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The Common People of Ancient Rome by Frank Frost Abbott

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we are wise in thinking these prosaic inscriptions suitable for our ugly
iron bridges. Their more picturesque stone structures tempted the Romans
now and then to drop into verse, and to go beyond a bare statement of the
facts of construction. Over the Anio in Italy, on a bridge which Narses,
the great general of Justinian, restored, the Roman, as he passed, read in
graceful verse:[62] "We go on our way with the swift-moving waters of the
torrent beneath our feet, and we delight on hearing the roar of the angry
water. Go then joyfully at your ease, Quirites, and let the echoing
murmur of the stream sing ever of Narses. He who could subdue the
unyielding spirit of the Goths has taught the rivers to bear a stern

It is an interesting thing to find that the prettiest of the dedicatory
poems are in honor of the forest-god Silvanus. One of these poems, Titus
Pomponius Victor, the agent of the Cæsars, left inscribed upon a
tablet[63] high up in the Grecian Alps. It reads: "Silvanus, half-enclosed
in the sacred ash-tree, guardian mighty art thou of this pleasaunce in the
heights. To thee we consecrate in verse these thanks, because across the
fields and Alpine tops, and through thy guests in sweetly smelling groves,
while justice I dispense and the concerns of Cæsar serve, with thy
protecting care thou guidest us. Bring me and mine to Rome once more, and
grant that we may till Italian fields with thee as guardian. In guerdon
therefor will I give a thousand mighty trees." It is a pretty picture.
This deputy of Cæsar has finished his long and perilous journeys through
the wilds of the North in the performance of his duties. His face is now
turned toward Italy, and his thoughts are fixed on Rome. In this "little
garden spot," as he calls it, in the mountains he pours out his gratitude
to the forest-god, who has carried him safely through dangers and brought
him thus far on his homeward way, and he vows a thousand trees to his
protector. It is too bad that we do not know how the vow was to be
paid--not by cutting down the trees, we feel sure. One line of Victor's
little poem is worth quoting in the original. He thanks Silvanus for
conducting him in safety "through the mountain heights, and through Tuique
luci suave olentis hospites." Who are the _hospites_? The wild beasts of
the forests, we suppose. Now _hospites_ may, of course, mean either
"guests" or "hosts," and it is a pretty conceit of Victor's to think of
the wolves and bears as the guests of the forest-god, as we have ventured
to render the phrase in the translation given above. Or, are they Victor's
hosts, whose characters have been so changed by Silvanus that Victor has
had friendly help rather than fierce attacks from them?

A very modern practice is revealed by a stone found near the famous temple
of Æsculapius, the god of healing, at Epidaurus in Argolis, upon which
two ears are shown in relief, and below them the Latin couplet:[64] "Long
ago Cutius Gallus had vowed these ears to thee, scion of Phœbus, and now
he has put them here, for thou hast healed his ears." It is an ancient
ex-voto, and calls to mind on the one hand the cult of Æsculapius, which
Walter Pater has so charmingly portrayed in Marius the Epicurean, and on
the other hand it shows us that the practice of setting up ex-votos, of
which one sees so many at shrines and in churches across the water to-day,
has been borrowed from the pagans. A pretty bit of sentiment is suggested
by an inscription[65] found near the ancient village of Ucetia in Southern
France: "This shrine to the Nymphs have I built, because many times and
oft have I used this spring when an old man as well as a youth."

All of the verses which we have been considering up to this point have
come down to us more or less carefully engraved upon stone, in honor of
some god, to record some achievement of importance, or in memory of a
departed friend. But besides these formal records of the past, we find a
great many hastily scratched or painted sentiments or notices, which have
a peculiar interest for us because they are the careless effusions or
unstudied productions of the moment, and give us the atmosphere of
antiquity as nothing else can do. The stuccoed walls of the houses, and
the sharp-pointed stylus which was used in writing on wax tablets offered
too strong a temptation for the lounger or passer-by to resist. To people
of this class, and to merchants advertising their wares, we owe the three
thousand or more graffiti found at Pompeii. The ephemeral inscriptions
which were intended for practical purposes, such as the election notices,
the announcements of gladiatorial contests, of houses to rent, of articles
lost and for sale, are in prose, but the lovelorn lounger inscribed his
sentiments frequently in verse, and these verses deserve a passing notice
here. One man of this class in his erotic ecstasy writes on the wall of a
Pompeian basilica:[66] "May I perish if I'd wish to be a god without
thee." That hope sprang eternal in the breast of the Pompeian lover is
illustrated by the last two lines of this tragic declaration:[67]

"If you can and won't,
Give me hope no more.
Hope you foster and you ever
Bid me come again to-morrow.
Force me then to die
Whom you force to live
A life apart from you.
Death will be a boon,
Not to be tormented.
Yet what hope has snatched away
To the lover hope gives back."

This effusion has led another passer-by to write beneath it the Delphic
sentiment: "May the man who shall read this never read anything else." The
symptoms of the ailment in its most acute form are described by some Roman
lover in the verses which he has left us on the wall of Caligula's palace,
on the Palatine:[68]

"No courage in my heart,
No sleep to close my eyes,
A tide of surging love
Throughout the day and night."

This seems to come from one who looks upon the lover with a sympathetic
eye, but who is himself fancy free:

"Whoever loves, good health to him,
And perish he who knows not how,
But doubly ruined may he be
Who will not yield to love's appeal."[69]

The first verse of this little poem,

"Quisquis amat valeat, pereat qui nescit amare,"

represented by the first couplet of the English rendering, calls to mind
the swinging refrain which we find a century or two later in the
_Pervigilium Veneris_, that last lyrical outburst of the pagan world,
written for the eve of the spring festival of Venus:

"Cras amet qui nunquam amavit quique amavit eras amet."

(To-morrow he shall love who ne'er has loved
And who has loved, to-morrow he shall love.)

An interesting study might be made of the favorite types of feminine
beauty in the Roman poets. Horace sings of the "golden-haired" Pyrrhas,
and Phyllises, and Chloes, and seems to have had an admiration for
blondes, but a poet of the common people, who has recorded his opinion on
this subject in the atrium of a Pompeian house, shows a more catholic
taste, although his freedom of judgment is held in some constraint:

"My fair girl has taught me to hate
Brunettes with their tresses of black.
I will hate if I can, but if not,
'Gainst my will I must love them also."[70]

On the other hand, one Pompeian had such an inborn dread of brunettes
that, whenever he met one, he found it necessary to take an appropriate
antidote, or prophylactic:

"Whoever loves a maiden dark
By charcoal dark is he consumed.
When maiden dark I light upon
I eat the saving blackberry."[71]

These amateur poets do not rely entirely upon their own Muse, but borrow
from Ovid, Propertius, or Virgil, when they recall sentiments in those
writers which express their feelings. Sometimes it is a tag, or a line, or
a couplet which is taken, but the borrowings are woven into the context
with some skill. The poet above who is under compulsion from his blonde
sweetheart, has taken the second half of his production verbatim from
Ovid, and for the first half of it has modified a line of Propertius.
Other writers have set down their sentiments in verse on more prosaic
subjects. A traveller on his way to the capital has scribbled these lines
on the wall, perhaps of a wine-shop where he stopped for refreshment:[72]

"Hither have we come in safety.
Now I hasten on my way,
That once more it may be mine
To behold our Lares, Rome."

At one point in a Pompeian street, the eye of a straggler would catch this
notice in doggerel verse:[73]

"Here's no place for loafers.
Lounger, move along!"

On the wall of a wine-shop a barmaid has thus advertised her wares:[74]

"Here for a cent is a drink,
Two cents brings something still better.
Four cents in all, if you pay,
Wine of Falernum is yours."

It must have been a lineal descendant of one of the parasites of Plautus
who wrote:[75]

"A barbarian he is to me
At whose house I'm not asked to dine."

Here is a sentiment which sounds very modern:

"The common opinion is this:
That property should be divided."[76]

This touch of modernity reminds one of another group of verses which
brings antiquity into the closest possible touch with some present-day
practices. The Romans, like ourselves, were great travellers and
sightseers, and the marvels of Egypt in particular appealed to them, as
they do to us, with irresistible force. Above all, the great statue of
Memnon, which gave forth a strange sound when it was struck by the first
rays of the rising sun, drew travellers from far and near. Those of us who
know the Mammoth Cave, Niagara Falls, the Garden of the Gods, or some
other of our natural wonders, will recall how fond a certain class of
visitors are of immortalizing themselves by scratching their names or a
sentiment on the walls or the rocks which form these marvels. Such
inscriptions We find on the temple walls in Egypt--three of them appear
on the statue of Memnon, recording in verse the fact that the writers had
visited the statue and heard the voice of the god at sunrise. One of these
Egyptian travellers, a certain Roman lady journeying up the Nile, has
scratched these verses on a wall of the temple at Memphis:[77]

"The pyramids without thee have I seen,
My brother sweet, and yet, as tribute sad,
The bitter tears have poured adown my cheek,
And sadly mindful of thy absence now
I chisel here this melancholy note."

Then follow the name and titles of the absent brother, who is better known
to posterity from these scribbled lines of a Cook's tourist than from any
official records which have come down to us. All of these pieces of
popular poetry which we have been discussing thus far were engraved on
stone, bronze, stucco, or on some other durable material. A very few bits
of this kind of verse, from one to a half dozen lines in length, have come
down to us in literature. They have the unique distinction, too, of being
specimens of Roman folk poetry, and some of them are found in the most
unlikely places. Two of them are preserved by a learned commentator on
the Epistles of Horace. They carry us back to our school-boy days. When we

"The plague take him who's last to reach me,"[78]

we can see the Roman urchin standing in the market-place, chanting the
magic formula, and opposite him the row of youngsters on tiptoe, each one
waiting for the signal to run across the intervening space and be the
first to touch their comrade. What visions of early days come back to
us--days when we clasped hands in a circle and danced about one or two
children placed in the centre of the ring, and chanted in unison some
refrain, upon reading in the same commentator to Horace a ditty which

"King shall you be
If you do well.
If you do ill
You shall not be."

The other bits of Roman folk poetry which we have are most of them
preserved by Suetonius, the gossipy biographer of the Cæsars. They recall
very different scenes. Cæsar has returned in triumph to Rome, bringing in
his train the trousered Gauls, to mingle on the street with the toga-clad
Romans. He has even had the audacity to enroll some of these strange
peoples in the Roman senate, that ancient body of dignity and convention,
and the people chant in the streets the ditty:[80]

"Cæsar leads the Gauls in triumph,
In the senate too he puts them.
Now they've donned the broad-striped toga
And have laid aside their breeches."

