was sharpened by perpetual
devices, and cunning was her great resource. She cultivated no lofty
friendships; she engaged in no philanthropic mission; she cherished no
ennobling sentiments; she kindled no chivalrous admiration. Her
amusements were frivolous, her taste vitiated, her education neglected,
her rights violated, her sympathy despised, her aspirations scorned.
And here I do not allude to great and infamous examples that history has
handed down in the sober pages of Suetonius and Tacitus, or that
unblushing depravity which stands out in the bitter satires of those
times; I speak not of the adultery, the poisoning, the infanticide, the
debauchery, the cruelty of which history accuses the Messalinas and
Agrippinas of imperial Rome; I allude not to the orgies of the Palatine
Hill, or the abominations which are inferred from the paintings of
Pompeii,--I mean the general frivolity and extravagance and
demoralization of the women of the Roman empire. Marriage was considered
inexpedient unless large dowries were brought to the husband. Numerous
were the efforts of Emperors to promote honorable marriages, but the
relation was shunned. Courtesans usurped the privileges of wives, and
with unblushing effrontery. A man was derided who contemplated
matrimony, for there was but little confidence in female virtue or
capacity, and woman lost all her fascination when age had destroyed her
beauty; even her very virtues were distasteful to her self-indulgent
husband. When, as sometimes happened, the wife gained the ascendency by
her charms, she was tyrannical; her relatives incited her to despoil her
husband; she lived amid incessant broils; she had no care for the
future, and exceeded man in prodigality. "The government of her house is
no more merciful," says Juvenal, "than the court of a Sicilian tyrant."
In order to render herself attractive, she exhausted all the arts of
cosmetics and elaborate hair-dressing; she delighted in magical
incantations and love-potions. In the bitter satire of Juvenal we get an
impression most melancholy and loathsome:--

"'T were long to tell what philters they provide,
What drugs to set a son-in-law aside,--
Women, in judgment weak, in feeling strong,
By every gust of passion borne along.
To a fond spouse a wife no mercy shows;
Though warmed with equal fires, she mocks his woes,
And triumphs in his spoils; her wayward will
Defeats his bliss and turns his good to ill.
Women support the bar; they love the law,
And raise litigious questions for a straw.
Nay, more, they fence! who has not marked their oil,
Their purple rigs, for this preposterous toil!
A woman stops at nothing; when she wears
Rich emeralds round her neck, and in her ears
Pearls of enormous size,--these justify
Her faults, and make all lawful in her eye.
More shame to Rome! in every street are found
The essenced Lypanti, with roses crowned;
The gay Miletan and the Tarentine,
Lewd, petulant, and reeling ripe with wine!"

In the sixth satire of Juvenal is found the most severe delineation of
woman that ever mortal penned. Doubtless he is libellous and
extravagant, for only infamous women can stoop to such arts and
degradations as would seem to have been common in his time. But with all
his probable exaggeration, we are forced to feel that but few women,
even in the highest class, except those converted to Christianity,
showed the virtues of a Lucretia, a Volumnia, a Cornelia, or an Octavia.
The lofty virtues of a Perpetua, a Felicitas, an Agnes, a Paula, a
Blessilla, a Fabiola, would have adorned any civilization; but the great
mass were, what they were in Greece even in the days of Pericles, what
they have ever been under the influence of Paganism, what they ever will
be without Christianity to guide them,--victims or slaves of man,
revenging themselves by squandering his wealth, stealing his secrets,
betraying his interests, and deserting his home.

