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The History Of Rome, Book III by Theodor Mommsen

Part 8 out of 11

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hair--and he was not a great man, still less a far-seeing statesman.
Thoroughly narrow in his political and moral views, and having the
ideal of the good old times always before his eyes and on his lips, he
cherished an obstinate contempt for everything new. Deeming himself
by virtue of his own austere life entitled to manifest an unrelenting
severity and harshness towards everything and everybody; upright and
honourable, but without a glimpse of any duty lying beyond the sphere
of police order and of mercantile integrity; an enemy to all villany
and vulgarity as well as to all refinement and geniality, and above
all things the foe of his foes; he never made an attempt to stop evils
at their source, but waged war throughout life against symptoms, and
especially against persons. The ruling lords, no doubt, looked down
with a lofty disdain on the ignoble growler, and believed, not without
reason, that they were far superior; but fashionable corruption in and
out of the senate secretly trembled in the presence of the old censor
of morals with his proud republican bearing, of the scar-covered
veteran from the Hannibalic war, and of the highly influential senator
and the idol of the Roman farmers. He publicly laid before his noble
colleagues, one after another, his list of their sins; certainly
without being remarkably particular as to the proofs, and certainly
also with a peculiar relish in the case of those who had personally
crossed or provoked him. With equal fearlessness he reproved and
publicly scolded the burgesses for every new injustice and every fresh
disorder. His vehement attacks provoked numerous enemies, and he
lived in declared and irreconcilable hostility with the most powerful
aristocratic coteries of the time, particularly the Scipios and
Flaminini; he was publicly accused forty-four times. But the farmers
--and it is a significant indication how powerful still in the Roman
middle class was the spirit which had enabled them to survive the day
of Cannae--never allowed the unsparing champion of reform to lack the
support of their votes. Indeed when in 570 Cato and his like-minded
patrician colleague, Lucius Flaccus, solicited the censorship, and
announced beforehand that it was their intention when in that office
to undertake a vigorous purification of the burgess-body through all
its ranks, the two men so greatly dreaded were elected by the
burgesses notwithstanding all the exertions of the nobility; and the
latter were obliged to submit, while the great purgation actually took
place and erased among others the brother of Africanus from the roll
of the equites, and the brother of the deliverer of the Greeks from
the roll of the senate.

Police Reform

This warfare directed against individuals, and the various attempts to
repress the spirit of the age by means of justice and of police,
however deserving of respect might be the sentiments in which they
originated, could only at most stem the current of corruption for a
short time; and, while it is remarkable that Cato was enabled in spite
of that current, or rather by means of it, to play his political part,
it is equally significant that he was as little successful in getting
rid of the leaders of the opposite party as they were in getting rid
of him. The processes of count and reckoning instituted by him and by
those who shared his views before the burgesses uniformly remained,
at least in the cases that were of political importance, quite as
ineffectual as the counter-accusations directed against him. Nor was
much more effect produced by the police-laws, which were issued at
this period in unusual numbers, especially for the restriction of
luxury and for the introduction of a frugal and orderly housekeeping,
and some of which have still to be touched on in our view of the
national economics.

Assignations Of Land

Far more practical and more useful were the attempts made to
counteract the spread of decay by indirect means; among which, beyond
doubt, the assignations of new farms out of the domain land occupy the
first place. These assignations were made in great numbers and of
considerable extent in the period between the first and second war
with Carthage, and again from the close of the latter till towards the
end of this epoch. The most important of them were the distribution
of the Picenian possessions by Gaius Flaminius in 522;(51) the
foundation of eight new maritime colonies in 560;(52) and above all
the comprehensive colonization of the district between the Apennines
and the Po by the establishment of the Latin colonies of Placentia,
Cremona,(53) Bononia,(54) and Aquileia,(55) and of the burgess-
colonies, Potentia, Pisaurum, Mutina, Parma, and Luna(56) in the years
536 and 565-577. By far the greater part of these highly beneficial
foundations may be ascribed to the reforming party. Cato and those
who shared his opinions demanded such measures, pointing, on the
one hand, to the devastation of Italy by the Hannibalic war and the
alarming diminution of the farms and of the free Italian population
generally, and, on the other, to the widely extended possessions of
the nobles--occupied along with, and similarly to, property of their
own--in Cisalpine Gaul, in Samnium, and in the Apulian and Bruttian
districts; and although the rulers of Rome did not probably comply
with these demands to the extent to which they might and should have
complied with them, yet they did not remain deaf to the warning voice
of so judicious a man.

Reforms In The Military Service

Of a kindred character was the proposal, which Cato made in the
senate, to remedy the decline of the burgess-cavalry by the
institution of four hundred new equestrian stalls.(57) The exchequer
cannot have wanted means for the purpose; but the proposal appears to
have been thwarted by the exclusive spirit of the nobility and their
endeavour to remove from the burgess-cavalry those who were troopers
merely and not knights. On the other hand, the serious emergencies of
the war, which even induced the Roman government to make an attempt
--fortunately unsuccessful--to recruit their armies after the Oriental
fashion from the slave-market,(58) compelled them to modify the
qualifications hitherto required for service in the burgess-army, viz.
a minimum census of 11,000 -asses- (43 pounds), and free birth. Apart
from the fact that they took up for service in the fleet the persons
of free birth rated between 4000 -asses- (17 pounds) and 1500 -asses-
(6 pounds) and all the freedmen, the minimum census for the legionary
was reduced to 4000 -asses- (17 pounds); and, in case of need, both
those who were bound to serve in the fleet and the free-born rated
between 1500 -asses- (6 pounds) and 375 -asses- (1 pound 10 shillings)
were enrolled in the burgess-infantry. These innovations, which
belong presumably to the end of the preceding or beginning of the
present epoch, doubtless did not originate in party efforts any more
than did the Servian military reform; but they gave a material impulse
to the democratic party, in so far as those who bore civic burdens
necessarily claimed and eventually obtained equalization of civic
rights. The poor and the freedmen began to be of some importance in
the commonwealth from the time when they served it; and chiefly from
this cause arose one of the most important constitutional changes of
this epoch --the remodelling of the -comitia centuriata-, which most
probably took place in the same year in which the war concerning
Sicily terminated

Reform Of The Centuries

According to the order of voting hitherto followed in the centuriate
comitia, although the freeholders were no longer--as down to the
reform of Appius Claudius(59) they had been--the sole voters, the
wealthy had the preponderance. The equites, or in other words the
patricio-plebeian nobility, voted first, then those of the highest
rating, or in other words those who had exhibited to the censor an
estate of at least 100,000 -asses- (420 pounds);(60) and these two
divisions, when they kept together, had derided every vote. The
suffrage of those assessed under the four following classes had been
of doubtful weight; that of those whose valuation remained below the
standard of the lowest class, 11,000 -asses- (43 pounds), had been
essentially illusory. According to the new arrangement the right of
priority in voting was withdrawn from the equites, although they
retained their separate divisions, and it was transferred to a voting
division chosen from the first class by lot. The importance of that
aristocratic right of prior voting cannot be estimated too highly,
especially at an epoch in which practically the influence of the
nobility on the burgesses at large was constantly on the increase.
Even the patrician order proper were still at this epoch powerful
enough to fill the second consulship and the second censorship, which
stood open in law alike to patricians and plebeians, solely with men
of their own body, the former up to the close of this period (till
582), the latter even for a generation longer (till 623); and in fact,
at the most perilous moment which the Roman republic ever experienced
--in the crisis after the battle of Cannae--they cancelled the quite
legally conducted election of the officer who was in all respects the
ablest--the plebeian Marcellus--to the consulship vacated by the death
of the patrician Paullus, solely on account of his plebeianism. At
the same time it is a significant token of the nature even of this
reform that the right of precedence in voting was withdrawn only from
the nobility, not from those of the highest rating; the right of prior
voting withdrawn from the equestrian centuries passed not to a
division chosen incidentally by lot from the whole burgesses, but
exclusively to the first class. This as well as the five grades
generally remained as they were; only the lower limit was probably
shifted in such a way that the minimum census was, for the right of
voting in the centuries as for service in the legion, reduced from
11,000 to 4000 -asses-. Besides, the formal retention of the earlier
rates, while there was a general increase in the amount of men's
means, involved of itself in some measure an extension of the suffrage
in a democratic sense. The total number of the divisions remained
likewise unchanged; but, while hitherto, as we have said, the 18
equestrian centuries and the 80 of the first class had, standing by
themselves, the majority in the 193 voting centuries, in the reformed
arrangement the votes of the first class were reduced to 70, with the
result that under all circumstances at least the second grade came to
vote. Still more important, and indeed the real central element of
the reform, was the connection into which the new voting divisions
were brought with the tribal arrangement. Formerly the centuries
originated from the tribes on the footing, that whoever belonged to a
tribe had to be enrolled by the censor in one of the centuries. From
the time that the non-freehold burgesses had been enrolled in the
tribes, they too came thus into the centuries, and, while they were
restricted in the -comitia tributa- to the four urban divisions,
they had in the -comitia centuriata- formally the same right with
the freehold burgesses, although probably the censorial arbitrary
prerogative intervened in the composition of the centuries, and
granted to the burgesses enrolled in the rural tribes the
preponderance also in the centuriate assembly. This preponderance was
established by the reformed arrangement on the legal footing, that of
the 70 centuries of the first class, two were assigned to each tribe
and, accordingly, the non-freehold burgesses obtained only eight of
them; in a similar way the preponderance must have been conceded also
in the four other grades to the freehold burgesses. In a like spirit
the previous equalization of the freedmen with the free-born in the
right of voting was set aside at this time, and even the freehold
freedmen were assigned to the four urban tribes. This was done in the
year 534 by one of the most notable men of the party of reform, the
censor Gaius Flaminius, and was then repeated and more stringently
enforced fifty years later (585) by the censor Tiberius Sempronius
Gracchus, the father of the two authors of the Roman revolution. This
reform of the centuries, which perhaps in its totality proceeded
likewise from Flaminius, was the first important constitutional change
which the new opposition wrung from the nobility, the first victory of
the democracy proper. The pith of it consists partly in the
restriction of the censorial arbitrary rule, partly in the restriction
of the influence of the nobility on the one hand, and of the non-
freeholders and the freedmen on the other, and so in the remodelling
of the centuriate comitia according to the principle which already
held good for the comitia of the tribes; a course which commended
itself by the circumstance that elections, projects of law, criminal
impeachments, and generally all affairs requiring the co-operation of
the burgesses, were brought throughout to the comitia of the tribes
and the more unwieldy centuries were but seldom called together,
except where it was constitutionally necessary or at least usual, in
order to elect the censors, consuls, and praetors, and in order to
resolve upon an aggressive war.

Thus this reform did not introduce a new principle into the
constitution, but only brought into general application the principle
that had long regulated the working of the practically more frequent
and more important form of the burgess-assemblies. Its democratic,
but by no means demagogic, tendency is clearly apparent in the
position which it took up towards the proper supports of every really
revolutionary party, the proletariate and the freedmen. For that
reason the practical significance of this alteration in the order of
voting regulating the primary assemblies must not be estimated too
highly. The new law of election did not prevent, and perhaps did
not even materially impede, the contemporary formation of a new
politically privileged order. It is certainly not owing to the mere
imperfection of tradition, defective as it undoubtedly is, that we are
nowhere able to point to a practical influence exercised by this much-
discussed reform on the course of political affairs. An intimate
connection, we may add, subsisted between this reform, and the
already-mentioned abolition of the Roman burgess-communities -sine
suffragio-, which were gradually merged in the community of full
burgesses. The levelling spirit of the party of progress suggested
the abolition of distinctions within the middle class, while the
chasm between burgesses and non-burgesses was at the same time
widened and deepened.