Such acts as these on Cæsar's part led some political versifier to write
on Cæsar's statue a couplet which contrasted his conduct with that of the
first great republican, Lucius Brutus:

"Brutus drove the kings from Rome,
And first consul thus became.
This man drove the consuls out,
And at last became the king."[81]

We may fancy that these verses played no small part in spurring on Marcus
Brutus to emulate his ancestor and join the conspiracy against the
tyrant. With one more bit of folk poetry, quoted by Suetonius, we may
bring our sketch to an end. Germanicus Cæsar, the flower of the imperial
family, the brilliant general and idol of the people, is suddenly stricken
with a mortal illness. The crowds throng the streets to hear the latest
news from the sick-chamber of their hero. Suddenly the rumor flies through
the streets that the crisis is past, that Germanicus will live, and the
crowds surge through the public squares chanting:

"Saved now is Rome,
Saved too the land,
Saved our Germanicus."[82]

The Origin of the Realistic Romance among the Romans

One of the most fascinating and tantalizing problems of literary history
concerns the origin of prose fiction among the Romans. We can trace the
growth of the epic from its infancy in the third century before Christ as
it develops in strength in the poems of Nævius, Ennius, and Cicero until
it reaches its full stature in the _Æneid_, and then we can see the
decline of its vigor in the _Pharsalia_, the _Punica_, the _Thebais_, and
_Achilleis_, until it practically dies a natural death in the mythological
and historical poems of Claudian. The way also in which tragedy, comedy,
lyric poetry, history, biography, and the other types of literature in
prose and verse came into existence and developed among the Romans can be
followed with reasonable success. But the origin and early history of the
novel is involved in obscurity. The great realistic romance of Petronius
of the first century of our era is without a legally recognized ancestor
and has no direct descendant. The situation is the more surprising when we
recall its probable size in its original form. Of course only a part of it
has come down to us, some one hundred and ten pages in all. Its great size
probably proved fatal to its preservation in its complete form, or at
least contributed to that end, for it has been estimated that it ran from
six hundred to nine hundred pages, being longer, therefore, than the
average novel of Dickens and Scott. Consequently we are not dealing with a
bit of ephemeral literature, but with an elaborate composition of a high
degree of excellence, behind which we should expect to find a long line of
development. We are puzzled not so much by the utter absence of anything
in the way of prose fiction before the time of Petronius as by the
difficulty of establishing any satisfactory logical connection between
these pieces of literature and the romance of Petronius. We are
bewildered, in fact, by the various possibilities which the situation
presents. The work shows points of similarity with several antecedent
forms of composition, but the gaps which lie in any assumed line of
descent are so great as to make us question its correctness.

If we call to mind the present condition of this romance and those
characteristic features of it which are pertinent to the question at
issue, the nature of the problem and its difficulty also will be apparent
at once. Out of the original work, in a rather fragmentary form, only four
or five main episodes are extant, one of which is the brilliant story of
the Dinner of Trimalchio. The action takes place for the most part in
Southern Italy, and the principal characters are freedmen who have made
their fortunes and degenerate freemen who are picking up a precarious
living by their wits. The freemen, who are the central figures in the
novel, are involved in a great variety of experiences, most of them of a
disgraceful sort, and the story is a story of low life. Women play an
important rôle in the narrative, more important perhaps than they do in
any other kind of ancient literature--at least their individuality is more
marked. The efficient motif is erotic. I say the efficient, because the
conventional motif which seems to account for all the misadventures of the
anti-hero Encolpius is the wrath of an offended deity. A great part of
the book has an atmosphere of satire about it which piques our curiosity
and baffles us at the same time, because it is hard to say how much of
this element is inherent in the subject itself, and how much of it lies in
the intention of the author. It is the characteristic of parvenu society
to imitate smart society to the best of its ability, and its social
functions are a parody of the like events in the upper set. The story of a
dinner party, for instance, given by such a _nouveau riche_ as Trimalchio,
would constantly remind us by its likeness and its unlikeness, by its sins
of omission and commission, of a similar event in correct society. In
other words, it would be a parody on a proper dinner, even if the man who
described the event knew nothing about the usages of good society, and
with no ulterior motive in mind set down accurately the doings of his
upstart characters. For instance, when Trimalchio's chef has three white
pigs driven into the dining-room for the ostensible purpose of allowing
the guests to pick one out for the next course, with the memory of our own
monkey breakfasts and horseback dinners in mind, we may feel that this is
a not improbable attempt on the part of a Roman parvenu to imitate his
betters in giving a dinner somewhat out of the ordinary. Members of the
smart set at Rome try to impress their guests by the value and weight of
their silver plate. Why shouldn't the host of our story adopt the more
direct and effective way of accomplishing the same object by having the
weight of silver engraved on each article? He does so. It is a very
natural thing for him to do. In good society they talk of literature and
art. Why isn't it natural for Trimalchio to turn the conversation into the
same channels, even if he does make Hannibal take Troy and does confuse
the epic heroes and some late champions of the gladiatorial ring?

In other words, much of that which is satirical in Petronius is so only
because we are setting up in our minds a comparison between the doings of
his rich freedmen and the requirements of good taste and moderation. But
it seems possible to detect a satirical or a cynical purpose on the part
of the author carried farther than is involved in the choice of his
subject and the realistic presentation of his characters. Petronius seems
to delight in putting his most admirable sentiments in the mouths of
contemptible characters. Some of the best literary criticism we have of
the period, he presents through the medium of the parasite rhetorician
Agamemnon. That happy phrase characterizing Horace's style, "curiosa
felicitas," which has perhaps never been equalled in its brevity and
appositeness, is coined by the incorrigible poetaster Eumolpus. It is he
too who composes and recites the two rather brilliant epic poems
incorporated into the _Satirae_, one of which is received with a shower of
stones by the bystanders. The impassioned eulogy of the careers of
Democritus, Chrysippus, Lysippus, and Myron, who had endured hunger, pain,
and weariness of body and mind for the sake of science, art, and the good
of their fellow-men, and the diatribe against the pursuit of comfort and
pleasure which characterized the people of his own time, are put in the
mouth of the same _roué_ Eumolpus.

These situations have the true Horatian humor about them. The most serious
and systematic discourse which Horace has given us, in his Satires, on the
art of living, comes from the crack-brained Damasippus, who has made a
failure of his own life. In another of his poems, after having set forth
at great length the weaknesses of his fellow-mortals, Horace himself is
convicted of being inconsistent, a slave to his passions, and a victim of
hot temper by his own slave Davus. We are reminded again of the literary
method of Horace in his Satires when we read the dramatic description of
the shipwreck in Petronius. The blackness of night descends upon the
water; the little bark which contains the hero and his friends is at the
mercy of the sea; Lichas, the master of the vessel, is swept from the deck
by a wave, Encolpius and his comrade Giton prepare to die in each other's
embrace, but the tragic scene ends with a ridiculous picture of Eumolpus
bellowing out above the roar of the storm a new poem which he is setting
down upon a huge piece of parchment. Evidently Petronius has the same
dread of being taken too seriously which Horace shows so often in his
Satires. The cynical, or at least unmoral, attitude of Petronius is
brought out in a still more marked way at the close of this same passage.
Of those upon the ill-fated ship the degenerates Encolpius, Giton, and
Eumolpus, who have wronged Lichas irreparably, escape, while the pious
Lichas meets a horrible death. All this seems to make it clear that not
only does the subject which Petronius has treated inevitably involve a
satire upon contemporary society, but that the author takes a satirical or
cynical attitude toward life.

Another characteristic of the story is its realism. There are no
marvellous adventures, and in fact no improbable incidents in it. The
author never obtrudes his own personality upon us, as his successor
Apuleius sometimes does, or as Thackeray has done. We know what the people
in the story are like, not from the author's description of them, but from
their actions, from the subjects about which they talk, and from the way
in which they talk. Agamemnon converses as a rhetorician might talk,
Habinnas like a millionnaire stone-cutter, and Echion like a rag-dealer,
and their language and style are what we should expect from men of their
standing in society and of their occupations. The conversations of
Trimalchio and his freedmen guests are not witty, and their jests are not
clever. This adherence to the true principles of realism is the more
noteworthy in the case of so brilliant a writer as Petronius, and those of
us who recall some of the preternaturally clever conversations in the
pages of Henry James and other contemporary novelists may feel that in
this respect he is a truer artist than they are.

The novel of Petronius has one other characteristic which is significant,
if we attempt to trace the origin of this type of literature. It is cast
in the prose-poetic form, that is, passages in verse are inserted here and
there in the narrative. In a few cases they are quoted, but for the most
part they are the original compositions of the novelist. They range in
length from couplets to poems of three hundred lines. Sometimes they form
an integral part of the narrative, or again they illustrate a point,
elaborate an idea in poetry, or are exercises in verse.

We have tried to bring out the characteristic features of this romance in
order that we may see what the essential elements are of the problem which
faces one in attempting to explain the origin of the type of literature
represented by the work of Petronius. What was there in antecedent
literature which will help us to understand the appearance on Italian soil
in the first century of our era of a long erotic story of adventure,
dealing in a realistic way with every-day life, marked by a satirical
tone and with a leaning toward the prose-poetic form? This is the question
raised by the analysis, which we have made above, of the characteristics
of the story. We have no ambitious hope of solving it, yet the mere
statement of a puzzling but interesting problem is stimulating to the
imagination and the intellect, and I am tempted to take up the subject
because the discovery of certain papyri in Egypt within recent years has
led to the formulation of a new theory of the origin of the romance of
perilous adventure, and may, therefore, throw some light on the source of
our realistic novel of every-day life. My purpose, then, is to speak
briefly of the different genres of literature of the earlier period with
which the story of Petronius may stand in some direct relation, or from
which the suggestion may have come to Petronius for his work. Several of
these lines of possible descent have been skilfully traced by others. In
their views here and there I have made some modifications, and I have
called attention to one or two types of literature, belonging to the
earlier period and heretofore unnoticed in this connection, which may help
us to understand the appearance of the realistic novel.

It seems a far cry from this story of sordid motives and vulgar action to
the heroic episodes of epic poetry, and yet the _Satirae_ contain not a
few more or less direct suggestions of epic situations and characters. The
conventional motif of the story of Petronius is the wrath of an offended
deity. The narrative in the _Odyssey_ and the _Æneid_ rests on the same
basis. The ship of their enemy Lichas on which Encolpius and his
companions are cooped up reminds them of the cave of the Cyclops; Giton
hiding from the town-crier under a mattress is compared to Ulysses
underneath the sheep and clinging to its wool to escape the eye of the
Cyclops, while the woman whose charms engage the attention of Encolpius at
Croton bears the name of Circe. It seems to be clear from these
reminiscences that Petronius had the epic in mind when he wrote his story,
and his novel may well be a direct or an indirect parody of an epic
narrative. Rohde in his analysis of the serious Greek romance of the
centuries subsequent to Petronius has postulated the following development
for that form of story: Travellers returning from remote parts of the
world told remarkable stories of their experiences. Some of these stories
took a literary form in the _Odyssey_ and the Tales of the Argonauts. They
appeared in prose, too, in narratives like the story of Sinbad the Sailor,
of a much later date. A more definite plot and a greater dramatic
intensity were given to these tales of adventure by the addition of an
erotic element which often took the form of two separated lovers. Some use
is made of this element, for instance, in the relations of Odysseus and
Penelope, perhaps in the episode of Æneas and Dido, and in the story of
Jason and Medea. The intrusion of the love motif into the stories told of
demigods and heroes, so that the whole narrative turns upon it, is
illustrated by such tales in the Metamorphoses of Ovid as those of Pyramus
and Thisbe, Pluto and Proserpina, or Meleager and Atalanta. The love
element, which may have been developed in this way out of its slight use
in the epic, and the element of adventure form the basis of the serious
Greek romances of Antonius Diogenes, Achilles Tatius, and the other
writers of the centuries which follow Petronius.

Before trying to connect the _Satirae_ with a serious romance of the type
just mentioned, let us follow another line of descent which leads us to
the same objective point, viz., the appearance of the serious story in
prose. We have been led to consider the possible connection of this kind
of prose fiction with the epic by the presence in both of them of the love
element and that of adventure. But the Greek novel has another rather
marked feature. It is rhetorical, and this quality has suggested that it
may have come, not from the epic, but from the rhetorical exercise.
Support has been given to this theory within recent years by the discovery
in Egypt of two fragments of the Ninos romance. The first of these
fragments reveals Ninos, the hero, pleading with his aunt Derkeia, the
mother of his sweetheart, for permission to marry his cousin. All the
arguments in support of his plea and against it are put forward and
balanced one against the other in a very systematic way. He wins over
Derkeia. Later in the same fragment the girl pleads in a somewhat similar
fashion with Thambe, the mother of Ninos. The second fragment is mainly
concerned with the campaigns of Ninos. Here we have the two lovers,
probably separated by the departure of Ninos for the wars, while the
hero, at least, is exposed to the danger of the campaign.

