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A HISTORY OF ROME
DURING THE LATER REPUBLIC AND EARLY PRINCIPATE
A. H. J. GREENIDGE, M. A., D. LITT. TUTOR AND LATE FELLOW OF HERTFORD COLLEGE AND LECTURER IN ANCIENT HISTORY AT BRASENOSE COLLEGE, OXFORD
FROM THE TRIBUNATE OF TIBERIUS GRACCHUS TO THE SECOND CONSULSHIP OF MARIUS B.C. 133-104
WITH TWO MAPS
This work will be comprised in six volumes. According to the plan which I have provisionally laid down, the second volume will cover the period from 104 to 70 B.C., ending with the first consulship of Pompeius and Crassus; the third, the period from 70 to 44 B.C., closing with the death of Caesar; the fourth volume will probably be occupied by the Third Civil War and the rule of Augustus, while the fifth and sixth will cover the reigns of the Emperors to the accession of Vespasian.
The original sources, on which the greater part of the contents of the present volume is based, have been collected during the last few years by Miss Clay and myself, and have already been published in an abbreviated form. Some idea of the debt which I owe to modern authors may be gathered from the references in the footnotes. As I have often, for the sake of brevity, cited the works of these authors by shortened and incomplete titles, I have thought it advisable to add to the volume a list of the full titles of the works referred to. But the list makes no pretence to be a full bibliography of the period of history with which this volume deals. The map of the Wäd Mellag and its surrounding territory, which I have inserted to illustrate the probable site of the battle of the Muthul, is taken from the map of the “Medjerda supérieure” which appears in M. Salomon Reinach’s _Atlas de la Province Romaine d’Afrique_.
I am very much indebted to my friend and former pupil, Mr. E.J. Harding, of Hertford College, for the ungrudging labour which he has bestowed on the proofs of the whole of this volume. Many improvements in the form of the work are due to his perspicacity and judgment.
A problem which confronts an author who plunges into the midst of the history of a nation (however complete may be the unity of the period with which he deals) is that of the amount of introductory information which he feels bound to supply to his readers. In this case, I have felt neither obligation nor inclination to supply a sketch of the development of Rome or her constitution up to the period of the Gracchi. The amount of information on the general and political history of Rome which the average student must have acquired from any of the excellent text-books now in use, is quite sufficient to enable him to understand the technicalities of the politics of the period with which I deal; and I was very unwilling to burden the volume with a _précis_ of a subject which I had already treated in another work. On the other hand, it is not so easy to acquire information on the social and economic history of Rome, and consequently I have devoted the first hundred pages of this book to a detailed exposition of the conditions preceding and determining the great conflict of interests with which our story opens.
A. H. J. G.
CHAPTER I: Characteristics of the period. Recent changes in the conditions of Roman life. Close of the period of expansion by means of colonies or land assignments. Reasons for social discontent. The life of the wealthier classes. The expenses of political life. Attempts to check luxury. Motives for gain amongst the upper classes. Means of acquiring wealth open to members of the nobility; those open to members of the commercial class. The political influence of the Equites. The business life of Rome; finance and banking. Foreign trade. The condition of the small traders. Agriculture. Diminution in the numbers of peasant proprietors. The Latifundium and the new agricultural ideal. Growth of pasturage. Causes of the changes in the tenure of land. The system of possession. Future prospects of agriculture. Slave labour; dangers attending its employment; revolts of slaves in Italy. The servile war in Sicily (_circa_ 140-131 B.C.). The need for reform.
CHAPTER II: The sources from which reform might have come, too. Attitude of Scipio Aemilianus. Tiberius Gracchus; his youth and early career. The affair of the Numantine Treaty. Motives that urged Tiberius Gracchus to reform. His tribunate (B.C. 133). Terms of the agrarian measure which he introduced. Creation of a special agrarian commission. Opposition to the bill. Veto pronounced by Marcus Octavius. Tiberius Gracchus declares a Justitium. Fruitless reference to the senate. Deposition of Octavius. Passing of the agrarian law; appointment of the commissioners; judicial power given to the commissioners. Employment of the bequest of Attalus. Attacks on Tiberius Gracchus. His defence of the deposition of Octavius. New programme of Tiberius Gracchus; suggestion of measures dealing with the army, the law-courts and the Italians. Tiberius Gracchus’s attempt at re-election to the tribunate. Riot at the election and death of Tiberius Gracchus, Consequences of his fall.
CHAPTER III: Attitude of the senate after the fall of Tiberius Gracchus. Special commission appointed for the trial of his adherents (B.C. 132). Fate of Scipio Nasica. Permanence of the land commission and thoroughness of its work. Difficulties connected with jurisdiction on disputed claims. The Italians appeal to Scipio Aemilianus. His intervention; judicial power taken from the commissioners (B.C. 129). Death of Scipio Aemilianus. Tribunate of Carbo (B.C. 131); ballot law and attempt to make the tribune immediately re-eligible. The Italian claims; negotiations for the extension of the franchise. Alien act of Pennus (B.C. 126). Proposal made by Flaccus to extend the franchise (B.C. 125). Revolt of Fregellae. Foundation of Fabrateria (B.C. 124). Foreign events during this period; the kingdom of Pergamon. Bequest of Attains the Third (B.C. 133). Revolt of Aristonicus (B.C. 132-130). Organisation of the province of Asia (B.C. 129-126). Sardinian War (B.C. 126-125). Conquest and annexation of the Balearic Islands (B.C. 123-132).
CHAPTER IV: The political situation at the time of the appearance of Caius Gracchus as a candidate for the tribunate (B.C. 124). Early career of Caius Gracchus. First tribunate of Caius Gracchus (B.C. 123). Laws passed or proposed during this tribunate; law protecting the Caput of a Roman citizen. Impeachment of Popillius. Law concerning magistrates who had been deposed by the people. Social reforms. Law providing for the cheapened sale of corn. Law mitigating the conditions of military service, 208. Agrarian law. Judiciary law. Law permitting a criminal prosecution for corrupt judgments. Law concerning the province of Asia. The new balance of power created by these laws in favour of the Equites. Law about the consular provinces. Colonial schemes of Caius Gracchus. The Rubrian law for the renewal of Carthage. Law for the making of roads. Election of Fannius to the consulship and of Caius Gracchus and Flaccus to the tribunate. Activity of Caius Gracchus during his second tribunate (B.C. 122). The franchise bill. Opposition to the bill. Exclusion of Italians from Rome; threat of the veto, and suspension of the measure. Proposal for a change in the order of voting in the Comitia Centuriata. New policy of the senate; counter-legislation of Drusus. Colonial proposals of Drusus. His measure for the protection of the Latins. The close of Caius Gracchus’s second tribunate. His failure to be elected tribune for the third time. Proposal for the repeal of the Rubrian law. The meeting on the Capitol and its consequences (B.C. 121). Declaration of a state of siege. The seizure of the Aventine; defeat of the Gracchans; death of Caius Gracchus and Flaccus. Judicial prosecution of the adherents of Caius Gracchus. Future judgments on the Gracchi. The closing years of Cornelia. Estimate of the character and consequences of the Gracchan reforms.