Results Of The Efforts At Reform

Reviewing what the reform party of this age aimed at and obtained, we
find that it undoubtedly exerted itself with patriotism and energy to
check, and to a certain extent succeeded in checking, the spread of
decay--more especially the falling off of the farmer class and the
relaxation of the old strict and frugal habits--as well as the
preponderating political influence of the new nobility. But we fail
to discover any higher political aim. The discontent of the multitude
and the moral indignation of the better classes found doubtless in
this opposition their appropriate and powerful expression; but we do
not find either a clear insight into the sources of the evil, or any
definite and comprehensive plan of remedying it. A certain want of
thought pervades all these efforts otherwise so deserving of honour,
and the purely defensive attitude of the defenders forebodes little
good for the sequel. Whether the disease could be remedied at all by
human skill, remains fairly open to question; the Roman reformers of
this period seem to have been good citizens rather than good
statesmen, and to have conducted the great struggle between the
old civism and the new cosmopolitanism on their part after a somewhat
inadequate and narrow-minded fashion.


But, as this period witnessed the rise of a rabble by the side of the
burgesses, so it witnessed also the emergence of a demagogism that
flattered the populace alongside of the respectable and useful party
of opposition. Cato was already acquainted with men who made a trade
of demagogism; who had a morbid propensity for speechifying, as others
had for drinking or for sleeping; who hired listeners, if they could
find no willing audience otherwise; and whom people heard as they
heard the market-crier, without listening to their words or, in the
event of needing help, entrusting themselves to their hands. In his
caustic fashion the old man describes these fops formed after the
model of the Greek talkers of the agora, dealing in jests and
witticisms, singing and dancing, ready for anything; such an one was,
in his opinion, good for nothing but to exhibit himself as harlequin
in a procession and to bandy talk with the public--he would sell his
talk or his silence for a bit of bread. In reality these demagogues
were the worst enemies of reform. While the reformers insisted above
all things and in every direction on moral amendment, demagogism
preferred to insist on the limitation of the powers of the government
and the extension of those of the burgesses.

Abolition Of The Dictatorship

Under the former head the most important innovation was the practical
abolition of the dictatorship. The crisis occasioned by Quintus
Fabius and his popular opponents in 537(61) gave the death-blow to
this all-along unpopular institution. Although the government once
afterwards, in 538, under the immediate impression produced by the
battle of Cannae, nominated a dictator invested with active command,
it could not again venture to do so in more peaceful times. On
several occasions subsequently (the last in 552), sometimes after
a previous indication by the burgesses of the person to be nominated,
a dictator was appointed for urban business; but the office, without
being formally abolished, fell practically into desuetude. Through
its abeyance the Roman constitutional system, so artificially
constructed, lost a corrective which was very desirable with reference
to its peculiar feature of collegiate magistrates;(62) and the
government, which was vested with the sole power of creating a
dictatorship or in other words of suspending the consuls, and
ordinarily designated also the person who was to be nominated as
dictator, lost one of its most important instruments. Its place
was but very imperfectly supplied by the power--which the senate
thenceforth claimed--of conferring in extraordinary emergencies,
particularly on the sudden outbreak of revolt or war, a quasi-
dictatorial power on the supreme magistrates for the time being, by
instructing them "to take measures for the safety of the commonwealth
at their discretion," and thus creating a state of things similar to
the modern martial law.

Election Of Priests By The Community

Along with this change the formal powers of the people in the
nomination of magistrates as well as in questions of government,
administration, and finance, received a hazardous extension. The
priesthoods--particularly those politically most important, the
colleges of men of lore--according to ancient custom filled up the
vacancies in their own ranks, and nominated also their own presidents,
where these corporations had presidents at all; and in fact, for such
institutions destined to transmit the knowledge of divine things from
generation to generation, the only form of election in keeping with
their spirit was cooptation. It was therefore--although not of great
political importance--significant of the incipient disorganization of
the republican arrangements, that at this time (before 542), while
election into the colleges themselves was left on its former footing,
the designation of the presidents--the -curiones- and -pontifices-
--from the ranks of those corporations was transferred from the
colleges to the community. In this case, however, with a pious regard
for forms that is genuinely Roman, in order to avoid any error, only a
minority of the tribes, and therefore not the "people," completed the
act of election.

Interference Of The Community In War And Administration

Of greater importance was the growing interference of the burgesses in
questions as to persons and things belonging to the sphere of military
administration and external policy. To this head belong the
transference of the nomination of the ordinary staff-officers from the
general to the burgesses, which has been already mentioned;(63) the
elections of the leaders of the opposition as commanders-in-chief
against Hannibal;(64) the unconstitutional and irrational decree of
the people in 537, which divided the supreme command between the
unpopular generalissimo and his popular lieutenant who opposed him in
the camp as well as at home;(65) the tribunician complaint laid before
the burgesses, charging an officer like Marcellus with injudicious and
dishonest management of the war (545), which even compelled him to
come from the camp to the capital and there demonstrate his military
capacity before the public; the still more scandalous attempts to
refuse by decree of the burgesses to the victor of Pydna his
triumph;(66) the investiture--suggested, it is true, by the senate--of
a private man with extraordinary consular authority (544;(67)); the
dangerous threat of Scipio that, if the senate should refuse him the
chief command in Africa, he would seek the sanction of the burgesses
(549;(68)); the attempt of a man half crazy with ambition to extort
from the burgesses, against the will of the government, a declaration
of war in every respect unwarranted against the Rhodians (587;(69));
and the new constitutional axiom, that every state-treaty acquired
validity only through the ratification of the people.

Interference Of The Community With The Finances

This joint action of the burgesses in governing and in commanding was
fraught in a high degree with peril. But still more dangerous was
their interference with the finances of the state; not only because
any attack on the oldest and most important right of the government
--the exclusive administration of the public property--struck at the
root of the power of the senate, but because the placing of the most
important business of this nature--the distribution of the public
domains--in the hands of the primary assemblies of the burgesses
necessarily dug the grave of the republic. To allow the primary
assembly to decree the transference of public property without limit
to its own pocket is not only wrong, but is the beginning of the end;
it demoralizes the best-disposed citizens, and gives to the proposer
a power incompatible with a free commonwealth. Salutary as was the
distribution of the public land, and doubly blameable as was the
senate accordingly for omitting to cut off this most dangerous of all
weapons of agitation by voluntarily distributing the occupied lands,
yet Gaius Flaminius, when he came to the burgesses in 522 with the
proposal to distribute the domains of Picenum, undoubtedly injured the
commonwealth more by the means than he benefited it by the end.
Spurius Cassius had doubtless two hundred and fifty years earlier
proposed the same thing;(70) but the two measures, closely as they
coincided in the letter, were yet wholly different, inasmuch as
Cassius submitted a matter affecting the community to that community
while it was in vigour and self-governing, whereas Flaminius submitted
a question of state to the primary assembly of a great empire.

Nullity Of The Comitia

Not the party of the government only, but the party of reform also,
very properly regarded the military, executive, and financial
government as the legitimate domain of the senate, and carefully
abstained from making full use of, to say nothing of augmenting, the
formal power vested in primary assemblies that were inwardly doomed to
inevitable dissolution. Never even in the most limited monarchy was a
part so completely null assigned to the monarch as was allotted to the
sovereign Roman people: this was no doubt in more than one respect to
be regretted, but it was, owing to the existing state of the comitial
machine, even in the view of the friends of reform a matter of
necessity. For this reason Cato and those who shared his views never
submitted to the burgesses a question, which trenched on government
strictly so called; and never, directly or indirectly, by decree of
the burgesses extorted from the senate the political or financial
measures which they wished, such as the declaration of war against
Carthage and the assignations of land. The government of the senate
might be bad; the primary assemblies could not govern at all. Not
that an evil-disposed majority predominated in them; on the contrary
the counsel of a man of standing, the loud call of honour, and the
louder call of necessity were still, as a rule, listened to in the
comitia, and averted the most injurious and disgraceful results.
The burgesses, before whom Marcellus pleaded his cause, ignominiously
dismissed his accuser, and elected the accused as consul for the
following year: they suffered themselves also to be persuaded of the
necessity of the war against Philip, terminated the war against
Perseus by the election of Paullus, and accorded to the latter his
well-deserved triumph. But in order to such elections and such
decrees there was needed some special stimulus; in general the mass
having no will of its own followed the first impulse, and folly or
accident dictated the decision.

Disorganisation Of Government

In the state, as in every organism, an organ which no longer
discharges its functions is injurious. The nullity of the sovereign
assembly of the people involved no small danger. Any minority in the
senate might constitutionally appeal to the comitia against the
majority. To every individual, who possessed the easy art of
addressing untutored ears or of merely throwing away money, a path was
opened up for his acquiring a position or procuring a decree in his
favour, to which the magistrates and the government were formally
bound to do homage. Hence sprang those citizen-generals, accustomed
to sketch plans of battle on the tables of taverns and to look down on
the regular service with compassion by virtue of their inborn genius
for strategy: hence those staff-officers, who owed their command to
the canvassing intrigues of the capital and, whenever matters looked
serious, had at once to get leave of absence -en masse-; and hence
the battles on the Trasimene lake and at Cannae, and the disgraceful
management of the war with Perseus. At every step the government
was thwarted and led astray by those incalculable decrees of the
burgesses, and as was to be expected, most of all in the very
cases where it was most in the right.

But the weakening of the government and the weakening of the community
itself were among the lesser dangers that sprang from this demagogism.
Still more directly the factious violence of individual ambition
pushed itself forward under the aegis of the constitutional rights of
the burgesses. That which formally issued forth as the will of the
supreme authority in the state was in reality very often the mere
personal pleasure of the mover; and what was to be the fate of a
commonwealth in which war and peace, the nomination and deposition of
the general and his officers, the public chest and the public
property, were dependent on the caprices of the multitude and its
accidental leaders? The thunder-storm had not yet burst; but the
clouds were gathering in denser masses, and occasional peals of
thunder were already rolling through the sultry air. It was a
circumstance, moreover, fraught with double danger, that the
tendencies which were apparently most opposite met together at their
extremes both as regarded ends and as regarded means. Family policy
and demagogism carried on a similar and equally dangerous rivalry in
patronizing and worshipping the rabble. Gaius Flaminius was regarded
by the statesmen of the following generation as the initiator of that
course from which proceeded the reforms of the Gracchi and--we may
add--the democratico-monarchical revolution that ensued. But Publius
Scipio also, although setting the fashion to the nobility in
arrogance, title-hunting, and client-making, sought support for his
personal and almost dynastic policy of opposition to the senate in the
multitude, which he not only charmed by the dazzling effect of his
personal qualities, but also bribed by his largesses of grain; in the
legions, whose favour he courted by all means whether right or wrong;
and above all in the body of clients, high and low, that personally
adhered to him. Only the dreamy mysticism, on which the charm as well
as the weakness of that remarkable man so largely depended, never
suffered him to awake at all, or allowed him to awake but imperfectly,
out of the belief that he was nothing, and that he desired to be
nothing, but the first burgess of Rome.