The point was made after the text of this find had been published that the
large part taken in the tale by the carefully balanced arguments indicated
that the story grew out of exercises in argumentation in the rhetorical
schools.[83] The elder Seneca has preserved for us in his _Controversiae_
specimens of the themes which were set for students in these schools. The
student was asked to imagine himself in a supposed dilemma and then to
discuss the considerations which would lead him to adopt the one or the
other line of conduct. Some of these situations suggest excellent dramatic
possibilities, conditions of life, for instance, where suicide seemed
justifiable, misadventures with pirates, or a turn of affairs which
threatened a woman's virtue. Before the student reached the point of
arguing the case, the story must be told, and out of these narratives of
adventure, told at the outset to develop the dilemma, may have grown the
romance of adventure, written for its own sake. The story of Ninos has a
peculiar interest in connection with this theory, because it was probably
very short, and consequently may give us the connecting link between the
rhetorical exercise and the long novel of the later period, and because it
is the earliest known serious romance. On the back of the papyrus which
contains it are some farm accounts of the year 101 A.D. Evidently by that
time the roll had become waste paper, and the story itself may have been
composed a century or even two centuries earlier. So far as this second
theory is concerned, we may raise the question in passing whether we have
any other instance of a genre of literature growing out of a school-boy
exercise. Usually the teacher adapts to his purpose some form of creative
literature already in existence.

Leaving this objection out of account for the moment, the romance of love
and perilous adventure may possibly be then a lineal descendant either of
the epic or of the rhetorical exercise. Whichever of these two views is
the correct one, the discovery of the Ninos romance fills in a gap in one
theory of the origin of the realistic romance of Petronius, and with that
we are here concerned. Before the story of Ninos was found, no serious
romance and no title of such a romance anterior to the time of Petronius
was known. This story, as we have seen, may well go back to the first
century before Christ, or at least to the beginning of our era. It is
conceivable that stories like it, but now lost, existed even at an earlier
date. Now in the century, more or less, which elapsed between the assumed
date of the appearance of these Greek narratives and the time of
Petronius, the extraordinary commercial development of Rome had created a
new aristocracy--the aristocracy of wealth. In harmony with this social
change the military chieftain and the political leader who had been the
heroes of the old fiction gave way to the substantial man of affairs of
the new, just as Thaddeus of Warsaw has yielded his place in our
present-day novels to Silas Lapham, and the bourgeois erotic story of
adventure resulted, as we find it in the extant Greek novels of the second
and third centuries of our era. If we can assume that this stage of
development was reached before the time of Petronius we can think of his
novel as a parody of such a romance. If, however, the bourgeois romance
had not appeared before 50 A.D., then, if we regard his story as a parody
of a prose narrative, it must be a parody of such an heroic romance as
that of Ninos, or a parody of the longer heroic romances which developed
out of the rhetorical narrative. If excavations in Egypt or at Herculaneum
should bring to light a serious bourgeois story of adventure, they would
furnish us the missing link. Until, or unless, such a discovery is made
the chain of evidence is incomplete.

The two theories of the realistic romance which we have been discussing
assume that it is a parody of some anterior form of literature, and that
this fact accounts for the appearance of the satirical or cynical element
in it. Other students of literary history, however, think that this
characteristic was brought over directly from the Milesian tale[84] or the
Menippean satire.[85] To how many different kinds of stories the term
"Milesian tale" was applied by the ancients is a matter of dispute, but
the existence of the short story before the time of Petronius is beyond
question. Indeed we find specimens of it. In its commonest form it
presented a single episode of every-day life. It brought out some human
weakness or foible. Very often it was a story of illicit love. Its
philosophy of life was: No man's honesty and no woman's virtue are
unassailable. In all these respects, save in the fact that it presents one
episode only, it resembles the _Satirae_ of Petronius. At least two
stories of this type are to be found in the extant fragments of the novel
of Petronius. One of them is related as a well-known tale by the poet
Eumolpus, and the other is told by him as a personal experience. More than
a dozen of them are imbedded in the novel of Apuleius, the
_Metamorphoses_, and modern specimens of them are to be seen in Boccaccio
and in Chaucer. In fact they are popular from the twelfth century down to
the eighteenth. Long before the time of Petronius they occur sporadically
in literature. A good specimen, for instance, is found in a letter
commonly attributed to Æschines in the fourth century B.C. As early as
the first century before Christ collections of them had been made and
translated into Latin. This development suggests an interesting possible
origin of the realistic romance. In such collections as those just
mentioned of the first century B.C., the central figures were different in
the different stories, as is the case, for instance, in the Canterbury
Tales. Such an original writer as Petronius was may well have thought of
connecting these different episodes by making them the experiences of a
single individual. The Encolpius of Petronius would in that case be in a
way an ancient Don Juan. If we compare the Arabian Nights with one of the
groups of stories found in the Romances of the Round Table, we can see
what this step forward would mean. The tales which bear the title of the
Arabian Nights all have the same general setting and the same general
treatment, and they are put in the mouth of the same story-teller. The
Lancelot group of Round Table stories, however, shows a nearer approach to
unity since the stories in it concern the same person, and have a common
ultimate purpose, even if it is vague. When this point had been reached
the realistic romance would have made its appearance. We have been
thinking of the realistic novel as being made up of a series of Milesian
tales. We may conceive of it, however, as an expanded Milesian tale, just
as scholars are coming to think of the epic as growing out of a single
hero-song, rather than as resulting from the union of several such songs.

To pass to another possibility, it is very tempting to see a connection
between the _Satirae_ of Petronius and the prologue of comedy. Plautus
thought it necessary to prefix to many of his plays an account of the
incidents which preceded the action of the play. In some cases he went so
far as to outline in the prologue the action of the play itself in order
that the spectators might follow it intelligently. This introductory
narrative runs up to seventy-six lines in the _Menaechmi_, to eighty-two
in the _Rudens_, and to one hundred and fifty-two in the _Amphitruo_. In
this way it becomes a short realistic story of every-day people, involving
frequently a love intrigue, and told in the iambic senarius, the simplest
form of verse. Following it is the more extended narrative of the comedy
itself, with its incidents and dialogue. This combination of the
condensed narrative in the story form, presented usually as a monologue in
simple verse, and the expanded narrative in the dramatic form, with its
conversational element, may well have suggested the writing of a realistic
novel in prose. A slight, though not a fatal, objection to this theory
lies in the fact that the prologues to comedy subsequent to Plautus
changed in their character, and contain little narrative. This is not a
serious objection, for the plays of Plautus were still known to the
cultivated in the later period.

The mime gives us still more numerous points of contact with the work of
Petronius than comedy does.[86] It is unfortunate, both for our
understanding of Roman life and for our solution of the question before
us, that only fragments of this form of dramatic composition have come
down to us. Even from them, however, it is clear that the mime dealt with
every-day life in a very frank, realistic way. The new comedy has its
conventions in the matter of situations and language. The matron, for
instance, must not be presented in a questionable light, and the language
is the conversational speech of the better classes. The mime recognizes no
such restrictions in its portrayal of life. The married woman, her stupid
husband, and her lover are common figures in this form of the drama, and
if we may draw an inference from the lately discovered fragments of Greek
mimes, the speech was that of the common people. Again, the new comedy has
its limited list of stock characters--the old man, the tricky slave, the
parasite, and the others which we know so well in Plautus and Terence, but
as for the mime, any figure to be seen on the street may find a place in
it--the rhetorician, the soldier, the legacy-hunter, the inn-keeper, or
the town-crier. The doings of kings and heroes were parodied. We are even
told that a comic Hector and Achilles were put on the stage, and the gods
did not come off unscathed. All of these characteristic features of the
mime remind us in a striking way of the novel of Petronius. His work, like
the mime, is a realistic picture of low life which presents a great
variety of characters and shows no regard for conventional morals. It is
especially interesting to notice the element of parody, which we have
already observed in Petronius, in both kinds of literary productions. The
theory that Petronius may have had the composition of his _Satirae_
suggested to him by plays of this type is greatly strengthened by the fact
that the mime reached its highest point of popularity at the court in the
time of Nero, in whose reign Petronius lived. In point of fact Petronius
refers to the mime frequently. One of these passages is of peculiar
significance in this connection. Encolpius and his comrades are entering
the town of Croton and are considering what device they shall adopt so as
to live without working. At last a happy idea occurs to Eumolpus, and he
says: "Why don't we construct a mime?" and the mime is played, with
Eumolpus as a fabulously rich man at the point of death, and the others as
his attendants. The rôle makes a great hit, and all the vagabonds in the
company play their assumed parts in their daily life at Croton with such
skill that the legacy-hunters of the place load them with attentions and
shower them with presents. This whole episode, in fact, may be thought of
as a mime cast in the narrative form, and the same conception may be
applied with great plausibility to the entire story of Encolpius.

We have thus far been attacking the question with which we are concerned
from the side of the subject-matter and tone of the story of Petronius.
Another method of approach is suggested by the Menippean satire,[87] the
best specimens of which have come down to us in the fragments of Varro,
one of Cicero's contemporaries. These satires are an _olla podrida_,
dealing with all sorts of subjects in a satirical manner, sometimes put in
the dialogue form and cast in a _mélange_ of prose and verse. It is this
last characteristic which is of special interest to us in this connection,
because in the prose of Petronius verses are freely used. Sometimes, as we
have observed above, they form an integral part of the narrative, and
again they merely illustrate or expand a point touched on in the prose. If
it were not aside from our immediate purpose it would be interesting to
follow the history of this prose-poetical form from the time of Petronius
on. After him it does not seem to have been used very much until the third
and fourth centuries of our era. However, Martial in the first century
prefixed a prose prologue to five books of his Epigrams, and one of these
prologues ends with a poem of four lines. The several books of the
_Silvae_ of Statius are also preceded by prose letters of dedication. That
strange imitation of the _Aulularia_ of Plautus, of the fourth century,
the _Querolus_, is in a form half prose and half verse. A sentence begins
in prose and runs off into verse, as some of the epitaphs also do. The
Epistles of Ausonius of the same century are compounded of prose and a
great variety of verse. By the fifth and sixth centuries, a _mélange_ of
verse or a combination of prose and verse is very common, as one can see
in the writings of Martianus Capella, Sidonius Apollinaris, Ennodius, and
Boethius. It recurs again in modern times, for instance in Dante's _La
Vita Nuova_, in Boccaccio, _Aucassin et Nicolette_, the _Heptameron_, the
_Celtic Ballads_, the _Arabian Nights_, and in _Alice in Wonderland_.

A little thought suggests that the prose-poetic form is a natural medium
of expression. A change from prose to verse, or from one form of verse to
another, suggests a change in the emotional condition of a speaker or
writer. We see that clearly enough illustrated in tragedy or comedy. In
the thrilling scene in the _Captives of Plautus_, for example, where
Tyndarus is in mortal terror lest the trick which he has played on his
master, Hegio, may be discovered, and he be consigned to work in chains in
the quarries, the verse is the trochaic septenarius. As soon as the
suspense is over, it drops to the iambic senarius. If we should arrange
the commoner Latin verses in a sequence according to the emotional effects
which they produce, at the bottom of the series would stand the iambic
senarius. Above that would come trochaic verse, and we should rise to
higher planes of exaltation as we read the anapæstic, or cretic, or
bacchiac. The greater part of life is commonplace. Consequently the common
medium for conversation or for the narrative in a composition like comedy
made up entirely of verse is the senarius. Now this form of verse in its
simple, almost natural, quantitative arrangement is very close to prose,
and it would be a short step to substitute prose for it as the basis of
the story, interspersing verse here and there to secure variety, or when
the emotions were called into play, just as lyric verses are interpolated
in the iambic narrative. In this way the combination of different kinds
of verse in the drama, and the prosimetrum of the Menippean satire and of
Petronius, may be explained, and we see a possible line of descent from
comedy and this form of satire to the _Satirae_.

