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Social life at Rome in the Age of Cicero by W. Warde Fowler

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"On another occasion, when a kinsman on his birthday invited some boys
to supper and Cato with them, in order to pass the time they played in
a part of the house by themselves, younger and older together: and the
game consisted of accusations and trials, and the arresting of those
who were convicted. Now one of the boys convicted, who was of a
handsome presence, being dragged off by an older boy to a chamber and
shut up, called on Cato for aid. Cato seeing what was going on came to
the door, and pushing through those who were posted in front of it
to prevent him, took the boy out; and went off home with him in a
passion, accompanied by other boys."

This is a unique picture of the ways and games of boys in the last
century of the Republic. Like the children of all times, they play at
that in which they see their fathers most active and interested; and
this particular game must have been played in the miserable years of
the civil wars and the proscriptions, as Cato was born in 95 B.C.
Whether the part played by Cato in the story be true or not, the
lesson for us is the same, and we shall find it entirely confirmed
in the course of this chapter. The main object of education was the
mastery of the art of oratory, and the chief practical use of that
art was to enable a man to gain a reputation as an advocate in the
criminal courts.[253]

Cicero had one boy, and for several years two, to look after, one his
own son Marcus, born in 65 B.C., and the other Quintus, the son of
his brother, a year older. Of these boys, until they took the toga
virilis, he says hardly anything in his letters to Atticus, though
Atticus was the uncle of the elder boy. Only when his brother Quintus
was with Caesar in Gaul do we really begin to hear anything about
them, and even then more than once, after a brief mention of the young
Quintus, he goes off at once to tell his brother about the progress
of the villas that are being built for him. But it is clear that the
father wished to know about the boy as well as about the villas;[254]
and in one letter we find Cicero telling Quintus that he wishes to
teach his boy himself, as he has been teaching his own son. "I'll do
wonders with him if I can get him to myself when I am at leisure, for
at Rome there is not time to breathe (nam Romae respirandi non est
locus)."[255] It is clear that the boys, who were only eleven and
twelve in this year 54, were being educated at home, and as clear too
that Cicero, who was just then very much occupied in the courts, had
no time to attend to them himself. Young Quintus, we hear, gets on
well with his rhetoric master; Cicero does not wholly approve the
style in which he is being taught, and thinks he may be able to teach
him his own more learned style, though the boy himself seems to prefer
the declamatory method of the teacher.[256] The last entry in these
letters to the absent father is curious:[257] "I love your Cicero as
he deserves and as I ought. But I am letting him leave me, because I
don't want to keep him from his masters, and because his mother is
going away,--and without her I am nervous about his greediness!" Up to
this point he has written in the warmest terms of the boy, but here,
as so often in Cicero's letters about other people, disapprobation is
barely hinted in order not to hurt the feelings of his correspondent.

The one thing that is really pleasing in these allusions is the
genuine desire of both parents that their boys shall be of good
disposition and well educated. But of real training or of home
discipline we unluckily get no hint. We must go elsewhere for what
little we know about the training of children. Let us now turn to
this for a while, remembering that it means parental example and
the discipline of the body as well as the acquisition of elementary
knowledge. Unfortunately, no book has survived from that age in which
the education of children was treated of. Varro wrote such a book,
but we know of it little more than its name, _Catus, sive de liberis
educandis_.[258] In the fourth book of his _de Republica_ Cicero seems
to have dealt with "disciplina puerilis," but from the few fragments
that survive there is little to be learnt, and we may be pretty sure
that Cicero could not write of this with much knowledge or experience.
The most famous passage is that in which he quotes Polybius as blaming
the Romans for neglecting it;[259] certainly, he adds, they never
wished that the State should regulate the education of children, or
that it should be all on one model; the Greeks took much unnecessary
trouble about it. The Greeks of his own time whom Cicero knew did not
inspire him with any exalted idea of the results of Greek education;
but we should like to know whether in this book of his work on the
State he did not express some feeling that on the children themselves,
and therefore on their training, the fortunes of the State depend.
Such had been the feeling of the old Romans, though their State laid
down no laws for education, but trusted to the force of tradition and
custom. Old Cato believed himself to be acting like an old Roman when
he looked after the washing and dressing of his baby, and guided the
child with personal care as he grew up, writing books for his use in
large letters with his own hand.[260] But since Cato's day the idea
of the State had lost strength; and this had an unfortunate effect
on education, as on married life. The one hope of the age, the Stoic
philosophy, was concerned with those who had attained to reason, i.e.
to those who had reached their fourteenth year; in the Stoic view
the child was indeed potentially reasonable, and thus a subject of
interest, but in the Stoic ethics education does not take a very
prominent place.[261] We are driven to the conclusion that a real
interest in education as distinct from the acquisition of knowledge
was as much wanting at Rome in Cicero's day as it has been till lately
in England; and that it was not again awakened until Christianity had
made the children sacred, not only because the Master so spoke of
them, but because they were inheritors of eternal life.

Yet there had once been a Roman home education admirably suited
to bring up a race of hardy and dutiful men and women. It was an
education in the family virtues, thereafter to be turned to account
in the service of the State. The mother nursed her own children and
tended them in their earliest years. Then followed an education which
we may call one in bodily activity, in demeanour, in religion, and in
duty to the State. It is true that we have hardly any evidence of this
but tradition; but when Varro, in one of the precious fragments of his
book on education, describes his own bringing up in his Sabine home at
Reate, we may be fairly sure that it adequately represents that of
the old Roman farmer.[262] He tells us that he had a single tunic
and toga, was seldom allowed a bath, and was made to learn to ride
bareback--which reminds us of the life of the young Boer of the
Transvaal before the late war. In another fragment he also tells us
that both boys and girls used to wait on their parents at table.[263]
Cato the elder, in a fragment preserved by Festus,[264] says that
he was brought up from his earliest years to be frugal, hardy, and
industrious, and worked steadily on the farm (in the Sabine country),
in a stony region where he had to dig and plant the flinty soil. The
tradition of such a healthy rearing remained in the memory of the
Romans, and associated itself with the Sabines of central Italy, the
type of men who could be called _frugi_:

rusticorum mascula militum
proles, Sabellis docta ligonibus
versare glebas et severae
matris ad arbitrium recisos
portare fustis.[265]

It was an education also in demeanour, and especially in
obedience[266] and modesty. In that chapter of Plutarch's _Life of
Cato_ which has been already quoted, after describing how the father
taught his boy to ride, to box, to swim, and so on, he goes on, "And
he was as careful not to utter an indecent word before his son, as he
would have been in the presence of the Vestal Virgins." The _pudor_ of
childhood was always esteemed at Rome: "adolescens pudentissimus" is
the highest praise that can be given even to a grown youth;[267] and
there are signs that a feeling survived of a certain sacredness of
childhood, which Juvenal reflects in his famous words, "Maxima debetur
puero reverentia." The origin of this feeling is probably to be found
in the fact that both boys and girls were in ancient times brought
up to help in performing the religious duties of the household, as
camilli and camillae (acolytes); and this is perhaps the reason why
they wore, throughout Roman history, the toga praetexta with the
purple stripe, like magistrates and sacrificing priests.[268] It is
hardly necessary to say that this religious side of education was an
education in the practice of cult, and not in any kind of creed or
ideas about the gods; but so far as it went its influence was good, as
instilling the habit of reverence and the sense of duty from a very
early age. Though the Romans of Cicero's time had lost their old
conviction of the necessity of propitiating the gods of the State, it
is probable that the tradition of family worship still survived in the
majority of households.

Again, we may be sure that the idea of duty to the State was not
omitted in this old-fashioned education. Cato wrote histories for his
son in large letters, "so that without stirring out of the house,
he might gain a knowledge of the illustrious actions of the ancient
Romans, and of the customs of his country": but it is significant that
in the next two or three generations the writers of annals took to
glorifying--and falsifying--the achievements of members of their own
families, rather than those of the State as a whole. Boys learnt the
XII Tables by heart, and Cicero tells us that he did this in his own
boyhood, though the practice had since then been dropped.[269] That
ancient code of law would have acted, we may imagine, as a kind of
catechism of the rules laid down by the State for the conduct of its
citizens, and as a reminder that though the State had outgrown the
rough legal clothing of its infancy, it had from the very beginning
undertaken the duty of regulating the conduct of its citizens in their
relations with each other. Again, when a great Roman died, it is said
to have been the practice for parents to take their boys to hear the
funeral oration in praise of one who had done great service to the

All this was admirable, and if Rome had not become a great imperial
state, and if some super-structure of the humanities could have been
added in a natural process of development, it might have continued
for ages as an invaluable educational basis. But the conditions under
which alone it could flourish had long ceased to be. It is obvious
that it depended entirely on the presence of the parents and their
interest in the children; as regards the boys it depended chiefly on
the father. Now ever since the Roman dominion was extended beyond sea,
i.e. ever since the first two Punic wars, the father of a family must
often have been away from home for long periods; he might have to
serve in foreign wars for years together, and in numberless cases
never saw Italy again. Even if he remained in Rome, the ever
increasing business of the State would occupy him far more than
was compatible with a constant personal care for his children. The
conscientious Roman father of the last two centuries B.C. must have
felt even more keenly than English parents in India the sorrow of
parting from their children at an age when they are most in need of
parental care. We have to remember that in Cicero's day letter-writing
had only recently become possible on an extended scale through the
increasing business of the publicani in the provinces (see above, p.
74); the Roman father in Spain or Asia seldom heard of what his wife
and children were doing, and the inevitable result was that he began
to cease to care. In fact more and more came to depend on the mothers,
as with our own hard-working professional classes; and we have seen
reason to believe that in the last age of the Republic the average
mother was not too often a conscientious or dutiful woman. The
constant liability to divorce would naturally diminish her interest in
her children, for after separation she had no part or lot in them. And
this no doubt is one reason why at this particular period we hear so
little of the life of children. There is indeed no reason to suppose
that they themselves were unhappy; they had plenty of games, which
were so familiar that the poets often allude to them--hoops, tops,
dolls, blind man's buff, and the favourite games of "nuts" and
"king."[271] But the real question is not whether they could enjoy
their young life, but whether they were learning to use their bodies
and minds to good purpose.

When a boy was about seven years old, the question would arise in
most families whether he should remain at home or go to an elementary
school.[272] No doubt it was usually decided by the means at the
command of the parents. A wealthy father might see his son through his
whole education at home by providing a tutor (paedagogus), and more
advanced teachers as they were needed. Cato indeed, as we have seen,
found time to do much of the work himself, but he also had a slave
who taught his own and other children. Aemilius Paullus had
several teachers in his house for this purpose, under his own
superintendence.[273] Cicero too, as we have seen, seems to have
educated his son at home, though he himself is said to have attended a
school. But we may suppose that the ordinary boy of the upper classes
went to school, under the care of a paedagogus, after the Greek
fashion, rising before daylight, and submitting to severe discipline,
which, together with the absolute necessity for a free Roman of
attaining a certain level of acquirement, effectually compelled him to
learn to read, write, and cipher.[274] This elementary work must
have been done well; we hear little or nothing of gross ignorance or
neglected education.