To assert the possibility of a reform would be as rash as to deny it:
this much is certain, that a thorough amendment of the state in all
its departments was urgently required, and that in no quarter was any
serious attempt made to accomplish it. Various alterations in
details, no doubt, were made on the part of the senate as well as on
the part of the popular opposition. The majorities in each were still
well disposed, and still frequently, notwithstanding the chasm that
separated the parties, joined hands in a common endeavour to effect
the removal of the worst evils. But, while they did not stop the evil
at its source, it was to little purpose that the better-disposed
listened with anxiety to the dull murmur of the swelling flood and
worked at dikes and dams. Contenting themselves with palliatives,
and failing to apply even these--especially such as were the most
important, the improvement of justice, for instance, and the
distribution of the domains--in proper season and due measure, they
helped to prepare evil days for their posterity. By neglecting to
break up the field at the proper time, they allowed weeds even to
ripen which they had not sowed. To the later generations who survived
the storms of revolution the period after the Hannibalic war appeared
the golden age of Rome, and Cato seemed the model of the Roman
statesman. It was in reality the lull before the storm and the epoch
of political mediocrities, an age like that of the government of
Walpole in England; and no Chatham was found in Rome to infuse fresh
energy into the stagnant life of the nation. Wherever we cast our
eyes, chinks and rents are yawning in the old building; we see workmen
busy sometimes in filling them up, sometimes in enlarging them; but we
nowhere perceive any trace of preparations for thoroughly rebuilding
or renewing it, and the question is no longer whether, but simply
when, the structure will fall. During no epoch did the Roman
constitution remain formally so stable as in the period from the
Sicilian to the third Macedonian war and for a generation beyond it;
but the stability of the constitution was here, as everywhere, not a
sign of the health of the state, but a token of incipient sickness and
the harbinger of revolution.

Notes For Chapter XI

1. II. III. New Aristocracy

2. II. III. New Opposition

3. II. III. Military Tribunes With Consular Powers

4. All these insignia probably belonged on their first emergence only
to the nobility proper, i. e. to the agnate descendants of curule
magistrates; although, after the manner of such decorations, all of
them in course of time were extended to a wider circle. This can be
distinctly proved in the case of the gold finger-ring, which in the
fifth century was worn only by the nobility (Plin. H. N., xxxiii. i.
18), in the sixth by every senator and senator's son (Liv. xxvi. 36),
in the seventh by every one of equestrian rank, under the empire by
every one who was of free birth. So also with the silver trappings,
which still, in the second Punic war, formed a badge of the nobility
alone (Liv. xxvi. 37); and with the purple border of the boys' toga,
which at first was granted only to the sons of curule magistrates,
then to the sons of equites, afterwards to those of all free-born
persons, lastly--yet as early as the time of the second Punic war
--even to the sons of freedmen (Macrob. Sat. i. 6). The golden
amulet-case (-bulla-) was a badge of the children of senators in the
time of the second Punic war (Macrob. l. c.; Liv. xxvi. 36), in that
of Cicero as the badge of the children of the equestrian order (Cic.
Verr. i. 58, 152), whereas children of inferior rank wore the leathern
amulet (-lorum-). The purple stripe (-clavus-) on the tunic was a
badge of the senators (I. V. Prerogatives Of The Senate) and of the
equites, so that at least in later times the former wore it broad, the
latter narrow; with the nobility the -clavus- had nothing to do.

5. II. III. Civic Equality

6. Plin. H. N. xxi. 3, 6. The right to appear crowned in public was
acquired by distinction in war (Polyb. vi. 39, 9; Liv. x. 47);
consequently, the wearing a crown without warrant was an offence
similar to the assumption, in the present day, of the badge of a
military order of merit without due title.

7. II. III. Praetorship

8. Thus there remained excluded the military tribunate with consular
powers (II. III. Throwing Open Of Marriage And Of Magistracies) the
proconsulship, the quaestorship, the tribunate of the people, and
several others. As to the censorship, it does not appear,
notwithstanding the curule chair of the censors (Liv. xl. 45; comp,
xxvii. 8), to have been reckoned a curule office; for the later
period, however, when only a man of consular standing could be made
censor, the question has no practical importance. The plebeian
aedileship certainly was not reckoned originally one of the curule
magistracies (Liv. xxiii. 23); it may, however, have been subsequently
included amongst them.

9. II. I. Government Of The Patriciate

10. II. III. Censorship

11. II. III. The Senate

12. The current hypothesis, according to which the six centuries of
the nobility alone amounted to 1200, and the whole equestrian force
accordingly to 3600 horse, is not tenable. The method of determining
the number of the equites by the number of duplications specified by
the annalists is mistaken: in fact, each of these statements has
originated and is to be explained by itself. But there is no evidence
either for the first number, which is only found in the passage of
Cicero, De Rep. ii. 20, acknowledged as miswritten even by the
champions of this view, or for the second, which does not appear at
all in ancient authors. In favour, on the other hand, of the
hypothesis set forth in the text, we have, first of all, the number as
indicated not by authorities, but by the institutions themselves; for
it is certain that the century numbered 100 men, and there were
originally three (I. V. Burdens Of The Burgesses), then six (I. Vi.
Amalgamation Of The Palatine And Quirinal Cities), and lastly after
the Servian reform eighteen (I. VI. The Five Classes), equestrian
centuries. The deviations of the authorities from this view are only
apparent. The old self-consistent tradition, which Becker has
developed (ii. i, 243), reckons not the eighteen patricio-plebeian,
but the six patrician, centuries at 1800 men; and this has been
manifestly followed by Livy, i. 36 (according to the reading which
alone has manuscript authority, and which ought not to be corrected
from Livy's particular estimates), and by Cicero l. c. (according to
the only reading grammatically admissible, MDCCC.; see Becker, ii. i,
244). But Cicero at the same time indicates very plainly, that in
that statement he intended to describe the then existing amount of the
Roman equites in general. The number of the whole body has therefore
been transferred to the most prominent portion of it by a prolepsis,
such as is common in the case of the old annalists not too much given
to reflection: just in the same way 300 equites instead of 100 are
assigned to the parent-community, including, by anticipation, the
contingents of the Tities and the Luceres (Becker, ii. i, 238).
Lastly, the proposition of Cato (p. 66, Jordan), to raise the number
of the horses of the equites to 2200, is as distinct a confirmation of
the view proposed above, as it is a distinct refutation of the
opposite view. The closed number of the equites probably continued to
subsist down to Sulla's time, when with the -de facto- abeyance of the
censorship the basis of it fell away, and to all appearance in place
of the censorial bestowal of the equestrian horse came its acquisition
by hereditary right; thenceforth the senator's son was by birth an
-eques-. Alongside, however, of this closed equestrian body, the
-equites equo publico-, stood from an early period of the republic the
burgesses bound to render mounted service on their own horses, who are
nothing but the highest class of the census; they do not vote in the
equestrian centuries, but are regarded otherwise as equites, and lay
claim likewise to the honorary privileges of the equestrian order.

In the arrangement of Augustus the senatorial houses retained the
hereditary equestrian right; but by its side the censorial bestowal of
the equestrian horse is renewed as a prerogative of the emperor and
without restriction to a definite time, and thereby the designation of
equites for the first class of the census as such falls into abeyance.

13. II. III. Increasing Powers Of The Burgesses

14. II. VIII. Officers

15. II. III. Restrictions As To The Accumulation And Reoccupation Of

16. II. III. New Opposition

17. The stability of the Roman nobility may be clearly traced, more
especially in the case of the patrician -gentes-, by means of the
consular and aedilician Fasti. As is well known, the consulate was
held by one patrician and one plebeian in each year from 388 to 581
(with the exception of the years 399, 400, 401, 403, 405, 409, 411, in
which both consuls were patricians). Moreover, the colleges of curule
aediles were composed exclusively of patricians in the odd years of
the Varronian reckoning, at least down to the close of the sixth
century, and they are known for the sixteen years 541, 545, 547, 549,
551, 553, 555, 557, 561, 565, 567, 575, 585, 589, 591, 593. These
patrician consuls and aediles are, as respects their -gentes-,
distributed as follows:--

Consuls Consuls Curule aediles of those
388-500 501-581 16 patrician colleges

Cornelii 15 15 15
Valerii 10 8 4
Claudii 4 8 2
Aemilii 9 6 2
Fabii 6 6 1
Manlii 4 6 1
Postumii 2 6 2
Servilii 3 4 2
Quinctii 2 3 1
Furii 2 3 -
Sulpicii 6 4 2
Veturii - 2 -
Papirii 3 1 -
Nautii 2 - -
Julii 1 - 1
Foslii 1 - -
--- --- ---
70 70 32

Thus the fifteen or sixteen houses of the high nobility, that were
powerful in the state at the time of the Licinian laws, maintained
their ground without material change in their relative numbers--which
no doubt were partly kept up by adoption--for the next two centuries,
and indeed down to the end of the republic. To the circle of the
plebeian nobility new -gentes- doubtless were from time to time added;
but the old plebian houses, such as the Licinii, Fulvii, Atilii,
Domitii, Marcii, Junii, predominate very decidedly in the Fasti
throughout three centuries.

18. I. V. The Senate

19. III. IX. Death Of Scipio

20. III. X. Their Lax And Unsuccessful Management Of The War f.

21. III. VI. In Italy

22. III. VI. Conquest Of Sicily

23. The expenses of these were, however, probably thrown in great part
on the adjoining inhabitants. The old system of making requisitions
of task-work was not abolished: it must not unfrequently have happened
that the slaves of the landholders were called away to be employed in
the construction of roads. (Cato, de R. R. 2 )

24. III. VI. Pressure Of The War

25. III. VI. In Italy

26. III. VII. Celtic Wars

27. III. VI In Italy

28. III. VII. Latins

29. II. VII. Non-Latin Allied Communities

30. III. VII. Latins

31. Thus, as is well known, Ennius of Rudiae received burgess-rights
from one of the triumvirs, Q. Fulvius Nobilior, on occasion of the
founding of the burgess-colonies of Potentia and Pisaurum (Cic. Brut.
20, 79); whereupon, according to the well-known custom, he adopted the
-praenomen- of the latter. The non-burgesses who were sent to share
in the foundation of a burgess-colony, did not, at least in tin's
epoch, thereby acquire -de jure- Roman citizenship, although they
frequently usurped it (Liv. xxxiv. 42); but the magistrates charged
with the founding of a colony were empowered, by a clause in the
decree of the people relative to each case, to confer burgess-rights
on a limited number of persons (Cic. pro Balb. 21, 48).

32. III. VII. Administration Of Spain

33. III. IX. Expedition Against The Celts In Asia Minor

34. III. X. Their Lax And Unsuccessful Management Of The War f.

35. II. I. Term Of Office

36. III. VII. Administration Of Spain

37. III. XI. Italian Subjects, Roman Franchise More Difficult Of

38. III. XI. Roman Franchise More Difficult Of Acquisition

39. In Cato's treatise on husbandry, which, as is well known,
primarily relates to an estate in the district of Venafrum, the
judicial discussion of such processes as might arise is referred to
Rome only as respects one definite case; namely, that in which the
landlord leases the winter pasture to the owner of a flock of sheep,
and thus has to deal with a lessee who, as a rule, is not domiciled in
the district (c. 149). It may be inferred from this, that in ordinary
cases, where the contract was with a person domiciled in the district,
such processes as might spring out of it were even in Cato's time
decided not at Rome, but before the local judges.

40. II. VII. The Full Roman Franchise

41. II. VII. Subject Communities

42. III. VIII. Declaration Of War By Rome

43. II. III. The Burgess-Body

44. III. XI. Patricio-Plebian Nobility

45. The laying out of the circus is attested. Respecting the origin
of the plebeian games there is no ancient tradition (for what is said
by the Pseudo-Asconius, p. 143, Orell. is not such); but seeing that
they were celebrated in the Flaminian circus (Val. Max. i, 7, 4), and
first certainly occur in 538, four years after it was built (Liv.
xxiii. 30), what we have stated above is sufficiently proved.

46. II. II. Political Value Of The Tribunate

47. III. IX. Landing Of The Romans

48. III. IX. Death Of Scipio. The first certain instance of such a
surname is that of Manius Valerius Maximus, consul in 491, who, as
conqueror of Messana, assumed the name Messalla (ii. 170): that the
consul of 419 was, in a similar manner, called Calenus, is an error.
The presence of Maximus as a surname in the Valerian (i. 348) and
Fabian (i. 397) clans is not quite analogous.