These various theories of the origin of the romance of Petronius--that it
may be related to the epic, to the serious heroic romance, to the
bourgeois story of adventure developed out of the rhetorical exercise, to
the Milesian tale, to the prologue of comedy, to the _verse-mélange_ of
comedy or the mime, or to the prose-poetical Menippean satire--are not, of
necessity, it seems to me, mutually exclusive. His novel may well be
thought of as a parody of the serious romance, with frequent reminiscences
of the epic, a parody suggested to him by comedy and its prologue, by the
mime, or by the short cynical Milesian tale, and cast in the form of the
Menippean satire; or, so far as subject-matter and realistic treatment are
concerned, the suggestion may have come directly from the mime, and if we
can accept the theory of some scholars who have lately studied the mime,
that it sometimes contained both prose and verse, we may be inclined to
regard this type of literature as the immediate progenitor of the novel,
even in the matter of external form, and leave the Menippean satire out of
the line of descent. Whether the one or the other of these explanations of
its origin recommends itself to us as probable, it is interesting to note,
as we leave the subject, that, so far as our present information goes, the
realistic romance seems to have been the invention of Petronius.

Diocletian's Edict and the High Cost of Living

The history of the growth of paternalism in the Roman Empire is still to
be written. It would be a fascinating and instructive record. In it the
changes in the character of the Romans and in their social and economic
conditions would come out clearly. It would disclose a strange mixture of
worthy and unworthy motives in their statesmen and politicians, who were
actuated sometimes by sympathy for the poor, sometimes by a desire for
popular favor, by an honest wish to check extravagance or immorality, or
by the fear that the discontent of the masses might drive them into
revolution. We should find the Roman people, recognizing the menace to
their simple, frugal way of living which lay in the inroads of Greek
civilization, and turning in their helplessness to their officials, the
censors, to protect them from a demoralization which, by their own
efforts, they could not withstand. We should find the same officials
preaching against race suicide, extravagant living, and evasion of public
duties, and imposing penalties and restrictions in the most autocratic
fashion on men of high and low degree alike who failed to adopt the
official standards of conduct. We should read of laws enacted in the same
spirit, laws restricting the number of guests that might be entertained on
a single occasion, and prescribing penalties for guests and host alike, if
the cost of a dinner exceeded the statutory limit. All this belongs to the
early stage of paternal government. The motives were praiseworthy, even if
the results were futile.

With the advent of the Gracchi, toward the close of the second century
before our era, moral considerations become less noticeable, and
paternalism takes on a more philanthropic and political character. We see
this change reflected in the land laws and the corn laws. To take up first
the free distribution of land by the state, in the early days of the
Republic colonies of citizens were founded in the newly conquered
districts of Italy to serve as garrisons on the frontier. It was a fair
bargain between the citizen and the state. He received land, the state,
protection. But with Tiberius Gracchus a change comes in. His colonists
were to be settled in peaceful sections of Italy; they were to receive
land solely because of their poverty. This was socialism or state
philanthropy. Like the agrarian bill of Tiberius, the corn law of Gaius
Gracchus, which provided for the sale of grain below the market price, was
a paternal measure inspired in part by sympathy for the needy. The
political element is clear in both cases also. The people who were thus
favored by assignments of land and of food naturally supported the leaders
who assisted them. Perhaps the extensive building of roads which Gaius
Gracchus carried on should be mentioned in this connection. The ostensible
purpose of these great highways, perhaps their primary purpose, was to
develop Italy and to facilitate communication between different parts of
the peninsula, but a large number of men was required for their
construction, and Gaius Gracchus may well have taken the matter up, partly
for the purpose of furnishing work to the unemployed. Out of these small
beginnings developed the socialistic policy of later times. By the middle
of the first century B.C., it is said that there were three hundred and
twenty thousand persons receiving doles of corn from the state, and, if
the people could look to the government for the necessities of life, why
might they not hope to have it supply their less pressing needs? Or, to
put it in another way, if one politician won their support by giving them
corn, why might not another increase his popularity by providing them with
amusement and with the comforts of life? Presents of oil and clothing
naturally follow, the giving of games and theatrical performances at the
expense of the state, and the building of porticos and public baths. As
the government and wealthy citizens assumed a larger measure of
responsibility for the welfare of the citizens, the people became more and
more dependent upon them and less capable of managing their own affairs.
An indication of this change we see in the decline of local
self-government and the assumption by the central administration of
responsibility for the conduct of public business in the towns of Italy.
This last consideration suggests another phase of Roman history which a
study of paternalism would bring out--I mean the effect of its
introduction on the character of the Roman people.

The history of paternalism in Rome, when it is written, might approach
the subject from several different points. If the writer were inclined to
interpret history on the economic side, he might find the explanation of
the change in the policy of the government toward its citizens in the
introduction of slave labor which, under the Republic, drove the free
laborer to the wall and made him look to the state for help, in the
decline of agriculture, and the growth of capitalism. The sociologist
would notice the drift of the people toward the cities and the sudden
massing there of large numbers of persons who could not provide for
themselves and in their discontent might overturn society. The historian
who concerns himself with political changes mainly, would notice the
socialistic legislation of the Gracchi and their political successors and
would connect the growth of paternalism with the development of democracy.
In all these explanations there would be a certain measure of truth.

But I am not planning here to write a history of paternalism among the
Romans. That is one of the projects which I had been reserving for the day
when the Carnegie Foundation should present me with a wooden sword and
allow me to retire from the arena of academic life. But, alas! the
trustees of that beneficent institution, by the revision which they have
lately made of the conditions under which a university professor may
withdraw from active service, have in their wisdom put off that day of
academic leisure to the Greek Kalends, and my dream vanishes into the
distance with it.

Here I wish to present only an episode in this history which we have been
discussing, an episode which is unique, however, in ancient and, so far as
I know, in modern history. Our knowledge of the incident comes from an
edict of the Emperor Diocletian, and this document has a direct bearing on
a subject of present-day discussion, because it contains a diatribe
against the high cost of living and records the heroic attempt which the
Roman government made to reduce it. In his effort to bring prices down to
what he considered a normal level, Diocletian did not content himself with
such half-measures as we are trying in our attempts to suppress
combinations in restraint of trade, but he boldly fixed the maximum prices
at which beef, grain, eggs, clothing, and other articles could be sold,
and prescribed the penalty of death for any one who disposed of his wares
at a higher figure. His edict is a very comprehensive document, and
specifies prices for seven hundred or eight hundred different articles.
This systematic attempt to regulate trade was very much in keeping with
the character of Diocletian and his theory of government. Perhaps no Roman
emperor, with the possible exception of Hadrian, showed such extraordinary
administrative ability and proposed so many sweeping social reforms as
Diocletian did. His systematic attempt to suppress Christianity is a case
in point, and in the last twenty years of his reign he completely
reorganized the government. He frankly introduced the monarchical
principle, fixed upon a method of succession to the throne, redivided the
provinces, established a carefully graded system of officials, concerned
himself with court etiquette and dress, and reorganized the coinage and
the system of taxation. We are not surprised therefore that he had the
courage to attack this difficult question of high prices, and that his
plan covered almost all the articles which his subjects would have
occasion to buy.

It is almost exactly two centuries since the first fragments of the edict
dealing with the subject were brought to light. They were discovered in
Caria, in 1709, by William Sherard, the English consul at Smyrna. Since
then, from time to time, other fragments of tablets containing parts of
the edict have been found in Egypt, Asia Minor, and Greece. At present
portions of twenty-nine copies of it are known. Fourteen of them are in
Latin and fifteen in Greek. The Greek versions differ from one another,
while the Latin texts are identical, except for the stone-cutters'
mistakes here and there. These facts make it clear that the original
document was in Latin, and was translated into Greek by the local
officials of each town where the tablets were set up. We have already
noticed that specimens of the edict have not been found outside of Egypt,
Greece, and Asia Minor, and this was the part of the Roman world where
Diocletian ruled. Scholars have also observed that almost all the
manufactured articles which are mentioned come from Eastern points. From
these facts it has been inferred that the edict was to apply to the East
only, or perhaps more probably that Diocletian drew it up for his part of
the Roman world, and that before it could be applied to the West it was

From the pieces which were then known, a very satisfactory reconstruction
of the document was made by Mommsen and published in the _Corpus of Latin

The work of restoration was like putting together the parts of a picture
puzzle where some of the pieces are lacking. Fragments are still coming to
light, and possibly we may have the complete text some day. As it is, the
introduction is complete, and perhaps four-fifths of the list of articles
with prices attached are extant. The introduction opens with a stately
list of the titles of the two Augusti and the two Cæsars, which fixes the
date of the proclamation as 301 A.D. Then follows a long recital of the
circumstances which have led the government to adopt this drastic method
of controlling prices. This introduction is one of the most extraordinary
pieces of bombast, mixed metaphors, loose syntax, and incoherent
expressions that Latin literature possesses. One is tempted to infer from
its style that it was the product of Diocletian's own pen. He was a man of
humble origin, and would not live in Rome for fear of being laughed at on
account of his plebeian training. The florid and awkward style of these
introductory pages is exactly what we should expect from a man of such

It is very difficult to translate them into intelligible English, but some
conception of their style and contents may be had from one or two
extracts. In explaining the situation which confronts the world, the
Emperor writes: "For, if the raging avarice ... which, without regard for
mankind, increases and develops by leaps and bounds, we will not say from
year to year, month to month, or day to day, but almost from hour to hour,
and even from minute to minute, could be held in check by some regard for
moderation, or if the welfare of the people could calmly tolerate this mad
license from which, in a situation like this, it suffers in the worst
possible fashion from day to day, some ground would appear, perhaps, for
concealing the truth and saying nothing; ... but inasmuch as there is
only seen a mad desire without control, to pay no heed to the needs of the
many, ... it seems good to us, as we look into the future, to us who are
the fathers of the people, that justice intervene to settle matters
impartially, in order that that which, long hoped for, humanity itself
could not bring about may be secured for the common government of all by
the remedies which our care affords.... Who is of so hardened a heart and
so untouched by a feeling for humanity that he can be unaware, nay that he
has not noticed, that in the sale of wares which are exchanged in the
market, or dealt with in the daily business of the cities, an exorbitant
tendency in prices has spread to such an extent that the unbridled desire
of plundering is held in check neither by abundance nor by seasons of

If we did not know that this was found on tablets sixteen centuries old,
we might think that we were reading a newspaper diatribe against the
cold-storage plant or the beef trust. What the Emperor has decided to do
to remedy the situation he sets forth toward the end of the introduction.
He says: "It is our pleasure, therefore, that those prices which the
subjoined written summary specifies, be held in observance throughout all
our domain, that all may know that license to go above the same has been
cut off.... It is our pleasure (also) that if any man shall have boldly
come into conflict with this formal statute, he shall put his life in
peril.... In the same peril also shall he be placed who, drawn along by
avarice in his desire to buy, shall have conspired against these statutes.
Nor shall he be esteemed innocent of the same crime who, having articles
necessary for daily life and use, shall have decided hereafter that they
can be held back, since the punishment ought to be even heavier for him
who causes need than for him who violates the laws."

The lists which follow are arranged in three columns which give
respectively the article, the unit of measure, and the price.[89]

Frumenti K̄M̄
Hordei K̄M̄ unum Ⅹ̶ c(entum)
Centenum sive sicale " " " Ⅹ̶ sexa(ginta)
Mili pisti " " " Ⅹ̶ centu(m)
Mili integri " " Ⅹ̶ quinquaginta'

The first item (frumentum) is wheat, which is sold by the K̄M̄
(kastrensis modius=18½ quarts), but the price is lacking. Barley is
sold by the kastrensis modius at Ⅹ̶ centum (centum denarii = 43 cents)
and so on.

