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The History Of Rome, Book III by Theodor Mommsen

Part 9 out of 11

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as well as from the absence of all trace of any other scheme of
partition. It is erroneous to refer to the case of the -politor-,
who got the fifth of the grain or, if the division took place before
thrashing, from the sixth to the ninth sheaf (Cato, 136, comp. 5);
he was not a lessee sharing the produce, but a labourer assumed in
the harvest season, who received his daily wages according to that
contract of partnership (III. XII. Spirit Of The System).

4. The lease lirst assumed real importance when the Roman capitalists
began to acquire transmarine possessions on a great scale; then indeed
they knew how to value it, when a temporary lease was continued
through several generations (Colum. i. 7, 3).

5. That the space between the vines was occupied not by grain, but
only at the most by such fodder plants as easily grew in the shade, is
evident from Cato (33, comp. 137), and accordingly Columella (iii. 3)
calculates on no other accessory gain in the case of a vineyard except
the produce of the young shoots sold. On the other hand, the orchard
(-arbustum-) was sown like any corn field (Colum. ii. 9, 6). It was
only where the vine was trained on living trees that corn was
cultivated in the intervals between them.

6. Mago, or his translator (in Varro, R. R., i. 17, 3), advises that
slaves should not be bred, but should be purchased not under 22 years
of age; and Cato must have had a similar course in view, as the
personal staff of his model farm clearly shows, although he does not
exactly say so. Cato (2) expressly counsels the sale of old and
diseased slaves. The slave-breeding described by Columella (I. I.
Italian History), under which female slaves who had three sons were
exempted from labour, and the mothers of four sons were even
manumitted, was doubtless an independent speculation rather than a
part of the regular management of the estate--similar to the trade
pursued by Cato himself of purchasing slaves to be trained and sold
again (Plutarch, Cat. Mai. 21). The characteristic taxation mentioned
in this same passage probably has reference to the body of servants
properly so called (-familia urbana-).

7. In this restricted sense the chaining of slaves, and even of the
sons of the family (Dionys. ii. 26), was very old; and accordingly
chained field-labourers are mentioned by Cato as exceptions, to whom,
as they could not themselves grind, bread had to be supplied instead
of grain (56). Even in the times of the empire the chaining of slaves
uniformly presents itself as a punishment inflicted definitively by
the master, provisionally by the steward (Colum. i. 8; Gai. i. 13;
Ulp. i. ii). If, notwithstanding, the tillage of the fields by means
of chained slaves appeared in subsequent times as a distinct system,
and the labourers' prison (-ergastulum-)--an underground cellar with
window-aperatures numerous but narrow and not to be reached from the
ground by the hand (Colum. i. 6)--became a necessary part of the farm-
buildings, this state of matters was occasioned by the fact that the
position of the rural serfs was harder than that of other slaves and
therefore those slaves were chiefly taken for it, who had, or seemed
to have, committed some offence. That cruel masters, moreover,
applied the chains without any occasion to do so, we do not mean to
deny, and it is clearly indicated by the circumstance that the law-
books do not decree the penalties applicable to slave transgressors
against those in chains, but prescribe the punishment of the half-
chained. It was precisely the same with branding; it was meant to be,
strictly, a punishment; but the whole flock was probably marked
(Diodor. xxxv. 5; Bernays, --Phokytides--, p. xxxi.).

8. Cato does not expressly say this as to the vintage, but Varro does
so (I. II. Relation Of The Latins To The Umbro-Samnites), and it is
implied in the nature of the case. It would have been economically an
error to fix the number of the slaves on a property by the standard of
the labours of harvest; and least of all, had such been the case,
would the grapes have been sold on the tree, which yet was frequently
done (Cato, 147).

9. Columella (ii. 12, 9) reckons to the year on an average 45 rainy
days and holidays; with which accords the statement of Tertullian (De
Idolol. 14), that the number of the heathen festival days did not come
up to the fifty days of the Christian festal season from Easter to
Whitsunday. To these fell to be added the time of rest in the middle
of winter after the completion of the autumnal bowing, which Columella
estimates at thirty days. Within this time, doubtless, the moveable
"festival of seed-sowing" (-feriae sementivae-; comp. i. 210 and Ovid.
Fast, i. 661) uniformly occurred. This month of rest must not be
confounded with the holidays for holding courts in the season of the
harvest (Plin. Ep. viii. 21, 2, et al.) and vintage.

10. III. I. The Carthaginian Dominion In Africa

11. The medium price of grain in the capital may be assumed at least
for the seventh and eighth centuries of Rome at one -denarius- for the
Roman -modius-, or 2 shillings 8 pence per bushel of wheat, for which
there is now paid (according to the average of the prices in the
provinces of Brandenburg and Pomerania from 1816 to 1841) about 3
shillings 5 pence. Whether this not very considerable difference
between the Roman and the modern prices depends on a rise in the value
of corn or on a fall in the value of silver, can hardly be decided.

It is very doubtful, perhaps, whether in the Rome of this and of later
times the prices of corn really fluctuated more than is the case in
modern times. If we compare prices like those quoted above, of 4
pence and 5 pence for the bushel and a half, with those of the worst
times of war-dearth and famine--such as in the second Punic war when
the same quantity rose to 9 shillings 7 pence (1 -medimnus- = 15 --
drachmae--; Polyb. ix. 44), in the civil war to 19 shillings 2 pence
(1 -modius- = 5 -denarii-; Cic. Verr. iii. 92, 214), in the great
dearth under Augustus, even to 21 shillings 3 pence (5 -modii- =27 1/2
-denarii-; Euseb. Chron. p. Chr. 7, Scal.)--the difference is indeed
immense; but such extreme cases are but little instructive, and might
in either direction be found recurring under the like conditions at
the present day.

12. II. VIII. Farming Of Estates

13. Accordingly Cato calls the two estates, which he describes,
summarily "olive-plantation" (-olivetum-) and "vineyard" (-vinea-),
although not wine and oil merely, but grain also and other products
were cultivated there. If indeed the 800 -culei-, for which the
possessor of the vineyard is directed to provide himself with casks
(11), formed the maximum of a year's vintage, the whole of the 100
-jugera- must have been planted with vines, because a produce of 8
-culei- per -jugerum- was almost unprecedented (Colum. iii. 3); but
Varro (i. 22) understood, and evidently with reason, the statement to
apply to the case of the possessor of a vineyard who found it
necessary to make the new vintage before he had sold the old.

14. That the Roman landlord made on an average 6 per cent from his
capital, may be inferred from Columella, iii. 3, 9. We have a more
precise estimate of the expense and produce only in the case of the
vine yard, for which Columella gives the following calculation of
the cost per -jugerum-:

Price of the ground 1000 sesterces.
Price of the slaves who work it 1143
(proportion to-jugerum-)
Vines and stakes 2000
Loss of interest during the first two years 497
Total 4640 sesterces= 47 pounds.

He calculates the produce as at any rate 60 -amphorae-, worth at least
900 sesterces (9 pounds), which would thus represent a return of 17
per cent. But this is somewhat illusory, as, apart from bad harvests,
the cost of gathering in the produce (III. XII. Spirit Of The System),
and the expenses of the maintenance of the vines, stakes, and slaves,
are omitted from the estimate.

The gross produce of meadow, pasture, and forest is estimated by the
same agricultural writer as, at most, 100 sesterces per -jugerum-, and
that of corn land as less rather than more: in fact, the average
return of 25 -modii- of wheat per -jugerum- gives, according to the
average price in the capital of 1 -denarius- per -modius-, not more
than 100 sesterces for the gross proceeds, and at the seat of
production the price must have been still lower. Varro (iii. 2)
reckons as a good ordinary gross return for a larger estate 150
sesterces per -jugerum-. Estimates of the corresponding expense have
not reached us: as a matter of course, the management in this instance
cost much less than in that of a vineyard.

All these statements, moreover, date from a century or more after
Gate's death. From him we have only the general statement that the
breeding of cattle yielded a better return than agriculture (ap.
Cicero, De Off. ii. 25, 89; Colum. vi. praef. 4, comp. ii. 16, 2;
Plin. H. N. xviii. 5, 30; Plutarch, Cato, 21); which of course is not
meant to imply that it was everywhere advisable to convert arable land
into pasture, but is to be understood relatively as signifying that
the capital invested in the rearing of flocks and herds on mountain
pastures and other suitable pasture-land yielded, as compared with
capital invested in cultivating Suitable corn land, a higher interest.
Perhaps the circumstance has been also taken into account in the
calculation, that the want of energy and intelligence in the landlord
operates far less injuriously in the case of pasture-land than in the
highly-developed culture of the vine and olive. On an arable estate,
according to Cato, the returns of the soil stood as follows in a
descending series:--1, vineyard; 2, vegetable garden; 3, osier copse,
which yielded a large return in consequence of the culture of the
vine; 4, olive plantation; 5, meadow yielding hay; 6, corn fields;
7, copse; 8, wood for felling; 9, oak forest for forage to the cattle;
all of which nine elements enter into the scheme of husbandry for
Cato's model estates.

The higher net return of the culture of the vine as compared with that
of corn is attested also by the fact, that under the award pronounced
in the arbitration between the city of Genua and the villages
tributary to it in 637 the city received a sixth of wine, and a
twentieth of grain, as quitrent.

15. III. XII. Spirit Of The System

16. III. XI. As To The Management Of The Finances

17. The industrial importance of the Roman cloth-making is evident
from the remarkable part which is played by the fullers in Roman
comedy. The profitable nature of the fullers' pits is attested by
Cato (ap. Plutarch, Cat 21).

18. III. III. Organization Of The Provinces

19. III. III. Property

20. III. VII. The State Of Culture In Spain

21. III. I. Comparison Between Carthage And Rome

22. III. VI. Pressure Of The War

23. There were in the treasury 17,410 Roman pounds of gold, 22,070
pounds of uncoined, and 18,230 pounds of coined, silver. The legal
ratio of gold to silver was: 1 pound of gold = 4000 sesterces, or 1:

24. On this was based the actionable character of contracts of
buying, hiring, and partnership, and, in general, the whole system
of non-formal actionable contracts.

25. The chief passage as to this point is the fragment of Cato in
Gellius, xiv. 2. In the case of the -obligatio litteris- also,
i. e. a claim based solely on the entry of a debt in the account-book
of the creditor, this legal regard paid to the personal credibility of
the party, even where his testimony in his own cause is concerned,
affords the key of explanation; and hence it happened that in later
times, when this mercantile repute had vanished from Roman life, the
-obligatio litteris-, while not exactly abolished, fell of itself into

26. In the remarkable model contract given by Cato (141) for the
letting of the olive harvest, there is the following paragraph:--

"None [of the persons desirous to contract on the occasion of letting]
shall withdraw, for the sake of causing the gathering and pressing of
the olives to be let at a dearer rate; except when [the joint bidder]
immediately names [the other bidder] as his partner. If this rule
shall appear to have been infringed, all the partners [of the company
with which the contract has been concluded] shall, if desired by the
landlord or the overseer appointed by him, take an oath [that they
have not conspired in this way to prevent competition]. If they do
not take the oath, the stipulated price is not to be paid." It is
tacitly assumed that the contract is taken by a company, not by an
individual capitalist.

27. III. XIII. Religious Economy

28. Livy (xxi. 63; comp. Cic. Verr. v. 18, 45) mentions only the
enactment as to the sea-going vessels; but Asconius (in Or. in toga
cand. p. 94, Orell.) and Dio. (lv. 10, 5) state that the senator was
also forbidden by law to undertake state-contracts (-redemptiones-);
and, as according to Livy "all speculation was considered unseemly for
a senator," the Claudian law probably reached further than he states.

29. Cato, like every other Roman, invested a part of his means in the
breeding of cattle, and in commercial and other undertakings. But it
was not his habit directly to violate the laws; he neither speculated
in state-leases--which as a senator he was not allowed to do--nor
practised usury. It is an injustice to charge him with a practice in
the latter respect at variance with his theory; the -fenus nauticum-,
in which he certainly engaged, was not a branch of usury prohibited by
the law; it really formed an essential part of the business of
chartering and freighting vessels.