49. III. XI. Patricio-Plebian Nobility

50. II. III. New Opposition

51. III. III. The Celts Conquered By Rome

52. III. VI. In Italy

53. III. III. The Celts Conquered By Rome

54. III. VII. Liguria

55. III. VII. Measures Adopted To Check The Immigration Of The
Transalpine Gauls

56. III. VII. Liguria

57. III. XI. The Nobility In Possession Of The Equestrian Centuries

58. III. V. Attitude Of The Romans, III. VI. Conflicts In The South Of

59. II. III. The Burgess-Body

60. As to the original rates of the Roman census it is difficult to
lay down anything definite. Afterwards, as is well known, 100,000
-asses- was regarded as the minimum census of the first class; to
which the census of the other four classes stood in the (at least
approximate) ratio of 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, 1/9. But these rates are
understood already by Polybius, as by all later authors, to refer to
the light -as- (1/10th of the -denarius-), and apparently this view
must be adhered to, although in reference to the Voconian law the same
sums are reckoned as heavy -asses- (1/4 of the -denarius-: Geschichte
des Rom. Munzwesens, p. 302). But Appius Claudius, who first in 442
expressed the census-rates in money instead of the possession of land
(II. III. The Burgess-Body), cannot in this have made use of the light
-as-, which only emerged in 485 (II. VIII. Silver Standard Of Value).
Either therefore he expressed the same amounts in heavy -asses-, and
these were at the reduction of the coinage converted into light; or he
proposed the later figures, and these remained the same
notwithstanding the reduction or the coinage, which in this case would
have involved a lowering of the class-rates by more than the half.
Grave doubts may be raised in opposition to either hypothesis; but the
former appears the more credible, for so exorbitant an advance in
democratic development is not probable either for the end of the fifth
century or as an incidental consequence of a mere administrative
measure, and besides it would scarce have disappeared wholly from
tradition. 100,000 light -asses-, or 40,000 sesterces, may, moreover,
be reasonably regarded as the equivalent of the original Roman full
hide of perhaps 20 -jugera- (I. VI. Time And Occasion Of The Reform);
so that, according to this view, the rates of the census as a whole
have changed merely in expression, and not in value.

61. III. V. Fabius And Minucius

62. II. I. The Dictator

63. III. XI. Election Of Officers In The Comitia

64. III. V. Flaminius, New Warlike Preparations In Rome

65. III. V. Fabius And Minucius

66. III. XI. Squandering Of The Spoil

67. III. VI. Publius Scipio

68. III. VI. The African Expedition Of Scipio

69. III. X. Humiliation Of Rhodes

70. II. II. Agrarian Law Of Spurius Cassius

Chapter XII

The Management Of Land And Of Capital

Roman Economics

It is in the sixth century of the city that we first find materials
for a history of the times exhibiting in some measure the mutual
connection of events; and it is in that century also that the economic
condition of Rome emerges into view more distinctly and clearly.
It is at this epoch that the wholesale system, as regards both the
cultivation of land and the management of capital, becomes first
established under the form, and on the scale, which afterwards
prevailed; although we cannot exactly discriminate how much of that
system is traceable to earlier precedent, how much to an imitation of
the methods of husbandry and of speculation among peoples that were
earlier civilized, especially the Phoenicians, and how much to the
increasing mass of capital and the growth of intelligence in the
nation. A summary outline of these economic relations will conduce
to a more accurate understanding of the internal history of Rome.

Roman husbandry(1) applied itself either to the farming of estates, to
the occupation of pasture lands, or to the tillage of petty holdings.
A very distinct view of the first of these is presented to us in the
description given by Cato.

Farming Of Estates
Their Size

The Roman land-estates were, considered as larger holdings, uniformly
of limited extent. That described by Cato had an area of 240 jugera;
a very common measure was the so-called -centuria- of 200 -jugera-.
Where the laborious culture of the vine was pursued, the unit of
husbandry was made still less; Cato assumes in that case an area of
100 -jugera-. Any one who wished to invest more capital in farming
did not enlarge his estate, but acquired several estates; accordingly
the amount of 500 -jugera-,(2) fixed as the maximum which it was
allowable to occupy, has been conceived to represent the contents of
two or three estates.

Management Of The Estate

Object Of Husbandry

The heritable lease was not recognised in the management of Italian
private any more than of Roman public land; it occurred only in the
case of the dependent communities. Leases for shorter periods,
granted either for a fixed sum of money or on condition that the
lessee should bear all the costs of tillage and should receive in
return a share, ordinarily perhaps one half, of the produce,(3) were
not unknown, but they were exceptional and a makeshift; so that no
distinct class of tenant-farmers grew up in Italy.(4) Ordinarily
therefore the proprietor himself superintended the cultivation of his
estates; he did not, however, manage them strictly in person, but only
appeared from time to time on the property in order to settle the plan
of operations, to look after its execution, and to audit the accounts
of his servants. He was thus enabled on the one hand to work a number
of estates at the same time, and on the other hand to devote himself,
as circumstances might require, to public affairs.

The grain cultivated consisted especially of spelt and wheat, with
some barley and millet; turnips, radishes, garlic, poppies, were also
grown, and--particularly as fodder for the cattle--lupines, beans,
pease, vetches, and other leguminous plants. The seed was sown
ordinarily in autumn, only in exceptional cases in spring. Much
activity was displayed in irrigation and draining; and drainage by
means of covered ditches was early in use. Meadows also for supplying
hay were not wanting, and even in the time of Cato they were
frequently irrigated artificially. Of equal, if not of greater,
economic importance than grain and vegetables were the olive and the
vine, of which the former was planted between the crops, the latter in
vineyards appropriated to itself.(5) Figs, apples, pears, and other
fruit trees were cultivated; and likewise elms, poplars, and other
leafy trees and shrubs, partly for the felling of the wood, partly for
the sake of the leaves which were useful as litter and as fodder for
cattle. The rearing of cattle, on the other hand, held a far less
important place in the economy of the Italians than it holds in modern
times, for vegetables formed the general fare, and animal food made
its appearance at table only exceptionally; where it did appear, it
consisted almost solely of the flesh of swine or lambs. Although the
ancients did not fail to perceive the economic connection between
agriculture and the rearing of cattle, and in particular the
importance of producing manure, the modern combination of the growth
of corn with the rearing of cattle was a thing foreign to antiquity.
The larger cattle were kept only so far as was requisite for the
tillage of the fields, and they were fed not on special pasture-land,
but, wholly during summer and mostly during winter also, in the stall
Sheep, again, were driven out on the stubble pasture; Cato allows 100
head to 240 -jugera-. Frequently, however, the proprietor preferred
to let his winter pasture to a large sheep-owner, or to hand over his
flock of sheep to a lessee who was to share the produce, stipulating
for the delivery of a certain number of lambs and of a certain
quantity of cheese and milk. Swine--Cato assigns to a large estate
ten sties--poultry, and pigeons were kept in the farmyard, and fed as
there was need; and, where opportunity offered, a small hare-preserve
and a fish-pond were constructed--the modest commencement of that
nursing and rearing of game and fish which was afterwards prosecuted
to so enormous an extent.

Means Of Husbandry

The labours of the field were performed by means of oxen which were
employed for ploughing, and of asses, which were used specially for
the carriage of manure and for driving the mill; perhaps a horse also
was kept, apparently for the use of the master. These animals were
not reared on the estate, but were purchased; oxen and horses at least
were generally castrated. Cato assigns to an estate of 100 -jugera-
one, to one of 240 -jugera- three, yoke of oxen; a later writer on
agriculture, Saserna, assigns two yoke to the 200 -jugera-. Three
asses were, according to Cato's estimate, required for the smaller,
and four for the larger, estate.


The human labour on the farm was regularly performed by slaves. At
the head of the body of slaves on the estate (-familia rustica-) stood
the steward (-vilicus-, from -villa-), who received and expended,
bought and sold, went to obtain the instructions of the landlord, and
in his absence issued orders and administered punishment. Under him
were placed the stewardess (-vilica-) who took charge of the house,
kitchen and larder, poultry-yard and dovecot: a number of ploughmen
(-bubulci-) and common serfs, an ass-driver, a swineherd, and, where a
flock of sheep was kept, a shepherd. The number, of course, varied
according to the method of husbandry pursued. An arable estate of 200
-jugera- without orchards was estimated to require two ploughmen and
six serfs: a similar estate with two orchards two plough-men and nine
serfs; an estate of 240 -jugera- with olive plantations and sheep,
three ploughmen, five serfs, and three herdsmen. A vineyard naturally
required a larger expenditure of labour: an estate of 100 -jugera-
with vine-plantations was supplied with one ploughman, eleven serfs,
and two herdsmen. The steward of course occupied a freer position
than the other slaves: the treatise of Mago advised that he should be
allowed to marry, to rear children, and to have funds of his own, and
Cato advises that he should be married to the stewardess; he alone had
some prospect, in the event of good behaviour, of obtaining liberty
from his master. In other respects all formed a common household.
The slaves were, like the larger cattle, not bred on the estate, but
purchased at an age capable of labour in the slave-market; and, when
through age or infirmity they had become incapable of working, they
were again sent with other refuse to the market.(6) The farm-
buildings (-villa rustica-) supplied at once stabling for the cattle,
storehouses for the produce, and a dwelling for the steward and the
slaves; while a separate country house (-villa urbana-) for the master
was frequently erected on the estate. Every slave, even the steward
himself, had all the necessaries of life delivered to him on the
master's behalf at certain times and according to fixed rates; and
upon these he had to subsist. He received in this way clothes and
shoes, which were purchased in the market, and which the recipients
had merely to keep in repair; a quantity of wheat monthly, which each
had to grind for himself; as also salt, olives or salted fish to form
a relish to their food, wine, and oil. The quantity was adjusted
according to the work; on which account the steward, who had easier
work than the common slaves, got scantier measure than these. The
stewardess attended to all the baking and cooking; and all partook of
the same fare. It was not the ordinary practice to place chains on
the slaves; but when any one had incurred punishment or was thought
likely to attempt an escape, he was set to work in chains and was shut
up during the night in the slaves' prison.(7)

Other Labourers

Ordinarily these slaves belonging to the estate were sufficient; in
case of need neighbours, as a matter of course, helped each other with
their slaves for day's wages. Otherwise labourers from without were
not usually employed, except in peculiarly unhealthy districts, where
it was found advantageous to limit the amount of slaves and to employ
hired persons in their room, and for the ingathering of the harvest,
for which the regular supply of labour on the farm did not suffice.
At the corn and hay harvests they took in hired reapers, who often
instead of wages received from the sixth to the ninth sheaf of the
produce reaped, or, if they also thrashed, the fifth of the grain:
Umbrian labourers, for instance, went annually in great numbers to the
vale of Rieti, to help to gather in the harvest there. The grape and
olive harvest was ordinarily let to a contractor, who by means of his
men--hired free labourers, or slaves of his own or of others--
conducted the gleaning and pressing under the inspection of some
persons appointed by the landlord for the purpose, and delivered the
produce to the master;(8) very frequently the landlord sold the
harvest on the tree or branch, and left the purchaser to look
after the ingathering.