There were, however, very serious defects in this system of elementary
education. Not only the schoolmaster himself, but the paedagogus who
was responsible for the boy's conduct, was almost always either a
slave or a freedman; and neither slave nor freedman could be an object
of profound respect for a Roman boy. Hence no doubt the necessity of
maintaining discipline rather by means of corporal punishment (to
which the Romans never seem to have objected, though Quintilian
criticises it)[275] than by moral force; a fact which is attested both
in literature and art. The responsibility again which attached to the
paedagogus for the boy's morals must have been another inducement to
the parents to renounce their proper work of supervision.[276] And
once more, the great majority of teachers were Greeks. As the boy was
born into a bilingual Graeco-Roman world, of which the Greeks were the
only cultured people, this might seem natural and inevitable; but we
know that in his heart the Roman despised the Greek. Of witnesses in
their favour we might expect Cicero to be the strongest, but Cicero
occasionally lets us know what he really thinks of their moral
character. In a remarkable passage in his speech for Flaccus, which
is fully borne out by remarks in his private letters, he says that he
grants them all manner of literary and rhetorical skill, but that
the race never understood or cared for the sacred binding force of
testimony given in a court of law.[277] Thus the Roman boy was in the
anomalous position of having to submit to chastisement from men whom
as men he despised. Assuredly we should not like our public schoolboys
to be taught or punished by men of low station or of an inferior
standard of morals It is men, not methods, that really tell in
education; the Roman schoolboy needed some one to believe in some one
to whom to be wholly loyal; the very same overpowering need which
was so obvious in the political world of Rome in the last century

Of this elementary teaching little need be said here, as it did not
bear directly on life and conduct. There is, however, one feature of
it which may claim our attention for a moment. Both in reading and
writing, and also for learning by heart, _sententiae_ [Greek: gnomai]
were used, which remind us of our copy-book maxims. Of these we have a
large collection, more than 700, selected from the mimes of Publilius
Syrus, who came to Rome from Syria as a slave in the age of which we
are writing, and after obtaining his freedom gained great reputation
as the author of many popular plays of this kind, in which he
contrived to insert these wise saws and maxims. It is not likely that
they found their way into the schools all at once, but in the early
Empire we find them already alluded to as educational material by
Seneca the elder,[279] and we may take them as a fair example of the
maxims already in use in Cicero's time, making some allowance for
their superior neatness and wisdom. Here are a few specimens, taken
almost at random; it will be seen that they convey much shrewd good
sense, and occasionally have the true ring of humanity as well as the
flavour of Stoic _sapientia_. I quote from the excellent edition by
Mr. Bickford-Smith.[280]

Avarus ipse miseriae causa est suae.
Audendo virtus crescit, tardando timor.
Cicatrix conscientiae pro vulnere est.
Fortunam[281] citius reperias quam retineas.
Cravissima est probi hominis iracundia.
Homo totiens moritur, quotiens amittit suos.
Homo vitae commodatus, non donatus est.
Humanitatis optima est certatio.
Iucundum nil est, nisi quod reficit varietas.
Malum est consilium quod mutari non potest.
Minus saepe pecces, si scias quod nescias.
Perpetuo vincit qui utitur clementia.
Qui ius iurandum servat, quovis pervenit.
Ubi peccat aetas maior, male discit minor.

I have quoted these to show that Roman children were not without
opportunity even in early schooldays of laying to heart much that
might lead them to good and generous conduct in later life, as well as
to practical wisdom. But we know the fate of our own copy-book maxims;
we know that it is not through them that our children become good men
and women, but by the example and the un-systematised precepts of
parents and teachers. No such neat [Greek gnomai] can do much good
without a sanction of greater force than any that is inherent in
them and such a sanction was not to be found in the ferula of the
grammaticus or the paedagogus. Once more it is men and not methods
that supply the real educational force.

Probably the greatest difficulty which the Roman boy had to face in
his school life was the learning of arithmetic; it was this, we may
imagine, that made him think of his master, as Horace did of the
worthy Orbilius,[282] as a man of blows (plagosus). This is not the
place to give an account of the methods of reckoning then used; they
will be found fully explained in Marquardt's _Privatleben_,
and compressed into a page by Professor Wilkins in his _Roman
Education_[283]. It is enough to say that they were as indispensable
as they were difficult to learn. "An orator was expected, according to
Quintilian (i. 10. 35), not only to be able to make his calculations
in court, but also to show clearly to his audience how he arrived at
his results." From the small inn-keeper to the great capitalist, every
man of business needed to be perfectly at home in reckoning sums of
money. The magistrates, especially quaestors and aediles, had staffs
of clerks who must have been skilled accountants; the provincial
governors and all who were engaged in collecting the tributes of the
provinces, as well as in lending the money to enable the tax-payers to
pay (see above, 71 foll.), were constantly busy with their ledgers.
The humbler inhabitants of the Empire had long been growing familiar
with the Roman aptitude for arithmetic.[284]

Grais ingenium, Grais dedit ore rotundo
Musa loqui, praeter laudem nullius avaris.
Romani pueri longis rationibus assem
discunt in partes centum diducere. "Dicat
films Albini: si de quincunce remota est
uncia, quid superat? poteras dixisse." "triens." "eu!
rem poteris servare tuam."[285]

This familiar passage may be quoted once more to illustrate the
practical nature of the Roman school teaching and the ends which it
was to serve. Utilitarian to the backbone, the ordinary Roman, like
the ordinary British, parent, wanted his son to get on in life; it
was only the parent of a higher class who sacrificed anything to the
Muses, and then chiefly because in a public career it was _de rigueur_
that the boy should not be ignorant or boorish.

When the son of well-to-do parents had mastered the necessary
elements, he was advanced to the higher type of school kept by a
_grammaticus_, and there made his first real acquaintance with
literature; and this was henceforward, until he began to study
rhetoric and philosophy, the staple of his work. We may note, by the
way, that science, i.e. the higher mathematics and astronomy,
was reckoned under the head of philosophy, while medicine and
jurisprudence had become professional studies,[286] to learn which it
was necessary to attach yourself to an experienced practitioner, as
with the art of war In the grammar schools, as we may call them, the
course was purely literary and humanistic, and it was conducted both
in Greek and Latin, but chiefly in Greek, as a natural result of the
comparative scantiness of Latin literature.[287] Homer, Hesiod, and
Menander were the favourite authors studied; only later on, after the
full bloom of the Augustan literature, did Latin poets, especially
Virgil and Horace, take a place of almost equal importance. The study
of the Greek poets was apparently a thorough one. It included the
teaching of language, grammar, metre, style, and subject matter, and
was aided by reading aloud, which was reckoned of great importance,
and learning by heart, on the part of the pupils. In the discussion
of the subject matter any amount of comment was freely allowed to
the master, who indeed was expected to have at his fingers' ends
explanations of all sorts of allusions, and thus to enable the boys to
pick up a great deal of odd knowledge and a certain amount of history,
mixed up of course with a large percentage of valueless mythology.
"In grammaticis," says Cicero, "poetarum pertractatio, historiarum
cognitio, verborum interpretatio, pronuntiandi quidam sonus."[288] The
method, if such it can be called, was not at all unlike that pursued
in our own public schools, Eton, for example, before new methods and
subjects came in. Its great defect in each case was that it gave but
little opportunity for learning to distinguish fact from fancy,
or acquiring that scientific habit of mind which is now becoming
essential for success in all departments of life, and which at Rome
was so rare that it seems audacious to claim it even for such a man of
action as Caesar, or for such a man of letters as Varro. In England
this defect was compensated to some extent by the manly tone of school
life, but at Rome that side of school education was wanting, and the
result was a want of solidity both intellectual and moral.

The one saving feature, given a really good and high-minded teacher,
might be the appeal to the example of the great and good men of the
past, both Greek and Roman, and the study of their motives in action,
in good fortune and ill. This is the kind of teaching which we find
illustrated in the book of Valerius Maximus, which has already been
alluded to, who takes some special virtue or fine quality as the
subject of most of his chapters,[289]--fortitudo, patientia,
abstinentia, moderatio, pietas erga parentes, amicitia, and so on,
and illustrates them by examples and stories drawn mainly from Roman
history, partly also from Greek. This kind of appeal to the young mind
was undoubtedly good, and the finest product of the method is the
immortal work of Plutarch, the Lives of the great men of Greece and
Rome, drawn up for ethical rather than historical purposes. But here
again we must note a serious drawback. Any one who turns over the
pages of Valerius will see that these stories of the great men of the
past are so detached from their historical surroundings that they
could not possibly serve as helps in the practical conduct of life;
they might indeed do positive mischief, by leading a shallow reasoner
to suppose that what may have been justifiable at one time and under
certain circumstances, regicide, for example, or exposure of oneself
in battle, is justifiable at all times and in all circumstances. Such
an appeal failed also by discouraging the habit of thinking about the
facts and problems of the day; and right-minded men like Cicero and
Cato the younger both suffered from this weakness of a purely literary
early training. Another drawback is that this teaching inevitably
exaggerated the personal element in history, at the very time too when
personalities were claiming more than their due share of the world's
attention; and thus the great lessons which Polybius had tried to
teach the Graeco-Roman world, of seeking for causes in historical
investigation, and of meditating on the phenomena of the world you
live in, were passed over or forgotten.

But so far as the study of language, of artistic diction, of
elocution, and intelligent reading could help a boy to prepare himself
for life, this education was good; more especially good as laying a
foundation for the acquirement of that art of oratory which, from old
Cato's time onwards, had been the chief end to be aimed at by all
intending to take part in public life. Cato indeed had well said to
his son, "Orator est, Marce fili, vir bonus dicendi peritus,"[290]
thus putting the ethical stamp of the man in the first place; and
his "rem tene, verba sequentur" is a valuable bit of advice for all
learners and teachers of literature. But more and more the end of all
education had come to be the art of oratory, and particularly the art
as exercised in the courts of law, where in Cicero's time neither
truth nor fact was supreme, and where the first thing required was
to be a clever speaker,--a vir bonus by all means if you were so
disposed. But to this we shall return directly.

In such schools, if he were not educated at home, the boy remained
till he was invested with the toga virilis, or pura. In the late
Republic this usually took place between the fourteenth and
seventeenth years;[291] thus the two young Ciceros seem both to have
been sixteen when they received the toga virilis, while Octavian and
Virgil were just fifteen, and the son of Antony only fourteen. In
former times it seems probable that the boy remained "praetextatus"
till he was seventeen, the age at which he was legally capable of
military service, and that he went straight from the home to the
levy;[292] in case of severe military pressure, or if he wished it
himself, he might begin his first military exercises and even his
active service, in the praetexta. But as in so many other ways, so
here the life of the city brought about a change; in a city boys are
apt to develop more rapidly in intelligence if not in body, and as the
toga virilis was the mark of legal qualification as a man, they might
be of more use to the family in the absence of the father if invested
with it somewhat earlier than had been the primitive custom. But there
was no hard and fast rule; boys develop with much variation both
mentally and physically, and, like the Eton collar of our own
schoolboys, the toga of childhood might be retained or dropped
entirely at the discretion of the parents.

There is, however, a great difference in the two cases in regard
to the assumption of the manly dress. With us it does not mean
independence; as a rule the boy remains at school for a year or two at
least under strict discipline. At Rome it meant, on the contrary, that
he was "of age," and in the eye of the law a man, capable of looking
after his own education and of holding property. This was a survival
from the time when at the age of puberty the boy, as among all
primitive peoples, was solemnly received into the body of citizens and
warriors; and the solemnity of the Roman ceremony fully attests this.
After a sacrifice in the house, and the dedication of his boyish toga
and bulla to the Lar familiaris, he was invested with the plain toga
of manhood (libera, pura), and conducted by his father or guardian,
accompanied (in characteristic Roman fashion, see below, p. 271)
by friends and relations, to the Forum, and probably also to the
tabularium under the Capitol, where his name was entered in the list
of full citizens.[293]

With the new arrangement, under which boys might become legally men
at an earlier age than in the old days, it is obvious that there must
often have been an interval before they were physically or mentally
qualified for a profession. As the sole civil profession to which boys
of high family would aspire was that of the bar, a father would send
his son during that interval to a distinguished advocate to be taken
as a pupil. Cicero himself was thus apprenticed to Mucius Scaevola the
augur: and in the same way the young Caelius, as soon as he had taken
his toga virilis, was brought by his father to Cicero. The relation
between the youth and his preceptor was not unlike that of the
_contubernium_ in military life, in which the general to whom a lad
was committed was supposed to be responsible for his welfare and
conduct as well as for his education in the art of war: thus Cicero
says of Caelius[294] that at that period of his life no one ever saw
him "except with his father or with me, or in the very well-conducted
house of M. Crassus" (who shared with Cicero in the guardianship).
"Fuit assiduus mecum," he says a little farther on. This kind of
pupilage was called the _tirocinium fori_, in which a lad should be
pursuing his studies for the legal profession, and also his bodily
exercises in the Campus Martius, so that he might be ready to serve
in the army for the single campaign which was still desirable if not
absolutely necessary. When he had made his first speech in a court of
law, he was said _tirocinium ponere_,[295] and if it were a success,
he might devote himself more particularly henceforward to the art and
practice of oratory. No doubt all really ambitious young men, who
aimed at high office and an eventual provincial government, would,
like Caesar, endeavour to qualify themselves for the army as well as
the Forum. Cicero, however, whose instincts were not military, served
only in one campaign, at the age of seventeen, and apparently he
advised Caelius to do no more than this. Caelius served under
Q. Pompeius proconsul of Africa, to whom he was attached as
_contubernalis_, choosing this province because his father had estates
there.[296] It was only on his return with a good character from
Pompeius that he proceeded to exhibit his skill as an orator by
accusing some distinguished person--in this case the Antonius who was
afterwards consul with Cicero.[297]

To attain the skill in oratory which would enable the pupil to make
a successful appearance in the Forum, he must have gone through an
elaborate training in the art of rhetoric. Cicero does not tell us
whether he himself gave Caelius lessons in rhetoric, or whether he
sent him to a professional teacher; he had himself written a treatise
on a part of the subject--the _de Inventione_ of 80 B.C., the earliest
of all his prose works--and was therefore quite able to give the
necessary instruction if he found time to do so. It is not the object
of this chapter to explain the meaning of rhetoric as the Graeco-Roman
world then understood it, or the theory of a rhetorical education;
for this the reader must be referred to Professor Wilkins' little
book,[298] or, better still, to the main source of our knowledge, the
_Institutio Oratoris_ of Quintilian. Something may, however, be said
here of the view taken of a rhetorical training by Cicero himself,
very clearly expressed in the exordium of the treatise just mentioned,
and often more or less directly reiterated in his later and more
mature works on oratory.