CHAPTER V: The political situation after the fall of Caius Gracchus. Prosecution and acquittal of Opimius (B.C. 120). Publius Lentulus dies in exile. Prosecution and condemnation of Carbo (B.C. 119). Lucius Crassus. Policy of the senate towards the late schemes of reform. Two new land laws (_circa_ 121-119 B.C.). The settlement of the land question with respect to Ager Publicus in Italy (B.C. III). Limitations on the power of the nobility; the Equestrian courts; trials of Scaevola (B.C. 120) and Cato (B.C. 113). Consulship of Scaurus (B.C. 115); law concerning the voting power of freedmen. Sumptuary law; activity of the censors Metellus and Domitius (B.C. 115). Triumphs of Domitius, Fabius (B.C. 120) and Scaurus (B.C. 115), for military successes. Confidence of the electors in the ancient houses. Recognition of talent by the nobility; career of Scaurus (B.C. 163-115). The rise of Marius; his early career (B.C. 157-119). Tribunate of Marius (B.C. 119). His law about the method of voting in the Comitia carried in spite of the opposition of the senate. He opposes a measure for the distribution of corn. Marius elected praetor; accused and acquitted of Ambitus (B.C. 116). His praetorship (B.C. 115), and pro-praetorship in Spain (B.C. 114). Further opposition to the senate; foundation of Narbo Martius (B.C. 118). Glaucia; his tribunate and his law of extortion (_circa_ 111 B.C.). The spirit of unrest; religious fears at Rome (B.C. 114). First trial of the vestals (B.C. 114). Second trial of the vestals (B.C. 113). Human sacrifice. Great fire at Rome (B.C. III).
CHAPTER VI: The kingdom of Numidia. The races of North Africa. The Numidians. The Numidian monarchy. Reign of Micipsa (B.C. 148-118). Early years of Jugurtha. Jugurtha at Numantia (B.C. 134-133). Joint rule of Jugurtha, Adherbal and Hiempsal (B.C. 118). Murder of Hiempsal (_circa_ 116 B.C.); war between Jugurtha and Adherbal. Both kings send envoys to Rome; the appeal of Adherbal. Decision of the senate. Numidia divided between the claimants. Renewal of the war between Jugurtha and Adherbal (_circa_ 114 B.C.). Siege of Cirta (B.C. 112). Embassy from Rome neglected by Jugurtha. Renewed appeal of Adherbal. Another commission sent by Rome. Surrender of Cirta and murder of Adherbal. Massacre of Italian traders. Its influence on the commercial classes at Rome; protest by Memmius. Declaration of war against Jugurtha. Command of Bestia in Numidia (B.C. III). Attitude of Bocchus of Mauretania. Negotiations of Bestia with Jugurtha; conclusion of peace. Excitement in Rome on the news of the agreement with Jugurtha. Activity of Memmius. Jugurtha induced to come to Rome (B.C. III). Jugurtha at Rome; the scene at the Contio. Murder of Massiva. Jugurtha leaves Rome and the war is renewed, 365. Spurius Albinus in Numidia. He returns to Rome leaving Aulus Albinus in command. Enterprise of Aulus Albinus; his defeat and compact with Jugurtha (B.C. 109). Reception of the news at Rome; the senate invalidates the treaty. Return of Spurius Albinus to Africa. The Mamilian Commission (B.C. 110). Metellus appointed to Numidia (B.C. 109).
CHAPTER VII: Metellus restores discipline in the army. Jugurtha attempts negotiation; Metellus intrigues with the envoys. First campaign of Metellus (B.C. 109). Seizure of Vaga. Battle of the Muthul. Reception of the news at Rome. Second campaign of Metellus (B.C. 108). Siege of Zama. Correspondence of Metellus with Bomilcar. Negotiations with Jugurtha. Discontent in the province of Africa at the progress of the war; ambitions of Marius. Plans for securing the command for Marius. Massacre of the Roman garrison at Vaga. Recovery of Vaga by Metellus. Trial and execution of Turpilius, Intrigues of Bomilcar. Bomilcar put to death by Jugurtha. Marius returns to Rome. His election to the consulship (B.C. 108 or 107); Numidia assigned as his province. Enrolment of the Capite Censi in the legions. Metellus’s expedition to Thala (B.C. 107); capture of the town, Leptis Major appeals for, and receives, Roman help. Jugurtha finds help amongst the Gaetulians. Junction of Jugurtha and Bocchus. Metellus moves to Cirta. Close of Metellus’s command.
CHAPTER VIII: Marius arrives in Africa (B.C. 107). Return of Metellus to Rome: his triumph. First campaign of Marius. Expedition to Capsa and destruction of the town. Second campaign of Marius (B.C. 106); operations on the Muluccha. Arrival of Sulla with cavalry from Italy. Early career of Sulla. Renewed coalition of Jugurtha and Bocchus. Retirement of Marius on Cirta; battles on the route. Marius approached by Bocchus; Sulla and Manlius sent to interview Bocchus. Envoys from Bocchus reach Sulla in the Roman winter-camp (B.C. 105). Armistice made with Bocchus; he is then granted conditional terms of alliance by the Roman senate. The mission of Sulla to Bocchus. The advocates of Numidia and Rome at the Mauretanian court. Sulla urges Bocchus to surrender Jugurtha. Betrayal of the Numidian king; conclusion of the war; settlement of Numidia. Fate of Jugurtha. Triumph of Marius. Lessons of the Numidian War. Growing rivalry between Marius and Sulla. Internal politics of Rome; reaction in favour of the nobility; election of Serranus and Caepio (B.C. 107). The judiciary law of Caepio (B.C. 106). The measure supported by Crassus. Reaction against the proposal; victory of the Equites; renewed coalition against the senate due to the conduct of the campaign in the North. The consular elections for the year 105 B.C. Effect of the defeat at Arausio (6th Oct. 105 B.C.). Election of Marius to a second consulship.
The Wäd Mellag and the surrounding territory. Numidia and the Roman Province of Africa. Titles of modern works referred to in the notes.
_Does the Eagle know what is in the pit? Or wilt thou go ask the Mole?
Can Wisdom be put in a silver rod? Or Love in a golden bowl?_
A HISTORY OF ROME
The period of Roman history on which we now enter is, like so many that had preceded it, a period of revolt, directly aimed against the existing conditions of society and, through the means taken to satisfy the fresh wants and to alleviate the suddenly realised, if not suddenly created, miseries of the time, indirectly affecting the structure of the body politic. The difference between the social movement of the present and that of the past may be justly described as one of degree, in so far as there was not a single element of discontent visible in the revolution commencing with the Gracchi and ending with Caesar that had not been present in the earlier epochs of social and political agitation. The burden of military service, the curse of debt, the poverty of an agrarian proletariate, the hunger for land, the striving of the artisan and the merchant after better conditions of labour and of trade–the separate cries of discontent that find their unison in a protest against the monopoly of office and the narrow or selfish rule of a dominant class, and thus gain a significance as much political as social–all these plaints had filled the air at the time when Caius Licinius near the middle of the fourth century, and Appius Claudius at its close, evolved their projects of reform. The cycle of a nation’s history can indeed never be broken as long as the character of the nation remains the same. And the average Roman of the middle of the second century before our era was in all essential particulars the Roman of the times of Appius and of Licinius, or even of the epoch when the ten commissioners had published the Tables which were to stamp its perpetual character on Roman law. He was in his business relations either oppressor or oppressed, either hammer or anvil. In his private life he was an individualist whose sympathies were limited to the narrow circle of his dependants; he was a trader and a financier whose humanitarian instincts were subordinated to a code of purely commercial morality, and who valued equity chiefly because it presented the line of least resistance and facilitated the conduct of his industrial operations. Like all individualists, he was something of an anarchist, filled with the idea, which appeared on every page of the record of his ancestors and the history of his State, that self-help was the divinely given means of securing right, that true social order was the issue of conflicting claims pushed to their breaking point until a temporary compromise was agreed on by the weary combatants; but he was hampered in his democratic leanings by the knowledge that democracy is the fruit of individual self-restraint and subordination to the common will–qualities of which he could not boast and symbols of a prize which he would not have cared to attain at the expense of his peculiar ideas of personal freedom–and he was forced, in consequence of this abnegation, to submit to an executive government as strong, one might almost say as tyrannous, as any which a Republic has ever displayed–a government which was a product of the restless spirit of self-assertion and self-aggrandisement which the Roman felt in himself, and therefore had sufficient reason to suspect in others.