Spirit Of The System

The whole system was pervaded by the utter regardless-ness
characteristic of the power of capital. Slaves and cattle stood on
the same level; a good watchdog, it is said in a Roman writer on
agriculture, must not be on too friendly terms with his "fellow-
slaves." The slave and the ox were fed properly so long as they could
work, because it would not have been good economy to let them starve;
and they were sold like a worn-out ploughshare when they became unable
to work, because in like manner it would not have been good economy to
retain them longer. In earlier times religious considerations had
here also exercised an alleviating influence, and had released the
slave and the plough-ox from labour on the days enjoined for festivals
and for rest.(9) Nothing is more characteristic of the spirit of Cato
and those who shared his sentiments than the way in which they
inculcated the observance of the holiday in the letter, and evaded it
in reality, by advising that, while the plough should certainly be
allowed to rest on these days, the slaves should even then be
incessantly occupied with other labours not expressly prohibited.
On principle no freedom of movement whatever was allowed to them--a
slave, so runs one of Cato's maxims, must either work or sleep--and no
attempt was ever made to attach the slaves to the estate or to their
master by any bond of human sympathy. The letter of the law in all
its naked hideousness regulated the relation, and the Romans indulged
no illusions as to the consequences. "So many slaves, so many foes,"
said a Roman proverb. It was an economic maxim, that dissensions
among the slaves ought rather to be fostered than suppressed. In the
same spirit Plato and Aristotle, and no less strongly the oracle of
the landlords, the Carthaginian Mago, caution masters against bringing
together slaves of the same nationality, lest they should originate
combinations and perhaps conspiracies of their fellow-countrymen. The
landlord, as we have already said, governed his slaves exactly in the
same way as the Roman community governed its subjects in the "country
estates of the Roman people," the provinces; and the world learned by
experience, that the ruling state had modelled its new system of
government on that of the slave-holder. If, moreover, we have risen
to that little-to-be-envied elevation of thought which values no
feature of an economy save the capital invested in it, we cannot deny
to the management of the Roman estates the praise of consistency,
energy, punctuality, frugality, and solidity. The pithy practical
husbandman is reflected in Cato's description of the steward, as he
ought to be. He is the first on the farm to rise and the last to go
to bed; he is strict in dealing with himself as well as with those
under him, and knows more especially how to keep the stewardess in
order, but is also careful of his labourers and his cattle, and in
particular of the ox that draws the plough; he puts his hand
frequently to work and to every kind of it, but never works himself
weary like a slave; he is always at home, never borrows nor lends,
gives no entertainments, troubles himself about no other worship than
that of the gods of the hearth and the field, and like a true slave
leaves all dealings with the gods as well as with men to his master;
lastly and above all, he modestly meets that master and faithfully and
simply, without exercising too little or too much of thought, conforms
to the instructions which that master has given. He is a bad
husbandman, it is elsewhere said, who buys what he can raise on his
own land; a bad father of a household, who takes in hand by day what
can be done by candle-light, unless the weather be bad; a still worse,
who does on a working-day what might be done on a holiday; but worst
of all is he, who in good weather allows work to go on within doors
instead of in the open air. The characteristic enthusiasm too of high
farming is not wanting; and the golden rules are laid down, that the
soil was given to the husbandman not to be scoured and swept but to be
sown and reaped, and that the farmer therefore ought first to plant
vines and olives and only thereafter, and that not too early in life,
to build himself a villa. A certain boorishness marks the system,
and, instead of the rational investigation of causes and effects, the
well-known rules of rustic experience are uniformly brought forward;
yet there is an evident endeavour to appropriate the experience of
others and the products of foreign lands: in Cato's list of the
sorts of fruit trees, for instance, Greek, African, and Spanish
species appear.

Husbandry Of The Petty Farmers

The husbandry of the petty farmer differed from that of the estate-
holder only or chiefly in its being on a smaller scale. The owner
himself and his children in this case worked along with the slaves or
in their room. The quantity of cattle was reduced, and, where an
estate no longer covered the expenses of the plough and of the yoke
that drew it, the hoe formed the substitute. The culture of the olive
and the vine was less prominent, or was entirely wanting.

In the vicinity of Rome or of any other large seat of consumption
there existed also carefully-irrigated gardens for flowers and
vegetables, somewhat similar to those which one now sees around
Naples; and these yielded a very abundant return.

Pastoral Husbandry

Pastoral husbandry was prosecuted on a great scale far more than
agriculture. An estate in pasture land (-saltus-) had of necessity in
every case an area considerably greater than an arable estate--the
least allowance was 800 -jugera- --and it might with advantage to the
business be almost indefinitely extended. Italy is so situated in
respect of climate that the summer pasture in the mountains and the
winter pasture in the plains supplement each other: already at that
period, just as at the present day, and for the most part probably
along the same paths, the flocks and herds were driven in spring from
Apulia to Samnium, and in autumn back again from Samnium to Apulia.
The winter pasturage, however, as has been already observed, did not
take place entirely on ground kept for the purpose, but was partly the
grazing of the stubbles. Horses, oxen, asses, and mules were reared,
chiefly to supply the animals required by the landowners, carriers,
soldiers, and so forth; herds of swine and of goats also were not
neglected. But the almost universal habit of wearing woollen stuffs
gave a far greater independence and far higher development to the
breeding of sheep. The management was in the hands of slaves, and was
on the whole similar to the management of the arable estate, the
cattle-master (-magister pecoris-) coming in room of the steward.
Throughout the summer the shepherd-slaves lived for the most part not
under a roof, but, often miles remote from human habitations, under
sheds and sheepfolds; it was necessary therefore that the strongest
men should be selected for this employment, that they should be
provided with horses and arms, and that they should be allowed
far greater freedom of movement than was granted to the slaves
on arable estates.

Competition Of Transmarine Corn

In order to form some estimate of the economic results of this system
of husbandry, we must consider the state of prices, and particularly
the prices of grain at this period. On an average these were
alarmingly low; and that in great measure through the fault of the
Roman government, which in this important question was led into the
most fearful blunders not so much by its short-sightedness, as by an
unpardonable disposition to favour the proletariate of the capital at
the expense of the farmers of Italy. The main question here was that
of the competition between transmarine and Italian corn. The grain
which was delivered by the provincials to the Roman government,
sometimes gratuitously, sometimes for a moderate compensation, was in
part applied by the government to the maintenance of the Roman
official staff and of the Roman armies on the spot, partly given up to
the lessees of the -decumae- on condition of their either paying a sum
of money for it or of their undertaking to deliver certain quantities
of grain at Rome or wherever else it should be required. From the
time of the second Macedonian war the Roman armies were uniformly
supported by transmarine corn, and, though this tended to the benefit
of the Roman exchequer, it cut off the Italian farmer from an
important field of consumption for his produce. This however was
the least part of the mischief. The government had long, as was
reasonable, kept a watchful eye on the price of grain, and, when there
was a threatening of dearth, had interfered by well-timed purchases
abroad; and now, when the corn-deliveries of its subjects brought into
its hands every year large quantities of grain--larger probably than
were needed in times of peace--and when, moreover, opportunities were
presented to it of acquiring foreign grain in almost unlimited
quantity at moderate prices, there was a natural temptation to glut
the markets of the capital with such grain, and to dispose of it at
rates which either in themselves or as compared with the Italian rates
were ruinously low. Already in the years 551-554, and in the first
instance apparently at the suggestion of Scipio, 6 -modii- (1 1/2
bush.) of Spanish and African wheat were sold on public account to the
citizens of Rome at 24 and even at 12 -asses- (1 shilling 8 pence or
ten pence). Some years afterwards (558), more than 240,000 bushels of
Sicilian grain were distributed at the latter illusory price in the
capital. In vain Cato inveighed against this shortsighted policy:
the rise of demagogism had a part in it, and these extraordinary, but
presumably very frequent, distributions of grain under the market
price by the government or individual magistrates became the germs of
the subsequent corn-laws. But, even where the transmarine corn did
not reach the consumers in this extraordinary mode, it injuriously
affected Italian agriculture. Not only were the masses of grain which
the state sold off to the lessees of the tenths beyond doubt acquired
under ordinary circumstances by these so cheaply that, when re-sold,
they could be disposed of under the price of production; but it is
probable that in the provinces, particularly in Sicily--in consequence
partly of the favourable nature of the soil, partly of the extent
to which wholesale farming and slave-holding were pursued on the
Carthaginian system(10)--the price of production was in general
considerably lower than in Italy, while the transport of Sicilian and
Sardinian corn to Latium was at least as cheap as, if not cheaper
than, its transport thither from Etruria, Campania, or even northern
Italy. In the natural course of things therefore transmarine corn
could not but flow to the peninsula, and lower the price of the grain
produced there. Under the unnatural disturbance of relations
occasioned by the lamentable system of slave-labour, it would perhaps
have been justifiable to impose a duty on transmarine corn for the
protection of the Italian farmer; but the very opposite course seems
to have been pursued, and with a view to favour the import of
transmarine corn to Italy, a prohibitive system seems to have been
applied in the provinces--for though the Rhodians were allowed to
export a quantity of corn from Sicily by way of special favour, the
export of grain from the provinces must probably, as a rule, have been
free only as regarded Italy, and the transmarine corn must thus have
been monopolized for the benefit of the mother-country.

Prices Of Italian Corn

The effects of this system are clearly evident. A year of
extraordinary fertility like 504--when the people of the capital paid
for 6 Roman -modii- (1 1/2 bush.) of spelt not more than 3/5 of a
-denarius- (about 5 pence), and at the same price there were sold 180
Roman pounds (a pound = 11 oz.) of dried figs, 60 pounds of oil, 72
pounds of meat, and 6 -congii- (= 4 1/2 gallons) of wine--is scarcely
by reason of its very singularity to be taken into account; but other
facts speak more distinctly. Even in Cato's time Sicily was called
the granary of Rome. In productive years Sicilian and Sardinian corn
was disposed of in the Italian ports for the freight. In the richest
corn districts of the peninsula--the modern Romagna and Lombardy
--during the time of Polybius victuals and lodgings in an inn cost on
an average half an -as- (1/3 pence) per day; a bushel and a half of
wheat was there worth half a -denarius- (4 pence). The latter average
price, about the twelfth part of the normal price elsewhere,(11) shows
with indisputable clearness that the producers of grain in Italy were
wholly destitute of a market for their produce, and in consequence
corn and corn-land there were almost valueless.

Revolution In Roman Agriculture

In a great industrial state, whose agriculture cannot feed its
population, such a result might perhaps be regarded as useful or at
any rate as not absolutely injurious; but a country like Italy, where
manufactures were inconsiderable and agriculture was altogether the
mainstay of the state, was in this way systematically ruined, and the
welfare of the nation as a whole was sacrificed in the most shameful
fashion to the interests of the essentially unproductive population
of the capital, to which in fact bread could never become too cheap.
Nothing perhaps evinces so clearly as this, how wretched was the
constitution and how incapable was the administration of this
so-called golden age of the republic. Any representative system,
however meagre, would have led at least to serious complaints and to
a perception of the seat of the evil; but in those primary assemblies
of the burgesses anything was listened to sooner than the warning
voice of a foreboding patriot. Any government that deserved the name
would of itself have interfered; but the mass of the Roman senate
probably with well-meaning credulity regarded the low prices of grain
as a real blessing for the people, and the Scipios and Flamininuses
had, forsooth, more important things to do--to emancipate the Greeks,
and to exercise the functions of republican kings. So the ship drove
on unhindered towards the breakers.

Decay Of The Farmers

When the small holdings ceased to yield any substantial clear return,
the farmers were irretrievably ruined, and the more so that they
gradually, although more slowly than the other classes, lost the moral
tone and frugal habits of the earlier ages of the republic It was
merely a question of time, how rapidly the hides of the Italian
farmers would, by purchase or by resignation, become merged in
the larger estates.