"After much meditation," he says, "I have been led to the conclusion
that wisdom without eloquence is of little use to a state, while
eloquence without wisdom is often positively harmful, and never of any
value. Thus if a man, abandoning the study of reason and duty, which
is always perfectly straight and honourable, spends his whole time in
the practice of speaking, he is being brought up to be a hindrance
to his own development, and a dangerous citizen." This reminds us of
Cato's saying that an orator is "vir bonus dicendi peritus." Less
strongly expressed, the same view is also found in the exordium of
another and more mature treatise on rhetoric, by an author whose name
is unknown, written a year or two before that of Cicero: "Non enim
parum in se fructus habet copia dicendi et commoditas orationis, si
recta intelligentia et definita animi moderatione gubernetur."[299]
We may assume that in Cicero's early years the best men felt that the
rhetorical art, if it were to be of real value to the individual and
the state, must be used with discretion, and accompanied by high aims
and upright conduct.

Yet within a generation of the date when these wise words were
written, the letters of Caelius show us that the art was used utterly
without discretion, and to the detriment both of state and individual.
The high ideal of culture and conduct had been lost in the actual
practice of oratory, in a degenerate age, full of petty ambitions
and animosities. We ourselves know only too well how a thing good in
itself as a means is apt to lose its value if raised into the place of
an end;--how the young mind is apt to elevate cricket, football, golf,
into the main object of all human activity. So it was with rhetoric;
it was the indispensable acquirement to enable a man to enjoy
thoroughly the game in the Forum, and thus in education it became the
staple commodity. The actual process of acquiring it was no doubt an
excellent intellectual exercise,--the learning rules of composition,
the exercises in applying these rules, i.e. the writing of themes or
essays (proposita, communes loci), in which the pupil had "to find and
arrange his own facts,"[300] and then the declamatio, or exercise in
actual speaking on a given subject, which in Cicero's day was called
causa, and was later known as controversia.[301] Such practice must
have brought out much talent and ingenuity, like that of our own
debating societies at school and college. But there were two great
defects in it. First, as Professor Wilkins points out, the subjects
of declamation were too often out of all relation to real life, e.g.
taken from the Greek mythology; or if less barren than usual, were far
more commonplace and flat than those of our debating societies. To
harangue on the question whether the life of a lawyer or a soldier is
the best, is hardly so inspiring as to debate a question of the day
about Ireland or India, which educates in living fact as well as in
the rules of the orator's art. Secondly, the whole aim and object of
this "finishing" portion of a boy's education was a false one. Even
the excellent Quintilian, the best of all Roman teachers, believed
that the statesman (civilis vir) and the orator are identical: that
the statesman must be vir bonus because the vir bonus makes the best
orator; that he should be sapiens for the same reason.[302] And the
object of oratory is "id agere, ut iudici quae proposita fuerint,
vera et honesta _videantur_":[303] i.e. the object is not truth, but
persuasion. We might get an idea of how such a training would fail
in forming character, if we could imagine all our liberal education
subordinated to the practice of journalism. But fortunately for us, in
this scientific age, words and the use of words no longer serve as the
basis of education or as the chief nurture of young life. We need to
see facts, to understand causes, to distinguish objective truth from
truth reflected in books. But the perfect education must be a skilful
mingling of the two methods; and it may be as well to take care that
we do not lose contact with the best thoughts of the best men, because
they are contained in the literature we show some signs of neglecting.
We may say of science what Cicero said of rhetoric, that it cannot do
without sapientia.

Of schools of philosophy I have already said something in the last
chapter, and as the study of philosophy was hardly a part of the
regular curriculum of education properly so called, I shall pass it
over here. The philosopher was usually to be found in wealthy houses,
and if he were a wholesome person, and not a Philodemus, he might
assuredly exercise a good influence on a young man. Or a youth might
go to Athens or Rhodes or to some other Greek city, to attend the
lectures of some famous professor. Cicero heard Phaedrus the Epicurean
at Rome and then Philo the Academician, who had a lasting influence on
his pupil, and then, at the age of twenty-seven, went to Greece for
two years, studying at Athens, Rhodes, and elsewhere. Caesar also went
to Rhodes, and he and Cicero both attended the lectures of Molo in
rhetoric, in which study, as well as in philosophy, lectures were to
be heard in all the great Greek cities.[304] Cicero sent his own son
to "the University in Athens" at the age of twenty, giving him an
ample allowance and doubtless much good advice. The young man soon
outran his allowance and got into debt; the good advice he seems to
have failed to utilise, and in fact gave his father considerable

The following letter, which seems to show that a youth who had
excellent opportunities might still be lacking in principle and
self-control, is the only one which survives of the letters of
undergraduates of that day. It was written by the young Cicero, after
he had repented and undertaken to reform, not to his father himself,
but to the faithful friend and freedman of his father, Tiro, who
afterwards edited the collection of letters in which he inserted
it.[305] It is on the whole a pleasing letter, and seems to show real
affection for Tiro, who had known the writer from his infancy. It is
a little odd in the choice of words, perhaps a trifle rhetorical. The
reader shall be left to decide for himself whether it is perfectly
straight and genuine. In any case it may aptly conclude this chapter.

"I had been anxiously expecting letter-carriers day after day, when at
last they arrived forty-six days after they left you. Their arrival
was most welcome to me. I took the greatest possible pleasure in
the letter of the kindest and best beloved of fathers, but your own
delightful letter put the finishing touch to my joy. So I no longer
repent of dropping letter-writing for a time, but am rather glad I did
so, for my silence has brought me a great reward in your kindness. I
am very glad indeed that you accepted my excuse without hesitation.

"I am sure, my dearest Tiro, that the reports about me which reach you
answer your best wishes and hopes. I will make them good, and I will
do my best that this beginning of a good report about me may daily be
repeated. So you may with perfect confidence fulfil your promise of
being the trumpeter (buccinator) of my reputation. For the errors of
my youth have caused me so much remorse and suffering, that it is not
only my heart that shrinks from what I did--my very ears abhor the
mention of it. I know for a fact that you have shared my trouble and
sorrow, and I don't wonder; you always wished me to do well not only
for my sake but for your own. So as I have been the means of giving
you pain, I will now take care that you shall feel double joy on my

"Let me tell you that my attachment to Cratippus is that of a son
rather than a pupil: I enjoy his lectures, but I am especially charmed
by his delightful manners. I spend whole days with him, and often part
of the night, for I get him to dine with me as often as I can. We have
grown so intimate that he often drops in upon us unexpectedly while we
are at dinner, lays aside the stiff air of a philosopher, and joins
in our jests with the greatest good will. He is such a man, so
delightful, so distinguished, that you ought to make his acquaintance
as soon as ever you can. As for Bruttius, I never let him leave me.
He is a man of strict and moral life, as well as being the most
delightful company. Surely it is not necessary that in our daily
literary studies there should never be any fun at all. I have taken a
lodging close to him, and as far as I can with my pittance I subsidise
his narrow means. I have also begun practising declamation in Greek
with Cassius; in Latin I like having my practice with Bruttius. My
intimate friends and daily company are those whom Cratippus brought
with him from Mitylene,--good scholars, of whom he has the highest
opinion. I also see a great deal of Epicrates the leading man at
Athens, and Leonides, and people of that sort. So now you know how I
am going on.

"You say something in your letter about Gorgias. The fact is that I
found him very useful in my daily practice of declamation, but I put
my father's injunctions before everything else, and he had written
telling me to give up Gorgias at once. I wouldn't shilly-shally about
it, for fear my making a fuss might put some suspicion in my father's
head. Moreover it occurred to me that it would be offensive for me
to express an opinion on a decision of my father's. However, your
interest and advice are welcome and acceptable.

"Your apology for want of time I readily accept, for I know how busy
you always are. I am very glad you have bought an estate, and you have
my best wishes for the success of your purchase. Don't be surprised at
my congratulations coming at this point in my letter, for it was at
the corresponding point in yours that you told me of this. You must
drop your city manners (urbanitates); you are a 'rusticus Romanus!'
How clearly I see your dearest face before me at this moment! I seem
to see you buying things for the farm, talking to your bailiff, saving
the seeds at dessert in your cloak. But as to the matter of money, I
am sorry I was not there to help you. Don't doubt, my dear Tiro,
about my helping you in the future, if fortune will but stand by me,
especially as I know that this estate has been bought for our mutual
advantage. As to my commissions about which you are taking trouble,
many thanks! I beg you to send me a secretary at the first
opportunity, if possible a Greek: for he will save me much trouble in
copying out notes. Above all, take care of your health, that we may
have some literary talk together some day. I commend Anteros to you.



In the last age of the Republic the employment of slave labour reached
its high-water mark in ancient history.[306] We have already met with
evidence of this in examining the life of the upper classes; in the
present chapter we must try to sketch, first, the conditions under
which it was possible for such a vast slave system to arise and
flourish, and secondly, the economical and ethical results of it
both in city and country. The subject is indeed far too large and
complicated to be treated in a single short chapter, but our object
throughout this book is only to give such a picture of society in
general as may tempt a student to further and more exact inquiry.

We have seen that the two upper classes of society were engaged in
business of various kinds, and especially in banking and carrying
out public contracts, or in the work of government, and in Italian
agriculture. All this business, public and private, called for a
vast amount of labor, and in part, of skilled labour; the great men
provided the capital, but the details of the work, as it had gradually
developed since the war with Hannibal, created a demand for workmen
of every kind such as had never before been known in the Graeco-Roman
world. Clerks, accountants, messengers, as well as operatives, were
wanted both by the Government and by private capitalists. In the
households of the rich the great increase of wealth and luxury had
led to a constant demand for helps of all kinds, each with a certain
amount of skill in his own particular department; and on the estates
in the country, which were steadily growing bigger, and were tending
to be worked more and more on capitalistic lines, labour, both skilled
and unskilled, was increasingly required. Thus the demand for labour
was abnormally great, and had been created with abnormal rapidity,
and the supply could not possibly be provided by the free population
alone. The lower classes of city and country were not suited to the
work wanted, either by capacity or inclination. It was not for a free
Roman to be at the beck and call of an employer, like the clerks and
underlings of to-day, or to act as servant in a great household; and
for a great part of the necessary work he was not sufficiently well
educated. Far less was it possible for him to work on the great
cattle-runs. And the State wanted the best years of his life for
service in the army, which, as has been well remarked, was the real
industry of the Roman freeman. But luckily in one sense, and in
another unluckily, for Rome, there was an endless supply of labour
to be had, of every quality and capacity, for the very same abnormal
circumstances which had created the demand also provided the supply.
The great wars and the wealth accruing from them in various ways had
produced a capitalist class in need of labour, and also created a
slave-market on a scale such as the world has never known before or

Ever since the time of Alexander and the wars of his successors with
each other and their neighbours, it is probable that the supply of
captives sold as slaves had been increasing; and in the second century
B.C. the little island of Delos had come to be used as a convenient
centre for the slave trade. Strabo tells us in a well-known passage
that 10,000 slaves might be sold there in a single day.[307] But Rome
herself was in the time of Cicero the great emporium for slaves; the
wars which were most productive of prisoners had been for long in the
centre and the west of the Mediterranean basin. All armies sent out
from Rome were accompanied by speculators in this trade, who bought
the captives as they were put up to auction after a battle, and then
undertook the transport to Rome of all who were suited for employment
in Italy or were not bought up in the province which was the seat of
war. The enormous number of slaves thus made available, even if we
make allowance for the uncertainty of the numbers as they have
come down to us, surpasses all belief; we may take a few examples,
sufficient to give some idea of a practice which had lasting and
lamentable results on Roman society.