Usually a price list is not of engrossing interest, but the tables of
Diocletian furnish us a picture of material conditions throughout the
Empire in his time which cannot be had from any other source, and for that
reason deserve some attention. This consideration emboldens me to set down
some extracts in the following pages from the body of the edict:

Extracts from Diocletian's List of Maximum Prices


In the tables given here the Latin and Greek names of the articles listed
have been turned into English. The present-day accepted measure of
quantity--for instance, the bushel or the quart--has been substituted for
the ancient unit, and the corresponding price for the modern unit of
measure is given. Thus barley was to be sold by the kastrensis modius
(=18½ quarts) at 100 denarii (=43.5 cents). At this rate a bushel of
barley would have brought 74.5 cents. For convenience in reference the
numbers of the chapters and of the items adopted in the text of Mommsen
are used here. Only selected articles are given.

(Unit of Measure, the Bushel)

1 Wheat
2 Barley 74.5 cents
3 Rye 45 "
4 Millet, ground 74.5 "
6 Millet, whole 37 "
7 Spelt, hulled 74.5 "
8 Spelt, not hulled 22.5 "
9 Beans, ground 74.5 "
10 Beans, not ground 45 "
11 Lentils 74.5 "
12-16 Peas, various sorts 45-74.5 "
17 Oats 22.5 "
31 Poppy seeds $1.12
34 Mustard $1.12
35 Prepared mustard, quart 6 "


(Unit of Measure, the Quart)

1a Wine from Picenum 22.5 cents
2 Wine from Tibur 22.5 "
7 Wine from Falernum 22.5 "
10 Wine of the country 6 "
11-12 Beer 1.5-3 "


(Unit of Measure, the Quart)

1a Oil, first quality 30.3 cents
2 Oil, second quality 18 "
5 Vinegar 4.3 "
8 Salt, bushel 74.5 "
10 Honey, best 30.3 "
11 Honey, second quality 15 "


(Unit, Unless Otherwise Noted, Pound Avoirdupois)

1a Pork 7.3 cents
2 Beef 4.9 "
3 Goat's flesh or mutton 4.9 "
6 Pig's liver 9.8 "
8 Ham, best 12 "
21 Goose, artificially fed (1) 87 "
22 Goose, not artificially fed (1) 43.5 "
23 Pair of fowls 36 "
29 Pair of pigeons 10.5 "
47 Lamb 7.3 "
48 Kid 7.3 "
50 Butter 9.8 "


(Unit, the Pound)

1a Sea fish with sharp spines 14.6 cents
2 Fish, second quality 9.7 "
3 River fish, best quality 7.3 "
4 Fish, second quality 4.8 "
5 Salt fish 8.3 "
6 Oysters (by the hundred) 43.5 "
11 Dry cheese 7.3 "
12 Sardines 9.7 "


1 Artichokes, large (5) 4.3 cents
7 Lettuce, best (5) 1.7 "
9 Cabbages, best (5) 1.7 "
10 Cabbages, small (10) 1.7 "
18 Turnips, large (10) 1.7 "
24 Watercress, per bunch of 20 4.3 "
28 Cucumbers, first quality (10) 1.7 "
29 Cucumbers, small (20) 1.7 "
34 Garden asparagus, per bunch (25) 2.6 "
35 Wild asparagus (50) 1.7 "
38 Shelled green beans, quart 3 "
43 Eggs (4) 1.7 "
46 Snails, large (20) 1.7 "
65 Apples, best (10) 1.7 "
67 Apples, small (40) 1.7 "
78 Figs, best (25) 1.7 "
80 Table grapes (2.8 pound) 1.7 "
95 Sheep's milk, quart 6 "
96 Cheese, fresh, quart 6 "


(Where (k) Is Set Down the Workman Receives His "Keep" Also)

1a Manual laborer (k) 10.8 cents
2 Bricklayer (k) 21.6 "
3 Joiner (interior work) (k) 21.6 "
3a Carpenter (k) 21.6 "
4 Lime-burner (k) 21.6 "
5 Marble-worker (k) 26 "
6 Mosaic-worker (fine work) (k) 26 "
7 Stone-mason (k) 21.6 "
8 Wall-painter (k) 32.4 "
9 Figure-painter (k) 64.8 "
10 Wagon-maker (k) 21.6 "
11 Smith (k) 21.6 "
12 Baker (k) 21.6 "
13 Ship-builder, for sea-going ships (k) 26 "
14 Ship-builder, for river boats (k) 21.6 "
17 Driver, for camel, ass, or mule (k) 10.8 "
18 Shepherd (k) 8.7 "
20 Veterinary, for cutting, and straightening hoofs, per animal 2.6 "
22 Barber, for each man .9 cent
23 Sheep-shearer, for each sheep (k) .9 "
24a Coppersmith, for work in brass, per pound 3.5 cents
25 Coppersmith, for work in copper, per pound 2.6 "
26 Coppersmith for finishing vessels, per pound 2.6 "
27 Coppersmith, for finishing figures and statues, per pound 1.7 "
29 Maker of statues, etc., per day (k) 32.4 "
31 Water-carrier, per day (k) 10.9 "
32 Sewer-cleaner, per day (k) 10.9 "
33 Knife-grinder, for old sabre 10.9 "
36 Knife-grinder, for double axe 3.5 "
39 Writer, 100 lines best writing 10.9 "
40 Writer, 100 lines ordinary writing 8.7 "
41 Document writer for record of 100 lines 4.3 "
42 Tailor, for cutting out and finishing overgarment of first
quality 26.1 "
43 Tailor, for cutting out and finishing overgarment of second
quality 17.4 "
44 For a large cowl 10.9 "
45 For a small cowl 8.7 "
46 For trousers 8.7 "
52 Felt horse-blanket, black or white, 3 pounds weight 43.5 "
53 Cover, first quality, with embroidery, 3 pounds weight $1.09
64 Gymnastic teacher, per pupil, per month 21.6 cents
65 Employee to watch children, per child, per month 21.6 "
66 Elementary teacher, per pupil, per month 21.6 "
67 Teacher of arithmetic, per pupil, per month 32.6 "
68 Teacher of stenography, per pupil, per month 32.6 "
69 Writing-teacher, per pupil, per month 21.6 "
70 Teacher of Greek, Latin, geometry, per pupil, per month 87 "
71 Teacher of rhetoric, per pupil, per month $1.09
72 Advocate or counsel for presenting a case $1.09
73 For finishing a case $4.35
74 Teacher of architecture, per pupil, per month 43.5 cents
75 Watcher of clothes in public bath, for each patron .9 cent


1a Hide, Babylonian, first quality $2.17
2 Hide, Babylonian, second quality $1.74
4 Hide, Phœnician (?) 43 cents
6a Cowhide, unworked, first quality $2.17
7 Cowhide, prepared for shoe soles $3.26
9 Hide, second quality, unworked $1.31
10 Hide, second quality, worked $2.17
11 Goatskin, large, unworked 17 cents
12 Goatskin, large, worked 22 "
13 Sheepskin, large, unworked 8.7 "
14 Sheepskin, large, worked 18 "
17 Kidskin, unworked 4.3 "
18 Kidskin, worked 7 "
27 Wolfskin, unworked 10.8 "
28 Wolfskin, worked 17.4 "
33 Bearskin, large, unworked 43 "
39 Leopardskin, unworked $4.35
41 Lionskin, worked $4.35


5a Boots, first quality, for mule-drivers and peasants, per
pair, without nails 52 cents
6 Soldiers' boots, without nails 43 "
7 Patricians' shoes 65 "
8 Senatorial shoes 43 "
9 Knights' shoes 30.5 "
10 Women's boots 26 "
11 Soldiers' shoes 32.6 "
15 Cowhide shoes for women, double soles 21.7 "
16 Cowhide shoes for women, single soles 13 "
20 Men's slippers 26 "
21 Women's slippers 21.7 "


8a Sewing-needle, finest quality 1.7 cents
9 Sewing-needle, second quality .9 cent


1 Transportation, 1 person, 1 mile .9 cent
2 Rent for wagon, 1 mile 5 cents
3 Freight charges for wagon containing up to 1,200 pounds, per
mile 8.7 "
4 Freight charges for camel load of 600 pounds,
per mile 3.5 "
5 Rent for laden ass, per mile 1.8 "
7 Hay and straw, 3 pounds .9 cent


1a Goose-quills, per pound 43.5 cents
11a Ink, per pound 5 "
12 Reed pens from Paphos (10) 1.7 "
13 Reed pens, second quality (20) 1.7 "


1 Military mantle, finest quality $17.40
2 Undergarment, fine $8.70
3 Undergarment, ordinary $5.44
5 White bed blanket, finest sort, 12 pounds weight $6.96
7 Ordinary cover, 10 pounds weight $2.18
28 Laodicean Dalmatica [_i.e., a tunic with sleeves_] $8.70
36 British mantle, with cowl $26.08
39 Numidian mantle, with cowl $13.04
42 African mantle, with cowl $6.52
51 Laodicean storm coat, finest quality $21.76
60 Gallic soldier's cloak $43.78
61 African soldier's cloak $2.17


1a For an embroiderer, for embroidering a half-silk
undergarment, per ounce 87 cents
5 For a gold embroiderer, if he work in gold, for finest
work, per ounce $4.35
9 For a silk weaver, who works on stuff half-silk, besides
"keep," per day 11 cents


2 For working Tarentine or Laodicean or other foreign wool,
with keep, per pound 13 cents
5 A linen weaver for fine work, with keep, per day 18 "


4 Fuller's charges for a cloak or mantle, new 13 cents
6 Fuller's charges for a woman's coarse Dalmatica, new 21.7 "
9 Fuller's charges for a new half-silk undergarment 76 "
22 Fuller's charges for a new Laodicean mantle. 76 "


1 White silk, per pound $52.22


1 Genuine purple silk, per pound $652.20
2 Genuine purple wool, per pound $217.40
3 Genuine light purple wool, per pound $139.26
8 Nicæan scarlet wool, per pound $6.53


1 Washed Tarentine wool, per pound 76 cents
2 Washed Laodicean wool, per pound 65 "
3 Washed wool from Asturia, per pound 43.5 "
4 Washed wool, best medium quality, per pound 21.7 "
5 All other washed wools, per pound 10.8 "


7a Coarse linen thread, first quality, per pound $3.13
8 Coarse linen thread, second quality, per pound $2.61
9 Coarse linen thread, third quality, per pound $1.96


1 Pure gold in bars or in coined pieces, per pound 50,000 denarii
3 Artificers, working in metal, per pound $21.76
4 Gold-beaters, per pound $13.06

Throughout the lists, as one may see, articles are grouped in a systematic
way. First we find grain and vegetables; then wine, oil, vinegar, salt,
honey, meat, fish, cheese, salads, and nuts. After these articles, in
chapter VII, we pass rather unexpectedly to the wages of the field
laborer, the carpenter, the painter, and of other skilled and unskilled
workmen. Then follow leather, shoes, saddles, and other kinds of raw
material and manufactured wares until we reach a total of more than eight
hundred articles. As we have said, the classification is in the main
systematic, but there are some strange deviations from a systematic
arrangement. Eggs, for instance, are in table VI with salads, vegetables,
and fruits. Bücher, who has discussed some phases of this price list, has
acutely surmised that perhaps the tables in whole, or in part, were drawn
up by the directors of imperial factories and magazines. The government
levied tribute "in kind," and it must have provided depots throughout the
provinces for the reception of contributions from its subjects.
Consequently in making out these tables it would very likely call upon the
directors of these magazines for assistance, and each of them in making
his report would naturally follow to some extent the list of articles
which the imperial depot controlled by him, carried in stock. At all
events, we see evidence of an expert hand in the list of linens, which
includes one hundred and thirty-nine articles of different qualities.