Culture Of Oil And Wine, And Rearing Of Cattle

The landlord was better able to maintain himself than the farmer.
The former produced at a cheaper rate than the latter, when, instead
of letting his land according to the older system to petty temporary
lessees, he caused it according to the newer system to be cultivated
by his slaves. Accordingly, where this course had not been adopted
even at an earlier period,(12) the competition of Sicilian slave-corn
compelled the Italian landlord to follow it, and to have the work
performed by slaves without wife or child instead of families of free
labourers. The landlord, moreover, could hold his ground better
against competitors by means of improvements or changes in
cultivation, and he could content himself with a smaller return from
the soil than the farmer, who wanted capital and intelligence and who
merely had what was requisite for his subsistence. Hence the Roman
landholder comparatively neglected the culture of grain--which in many
rases seems to have been restricted to the raising of the quantity
required for the staff of labourers(13)--and gave increased attention
to the production of oil and wine as well as to the breeding of
cattle. These, under the favourable climate of Italy, had no need to
fear foreign competition; Italian wine, Italian oil, Italian wool not
only commanded the home markets, but were soon sent abroad; the valley
of the Po, which could find no consumption for its corn, provided the
half of Italy with swine and bacon. With this the statements that
have reached us as to the economic results of the Roman husbandry very
well agree. There is some ground for assuming that capital invested
in land was reckoned to yield a good return at 6 per cent; this
appears to accord with the average interest of capital at this period,
which was about twice as much. The rearing of cattle yielded on the
whole better results than arable husbandry: in the latter the vineyard
gave the best return, next came the vegetable garden and the olive
orchard, while meadows and corn-fields yielded least.(14)

It is of course presumed that each species of husbandry was prosecuted
under the conditions that suited it, and on the soil which was adapted
to its nature. These circumstances were already in themselves
sufficient to supersede the husbandry of the petty farmer gradually by
the system of farming on a great scale; and it was difficult by means
of legislation to counteract them. But an injurious effect was
produced by the Claudian law to be mentioned afterwards (shortly
before 536), which excluded the senatorial houses from mercantile
speculation, and thereby artificially compelled them to invest their
enormous capitals mainly in land or, in other words, to replace the
old homesteads of the farmers by estates under the management of land-
stewards and by pastures for cattle. Moreover special circumstances
tended to favour cattle-husbandry as contrasted with agriculture,
although the former was far more injurious to the state. First of
all, this form of extracting profit from the soil--the only one which
in reality demanded and rewarded operations on a great scale--was
alone in keeping with the mass of capital and with the spirit of the
capitalists of this age. An estate under cultivation, although not
demanding the presence of the master constantly, required his frequent
appearance on the spot, while the circumstances did not well admit of
his extending the estate or of his multiplying his possessions except
within narrow limits; whereas an estate under pasture admitted of
unlimited extension, and claimed little of the owner's attention. For
this reason men already began to convert good arable land into pasture
even at an economic loss--a practice which was prohibited by
legislation (we know not when, perhaps about this period) but hardly
with success. The growth of pastoral husbandry was favoured also by
the occupation of domain-land. As the portions so occupied were
ordinarily large, the system gave rise almost exclusively to great
estates; and not only so, but the occupiers of these possessions,
which might be resumed by the state at pleasure and were in law
always insecure, were afraid to invest any considerable amount in
their cultivation--by planting vines for instance, or olives.
The consequence was, that these lands were mainly turned to
account as pasture.

Management Of Money

We are prevented from giving a similar comprehensive view of the
moneyed economy of Rome, partly by the want of special treatises
descending from Roman antiquity on the subject, partly by its very
nature which was far more complex and varied than that of the Roman
husbandry. So far as can be ascertained, its principles were, still
less perhaps than those of husbandry, the peculiar property of the
Romans; on the contrary, they were the common heritage of all ancient
civilization, under which, as under that of modern times, the
operations on a great scale naturally were everywhere much alike.
In money matters especially the mercantile system appears to have been
established in the first instance by the Greeks, and to have been
simply adopted by the Romans. Yet the precision with which it was
carried out and the magnitude of the scale on which its operations
were conducted were so peculiarly Roman, that the spirit of the Roman
economy and its grandeur whether for good or evil are pre-eminently
conspicuous in its monetary transactions.


The starting-point of the Roman moneyed economy was of course
money-lending; and no branch of commercial industry was more
zealously prosecuted by the Romans than the trade of the professional
money-lender (-fenerator-) and of the money-dealer or banker (-argent
arius-). The transference of the charge of the larger monetary
transactions from the individual capitalists to the mediating banker,
who receives and makes payments for his customers, invests and borrows
money, and conducts their money dealings at home and abroad--which is
the mark of a developed monetary economy--was already completely
carried out in the time of Cato. The bankers, however, were not only
the cashiers of the rich in Rome, but everywhere insinuated themselves
into minor branches of business and settled in ever-increasing numbers
in the provinces and dependent states. Already throughout the whole
range of the empire the business of making advances to those who
wanted money began to be, so to speak, monopolized by the Romans.

Speculation Of Contractors

Closely connected with this was the immeasurable field of enterprise.
The system of transacting business through mediate agency pervaded the
whole dealings of Rome. The state took the lead by letting all its
more complicated revenues and all contracts for furnishing supplies
and executing buildings to capitalists, or associations of
capitalists, for a fixed sum to be given or received. But private
persons also uniformly contracted for whatever admitted of being done
by contract--for buildings, for the ingathering of the harvest,(15)
and even for the partition of an inheritance among the heirs or the
winding up of a bankrupt estate; in which case the contractor--usually
a banker--received the whole assets, and engaged on the other hand to
settle the liabilities in full or up to a certain percentage and to
pay the balance as the circumstances required.

Manufacturing Industry

The prominence of transmarine commerce at an early period in the Roman
national economy has already been adverted to in its proper place.
The further stimulus, which it received during the present period, is
attested by the increased importance of the Italian customs-duties in
the Roman financial system.(16) In addition to the causes of this
increase in the importance of transmarine commerce which need no
further explanation, it was artificially promoted by the privileged
position which the ruling Italian nation assumed in the provinces, and
by the exemption from customs-dues which was probably even now in many
of the client-states conceded by treaty to the Romans and Latins.

On the other hand, industry remained comparatively undeveloped.
Trades were no doubt indispensable, and there appear indications that
to a certain extent they were concentrated in Rome; Cato, for
instance, advises the Campanian landowner to purchase the slaves'
clothing and shoes, the ploughs, vats, and locks, which he may
require, in Rome. From the great consumption of woollen stuffs the
manufacture of cloth must undoubtedly have been extensive and
lucrative.(17) But no endeavours were apparently made to transplant
to Italy any such professional industry as existed in Egypt and Syria,
or even merely to carry it on abroad with Italian capital. Flax
indeed was cultivated in Italy and purple dye was prepared there,
but the latter branch of industry at least belonged essentially
to the Greek Tarentum, and probably the import of Egyptian linen
and Milesian or Tyrian purple even now preponderated everywhere over
the native manufacture.

Under this category, however, falls to some extent the leasing or
purchase by Roman capitalists of landed estates beyond Italy, with
a view to carry on the cultivation of grain and the rearing of cattle
on a great scale. This species of speculation, which afterwards
developed to proportions so enormous, probably began particularly in
Sicily, within the period now before us; seeing that the commercial
restrictions imposed on the Siceliots,(18) if not introduced for
the very purpose, must have at least tended to give to the Roman
speculators, who were exempt from such restrictions, a sort of
monopoly of the profits derivable from land.

Management Of Business By Slaves

Business in all these different branches was uniformly carried on by
means of slaves. The money-lenders and bankers instituted, throughout
the range of their business, additional counting-houses and branch
banks under the direction of their slaves and freedmen. The company,
which had leased the customs-duties from the state, appointed chiefly
its slaves and freedmen to levy them at each custom-house. Every one
who took contracts for buildings bought architect-slaves; every one
who undertook to provide spectacles or gladiatorial games on account
of those giving them purchased or trained a company of slaves skilled
in acting, or a band of serfs expert in the trade of fighting. The
merchant imported his wares in vessels of his own under the charge
of slaves or freedmen, and disposed of them by the same means in
wholesale or retail. We need hardly add that the working of mines and
manufactories was conducted entirely by slaves. The situation of
these slaves was, no doubt, far from enviable, and was throughout less
favourable than that of slaves in Greece; but, if we leave out of
account the classes last mentioned, the industrial slaves found their
position on the whole more tolerable than the rural serfs. They had
more frequently a family and a practically independent household, with
no remote prospect of obtaining freedom and property of their own.
Hence such positions formed the true training school of those upstarts
from the servile class, who by menial virtues and often by menial
vices rose to the rank of Roman citizens and not seldom attained
great prosperity, and who morally, economically, and politically
contributed at least as much as the slaves themselves to the ruin
of the Roman commonwealth.

Extent Of Roman Mercantile Transactions
Coins And Moneys

The Roman mercantile transactions of this period fully kept pace with
the contemporary development of political power, and were no less
grand of their kind. Any one who wishes to have a clear idea of the
activity of the traffic with other lands, needs only to look into the
literature, more especially the comedies, of this period, in which the
Phoenician merchant is brought on the stage speaking Phoenician, and
the dialogue swarms with Greek and half Greek words and phrases.
But the extent and zealous prosecution of Roman business-dealings may
be traced most distinctly by means of coins and monetary relations.
The Roman denarius quite kept pace with the Roman legions. We have
already mentioned(19) that the Sicilian mints--last of all that of
Syracuse in 542--were closed or at any rate restricted to small money
in consequence of the Roman conquest, and that in Sicily and Sardinia
the -denarius- obtained legal circulation at least side by side with
the older silver currency and probably very soon became the exclusive
legal tender. With equal if not greater rapidity the Roman silver
coinage penetrated into Spain, where the great silver-mines existed
and there was virtually no earlier national coinage; at a very
early period the Spanish towns even began to coin after the Roman
standard.(20) On the whole, as Carthage coined only to a very limited
extent,(21) there existed not a single important mint in addition to
that of Rome in the region of the western Mediterranean, with the
exception of that of Massilia and perhaps also those of the Illyrian
Greeks in Apollonia and Dyrrhachium. Accordingly, when the Romans
began to establish themselves in the region of the Po, these mints
were about 525 subjected to the Roman standard in such a way, that,
while they retained the right of coining silver, they uniformly
--and the Massiliots in particular--were led to adjust their
--drachma-- to the weight of the Roman three-quarter -denarius-, which
the Roman government on its part began to coin, primarily for the use
of Upper Italy, under the name of the "coin of victory" (-victoriatus-
). This new system, dependent on the Roman, not merely prevailed
throughout the Massiliot, Upper Italian, and Illyrian territories; but
these coins even penetrated into the barbarian lands on the north,
those of Massilia, for instance, into the Alpine districts along the
whole basin of the Rhone, and those of Illyria as far as the modern
Transylvania. The eastern half of the Mediterranean was not yet
reached by the Roman money, as it had not yet fallen under the direct
sovereignty of Rome; but its place was filled by gold, the true and
natural medium for international and transmarine commerce. It is
true that the Roman government, in conformity with its strictly
conservative character, adhered--with the exception of a temporary
coinage of gold occasioned by the financial embarrassment during the
Hannibalic war(22)--steadfastly to the rule of coining silver only in
addition to the national-Italian copper; but commerce had already
assumed such dimensions, that it was able even in the absence of money
to conduct its transactions with gold by weight. Of the sum in cash,
which lay in the Roman treasury in 597, scarcely a sixth was coined or
uncoined silver, five-sixths consisted of gold in bars,(23) and beyond
doubt the precious metals were found in all the chests of the larger
Roman capitalists in substantially similar proportions. Already
therefore gold held the first place in great transactions; and,
as may be further inferred from this fact, in general commerce the
preponderance belonged to that carried on with foreign lands, and
particularly with the east, which since the times of Philip and
Alexander the Great had adopted a gold currency.