The Roman was the same; but his environment had changed more startlingly during the last fifty or sixty years than in all the centuries that had preceded them in the history of the Republic. The conquest of Italy had, it Is true, given to his city much that was new and fruitful in the domains of religion, of art, of commerce and of law. Bat these accretions merely entailed the fuller realisation of a tendency which had been marked from the earliest stage of Republican history–the tendency to fit isolated elements in the marvellous discoveries made by the heaven-gifted race of the Greeks into a framework that was thoroughly national and Roman. Ideas had been borrowed, and these ideas certainly resulted in increased efficiency and therefore in increased wealth. But the gross material of Hellenism, whether as realised in intellectual ideas or (the prize that appealed more immediately to the practical Roman with his concrete mind) in tangible things, had not been seized as a whole as the reward of victory: and no great attempt had been made in former ages to assimilate the one or to enjoy the other. The nature of the material rewards which had been secured by the epochs of Italian conquest had indeed made such assimilation or enjoyment impossible. They would have been practicable only in a state which possessed a fairly complete urban life; and the effect of the wars which Rome waged with her neighbours in the peninsula had been to make the life of the average citizen more purely agricultural than it had been in the early Republic, perhaps even in the epoch of the Kings. The course of a nation’s political, social and intellectual history is determined very largely by the methods which it adopts for its own expansion at the inevitable moment when its original limits are found to be too narrow to satisfy even the most modest needs of a growing population. The method chosen will depend chiefly on geographical circumstances and on the military characteristics of the people which are indissolubly connected with these. When the city of Old Greece began to feel the strength of its growing manhood, and the developing hunger which was both the sign and the source of that strength, it looked askance at the mountain line which cut it off from the inland regions, it turned hopeful eyes on the sea that sparkled along its coasts; it manned its ships and sent its restless youth to a new and distant home which was but a replica of the old. The results of this maritime adventure were the glories of urban life and the all-embracing sweep of Hellenism. The progress of Roman enterprise had been very different. Following the example of all conquering Italian peoples, and especially of the Sabellian invaders whose movements immediately preceded their own, the Romans adopted the course of inland expansion, and such urban unity as they had possessed was dissipated over the vast tract of territory on which the legions were settled, or to which the noble sent his armed retainers, nominally to keep the land as the public domain of Rome, in reality to hold it for himself and his descendants. At a given moment (which is as clearly marked in Roman as in Hellenic history) the possibility of such expansion ceased, and the necessity for its cessation was as fully exhibited in the policy of the government as in the tastes of the people. No Latin colony had been planted later than the year 181, no Roman colony later than 157, and the senate showed no inclination to renew schemes for the further assignment of territory amongst the people. There were many reasons for this indifference to colonial enterprise. In the first place, although colonisation had always been a relief to the proletariate and one of the means regularly adopted by those in power for assuaging its dangerous discontent, yet the government had always regarded the social aspect of this method of expansion as subservient to the strategic. This strategic motive no longer existed, and a short-sighted policy, which looked to the present, not to the future, to men of the existing generation and not to their sons, may easily have held that a colony, which was not needed for the protection of the district in which it was settled, injuriously affected the fighting-strength of Rome. The maritime colonies which had been established from the end of the great Latin war down to the close of the second struggle with Carthage claimed, at least in many cases, exemption from military service, and a tradition of this kind tends to linger when its justification is a thing of the past. But, even if such a view could be repudiated by the government, it was certain that the levy became a more serious business the greater the number of communities on which the recruiting commander had to call, and it was equally manifest that the veteran who had just been given an allotment on which to establish his household gods might be inclined to give a tardy response to the call to arms. The Latin colony seemed a still greater anachronism than the military colony of citizens. The member of such a community, although the state which he entered enjoyed large privileges of autonomy, ceased to be a Roman citizen in respect to political rights, and even at a time when self-government had been valued almost more than citizenship, the government had only been able to carry out its project of pushing these half-independent settlements into the heart of Italy by threatening with a pecuniary penalty the soldier who preferred his rights as a citizen to the benefits which he might receive as an emigrant. Now that the great wars had brought their dubious but at least potential profits to every member of the Roman community, and the gulf between the full citizens and the members of the allied communities was ever widening, it was more than doubtful whether a member of the former class, however desperate his plight, would readily condescend to enroll himself amongst the latter. But, even apart from these considerations, it must have seemed very questionable to any one, who held the traditional view that colonisation should subserve the purposes of the State, whether the landless citizen of the time could be trusted to fulfil his duties as an emigrant. As early as the year 186 the consul Spurius Postumius, while making a judicial tour in Italy, had found to his surprise that colonies on both the Italian coasts, Sipontum on the Upper, and Buxentum on the Lower Sea, had been abandoned by their inhabitants: and a new levy had to be set on foot to replace the faithless emigrants who had vanished into space. As time went on the risk of such desertion became greater, partly from the growing difficulty of maintaining an adequate living on the land, partly from the fact that the more energetic spirits, on whom alone the hopes of permanent settlement could depend, found a readier avenue to wealth and a more tempting sphere for the exercise of manly qualities in the attractions of a campaign that seemed to promise plunder and glory, especially when these prizes were accompanied by no exorbitant amount of suffering or toil. Thus when it had become known that Scipio Africanus would accompany his brother in the expedition against Antiochus, five thousand veterans, both citizens and allies, who had served their full time under the command of the former, offered their voluntary services to the departing consul, and nineteen’ years later the experience which had been gained of the wealth that might be reaped from a campaign in Macedonia and Asia drew many willing recruits to the legions which were to be engaged in the struggle with Perseus. The semi-professional soldier was in fact springing up, the man of a spirit adventurous and restless such as did not promise contentment with the small interests and small rewards of life in an Italian outpost. But, if the days of formal colonisation were over, why might not the concurrent system be adopted of dividing conquered lands amongst poorer citizens without the establishment of a new political settlement or any strict limitation of the number of the recipients? This ‘viritane’ assignation had always run parallel to that which assumed the form of colonisation; it merely required the existence of land capable of distribution, and the allotments granted might be considered merely a means of affording relief to the poorer members of existing municipalities. The system was supposed to have existed from the times of the Kings; it was believed to have formed the basis of the first agrarian law, that of Spurius Cassius in 486; it had been employed after the conquest of the Volscians in the fourth century and that of the Sabines in the third; it had animated the agrarian legislation of Flaminius when in 232 he romanised the _ager Gallicus_ south of Ariminum without planting a single colony in this region; and a date preceding the Gracchan legislation by only forty years had seen the resumption of the method, when some Gallic and Ligurian land, held to be the spoil of war and declared to be unoccupied, had been parcelled out into allotments, of ten _jugera_ to Roman citizens and of three to members of the Latin name. But to the government of the period with which we are concerned the continued pursuance of such a course, if it suggested itself at all, appealed in the light of a policy that was unfamiliar, difficult and objectionable. It is probable that this method of assignment, even in its later phases, had been tinctured with the belief that, like the colony, it secured a system of military control over the occupied district: and that the purely social object of land-distribution, if it had been advanced at all, was considered to be characteristic rather of the demagogue than the statesman. From a strategic point of view such a measure was unnecessary; from an economic, it assumed, not only a craving for allotments amongst the poorer class, of which there was perhaps little evidence, but a belief, which must have been held to be sanguine in the extreme, that these paupers, when provided for, would prove to be efficient farmers capable of maintaining a position which many of them had already lost. Again, if such an assignment was to be made, it should be made on land immediately after it had passed from the possession of the enemy to that of Rome; if time had elapsed since the date of annexation, it was almost certain that claims of some kind had been asserted over the territory, and shadowy as these claims might be, the Roman law had, in the interest of the State itself, always tended to recognise a _de facto_ as a _de jure_ right. The claims of the allies and the municipalities had also to be considered; for assignments to Roman citizens on an extensive scale would inevitably lead to difficult questions about the rights which many of these townships actually possessed to much of the territory whose revenue they enjoyed. If the allies and the municipal towns did not suffer, the loss must fall on the Roman State itself, which derived one of its chief sources of stable and permanent revenue–the source which was supposed to meet the claims for Italian administration–from its domains in Italy, on the contractors who collected this revenue, and on the Enterprising capitalists who had put their wealth and energy into the waste places to which they had been invited by the government, and who had given these devastated territories much of the value which they now possessed. Lastly, these enterprising possessors were strongly represented in the senate; the leading members of the nobility had embarked on a new system of agriculture, the results of which were inimical to the interest of the small farmer, and the conditions of which would be undermined by a vast system of distribution such as could alone suffice to satisfy the pauper proletariate. The feeling that a future agrarian law was useless from an economic and dangerous from a political point of view, was strengthened by the conviction that its proposal would initiate a war amongst classes, that its failure would exasperate the commons and that its success would inflict heavy pecuniary damage on the guardians of the State.