As we have noticed in the passage quoted from the introduction, it is
unlawful for a person to charge more for any of his wares than the amount
specified in the law. Consequently, the prices are not normal, but maximum
prices. However, since the imperial lawgivers evidently believed that the
necessities of life were being sold at exorbitant rates, the maximum which
they fixed was very likely no greater than the prevailing market price.
Here and there, as in the nineteenth chapter of the document, the text is
given in tablets from two or more places. In such cases the prices are the
same, so that apparently no allowance was made for the cost of carriage,
although with some articles, like oysters and sea-fish, this item must
have had an appreciable value, and it certainly should have been taken
into account in fixing the prices of "British mantles" or "Gallic
soldiers' cloaks" of chapter XIX. The quantities for which prices are
given are so small--a pint of wine, a pair of fowls, twenty snails, ten
apples, a bunch of asparagus--that evidently Diocletian had the "ultimate
consumer" in mind, and fixed the retail price in his edict. This is
fortunate for us, because it helps us to get at the cost of living in the
early part of the fourth century. There is good reason for believing that
the system of barter prevailed much more generally at that time than it
does to-day. Probably the farmer often exchanged his grain, vegetables,
and eggs for shoes and cloth, without receiving or paying out money, so
that the money prices fixed for his products would not affect him in every
transaction as they would affect the present-day farmer. The unit of money
which is used throughout the edict is the copper denarius, and fortunately
the value of a pound of fine gold is given as 50,000 denarii. This fixes
the value of the denarius as .4352 cent, or approximately four-tenths of a
cent. It is implied in the introduction that the purpose of the law is to
protect the people, and especially the soldiers, from extortion, but
possibly, as Bücher has surmised, the emperor may have wished to maintain
or to raise the value of the denarius, which had been steadily declining
because of the addition of alloy to the coin. If this was the emperor's
object, possibly the value of the denarius is set somewhat too high, but
it probably does not materially exceed its exchange value, and in any
case, the relative values of articles given in the tables are not

The tables bring out a number of points of passing interest. From chapter
II it seems to follow that Italian wines retained their ancient
pre-eminence, even in the fourth century. They alone are quoted among the
foreign wines. Table VI gives us a picture of the village market. On
market days the farmer brings his artichokes, lettuce, cabbages, turnips,
and other fresh vegetables into the market town and exposes them for sale
in the public square, as the country people in Italy do to-day. The
seventh chapter, in which wages are given, is perhaps of liveliest
interest. In this connection we should bear in mind the fact that slavery
existed in the Roman Empire, that owners of slaves trained them to various
occupations and hired them out by the day or job, and that, consequently
the prices paid for slave labor fixed the scale of wages. However, there
was a steady decline under the Empire in the number of slaves, and
competition with them in the fourth century did not materially affect the
wages of the free laborer. It is interesting, in this chapter, to notice
that the teacher and the advocate (Nos. 66-73) are classed with the
carpenter and tailor. It is a pleasant passing reflection for the teacher
of Greek and Latin to find that his predecessors were near the top of
their profession, if we may draw this inference from their remuneration
when compared with that of other teachers. It is worth observing also that
the close association between the classics and mathematics, and their
acceptance as the corner-stone of the higher training, to which we have
been accustomed for centuries, seems to be recognized (VII, 70) even at
this early date. We expect to find the physician mentioned with the
teacher and advocate, but probably it was too much even for Diocletian's
skill, in reducing things to a system, to estimate the comparative value
of a physician's services in a case of measles and typhoid fever.

The bricklayer, the joiner, and the carpenter (VII, 2-3a), inasmuch as
they work on the premises of their employer, receive their "keep" as well
as a fixed wage, while the knife-grinder and the tailor (VII, 33, 42)
work in their own shops, and naturally have their meals at home. The
silk-weaver (XX, 9) and the linen-weaver (XXI, 5) have their "keep" also,
which seems to indicate that private houses had their own looms, which is
quite in harmony with the practices of our fathers. The carpenter and
joiner are paid by the day, the teacher by the month, the knife-grinder,
the tailor, the barber (VII, 22) by the piece, and the coppersmith (VII,
24a-27) according to the amount of metal which he uses. Whether the
difference between the prices of shoes for the patrician, the senator, and
the knight (IX, 7-9) represents a difference in the cost of making the
three kinds, or is a tax put on the different orders of nobility, cannot
be determined. The high prices set on silk and wool dyed with purple
(XXIV) correspond to the pre-eminent position of that imperial color in
ancient times. The tables which the edict contains call our attention to
certain striking differences between ancient and modern industrial and
economic conditions. Of course the list of wage-earners is incomplete. The
inscriptions which the trades guilds have left us record many occupations
which are not mentioned here, but in them and in these lists we miss any
reference to large groups of men who hold a prominent place in our modern
industrial reports--I mean men working in printing-offices, factories,
foundries, and machine-shops, and employed by transportation companies.
Nothing in the document suggests the application of power to the
manufacture of articles, the assembling of men in a common workshop, or
the use of any other machine than the hand loom and the mill for the
grinding of corn. In the way of articles offered for sale, we miss certain
items which find a place in every price-list of household necessities,
such articles as sugar, molasses, potatoes, cotton cloth, tobacco, coffee,
and tea. The list of stimulants (II) is, in fact, very brief, including as
it does only a few kinds of wine and beer.

At the present moment, when the high cost of living is a subject which
engages the attention of the economist, politician, and householder, as it
did that of Diocletian and his contemporaries, the curious reader will
wish to know how wages and the prices of food in 301 A.D. compare with
those of to-day. In the two tables which follow, such a comparison is
attempted for some of the more important articles and occupations.

Articles of Food[90]

Price in 301 A.D. Price in 1906 A.D.

Wheat, per bushel 33.6 cents $1.19[91]
Rye, per bushel 45 " 79 cents[91]
Beans, per bushel 45 " $3.20
Barley, per bushel 74.5 " 55 cents[91]
Vinegar, per quart 4.3 " 5-7 "
Fresh pork, per pound 7.3 " 14-16 "
Beef, per pound 4.9 " { 9-12 "
{15-18 "
Mutton, per pound 4.9 " 13-16 "
Ham, per pound 12 " 18-25 "
Fowls, per pair 26 "
Fowls, per pound 14-18 "
Butter, per pound 9.8 " 26-32 "
Fish, river, fresh, per pound 7.3 " 12-15 "
Fish, sea, fresh, per pound 9-14 " 8-14 cents
Fish, salt, per pound 8.3 " 8-15 "
Cheese, per pound 7.3 " 17-20 "
Eggs, per dozen 5.1 " 25-30 "
Milk, cow's, per quart 6-8 "
Milk, sheep's, per quart 6 "

Wages Per Day

Unskilled workman 10.8 cents (k)[92] $1.20-2.24[93]
Bricklayer 21.6 " (k) 4.50-6.50
Carpenter 21.6 " (k) 2.50-4.00
Stone-mason 21.6 " (k) 3.70-4.90
Painter 32.4 " (k) 2.75-4.00
Blacksmith 21.6 " (k) 2.15-3.20
Ship-builder 21-26 " (k) 2.15-3.50

We are not so much concerned in knowing the prices of meat, fish, eggs,
and flour in 301 and 1911 A.D. as we are in finding out whether the Roman
or the American workman could buy more of these commodities with the
returns for his labor. A starting point for such an estimate is furnished
by the Eighteenth Annual Report of the Commissioner of Labor, on the "Cost
of Living and Retail Prices of Food" (1903), and by Bulletin No. 77 of the
Bureau of Labor (1908). In the first of these documents (pp. 582, 583) the
expenditure for rent, fuel, food, and other necessities of life in 11,156
normal American families whose incomes range from $200 to $1,200 per year
is given. In the other report (p. 344 _f._) similar statistics are given
for 1,944 English urban families. In the first case the average amount
spent per year was $617, of which $266, or a little less than a half of
the entire income, was used in the purchase of food. The statistics for
England show a somewhat larger relative amount spent for food. Almost
exactly one-third of this expenditure for the normal American family was
for meat and fish.[94] Now, if we take the wages of the Roman carpenter,
for instance, as 21 cents per day, and add one-fourth or one-third for his
"keep," those of the same American workman as $2.50 to $4.00, it is clear
that the former received only a ninth or a fifteenth as much as the
latter, while the average price of pork, beef, mutton, and ham (7.3 cents)
in 301 A.D. was about a third of the average (19.6 cents) of the same
articles to-day. The relative averages of wheat, rye, and barley make a
still worse showing for ancient times while fresh fish was nearly as high
in Diocletian's time as it is in our own day. The ancient and modern
prices of butter and eggs stand at the ratio of one to three and one to
six respectively. For the urban workman, then, in the fourth century,
conditions of life must have been almost intolerable, and it is hard to
understand how he managed to keep soul and body together, when almost all
the nutritious articles of food were beyond his means. The taste of meat,
fish, butter, and eggs must have been almost unknown to him, and probably
even the coarse bread and vegetables on which he lived were limited in
amount. The peasant proprietor who could raise his own cattle and grain
would not find the burden so hard to bear.

Only one question remains for us to answer. Did Diocletian succeed in his
bold attempt to reduce the cost of living? Fortunately the answer is given
us by Lactantius in the book which he wrote in 313-314 A.D., "On the
Deaths of Those Who Persecuted (the Christians)." The title of
Lactantius's work would not lead us to expect a very sympathetic treatment
of Diocletian, the arch-persecutor, but his account of the actual outcome
of the incident is hardly open to question. In Chapter VII of his
treatise, after setting forth the iniquities of the Emperor in constantly
imposing new burdens on the people, he writes: "And when he had brought on
a state of exceeding high prices by his different acts of injustice, he
tried to fix by law the prices of articles offered for sale. Thereupon,
for the veriest trifles much blood was shed, and out of fear nothing was
offered for sale, and the scarcity grew much worse, until, after the death
of many persons, the law was repealed from mere necessity." Thus came to
an end this early effort to reduce the high cost of living. Sixty years
later the Emperor Julian made a similar attempt on a small scale. He fixed
the price of corn for the people of Antioch by an edict. The holders of
grain hoarded their stock. The Emperor brought supplies of it into the
city from Egypt and elsewhere and sold it at the legal price. It was
bought up by speculators, and in the end Julian, like Diocletian, had to
acknowledge his inability to cope with an economic law.

Private Benefactions and Their Effect on the Municipal Life of the Romans

In the early days the authority of the Roman father over his wife, his
sons, and his daughters was absolute. He did what seemed to him good for
his children. His oversight and care extended to all the affairs of their
lives. The state was modelled on the family and took over the autocratic
power of the paterfamilias. It is natural to think of it, therefore, as a
paternal government, and the readiness with which the Roman subordinated
his own will and sacrificed his personal interests to those of the
community seems to show his acceptance of this theory of his relation to
the government. But this conception is correct in part only. A paternal
government seeks to foster all the common interests of its people and to
provide for their common needs. This the Roman state did not try to do,
and if we think of it as a paternal government, in the ordinary meaning
of that term, we lose sight of the partnership between state supervision
and individual enterprise in ministering to the common needs and desires,
which was one of the marked features of Roman life. In fact, the
gratification of the individual citizen's desire for those things which he
could not secure for himself depended in the Roman Empire, as it depends
in this country, not solely on state support, but in part on state aid,
and in part on private generosity. We see the truth of this very clearly
in studying the history of the Roman city. The phase of Roman life which
we have just noted may not fit into the ideas of Roman society which we
have hitherto held, but we can understand it as no other people can,
because in the United States and in England we are accustomed to the
co-operation of private initiative and state action in the establishment
and maintenance of universities, libraries, museums, and all sorts of
charitable institutions.