Roman Wealth

The whole gain from these immense transactions of the Roman
capitalists flowed in the long run to Rome; for, much as they went
abroad, they were not easily induced to settle permanently there, but
sooner or later returned to Rome, either realizing their gains and
investing them in Italy, or continuing to carry on business from Rome
as a centre by means of the capital and connections which they had
acquired. The moneyed superiority of Rome as compared with the rest
of the civilized world was, accordingly, quite as decided as its
political and military ascendency. Rome in this respect stood towards
other countries somewhat as the England of the present day stands
towards the Continent--a Greek, for instance, observes of the younger
Scipio Africanus, that he was not rich "for a Roman." We may form some
idea of what was considered as riches in the Rome of those days from
the fact, that Lucius Paullus with an estate of 60 talents (14,000
pounds) was not reckoned a wealthy senator, and that a dowry--such as
each of the daughters of the elder Scipio Africanus received--of 50
talents (12,000 pounds) was regarded as a suitable portion for a
maiden of quality, while the estate of the wealthiest Greek of this
century was not more than 300 talents (72,000 pounds).

Mercantile Spirit

It was no wonder, accordingly, that the mercantile spirit took
possession of the nation, or rather--for that was no new thing in
Rome--that the spirit of the capitalist now penetrated and pervaded
all other aspects and stations of life, and agriculture as well as the
government of the state began to become enterprises of capitalists.
The preservation and increase of wealth quite formed a part of public
and private morality. "A widow's estate may diminish;" Cato wrote in
the practical instructions which he composed for his son, "a man must
increase his means, and he is deserving of praise and full of a divine
spirit, whose account-books at his death show that he has gained more
than he has inherited." Wherever, therefore, there was giving and
counter-giving, every transaction although concluded without any sort
of formality was held as valid, and in case of necessity the right of
action was accorded to the party aggrieved if not by the law, at any
rate by mercantile custom and judicial usage;(24) but the promise of a
gift without due form was null alike in legal theory and in practice.
In Rome, Polybius tells us, nobody gives to any one unless he must do
so, and no one pays a penny before it falls due, even among near
relatives. The very legislation yielded to this mercantile morality,
which regarded all giving away without recompense as squandering; the
giving of presents and bequests and the undertaking of sureties were
subjected to restriction at this period by decree of the burgesses,
and heritages, if they did not fall to the nearest relatives, were at
least taxed. In the closest connection with such views mercantile
punctuality, honour, and respectability pervaded the whole of Roman
life. Every ordinary man was morally bound to keep an account-book of
his income and expenditure--in every well-arranged house, accordingly,
there was a separate account-chamber (-tablinum-)--and every one took
care that he should not leave the world without having made his will:
it was one of the three matters in his life which Cato declares that
he regretted, that he had been a single day without a testament.
Those household books were universally by Roman usage admitted as
valid evidence in a court of justice, nearly in the same way as we
admit the evidence of a merchant's ledger. The word of a man of
unstained repute was admissible not merely against himself, but also
in his own favour; nothing was more common than to settle differences
between persons of integrity by means of an oath demanded by the one
party and taken by the other--a mode of settlement which was reckoned
valid even in law; and a traditional rule enjoined the jury, in the
absence of evidence, to give their verdict in the first instance for
the man of unstained character when opposed to one who was less
reputable, and only in the event of both parties being of equal repute
to give it in favour of the defendant.(25) The conventional
respectability of the Romans was especially apparent in the more and
more strict enforcement of the rule, that no respectable man should
allow himself to be paid for the performance of personal services.
Accordingly, magistrates, officers, jurymen, guardians, and generally
all respectable men entrusted with public functions, received no other
recompense for the services which they rendered than, at most,
compensation for their outlays; and not only so, but the services
which acquaintances (-amici-) rendered to each other--such as giving
security, representation in lawsuits, custody (-depositum-), lending
the use of objects not intended to be let on hire (-commodatum-), the
managing and attending to business in general (-procuratio-)--were
treated according to the same principle, so that it was unseemly to
receive any compensation for them and an action was not allowable even
where a compensation had been promised. How entirely the man was
merged in the merchant, appears most distinctly perhaps in the
substitution of a money-payment and an action at law for the duel
--even for the political duel--in the Roman life of this period.
The usual form of settling questions of personal honour was this: a
wager was laid between the offender and the party offended as to the
truth or falsehood of the offensive assertion, and under the shape of
an action for the stake the question of fact was submitted in due form
of law to a jury; the acceptance of such a wager when offered by the
offended or offending party was, just like the acceptance of a
challenge to a duel at the present day, left open in law, but was
often in point of honour not to be avoided.


One of the most important consequences of this mercantile spirit,
which displayed itself with an intensity hardly conceivable by those
not engaged in business, was the extraordinary impulse given to the
formation of associations. In Rome this was especially fostered by
the system already often mentioned whereby the government had its
business transacted through middlemen: for from the extent of the
transactions it was natural, and it was doubtless often required by
the state for the sake of greater security, that capitalists should
undertake such leases and contracts not as individuals, but in
partnership. All great dealings were organized on the model of these
state-contracts. Indications are even found of the occurrence among
the Romans of that feature so characteristic of the system of
association--a coalition of rival companies in order jointly to
establish monopolist prices.(26) In transmarine transactions more
especially and such as were otherwise attended with considerable risk,
the system of partnership was so extensively adopted, that it
practically took the place of insurances, which were unknown to
antiquity. Nothing was more common than the nautical loan, as it was
called--the modern "bottomry"--by which the risk and gain of
transmarine traffic were proportionally distributed among the owners
of the vessel and cargo and all the capitalists advancing money for
the voyage. It was, however, a general rule of Roman economy that one
should rather take small shares in many speculations than speculate
independently; Cato advised the capitalist not to fit out a single
ship with his money, but in concert with forty-nine other capitalists
to send out fifty ships and to take an interest in each to the extent
of a fiftieth part. The greater complication thus introduced into
business was overcome by the Roman merchant through his punctual
laboriousness and his system of management by slaves and freedmen
--which, regarded from the point of view of the pure capitalist, was
far preferable to our counting-house system. Thus these mercantile
companies, with their hundred ramifications, largely influenced the
economy of every Roman of note. There was, according to the testimony
of Polybius, hardly a man of means in Rome who had not been concerned
as an avowed or silent partner in leasing the public revenues; and
much more must each have invested on an average a considerable portion
of his capital in mercantile associations generally.

All this laid the foundation for that endurance of Roman wealth,
which was perhaps still more remarkable than its magnitude. The
phenomenon, unique perhaps of its kind, to which we have already
called attention(27)--that the standing of the great clans remained
almost the same throughout several centuries--finds its explanation
in the somewhat narrow but solid principles on which they managed
their mercantile property.

Moneyed Aristocracy

In consequence of the one-sided prominence assigned to capital in
the Roman economy, the evils inseparable from a pure capitalist system
could not fail to appear.

Civil equality, which had already received a fatal wound through the
rise of the ruling order of lords, suffered an equally severe blow in
consequence of the line of social demarcation becoming more and more
distinctly drawn between the rich and the poor. Nothing more
effectually promoted this separation in a downward direction than the
already-mentioned rule--apparently a matter of indifference, but in
reality involving the utmost arrogance and insolence on the part of
the capitalists--that it was disgraceful to take money for work; a
wall of partition was thus raised not merely between the common day-
labourer or artisan and the respectable landlord or manufacturer, but
also between the soldier or subaltern and the military tribune, and
between the clerk or messenger and the magistrate. In an upward
direction a similar barrier was raised by the Claudian law suggested
by Gaius Flaminius (shortly before 536), which prohibited senators
and senators' sons from possessing sea-going vessels except for the
transport of the produce of their estates, and probably also from
participating in public contracts--forbidding them generally from
carrying on whatever the Romans included under the head of
"speculation" (-quaestus-).(28) It is true that this enactment was
not called for by the senators; it was on the contrary a work of the
democratic opposition, which perhaps desired in the first instance
merely to prevent the evil of members of the governing class
personally entering into dealings with the government. It may be,
moreover, that the capitalists in this instance, as so often
afterwards, made common cause with the democratic party, and seized
the opportunity of diminishing competition by the exclusion of the
senators. The former object was, of course, only very imperfectly
attained, for the system of partnership opened up to the senators
ample facilities for continuing to speculate in secret; but this
decree of the people drew a legal line of demarcation between those
men of quality who did not speculate at all or at any rate not openly
and those who did, and it placed alongside of the aristocracy which
was primarily political an aristocracy which was purely moneyed--the
equestrian order, as it was afterwards called, whose rivalries with
the senatorial order fill the history of the following century.

Sterility Of The Capitalist Question

A further consequence of the one-sided power of capital was the
disproportionate prominence of those branches of business which were
the most sterile and the least productive for the national economy as
a whole. Industry, which ought to have held the highest place, in
fact occupied the lowest. Commerce flourished; but it was universally
passive, importing, but not exporting. Not even on the northern
frontier do the Romans seem to have been able to give merchandise in
exchange for the slaves, who were brought in numbers from the Celtic
and probably even from the Germanic territories to Ariminum and the
other markets of northern Italy; at least as early as 523 the export
of silver money to the Celtic territory was prohibited by the Roman
government. In the intercourse with Greece, Syria, Egypt, Cyrene, and
Carthage, the balance of trade was necessarily unfavourable to Italy.
Rome began to become the capital of the Mediterranean states, and
Italy to become the suburbs of Rome; the Romans had no wish to be
anything more, and in their opulent indifference contented themselves
with a passive commerce, such as every city which is nothing more than
a capital necessarily carries on--they possessed, forsooth, money
enough to pay for everything which they needed or did not need. On
the other hand the most unproductive of all sorts of business, the
traffic in money and the farming of the revenue, formed the true
mainstay and stronghold of the Roman economy. And, lastly, whatever
elements that economy had contained for the production of a wealthy
middle class, and of a lower one making enough for its subsistence,
were extinguished by the unhappy system of employing slaves, or,
at the best, contributed to the multiplication of the troublesome
order of freedmen.