Thus the simple system of territorial expansion, which had continued in an uninterrupted course from the earliest days of conquest, might be now held to be closed for ever. From the point of view of the Italian neighbours of Rome it was indeed ample time that such a closing period should be reached. If we possessed a map of Italy which showed the relative proportions of land in Italy and Cisalpine Gaul which had been seized by Rome or left to the native cities or tribes, we should probably find that the possessions of the conquering State, whether occupied by colonies, absorbed by the gift of citizenship, or held as public domain, amounted to nearly one half of the territory of the whole peninsula. The extension of such progress was clearly impossible unless war were to be provoked with the Confederacy which furnished so large a proportion of the fighting strength of Rome; but, if it was confessed that extension on the old lines was now beyond reach of attainment and yet it was agreed that the existing resources of Italy did not furnish an adequate livelihood to the majority of the citizens of Rome, but two methods of expansion could be thought of as practicable in the future. One was agrarian assignation at the expense either of the State or of the richer classes or of both; the other was enterprise beyond the sea. But neither of these seemed to deserve government intervention, or regulation by a scheme which would satisfy either immediate or future wants. The one was repudiated, as we have already shown, on account of its novelty, its danger and its inconvenience; the other seemed emphatically a matter for private enterprise and above all for private capital. It could never be available for the very poor unless it assumed the form of colonisation, and the senate looked on transmarine colonisation with the eye of prejudice. It took a different view of the enterprise of the foreign speculator and merchant; this it regarded with an air of easy indifference. Their wealth was a pillar on which the State might lean in times of emergency, but, until the disastrous effects of commercial enterprise on foreign policy were more clearly seen, it was considered to be no business of the government either to help or to hinder the wealthy and enterprising Roman in his dealings with the peoples of the subject or protected lands.
Rome, if by this name we mean the great majority of Roman citizens, was for the first time for centuries in a situation in which all movement and all progress seemed to be denied. The force of the community seemed to have spent itself for the time; as a force proceeding from the whole community it had perhaps spent itself for ever. A section of the nominally sovereign people might yet be welded into a mighty instrument that would carry victory to the ends of the earth, and open new channels of enterprise both for the men who guided their movements and for themselves. But for the moment the State was thrown back upon itself; it held that an end had been attained, and the attainment naturally suggested a pause, a long survey of the results which had been reached by these long years of struggle with the hydra-headed enemy abroad. The close of the third Macedonian war is said by a contemporary to have brought with it a restful sense of security such as Rome could not have felt for centuries. Such a security gave scope to the rich to enjoy the material advantages which their power had acquired; but it also gave scope to the poor to reflect on the strange harvest which the conquest of the great powers of the world had brought to the men whose stubborn patience had secured the peace which they were given neither the means nor the leisure to enjoy. The men who evaded or had completed their service in the legions lacked the means, although they had the leisure; the men who still obeyed the summons to arms lacked both, unless the respite between prolonged campaigns could be called leisure, or the booty, hardly won and quickly squandered, could be described as means. Even after Carthage had been destroyed Rome, though doubly safe, was still busy enough with her legions; the government of Spain was one protracted war, and proconsuls were still striving to win triumphs for themselves by improving on their predecessors’ work. But such war could not absorb the energy or stimulate the interest of the people as a whole. The reaction which had so often followed a successful campaign, when the discipline of the camp had been shaken off and the duties of the soldier were replaced by the wants of the citizen, was renewed on a scale infinitely larger than before–a scale proportioned to the magnitude of the strain which had been removed and the greatness of the wants which had been revived. The cries for reform may have been of the old familiar type but their increased intensity and variety may almost be held to have given them a difference of quality. There is a stage at which a difference of degree seems to amount to one of kind: and this stage seems certainly to have been reached in the social problems presented by the times. In the old days of the struggle between the orders the question of privilege had sometimes overshadowed the purely economic issue, and although a close scrutiny of those days of turmoil shows that the dominant note in the conflict was often a mere pretext meant to serve the personal ambition of the champions of the Plebs, yet the appearance rather than the reality of an issue imposes on the imagination of the mob, and political emancipation had been thought a boon even when hard facts had shown that its greater prizes had fallen to a small and selfish minority. Now, however, there could be no illusion. There was nothing but material wants on one side, there was nothing but material power on the other. The intellectual claims which might be advanced to justify a monopoly of office and of wealth, could be met by an intellectual superiority on the part of a demagogue clamouring for confiscation. The ultimate basis of the life of the State was for the first time to be laid bare and subjected to a merciless scrutiny; it remained to be seen which of the two great forces of society would prevail; the force of habit which had so often blinded the Roman to his real needs; or the force of want which, because it so seldom won a victory over his innate conservatism, was wont, when that victory had been won, to sweep him farther on the path of reckless and inconsistent reform than it would have carried a race better endowed with the gift of testing at every stage of progress the ends and needs of the social organism considered as a whole.
An analysis of social discontent at any period of history must take the form of an examination of the wants engendered by the age, and of the adequacy or inadequacy of their means of satisfaction. If we turn our attention first to the forces of society which were in possession of the fortress and were to be the object of attack, we shall find that the ruling desires which animated these men of wealth and influence were chiefly the product of the new cosmopolitan culture which the victorious city had begun to absorb in the days when conquest and diplomacy had first been carried across the seas. To this she fell a willing victim when the conquered peoples, bending before the rude force which had but substituted a new suzerainty for an old and had scarcely touched their inner life, began to display before the eyes of their astonished conquerors the material comfort and the spiritual charm which, in the case of the contact of a potent but narrow civilisation with one that is superbly elastic and strong in the very elegance of its physical debility, can always turn defeat into victory. But the student who begins his investigation of the new Roman life with the study of Roman society as it existed in the latter half of the second century before our era, cannot venture to gather up the threads of the purely intellectual and moral influences which were created by the new Hellenistic civilisation. He feels that he is only at the beginning of a process, that he lacks material for his picture, that the illustrative matter which he might employ is to be found mainly in the literary records of a later age, and that his use of this matter would but involve him in the historical sins of anticipation and anachronism. Of some phases of the war between the old spirit and the new we shall find occasion to speak; but the culminating point attained by the blend of Greek with Roman elements is the only one which is clearly visible to modern eyes. This point, however, was reached at the earliest only in the second half of the next century. It was only then that the fusion of the seemingly discordant elements gave birth to the new “Romanism,” which was to be the ruling civilisation of Italy and the Western provinces and, in virtue of the completeness of the amalgamation and the novelty of the product, was itself to be contrasted and to live for centuries in friendly rivalry with the more uncompromising Hellenism of Eastern lands. But some of the economic effects of the new influences claim our immediate attention, for we are engaged in the study of the beginnings of an economic revolution, and an analysis must therefore be attempted of some of the most pressing needs and some of the keenest desires which were awakened by Hellenism, either in the purer dress which old Greece had given it or in the more gorgeous raiment which it had assumed during its sojourn in the East.