If we look at the growth of private munificence under the Republic, we
shall see that citizens showed their generosity particularly in the
construction of public buildings, partly or entirely at their own
expense. In this way some of the basilicas in Rome and elsewhere which
served as courts of justice and halls of exchange were constructed. The
great Basilica Æmilia, for instance, whose remains may be seen in the
Forum to-day, was constructed by an Æmilius in the second century before
our era, and was accepted as a charge by his descendants to be kept in
condition and improved at the expense of the Æmilian family. Under
somewhat similar conditions Pompey built the great theatre which bore his
name, the first permanent theatre to be built in Rome, and always
considered one of the wonders of the city. The cost of this structure was
probably covered by the treasure which he brought back from his campaigns
in the East. In using the spoils of a successful war to construct
buildings or memorials in Rome, he was following the example of Mummius,
the conqueror of Corinth, and other great generals who had preceded him.
The purely philanthropic motive does not bulk largely in these gifts to
the citizens, because the people whose armies had won the victories were
part owners at least of the spoils, and because the victorious leader who
built the structure was actuated more by the hope of transmitting the
memory of his achievements to posterity in some conspicuous and
imperishable monument than by a desire to benefit his fellow citizens.

These two motives, the one egoistic and the other altruistic, actuated all
the Roman emperors in varying degrees. The activity of Augustus in such
matters comes out clearly in the record of his reign, which he has left us
in his own words. This remarkable bit of autobiography, known as the
"Deeds of the Deified Augustus," the Emperor had engraved on bronze
tablets, placed in front of his mausoleum. The original has disappeared,
but fortunately a copy of it has been found on the walls of a ruined
temple at Ancyra, in Asia Minor, and furnishes us abundant proof of the
great improvements which he made in the city of Rome. We are told in it
that from booty he paid for the construction of the Forum of Augustus,
which was some four hundred feet long, three hundred wide, and was
surrounded by a wall one hundred and twenty feet high, covered on the
inside with marble and stucco. Enclosed within it and built with funds
coming from the same source was the magnificent temple of Mars the
Avenger, which had as its principal trophies the Roman standards recovered
from the Parthians. This forum and temple are only two items in the long
list of public improvements which Augustus records in his imperial
epitaph, for, as he proudly writes: "In my sixth consulship, acting under
a decree of the senate, I restored eighty-two temples in the city,
neglecting no temple which needed repair at the time." Besides the
temples, he mentions a large number of theatres, porticos, basilicas,
aqueducts, roads, and bridges which he built in Rome or in Italy outside
the city.

But the Roman people had come to look for acts of generosity from their
political as well as from their military leaders, and this factor, too,
must be taken into account in the case of Augustus. In the closing years
of the Republic, candidates for office and men elected to office saw that
one of the most effective ways of winning and holding their popularity was
to give public entertainments, and they vied with one another in the
costliness of the games and pageants which they gave the people. The
well-known case of Cæsar will be recalled, who, during his term as ædile,
or commissioner of public works, bankrupted himself by his lavish
expenditures on public improvements, and on the games, in which he
introduced three hundred and twenty pairs of gladiators for the amusement
of the people. In his book, "On the Offices," Cicero tells us of a thrifty
rich man, named Mamercus, who aspired to public office, but avoided taking
the ædileship, which stood in the regular sequence of minor offices, in
order that he might escape the heavy outlay for public entertainment
expected of the ædile. As a consequence, when later he came up for the
consulship, the people punished him by defeating him at the polls. To
check the growth of these methods of securing votes, Cicero, in his
consulship, brought in a corrupt practices act, which forbade citizens to
give gladiatorial exhibitions within two years of any election in which
they were candidates. We may doubt if this measure was effective. The
Roman was as clever as the American politician in accomplishing his
purpose without going outside the law. Perhaps an incident in the life of
Cicero's young friend, Curio, is a case in point. It was an old Roman
custom to celebrate the ninth day after a burial as a solemn family
festival, and some time in the second century before our era the practice
grew up of giving gladiatorial contests on these occasions. The versatile
Curio, following this practice, testified his respect for his father's
memory by giving the people such elaborate games that he never escaped
from the financial difficulties in which they involved him. However, this
tribute of pious affection greatly enhanced his popularity, and perhaps
did not expose him to the rigors of Cicero's law.

These gifts from generals, from distinguished citizens, and from
candidates for office do not go far to prove a generous or philanthropic
spirit on the part of the donors, but they show clearly enough that the
practice of giving large sums of money to embellish the city, and to
please the public, had grown up under the Republic, and that the people of
Rome had come to regard it as the duty of their distinguished fellow
citizens to beautify the city and minister to their needs and pleasures by
generous private contributions.

All these gifts were for the city of Rome, and for the people of the city,
not for the Empire, nor for Italy. This is characteristic of ancient
generosity or philanthropy, that its recipients are commonly the people
of a single town, usually the donor's native town. It is one of many
indications of the fact that the Roman thought of his city as the state,
and even under the Empire he rarely extended the scope of his benefactions
beyond the walls of a particular town. The small cities and villages
throughout the West reproduced the capital in miniature. Each was a little
world in itself. Each of them not only had its forum, its temples,
colonnades, baths, theatres, and arenas, but also developed a political
and social organization like that of the city of Rome. It had its own
local chief magistrates, distinguished by their official robes and
insignia of office, and its senators, who enjoyed the privilege of
occupying special seats in the theatre, and it was natural that the common
people at Ostia, Ariminum, or Lugudunum, like those at Rome, should expect
from those whom fortune had favored some return for the distinctions which
they enjoyed. In this way the prosperous in each little town came to feel
a sense of obligation to their native place, and this feeling of civic
pride and responsibility was strengthened by the same spirit of rivalry
between different villages that the Italian towns of the Middle Ages seem
to have inherited from their ancestors, a spirit of rivalry which made
each one eager to surpass the others in its beauty and attractiveness.
Perhaps there have never been so many beautiful towns in any other period
in history as there were in the Roman Empire, during the second century of
our era, and their attractive features--their colonnades, temples,
fountains, and works of art--were due in large measure to the generosity
of private citizens. We can make this statement with considerable
confidence, because these benefactions are recorded for us on innumerable
tablets of stone and bronze, scattered throughout the Empire.

These contributions not only helped to meet the cost of building temples,
colonnades, and other structures, but they were often intended to cover a
part of the running expenses of the city. This is one of the novel
features of Roman municipal life. We can understand the motives which
would lead a citizen of New York or Boston to build a museum or an arch in
his native city. Such a structure would serve as a monument to him; it
would give distinction to the city, and it would give him and his fellow
citizens æsthetic satisfaction tion But if a rich New Yorker should give
a large sum to mend the pavement in Union Square or extend the sewer
system on Canal Street, a judicial inquiry into his sanity would not be
thought out of place. But the inscriptions show us that rich citizens
throughout the Roman Empire frequently made large contributions for just
such unromantic purposes. It is unfortunate that a record of the annual
income and expenses of some Italian or Gallic town has not come down to
us. It would be interesting, for instance, to compare the budget of Mantua
or Ancona, in the first century of our era, with that of Princeton or
Cambridge in the twentieth. But, although we rarely know the sums which
were expended for particular purposes, a mere comparison of the objects
for which they were spent is illuminating. The items in the ancient budget
which find no place in our own, and vice versa, are significant of certain
striking differences between ancient and modern municipal life.

Common to the ancient and the modern city are expenditures for the
construction and maintenance of public buildings, sewers, aqueducts, and
streets, but with these items the parallelism ends. The ancient objects
of expenditure which find no place in the budget of an American town are
the repair of the town walls, the maintenance of public worship, the
support of the baths, the sale of grain at a low price, and the giving of
games and theatrical performances. It is very clear that the ancient
legislator made certain provisions for the physical and spiritual welfare
of his fellow citizens which find little or no place in our municipal
arrangements to-day. If, among the sums spent for the various objects
mentioned above, we compare the amounts set apart for religion and for the
baths, we may come to the conclusion that the Roman read the old saying,
"Cleanliness is next to godliness" in the amended form "Cleanliness is
next above godliness." No city in the Empire seems to have been too small
or too poor to possess public baths, and how large an item of annual
expense their care was is clear from the fact that an article of the
Theodosian code provided that cities should spend at least one-third of
their incomes on the heating of the baths and the repair of the walls. The
great idle population of the city of Rome had to be provided with food at
public expense. Otherwise riot and disorder would have followed, but in
the towns the situation was not so threatening, and probably furnishing
grain to the people did not constitute a regular item of expense. So far
as public entertainments were concerned, the remains of theatres and
amphitheatres in Pompeii, Fiesole, Aries, Orange, and at many other places
to-day furnish us visible evidence of the large sums which ancient towns
must have spent on plays and gladiatorial games. In the city of Rome in
the fourth century, there were one hundred and seventy-five days on which
performances were given in the theatres, arenas, and amphitheatres.

We have been looking at the items which were peculiar to the ancient
budget. Those which are missing from it are still more indicative, if
possible, of differences between Roman character and modes of life and
those of to-day. Provision was rarely made for schools, museums,
libraries, hospitals, almshouses, or for the lighting of streets. No
salaries were paid to city officials; no expenditure was made for police
or for protection against fire, and the slaves whom every town owned
probably took care of the public buildings and kept the streets clean.
The failure of the ancient city government to provide for educational and
charitable institutions, means, as we shall see later, that in some cases
these matters were neglected, that in others they were left to private
enterprise. It appears strange that the admirable police and fire system
which Augustus introduced into Rome was not adopted throughout the Empire,
but that does not seem to have been the case, and life and property must
have been exposed to great risks, especially on festival days and in the
unlighted streets at night. The rich man could be protected by his
bodyguard of clients, and have his way lighted at night by the torches
which his slaves carried, but the little shopkeeper must have avoided the
dark alleys or attached himself to the retinue of some powerful man. Some
of us will recall in this connection the famous wall painting at Pompeii
which depicts the riotous contest between the Pompeians and the people of
the neighboring town of Nuceria, at the Pompeian gladiatorial games in 50
B.C., when stones were thrown and weapons freely used. What scenes of
violence and disorder there must have been on such occasions as these,
without systematic police surveillance, can be readily imagined.

The sums of money which an ancient or a modern city spends fall in two
categories--the amounts which are paid out for permanent improvements, and
the running expenses of the municipality. We have just been looking at the
second class of expenditures, and our brief examination of it shows
clearly enough that the ancient city took upon its shoulders only a small
part of the burden which a modern municipality assumes. It will be
interesting now to see how far the municipal outlay for running expenses
was supplemented by private generosity, and to find out the extent to
which the cities were indebted to the same source for their permanent
improvements. A great deal of light is thrown on these two questions by
the hundreds of stone and bronze tablets which were set up by donors
themselves or by grateful cities to commemorate the gifts made to them.
The responsibility which the rich Roman felt to spend his money for the
public good was unequivocally stated by the poet Martial in one of his
epigrams toward the close of the first century of our era. The speaker in
the poem tells his friend Pastor why he is striving to be rich--not that
he may have broad estates, rich appointments, fine wines, or troops of
slaves, but "that he may give and build for the public good" ("ut donem,
Pastor, et ædificem"), and this feeling of stewardship found expression in
a steady outpouring of gifts in the interests of the people.

The practice of giving may well have started with the town officials. We
have already noticed that in Rome, under the Republic, candidates for
office, in seeking votes, and magistrates, in return for the honors paid
them, not infrequently spent large sums on the people. In course of time,
in the towns throughout the Empire this voluntary practice became a legal
obligation resting on local officials. This fact is brought out in the
municipal charter of Urso,[95] the modern Osuna, in Spain. Half of this
document, engraved on tablets, was discovered in Spain about forty years
ago, and makes a very interesting contribution to our knowledge of
municipal life. A colony was sent out to Urso, in 44 B.C., by Julius
Cæsar, under the care of Mark Antony, and the municipal constitution of
the colony was drawn up by one of these two men. In the seventieth
article, we read of the duumvirs, who were the chief magistrates: "Whoever
shall be duumvirs, with the exception of those who shall have first been
elected after the passage of this law, let the aforesaid during their
magistracy give a public entertainment or plays in honor of the gods and
goddesses Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, for four days, during the greater
part of the day, so far as it may be done, at the discretion of the common
councillors, and on these games and this entertainment let each one of
them spend from his own money not less than two thousand sesterces." The
article which follows in the document provides that the ædiles, or the
officials next in rank, shall give gladiatorial games and plays for three
days, and one day of races in the circus, and for these entertainments
they also must spend not less than two thousand sesterces.