The Capitalists And Public Opinion

But above all the deep rooted immorality, which is inherent in an
economy of pure capital, ate into the heart of society and of the
commonwealth, and substituted an absolute selfishness for humanity
and patriotism. The better portion of the nation were very keenly
sensible of the seeds of corruption which lurked in that system of
speculation; and the instinctive hatred of the great multitude, as
well as the displeasure of the well-disposed statesman, was especially
directed against the trade of the professional money-lender, which for
long had been subjected to penal laws and still continued under the
letter of the law amenable to punishment In a comedy of this period
the money-lender is told that the class to which he belongs is on a
parallel with the -lenones- --

-Eodem hercle vos pono et paro; parissumi estis ibus.
Hi saltem in occultis locis prostant: vos in foro ipso.
Vos fenore, hi male suadendo et lustris lacerant homines.
Rogitationes plurimas propter vos populus scivit,
Quas vos rogatas rumpitis: aliquam reperitis rimam.
Quasi aquam ferventem frigidam esse, ita vos putatis leges.-

Cato the leader of the reform party expresses himself still more
emphatically than the comedian. "Lending money at interest," he says
in the preface to his treatise on agriculture, "has various
advantages; but it is not honourable. Our forefathers accordingly
ordained, and inscribed it among their laws, that the thief should be
bound to pay twofold, but the man who takes interest fourfold,
compensation; whence we may infer how much worse a citizen they deemed
the usurer than the thief." There is no great difference, he elsewhere
considers, between a money-lender and a murderer; and it must be
allowed that his acts did not fall short of his words--when governor
of Sardinia, by his rigorous administration of the law he drove the
Roman bankers to their wits' end. The great majority of the ruling
senatorial order regarded the system of the speculators with dislike,
and not only conducted themselves in the provinces on the whole with
more integrity and honour than these moneyed men, but often acted as
a restraint on them. The frequent changes of the Roman chief
magistrates, however, and the inevitable inequality in their mode
of handling the laws, necessarily abated the effort to check such

Reaction Of The Capitalist System On Agriculture

The Romans perceived moreover--as it was not difficult to perceive
--that it was of far more consequence to give a different direction
to the whole national economy than to exercise a police control over
speculation; it was such views mainly that men like Cato enforced
by precept and example on the Roman agriculturist. "When our
forefathers," continues Cato in the preface just quoted, "pronounced
the eulogy of a worthy man, they praised him as a worthy farmer and a
worthy landlord; one who was thus commended was thought to have
received the highest praise. The merchant I deem energetic and
diligent in the pursuit of gain; but his calling is too much exposed
to perils and mischances. On the other hand farmers furnish the
bravest men and the ablest soldiers; no calling is so honourable,
safe, and free from odium as theirs, and those who occupy themselves
with it are least liable to evil thoughts." He was wont to say of
himself, that his property was derived solely from two sources
--agriculture and frugality; and, though this was neither very logical
in thought nor strictly conformable to the truth,(29) yet Cato was not
unjustly regarded by his contemporaries and by posterity as the model
of a Roman landlord. Unhappily it is a truth as remarkable as it is
painful, that this husbandry, commended so much and certainly with so
entire good faith as a remedy, was itself pervaded by the poison of
the capitalist system. In the case of pastoral husbandry this was
obvious; for that reason it was most in favour with the public and
least in favour with the party desirous of moral reform. But how
stood the case with agriculture itself? The warfare, which from the
third onward to the fifth century capital had waged against labour,
by withdrawing under the form of interest on debt the revenues of the
soil from the working farmers and bringing them into the hands of the
idly consuming fundholder, had been settled chiefly by the extension
of the Roman economy and the throwing of the capital which existed in
Latium into the field of mercantile activity opened up throughout the
range of the Mediterranean. Now even the extended field of business
was no longer able to contain the increased mass of capital; and an
insane legislation laboured simultaneously to compel the investment
of senatorial capital by artificial means in Italian estates, and
systematically to reduce the value of the arable land of Italy by
interference with the prices of grain. Thus there began a second
campaign of capital against free labour or--what was substantially the
same thing in antiquity--against the small farmer system; and, if the
first had been bad, it yet seemed mild and humane as compared with the
second. The capitalists no longer lent to the farmer at interest
--a course, which in itself was not now practicable because the petty
landholder no longer aimed at any considerable surplus, and was
moreover not sufficiently simple and radical--but they bought up the
farms and converted them, at the best, into estates managed by
stewards and worked by slaves. This likewise was called agriculture;
it was essentially the application of the capitalist system to the
production of the fruits of the soil. The description of the
husbandmen, which Cato gives, is excellent and quite just; but how
does it correspond to the system itself, which he portrays and
recommends? If a Roman senator, as must not unfrequently have been
the case, possessed four such estates as that described by Cato, the
same space, which in the olden time when small holdings prevailed had
supported from 100 to 150 farmers' families, was now occupied by one
family of free persons and about 50, for the most part unmarried,
slaves. If this was the remedy by which the decaying national economy
was to be restored to vigour, it bore, unhappily, an aspect of extreme
resemblance to the disease.

Development Of Italy

The general result of this system is only too clearly obvious in the
changed proportions of the population. It is true that the condition
of the various districts of Italy was very unequal, and some were even
prosperous. The farms, instituted in great numbers in the region
between the Apennines and the Po at the time of its colonization, did
not so speedily disappear. Polybius, who visited that quarter not
long after the close of the present period, commends its numerous,
handsome, and vigorous population: with a just legislation as to corn
it would doubtless have been possible to make the basin of the Po, and
not Sicily the granary of the capital. In like manner Picenum and the
so-called -ager Gallicus- acquired a numerous body of farmers through
the distributions of domain-land consequent on the Flaminian law of
522--a body, however, which was sadly reduced in the Hannibalic war.
In Etruria, and perhaps also in Umbria, the internal condition of the
subject communities was unfavourable to the flourishing of a class
of free farmers, Matters were better in Latium--which could not be
entirely deprived of the advantages of the market of the capital, and
which had on the whole been spared by the Hannibalic war--as well as
in the secluded mountain-valleys of the Marsians and Sabellians. On
the other hand the Hannibalic war had fearfully devastated southern
Italy and had ruined, in addition to a number of smaller townships,
its two largest cities, Capua and Tarentum, both once able to send
into the field armies of 30,000 men. Samnium had recovered from the
severe wars of the fifth century: according to the census of 529 it
was in a position to furnish half as many men capable of arms as all
the Latin towns, and it was probably at that time, next to the -ager
Romanus-, the most flourishing region of the peninsula. But the
Hannibalic war had desolated the land afresh, and the assignations
of land in that quarter to the soldiers of Scipio's army, although
considerable, probably did not cover the loss. Campania and Apulia,
both hitherto well-peopled regions, were still worse treated in the
same war by friend and foe. In Apulia, no doubt, assignations of land
took place afterwards, but the colonies instituted there were not
successful. The beautiful plain of Campania remained more populous;
but the territory of Capua and of the other communities broken up in
the Hannibalic war became state-property, and the occupants of it were
uniformly not proprietors, but petty temporary lessees. Lastly, in
the wide Lucanian and Bruttian territories the population, which was
already very thin before the Hannibalic war, was visited by the whole
severity of the war itself and of the penal executions that followed
in its train; nor was much done on the part of Rome to revive the
agriculture there--with the exception perhaps of Valentia (Vibo,
now Monteleone), none of the colonies established there attained
real prosperity.

Falling Off In The Population

With every allowance for the inequality in the political and economic
circumstances of the different districts and for the comparatively
flourishing condition of several of them, the retrogression is yet on
the whole unmistakeable, and it is confirmed by the most indisputable
testimonies as to the general condition of Italy. Cato and Polybius
agree in stating that Italy was at the end of the sixth century far
weaker in population than at the end of the fifth, and was no longer
able to furnish armies so large as in the first Punic war. The
increasing difficulty of the levy, the necessity of lowering the
qualification for service in the legions, and the complaints of the
allies as to the magnitude of the contingents to be furnished by them,
confirm these statements; and, in the case of the Roman burgesses, the
numbers tell the same tale. In 502, shortly after the expedition of
Regulus to Africa, they amounted to 298,000 men capable of bearing
arms; thirty years later, shortly before the commencement of the
Hannibalic war (534), they had fallen off to 270,000, or about a
tenth, and again twenty years after that, shortly before the end of
the same war (550), to 214,000, or about a fourth; and a generation
afterwards--during which no extraordinary losses occurred, but the
institution of the great burgess-colonies in the plain of northern
Italy in particular occasioned a perceptible and exceptional increase
--the numbers of the burgesses had hardly again reached the point at
which they stood at the commencement of this period. If we had
similar statements regarding the Italian population generally,
they would beyond all doubt exhibit a deficit relatively still more
considerable. The decline of the national vigour less admits of
proof; but it is stated by the writers on agriculture that flesh and
milk disappeared more and more from the diet of the common people.
At the same time the slave population increased, as the free
population declined. In Apulia, Lucania, and the Bruttian land,
pastoral husbandry must even in the time of Cato have preponderated
over agriculture; the half-savage slave-herdsmen were here in reality
masters in the house. Apulia was rendered so insecure by them that a
strong force had to be stationed there; in 569 a slave-conspiracy
planned on the largest scale, and mixed up with the proceedings of the
Bacchanalia, was discovered there, and nearly 7000 men were condemned
as criminals. In Etruria also Roman troops had to take the field
against a band of slaves (558), and even in Latium there were
instances in which towns like Setia and Praeneste were in danger of
being surprised by a band of runaway serfs (556). The nation was
visibly diminishing, and the community of free burgesses was resolving
itself into a body composed of masters and slaves; and, although it
was in the first instance the two long wars with Carthage which
decimated and ruined both the burgesses and the allies, the Roman
capitalists beyond doubt contributed quite as much as Hamilcar and
Hannibal to the decline in the vigour and the numbers of the Italian
people. No one can say whether the government could have rendered
help; but it was an alarming and discreditable fact, that the circles
of the Roman aristocracy, well-meaning and energetic as in great part
they were, never once showed any insight into the real gravity of the
situation or any foreboding of the full magnitude of the danger. When
a Roman lady belonging to the high nobility, the sister of one of the
numerous citizen-admirals who in the first Punic war had ruined the
fleets of the state, one day got among a crowd in the Roman Forum, she
said aloud in the hearing of those around, that it was high time to
place her brother once more at the head of the fleet and to relieve
the pressure in the market-place by bleeding the citizens afresh
(508). Those who thus thought and spoke were, no doubt, a small
minority; nevertheless this outrageous speech was simply a forcible
expression of the criminal indifference with which the whole noble
and rich world looked down on the common citizens and farmers.

They did not exactly desire their destruction, but they allowed it to
run its course; and so desolation advanced with gigantic steps over
the flourishing land of Italy, where countless free men had just been
enjoying a moderate and merited prosperity.

Notes For Chapter XII

1. In order to gain a correct picture of ancient Italy, it is
necessary for us to bear in mind the great changes which have been
produced there by modern cultivation. Of the -cerealia-, rye was not
cultivated in antiquity; and the Romans of the empire were astonished
to rind that oats, with which they were well acquainted as a weed, was
used by the Germans for making porridge. Rice was first cultivated in
Italy at the end of the fifteenth, and maize at the beginning of the
seventeenth, century. Potatoes and tomatoes were brought from
America; artichokes seem to be nothing but a cultivated variety of the
cardoon which was known to the Romans, yet the peculiar character
superinduced by cultivation appears of more recent origin. The
almond, again, or "Greek nut," the peach, or "Persian nut," and also
the "soft nut" (-nux mollusca-), although originally foreign to Italy,
are met with there at least 150 years before Christ. The date-palm,
introduced into Italy from Greece as into Greece from the East, and
forming a living attestation of the primitive commercial-religious
intercourse between the west and the east, was already cultivated in
Italy 300 years before Christ (Liv. x. 47; Pallad. v. 5, 2; xi. 12, i)
not for its fruit (Plin. H. N. xiii. 4, 26), but, just as in the
present day, as a handsome plant, and for the sake of the leaves which
were used at public festivals. The cherry, or fruit of Cerasus on the
Black Sea, was later in being introduced, and only began to be planted
in Italy in the time of Cicero, although the wild cherry is indigenous
there; still later, perhaps, came the apricot, or "Armenian plum." The
citron-tree was not cultivated in Italy till the later ages of the
empire; the orange was only introduced by the Moors in the twelfth or
thirteenth, and the aloe (Agave Americana) from America only in the
sixteenth, century. Cotton was first cultivated in Europe by the
Arabs. The buffalo also and the silkworm belong only to modern, not
to ancient Italy.

It is obvious that the products which Italy had not originally are for
the most part those very products which seem to us truly "Italian;"
and if modern Germany, as compared with the Germany visited by Caesar,
may be called a southern land, Italy has since in no less degree
acquired a "more southern" aspect.

2. II. III. Licinio-Sextian Laws

3. According to Cato, de R. R, 137 (comp. 16), in the case of a lease
with division of the produce the gross produce of the estate, after
deduction of the fodder necessary for the oxen that drew the plough,
was divided between lessor and lessee (-colonus partiarius-) in the
proportions agreed upon between them. That the shares were ordinarily
equal may be conjectured from the analogy of the French -bail a
cheptel- and the similar Italian system of half-and-half leases,

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