A tendency to treat the city as the home, the country only as a means of refreshment and a sphere of elegant retirement during that portion of the year when the excitement of the urban season, its business and its pleasure, were suspended, began to be a marked feature of the life of the upper classes. The man of affairs and the man of high finance were both compelled to have their domicile in the town, and, if agriculture was still the staple or the supplement of their wealth, the needs of the estate had to be left to the supervision of the resident bailiff. This concentration of the upper classes in the city necessarily entailed a great advance in the price and rental of house property within the walls. It is true that the reckless prices paid for houses, especially for country villas, by the grandees and millionaires of the next generation, had not yet been reached; but the indications with which we are furnished of the general rise of prices for everything in Rome that could be deemed desirable by a cultivated taste, show that the better class of house property must already have yielded large returns, whether it were sold or let, and we know that poor scions of the nobility, if business or pleasure induced them to spend a portion of the year in Rome, had soon to climb the stairs of flats or lodgings. The pressure for room led to the piling of storey on storey. On The roof of old houses new chambers were raised, which could be reached by an outside stair, and either served to accommodate the increased retinue of the town establishment or were let to strangers who possessed no dwelling of their own; the still larger lodging-houses or “islands,” which derived their name from their lofty isolation from neighbouring buildings, continued to spring up, and even private houses soon came to attain a height which had to be restrained by the intervention of the law. An ex-consul and augur was called on by the censors of 125 to explain the magnitude of a villa which he had raised, and the altitude of the structure exposed him not only to the strictures of the guardians of morals but to a fine imposed by a public court. Great changes were effected in the interior structure of the houses of the wealthy–changes excused by a pardonable desire for greater comfort and rendered necessary both by the growing formality of life and the large increase in the numbers of the resident household, but tending, when once adopted, to draw the father of the family into that most useless type of extravagance which takes the form of a craze for building. The Hall or Atrium had once been practically the house. It opened on the street. It contained the family bed and the kitchen fire. The smoke passed through a hole in the roof and begrimed the family portraits that looked down on the members of the household gathered round the hearth for their common meal. The Hall was the chief bedroom, the kitchen, the dining-room and the reception room, and it was also the only avenue from the street to the small courtyard at the back. The houses of the great had hitherto differed from those of the poor chiefly in dimensions and but very slightly in structure. The home of the wealthy patrician had simply been on a larger scale of primitive discomfort; and if his large parlour built of timber could accommodate a vast host of clients, the bed and the cooking pots were still visible to every visitor. The chief of the early innovations had been merely a low portico, borrowed from the Greeks by the Etruscans and transmitted by them to Rome, which ran round the courtyard, was divided into little cells and chambers, and served to accommodate the servants of the house. But now fashion dictated that the doorway should not front the street but should be parted from it by a vestibule, in which the early callers gathered before they were admitted to the hall of audience. The floor of the Atrium was no longer the common passage to the regions at the back, but a special corridor lying either on one or on both sides of the Hall led past the Study or Tablinum, immediately behind it, to the inner court beyond. Even the sanctity of the nuptial couch could not continue to give it the publicity which was irksome to the taste of an age which had acquired notions of the dignity of seclusion, of the comfort that was to be found in retirement, and of the convenience of separating the chambers that were used for public from those which were employed for merely private purposes. The chief bedrooms were shifted to the back, and the sides of the courtyard were no longer the exclusive abode of the dependants of the household. The common hearth could no longer serve as the sphere of the culinary operations of an expensive cook with his retinue of menials; the cooking fire was removed to one of the rooms near the back-gate of the house, which finally became an ample kitchen replete with all the imported means of satisfying the growing luxury of the table; and the member of the family loitering in the hall, or the visitor admitted through its portals, was spared the annoyances of strong smells and pungent smoke. The Roman family also discovered the discomfort of dining in a large and scantily furnished room, not too well lit and accessible to the intrusions of the chance domestic and the caller. It was deemed preferable to take the common meal in a light and airy upper chamber, and the new type of Coenaculum satisfied at once the desire for personal comfort and for that specialisation in the use of apartments which is one of the chief signs of an advancing material civilisation. The great hall had become the show-room of the house, but even for this purpose its dimensions proved too small. Such was the quantity of curios and works of art collected by the conquering or travelled Roman that greater space was needed for the exhibition of their rarity or splendour. This space was gained by the removal from the Atrium of all the domestic obstacles with which it had once been cumbered. It might now be made slightly smaller in its proportion to the rest of the house and yet appear far more ample than before. The space by which its sides were diminished could now be utilised for the building of two wings or Alae, which served the threefold purpose of lighting the hall from the sides, of displaying to better advantage, as an oblong chamber always does, the works of art which the lord of the mansion or his butler displayed to visitor or client, and lastly of serving as a gallery for the family portraits, which were finally removed from the Atrium, to be seen to greater advantage and in a better light on the walls of the wings. These now displayed the family tree through painted lines which connected the little shrines holding the inscribed _imagines_ of the great ancestors of the house. It is also possible that the Alae served as rooms for more private audiences than were possible in the Atrium. From the early morning crowd which thronged the hall individuals or groups might have been detached by the butler, and led to the presence of the great statesman or pleader who paced the floor in the retirement of one of these long side-galleries.  Business of a yet more private kind was transacted in the still greater security of the Tablinum, the archive room and study of the house. Here were kept, not only the family records and the family accounts, but such of the official registers and papers as a magistrate needed to have at hand during his year of office. The domestic transaction of official business was very large at Rome, for the State had given its administrators not even the skeleton of a civil service, and it was in this room that the consul locked himself up with his quaestor and his scribes, as it was here that, as a good head of the family and a careful business man, he carefully perused the record of income and expenditure, of gains and losses, with his skilled Greek accountant.
The whole tendency of the reforms in domestic architecture was to differentiate between the public and private life of the man of business or affairs. His public activity was confined to the forepart of the house; his repose, his domestic joys, and his private pleasures were indulged in the buildings which lay behind the Atrium and its wings. As each of the departments of life became more ambitious, the sphere for the exercise of the one became more magnificent, and that which fostered the other the scene of a more perfect, because more quiet, luxury. The Atrium was soon to become a palatial hall adorned with marble colonnades; the small yard with its humble portico at the back was to be transformed into the Greek Peristyle, a court open to the sky and surrounded by columns, which enclosed a greenery of shrubs and trees and an atmosphere cooled and freshened by the constant play of fountains. The final form of the Roman house was an admirable type of the new civilisation. It was Roman and yet Greek–Roman in the grand front that it, presented to the world, Greek in the quiet background of thought and sentiment.