Chapter XIII

Faith And Manners

Roman Austerity And Roman Pride

Life in the case of the Roman was spent under conditions of austere
restraint, and, the nobler he was, the less he was a free man.
All-powerful custom restricted him to a narrow range of thought
and action; and to have led a serious and strict or, to use the
characteristic Latin expressions, a sad and severe life, was his
glory. No one had more and no one had less to do than to keep his
household in good order and manfully bear his part of counsel and
action in public affairs. But, while the individual had neither the
wish nor the power to be aught else than a member of the community,
the glory and the might of that community were felt by every
individual burgess as a personal possession to be transmitted along
with his name and his homestead to his posterity; and thus, as one
generation after another was laid in the tomb and each in succession
added its fresh contribution to the stock of ancient honours, the
collective sense of dignity in the noble families of Rome swelled into
that mighty civic pride, the like of which the earth has never seen
again, and the traces of which, as strange as they are grand, seem to
us, wherever we meet them, to belong as it were to another world. It
was one of the characteristic peculiarities of this powerful sense of
citizenship, that it was, while not suppressed, yet compelled by the
rigid simplicity and equality that prevailed among the citizens to
remain locked up within the breast during life, and was only allowed
to find expression after death; but then it was displayed in the
funeral rites of the man of distinction so conspicuously and
intensely, that this ceremonial is better fitted than any other
phenomenon of Roman life to give to us who live in later times a
glimpse of that wonderful spirit of the Romans.

A Roman Funeral

It was a singular procession, at which the burgesses were invited to
be present by the summons of the public crier: "Yonder warrior is
dead; whoever can, let him come to escort Lucius Aemilius; he is borne
forth from his house." It was opened by bands of wailing women,
musicians, and dancers; one of the latter was dressed out and
furnished with a mask after the likeness of the deceased, and by
gesture doubtless and action recalled once more to the multitude the
appearance of the well-known man. Then followed the grandest and most
peculiar part of the solemnity--the procession of ancestors--before
which all the rest of the pageant so faded in comparison, that men of
rank of the true Roman type enjoined their heirs to restrict the
funeral ceremony to that procession alone. We have already mentioned
that the face-masks of those ancestors who had filled the curule
aedileship or any higher ordinary magistracy, wrought in wax and
painted--modelled as far as possible after life, but not wanting even
for the earlier ages up to and beyond the time of the kings--were wont
to be placed in wooden niches along the walls of the family hall, and
were regarded as the chief ornament of the house. When a death
occurred in the family, suitable persons, chiefly actors, were dressed
up with these face-masks and the corresponding official costume to
take part in the funeral ceremony, so that the ancestors--each in the
principal dress worn by him in his lifetime, the triumphator in his
gold-embroidered, the censor in his purple, and the consul in his
purple-bordered, robe, with their lictors and the other insignia of
office--all in chariots gave the final escort to the dead. On the
bier overspread with massive purple and gold-embroidered coverlets and
fine linen cloths lay the deceased himself, likewise in the full
costume of the highest office which he had filled, and surrounded by
the armour of the enemies whom he had slain and by the chaplets which
in jest or earnest he had won. Behind the bier came the mourners, all
dressed in black and without ornament, the sons of the deceased with
their heads veiled, the daughters without veil, the relatives and
clansmen, the friends, the clients and freedmen. Thus the procession
passed on to the Forum. There the corpse was placed in an erect
position; the ancestors descended from their chariots and seated
themselves in the curule chairs; and the son or nearest gentile
kinsman of the deceased ascended the rostra, in order to announce to
the assembled multitude in simple recital the names and deeds of each
of the men sitting in a circle around him and, last of all, those of
him who had recently died.

This may be called a barbarous custom, and a nation of artistic
feelings would certainly not have tolerated the continuance of this
odd resurrection of the dead down to an epoch of fully-developed
civilization; but even Greeks who were very dispassionate and but
little disposed to reverence, such as Polybius, were greatly impressed
by the naive pomp of this funeral ceremony. It was a conception
essentially in keeping with the grave solemnity, the uniform movement,
and the proud dignity of Roman life, that departed generations should
continue to walk, as it were, corporeally among the living, and that,
when a burgess weary of labours and of honours was gathered to his
fathers, these fathers themselves should appear in the Forum to
receive him among their number.

The New Hellenism

But the Romans had now reached a crisis of transition. Now that the
power of Rome was no longer confined to Italy but had spread far and
wide to the east and to the west, the days of the old home life of
Italy were over, and a Hellenizing civilization came in its room. It
is true that Italy had been subject to the influence of Greece, ever
since it had a history at all. We have formerly shown how the
youthful Greece and the youthful Italy--both of them with a certain
measure of simplicity and originality--gave and received intellectual
impulses; and how at a later period Rome endeavoured after a more
external manner to appropriate to practical use the language and
inventions of the Greeks. But the Hellenism of the Romans of the
present period was, in its causes as well as its consequences,
something essentially new. The Romans began to feel the need of a
richer intellectual life, and to be startled as it were at their own
utter want of mental culture; and, if even nations of artistic gifts,
such as the English and Germans, have not disdained in the pauses of
their own productiveness to avail themselves of the miserable French
culture for filling up the gap, it need excite no surprise that the
Italian nation now flung itself with fervid zeal on the glorious
treasures as well as on the dissolute filth of the intellectual
development of Hellas. But it was an impulse still more profound and
deep-rooted, which carried the Romans irresistibly into the Hellenic
vortex. Hellenic civilization still doubtless called itself by that
name, but it was Hellenic no longer; it was, in fact, humanistic and
cosmopolitan. It had solved the problem of moulding a mass of
different nations into one whole completely in the field of intellect,
and to a certain extent also in that of politics; and, now when the
same task on a wider scale devolved on Rome, she took over Hellenism
along with the rest of the inheritance of Alexander the Great.
Hellenism therefore was no longer a mere stimulus or accessory
influence; it penetrated the Italian nation to the very core. Of
course, the vigorous home life of Italy strove against the foreign
element. It was only after a most vehement struggle that the Italian
farmer abandoned the field to the cosmopolite of the capital; and, as
in Germany the French coat called forth the national Germanic frock,
so the reaction against Hellenism aroused in Rome a tendency which
opposed the influence of Greece on principle, in a fashion altogether
foreign to the earlier centuries, and in doing so fell pretty
frequently into downright follies and absurdities.

Hellenism In Politics

No department of human action or thought remained unaffected by this
struggle between the old fashion and the new. Even political
relations were largely influenced by it The whimsical project of
emancipating the Hellenes, the well deserved failure of which has
already been described, the kindred, likewise Hellenic, idea of a
common interest of republics in opposition to kings, and the desire of
propagating Hellenic polity at the expense of eastern despotism--the
two principles that helped to regulate, for instance, the treatment of
Macedonia--were fixed ideas of the new school, just as dread of the
Carthaginians was the fixed idea of the old; and, if Cato pushed the
latter to a ridiculous excess, Philhellenism now and then indulged in
extravagances at least quite as foolish. For example, the conqueror
of king Antiochus not only had a statue of him self in Greek costume
erected on the Capitol, but also, instead of calling himself in good
Latin -Asiaticus-, assumed the unmeaning and anomalous, but yet
magnificent and almost Greek, surname of --Asiagenus--.(1) A more
important consequence of this attitude of the ruling nation towards
Hellenism was, that the process of Latinizing gained ground everywhere
in Italy except where it encountered the Hellenes. The cities of the
Greeks in Italy, so far as the war had not destroyed them, remained
Greek. Apulia, about which, it is true, the Romans gave themselves
little concern, appears at this very epoch to have been thoroughly
pervaded by Hellenism, and the local civilization there seems to have
attained the level of the decaying Hellenic culture by its side.
Tradition is silent on the matter; but the numerous coins of cities,
uniformly furnished with Greek inscriptions, and the manufacture of
painted clay-vases after the Greek style, which was carried on in that
part of Italy alone with more ambition and gaudiness than taste, show
that Apulia had completely adopted Greek habits and Greek art.

But the real struggle between Hellenism and its national antagonists
during the present period was carried on in the field of faith, of
manners, and of art and literature; and we must not omit to attempt
some delineation of this great strife of principles, however difficult
it may be to present a summary view of the myriad forms and aspects
which the conflict assumed.

The National Religion And Unbelief

The extent to which the old simple faith still retained a living hold
on the Italians is shown very clearly by the admiration or
astonishment which this problem of Italian piety excited among the
contemporary Greeks. On occasion of the quarrel with the Aetolians it
was reported of the Roman commander-in-chief that during battle he was
solely occupied in praying and sacrificing like a priest; whereas
Polybius with his somewhat stale moralizing calls the attention of his
countrymen to the political usefulness of this piety, and admonishes
them that a state cannot consist of wise men alone, and that such
ceremonies are very convenient for the sake of the multitude.

Religious Economy

But if Italy still possessed--what had long been a mere antiquarian
curiosity in Hellas--a national religion, it was already visibly
beginning to be ossified into theology. The torpor creeping over
faith is nowhere perhaps so distinctly apparent as in the alterations
in the economy of divine service and of the priesthood. The public
service of the gods became not only more tedious, but above all more
and more costly. In 558 there was added to the three old colleges of
the augurs, pontifices, and keepers of oracles, a fourth consisting of
three "banquet-masters" (-tres viri epulones-), solely for the
important purpose of superintending the banquets of the gods. The
priests, as well as the gods, were in fairness entitled to feast; new
institutions, however, were not needed with that view, as every
college applied itself with zeal and devotion to its convivial
affairs. The clerical banquets were accompanied by the claim of
clerical immunities. The priests even in times of grave embarrassment
claimed the right of exemption from public burdens, and only after
very troublesome controversy submitted to make payment of the taxes in
arrear (558). To the individual, as well as to the community, piety
became a more and more costly article. The custom of instituting
endowments, and generally of undertaking permanent pecuniary
obligations, for religious objects prevailed among the Romans in a
manner similar to that of its prevalence in Roman Catholic countries
at the present day. These endowments--particularly after they came to
be regarded by the supreme spiritual and at the same time the supreme
juristic authority in the state, the pontifices, as a real burden
devolving -de jure- on every heir or other person acquiring the
estate--began to form an extremely oppressive charge on property;
"inheritance without sacrificial obligation" was a proverbial saying
among the Romans somewhat similar to our "rose without a thorn." The
dedication of a tenth of their substance became so common, that twice
every month a public entertainment was given from the proceeds in the
Forum Boarium at Rome. With the Oriental worship of the Mother of the
Gods there was imported to Rome among other pious nuisances the
practice, annually recurring on certain fixed days, of demanding
penny-collections from house to house (-stipem cogere-). Lastly, the
subordinate class of priests and soothsayers, as was reasonable,
rendered no service without being paid for it; and beyond doubt the
Roman dramatist sketched from life, when in the curtain-conversation
between husband and wife he represents the account for pious services
as ranking with the accounts for the cook, the nurse, and other
customary presents:--

-Da mihi, vir,--quod dem Quinquatribus
Praecantrici, conjectrici, hariolae atquc haruspicae;
Tum piatricem clementer non potest quin munerem.
Flagitium est, si nil mittetur, quo supercilio spicit.-

The Romans did not create a "God of gold," as they had formerly
created a "God of silver";(2) nevertheless he reigned in reality alike
over the highest and lowest spheres of religious life. The old pride
of the Latin national religion--the moderation of its economic
demands--was irrevocably gone.


At the same time its ancient simplicity also departed. Theology, the
spurious offspring of reason and faith, was already occupied in
introducing its own tedious prolixity and solemn inanity into the old
homely national faith, and thereby expelling the true spirit of that
faith. The catalogue of the duties and privileges of the priest of
Jupiter, for instance, might well have a place in the Talmud. They
pushed the natural rule--that no religious service can be acceptable
to the gods unless it is free from flaw--to such an extent in
practice, that a single sacrifice had to be repeated thirty times in
succession on account of mistakes again and again committed, and that
the games, which also formed a part of divine service, were regarded
as undone if the presiding magistrate had committed any slip in word
or deed or if the music even had paused at a wrong time, and so had to
be begun afresh, frequently for several, even as many as seven, times
in succession.