Another essential but demoralizing feature of Roman society was to be
found in the games and festivals and gladiatorial shows, which
accustomed the people to unnatural excitement and familiarity with
cruelty and suffering. They made all ordinary pleasures insipid; they
ended in making homicide an institution. The butcheries of the
amphitheatre exerted a fascination which diverted the mind from
literature, art, and the enjoyments of domestic life. Very early they
were the favorite sport of the Romans. Marcus and Decimus Brutus
employed gladiators in celebrating the obsequies of their fathers,
nearly three centuries before Christ. "The wealth and ingenuity of the
aristocracy were taxed to the utmost to content the populace and provide
food for the indiscriminate slaughter of the circus, where brute fought
with brute, and man again with man, or where the skill and weapons of
the latter were matched against the strength and ferocity of the first."
Pompey let loose six hundred lions in the arena in one day; Augustus
delighted the people with four hundred and twenty panthers. The games of
Trajan lasted one hundred and twenty days, when ten thousand gladiators
fought, and ten thousand beasts were slain. Titus slaughtered five
thousand animals at a time; twenty elephants contended, according to
Pliny, against a band of six hundred captives. Probus reserved six
hundred gladiators for one of his festivals, and slaughtered on another
two hundred lions, twenty leopards, and three hundred bears; Gordian let
loose three hundred African hyenas and ten Indian tigers in the arena.
Every corner of the earth was ransacked for these wild animals, which
were so highly valued that in the time of Theodosius it was forbidden by
law to destroy a Getulian lion. No one can contemplate the statue of the
Dying Gladiator which now ornaments the capitol at Rome, without
emotions of pity and admiration. If a marble statue can thus move us,
what was it to see the Christian gladiators contending with the fierce
lions of Africa! "The Christians to the lions!" was the cry of the
brutal populace. What a sight was the old amphitheatre of Titus, five
hundred and sixty feet long and four hundred and seventy feet wide,
built on eighty arches and rising one hundred and forty feet into the
air, with its four successive orders of architecture, and enclosing its
eighty thousand seated spectators, arranged according to rank, from the
Emperor to the lowest of the populace, all seated on marble benches
covered with cushions, and protected from the sun and rain by ample
canopies! What an excitement, when men strove not with wild beasts
alone, but with one another; and when all that human skill and strength,
increased by elaborate treatment, and taxed to the uttermost, were put
forth in needless slaughter, until the thirsty soil was wet and
saturated with human gore! Familiarity with such sights must have
hardened the heart and rendered the mind insensible to refined
pleasures. What theatres are to the French, what bull-fights are to the
Spaniards, what horse-races are to the English, these gladiatorial shows
were to the ancient Romans. The ruins of hundreds of amphitheatres
attest the universality of the custom, not in Rome alone, but in the

Probably no people abandoned themselves to pleasures more universally
than the Romans, after war had ceased to be their master passion. All
classes alike pursued them with restless eagerness. Amusements were the
fashion and the business of life. At the theatre, at the great
gladiatorial shows, at the chariot races, emperors and senators and
generals were always present in conspicuous and reserved seats of honor;
behind them were the patricians, and then the ordinary citizens, and in
the rear of these the people fed at the public expense. The Circus
Maximus, the Theatre of Pompey, the Amphitheatre of Titus, would
collectively accommodate over four hundred thousand spectators. We may
presume that over five hundred thousand persons were in the habit of
constant attendance on these demoralizing sports; and the fashion spread
throughout all the great cities of the empire, so that there was
scarcely a city of twenty thousand inhabitants which had not its
theatres, amphitheatres, or circus. And when we remember the heavy bets
on favorite horses, and the universal passion for gambling in every
shape, we can form some idea of the effect of these amusements on the
common mind,--destroying the taste for home pleasures, and for all that
was intellectual and simple.

What are we to think of a state of society where all classes had
continual leisure for these sports! Habits of industry were destroyed,
and all respect for employments that required labor. The rich were
supported by contributions from the provinces, since they were the
great proprietors of conquered lands; the poor had no solicitude for a
living, since they were supported at the public expense. All therefore
gave themselves up to pleasure. Even the baths, designed for sanatory
purposes, became places of resort and idleness, and ultimately of
intrigue and vice. In the time of Julius Caesar we find no less a
personage than the mother of Augustus making use of the public
establishments; and in process of time the Emperors themselves bathed in
public with the meanest of their subjects. The baths in the time of
Alexander Severus were not only kept open from sunrise to sunset, but
even during the whole night. The luxurious classes almost lived in the
baths. Commodus took his meals in the bath. Gordian bathed seven times
in the day, and Gallienus as often. They bathed before they took their
meals, and after meals to provoke a new appetite; they did not content
themselves with a single bath, but went through a course of baths in
succession, in which the agency of air as well as of water was applied;
and the bathers were attended by an army of slaves given over to every
sort of roguery and theft. Nor were water and air baths alone used; the
people made use of scented oils to anoint their persons, and perfumed
the water itself with the most precious essences. Bodily health and
cleanliness were only secondary considerations; voluptuous pleasure was
the main object. The ruins of the baths of Titus, Caracalla, and
Diocletian in Rome show that they were decorated with prodigal
magnificence, and with everything that could excite the
passions,--pictures, statues, ornaments, and mirrors. The baths were
scenes of orgies consecrated to Bacchus, and the frescos on the
excavated baths of Pompeii still raise a blush on the face of every
spectator who visits them. I speak not of the elaborate ornaments, the
Numidian marbles, the precious stones, the exquisite sculptures that
formed part of the decorations of the Roman baths, but of the
demoralizing pleasures with which they were connected, and which they
tended to promote. The baths ultimately became, according to the ancient
writers, places of excessive and degrading debauchery.