The growing splendour of the house demanded a number and variety in its human servitors that had not been dreamed of in a simpler age. The slave of the farm, with his hard hands and weather-beaten visage, could no longer be brought by his elegant master to the town and exhibited to a fastidious society as the type of servant that ministered to his daily needs. The urban and rustic family were now kept wholly distinct; it was only when some child of marked grace and beauty was born on the farm, that it was transferred to the mansion as containing a promise that would be wasted on rustic toil. In every part of the establishment the taste and wealth of the owner might be tested by the courtliness and beauty of its living instruments. The chained dog at the gate had been replaced by a human janitor, often himself in chains. The visitor, when he had passed the porter, was received by the butler in the hall, and admitted to the master’s presence by a series of footmen and ushers, the show servants of the fore-part of the house, men of the impassive dignity and obsequious repose that servitude but strengthens in the Oriental mind. In the penetralia of the household each need created by the growing ideal of comfort and refinement required its separate band of ministers. The body of the bather was rubbed and perfumed by experts in the art; the service of the table was in the hands of men who had made catering and the preparation of delicate viands the sole business of their lives. The possession of a cook, who could answer to the highest expectations of the age, was a prize beyond the reach of all but the most wealthy; for such an expert the sum of four talents had to be paid; he was the prize of the millionaire, and families of more moderate means, if they wished a banquet to be elegantly served, were forced to hire the temporary services of an accomplished artist. The housekeeper, who supervised the resources of the pantry, guided the destinies of the dinner in concert with the _chef_; and each had under him a crowd of assistants of varied names and carefully differentiated functions. The business of the outer world demanded another class of servitors. There were special valets charged with the functions of taking notes and invitations to their masters’ friends; there was the valued attendant of quick eye and ready memory, an incredibly rich store-house of names and gossip, an impartial observer of the ways and weaknesses of every class, who could inform his master of the name and attributes of the approaching stranger. There were the lackeys who formed the nucleus of the attendant retinue of clients for the man when he walked abroad, the boys of exquisite form with slender limbs and innocent faces, who were the attendant spirits of the lady as she passed in her litter down the street. The muscles of the stouter slaves now offered facilities for easy journeying that had been before unknown. The Roman official need not sit his horse during the hot hours of the day as he passed through the hamlets of Italy, and the grinning rustic could ask, as he watched the solemn and noiseless transit of the bearers, whether the carefully drawn curtains did not conceal a corpse.
The internal luxury of the household was as fully exhibited in lifeless objects as in living things. Rooms were scented with fragrant perfumes and hung with tapestries of great price and varied bloom. Tables were set with works of silver, ivory and other precious material, wrought with the most delicate skill. Wine of moderate flavour was despised; Falernian and Chian were the only brands that the true connoisseur would deem worthy of his taste. A nice discrimination was made in the qualities of the rarer kinds of fish, and other delicacies of the table were sought in proportion to the difficulty of their attainment. The fashions of dress followed the tendency of the age; the rarity of the material, its fineness of texture, the ease which it gave to the body, were the objects chiefly sought. Young men were seen in the Forum in robes of a material as soft as that worn by women and almost transparent in its thinness. Since all these instruments of pleasure, and the luxury that appealed to ambition even more keenly than to taste, were pursued with a ruinous competition, prices were forced up to an incredible degree. An amphora of Falernian wine cost one hundred denarii, a jar of Pontic salt-fish four hundred; a young Roman would often give a talent for a favourite, and boys who ranked in the highest class for beauty of face and elegance of form fetched even a higher price than this. Few could have been inclined to contradict Cato when he said in the senate-house that Rome was the only city in the world where a jar of preserved fish from the Black Sea cost more than a yoke of oxen, and a boy-favourite fetched a higher price than a yeoman’s farm. One of the great objects of social ambition was to have a heavier service of silver-plate than was possessed by any of one’s neighbours. In the good old days,–days not so long past, but severed from the present by a gulf that circumstances had made deeper than the years–the Roman had had an official rather than a personal pride in the silver which he could display before the respectful eyes of the distinguished foreigner who was the guest of the State; and the Carthaginian envoys had been struck by the similarity between the silver services which appeared at the tables of their various hosts. The experience led them to a higher estimate of Roman brotherhood than of Roman wealth, and the silver-plate that had done such varied duty was at least responsible for a moral triumph. Only a few years before the commencement of the first war with Carthage Rufinus a consular had been expelled from the senate for having ten pounds of the wrought metal in his keeping, and Scipio Aemilianus, a man of the present age, but an adherent of the older school, left but thirty-two pounds’ weight to his heir. Less than forty years later the younger Livius Drusus was known to be in possession of plate that weighed ten thousand pounds, and the accretions to the primitive hoard which must have been made by but two or three members of this family may serve as an index of the extent to which this particular form of the passion for display had influenced the minds and practice of the better-class Romans of the day.
There were other objects, valued for their intrinsic worth as much as for the distinction conveyed by their possession, which attracted the ambition and strained the revenues of the fashionable man. Works of art must once have been cheap on the Roman market; for, even if we refuse to credit the story of Mummius’ estimate of the prize which fallen Corinth had delivered into his hands, yet the transhipment of cargoes of the priceless treasures to Rome is at least an historic fact, and the Gracchi must themselves have seen the trains of wagons bearing their precious freight along the Via Sacra to the Capitol. The spoils of the generous conqueror were lent to adorn the triumphs, the public buildings and even the private houses, of others; but much that had been yielded by Corinth had become the property neither of the general nor of the State. Polybius had seen the Roman legionaries playing at draughts on the Dionysus of Aristeides and many another famous canvas which had been torn from its place and thrown as a carpet upon the ground; but many a camp follower must have had a better estimate of the material value of the paintings of the Hellenic masters, and the cupidity of the Roman collector must often have been satisfied at no great cost to his resources. The extent to which a returning army could disseminate its acquired tastes and distribute its captured goods had been shown some forty years before the fall of Corinth when Manlius brought his legions back from the first exploration of the rich cities of Asia. Things and names, of which the Roman had never dreamed, soon gratified the eye and struck the ear with a familiar sound. He learnt to love the bronze couches meant for the dining hall, the slender side tables with the strange foreign name, the delicate tissues woven to form the hangings of the bed or litter, the notes struck from the psalter and the harp by the fingers of the dancing-women of the East. This was the first irruption of the efflorescent luxury of Eastern Hellenism; but some five-and-twenty years before this date Rome had received her first experience of the purer taste of the Greek genius in the West. The whole series of the acts of artistic vandalism which marked the footsteps of the conquering state could be traced back to the measures taken by Claudius Marcellus after the fall of Syracuse. The systematic plunder of works of art was for the first time given an official sanction, and the public edifices of Rome were by no means the sole beneficiaries of this new interpretation of the rights of war. Much of the valuable plunder had found its way into private houses, to stimulate the envious cupidity of many a future governor who, cursed with the taste of a collector and unblessed by the opportunity of a war, would make subtle raids on the artistic treasures of his province a secret article of his administration. When the ruling classes of a nation have been familiarised for the larger part of a century with the easy acquisition of the best material treasures of the world, things that have once seemed luxuries come to fill an easy place in the category of accepted wants. But the sudden supply has stopped; the market value, which plunder has destroyed or lessened, has risen to its normal level; another burden has been added to life, there is one further stimulus to wealth and, so pressing is the social need, that the means to its satisfaction are not likely to be too diligently scrutinised before they are adopted.