Irreligious Spirit

This exaggeration of conscientiousness was already a symptom of its
incipient torpor; and the reaction against it--indifference and
unbelief--failed not soon to appear. Even in the first Punic war
(505) an instance occurred in which the consul himself made an open
jest of consulting the auspices before battle--a consul, it is true,
belonging to the peculiar clan of the Claudii, which alike in good and
evil was ahead of its age. Towards the end of this epoch complaints
were loudly made that the lore of the augurs was neglected, and that,
to use the language of Cato, a number of ancient auguries and auspices
were falling into oblivion through the indolence of the college. An
augur like Lucius Paullus, who saw in the priesthood a science and not
a mere title, was already a rare exception, and could not but be so,
when the government more and more openly and unhesitatingly employed
the auspices for the accomplishment of its political designs, or, in
other words, treated the national religion in accordance with the view
of Polybius as a superstition useful for imposing on the public at
large. Where the way was thus paved, the Hellenistic irreligious
spirit found free course. In connection with the incipient taste for
art the sacred images of the gods began as early as the time of Cato
to be employed, like other furniture, in adorning the chambers of the
rich. More dangerous wounds were inflicted on religion by the rising
literature. It could not indeed venture on open attacks, and such
direct additions as were made by its means to religious conceptions
--e.g. the Pater Caelus formed by Ennius from the Roman Saturnus in
imitation of the Greek Uranos--were, while Hellenistic, of no great
importance. But the diffusion of the doctrines of Epichar and
Euhemerus in Rome was fraught with momentous consequences. The
poetical philosophy, which the later Pythagoreans had extracted from
the writings of the old Sicilian comedian Epicharmus of Megara (about
280), or rather had, at least for the most part, circulated under
cover of his name, saw in the Greek gods natural substances, in Zeus
the atmosphere, in the soul a particle of sun-dust, and so forth. In
so far as this philosophy of nature, like the Stoic doctrine in later
times, had in its most general outlines a certain affinity with the
Roman religion, it was calculated to undermine the national religion
by resolving it into allegory. A quasi-historical analysis of
religion was given in the "Sacred Memoirs" of Euhemerus of Messene
(about 450), which, under the form of reports on the travels of the
author among the marvels of foreign lands, subjected to thorough and
documentary sifting the accounts current as to the so-called gods, and
resulted in the conclusion that there neither were nor are gods at
all. To indicate the character of the book, it may suffice to mention
the one fact, that the story of Kronos devouring his children is
explained as arising out of the existence of cannibalism in the
earliest times and its abolition by king Zeus. Notwithstanding, or
even by virtue of, its insipidity and of its very obvious purpose, the
production had an undeserved success in Greece, and helped, in concert
with the current philosophies there, to bury the dead religion. It is
a remarkable indication of the expressed and conscious antagonism
between religion and the new philosophy that Ennius already translated
into Latin those notoriously destructive writings of Epicharmus and
Euhemerus. The translators may have justified themselves at the bar
of Roman police by pleading that the attacks were directed only
against the Greek, and not against the Latin, gods; but the evasion
was tolerably transparent. Cato was, from his own point of view,
quite right in assailing these tendencies indiscriminately, wherever
they met him, with his own peculiar bitterness, and in calling even
Socrates a corrupter of morals and offender against religion.

Home And Foreign Superstition

Thus the old national religion was visibly on the decline; and, as
the great trees of the primeval forest were uprooted the soil became
covered with a rank growth of thorns and of weeds that had never been
seen before. Native superstitions and foreign impostures of the most
various hues mingled, competed, and conflicted with each other. No
Italian stock remained exempt from this transmuting of old faith into
new superstition. As the lore of entrails and of lightning was
cultivated among the Etruscans, so the liberal art of observing birds
and conjuring serpent? flourished luxuriantly among the Sabellians
and more particularly the Marsians. Even among the Latin nation, and
in fact in Rome itself, we meet with similar phenomena, although they
are, comparatively speaking, less conspicuous. Such for instance were
the lots of Praeneste, and the remarkable discovery at Rome in 573 of
the tomb and posthumous writings of the king Numa, which are alleged
to have prescribed religious rites altogether strange and unheard of.
But the credulous were to their regret not permitted to learn more
than this, coupled with the fact that the books looked very new; for
the senate laid hands on the treasure and ordered the rolls to be
summarily thrown into the fire. The home manufacture was thus quite
sufficient to meet such demands of folly as might fairly be expected;
but the Romans were far from being content with it. The Hellenism of
that epoch, already denationalized and pervaded by Oriental mysticism,
introduced not only unbelief but also superstition in its most
offensive and dangerous forms to Italy; and these vagaries moreover
had quite a special charm, precisely because they were foreign.

Worship Of Cybele

Chaldaean astrologers and casters of nativities were already in the
sixth century spread throughout Italy; but a still more important
event--one making in fact an epoch in the world's history--was the
reception of the Phrygian Mother of the Gods among the publicly
recognized divinities of the Roman state, to which the government had
been obliged to give its consent during the last weary years of the
Hannibalic war (550). A special embassy was sent for the purpose to
Pessinus, a city in the territory of the Celts of Asia Minor; and the
rough field-stone, which the priests of the place liberally presented
to the foreigners as the real Mother Cybele, was received by the
community with unparalleled pomp. Indeed, by way of perpetually
commemorating the joyful event, clubs in which the members entertained
each other in rotation were instituted among the higher classes, and
seem to have materially stimulated the rising tendency to the
formation of cliques. With the permission thus granted for the
-cultus- of Cybele the worship of the Orientals gained a footing
officially in Rome; and, though the government strictly insisted that
the emasculate priests of the new gods should remain Celts (-Galli-)
as they were called, and that no Roman burgess should devote himself
to this pious eunuchism, yet the barbaric pomp of the "Great Mother"
--her priests clad in Oriental costume with the chief eunuch at their
head, marching in procession through the streets to the foreign music
of fifes and kettledrums, and begging from house to house--and the
whole doings, half sensuous, half monastic, must have exercised a most
material influence over the sentiments and views of the people.

Worship Of Bacchus

The effect was only too rapidly and fearfully apparent. A few years
later (568) rites of the most abominable character came to the
knowledge of the Roman authorities; a secret nocturnal festival in
honour of the god Bacchus had been first introduced into Etruria
through a Greek priest, and, spreading like a cancer, had rapidly
reached Rome and propagated itself over all Italy, everywhere
corrupting families and giving rise to the most heinous crimes,
unparalleled unchastity, falsifying of testaments, and murdering by
poison. More than 7000 men were sentenced to punishment, most of them
to death, on this account, and rigorous enactments were issued as to
the future; yet they did not succeed in repressing the ongoings, and
six years later (574) the magistrate to whom the matter fell
complained that 3000 men more had been condemned and still there
appeared no end of the evil.

Repressive Measures

Of course all rational men were agreed in the condemnation of these
spurious forms of religion--as absurd as they were injurious to the
commonwealth: the pious adherents of the olden faith and the partisans
of Hellenic enlightenment concurred in their ridicule of, and
indignation at, this superstition. Cato made it an instruction to his
steward, "that he was not to present any offering, or to allow any
offering to be presented on his behalf, without the knowledge and
orders of his master, except at the domestic hearth and on the
wayside-altar at the Compitalia, and that he should consult no
-haruspex-, -hariolus-, or -Chaldaeus-." The well-known question, as
to how a priest could contrive to suppress laughter when he met his
colleague, originated with Cato, and was primarily applied to the
Etruscan -haruspex-. Much in the same spirit Ennius censures in true
Euripidean style the mendicant soothsayers and their adherents:

-Sed superstitiosi vates impudentesque arioli,
Aut inertes aut insani aut quibus egestas imperat,
Qui sibi semitam non sapiunt, alteri monstrant viam,
Quibus divitias pollicentur, ab eis drachumam ipsi petunt.-

But in such times reason from the first plays a losing game against
unreason. The government, no doubt, interfered; the pious impostors
were punished and expelled by the police; every foreign worship not
specially sanctioned was forbidden; even the consulting of the
comparatively innocent lot-oracle of Praeneste was officially
prohibited in 512; and, as we have already said, those who took part
in the Bacchanalia were rigorously prosecuted. But, when once men's
heads are thoroughly turned, no command of the higher authorities
avails to set them right again. How much the government was obliged
to concede, or at any rate did concede, is obvious from what has been
stated. The Roman custom, under which the state consulted Etruscan
sages in certain emergencies and the government accordingly took steps
to secure the traditional transmission of Etruscan lore in the noble
families of Etruria, as well as the permission of the secret worship
of Demeter, which was not immoral and was restricted to women, may
probably be ranked with the earlier innocent and comparatively
indifferent adoption of foreign rites. But the admission of the
worship of the Mother of the Gods was a bad sign of the weakness which
the government felt in presence of the new superstition, perhaps even
of the extent to which it was itself pervaded by it; and it showed in
like manner either an unpardonable negligence or something still
worse, that the authorities only took steps against such proceedings
as the Bacchanalia at so late a stage, and even then on an accidental

Austerity Of Manners
Catos's Family Life

The picture, which has been handed down to us of the life of Cato the
Elder, enables us in substance to perceive how, according to the ideas
of the respectable burgesses of that period, the private life of the
Roman should be spent. Active as Cato was as a statesman, pleader,
author, and mercantile speculator, family life always formed with him
the central object of existence; it was better, he thought, to be a
good husband than a great senator. His domestic discipline was
strict. The servants were not allowed to leave the house without
orders, nor to talk of what occurred to the household to strangers.
The more severe punishments were not inflicted capriciously, but
sentence was pronounced and executed according to a quasi-judicial
procedure: the strictness with which offences were punished may be
inferred from the fact, that one of his slaves who had concluded a
purchase without orders from his master hanged himself on the matter
coming to Cato's ears. For slight offences, such as mistakes
committed in waiting at table, the consular was wont after dinner to
administer to the culprit the proper number of lashes with a thong
wielded by his own hand. He kept his wife and children in order no
less strictly, but by other means; for he declared it sinful to lay
hands on a wife or grown-up children in the same way as on slaves.
In the choice of a wife he disapproved marrying for money, and
recommended men to look to good descent; but he himself married in
old age the daughter of one of his poor clients. Moreover he adopted
views in regard to continence on the part of the husband similar to
those which everywhere prevail in slave countries; a wife was
throughout regarded by him as simply a necessary evil. His writings
abound in invectives against the chattering, finery-loving,
ungovernable fair sex; it was the opinion of the old lord that "all
women are plaguy and proud," and that, "were men quit of women, our
life might probably be less godless." On the other hand the rearing
of children born in wedlock was a matter which touched his heart and
his honour, and the wife in his eyes existed strictly and solely for
the children's sake. She nursed them ordinarily herself, or, if she
allowed her children to be suckled by female slaves, she also allowed
their children in return to draw nourishment from her own breast; one
of the few traits, which indicate an endeavour to mitigate the
institution of slavery by ties of human sympathy--the common impulses
of maternity and the bond of foster-brotherhood. The old general was
present in person, whenever it was possible, at the washing and
swaddling of his children. He watched with reverential care over
their childlike innocence; he assures us that he was as careful lest
he should utter an unbecoming word in presence of his children as if
he had been in presence of the Vestal Virgins, and that he never
before the eyes of his daughters embraced their mother, except when
she had become alarmed during a thunder-storm. The education of the
son was perhaps the noblest portion of his varied and variously
honourable activity. True to his maxim, that a ruddy-checked boy was
worth more than a pale one, the old soldier in person initiated his
son into all bodily exercises, and taught him to wrestle, to ride, to
swim, to box, and to endure heat and cold. But he felt very justly,
that the time had gone by when it sufficed for a Roman to be a good
farmer and soldier; and be felt also that it could not but have an
injurious influence on the mind of his boy, if he should subsequently
learn that the teacher, who had rebuked and punished him and had won
his reverence, was a mere slave. Therefore he in person taught the
boy what a Roman was wont to learn, to read and write and know the law
of the land; and even in his later years he worked his way so far into
the general culture of the Hellenes, that he was able to deliver to
his son in his native tongue whatever in that culture he deemed to be
of use to a Roman. All his writings were primarily intended for his
son, and he wrote his historical work for that son's use with large
distinct letters in his own hand. He lived in a homely and frugal
style. His strict parsimony tolerated no expenditure on luxuries. He
allowed no slave to cost him more than 1500 -denarii- (65 pounds) and
no dress more than 100 -denarii- (4 pounds: 6 shillings); no carpet was
to be seen in his house, and for a long time there was no whitewash on
the walls of the rooms. Ordinarily he partook of the same fare with
his servants, and did not buffer his outlay in cash for the meal to
exceed 30 -asses- (2 shillings); in time of war even wine was
uniformly banished from his table, and he drank water or, according to
circumstances, water mixed with vinegar. On the other hand, he was no
enemy to hospitality; he was fond of associating both with his club in
town and with the neighbouring landlords in the country; he sat long
at table, and, as his varied experience and his shrewd and ready wit
made him a pleasant companion, he disdained neither the dice nor the
wine-flask: among other receipts in his book on husbandry he even
gives a tried recipe for the case of a too hearty meal and too deep
potations. His life up to extreme old age was one of ceaseless
activity. Every moment was apportioned and occupied; and every
evening he was in the habit of turning over in his mind what he had
heard, said, or done during the day. Thus he found time for his own
affairs as well as for those of his friends and of the state, and time
also for conversation and pleasure; everything was done quickly and
without many words, and his genuine spirit of activity hated nothing
so much as bustle or a great ado about trifles. So lived the man who
was regarded by his contemporaries and by posterity as the true model
of a Roman burgess, and who appeared as it were the living embodiment
of the--certainly somewhat coarse-grained--energy and probity of Rome
in contrast with Greek indolence and Greek immorality; as a later
Roman poet says:

-Sperne mores transmarinos, mille habent offucias.
Cive Romano per orbem nemo vivit rectius.
Quippe malim unum Catonem, quam trecentos Socratas.- (3)

Such judgments will not be absolutely adopted by history; but every
one who carefully considers the revolution which the degenerate
Hellenism of this age accomplished in the modes of life and thought
among the Romans, will be inclined to heighten rather than to lessen
that condemnation of the foreign manners.

New Manners

The ties of family life became relaxed with fearful rapidity. The
evil of grisettes and boy-favourites spread like a pestilence, and, as
matters stood, it was not possible to take any material steps in the
way of legislation against it. The high tax, which Cato as censor
(570) laid on this most abominable species of slaves kept for luxury,
would not be of much moment, and besides fell practically into disuse
a year or two afterwards along with the property-tax generally.
Celibacy--as to which grave complaints were made as early as 520--and
divorces naturally increased in proportion. Horrible crimes were
perpetrated in the bosom of families of the highest rank; for
instance, the consul Gaius Calpurnius Piso was poisoned by his wife
and his stepson, in order to occasion a supplementary election to the
consulship and so to procure the supreme magistracy for the latter
--a plot which was successful (574). Moreover the emancipation of
women began. According to old custom the married woman was subject
in law to the marital power which was parallel with the paternal, and
the unmarried woman to the guardianship of her nearest male -agnati-,
which fell little short of the paternal power; the wife had no
property of her own, the fatherless virgin and the widow had at any
rate no right of management. But now women began to aspire to
independence in respect to property, and, getting quit of the
guardianship of their -agnati- by evasive lawyers' expedients
--particularly through mock marriages--they took the management
of their property into their own hands, or, in the event of being
married, sought by means not much better to withdraw themselves
from the marital power, which under the strict letter of the law was
necessary. The mass of capital which was collected in the hands of
women appeared to the statesmen of the time so dangerous, that they
resorted to the extravagant expedient of prohibiting by law the
testamentary nomination of women as heirs (585), and even sought by a
highly arbitrary practice to deprive women for the most part of the
collateral inheritances which fell to them without testament. In like
manner the exercise of family jurisdiction over women, which was
connected with that marital and tutorial power, became practically
more and more antiquated. Even in public matters women already
began to have a will of their own and occasionally, as Cato thought,
"to rule the rulers of the world;" their influence was to be traced
in the burgess-assembly, and already statues were erected in the
provinces to Roman ladies.


Luxury prevailed more and more in dress, ornaments, and furniture, in
buildings and at table. Especially after the expedition to Asia Minor
in 564 Asiatico-Hellenic luxury, such as prevailed at Ephesus and
Alexandria, transferred its empty refinement and its dealing in
trifles, destructive alike of money, time, and pleasure, to Rome.
Here too women took the lead: in spite of the zealous invective of
Cato they managed to procure the abolition, after the peace with
Cartilage (559), of the decree of the people passed soon after the
battle of Cannae (539), which forbade them to use gold ornaments,
variegated dresses, or chariots; no course was left to their zealous
antagonist but to impose a high tax on those articles (570). A
multitude of new and for the most part frivolous articles--silver
plate elegantly figured, table-couches with bronze mounting, Attalic
dresses as they were called, and carpets of rich gold brocade--now
found their way to Rome. Above all, this new luxury appeared in the
appliances of the table. Hitherto without exception the Romans had
only partaken of hot dishes once a day; now hot dishes were not
unfrequently produced at the second meal (-prandium-), and for the
principal meal the two courses formerly in use no longer sufficed.
Hitherto the women of the household had themselves attended to
the baking of bread and cooking; and it was only on occasion of
entertainments that a professional cook was specially hired, who in
that case superintended alike the cooking and the baking. Now, on
the other hand, a scientific cookery began to prevail. In the
better houses a special cook was kept The division of labour became
necessary, and the trade of baking bread and cakes branched off from
that of cooking--the first bakers' shops in Rome appeared about 583.
Poems on the art of good eating, with long lists of the most palatable
fishes and other marine products, found their readers: and the theory
was reduced to practice. Foreign delicacies--anchovies from Pontus,
wine from Greece--began to be esteemed in Rome, and Cato's receipt for
giving to the ordinary wine of the country the flavour of Coan by
means of brine would hardly inflict any considerable injury on the
Roman vintners. The old decorous singing and reciting of the guests
and their boys were supplanted by Asiatic -sambucistriae-. Hitherto
the Romans had perhaps drunk pretty deeply at supper, but drinking-
banquets in the strict sense were unknown; now formal revels came into
vogue, on which occasions the wine was little or not at all diluted
and was drunk out of large cups, and the drink-pledging, in which each
was bound to follow his neighbour in regular succession, formed the
leading feature--"drinking after the Greek style" (-Graeco more
bibere-) or "playing the Greek" (-pergraecari-, -congraecare-) as the
Romans called it. In consequence of this debauchery dice-playing,
which had doubtless long been in use among the Romans, reached such
proportions that it was necessary for legislation to interfere. The
aversion to labour and the habit of idle lounging were visibly on the
increase.(4) Cato proposed to have the market paved with pointed
stones, in order to put a stop to the habit of idling; the Romans
laughed at the jest and went on to enjoy the pleasure of loitering
and gazing all around them.

Increase Of Amusements

We have already noticed the alarming extension of the popular
amusements during this epoch. At the beginning of it, apart from some
unimportant foot and chariot races which should rather be ranked with
religious ceremonies, only a single general festival was held in the
month of September, lasting four days and having a definitely fixed
maximum of cost.(5) At the close of the epoch, this popular festival
had a duration of at least six days; and besides this there were
celebrated at the beginning of April the festival of the Mother of the
Gods or the so-called Megalensia, towards the end of April that of
Ceres and that of Flora, in June that of Apollo, in November the
Plebeian games--all of them probably occupying already more days than
one. To these fell to be added the numerous cases where the games
were celebrated afresh--in which pious scruples presumably often
served as a mere pretext--and the incessant extraordinary festivals.
Among these the already-mentioned banquets furnished from the
dedicated tenths(6) the feasts of the gods, the triumphal and funeral
festivities, were conspicuous; and above all the festal games which
were celebrated--for the first time in 505--at the close of one of
those longer periods which were marked off by the Etrusco-Roman
religion, the -saecula-, as they were called. At the same time
domestic festivals were multiplied. During the second Punic war there
were introduced, among people of quality, the already-mentioned
banquetings on the anniversary of the entrance of the Mother of the
Gods (after 550), and, among the lower orders, the similar Saturnalia
(after 537), both under the influence of the powers henceforth closely
allied--the foreign priest and the foreign cook. A very near approach
was made to that ideal condition in which every idler should know
where he might kill time every day; and this in a commonwealth where
formerly action had been with all and sundry the very object of
existence, and idle enjoyment had been proscribed by custom as well
as by law! The bad and demoralizing elements in these festal
observances, moreover, daily acquired greater ascendency. It is true
that still as formerly the chariot races formed the brilliant finale
of the national festivals; and a poet of this period describes very
vividly the straining expectancy with which the eyes of the multitude
were fastened on the consul, when he was on the point of giving the
signal for the chariots to start. But the former amusements no longer
sufficed; there was a craving for new and more varied spectacles.
Greek athletes now made their appearance (for the first time in 568)
alongside of the native wrestlers and boxers. Of the dramatic
exhibitions we shall speak hereafter: the transplanting of Greek
comedy and tragedy to Rome was a gain perhaps of doubtful value, but
it formed at any rate the best of the acquisitions made at this time.
The Romans had probably long indulged in the sport of coursing hares
and hunting foxes in presence of the public; now these innocent hunts
were converted into formal baitings of wild animals, and the wild
beasts of Africa--lions and panthers--were (first so far as can be
proved in 568) transported at great cost to Rome, in order that by
killing or being killed they might serve to glut the eyes of the
gazers of the capital. The still more revolting gladiatorial games,
which prevailed in Campania and Etruria, now gained admission to Rome;
human blood was first shed for sport in the Roman forum in 490. Of
course these demoralizing amusements encountered severe censure: the
consul of 486, Publius Sempronius Sophus, sent a divorce to his wife,
because she had attended funeral games; the government carried a
decree of the people prohibiting the bringing over of wild beasts to
Rome, and strictly insisted that no gladiators should appear at the
public festivals. But here too it wanted either the requisite power
or the requisite energy: it succeeded, apparently, in checking the
practice of baiting animals, but the appearance of sets of gladiators
at private festivals, particularly at funeral celebrations, was not
suppressed. Still less could the public be prevented from preferring
the comedian to the tragedian, the rope-dancer to the comedian, the
gladiator to the rope-dancer; or the stage be prevented from revelling
by choice amidst the pollution of Hellenic life. Whatever elements of
culture were contained in the scenic and artistic entertainments were
from the first thrown aside; it was by no means the object of the
givers of the Roman festivals to elevate--though it should be but
temporarily--the whole body of spectators through the power of poetry
to the level of feeling of the best, as the Greek stage did in the
period of its prime, or to prepare an artistic pleasure for a select
circle, as our theatres endeavour to do. The character of the
managers and spectators in Rome is illustrated by a scene at the
triumphal games in 587, where the first Greek flute-players, on their
melodies failing to please, were instructed by the director to box
with one another instead of playing, upon which the delight would
know no bounds.

Nor was the evil confined to the corruption of Roman manners by
Hellenic contagion; conversely the scholars began to demoralize their
instructors. Gladiatorial games, which were unknown in Greece, were
first introduced by king Antiochus Epiphanes (579-590), a professed
imitator of the Romans, at the Syrian court, and, although they
excited at first greater horror than pleasure in the Greek public,
which was more humane and had more sense of art than the Romans, yet
they held their ground likewise there, and gradually came more and
more into vogue.