After the campaign of Pydna and the overthrow of the Macedonian
kingdom, Aemilius Paullus, one of the most humane of Romans, sold into
slavery, under orders from the senate, 150,000 free inhabitants of
communities in Epirus which had sided with Perseus in the war.[308]
After the war with the Cimbri and Teutones, 90,000 of the latter and
60,000 of the former are said to have been sold;[309] and though the
numbers may be open to suspicion, as they amount again to 150,000, the
fact of an enormous capture is beyond question. Caesar, like Aemilius
Paullus one of the most humane of Romans, tells us himself that on a
single occasion, the capture of the Aduatuci, he sold 53,000 prisoners
on the spot.[310] And of course every war, whether great or small,
while it diminished the free population by slaughter, pestilence, or
capture, added to the number of slaves. Cicero himself, after
his campaign in Cilicia and the capture of the hill stronghold
Pindonissus, did of course as all other commanders did; we catch a
glimpse of the process in a letter to Atticus: "mancipia venibant
Saturnalibus tertiis."[311] It is hardly necessary to point out that
we should be getting our historical perspective quite wrong if we
allowed ourselves to expect in these cultured Roman generals any
sign of compassion for their victims; it was a part of their mental
inheritance to look on men who had surrendered as simply booty, the
property of the victors; Roman captives would meet with the same fate,
and even for them little pity was ever felt. When Caesar in 49 within
a few months dismissed two surrendered armies of Roman soldiers, once
at Corfinium and again in Spain, he was doubtless acting from motives
of policy, but the enslavement of Roman citizens by their fellows
would, we may hope, have been repugnant to him, if not to his own

War then was the principal source of the supply of slaves, but it was
not the only one. When a slave-trade is in full swing, it will be
fostered in all possible ways. Brigandage and kidnapping were rife
all over the Empire and in the countries beyond its borders in the
disturbed times with which we are dealing. The pirates of Cilicia,
until they were suppressed by Pompeius in 66, swarmed all over the
Mediterranean, and snapped up victims by raids even on the coasts of
Italy, selling them in the market at Delos without hindrance. Cicero,
in his speech in support of the appointment of Pompey, mentions that
well-born children had been carried off from Misenum under the very
eyes of a Roman praetor.[313] Caesar himself was taken by them when a
young man, and only escaped with difficulty. In Italy itself, where
there was no police protection until Augustus took the matter in hand,
kidnapping was by no means unknown; the _grassatores_, as they were
called, often slaves escaped from the prisons of the great estates,
haunted the public roads, and many a traveller disappeared in this
way and passed the rest of his life in a slave-prison.[314] Varro,
in describing the sort of slaves best suited for work on the great
sheep-runs, says that they should be such as are strong enough to
defend the flocks from wild beasts and brigands--the latter doubtless
quite as ready to seize human beings as sheep and cattle. And
slave-merchants seem to have been constantly carrying on their trade
in regions where no war was going on, and where desirable slaves could
be procured; the kingdoms of Asia Minor were ransacked by them, and
when Marius asked Nicomedes king of Bithynia for soldiers during the
struggle with the Cimbri, the answer he got was that there were none
to send--the slave-dealers had been at work there.[315] Every one will
remember the line of Horace in which he calls one of these wretches a
"king of Cappadocia."[316]

There were two other sources of the slave supply of which however
little need be said here, as the contribution they made was
comparatively small. First, slaves were bred from slaves, and on rural
estates this was frequently done as a matter of business.[317] Varro
recommends the practice in the large sheep-farms,[318] under certain
conditions; and some well-known lines of Horace suggest that on
smaller farms, where a better class of slaves would be required, these
home-bred ones were looked on as the mark of a rich house, "ditis
examen domus."[319] Secondly, a certain number of slaves had become
such under the law of debt. This was a common source of slavery in the
early periods of Roman history, but in Cicero's day we cannot speak of
it with confidence. We have noticed the cry of the distressed freemen
of the city in the conspiracy of Catiline, which looks as though the
old law were still put in force; and in the country there are signs
that small owners who had borrowed from large ones were in Varro's
time in some modified condition of slavery,[320] surrendering their
labour in lieu of payment. But all these internal sources of slavery
are as nothing compared with the supply created by war and the

This supply being thus practically unlimited, prices ran comparatively
low, and no Roman of any considerable means at all need be, or was,
entirely without slaves. He had only to go, or to send his agent, to
one of the city slave-markets, such as the temple of Castor,[321]
where the slave-agents (mangones) exhibited their "goods" under the
supervision of the aediles; there he could pick out exactly the kind
of slave he wanted at any price from the equivalent of L10 upwards.
The unfortunate human being was exhibited exactly as horses are now,
and could be stripped, handled, trotted about, and treated with every
kind of indignity, and of course the same sort of trickery went on in
these human sales as is familiar to all horse-dealers of the present
day.[322] The buyer, if he wanted a valuable article, a Greek, for
example, who could act as secretary or librarian, like Cicero's
beloved Tiro, or even a household slave with a special character for
skill in cooking or other specialised work of a luxurious family,
would have to give a high price; even as long ago as the time of the
elder Cato a very large sum might be given for a single choice slave,
and Cato as censor in 184 attempted to check such high prices by
increasing the duties payable on the sales.[323] Towards the close
of the Republican period we have little explicit evidence of prices;
Cicero constantly mentions his slaves, but not their values. Doubtless
for fancy articles huge prices might be demanded; Pliny tells us that
Antony when triumvir bought two boys as twins for more than L800
apiece, who were no doubt intended for handsome pages, perhaps to
please Cleopatra.[324] But there can be no doubt that ordinary slaves
capable of performing only menial offices in town or country were to
be had at this time quite cheap, and the number in the city alone must
have been very great.

It is unfortunately quite impossible to make even a probable estimate
of the total number in Rome; the data are not forthcoming. Beloch[325]
remarks aptly that though some families owned hundreds of slaves, the
number of such families was not large, quoting the words of Philippus,
tribune in 104 B.C., to the effect that there were not more than
two thousand persons of any substance in the State.[326] The great
majority of citizens living in Rome had, he thinks, no slaves. He is
forced to take as a basis of calculation the proportion of bond to
free in the only city of the Empire about which we have certain
information on this point; at Pergamum there was one slave to two free
persons.[327] Assuming the whole free population to have been about
half a million in the time of Augustus, or rather more, including
peregrini, he thus arrives at a slave population of something like
280,000; this may not be far off the mark, but it must be remembered
that it is little more than a guess.

What has been said above will have given the reader some idea of the
conditions of life which created a great demand for labour in the
last two centuries B.C., and of the circumstances which produced an
abundant supply of unfree labour to satisfy that demand. I propose
now to treat the whole question of Roman slavery from three points of
view,--the economic, the legal, and the ethical. In other words, we
have to ask: (1) how the abundance of slave labour affected the social
economy of the free population; (2) what was the position of the slave
in the eye of the law, as regards treatment and chance of manumission;
(3) what were the ethical results of this great slave system, both on
the slaves themselves and on their masters.

1. From an economical point of view the most interesting question is
whether slave labour seriously interfered with the development of free
industry; and unfortunately this question is an extremely difficult
one to answer. We can all guess easily that the opportunities of free
labour must have been limited by the presence of enormous numbers of
slaves; but to get at the facts is another matter. In regard to rural
slavery we have some evidence to go upon, as we shall see directly,
and this has of late been collected and utilised; but as regards
labour in the city no such research has as yet been made,[328] and the
material is at once less fruitful and more difficult to handle. A few
words on this last point must suffice here.

We have seen in Chapter II. that there was plenty of employment at
Rome for freemen. Friedlaender, than whom no higher authority can be
quoted for the social life of the city, goes so far as to assert that
even under the early Empire a freeman could always obtain work if he
wished for it;[329] and even if we take this as a somewhat exaggerated
statement, it may serve to keep us from rushing to the other extreme
and picturing a population of idle free paupers. In fact we are bound
on general evidence to assume for our own period that he is in the
main right; the poor freeman of Rome had to live somehow, and the
cheap corn which he enjoyed was not given him gratis until a few years
before the Republic came to an end.[330] How did he get the money to
pay even the sum of six asses and a third for a modius of corn, or to
pay for shelter and clothing, which were assuredly not to be had for
nothing? We know again, that the gilds of trades (see above, p. 45)
continued to exist in the last century of the Republic,[331] though
the majority had to be suppressed owing to their misuse as political
clubs. Supposing that the members of these collegia were small
employers of labour, it is reasonable to assume that the labour they
employed was at least largely free; for the capital needed to invest,
at some risk, in a sufficient number of slaves, who would have to be
housed and fed, and whose lives would be uncertain in a crowded and
unhealthy city, could not, we must suppose, be easily found by such
men. Here and there, no doubt, we find traces of slave labour in
factories, e.g. as far back as the time of Plautus, if we can take him
as writing of Rome rather than translating from the Greek:

An te ibi vis inter istas versarier
Prosedas, pistorum amicas, reginas alicarias,
Miseras schoeno delibutas servilicolas sordidas?[332]

_Poenulus_, 265 foll.

But on the whole, we may with all due caution, in default of complete
investigation of the question, assume that the Roman slaves were
confined for the most part to the great and rich families, and were
not used by them to any great extent in productive industry, but
in supplying the luxurious needs of the household[333]. In all
probability research will show that free labour was far more available
than we are apt to think. We hear of no outbreak of feeling against
slave labour, which might suggest a rivalry between the two.
Slave labour, we may think, had filled a gap, created by abnormal
circumstances, and did not oust free labour entirely; but it tended
constantly to cramp it, and doubtless started notions of work in
general which helped to degrade it[334]. Those immense _familiae
urbanae_, of which the historian of slavery has given a detailed
account in his second volume[335], belong rather to the early Empire
than to the last years of the Republic--the evidence for them is
drawn chiefly from Seneca, Juvenal, Tacitus, Martial, etc.; but such
evidence as we have for the age of Cicero seems to suggest that the
vast palaces of the capitalists, which Sallust describes as being
almost like cities[336], were already beginning to be served by a
familia urbana which rendered them almost independent of any aid from
without by labour or purchase. Not only the ordinary domestic helpers
of all kinds, but copyists, librarians, paedagogi as tutors for the
children, and even doctors might all be found in such households in
a servile condition, without reckoning the great numbers who seem
to have been always available as escorts when the great man was
travelling in Italy or in the provinces. Valerius Maximus tells
us[337] that Cato the censor as proconsul of Spain took only three
slaves with him, and that his descendant Cato of Utica during the
Civil Wars had twelve; as both these men were extremely frugal, we can
form an idea from this passage both of the increasing supply of slaves
and of the far larger escorts which accompanied the ordinary wealthy

As regards the familia rustica, the working population of the farm,
the evidence is much more definite. The old Roman farm, in which the
paterfamilias lived with his wife, children, and slaves, was, no
doubt, like the old English holding in a manor, for the most part
self-sufficing, doing little in the way of sale or purchase, and
worked by all the members of the familia, bond and free. In the middle
of the second century B.C., when Cato wrote his treatise on husbandry,
we find that a change has taken place; the master can only pay the
farm an occasional visit, to see that it is being properly managed by
the slave steward[338] (vilicus), and the business is being run upon
capitalistic lines, i.e. with a view to realising the utmost possible
profit from it by the sale of its products. Thus Cato is most
particular in urging that a farm should be so placed as to have easy
communication with market towns, where the wine and oil could be sold,
which were the chief products, and where various necessaries could be
bought cheap, such as pottery and metal-work of all kinds.[339] Thus
the farm does not entirely depend on the labour of its own familia;
nevertheless it rests still upon an economic basis of slave labour.
For an olivetum of 240 jugera Cato puts the necessary hands as
thirteen in number, all non-free; for a vineyard of 100 jugera at
sixteen; and these figures are no doubt low, if we remember his
character for parsimony and profit-making.[340] Free labour was to be
had, and was occasionally needed; at the very outset of his work
Cato (ch. 4) insists that the owner should be a good and friendly
neighbour, in order that he may easily obtain, not only voluntary
help, but hired labourers (operarii). These were needed especially at
harvest time, when extra hands were wanted, as in our hop-gardens, for
the gathering of olives and for the vintage. Sometimes the work was
let out to a contractor, and he gives explicit directions (in chs. 144
and 145) for the choice of these and the contracts to be made with
them; whether in this case the contractor (redemptor) used entirely
free or slave labour does not appear distinctly, but it seems clear
that a proportion at least was free.[341] What the free labourers did
at other times of the year, whether or no they were small cultivators
themselves, Cato does not tell us.