More pardonable were the tastes that were associated with the more purely intellectual elements in Hellenic culture–with the influence which the Greek rhetor or philosopher exercised in his converse with the stern but receptive minds of Rome, the love of books, the new lessons which were to be taught as to the rhythmic flow of language and the rhythmic movement of the limbs. The Greek adventurer was one of the most striking features of the epoch which immediately followed the close of the great wars. Later thinkers, generally of the resentfully national, academic and pseudo-historical type, who repudiated the amenities of life which they continued to enjoy, and cherished the pleasing fiction of the exemplary _mores_ of the ancient times, could see little in him but a source of unmixed evil; and indeed the Oriental Greek of the commoner type, let loose upon the society of the poorer quarters, or worming his way into the confidence of some rich but uneducated master, must often have been the vehicle of lessons that would better have been unlearnt. But Italy also saw the advent of the best professors of the age, golden-mouthed men who spoke in the language of poetry, rhetoric and philosophy, and who turned from the wearisome competition of their own circles and the barren fields of their former labours to find a flattering attention, a pleasing dignity, and the means of enjoying a full, peaceful and leisured life in the homes of Roman aristocrats, thirsting for knowledge and thirsting still more for the mastery of the unrivalled forms in which their own deeds might be preserved and through which their own political and forensic triumphs might be won. Soon towns of Italy–especially those of the Hellenic South–would be vying with each other to grant the freedom of their cities and other honours in their gift to a young emigrant poet who hailed from Antioch, and members of the noblest houses would be competing for the honour of his friendship and for the privilege of receiving him under their roof. The stream of Greek learning was broad and strong; it bore on its bosom every man and woman who aimed at a reputation for elegance, for wit or for the deadly thrust in verbal fence which played so large a part in the game of politics; every one that refused to float was either an outcast from the best society, or was striving to win an eccentric reputation for national obscurantism and its imaginary accompaniment of honest rustic strength.
Acquaintance with professors and poets led to a knowledge of books; and it was as necessary to store the latter as the former under the fashionable roof. The first private library in Rome was established by Aemilius Paulus, when he brought home the books that had belonged to the vanquished Perseus; and it became as much a feature of conquest amongst the highly cultured to bring home a goodly store of literature as to gather objects of art which might merely please the sensuous taste and touch only the outer surface of the mind.
But it was deemed by no means desirable to limit the influences of the new culture to the minds of the mature. There was, indeed, a school of cautious Hellenists that might have preferred this view, and would at any rate have exercised a careful discrimination between those elements of the Greek training which would strengthen the young mind by giving it a wider range of vision and a new gallery of noble lives and those which would lead to mere display, to effeminacy, nay (who could tell?) to positive depravity. But this could not be the point of view of society as a whole. If the elegant Roman was to be half a Greek, he must learn during the tender and impressionable age to move his limbs and modulate his voice in true Hellenic wise. Hence the picture which Scipio Aemilianus, sane Hellenist and stout Roman, gazed at with astonished eyes and described in the vigorous and uncompromising language suited to a former censor. “I was told,” he said, “that free-born boys and girls went to a dancing school and moved amidst disreputable professors of the art. I could not bring my mind to believe it; but I was taken to such a school myself, and Good Heavens! What did I see there! More than fifty boys and girls, one of them, I am ashamed to say, the son of a candidate for office, a boy wearing the golden boss, a lad not less than twelve years of age. He was jingling a pair of castanets and dancing a step which an immodest slave could not dance with decency.”  Such might have been the reflections of a puritan had he entered a modern dancing-academy. We may be permitted to question the immorality of the exhibition thus displayed, but there can be no doubt as to the social ambition which it reveals–an ambition which would be perpetuated throughout the whole of the life of the boy with the castanets, which would lead him to set a high value on the polish of everything he called his own–a polish determined by certain rigid external standards and to be attained at any hazard, whether by the ruinous concealment of honest poverty, or the struggle for affluence even by the most questionable means.
But the burdens on the wealth of the great were by no means limited to those imposed by merely social canons. Political life at Rome had always been expensive in so far as office was unpaid and its tenure implied leisure and a considerable degree of neglect of his own domestic concerns in the patriot who was willing to accept it. But the State had lately taken on itself to increase the financial expenditure which was due to the people without professing to meet the bill from the public funds. The ‘State’ at Rome did not mean what it would have meant in such a context amongst the peoples of the Hellenic world. It did not mean that the masses were preying on the richer classes, but that the richer classes were preying on themselves; and this particular form of voluntary self-sacrifice amongst the influential families in the senate was equivalent to the confession that Rome was ceasing to be an Aristocracy and becoming an Oligarchy, was voluntarily placing the claims of wealth on a par with those of birth and merit, or rather was insisting that the latter should not be valid unless they were accompanied by the former. The chief sign of the confession that political advancement might be purchased from the people in a legitimate way, was the adoption of a rule, which was established about the time of the First Punic War, that the cost of the public games should not be defrayed exclusively by the treasury. It was seldom that the people could be brought to contribute to the expenses of the exhibitor by subscriptions collected from amongst themselves; they were the recipients, not the givers of the feast, and the actual donors knew that the exhibition was a contest for favour, that reputations were being won or lost on the merits of the show, and that the successful competitor was laying up a store-house of gratitude which would materially aid his ascent to the highest prizes in the State. The personal cost, if it could not be wholly realised on the existing patrimony of the magistrate, must be assisted by gifts from friends, by loans from money-lenders at exorbitant rates of interest and, worst but readiest of all methods, by contributions, nominally voluntary but really enforced, from the Italian allies and the provincials. As early as the year 180 the senate had been forced to frame a strong resolution against the extravagance that implied oppression; but the resolution was really a criticism of the new methods of government; the roots of the evil (the burden on the magistracy, the increase in the number of the regularly recurring festivals) they neither cared nor ventured to remove. The aedileship was the particular magistracy which was saddled with this expenditure on account of its traditional connection with the conduct of the public games; and although it was neither in its curule nor plebeian form an obligatory step in the scale of the magistracies, yet, as it was held before the praetorship and the consulship, it was manifest that the brilliant display given to the people by the occupant of this office might render fruitless the efforts of a less wealthy competitor who had shunned its burdens. The games were given jointly by the respective pairs of colleagues, the _Ludi Romani_ being under the guidance of the curule, the _Ludi Plebeii_ under that of the plebeian aediles. Had these remained the only annual shows, the cost to the exhibitor, although great, would have been limited, But other festivals, which had once been occasional, had lately been made permanent. The games to Ceres (_Cerialia_), the remote origins of which may have dated back to the time of the monarchy, first appear as fully established in the year 202; the festival to Flora (_Floralia_) dates from but 238 B.C., but probably did not become annual until 173; while the games to the Great Mother (_Megalesia_) followed by thirteen years the invitation and hospitable reception of that Phrygian goddess by the Romans, and became a regular feature in their calendar in 191. This increase in the amenities of the people, every item of which falls within a term of fifty years, is a remarkable feature of the age which followed Rome’s assumption of imperial power. It proved that the Roman was willing to bend his austere religion to the purposes of gratification, when he could afford the luxury, that the enjoyment of this luxury was considered a happy means of keeping the people in good temper with itself and its rulers, and that the cost of providing it was considered, not merely as compatible with the traditions of the existing regime, but as a means of strengthening those traditions by closing the gates of office to the poor.