As a matter of course, this revolution in life and manners brought an
economic revolution in its train. Residence in the capital became
more and more coveted as well as more costly. Rents rose to an
unexampled height. Extravagant prices were paid for the new
articles of luxury; a barrel of anchovies from the Black Sea cost
1600 sesterces (16 pounds)--more than the price of a rural slave; a
beautiful boy cost 24,000 sesterces (240 pounds)--more than many a
farmer's homestead. Money therefore, and nothing but money, became
the watchword with high and low. In Greece it had long been the case
that nobody did anything for nothing, as the Greeks themselves with
discreditable candour allowed: after the second Macedonian war the
Romans began in this respect also to imitate the Greeks.
Respectability had to provide itself with legal buttresses; pleaders,
for instance, had to be prohibited by decree of the people from taking
money for their services; the jurisconsults alone formed a noble
exception, and needed no decree of the people to compel their
adherence to the honourable custom of giving good advice gratuitously.
Men did not, if possible, steal outright; but all shifts seemed
allowable in order to attain rapidly to riches--plundering and
begging, cheating on the part of contractors and swindling on the part
of speculators, usurious trading in money and in grain, even the
turning of purely moral relations such as friendship and marriage to
economic account. Marriage especially became on both sides an object
of mercantile speculation; marriages for money were common, and it
appeared necessary to refuse legal validity to the' presents which the
spouses made to each other. That, under such a state of things, plans
for setting fire on all sides to the capital came to the knowledge of
the authorities, need excite no surprise. When man no longer finds
enjoyment in work, and works merely in order to attain as quickly as
possible to enjoyment, it is a mere accident that he does not become a
criminal. Destiny had lavished all the glories of power and riches
with liberal hand on the Romans; but, in truth, the Pandora's box was
a gift of doubtful value.

Notes For Chapter XIII

1. That --Asiagenus-- was the original title of the hero of Magnesia
and of his descendants, is established by coins and inscriptions; the
fact that the Capitoline Fasti call him -Asiaticus- is one of several
traces indicating that these have undergone a non-contemporary
revision. The former surname can only he a corruption of --Asiagenus--
--the form which later authors substituted for it--which signifies
not the conqueror of Asia, but an Asiatic by birth.

2. II. VIII. Religion

3. [In the first edition of this translation I gave these lines in
English on the basis of Dr. Mommsen's German version, and added in a
note that I had not been able to find the original. Several scholars
whom I consulted were not more successful; and Dr. Mommsen was at the
time absent from Berlin. Shortly after the first edition appeared, I
received a note from Sir George Cornewall Lewis informing me that I
should find them taken from Florus (or Floridus) in Wernsdorf, Poetae
Lat. Min. vol. iii. p. 487. They were accordingly given in the
revised edition of 1868 from the Latin text Baehrens (Poet. Lat. Min.
vol. iv. p. 347) follows Lucian Muller in reading -offucia-. --TR.]

4. A sort of -parabasis- in the -Curculio- of Plautus describes what
went on in the market-place of the capital, with little humour
perhaps, but with life-like distinctness.

-Conmonstrabo, quo in quemque hominem facile inveniatis loco,
Ne nimio opere sumat operam, si quis conventum velit
Vel vitiosum vel sine vitio, vel probum vel inprobum.
Qui perjurum convenire volt hominem, ito in comitium;
Qui mendacem et gloriosum, apud Cloacinae sacrum.
[Ditis damnosos maritos sub basilica quaerito.
Ibidem erunt scorta exoleta quique stipulari solent.]
Symbolarum conlatores apud forum piscarium.
In foro infumo boni homines atque dites ambulant;
In medio propter canalem ibi ostentatores meri.
Confidentes garrulique et malevoli supra lacum,
Qui alteri de nihilo audacter dicunt contumeliam
Et qui ipsi sat habent quod in se possit vere dicier.
Sub veteribus ibi sunt, qui dant quique accipiunt faenore.
Pone aedem Castoris ibi sunt, subito quibus credas male.
In Tusco vico ibi sunt homines, qui ipsi sese venditant.
In Velabro vel pistorem vel lanium vel haruspicem
Vel qui ipsi vorsant, vel qui aliis, ut vorsentur, praebeant.
Ditis damnosos maritos apud Leucadiam Oppiam.-

The verses in brackets are a subsequent addition, inserted after the
building of the first Roman bazaar (570). The business of the baker
(-pistor-, literally miller) embraced at this time the sale of
delicacies and the providing accommodation for revellers (Festus, Ep.
v. alicariae, p. 7, Mull.; Plautus, Capt. 160; Poen. i. a, 54; Trin.
407). The same was the case with the butchers. Leucadia Oppia may
have kept a house of bad fame.

5. II. IX. The Roman National Festival

6. III. XIII. Religious Economy

Chapter XIV

Literature And Art

The influences which stimulated the growth of Roman literature were
of a character altogether peculiar and hardly paralleled in any other
nation. To estimate them correctly, it is necessary in the first
place that we should glance at the instruction of the people and
its recreations during this period.

Knowledge Of Languages

Language lies at the root of all mental culture; and this was
especially the case in Rome. In a community where so much importance
was attached to speeches and documents, and where the burgess, at an
age which is still according to modern ideas regarded as boyhood, was
already entrusted with the uncontrolled management of his property and
might perhaps find it necessary to make formal speeches to the
assembled community, not only was great value set all along on the
fluent and polished use of the mother-tongue, but efforts were early
made to acquire a command of it in the years of boyhood. The Greek
language also was already generally diffused in Italy in the time of
Hannibal. In the higher circles a knowledge of that language, which
was the general medium of intercourse for ancient civilization, had
long been a far from uncommon accomplishment; and now, when the change
of Rome's position in the world had so enormously increased the
intercourse with foreigners and the foreign traffic, such a knowledge
was, if not necessary, yet presumably of very material importance to
the merchant as well as the statesman. By means of the Italian slaves
and freedmen, a very large portion of whom were Greek or half-Greek
by birth the Greek language and Greek knowledge to a certain extent
reached even the lower ranks of the population, especially in the
capital. The comedies of this period may convince us that even the
humbler classes of the capital were familiar with a sort of Latin,
which could no more be properly understood without a knowledge of
Greek than the English of Sterne or the German of Wieland without
a knowledge of French.(1) Men of senatorial families, however, not
only addressed a Greek audience in Greek, but even published their
speeches--Tiberius Gracchus (consul in 577 and 591) so published a
speech which he had given at Rhodes--and in the time of Hannibal wrote
their chronicles in Greek, as we shall have occasion to mention more
particularly in the sequel. Individuals went still farther. The
Greeks honoured Flamininus by complimentary demonstrations in the
Roman language,(2) and he returned the compliment; the "great general
of the Aeneiades" dedicated his votive gifts to the Greek gods after
the Greek fashion in Greek distichs.(3) Cato reproached another
senator with the fact, that he had the effrontery to deliver Greek
recitations with the due modulation at Greek revels.

Under the influence of such circumstances Roman instruction developed
itself. It is a mistaken opinion, that antiquity was materially
inferior to our own times in the general diffusion of elementary
attainments. Even among the lower classes and slaves there was much
reading, writing, and counting: in the case of a slave steward, for
instance, Cato, following the example of Mago, takes for granted the
ability to read and write. Elementary instruction, as well as
instruction in Greek, must have been long before this period imparted
to a very considerable extent in Rome. But the epoch now before us
initiated an education, the aim of which was to communicate not merely
an outward expertness, but a real mental culture. Hitherto in Rome
a knowledge of Greek had conferred on its possessor as little
superiority in civil or social life, as a knowledge of French perhaps
confers at the present day in a hamlet of German Switzerland; and the
earliest writers of Greek chronicles may have held a position among
the other senators similar to that of the farmer in the fens of
Holstein who has been a student and in the evening, when he comes home
from the plough, takes down his Virgil from the shelf. A man who
assumed airs of greater importance by reason of his Greek, was
reckoned a bad patriot and a fool; and certainly even in Cato's time
one who spoke Greek ill or not at all might still be a man of rank
and become senator and consul. But a change was already taking place.
The internal decomposition of Italian nationality had already,
particularly in the aristocracy, advanced so far as to render the
substitution of a general humane culture for that nationality
inevitable: and the craving after a more advanced civilization was
already powerfully stirring the minds of men. Instruction in the
Greek language as it were spontaneously met this craving. The
classical literature of Greece, the Iliad and still more the Odyssey,
had all along formed the basis of that instruction; the overflowing
treasures of Hellenic art and science were already by this means
spread before the eyes of the Italians. Without any outward
revolution, strictly speaking, in the character of the instruction
the natural result was, that the empirical study of the language
became converted into a higher study of the literature; that the
general culture connected with such literary studies was communicated
in increased measure to the scholars; and that these availed
themselves of the knowledge thus acquired to dive into that Greek
literature which most powerfully influenced the spirit of the age
--the tragedies of Euripides and the comedies of Menander.

In a similar way greater importance came to be attached to instruction
in Latin. The higher society of Rome began to feel the need, if not
of exchanging their mother-tongue for Greek, at least of refining it
and adapting it to the changed state of culture; and for this purpose
too they found themselves in every respect dependent on the Greeks.
The economic arrangements of the Romans placed the work of elementary
instruction in the mother-tongue--like every other work held in little
estimation and performed for hire--chiefly in the hands of slaves,
freedmen, or foreigners, or in other words chiefly in the hands of
Greeks or half-Greeks;(4) which was attended with the less difficulty,
because the Latin alphabet was almost identical with the Greek and the
two languages possessed a close and striking affinity. But this was
the least part of the matter; the importance of the study of Greek in
a formal point of view exercised a far deeper influence over the study
of Latin. Any one who knows how singularly difficult it is to find
suitable matter and suitable forms for the higher intellectual culture
of youth, and how much more difficult it is to set aside the matter
and forms once found, will understand how it was that the Romans knew
no mode of supplying the desideratum of a more advanced Latin
instruction except that of simply transferring the solution of this
problem, which instruction in the Greek language and literature
furnished, to instruction in Latin. In the present day a process
entirely analogous goes on under our own eyes in the transference of
the methods of instruction from the dead to the living languages.

But unfortunately the chief requisite for such a transference was
wanting. The Romans could, no doubt, learn to read and write Latin
by means of the Twelve Tables; but a Latin culture presupposed a
literature, and no such literature existed in Rome.

The Stage Under Greek Influence

To this defect was added a second. We have already described the
multiplication of the amusements of the Roman people. The stage had
long played an important part in these recreations; the chariot-races
formed strictly the principal amusement in all of them, but these
races uniformly took place only on one, viz. the concluding, day,
while the earlier days were substantially devoted to stage-
entertainments. But for long these stage-representations consisted
chiefly of dances and jugglers' feats; the improvised chants, which
were produced on these occasions, had neither dialogue nor plot.(5)
It was only now that the Romans looked around them for a real drama.
The Roman popular festivals were throughout under the influence of
the Greeks, whose talent for amusing and for killing time naturally
rendered them purveyors of pleasure for the Romans. Now no national
amusement was a greater favourite in Greece, and none was more varied,
than the theatre; it could not but speedily attract the attention of
those who provided the Roman festivals and their staff of assistants.
The earlier Roman stage-chant contained within it a dramatic germ
capable perhaps of development; but to develop the drama from that
germ required on the part of the poet and the public a genial power
of giving and receiving, such as was not to be found among the Romans
at all, and least of all at this period; and, had it been possible to
find it, the impatience of those entrusted with the amusement of the
multitude would hardly have allowed to the noble fruit peace and
leisure to ripen. In this case too there was an outward want, which
the nation was unable to satisfy; the Romans desired a theatre, but
the pieces were wanting.

Rise Of A Roman Literture

On these elements Roman literature was based; and its defective
character was from the first and necessarily the result of such
an origin. All real art has its root in individual freedom and a
cheerful enjoyment of life, and the germs of such an art were not
wanting in Italy; but, when Roman training substituted for freedom
and joyousness the sense of belonging to the community and the
consciousness of duty, art was stifled and, instead of growing, could
not but pine away. The culminating point of Roman development was the
period which had no literature. It was not till Roman nationality
began to give way and Hellenico-cosmopolite tendencies began to
prevail, that literature made its appearance at Rome in their train.
Accordingly from the beginning, and by stringent internal necessity,
it took its stand on Greek ground and in broad antagonism to the
distinctively Roman national spirit. Roman poetry above all had its
immediate origin not from the inward impulse of the poets, but from
the outward demands of the school, which needed Latin manuals, and of
the stage, which needed Latin dramas. Now both institutions--the
school and the stage--were thoroughly anti-Roman and revolutionary.
The gaping and staring idleness of the theatre was an abomination to
the sober earnestness and the spirit of activity which animated the
Roman of the olden type; and--inasmuch as it was the deepest and
noblest conception lying at the root of the Roman commonwealth, that
within the circle of Roman burgesses there should be neither master
nor slave, neither millionnaire nor beggar, but that above all a like
faith and a like culture should characterize all Romans--the school
and the necessarily exclusive school-culture were far more dangerous
still, and were in fact utterly destructive of the sense of equality.
The school and the theatre became the most effective levers in the
hands of the new spirit of the age, and all the more so that they used
the Latin tongue. Men might perhaps speak and write Greek and yet not
cease to be Romans; but in this case they accustomed themselves to
speak in the Roman language, while the whole inward being and life
were Greek. It is not one of the most pleasing, but it is one of the
most remarkable and in a historical point of view most instructive,
facts in this brilliant era of Roman conservatism, that during its
course Hellenism struck root in the whole field of intellect not
immediately political, and that the -maitre de plaisir- of the
great public and the schoolmaster in close alliance created
a Roman literature.