For the age with which we are more specially concerned, we have the
evidence of Varro's three books on husbandry, written in his old age,
after the fall of the Republic. Here we find the economic condition of
the farm little changed since the time of Cato. The permanent labour
is non-free, but in spite of the vast increase in the servile labour
available in Italy, there is still a considerable employment of
freemen at certain times, on all farms where the olive and vine were
the chief objects of culture. In the 17th chapter of his first book,
in which he gives interesting advice for the purchase of suitable
slaves, he begins by telling us that all land is cultivated either
by slaves or freemen, or both together, and the free are of three
kinds,--either small holders (pauperculi) with their children; or
labourers who live by wage (conducticii), and are especially needed in
hay harvest or vintage; or debtors who give their labour as payment
for what they owe (obaerati).[342] Varro too, like Cato, recognises
the necessity of purchasing many things which cannot well be
manufactured on a farm of moderate size, and thus the landowner may in
this way also have been indirectly an employer of free labour; but so
far as possible the farm should supply itself with the materials
for its own working,[343] for this gives employment to the slaves
throughout the year,--and they should never be allowed to be

Thus it is abundantly clear that even in the time of Cicero there was
a certain demand for free labour in the ordinary Italian oliveyard and
vineyard, and that the necessary supply was forthcoming, though the
permanent industrial basis was non-free, and the tendency was to use
slave-labour more exclusively. The rule that the slave cannot be
allowed to be unemployed was a most important factor in the economical
development, and drove the landowner, who never seems to have had any
doubt about the comparative cheapness of slave-labour,[345] gradually
to make his farm more and more independent of all aid from outside. In
the work of Columella, written towards the end of the first century
A.D., it is plain that the work of the farm is carried on more
exclusively by slave-labour than was the case in the last two
centuries B.C.[346]

To this not unpleasant picture of the conditions of Italian
agricultural slavery a few words must be added about the great
pastoral farms of Southern Italy. If a man invested his capital in a
comparatively small estate of olives and vineyards, such as that which
Cato treats of, and which seems to have been his own; or even in a
latifundium of the kind which Varro more vaguely pictures, containing
also parks and game and a moderate amount of pasture, he would need
slaves mainly of a certain degree of skill. But on the largest areas
of pasture, chiefly in the hill districts of Southern Italy, where
there was little cultivation except what was necessary for the
consumption of the slaves themselves, these were the roughest and
wildest type of bondsmen. The work was that of the American ranche,
the life harsh, and the workmen dangerous. It was in these districts
and from these men that Spartacus drew the material with which he made
his last stand against Roman armies in 72-71 B.C.; and it was in
this direction that Caelius and Milo turned in 48 B.C. in quest of
revolutionary and warlike bands. These roughs could even be used as
galley-slaves; more than once in the Commentaries on the Civil War
Caesar tells us that his opponents drafted them into the vessels which
were sent to relieve the siege of Massilia[347]. It was here too, in
the neighbourhood of Thurii, that a bloody fight took place between
the slaves of two adjoining estates, strong men of courage, as Cicero
describes them, of which we learn from the fragments of his lost
speech _pro Tullio_. They were of course armed, and as we may
guess from Varro's remarks on the kind of slaves suitable for
shepherding,[348] this was usually the practice, in order to defend
the flocks from wild beasts and robbers, particularly when they were
driven up to summer pasture (as they still are) in the saltus of
the Apennines. The needs of these shepherds would be small, and the
latifundia of this kind were probably almost self-sufficing, no free
labour being required. After their day's work the slaves were fed and
locked up for the night, and kept in fetters if necessary;[349] they
were in fact simply living tools, to use the expression of Aristotle,
and the economy of such estates was as simple as that of a workshop.
The exclusion of free labour is here complete: on the agricultural
estates it was approaching a completion which it fortunately never
reached. Had it reached that completion, the economic influence of
slavery would have been altogether bad; as it was, the introduction
of slave-labour on a large scale did valuable service to Italian
agriculture in the last century B.C. by contributing the material for
its revival at a time when the necessary free labour could not have
been found. However lamentable its results may have been in other
ways, especially on the great pastures, the economic history of Italy,
when it comes to be written, will have to give it credit for an
appreciable amount of benefit.

2. The legal and political aspect of slavery. A slave was in the eye
of the law not a _persona_, but a _res_, i.e. he had no rights as a
human being, could not marry or hold property, but was himself simply
a piece of property which could be conveyed (res mancipi)[350]. During
the Republican period the law left him absolutely at the disposal of
his master, who had the power of life and death (jus vitae necisque)
over him, and could punish him with chastisement and bonds, and use
him for any purpose he pleased, without reference to any higher
authority than his own. This was the legal position of all slaves; but
it naturally often happened that those who were men of knowledge or
skill, as secretaries, for example, librarians, doctors, or even
as body-servants, were in intimate and happy relations with their
owners[351], and in the household of a humane man no well-conducted
slave need fear bodily degradation. Cicero and his friend Atticus both
had slaves whom they valued, not only for their useful service, but
as friends. Tiro, who edited Cicero's letters after his death, and to
whom we therefore owe an eternal debt of gratitude, was the object
of the tenderest affection on the part of his owner, and the letters
addressed to him by the latter when he was taken ill at Patrae in 50
B.C. are among the most touching writings that have come down to us
from antiquity. "I miss you," he writes in one of them[352], "yes, but
I also love you. Love prompts the wish to see you in good health: the
other motive would make me wish to see you as soon as possible,--and
the former one is the best." Atticus, too, had his Tiro, Alexis,
"imago Tironis," as Cicero calls him in a letter to his friend,[353]
and many others who were engaged in the work of copying and
transcribing books, which was one of Atticus' many pursuits. All such
slaves would sooner or later be manumitted, i.e. transmuted from a
_res_ to a _persona_; and in the ease with which this process of
transmutation could be effected we have the one redeeming point of the
whole system of bondage. According to the oldest and most efficient
form (vindicta), a legal ceremony had to be gone through in the
presence of a praetor; but the praetor could easily be found, and
there was no other difficulty. This was the form usually adopted by an
owner wishing to free a slave in his own lifetime; but great numbers
were constantly manumitted more irregularly, or by the will of the
master after his death.[354]

Thus the leading facts in the legal position of the Roman slave were
two: (1) he was absolutely at the disposal of his owner, the law never
interfering to protect him; (2) he had a fair prospect of manumission
if valuable and well-behaved, and if manumitted he of course became a
Roman citizen (libertus or libertinus) with full civil rights,[355]
remaining, however, according to ancient custom, in a certain position
of moral subordination to his late master, owing him respect, and aid
if necessary. Let us apply these two leading facts to the conditions
of Roman life as we have already sketched them. We shall find that
they have political results of no small importance.

First, we must try to realise that the city of Rome contained at
least 200,000 human beings over whom the State had no direct control
whatever. All such crimes, serious or petty, as are now tried and
disposed of in our criminal courts, were then, if committed by a
slave, punishable only by the master; and in the majority of cases, if
the familia were a large one, they probably never reached his ears.
The jurisdiction to which the slave was responsible was a private one,
like that of the great feudal lord of the Middle Ages, who had his own
prison and his own gallows. The political result was much the same in
each case. Just as the feudal lord, with his private jurisdiction and
his hosts of retainers, became a peril to good government and national
unity until he was brought to order by a strong king like our Henry
II. or Henry VII., so the owner of a large familia of many hundreds
of slaves may almost be said to have been outside of the State;
undoubtedly he became a serious peril to the good order of the
capital. The part played by the slaves in the political disturbances
of Cicero's time was no mean one. One or two instances will show this.
Saturninus, in the year 100, when attacked by Marius under orders
from the senate, had hoisted a pilleus, or cap of liberty which the
emancipated slave wore, as a signal to the slaves of the city that
they might expect their liberty if they supported him;[356] and Marius
a few years later took the same step when himself attacked by Sulla.
Catiline, in 63, Sallust assures us, believed it possible to raise the
slaves of the city in aid of his revolutionary plans, and they flocked
to him in great numbers; but he afterwards abandoned his intention,
thinking that to mix up the cause of citizens with that of slaves
would not be judicious.[357] It is here too that the gladiator slaves
first meet us as a political arm; Cicero had the next spring to defend
P. Sulla on the charge, among others, of having bought gladiators
during the conspiracy with seditious views, and the senate had to
direct that the bands of these dangerous men should be dispersed to
Capua and other municipal towns at a distance. Later on we frequently
hear of their being used as private soldiery, and the government in
the last years of the Republic ceased to be able to control them.[358]
Again, in defending Sestius, Cicero asserts that Clodius in his
tribunate had organised a levy of slaves under the name of collegia,
for purposes of violence, slaughter, and rapine; and even if this
is an exaggeration, it shows that such proceedings were not deemed
impossible.[359] And apart from the actual use of slaves for
revolutionary objects, or as private body-guards, it is clear from
Cicero's correspondence that as an important part of a great man's
retinue they might indirectly have influence in elections and on
other political occasions. Quintus Cicero, in his little treatise on
electioneering,[360] urges his brother to make himself agreeable to
his tribesmen, neighbours, clients, freedmen, and even slaves, "for
nearly all the talk which affects one's public reputation emanates
from domestic sources." And Marcus himself, in the last letter he
wrote before he fled into exile in 58, declares that all his friends
are promising him not only their own aid, but that of their clients,
freedmen, and slaves,--promises which doubtless might have been kept
had he stayed to take advantage of them.[361]

The mention of the freedmen in this letter may serve to remind us of
the political results of manumission, the second fact in the legal
aspect of Roman slavery. The most important of these is the rapid
importation of foreign blood into the Roman citizen body, which long
before the time of Cicero largely consisted of enfranchised slaves or
their descendants; it was to this that Scipio Aemilianus alluded in
his famous words to the contio he was addressing after his return from
Numantia, "Silence, ye to whom Italy is but a stepmother" (Val.
Max. 6. 2. 3). Had manumission been held in check or in some way
superintended by the State, there would have been more good than harm
in it. Many men of note, who had an influence on Roman culture, were
libertini, such as Livius Andronicus and Caecilius the poets; Terence,
Publilius Syrus, whose acquaintance we made in the last chapter; Tiro
and Alexis, and rather later Verrius Flaccus, one of the most learned
men who ever wrote in Latin. But the great increase in the number of
slaves, and the absence of any real difficulty in effecting their
manumission, led to the enfranchisement of crowds of rascals as
compared with the few valuable men. The most striking example is the
enfranchisement of 10,000 by Sulla, who according to custom took
his name Cornelius, and, though destined to be a kind of military
guarantee for the permanence of the Sullan institutions, only became
a source of serious peril to the State at the time of Catiline's
conspiracy. Caesar, who was probably more alive to this kind of
social danger than his contemporaries, sent out a great number of
libertini,--the majority, says Strabo, of his colonists,--to his new
foundation at Corinth[362]. But Dionysius of Halicarnassus, writing
in the time of Augustus, when he stayed some time in Rome, draws a
terrible picture of the evil effects of indiscriminate manumission,
unchecked by the law[363].

"Many," he says, "are indignant when they see unworthy men manumitted,
and condemn a usage which gives such men the citizenship of a
sovereign state whose destiny is to govern the world. As for me, I
doubt if the practice should be stopped altogether, lest greater evil
should be the result; I would rather that it should be checked as far
as possible, so that the state may no longer be invaded by men of such
villainous character. The censors, or at least the consuls, should
examine all whom it is proposed to manumit, inquiring into their
origin and the reasons and mode of their enfranchisement, as in their
examination of the equites. Those whom they find worthy of citizenship
should have their names inscribed on tables, distributed among the
tribes, with leave to reside in the city. As to the crowd of villains
and criminals, they should be sent far away, under pretext of founding
some colony."