Here we see the modern practice reversed. City officials, instead of
receiving a salary for their services, not only serve without pay, but are
actually required by law to make a public contribution. It will be noticed
that the law specified the minimum sum which a magistrate _must_ spend.
The people put no limit on what he _might_ spend, and probably most of the
duumvirs of Urso gave more than $80, or, making allowance for the
difference in the purchasing value of money, $250, for the entertainment
of the people. In fact a great many honorary inscriptions from other towns
tell us of officials who made generous additions to the sum required by
law. So far as their purpose and results go, these expenditures may be
compared with the "campaign contributions" made by candidates for office
in this country. There is a strange likeness and unlikeness between the
two. The modern politician makes his contribution before the election, the
ancient politician after it. In our day the money is expended largely to
provide for public meetings where the questions of the day shall be
discussed. In Roman times it was spent upon public improvements, and upon
plays, dinners, and gladiatorial games. Among us public sentiment is
averse to the expenditure of large sums to secure an election. The Romans
desired and expected it, and those who were open-handed in this matter
took care to have a record of their gifts set down where it could be read
by all men.

On general grounds we should expect our system to have a better effect on
the intelligence and character of the people, and to secure better
officials. The discussion of public questions, even in a partisan way,
brings them to the attention of the people, sets the people thinking, and
helps to educate voters on political and economic matters. If we may draw
an inference from the election posters in Pompeii, such subjects played a
small part in a city election under the Empire. It must have been
demoralizing, too, to a Pompeian or a citizen of Salona to vote for a
candidate, not because he would make the most honest and able duumvir or
ædile among the men canvassing for the office, but because he had the
longest purse. How our sense of propriety would be shocked if the newly
elected mayor of Hartford or Montclair should give a gala performance in
the local theatre to his fellow-citizens or pay for a free exhibition by a
circus troupe! But perhaps we should overcome our scruples and go, as the
people of Pompeii did, and perhaps our consciences would be completely
salved if the aforesaid mayor proceeded to lay a new pavement in Main
Street, to erect a fountain on the Green, or stucco the city hall.
Naturally only rich men could be elected to office in Roman towns, and in
this respect the same advantages and disadvantages attach to the Roman
system as we find in the practice which the English have followed up to
the present time of paying no salary to members of the House of Commons,
and in our own practice of letting our ambassadors meet a large part of
their legitimate expenses.

The large gifts made to their native towns by rich men elected to public
office set an example which private citizens of means followed in an
extraordinary way. Sometimes they gave statues, or baths, or fountains, or
porticos, and sometimes they provided for games, or plays, or dinners, or
lottery tickets. Perhaps nothing can convey to our minds so clear an
impression of the motives of the donors, the variety and number of the
gifts, and their probable effect on the character of the people as to read
two or three specimens of these dedicatory inscriptions. The citizens of
Lanuvium, near Rome, set up a monument in honor of a certain Valerius,
"because he cleaned out and restored the water courses for a distance of
three miles, put the pipes in position again, and restored the two baths
for men and the bath for women, all at his own expense."[96] A citizen of
Sinuessa leaves this record: "Lucius Papius Pollio, the duumvir, to his
father, Lucius Papius. Cakes and mead to all the citizens of Sinuessa and
Cædici; gladiatorial games and a dinner for the people of Sinuessa and the
Papian clan; a monument at a cost of 12,000 sesterces."[97] Such a
catholic provision to suit all tastes should certainly have served to keep
his father from being forgotten. A citizen of Beneventum lays claim to
distinction because "he first scattered tickets among the people by means
of which he distributed gold, silver, bronze, linen garments, and other
things."[98] The people of Telesia, a little town in Campania, pay this
tribute to their distinguished patron: "To Titus Fabius Severus, patron of
the town, for his services at home and abroad, and because he, first of
all those who have instituted games, gave at his own expense five wild
beasts from Africa, a company of gladiators, and a splendid equipment,
the senate and citizens have most gladly granted a statue."[99] The office
of patron was a characteristic Roman institution. Cities and villages
elected to this position some distinguished Roman senator or knight, and
he looked out for the interests of the community in legal matters and

This distinction was held in high esteem, and recipients of it often
testified their appreciation by generous gifts to the town which they
represented, or were chosen patrons because of their benefactions. This
fact is illustrated in the following inscription from Spoletium: "Gaius
Torasius Severus, the son of Gaius, of the Horatian tribe, quattuorvir
with judicial power, augur, in his own name, and in the name of his son
Publius Meclonius Proculus Torasianus, the pontiff, erected (this) on his
land (?) and at his own expense. He also gave the people 250,000 sesterces
to celebrate his son's birthday, from the income of which each year, on
the third day before the Kalends of September, the members of the Common
Council are to dine in public, and each citizen who is present is to
receive eight _asses_. He also gave to the seviri Augustales, and to the
priests of the Lares, and to the overseers of the city wards, 120,000
sesterces, in order that from the income of this sum they might have a
public dinner on the same day. Him, for his services to the community, the
senate has chosen patron of the town."[100] A town commonly showed its
appreciation of what had been done for it by setting up a statue in honor
of its benefactor, as was done in the case of Fabius Severus, and the
public squares of Italian and provincial towns must have been adorned with
many works of art of this sort. It amuses one to find at the bottom of
some of the commemorative tablets attached to these statues, the statement
that the man distinguished in this way, "contented with the honor, has
himself defrayed the cost of the monument." To pay for a popular
testimonial to one's generosity is indeed generosity in its perfect form.
The statues themselves have disappeared along with the towns which erected
them, but the tablets remain, and by a strange dispensation of fate the
monument which a town has set up to perpetuate the memory of one of its
citizens is sometimes the only record we have of the town's own existence.

The motives which actuated the giver were of a mixed character, as these
memorials indicate. Sometimes it was desire for the applause of his fellow
citizens, or for posthumous fame, which influenced a donor; sometimes
civic pride and affection. In many cases it was the compelling force of
custom, backed up now and then, as we can see from the inscriptions, by
the urgent demands of the populace. Out of this last sentiment there would
naturally grow a sense of the obligation imposed by the possession of
wealth, and this feeling is closely allied to pure generosity. In fact, it
would probably be wrong not to count this among the original motives which
actuated men in making their gifts, because the spirit of devotion to the
state and to the community was a marked characteristic of Romans in the
republican period.

The effects which this practice of giving had on municipal life and on the
character of the people are not without importance and interest. The
lavish expenditure expected of a magistrate and the ever-increasing
financial obligations laid upon him by the central government made
municipal offices such an intolerable burden that the charter of Urso of
the first century A.D., which has been mentioned above, has to resort to
various ingenious devices to compel men to hold them. The position of a
member of a town council was still worse. He was not only expected to
contribute generously to the embellishment and support of his native city,
but he was also held responsible for the collection of the imperial taxes.
As prosperity declined he found this an increasingly difficult thing to
do, and seats in the local senate were undesirable. The central government
could not allow the men responsible for its revenues to escape their
responsibility. Consequently, it interposed and forced them to accept the
honor. Some of them enlisted in the army, or even fled into the desert,
but whenever they were found they were brought back to take up their
positions again. In the fourth century, service in the common council was
even made a penalty imposed upon criminals. Finally, it became hereditary,
and it is an amusing but pathetic thing to find that this honor, so highly
prized in the early period, became in the end a form of serfdom.

We have been looking at the effects of private generosity on official
life. Its results for the private citizen are not so clear, but it must
have contributed to that decline of independence and of personal
responsibility which is so marked a feature of the later Empire. The
masses contributed little, if anything, to the running expenses of
government and the improvement of the city. The burdens fell largely upon
the rich. It was a system of quasi-socialism. Those who had, provided for
those who had not--not merely markets and temples, and colonnades, and
baths, but oil for the baths, games, plays, and gratuities of money. Since
their needs were largely met by others, the people lost more and more the
habit of providing for themselves and the ability to do so. When
prosperity declined, and the wealthy could no more assist them, the end

The objects for which donors gave their money seem to prove the
essentially materialistic character of Roman civilization, because we must
assume that those who gave knew the tastes of the people. Sometimes men
like Pliny the Younger gave money for libraries or schools, but such gifts
seem to have been relatively infrequent. Benefactions are commonly
intended to satisfy the material needs or gratify the desire of the
people for pleasure.

Under the old régime charity was unknown. There were neither almshouses
nor hospitals, and scholars have called attention to the fact that even
the doles of corn which the state gave were granted to citizens only. Mere
residents or strangers were left altogether out of consideration, and they
were rarely included within the scope of private benevolence. In the
following chapter, in discussing the trades-guilds, we shall see that even
they made no provision for the widow or orphan, or for their sick or
disabled members. It was not until Christianity came that the poor and the
needy were helped because of their poverty and need.

Some Reflections on Corporations and Trades-Guilds

In a recent paper on "Ancient and Modern Imperialism," read before the
British Classical Association, Lord Cromer, England's late consul-general
in Egypt, notes certain points of resemblance between the English and the
Roman methods of dealing with alien peoples. With the Greeks no such
points of contact exist, because, as he remarks, "not only was the
imperial idea foreign to the Greek mind; the federal conception was
equally strange." This similarity between the political character and
methods of the Romans and Anglo-Saxons strikes any one who reads the
history of the two peoples side by side. They show the same genius for
government at home, and a like success in conquering and holding foreign
lands, and in assimilating alien peoples. Certain qualities which they
have in common contribute to these like results. Both the Roman and the
Anglo-Saxon have been men of affairs; both have shown great skill in
adapting means to an end, and each has driven straight at the immediate
object to be accomplished without paying much heed to logic or political
theory. A Roman statesman would have said "Amen!" to the Englishman's
pious hope that "his countrymen might never become consistent or logical
in politics." Perhaps the willingness of the average Roman to co-operate
with his fellows, and his skill in forming an organization suitable for
the purpose in hand, go farther than any of the other qualities mentioned
above to account for his success in governing other peoples as well as his
own nation.

Our recognition of these striking points of resemblance between the Romans
and ourselves has come from a comparative study of the political life of
the two peoples. But the likeness to each other of the Romans and
Anglo-Saxons, especially in the matter of associating themselves together
for a common object, is still more apparent in their methods of dealing
with private affairs. A characteristic and amusing illustration of the
working of this tendency among the Romans is furnished by the early
history of monasticism in the Roman world. When the Oriental Christian
had convinced himself of the vanity of the world, he said: "It is the
weakness of the flesh and the enticements of the wicked which tempt me to
sin. Therefore I will withdraw from the world and mortify the flesh." This
is the spirit which drove him into the desert or the mountains, to live in
a cave with a lion or a wolf for his sole companion. This is the spirit
which took St. Anthony into a solitary place in Egypt. It led St. Simeon
Stylites to secure a more perfect sense of aloofness from the world, and a
greater security from contact with it by spending the last thirty years of
his life on the top of a pillar near Antioch. In the Western world, which
was thoroughly imbued with the Roman spirit, the Christian who held the
same view as his Eastern brother of the evil results flowing from
intercourse with his fellow men, also withdrew from the world, but he
withdrew in the company of a group of men who shared his opinions on the
efficacy of a life of solitude. A delightful instance of the triumph of
the principle of association over logic or theory! We Americans can
understand perfectly the compelling force of the principle, even in such a

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