Livius Andronicus

In the very earliest Roman author the later development appears, as it
were, in embryo. The Greek Andronikos (from before 482, till after
547), afterwards as a Roman burgess called Lucius(6) Livius
Andronicus, came to Rome at an early age in 482 among the other
captives taken at Tarentum(7) and passed into the possession of the
conqueror of Sena(8) Marcus Livius Salinator (consul 535, 547). He
was employed as a slave, partly in acting and copying texts, partly in
giving instruction in the Latin and Greek languages, which he taught
both to the children of his master and to other boys of wealthy
parents in and out of the house. He distinguished himself so much in
this way that his master gave him freedom, and even the authorities,
who not unfrequently availed themselves of his services--commissioning
him, for instance, to prepare a thanksgiving-chant after the fortunate
turn taken by the Hannibalic war in 547--out of regard for him
conceded to the guild of poets and actors a place for their common
worship in the temple of Minerva on the Aventine. His authorship
arose out of his double occupation. As schoolmaster he translated the
Odyssey into Latin, in order that the Latin text might form the basis
of his Latin, as the Greek text was the basis of his Greek,
instruction; and this earliest of Roman school-books maintained its
place in education for centuries. As an actor, he not only like every
other wrote for himself the texts themselves, but he also published
them as books, that is, he read them in public and diffused them by
copies. What was still more important, he substituted the Greek drama
for the old essentially lyrical stage poetry. It was in 514, a year
after the close of the first Punic war, that the first play was
exhibited on the Roman stage. This creation of an epos, a tragedy,
and a comedy in the Roman language, and that by a man who was more
Roman than Greek, was historically an event; but we cannot speak of
his labours as having any artistic value. They make no sort of claim
to originality; viewed as translations, they are characterized by a
barbarism which is only the more perceptible, that this poetry does
not naively display its own native simplicity, but strives, after a
pedantic and stammering fashion, to imitate the high artistic culture
of the neighbouring people. The wide deviations from the original
have arisen not from the freedom, but from the rudeness of the
imitation; the treatment is sometimes insipid, sometimes turgid, the
language harsh and quaint.(9) We have no difficulty in believing the
statement of the old critics of art, that, apart from the compulsory
reading at school, none of the poems of Livius were taken up a second
time. Yet these labours were in various respects norms for succeeding
times. They began the Roman translated literature, and naturalized
the Greek metres in Latium. The reason why these were adopted only
in the dramas, while the Odyssey of Livius was written in the national
Saturnian measure, evidently was that the iambuses and trochees of
tragedy and comedy far more easily admitted of imitation in Latin
than the epic dactyls.

But this preliminary stage of literary development was soon passed.
The epics and dramas of Livius were regarded by posterity, and
undoubtedly with perfect justice, as resembling the rigid statues
of Daedalus destitute of emotion or expression--curiosities rather
than works of art.

But in the following generation, now that the foundations were
once laid, there arose a lyric, epic, and dramatic art; and it is
of great importance, even in a historical point of view, to trace
this poetical development.


Both as respects extent of production and influence over the public,
the drama stood at the head of the poetry thus developed in Rome. In
antiquity there was no permanent theatre with fixed admission-money;
in Greece as in Rome the drama made its appearance only as an element
in the annually-recurring or extraordinary amusements of the citizens.
Among the measures by which the government counteracted or imagined
that they counteracted that extension of the popular festivals which
they justly regarded with anxiety, they refused to permit the erection
of a stone building for a theatre.(10) Instead of this there was
erected for each festival a scaffolding of boards with a stage for
the actors (-proscaenium-, -pulpitum-) and a decorated background
(-scaena-); and in a semicircle in front of it was staked off the
space for the spectators (-cavea-), which was merely sloped without
steps or seats, so that, if the spectators had not chairs brought
along with them, they squatted, reclined, or stood.(11) The women
were probably separated at an early period, and were restricted to
the uppermost and worst places; otherwise there was no distinction of
places in law till 560, after which, as already mentioned,(12) the
lowest and best positions were reserved for the senators.


The audience was anything but genteel. The better classes, it is
true, did not keep aloof from the general recreations of the people;
the fathers of the city seem even to have been bound for decorum's
sake to appear on these occasions. But the very nature of a burgess
festival implied that, while slaves and probably foreigners also were
excluded, admittance free of charge was given to every burgess with
his wife and children;(13) and accordingly the body of spectators
cannot have differed much from what one sees in the present day at
public fireworks and -gratis- exhibitions. Naturally, therefore, the
proceedings were not too orderly; children cried, women talked and
shrieked, now and then a wench prepared to push her way to the stage;
the ushers had on these festivals anything but a holiday, and found
frequent occasion to confiscate a mantle or to ply the rod.

The introduction of the Greek drama increased the demands on the
dramatic staff, and there seems to have been no redundance in the
supply of capable actors: on one occasion for want of actors a piece
of Naevius had to be performed by amateurs. But this produced no
change in the position of the artist; the poet or, as he was at this
time called, the "writer," the actor, and the composer not only
belonged still, as formerly, to the class of workers for hire in
itself little esteemed,(14) but were still, as formerly, placed in
the most marked way under the ban of public opinion, and subjected
to police maltreatment.(15) Of course all reputable persons kept
aloof from such an occupation. The manager of the company (-dominus
gregis-, -factionis-, also -choragus-), who was ordinarily also the
chief actor, was generally a freedman, and its members were ordinarily
his slaves; the composers, whose names have reached us, were all of
them non-free. The remuneration was not merely small--a -honorarium-
of 8000 sesterces (80 pounds) given to a dramatist is described
shortly after the close of this period as unusually high--but was,
moreover, only paid by the magistrates providing the festival, if the
piece was not a failure. With the payment the matter ended; poetical
competitions and honorary prizes, such as took place in Attica, were
not yet heard of in Rome--the Romans at this time appear to have
simply applauded or hissed as we now do, and to have brought forward
only a single piece for exhibition each day.(16) Under such
circumstances, where art worked for daily wages and the artist instead
of receiving due honour was subjected to disgrace, the new national
theatre of the Romans could not present any development either
original or even at all artistic; and, while the noble rivalry of
the noblest Athenians had called into life the Attic drama, the Roman
drama taken as a whole could be nothing but a spoiled copy of its
predecessor, in which the only wonder is that it has been able to
display so much grace and wit in the details.

That only one piece was produced each day we infer from the fact,
that the spectators come from home at the beginning of the piece
(Poen. 10), and return home after its close (Epid. Pseud. Rud. Stich.
Truc. ap. fin.). They went, as these passages show, to the theatre
after the second breakfast, and were at home again for the midday
meal; the performance thus lasted, according to our reckoning, from
about noon till half-past two o'clock, and a piece of Plautus, with
music in the intervals between the acts, might probably occupy nearly
that length of time (comp. Horat. Ep. ii. i, 189). The passage, in
which Tacitus (Ann. xiv. 20) makes the spectators spend "whole days"
in the theatre, refers to the state of matters at a later period.


In the dramatic world comedy greatly preponderated over tragedy; the
spectators knit their brows, when instead of the expected comedy a
tragedy began. Thus it happened that, while this period exhibits
poets who devoted themselves specially to comedy, such as Plautus
and Caecilius, it presents none who cultivated tragedy alone; and
among the dramas of this epoch known to us by name there occur three
comedies for one tragedy. Of course the Roman comic poets, or rather
translators, laid hands in the first instance on the pieces which had
possession of the Hellenic stage at the time; and thus they found
themselves exclusively(17) confined to the range of the newer Attic
comedy, and chiefly to its best-known poets, Philemon of Soli in
Cilicia (394?-492) and Menander of Athens (412-462). This comedy came
to be of so great importance as regards the development not only of
Roman literature, but even of the nation at large, that even history
has reason to pause and consider it.