These judicious remarks of a foreigner only expressed what was
probably a common feeling among the best men of that time. Augustus
made some attempt to limit the enfranchising power of the owner; but
the Leges Aelia Sentia and Furia Caninia do not lie within the compass
of this book. No great success could attend these efforts; the
abnormal circumstances which had brought to Rome the great familiae
of slaves reacted inevitably upon the citizen body itself through the
process of manumission. Rome had to pay heavily in this, as in so many
other ways, for her advancement to the sovereignty of the civilised
world. I may be allowed to translate the eloquent words in which
the French historian of slavery, in whose great work the history of
ancient slavery is treated as only a scholar-statesman can treat it,
sums up this aspect of the subject:

"Emancipation, prevalent as it might appear to be towards the
beginning of the Empire, was not a step towards the suppression of
slavery, but a natural and inevitable sequence of the institution
itself,--an outlet for excess in an epoch overabundant in slaves: a
means of renewing the mass, corrupted by the deleterious influence
of its own condition, before it should be totally ruined. As water,
diverted from its free course, becomes impure in the basin which
imprisons it, and when released, will still retain its impurity; so
it is not to be thought that instincts perverted by slavery, habits
depraved from childhood, could be reformed and redressed in the slave
by a tardy liberation. Thrust into the midst of a society itself
vitiated by the admixture of slavery, he only became more
unrestrainedly, more dangerously bad. Manumission was thus no remedy
for the deterioration of the citizens: it was powerless even to better
the condition of the slave."[364]

3. The ethical aspect of Roman slavery. What were the moral effects of
the system (1) on the slaves themselves; (2) on the freemen who owned

First, as regards the slaves themselves, there are two facts to be
fully realised; when this is done, the inferences will be sufficiently
obvious. Let us remember that by far the greater number of the
slaves, both in the city and on the land, were brought from countries
bordering on the Mediterranean, where they had been living in some
kind of elementary civilisation, in which the germs of further
development were present in the form of the natural ties of race and
kinship and locality, of tribe or family or village community, and
with their own religion, customs, and government. Permanent captivity
in a foreign land and in a servile condition snapped these ties once
and for all. To take a single appalling instance, the 150,000 human
beings who were sold into slavery in Epirus by the conqueror of Pydna,
or as many of them as were transported out of their own country--and
these were probably the vast majority,--were thereby deprived for the
rest of their lives of all social and family life, of their ancestral
worship, in fact of everything that could act as a moral tie, as a
restraining influence upon vicious instincts. With the lamentable
effect of this on the regions thus depopulated we are not here
concerned, but it was beyond doubt most serious, and must be taken
into account in reckoning up the various causes which later on brought
about the enfeeblement of the whole Roman Empire.[365] The point for
us is that a large proportion of the population of Rome and of Italy
was now composed of human beings destitute of all natural means of
moral and social development. The ties that had been once broken
could never be replaced. There is no need to dwell on the inevitable
result,--the introduction into the Roman State of a poisonous element
of terrible volume and power.

The second fact that we have to grasp is this. In the old days, when
such slaves as there then were came from Italy itself, and worked
under the master's own eye upon the farm, they might and did share
to some extent in the social life of the family, and even in its
religious rites, and so might under favourable circumstances come
within the range of its moral influences[366]. But towards the close
of the Republican period those moral influences, as we have seen,
were fast vanishing in the majority of families which possessed large
numbers of slaves. The common kind of slave in the city, who was not
attached to his owner as was a man of culture like Tiro, had no moral
standard except implicit obedience; the highest virtue was to obey
orders diligently, and fear of punishment was the only sanction of his
conduct. The typical city slave, as he appears in Plautus, though by
no means a miserable being without any enjoyment of life, is a liar
and a thief, bent on overreaching, and destitute of a conscience[367].
We need but reflect that the slave must often have had to do vile
things in the name of his one virtue, obedience, to realise that
the poison was present, and ready to become active, in every Roman
household. "Nec turpe est quod dominus iubet."[368]

On the latifundia in the country the master was himself seldom
resident, and the slaves were under the control of one or more of
their own kind, promoted for good conduct and capacity. The slaves of
the great sheep and cattle farms were, as we saw, of the wildest
sort, and we may judge of their morality by the story of the
Sicilian slave-owner who, when his slaves complained that they were
insufficiently clothed, told them that the remedy was to rob the
travellers they fell in with.[369] The _ergastula_, where slaves were
habitually chained and treated like beasts, were sowing the seeds
of permanent moral contamination in Italy.[370] But on the smaller
estates of olive-yard and vineyard their condition was better, and
a humane owner who chose his overseers carefully might possibly
reproduce something of the old feeling of participation in the life as
well as the industry of the economic unit. In an interesting chapter
Varro advises that the vilicus should be carefully selected, and
should be conciliated by being allowed a wife and the means of
accumulating a property (_peculium_); he even urges that he should
enforce obedience rather by words than blows.[371] But of the
condition of the ordinary slave on the farm this is the only hint he
gives us, and it never seems to have occurred to him, or to any other
Roman of his day, that the work to be done would be better performed
by men not deprived by their condition of a moral sense; that slave
labour is unwillingly and unintelligently rendered, because the
labourer has no hope, no sense of dutiful conduct leading him to
rejoice in the work of his hands. Nor did any writer recognise the
fact that slaves were potentially moral beings, until Christianity
gave its sanction to dutiful submission as an act of morality that
might be consecrated by a Divine authority.[372]

Lastly, it is not difficult to realise the mischievous effects of such
a slave system as the Roman upon the slave-owning class itself. Even
those who themselves had no slaves would be affected by it; for
though, as we have seen, free labour was by no means ousted by it,
it must have helped to create an idle class of freemen, with all its
moral worthlessness. Long ago, in his remarkable book on _The Slave
Power_ in America before the Civil War, Professor Cairnes drew a
striking comparison between the "mean whites" of the Southern States,
the result of slave labour on the plantations, and the idle population
of the Roman capital, fed on cheap corn and ready for any kind of
rowdyism.[373] But in the case of the great slave-owners the mischief
was much more serious, though perhaps more difficult to detect. The
master of a horde of slaves had half his moral sense paralysed,
because he had no feeling of responsibility for so many of those with
whom he came in contact every day and hour. When most members of a
man's household or estate are absolutely at his mercy, when he has no
feeling of any contractual relation with them, his sense of duty and
obligation is inevitably deadened, even towards others who are not
thus in his power. Can we doubt that the lack of a sense of justice
and right dealing, more especially towards provincials, but also
towards a man's fellow-citizens, which we have noticed in the two
upper sections of society, was due in great part to the constant
exercise of arbitrary power at home, to the habit of looking upon the
men who ministered to his luxurious ease as absolutely without claim
upon his respect or his benevolence? or that the recklessness of human
life which was shown in the growing popularity of bloody gladiatorial
shows, and in the incredible cruelty of the victors in the Civil
Wars, was the result of this unconscious cultivation, from childhood
onwards, of the despotic temper?[374] Even the best men of the age,
such as Cicero, Caesar, Lucretius, show hardly a sign of any sympathy
with, or interest in, that vast mass of suffering humanity, both bond
and free with which the Roman dominion was populated; to disregard
misery, except when they found it among the privileged classes, had
become second nature to them. We can better realise this if we reflect
that even at the present day, in spite of the absence of slavery and
the presence of philanthropical societies, the average man of wealth
gives hardly more than a passing thought to the discomfort and
distress of the crowded population of our great cities. The ordinary
callousness of human nature had, under the baleful influence of
slavery, become absolute blindness, nor were men's eyes to be opened
until Christianity began to leaven the world with the doctrine of
universal love.



We saw that the poorer classes in Rome were lodged in huge _insulae_,
and enjoyed nothing that can be called home life. The wealthy
families, on the other hand, lived in _domus_, i.e. separate
dwellings, accommodating only one family, often, even in the
Ciceronian period, of great magnificence. But even these great houses
hardly suggest a life such as that which we associate with the word
home. As Mr. Tucker has pointed out in the case of Athens,[375] the
warmer climates of Greece and Italy encouraged all classes to spend
much more of their time out of doors and in public places than we
do; and the rapid growth of convenient public buildings, porticoes,
basilicas, baths, and so on, is one of the most striking features in
the history of the city during the last two centuries B.C. Augustus,
part of whose policy it was to make the city population comfortable
and contented, carried this tendency still further, and under the
Empire the town house played quite a subordinate part in Roman
social life. The best way to realise this out-of-door life, lazy and
sociable, of the Augustan age, is to read the first book of Ovid's
_Ars Amatoria_,--a fascinating picture of a beautiful city and its
pleasure-loving inhabitants. But with the Augustan age we are not here

Yet the Roman house, like the Italian house in general, was in origin
and essence really a home. The family was the basis of society, and by
the family we must understand not only the head of the house with
his wife, children, and slaves, but also the divine beings who dwelt
there. As the State comprised both human and divine inhabitants, so
also did the house, which was indeed the germ and type of the State.
Thus the house was in those early times not less but even more than a
house is for us, for in it was concentrated all that was dear to
the family, all that was essential to its life, both natural and
supernatural. And the two--the natural and supernatural--were not
distinct from each other, but associated, in fact almost identical;
the hearth-fire was the dwelling of Vesta, the spirit of the flame;
the Penates were the spirits of the stores on which the family
subsisted, and dwelt in the store-cupboard or larder; the
paterfamilias had himself a supernatural side, in the shape of his
Genius; and the Lar familiaris was the protecting spirit of the
farmland, who had found his way into the house in course of time,
perhaps with the slave labourers, who always had a share in his

It would probably be unjust to the Roman of the late Republic to
assume that this beautiful idea of the common life of the human and
divine beings in a house was entirely ignored or forgotten by him. No
doubt the reality of the belief had vanished; it could not be said of
the city family, as Ovid, said of the farm-folk:[377]

ante focos olim scamnis considere longis
mos erat _et mensae credere adesse deos_.

The great noble or banker of Cicero's day could no longer honestly
say that he believed in the real presence of his family deities; the
kernel of the old feeling had shrunk away under the influence of Greek
philosophy and of new interests in life, new objects and ambitions.
But the shell remained, and in some families, or in moments of anxiety
and emotion, even the old feeling of _religio_ may have returned.
Cicero is appealing to a common sentiment, in a passage already
once quoted (_de Domo_, 109), when he insists on the real religious
character of a house: "his arae sunt, his foci, his di penates: his
sacra, religiones, caerimoniae continentur." And this was in the heart
of the city; in the country-house there was doubtless more leisure and
opportunity for such feeling. In the second century B.C. old Cato had
described the paterfamilias, on his arrival at his farm from the
city, saluting the Lar familiaris before he goes about his round of
inspection; and even Horace hardly shows a trace of the agnostic when
he pictures the slaves of the farm, and the master with them, sitting
at their meal in front of the image of the Lar[378]. We may perhaps
guess that with the renewal of the love of country life, and with
that revival of the cultivation of the vine and olive, and indeed of
husbandry in general, which is recognisable as a feature of the last
years of the Republic, and which is known to us from Varro's work
on farming, and from Virgil's _Georgics_, the old religion of the
household gained a new life.

It is not necessary here to give any detailed account of the shape
and divisions of a Roman house of the city; full and excellent
descriptions may be found in Middleton's article "Domus" in the
_Dictionary of Antiquities_, and in Lanciani's _Ruins and Excavations
of Ancient Rome_; and to these should be added Mau's work on Pompeii,
where the houses were of a Roman rather than a Greek type. What we are
concerned with is the house as a home or a centre of life, and it is
only in this aspect of it that we shall discuss it here.

The oldest Italian dwelling was a mere wigwam with a hearth in the
middle of the floor, and a hole at the top to let the smoke out. But
the house of historical times was rectangular, with one central room
or hall, in which was concentrated the whole indoor life of the
family, the whole meaning and purpose of the dwelling. Here the human
and divine inhabitants originally lived together. Here was the hearth,
"the natural altar of the dwelling-room of man," as Aust beautifully
expresses it;[379] this was the seat of Vesta, and behind it was the
_penus_ or store-closet, the seat of the Penates; thus Vesta and the
Penates are in the most genuine sense the protecting and nourishing
deities of the household. Here, too, was the Lar of the familia with
his little altar, behind the entrance, and here was the _lectus
genialis_,[380] and the Genius of the paterfamilias. As you looked
into the atrium, after passing the _vestibulum_ or space between
street and doorway, and the _ostium_ or doorway with its _janua_, you
saw in front of you the impluvium, into which the rainwater fell from
the _compluvium_, i.e. the square opening in the roof with sloping
sides; on either side were recesses (_alae_), which, if the family
were noble, contained the images of the ancestors. Opposite you was
another recess, the _tablinum_, opening probably into a little garden;
here in the warm weather the family might take their meals.