"Balnea, vina, Venus corrumpunt corpora nostra."

If it were possible to allude to an evil more revolting than the sports
of the amphitheatre and circus, or the extravagant luxuries of the
table, I would say that the universal abandonment to money-making, for
the enjoyment of the factitious pleasures it purchased, was even still
more melancholy, since it struck deeper into the foundations which
supported society. The leading spring of life was money. Boys were bred
from early youth to all the mysteries of unscrupulous gains. Usury was
practised to such an incredible extent that the interest on loans in
some instances equalled, in a few months, the whole capital; this was
the more aristocratic mode of making money, which not even senators
disdained. The pages of the poets show how profoundly money was prized,
and how miserable were people without it. Rich old bachelors, without
heirs, were held in the supremest honor. Money was the first object in
all matrimonial alliances; and provided that women were only wealthy,
neither bridegroom nor parent was fastidious as to age, or deformity, or
meanness of family, or vulgarity of person. The needy descendants of the
old patricians yoked themselves with fortunate plebeians, and the
blooming maidens of a comfortable obscurity sold themselves, without
shame or reluctance, to the bloated sensualists who could give them what
they supremely valued,--chariots and diamonds. The giddy women in love
with ornaments and dress, and the godless men seeking what they should
eat, could only be satisfied with what purchased their pleasures. The
haughtiest aristocracy ever known on earth, tracing their lineage to the
times of Cato and boasting of their descent from the Scipios and the
Pompeys, accustomed themselves at last to regard money as the only test
of their own social position. The great Augustine found himself utterly
neglected at Rome because of his poverty,--being dependent on his
pupils, and they being mean enough to run away without paying him.
Literature languished and died, since it brought neither honor nor
emolument. No dignitary was respected for his office, only for his
gains; nor was any office prized which did not bring rich emoluments.
Corruption was so universal that an official in an important post was
sure of making a fortune in a short time. With such an idolatry of
money, all trades and professions which were not favorable to its
accumulation fell into disrepute, while those who administered to the
pleasures of a rich man were held in honor. Cooks, buffoons, and dancers
received the consideration which artists and philosophers enjoyed at
Athens in the days of Pericles. But artists and scholars were very few
indeed in the more degenerate days of the empire; nor would they have
had influence. The wit of a Petronius, the ridicule of a Martial, the
bitter sarcasm of a Juvenal were lost on a people abandoned to frivolous
gossip and demoralizing excesses. The haughty scorn with which a sensual
beauty, living on the smiles and purse of a fortunate glutton, would
pass in her gilded chariot some of the impoverished descendants of the
great Camillus might have provoked a smile, had any one been found, even
a neglected poet, to give them countenance and sympathy. But, alas!
everybody worshipped at the shrine of Mammon; everybody was valued for
what he _had_, rather than for what he _was_; and life was prized, not
for those pleasures which are cheap and free as heaven, not for quiet
tastes and rich affections and generous sympathies,--the glorious
certitudes of love, esteem, and friendship, which, "be they what they
may, are yet the fountain-life of all our day,"--but for the
gratification of depraved and expensive tastes, of those short-lived
enjoyments which ended with the decay of appetite and the _ennui_ of
realized expectation,--all of the earth, earthy; making a wreck of the
divine image which was made for God and heaven, preparing the way for a
most fearful retribution, and producing on contemplative minds a sadness
allied with despair, driving them to caves and solitudes, and making
death the relief from sorrow.

The fourteenth satire of Juvenal is directed mainly to the universal
passion for gain and the demoralizing vices it brings in its train,
which made Rome a Vanity Fair and even a Pandemonium.

The old Greek philosophers gloried in their poverty; but poverty was the
greatest reproach to a Roman. "In exact proportion to the sum of money a
man keeps in his chest," says Juvenal, "is the credit given to his oath.
And the first question ever asked of a man is in reference to his
income, rather than his character. How many slaves does he keep; how
many acres does he own; what dishes are his table spread with?--these
are the universal inquiries. Poverty, bitter though it be, has no
sharper sting than this,--that it makes men ridiculous. Who was ever
allowed at Borne to become a son-in-law, if his estate was inferior?
What poor man's name appears in any will?"