Character Of The Newer Attic Comedy

The pieces are of tiresome monotony. Almost without exception the
plot turns on helping a young man, at the expense either of his father
or of some -leno-, to obtain possession of a sweetheart of undoubted
charms and of very doubtful morals. The path to success in love
regularly lies through some sort of pecuniary fraud; and the crafty
servant, who provides the needful sum and performs the requisite
swindling while the lover is mourning over his amatory and pecuniary
distresses, is the real mainspring of the piece. There is no want of
the due accompaniment of reflections on the joys and sorrows of love,
of tearful parting scenes, of lovers who in the anguish of their
hearts threaten to do themselves a mischief; love or rather amorous
intrigue was, as the old critics of art say, the very life-breath of
the Menandrian poetry. Marriage forms, at least with Menander, the
inevitable finale; on which occasion, for the greater edification
and satisfaction of the spectators, the virtue of the heroine usually
comes forth almost if not wholly untarnished, and the heroine herself
proves to be the lost daughter of some rich man and so in every
respect an eligible match. Along with these love-pieces we find
others of a pathetic kind. Among the comedies of Plautus, for
instance, the -Rudens- turns on a shipwreck and the right of asylum;
while the -Trinummus- and the -Captivi- contain no amatory intrigue,
but depict the generous devotedness of the friend to his friend and
of the slave to his master. Persons and situations recur down to the
very details like patterns on a carpet; we never get rid of the asides
of unseen listeners, of knocking at the house-doors, and of slaves
scouring the streets on some errand or other. The standing masks,
of which there was a certain fixed number--viz., eight masks for old
men, and seven for servants--from which alone in ordinary cases at
least the poet had to make his choice, further favoured a stock-model
treatment. Such a comedy almost of necessity rejected the lyrical
element in the older comedy--the chorus--and confined itself from the
first to conversation, or at most recitation; it was devoid not of the
political element only, but of all true passion and of all poetical
elevation. The pieces judiciously made no pretence to any grand or
really poetical effect: their charm resided primarily in furnishing
occupation for the intellect, not only through their subject-matter
--in which respect the newer comedy was distinguished from the old as
much by the greater intrinsic emptiness as by the greater outward
complication of the plot--but more especially through their execution
in detail, in which the point and polish of the conversation more
particularly formed the triumph of the poet and the delight of the
audience. Complications and confusions of one person with another,
which very readily allowed scope for extravagant, often licentious,
practical jokes--as in the -Casina-, which winds up in genuine
Falstaffian style with the retiring of the two bridegrooms and of the
soldier dressed up as bride--jests, drolleries, and riddles, which in
fact for want of real conversation furnished the staple materials of
entertainment at the Attic table of the period, fill up a large
portion of these comedies. The authors of them wrote not like Eupolis
and Aristophanes for a great nation, but rather for a cultivated
society which spent its time, like other clever circles whose
cleverness finds little fit scope for action, in guessing riddles and
playing at charades. They give us, therefore, no picture of their
times; of the great historical and intellectual movements of the age
no trace appears in these comedies, and we need to recall, in order
to realize, the fact that Philemon and Menander were really
contemporaries of Alexander and Aristotle. But they give us a
picture, equally elegant and faithful, of that refined Attic society
beyond the circles of which comedy never travels. Even in the dim
Latin copy, through which we chiefly know it, the grace of the
original is not wholly obliterated; and more especially in the pieces
which are imitated from Menander, the most talented of these poets,
the life which the poet saw and shared is delicately reflected not so
much in its aberrations and distortions as in its amiable every day
course. The friendly domestic relations between father and daughter,
husband and wife, master and servant, with their love-affairs and
other little critical incidents, are portrayed with so broad a
truthfulness, that even now they do not miss their effect: the
servants' feast, for instance, with which the -Stichus- concludes is,
in the limited range of its relations and the harmony of the two
lovers and the one sweetheart, of unsurpassed gracefulness in its
kind. The elegant grisettes, who make their appearance perfumed and
adorned, with their hair fashionably dressed and in variegated, gold-
embroidered, sweeping robes, or even perform their toilette on the
stage, are very effective. In their train come the procuresses,
sometimes of the most vulgar sort, such as one who appears in the
-Curculio-, sometimes duennas like Goethe's old Barbara, such as
Scapha in the -Mostettaria-; and there is no lack of brothers and
comrades ready with their help. There is great abundance and variety
of parts representing the old: there appear in turn the austere
and avaricious, the fond and tender-hearted, and the indulgent
accommodating, papas, the amorous old man, the easy old bachelor, the
jealous aged matron with her old maid-servant who takes part with her
mistress against her master; whereas the young men's parts are less
prominent, and neither the first lover, nor the virtuous model son who
here and there occurs, lays claim to much significance. The servant-
world--the crafty valet, the stern house-steward, the old vigilant
tutor, the rural slave redolent of garlic, the impertinent page--forms
a transition to the very numerous professional parts. A standing
figure among these is the jester (-parasitus-) who, in return for
permission to feast at the table of the rich, has to entertain the
guests with drolleries and charades, or, according to circumstances,
to let the potsherds be flung at his head. This was at that time a
formal trade in Athens; and it is certainly no mere poetical fiction
which represents such a parasite as expressly preparing himself for
his work by means of his books of witticisms and anecdotes. Favourite
parts, moreover, are those of the cook, who understands not only how
to boast of unheard-of sauces, but also how to pilfer like a
professional thief; the shameless -leno-, complacently confessing to
the practice of every vice, of whom Ballio in the -Pseudolus- is a
model specimen; the military braggadocio, in whom we trace a very
distinct reflection of the free-lance habits that prevailed under
Alexander's successors; the professional sharper or sycophant, the
stingy money-changer, the solemnly silly physician, the priest,
mariner, fisherman, and the like. To these fall to be added, lastly,
the parts delineative of character in the strict sense, such as the
superstitious man of Menander and the miser in the -Aulularia- of
Plautus. The national-Hellenic poetry has preserved, even in this its
last creation, its indestructible plastic vigour; but the delineation
of character is here copied from without rather than reproduced from
inward experience, and the more so, the more the task approaches to
the really poetical. It is a significant circumstance that, in the
parts illustrative of character to which we have just referred,
the psychological truth is in great part represented by abstract
development of the conception; the miser here collects the parings of
his nails and laments the tears which he sheds as a waste of water.
But the blame of this want of depth in the portraying of character,
and generally of the whole poetical and moral hollowness of this newer
comedy, lay less with the comic writers than with the nation as a
whole. Everything distinctively Greek was expiring: fatherland,
national faith, domestic life, all nobleness of action and sentiment
were gone; poetry, history, and philosophy were inwardly exhausted;
and nothing remained to the Athenian save the school, the fish-market,
and the brothel. It is no matter of wonder and hardly a matter of
blame, that poetry, which is destined to shed a glory over human
existence, could make nothing more out of such a life than the
Menandrian comedy presents to us. It is at the same time very
remarkable that the poetry of this period, wherever it was able to
turn away in some degree from the corrupt Attic life without falling
into scholastic imitation, immediately gathers strength and freshness
from the ideal. In the only remnant of the mock-heroic comedy of this
period--the -Amphitruo- of Plautus--there breathes throughout a purer
and more poetical atmosphere than in all the other remains of the
contemporary stage. The good-natured gods treated with gentle irony,
the noble forms from the heroic world, and the ludicrously cowardly
slaves present the most wonderful mutual contrasts; and, after the
comical course of the plot, the birth of the son of the gods amidst
thunder and lightning forms an almost grand concluding effect But this
task of turning the myths into irony was innocent and poetical, as
compared with that of the ordinary comedy depicting the Attic life of
the period. No special accusation may be brought from a historico-
moral point of view against the poets, nor ought it to be made matter
of individual reproach to any particular poet that he occupies the
level of his epoch: comedy was not the cause, but the effect of the
corruption that prevailed in the national life. But it is necessary,
more especially with a view to judge correctly the influence of these
comedies on the life of the Roman people, to point out the abyss which
yawned beneath all that polish and elegance. The coarsenesses and
obscenities, which Menander indeed in some measure avoided, but of
which there is no lack in the other poets, are the least part of the
evil. Features far worse are, the dreadful desolation of life in
which the only oases are lovemaking and intoxication; the fearfully
prosaic atmosphere, in which anything resembling enthusiasm is to be
found only among the sharpers whose heads have been turned by their
own swindling, and who prosecute the trade of cheating with some sort
of zeal; and above all that immoral morality, with which the pieces of
Menander in particular are garnished. Vice is chastised, virtue is
rewarded, and any peccadilloes are covered by conversion at or after
marriage. There are pieces, such as the -Trinummus- of Plautus and
several of Terence, in which all the characters down to the slaves
possess some admixture of virtue; all swarm with honest men who allow
deception on their behalf, with maidenly virtue wherever possible,
with lovers equally favoured and making love in company; moral
commonplaces and well-turned ethical maxims abound. A finale of
reconciliation such as that of the -Bacchides-, where the swindling
sons and the swindled fathers by way of a good winding up all go to
carouse together in the brothel, presents a corruption of morals
thoroughly worthy of Kotzebue.

Roman Comedy
Its Hellenism A Necessary Result Of The Law

Such were the foundations, and such the elements which shaped the
growth, of Roman comedy. Originality was in its case excluded not
merely by want of aesthetic freedom, but in the first instance,
probably, by its subjection to police control. Among the considerable
number of Latin comedies of this sort which are known to us, there is
not one that did not announce itself as an imitation of a definite
Greek model; the title was only complete when the names of the Greek
piece and of its author were also given, and if, as occasionally
happened, the "novelty" of a piece was disputed, the question was
merely whether it had been previously translated. Comedy laid the
scene of its plot abroad not only frequently, but regularly and under
the pressure of necessity; and that species of art derived its special
name (-fabula palliata-) from the fact, that the scene was laid away
from Rome, usually in Athens, and thai the -dramatis personae- were
Greeks or at any rate not Romans. The foreign costume is strictly
carried out even in detail, especially in those things in which the
uncultivated Roman was distinctly sensible of the contrast, Thus the
names of Rome and the Romans are avoided, and, where they are referred
to, they are called in good Greek "foreigners" (-barbari-); in like
manner among the appellations of moneys and coins, that occur ever
so frequently, there does not once appear a Roman coin. We form a
strange idea of men of so great and so versatile talents as Naevius
and Plautus, if we refer such things to their free choice: this
strange and clumsy "exterritorial" character of Roman comedy
was undoubtedly due to causes very different from aesthetic
considerations. The transference of such social relations, as are
uniformly delineated in the new Attic comedy, to the Rome of the
Hannibalic period would have been a direct outrage on its civic order
and morality. But, as the dramatic spectacles at this period were
regularly given by the aediles and praetors who were entirely
dependent on the senate, and even extraordinary festivals, funeral
games for instance, could not take place without permission of the
government; and as the Roman police, moreover, was not in the habit
of standing on ceremony in any case, and least of all in dealing with
the comedians; the reason is self-evident why this comedy, even after
it was admitted as one of the Roman national amusements, might still
bring no Roman upon the stage, and remained as it were banished to
foreign lands.

Political Neutrality

The compilers were still more decidedly prohibited from naming any
living person in terms either of praise or censure, as well as from
any captious allusion to the circumstances of the times. In the whole
repertory of the Plautine and post-Plautine comedy, there is not,
so far as we know, matter for a single action of damages. In like
manner--if we leave out of view some wholly harmless jests--we meet
hardly any trace of invectives levelled at communities (invectives
which, owing to the lively municipal spirit of the Italians, would
have been specially dangerous), except the significant scoff at the
unfortunate Capuans and Atellans (18) and, what is remarkable, various
sarcasms on the arrogance and the bad Latin of the Praenestines.(19)
In general no references to the events or circumstances of the
present occur in the pieces of Plautus. The only exceptions are,
congratulations on the course of the war(20) or on the peaceful times;
general sallies directed against usurious dealings in grain or money,
against extravagance, against bribery by candidates, against the
too frequent triumphs, against those who made a trade of collecting
forfeited fines, against farmers of the revenue distraining for
payment, against the dear prices of the oil-dealers; and once--in the
-Curculio- --a more lengthened diatribe as to the doings in the Roman
market, reminding us of the -parabases- of the older Attic comedy, and
but little likely to cause offence(21) But even in the midst of such
patriotic endeavours, which from a police point of view were entirely
in order, the poet interrupts himself;

-Sed sumne ego stultus, qui rem curo publicam
Ubi sunt magistratus, quos curare oporteat?-

and taken as a whole, we can hardly imagine a comedy politically more
tame than was that of Rome in the sixth century.(22) The oldest
Roman comic writer of note, Gnaeus Naevius, alone forms a remarkable
exception. Although he did not write exactly original Roman comedies,
the few fragments of his, which we possess, are full of references to
circumstances and persons in Rome. Among other liberties he not only
ridiculed one Theodotus a painter by name, but even directed against
the victor of Zama the following verses, of which Aristophanes need
not have been ashamed:

-Etiam qui res magnas manu saepe gessit gloriose,
Cujus facta viva nunc vigent, qui apud gentes solus praestat,
Eum suus pater cum pallio uno ab amica abduxit.-

As he himself says,

-Libera lingua loquemur ludis Liberalibus,-

he may have often written at variance with police rules, and put
dangerous questions, such as:

-Cedo qui vestram rem publicam tantam amisistis tam cito?-

which he answered by an enumeration of political sins, such as:

-Proveniebant oratores novi, stulti adulescentuli.-

But the Roman police was not disposed like the Attic to hold stage-
invectives and political diatribes as privileged, or even to tolerate
them at all. Naevius was put in prison for these and similar sallies,
and was obliged to remain there, till he had publicly made amends and
recantation in other comedies. These quarrels, apparently, drove
him from his native land; but his successors took warning from his
example--one of them indicates very plainly, that he has no desire
whatever to incur an involuntary gagging like his colleague Naevius.
Thus the result was accomplished--not much less unique of its kind
than the conquest of Hannibal--that, during an epoch of the most
feverish national excitement, there arose a national stage utterly
destitute of political tinge.

Character Of The Editing Of Roman Comedy
Persons And Situations

But the restrictions thus stringently and laboriously imposed by
custom and police on Roman poetry stifled its very breath, Not without
reason might Naevius declare the position of the poet under the
sceptre of the Lagidae and Seleucidae enviable as compared with his
position in free Rome.(23) The degree of success in individual
instances was of course determined by the quality of the original
which was followed, and by the talent of the individual editor; but
amidst all their individual variety the whole stock of translations
must have agreed in certain leading features, inasmuch as all the
comedies were adapted to similar conditions of exhibition and a
similar audience. The treatment of the whole as well as of the
details was uniformly in the highest degree free; and it was necessary
that it should be so. While the original pieces were performed in
presence of that society which they copied, and in this very fact
lay their principal charm, the Roman audience of this period was so
different from the Attic, that it was not even in a position rightly
to understand that foreign world. The Roman comprehended neither
the grace and kindliness, nor the sentimentalism and the whitened
emptiness of the domestic life of the Hellenes. The slave-world was
utterly different; the Roman slave was a piece of household furniture,
the Attic slave was a servant. Where marriages of slaves occur or a
master carries on a kindly conversation with his slave, the Roman
translators ask their audience not to take offence at such things
which are usual in Athens;(24) and, when at a later period comedies
began to be written in Roman costume, the part of the crafty servant
had to be rejected, because the Roman public did not tolerate slaves
of this sort overlooking and controlling their masters. The
professional figures and those illustrative of character, which were
sketched more broadly and farcically, bore the process of transference
better than the polished figures of every-day life; but even of those
delineations the Roman editor had to lay aside several--and these
probably the very finest and most original, such as the Thais, the
match-maker, the moon-conjuress, and the mendicant priest of Menander
--and to keep chiefly to those foreign trades, with which the Greek
luxury of the table, already very generally diffused in Rome, had made
his audience familiar. If the professional cook and the jester in the
comedy of Plautus are delineated with so striking vividness and so
much relish, the explanation lies in the fact, that Greek cooks had
even at that time daily offered their services in the Roman market,
and that Cato found it necessary even to instruct his steward not to
keep a jester. In like manner the translator could make no use of a
very large portion of the elegant Attic conversation in his originals.
The Roman citizen or farmer stood in much the same relation to
the refined revelry and debauchery of Athens, as the German of a
provincial town to the mysteries of the Palais Royal. A science of
cookery, in the strict sense, never entered into his thoughts; the
dinner-parties no doubt continued to be very numerous in the Roman
imitation, but everywhere the plain Roman roast pork predominated
over the variety of baked meats and the refined sauces and dishes of
fish. Of the riddles and drinking songs, of the Greek rhetoric and
philosophy, which played so great a part in the originals, we meet
only a stray trace now and then in the Roman adaptation.