This is the atrium of the old Roman house, and to understand that
house nothing more is needed. And indeed architecturally, the atrium
never lost its significance as the centre of the house; it is to the
house as the choir is to a cathedral.[381] And it is easy to see how
naturally it could develop into a much more complicated but convenient
dwelling; for example, the alae could be extended to form separate
chambers or sleeping-rooms, the tablinum could be made into a
permanent dining-room, or such rooms could be opened out on either
side of it. A second story could be added, and in the city, where
space was valuable, this was usually the case. The garden could be
converted, after the Greek fashion, and under a Greek name, into a
_peristylium_, i.e. an open court with a pretty colonnade round it,
and if there were space enough, you might add at the rear of this
again an _exedra_, or an _oecus_, i.e. open saloons convenient for
many purposes. Thus the house came to be practically divided into two
parts, the atrium with its belongings, i.e. the Roman part, and the
peristylium with its developments, forming the Greek part; and the
house reflects the composite character of Roman life in its later
period, just as do Roman literature and Roman art. The Roman part was
retained for reception rooms, and the Lar, the Penates, and Vesta,
with their respective seats, retired into the new apartments for
privacy. When the usual crowd of morning callers came to wait upon a
great man, they would not as a rule penetrate farther than the atrium,
and there he might keep them waiting as long as he pleased. The Greek
part of the house, the peristylium and its belongings, was reserved
for his family and his most intimate friends. In Pompeii, which was an
old Greek town with Roman life and habits superadded, we find atrium
and peristylium both together as early as the second century B.C.[382]
At what period exactly the house of the noble in Rome began thus to
develop is not so certain. But by the time of Cicero every good domus
had without doubt its private apartments at the rear, varying in shape
and size according to the ground on which the house stood.[383]

The accompanying plan will give a sufficiently clear idea of the
development of the domus from the atrium, and its consequent division
into two parts; it is that of "the house of the silver wedding" at


But in spite of all the convenience and comfort of the fully developed
dwelling of the rich man at Rome, there was much to make him sigh for
a quieter life than he could enjoy in the noisy city. He might
indeed, if he could afford it, remove outside the walls to a "domus
suburbana," on one of the roads leading out of Rome, or on the hill
looking down on the Campus Martius, like the house of Sallust the
historian, with its splendid gardens, which still in part exists in
the dip between the Quirinal and the Pincian hills.[384] But nowhere
within three miles or more of Rome could a man lose his sense of being
in a town, or escape from the smoke, the noise, the excitement of the
streets. After what has been said in previous chapters, the
crowd in the Forum and its adjuncts can be left to the reader's
imagination; but if he wishes to stimulate it, let him look
at the seventh chapter of Cicero's speech for Plancius, where
the orator makes use of the jostling in the Forum as an
illustration so familiar that none can fail to understand it.[385] A
relief, of which a figure is given in Burn's _Roman Literature and
Roman Art_, p. 79, gives a good idea of the close crowding, though no
doubt it was habitual with Roman artists to overcrowd their scenes
with human figures. Even as early as the first Punic war a lady could
complain of the crowded state of the Forum, and, with the grim humour
peculiar to Romans, could declare that her brother, who had just lost
a great number of Roman lives in a defeat by the Carthaginians, ought
to be in command of another fleet in order to relieve the city of more
of its surplus population. What then must the Forum have been two
centuries later, when half the business of the Empire was daily
transacted there! And even outside the walls the trouble did not
cease; all night long the wagons were rolling into the city, which
were not allowed in the day-time, at any rate after Caesar's municipal
law of 46 B.C. Like the motors of to-day, one might imagine that their
noise would depreciate the value of houses on the great roads. The
callers and clients would be here of a morning, as in the house within
the walls; the bore might be met not only in the Via Sacra, like
Horace's immortal friend, but wherever the stream of life hurried with
its busy eddies[386]. Lucilius drew a graphic picture of this feverish
life, which is fortunately preserved; it refers of course to a time
before Cicero's birth (Fragm. 9, Baehrens):

nunc vero a mani ad noctem, festo atque profesto,
totus item pariter populus, plebesque patresque,
iactare indu foro se omnes, decedere nusquam:
uni se atque eidem studio omnes dedere et arti,
verba dare ut oaute possint, pugnare dolose:
blanditia certare, bonum simulare virum se:
insidias facere, ut si hostes sint omnibus omnes.

That this exciting social atmosphere, with its jostling and
over-reaching in the Forum, and its callers and dinner-parties in the
house, had some sinister influence on men's tempers and nerves, there
can be no doubt. Cicero dearly loved the life of the city, but he paid
for it by a sensibility which is constantly apparent in his letters,
and diminished his value as a statesman. When he wrote from Cilicia to
his more youthful friend Caelius, urging him to stick to the city, in
words that are almost pathetic, it never occurred to him that he was
prescribing exactly that course of treatment which had done himself
much damage[387]. The clear sight and strong nerve of Caesar, as
compared with so many of his contemporaries, was doubtless largely due
to the fact that between 70 and 50 B.C., i.e. in the prime of life, he
spent some twelve of the twenty years in the fresher air of Spain and
Gaul. Some men were fairly worn out with dissipation and the resulting
ennui, and could get no relief even in a country villa. Lucretius has
drawn a wonderful picture of such an unfortunate, who hurries from
Rome into the country, and finding himself bored there almost as soon
as he arrives, orders out his carriage to return to the city. To fill
oneself with good things, yet never to be satisfied (explere bonis
rebus, satiareque nunquam), was even for the true Epicurean a most
dismal fate.[388]

But there was at this time, and had been for many generations, a
genuine desire to escape at times from town to country; and Cicero, in
spite of his pathetic exhortation to Caelius, was himself a keen
lover of the ease and leisure which he could find only in his
country-houses. The first great Roman of whom we know that he had a
rural villa, not only or chiefly for farming purposes, but as a refuge
from the city and its tumult, was Scipio Africanus the elder. His
villa at Liternum on the Campanian coast is described by Seneca in his
86th epistle; it was small, and without the comforts and conveniences
of the later country-house; but its real significance lies not so much
in the increasing wealth that could make a residence possible without
a farm attached to it, but in the growing sense of individuality that
made men wish for such a retreat. There are other signs that Scipio
was a man of strong personality, unlike the typical Roman of his day;
he put a value upon his own thoughts and habits, apart from his duty
to the State, and retired to Liternum to indulge them. The younger
Scipio too (Aemilianus), though no blood-relation of his, had the same
instinct, but in his case it was rather the desire for leisure and
relaxation,--the same love of a real holiday that we all know so well
in our modern life. "Leisure," says Cicero, is not "contentio animi
sed relaxatio"; and in a charming passage he goes on to describe
Scipio and Laelius gathering shells on the sea-shore, and becoming
boys again (repuerascere).[389] This desire for ease and relaxation,
for the chance of being for a while your true self,--a self worth
something apart from its existence as a citizen, is apparent in the
Roman of Cicero's day, and still more in the hard-working functionary
of the Empire. Twice in his life the morbid emperor Tiberius shrank
from the eyes of men, once at Rhodes and afterwards at Capreae,--a
melancholy recluse worn out by hard work.

Everyman had to provide his own "health resort" in those days: there
was nothing to correspond to the modern hotel. Even at the great
luxurious watering-places on the Campanian coast, Baiae and Bauli, the
houses, so far as we know, were all private residences.[390] I do not
propose to include in this chapter any account of these centres of
luxury and vice, which were far indeed from giving any rest or relief
to the weary Roman; the society of Baiae was the centre of scandal and
gossip, where a woman like Clodia, the Lesbia of Catullus, could live
in wickedness before the eyes of all men.[391] Let us turn to a more
agreeable subject, and illustrate the country-house and the country
life of the last age of the Republic by a rapid visit to Cicero's
own villas. This has fortunately been made easy for us by the very
delightful work of Professor O.E. Schmidt, whose genuine enthusiasm
for Cicero took him in person to all these sites, and inspired him to
write of them most felicitously.[392]

There being no hotels, among which the change-loving Roman of Cicero's
day could pick and choose a retreat for a holiday, he would buy a site
for a villa first in one place, then in another, or purchase one ready
built, or transform an old farm-house of his own into a residence with
"modern requirements." In choosing his sites he would naturally look
southwards, and find what he sought for either in the choicer parts of
Latium, among the hills and woods of the Mons Albanus and Tusculum,
or in the rich Campanian land, the paradise of the lazy Roman; in the
latter case, he would like to be close to the sea on that delicious
coast, and even in Latium there were spots where, like Scipio and
Laelius, he might wander on the sea-shore. All this country to the
south was beginning to be covered with luxurious and convenient
houses; in the colder and mountainous parts of central Italy the villa
was still the farm-house of the older useful type, of which the object
was the cultivation of olive and vine, now coming into fashion, as
we have already seen. For Cicero and his friends the word _villa_ no
longer suggested farming, as it invariably did for the old Roman, and
as we find it in Cato's treatise on agriculture; it meant gardens,
libraries, baths, and collections of works of art, with plenty of
convenient rooms for study or entertainment. Sometimes the garden
might be extended into a park, with fishponds and great abundance of
game; Hortensius had such a park near Laurentum, fifty jugera enclosed
in a ring-fence, and full of wild beasts of all sorts and kinds. Varro
tells us that the great orator would take his guests to a seat on an
eminence in this park, and summon his "Orpheus" thither to sing and
play: at the sound of the music a multitude of stags, boars, and other
animals would make their appearance--having doubtless been trained
to do so by expectation of food prepared for them.[393] Such was the
taste of the great master of "Asiatic" eloquence. We are reminded of
the fairy tale of the Emperor of China and the mechanical nightingale.

His great rival in oratory had simpler tastes, in his country life as
in his rhetoric. Cicero had no villa of the vulgar kind of luxury; he
preferred to own several of moderate comfort rather than one or two of
such magnificence. He had in all six, besides one or two properties
which were bought for some special temporary object; and it is
interesting to see what relation these houses had to his life and
habits. At no point could he afford to be very far from Rome, or from
a main road which would take him there easily. The accompanying little
map will show that all his villas lay on or near to one or other of
the two great roads that led southwards from the capital. The via
Latina would take him in an hour or two to Tusculum, where, since
the death of Catulus in 68, he owned the villa of that excellent
aristocrat.[394] The site of the villa cannot be determined with
certainty, but Schmidt gives good reasons for believing that it was
where we used formerly to place it, on the slope of the hill above
Frascati. That it really stood there, and not in the hollow by
Grottaferrata,[395] we would willingly believe, for no one who
has ever been there can possibly forget the glorious view or the
refreshing air of those flowery slopes. No wonder the owner was fond
of it. He tells Atticus, when he first came into possession of it,
that he found rest there from all troubles and toils (_ad Att._ i. 5.
7.), and again that he is so delighted with it that when he gets
there he is delighted with himself too (_ad Att._ i. 6). Much of his
literary work was done here, and he had the great advantage of
being close to the splendid library of Lucullus' neighbouring
villa, which was always open to him.[396] At Tusculum he spent
many a happy day, until his beloved daughter died there in 45,
after which he would not go there for some time; but he got the better
of this sorrow, and loved the place to the end of his life.


If this villa was where we hope it was, the great road passed at no
great distance from it, in the valley between Tusculum and the Mons
Albanus; and by following this for some fifty miles to the south-east
through Latium, Cicero would strike the river Liris not far from
Fregellae, and leaving the road there, would soon arrive at his native
place Arpinum, and his ancestral property. For this old home he always
had the warmest affection; of no other does he write in language
showing so clearly that his heart could be moved by natural beauty,
especially when combined with the tender associations of his
boyhood[397]. In the charming introduction to the second book of
his work _de Legibus_ (on the Constitution), he dwells with genuine
delight on this feeling and these associations; and there too we get
a hint of what Dr. Schmidt tells us is the peculiar charm of the
spot,--the presence and the sound of water; for if he is right, the
villa was placed between two arms of the limpid little river Fibrenus,
which here makes a delta as it joins the larger Liris[398].