And with this reproach of poverty there were no means to escape from it.
Nor was there alleviation. A man was regarded as a fool who gave
anything except to the rich. Charity and benevolence were unknown
virtues. The sick and the miserable were left to die unlamented and
unknown. Prosperity and success, no matter by what means they were
purchased, secured reverence and influence.

Such was imperial Rome, in all the internal relations of life, and amid
all the trophies and praises which resulted from universal conquest,--a
sad, gloomy, dismal picture, which fills us with disgust as well as
melancholy. If any one deems it an exaggeration, he has only to read
Saint Paul's first chapter in his epistle to the Romans. I cannot
understand the enthusiasm of Gibbon for such a people, or for such an
empire,--a grinding and resistless imperial despotism, a sensual and
proud aristocracy, a debased and ignorant populace, enormously
disproportionate conditions of fortune, slavery flourishing to a state
unprecedented in the world's history, women the victims and the toys of
men, lax sentiments of public and private morality, a whole people given
over to demoralizing sports and spectacles, pleasure the master passion
of the people, money the mainspring of society, a universal indulgence
in all the vices which lead to violence and prepare the way for the
total eclipse of the glory of man. Of what value was the cultivation of
Nature, or a splendid material civilization, or great armies, or an
unrivalled jurisprudence, or the triumph of energy and skill, when the
moral health was completely undermined? A world therefore as fair and
glorious as our own must needs crumble away. There were no powerful
conservative forces; the poison had descended to the extremities of the
social system. A corrupt body must die when vitality has fled. The soul
was gone; principle, patriotism, virtue, had all passed away. The
barbarians were advancing to conquer and desolate; there was no power to
resist them but enervated and timid legions, with the accumulated vices
of all the nations of the earth, which they had been learning for four
hundred years. Society must needs resolve itself into its original
elements when men would not make sacrifices, and so few belonged to
their country. The machine was sure to break up at the first great
shock. No State could stand with such an accumulation of wrongs, with
such complicated and fatal diseases eating out the vitals of the
empire. No form of civilization, however brilliant and lauded, could
arrest decay and ruin when public and private virtue had fled. The house
was built upon the sand.

The army might rally under able generals, in view of the approaching
catastrophe; philosophy might console the days of a few indignant
citizens; good Emperors might attempt to raise barriers against
corruption,--still, nothing, according to natural laws, could save the
empire. Even Christianity could not arrest the ruin. It had converted
thousands, and had sowed the seeds of future and better civilizations.
It was sent, however, not to save a decayed and demoralized empire, but
the world itself. Not until the Germanic barbarians, with their nobler
elements of character, had taken possession of the seats of the old
civilization, were the real triumphs of Christianity seen. Had the Roman
empire continued longer, Christianity might have become still more
corrupted; in the prevailing degeneracy it certainly could not save what
was not worth preserving. The strong grasp which Rome had laid upon the
splendors of all the ancient Pagan Civilizations was to be relaxed.
Antiquity had lived out its life. The empire of the Caesars was doomed.
Retributive justice must march on in its majestic course. The empire had
accomplished its mission; the time came for it to die. The Sibylline
oracle must needs be fulfilled: "O haughty Rome, the divine chastisement
shall come upon thee; fire shall consume thee; thy wealth shall perish;
foxes and wolves shall dwell among thy ruins: and then what land that
thou hast enslaved shall be thy ally, and which of thy gods shall save
thee? For there shall be confusion over the face of the whole earth, and
the fall of cities shall come."

* * * * *


Mr. Merivale has written fully on the condition of the empire. Gibbon
has occasional paragraphs which show the condition of Roman society.
Lyman's Life of the Emperors should be read, and also DeQuincey's Lives
of the Caesars. See also Niebuhr, Arnold, Mommsen, and Curtius, though
these writers have chiefly confined themselves to republican Rome. But
if one would get the truest and most vivid description, he must read the
Roman poets, especially Juvenal and Martial. The work of Petronius is
too indecent to be read. Ammianus Marcellinus gives us some striking
pictures of the later Romans. Suetonius, in his lives of the Caesars,
furnishes many facts. Becker's Gallus is a fine description of Roman
habits and customs. Lucian does not describe Roman manners, but he aims
his sarcasm at the hollowness of Roman life, as do the great satirists
generally. These can all be had in translations.

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