Construction Of The Plot

The havoc, which the Roman editors were compelled in deference to
their audience to make in the originals, drove them inevitably into
methods of cancelling and amalgamating incompatible with any artistic
construction. It was usual not only to throw out whole character-
parts of the original, but also to insert others taken from other
comedies of the same or of another poet; a treatment indeed which,
owing to the outwardly methodical construction of the originals and
the recurrence of standing figures and incidents, was not quite so bad
as it might seem. Moreover the poets, at least in the earlier period,
allowed themselves the most singular liberties in the construction of
the plot. The plot of the -Stichus- (performed in 554) otherwise so
excellent turns upon the circumstance, that two sisters, whom their
father urges to abandon their absent husbands, play the part of
Penelopes, till the husbands return home with rich mercantile gains
and with a beautiful damsel as a present for their father-in-law.
In the -Casina-, which was received with quite special favour by the
public, the bride, from whom the piece is named and around whom the
plot revolves, does not make her appearance at all, and the denouement
is quite naively described by the epilogue as "to be enacted later
within." Very often the plot as it thickens is suddenly broken off,
the connecting thread is allowed to drop, and other similar signs of
an unfinished art appear. The reason of this is to be sought probably
far less in the unskilfulness of the Roman editors, than in the
indifference of the Roman public to aesthetic laws. Taste, however,
gradually formed itself. In the later pieces Plautus has evidently
bestowed more care on their construction, and the -Captivi- for
instance, the -Pseudolus-, and the -Bacchides- are executed in a
masterly manner after their kind. His successor Caecilius, none of
whose pieces are extant, is said to have especially distinguished
himself by the more artistic treatment of the subject.

Roman Barbarism

In the treatment of details the endeavour of the poet to bring matters
as far as possible home to his Roman hearers, and the rule of police
which required that the pieces should retain a foreign character,
produced the most singular contrasts. The Roman gods, the ritual,
military, and juristic terms of the Romans, present a strange
appearance amid the Greek world; Roman -aediles- and -tresviri- are
grotesquely mingled with -agoranomi- and -demarchi-; pieces whose
scene is laid in Aetolia or Epidamnus send the spectator without
scruple to the Velabrum and the Capitol. Such a patchwork of Roman
local tints distributed over the Greek ground is barbarism enough; but
interpolations of this nature, which are often in their naive way very
ludicrous, are far more tolerable than that thorough alteration of the
pieces into a ruder shape, which the editors deemed necessary to suit
the far from Attic culture of their audience. It is true that several
even of the new Attic poets probably needed no accession to their
coarseness; pieces like the -Asinaria- of Plautus cannot owe their
unsurpassed dulness and vulgarity solely to the translator.
Nevertheless coarse incidents so prevail in the Roman comedy, that the
translators must either have interpolated them or at least have made a
very one-sided selection. In the endless abundance of cudgelling and
in the lash ever suspended over the back of the slaves we recognize
very clearly the household-government inculcated by Cato, just as
we recognize the Catonian opposition to women in the never-ending
disparagement of wives. Among the jokes of their own invention, with
which the Roman editors deemed it proper to season the elegant Attic
dialogue, several are almost incredibly unmeaning and barbarous.(25)

Metrical Treatment

So far as concerns metrical treatment on the other hand, the flexible
and sounding verse on the whole does all honour to the composers. The
fact that the iambic trimeters, which predominated in the originals
and were alone suitable to their moderate conversational tone, were
very frequently replaced in the Latin edition by iambic or trochaic
tetrameters, is to be attributed not so much to any want of skill
on the part of the editors who knew well how to handle the trimeter,
as to the uncultivated taste of the Roman public which was pleased
with the sonorous magnificence of the long verse even where it was
not appropriate.

Scenic Arrangements

Lastly, the arrangements for the production of the pieces on the stage
bore the like stamp of indifference to aesthetic requirements on the
part of the managers and the public. The stage of the Greeks--which
on account of the extent of the theatre and from the performances
taking place by day made no pretension to acting properly so called,
employed men to represent female characters, and absolutely required
an artificial strengthening of the voice of the actor--was entirely
dependent, in a scenic as well as acoustic point of view, on the use
of facial and resonant masks. These were well known also in Rome; in
amateur performances the players appeared without exception masked.
But the actors who were to perform the Greek comedies in Rome were
not supplied with the masks--beyond doubt much more artificial--that
were necessary for them; a circumstance which, apart from all else in
connection with the defective acoustic arrangements of the stage,(26)
not only compelled the actor to exert his voice unduly, but drove
Livius to the highly inartistic but inevitable expedient of having
the portions which were to be sung performed by a singer not belonging
to the staff of actors, and accompanied by the mere dumb show of the
actor within whose part they fell. As little were the givers of the
Roman festivals disposed to put themselves to material expense for
decorations and machinery. The Attic stage regularly presented a
street with houses in the background, and had no shifting decorations;
but, besides various other apparatus, it possessed more especially
a contrivance for pushing forward on the chief stage a smaller one
representing the interior of a house. The Roman theatre, however, was
not provided with this; and we can hardly therefore throw the blame
on the poet, if everything, even childbirth, was represented on
the street.

Aesthetic Result

Such was the nature of the Roman comedy of the sixth century. The
mode in which the Greek dramas were transferred to Rome furnishes a
picture, historically invaluable, of the diversity in the culture
of the two nations; but in an aesthetic and a moral point of view the
original did not stand high, and the imitation stood still lower. The
world of beggarly rabble, to whatever extent the Roman editors might
take possession of it under the benefit of the inventory, presented
in Rome a forlorn and strange aspect, shorn as it were of its delicate
characteristics: comedy no longer rested on the basis of reality, but
persons and incidents seemed capriciously or carelessly mingled as in
a game of cards; in the original a picture from life, it became in the
reproduction a caricature. Under a management which could announce
a Greek agon with flute-playing, choirs of dancers, tragedians, and
athletes, and eventually convert it into a boxing-match;(27) and in
presence of a public which, as later poets complain, ran away en masse
from the play, if there were pugilists, or rope-dancers, or even
gladiators to be seen; poets such as the Roman composers were--workers
for hire and of inferior social position--were obliged even perhaps
against their own better judgment and their own better taste to
accommodate themselves more or less to the prevailing frivolity and
rudeness. It was quite possible, nevertheless, that there might arise
among them individuals of lively and vigorous talent, who were able at
least to repress the foreign and factitious element in poetry, and,
when they had found their fitting sphere, to produce pleasing and
even important creations.


At the head of these stood Gnaeus Naevius, the first Roman who
deserves to be called a poet, and, so far as the accounts preserved
regarding him and the few fragments of his works allow us to form
an opinion, to all appearance as regards talent one of the most
remarkable and most important names in the whole range of Roman
literature. He was a younger contemporary of Andronicus--his poetical
activity began considerably before, and probably did not end till
after, the Hannibalic war--and felt in a general sense his influence;
he was, as is usually the case in artificial literatures, a worker in
all the forms of art produced by his predecessor, in epos, tragedy,
and comedy, and closely adhered to him in the matter of metres.
Nevertheless, an immense chasm separates the poets and their poems.
Naevius was neither freedman, schoolmaster, nor actor, but a citizen
of unstained character although not of rank, belonging probably to one
of the Latin communities of Campania, and a soldier in the first Punic
war.(28) In thorough contrast to the language of Livius, that of
Naevius is easy and clear, free from all stiffness and affectation,
and seems even in tragedy to avoid pathos as it were on purpose; his
verses, in spite of the not unfrequent -hiatus- and various other
licences afterwards disallowed, have a smooth and graceful flow.(29)
While the quasi-poetry of Livius proceeded, somewhat like that of
Gottsched in Germany, from purely external impulses and moved wholly
in the leading-strings of the Greeks, his successor emancipated Roman
poetry, and with the true divining-rod of the poet struck those
springs out of which alone in Italy a native poetry could well up
--national history and comedy. Epic poetry no longer merely
furnished the schoolmaster with a lesson-book, but addressed itself
independently to the hearing and reading public. Composing for the
stage had been hitherto, like the preparation of the stage costume, a
subsidiary employment of the actor or a mechanical service performed
for him; with Naevius the relation was inverted, and the actor now
became the servant of the composer. His poetical activity is marked
throughout by a national stamp. This stamp is most distinctly
impressed on his grave national drama and on his national epos, of
which we shall have to speak hereafter; but it also appears in his
comedies, which of all his poetic performances seem to have been the
best adapted to his talents and the most successful. It was probably,
as we have already said,(30) external considerations alone that
induced the poet to adhere in comedy so much as he did to the Greek
originals; and this did not prevent him from far outstripping his
successors and probably even the insipid originals in the freshness of
his mirth and in the fulness of his living interest in the present;
indeed in a certain sense he reverted to the paths of the Aristophanic
comedy. He felt full well, and in his epitaph expressed, what he had
been to his nation:

-Immortales mortales si foret fas fiere,
Flerent divae Camenae Naevium poetam;
Itaque, postquam est Orci traditus thesauro,
Obliti sunt Romae loquier lingua Latina.-

Such proud language on the part of the man and the poet well befitted
one who had witnessed and had personally taken part in the struggles
with Hamilcar and with Hannibal, and who had discovered for the
thoughts and feelings of that age--so deeply agitated and so
elevated by mighty joy--a poetical expression which, if not exactly
the highest, was sound, adroit, and national. We have already
mentioned(31) the troubles into which his licence brought him with
the authorities, and how, driven presumably by these troubles from
Rome, he ended his life at Utica. In his instance likewise the
individual life was sacrificed for the common weal, and the
beautiful for the useful.


His younger contemporary, Titus Maccius Plautus (500?-570), appears to
have been far inferior to him both in outward position and in the
conception of his poetic calling. A native of the little town of
Sassina, which was originally Umbrian but was perhaps by this time
Latinized, he earned his livelihood in Rome at first as an actor, and
then--after he had lost in mercantile speculations what he had gained
by his acting--as a theatrical composer reproducing Greek comedies,
without occupying himself with any other department of literature and
probably without laying claim to authorship properly so called. There
seems to have been at that time a considerable number of persons who
made a trade of thus editing comedies in Rome; but their names,
especially as they did not perhaps in general publish their works,(32)
were virtually forgotten, and the pieces belonging to this stock of
plays, which were preserved, passed in after times under the name
of the most popular of them, Plautus. The -litteratores- of the
following century reckoned up as many as 130 such "Plautine pieces";
but of these a large portion at any rate were merely revised by
Plautus or had no connection with him at all; the best of them are
still extant. To form a proper judgment, however, regarding the
poetical character of the editor is very difficult, if not impossible,
since the originals have not been preserved. That the editors
reproduced good and bad pieces without selection; that they were
subject and subordinate both to the police and to the public; that
they were as indifferent to aesthetical requirements as their
audience, and to please the latter, lowered the originals to a
farcical and vulgar tone--are objections which apply rather to the
whole manufacture of translations than to the individual remodeller.
On the other hand we may regard as characteristic of Plautus, the
masterly handling of the language and of the varied rhythms, a rare
skill in adjusting and working the situation for dramatic effect,

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