But of this house we know for certain neither the site nor the
plan,--not so much indeed as we know about a villa of the brother
Quintus, not far away, the building of which is described with such
exactness in a letter written to the absent owner[399], that Schmidt
thinks himself justified in applying it by analogy to the villa of
the elder brother. But such reasoning is hardly safe. What we do know
about the old house is that it was originally a true villa rustica,--a
house with land cultivated by the owner that Cicero's father, who had
weak health and literary tastes, had added to it considerably, and
that Cicero himself had made it into a comfortable country residence,
with all necessary conveniences. He did not farm the ancestral land
attached to it, either himself or by a bailiff, but let it in small
holdings[400] (praediola), and we could wish that he had told us
something of his tenants and what they did with the land. It was not,
therefore, a real farm-house, but a farm-house made into a pleasant
residence, like so many manor-houses still to be seen in England.
Its atrium had no doubt retired (so to speak) into the rear of the
building, and had become a kitchen, and you entered, as in most
country-houses of this period, through a vestibule directly into a
peristyle: some idea of such an arrangement may be gained from the
accompanying ground-plan of the villa of Diomedes just outside
Pompeii, which was a city house adapted to rural conditions (villa

If Cicero wished to leave Arpinum for one of his villas on the
Campanian coast, he would simply have to follow the valley of the
Liris until it reached the sea between Minturnae and Formiae, and at
the latter place, a lively little town with charming views over the
sea, close to the modern Gaeta, he would find another house of his
own,--the next he added to his possessions after he inherited Arpinum.
Formiae was a very convenient spot; it lay on the via Appia, and was
thus in direct communication both with Rome and the bay of Naples,
either by land or sea. When Cicero is not resting, but on the move or
expecting to be disturbed, he is often to be found at Formiae, as in
the critical mid-winter of 50-49 B.C.; and here at the end of March
49 he had his famous interview with Caesar, who urged him in vain to
accompany him to Rome. Here he spent the last weary days of his life,
and here he was murdered by Antony's ruffians on December 7, 43.

[Illustration: PLAN OF THE VILLA OF DIOMEDES. From Man's _Pompeii_.]

This villa was in or close to the little town, and therefore did not
give him the quiet he liked to have for literary work. It would seem
that the _bore_ existed elsewhere than at Rome; for in a short letter
written from Formiae in April 59, he tells Atticus of his troubles
of this kind: "As to literary work, it is impossible! My house is a
basilica rather than a villa, owing to the crowds of visitors from
Formiae ... C. Arrius is my next door neighbour, or rather he almost
lives in my house, and even declares that his reason for not going to
Rome is that he may spend whole days with me here philosophising. And
then, if you please, on the other flank is Sebosus, that friend of
Catulus! Which way am I to turn? I declare that I would go at once to
Arpinum, if this were not the most, convenient place to await your
visit: but I will only wait till May 6: you see what bores are
pestering my poor ears."[402]

But his Campanian villas would be almost as easy to reach as Arpinum,
if he wished to escape from Formiae and its bores. To the nearest of
these, the one at or near Cumae, it was only about forty miles' drive
along the coast road, past Minturnae, Sinuessa, and Volturnum, all
familiar halting-places. Of this "Cumanum," however, we know very
little: that volcanic region has undergone such changes that we
cannot recover the site, and its owner never seems to have felt any
particular attachment to it. It was in fact too near Baiae and Bauli
to suit a quiet literary man; the great nobles in their vast luxurious
palaces were too close at hand for a _novus homo_ to be perfectly
at his ease there. Yet near the end of his life Cicero added to
his possessions another property in this neighbourhood, at or near
Puteoli, which was now fast becoming a city of great importance; but
this can be explained by the fact that a banker of Puteoli named
Cluvius, an old friend of his, had just died and divided his property
by will between Caesar and Cicero,--truly a tremendous will! Cicero
seems to have purchased Caesar's share, and to have looked on the
property as a good investment. He began to build a villa here, but had
little chance of using it. It may have been here that he entertained
Caesar and his retinue at the end of the year 45,[403] as described by
him in the famous letter of December 21 (_ad Att_. xiii. 52); when two
thousand men had somehow to be provided for, and in spite of literary
conversation, Cicero could write that his guest was not exactly one
whom you would be in a hurry to see again.

Across the bay, and just within view from the higher ground between
Baiae and Cumae, lay the little town of Pompeii, under the sleeping
Vesuvius. Here, probably just outside the town, Cicero had a villa of
which he seems to have been really fond, and the society of a quiet
and gentle friend, M. Marius. Whether we can find the remains of this
villa among the excavations of Pompeii is very doubtful: but our
excellent guide Schmidt assures us that he has good reason for
believing that one particular house, just outside the city on the left
side of the road in front of the Porta Herculanea, which has for no
very convincing reason ever since its excavation in 1763 been called
the Villa di Cicerone, really is the house we wish it to be. But alas!
an honest man must confess that the identification wants certainty,
and the chance of finding any object or inscription which may confirm
it is now very small.

If Cicero were summoned suddenly back to Rome for business, forensic
or political, he would hasten first to Formiae and sleep there, and
thence hurry, by the via Appia and the route so well known to us
from Horace's journey to Brundisium, to another house in the little
sea-coast town of Antium. This was his nearest seaside residence, and
he often used it when unable to go far from Rome. After the death of
his daughter in 45 he seems to have sold this house to Lepidus, and,
unable to stay at Tusculum, where she died, he bought a small villa
on a little islet called Astura, on the very edge of the Pomptine
marshes, and in that melancholy and unwholesome neighbourhood he
passed whole days in the woods giving way to his grief. Yet it was
a "locus amoenus, et in mari ipso, qui et Antio et Circeiis aspici
possit.[404]" It suited his mood, and here he stayed long, writing
letter after letter to Atticus about the erection of a shrine to the
lost one in some gardens to be purchased near Rome.

This sketch of the country-houses of a man like Cicero may help us
to form some idea of the changeful life of a great personage of the
period. He did not look for the formation of steady permanent habits
in any one place or house; from an early age he was accustomed to
travel, going to Greece or Asia Minor for his "higher education,"
acting perhaps as quaestor, and again as praetor or consul, in some
province, then returning to Rome only to leave it for one or other of
his villas, and rarely settling down in one of these for any length of
time. It was not altogether a wholesome life, so far as the mind
was concerned; real thought, the working out of great problems of
philosophy or politics, is impossible under constant change of scene,
and without the opportunity of forming regular habits.[405] And the
fact is that no man at this time seriously set himself to think out
such problems. Cicero would arrive at Tusculum or Arpinum with some
necessary books, and borrowing others as best he could, would sit down
to write a treatise on ethics or rhetoric with amazing speed, having
an original Greek author constantly before him. At places like Baiae
serious work was of course impossible, and would have been ridiculed.
There was no original thinker in this age. Caesar himself was probably
more suited by nature to reason on facts immediately before him than
to speculate on abstract principles. Varro, the rough sensible scholar
of Sabine descent, was a diligent collector of facts and traditions,
but no more able to grapple hard with problems of philosophy or
theology than any other Roman of his time. The life of the average
wealthy man was too comfortable, too changeable, to suggest the
desirability of real mental exertion.

Nor has this life any direct relation to material usefulness and the
productive investment of capital. Cicero and his correspondents never
mention farming, never betray any interest in the new movement,
if such there was, for the scientific cultivation of the vine and
olive.[406] For such things we must go to Varro's treatise, written,
some years after Cicero's death, in his extreme old age. In the third
book of that invaluable work we shall find all we want to know about
the real _villa rustica_ of the time,--the working farm-house with its
wine-vats and olive-mills, like that recently excavated at Boscoreale
near Pompeii. Yet it would be unfair to such men as Cicero and his
friends, the wiser and quieter section of the aristocracy, to call
their work altogether unproductive. True, it left little permanent
impress on human modes of thought; it wrought no material change for
the better in Italy or the Empire. We may go so far as to allow
that it initiated that habit of dilettantism which we find already
exaggerated in the age lately illuminated for us by Professor Dill in
his book on _Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius_, and far more
exaggerated in the last age of Roman society, which the same author
has depicted in his earlier work. But it may be doubted whether under
any circumstances the Romans could have produced a great prophet or a
great philosopher; and the most valuable work they did was of
another kind. It lay in the humanisation of society by the rational
development of law, and by the communication of Greek thought and
literature to the western world. This was what occupied the best days
of Cicero and Sulpicius Rufus and many others; and they succeeded at
the same time in creating for its expression one of the most perfect
prose languages that the world has ever known or will know. They did
it too, helping each other by kindly and cheering intercourse,--the
_humanitas_ of daily life. It is exactly this humanitas that the
northern mind of Mommsen, in spite of its vein of passionate romance,
could not understand; all the softer side of that pleasant existence
among the villas and statues and libraries was to him simply
contemptible. Let us hope that he has done no permanent damage to
the credit of Cicero, and of the many lesser men who lived the same
honourable and elegant life.



Before giving some account of the way in which a Roman of
consideration spent his day in the time of Cicero, it seems necessary
to explain briefly how he reckoned the divisions of the day.

The old Latin farmer knew nothing of hours or clocks. He simply went
about his daily work with the sun and the light as guides, rising at
or before sunrise, working till noon, and, after a meal and a rest,
resuming his work till sunset. This simple method of reckoning would
suffice in a sunny climate, even when life and business became more
complicated; and it is a fact that the division of the day into hours
was not known at Rome until the introduction of the sun-dial in 263
B.C.[407] We may well find it hard to understand how such business as
the meeting of the senate, of the comitia, or the exercitus, could
have been fixed to particular times under such circumstances; perhaps
the best way of explaining it is by noting that the Romans were very
early in their habits, and that sunrise is a point of time about
which there can be no mistake[408]. But in any case the date of the
introduction of the sun-dial, which almost exactly corresponds with
the beginning of the Punic wars and the vast increase of civil
business arising out of them, may suggest at once the primitive
condition of the old Roman mind and habit, and the way in which the
Romans had to learn from other peoples how to save and arrange the
time that was beginning to be so precious.

This first sun-dial came from Catina in Sicily, and was therefore
quite unsuited to indicate the hours at Rome. Nevertheless Rome
contrived to do with it until nearly a century had elapsed; at last,
in 159 B.C., a dial calculated on the latitude of Rome was placed by
the side of it by the censor Q. Marcius Philippus. These two dials
were fixed on pillars behind the Rostra in the Forum, the most
convenient place for regulating public business, and there they
remained even in the time of Cicero[409]. But in the censorship next
following that of Philippus the first water-clock was introduced; this
indicated the hours both of day and night, and enabled every one to
mark the exact time even on cloudy days[410].

Thus from the time of the Punic wars the city population reckoned time
by hours, i.e. twelve divisions of the day; but as they continued to
reckon the day from sunrise to sunset on the principle of the old
agricultural practice, these twelve hours varied in length at
different times of the year. In mid-winter the hours were only about
forty-four minutes in length, while at mid-summer they were about
seventy-five, and they corresponded with ours only at the two
equinoxes.[411] This, of course, made the construction of accurate
dials and water-clocks a matter of considerable difficulty. It is not
necessary here to explain how the difficulties were overcome; the
reader may be referred to the article "Horologium" in the _Dictionary
of Antiquities_, and especially to the cuts there given of the dial
found at Tusculum in 1761.[412]

Sun-dials, once introduced with the proper reckoning for latitude,
soon came into general use, and a considerable number still survive
which have been found in Rome. In a fragment of a comedy by an unknown
author, ascribed to the last century B.C., Rome is described as "full
of sun-dials,"[413] and many have been discovered in other Roman
towns, including several at Pompeii. But for the ordinary Roman, who
possessed no sun-dial or was not within reach of one, the day
fell into four convenient divisions, as with us it falls into
three,--morning, afternoon, and evening. As they rose much earlier
than we do, the hours up to noon were divided into two parts: (1)
_mane_, or morning, which lasted from sunrise to the beginning of the
third hour, and (2) _ad meridiem_, or forenoon; then followed _de
meridie_, i.e. afternoon, and _suprema_, from about the ninth or
tenth hour till sunset. The authority for these handy divisions is
Censorinus, _De die natali_ (23. 9, 24. 3). There seems to be no
doubt that they originated in the management of civil business, and
especially in that of the praetor's court, which normally began at the
third hour, i.e. the beginning of ad meridiem, and went on till the
suprema (tempestas diei), which originally meant sunset, but by a lex
Plaetoria was extended to include the hour or two before dark.

The first thing to note in studying the daily life at Rome is that the

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