The types of spectacle, in which the masses took most delight, were also new and expensive creations. These types were chiefly furnished by the gladiatorial shows and the hunting of wild beasts. Even the former and earlier amusement had had a history of little more than a hundred years. It was believed to be a relic of that realistic view of the after life which lingered in Italy long after it had passed from the more spiritual civilisation of the Greeks. The men who put each other to the sword before the eyes of the sorrowing crowd were held to be the retinue which passed with the dead chieftain beyond the grave, and it was from the sombre rites of the Etruscans that this custom of ceremonial slaying was believed to have been transferred to Rome. The first year of the First Punic War witnessed the earliest combat that accompanied a Roman funeral, and, although secular enjoyment rapidly took the place of grim funereal appreciation, and the religious belief that underlay the spectacle may soon have passed away, neither the State nor the relatives were supposed to have done due honour to the illustrious dead if his own decease were not followed by the death-struggle of champions from the rival gladiatorial schools, and men who aspired to a decent funeral made due provision for such combats in their wills. The Roman magistrate bowed to the prevalent taste, and displays of gladiators became one of the most familiar features of the aediles’ shows. Military sentiment was in its favour, for it was believed to harden the nerves of the race that had sprung from the loins of the god of war, and humane sentiment has never in any age been shocked at the contemporary barbarities which it tolerates or enjoys. But a certain element of coarseness in the sport, and perhaps the very fact that it was of native Italian growth, might have given it a short shrift, had the cultured classes really possessed the power of regulating the amusements of the public. Leaders of society would have preferred the Greek _Agôn_ with its graceful wrestling and its contests in the finer arts. But the Roman public would not be hellenised in this particular, and showed their mood when a musical exhibition was attempted at the triumph of Lucius Anicius Gallus in 167. The audience insisted that the performers should drop their instruments and box with one another. This, although not the best, was yet a more tolerable type of what a contest of skill should be. It was natural, therefore, that the professional fighting man should become a far more inevitable condition of social and political success than the hunter or the race-horse has ever been with us. Some enterprising members of the nobility soon came to prefer ownership to the hire system and started schools of their own in which the _lanista_ was merely the trainer. A stranger element was soon added to the possessions of a Roman noble by the growing craze for the combats of wild beasts. The first recorded “hunt” of the kind was that given in 186 by Marcus Fulvius at the close of the Aetolian war when lions and panthers were exhibited to the wondering gaze of the people. Seventeen years later two curule aediles furnished sixty-three African lions and forty bears and elephants for the Circensian games. These menageries eventually became a public danger and the curule aedile (himself one of the chief offenders) was forced to frame an edict specifying the compensation for damage that might be committed by wild beasts in their transit through Italy or their residence within the towns. The obligation of wealth to supply luxuries for the poor–a splendid feature of ancient civilisation in which it has ever taken precedence of that of the modern world–was recognised with the utmost frankness in the Rome of the day; but it was an obligation that had passed the limits at which it could be cheerfully performed as the duty of the patriot or the patron; it had reached a stage when its demoralising effects, both to giver and to receiver, were patent to every seeing eye, but when criticism of its vices could be met by the conclusive rejoinder that it was a vital necessity of the existing political situation.
The review which we have given of the enormous expenditure created by the social and political appetites of the day leads up to the consideration of two questions which, though seldom formulated or faced in their naked form, were ever present in the minds of the classes who were forced to deem themselves either the most responsible authors, or the most illustrious victims, of the existing standards both of politics and society. These questions were “Could the exhausting drain be stopped?” and “If it could not, how was it to be supplied?” A city in a state of high fever will always produce the would-be doctor; but the curious fact about the Rome of this and other days is that the doctor was so often the patient in another form. Just as in the government of the provinces the scandals of individual rule were often met by the severest legislation proceeding from the very body which had produced the evil-doers, so when remedies were suggested for the social evils of the city, the senate, in spite of its tendency to individual transgression, generally displayed the possession of a collective conscience. The men who formulated the standard of purity and self-restraint might be few in number; but, except they displayed the irritating activity and the uncompromising methods of a Cato, they generally secured the support of their peers, and the sterner the censor, the more gladly was he hailed as an ornament to the order. This guardian of morals still issued his edicts against delicacies of the table, foreign perfumes and expensive houses; as late as the year 169 people would hastily put out their lights when it was reported that Tiberius Sempronius Graccus was coming up the street on his return from supper, lest they should fall under the suspicion of untimely revelry, and the sporadic activity of the censorship will find ample illustration in the future chapters of our work. Degradation from the various orders of the State was still a consequence of its animadversions; but a milder, more universal and probably far more efficacious check on luxury–the system, pursued by Cato, of adopting an excessive rating for articles of value and thus of shifting the incidence of taxation from the artisan and farmer to the shoulders of the richest class–had been taken out of its hands by the complete cessation of direct imposts after the Third Macedonian War.
Meanwhile sumptuary laws continued to be promulgated from the Rostra and accepted by the people. All that are known to have been initiated or to have been considered valid after the close of the great wars have but one object–an attack on the expenses of the table, a form of sensuous enjoyment which, on account of the ease and barbaric abundance with which wealth may vaunt itself in this domain, was particularly in vogue amongst the upper classes in Rome. Other forms of extravagance seem for the time to have been left untouched by legislation, for the Oppian law which had been due to the strain of the Second Punic War had been repealed after a fierce struggle in 193, and the Roman ladies might now adorn themselves with more than half an ounce of gold, wear robes of divers colours and ride in their carriages through any street they pleased. The first enactment which attempted to control the wastefulness of the table was an Orchian law of 181, limiting the number of guests that might be invited to entertainments. Cato was consistent in opposing the passing of the measure and in resisting its repeal. He recognised a futile law when he saw it, but he did not wish this futility to be admitted. Twenty years later a Fannian law grew out of a decree of the senate which had enjoined that the chief men (_principes_) of the State should take an oath before the consuls not to exceed a certain limit of expense in the banquets given at the Megalesian Games. Strengthened with a measure which prescribed more harassing details than the Orchian law. The new enactment actually determined the value and nature of the eatables whose consumption was allowed. It permitted one hundred asses to be spent on the days of the Roman Games, the Plebeian Games and the Saturnalia, thirty asses on certain other festival occasions, and but ten asses (less than twice the daily pay of a Roman soldier) on every other meal throughout the year; it forbade the serving of any fowl but a single hen, and that not fattened; it enjoined the exclusive consumption of native wine. This enactment was strengthened eighteen years later by a Didian law, which included in the threatened penalties not only the giver of the feast which violated the prescribed limits, but also the guests who were present at such a banquet. It also compelled or induced the Italian allies to accept the provisions of the Fannian law–an unusual step which may show the belief that a luxury similar to that of Rome was weakening the resources of the confederacy, on whose strength the leading state was so dependent, or which may have been induced by the knowledge that members of the Roman nobility were taking holiday trips to country towns, to enjoy the delights which were prohibited at home and to waste their money on Italian caterers.
The frequency of such legislation, which we shall find renewed once again before the epoch of the reforms of Sulla seems to prove its ineffectiveness, and indeed the standard of comfort which it desired to enjoin was wholly incompatible with the circumstances of the age. The desire to produce uniformity of standard had always been an end of Roman as of Greek sumptuary regulation, but what type of uniformity could be looked for in a community where the extremes of wealth and poverty were beginning to be so strongly marked, where capital was accumulating in the hands of the great noble and the great trader and being wholly withdrawn from those of the free-born peasant and artisan? The restriction of useless consumption was indeed favourable to the more productive employment of capital; but we shall soon see that this productive use, which had as its object the deterioration of land by pasturage and the purchase of servile labour, was as detrimental to the free citizen as the most reckless extravagance could have been. There is no question, however, that both the sumptuary laws and the censorian ordinances of the period did attempt to attain an economic as well as a social end; and, however mistaken their methods may have been, they showed some appreciation of the industrial evils of the time. The provision of the Fannian law in favour of native wines suggests the desire to help the small cultivator who had substituted vine-growing for the cultivation of cereals, and foreshadows the protective legislation of the Ciceronian period. Much of this legislation, too, was animated by the “mercantile” theory that a State is impoverished by the export of the precious metals to foreign lands–a view which found expression in a definite enactment of an earlier period which had forbidden gold or silver to be paid to the Celtic tribes in the north of Italy in exchange for the wares or slaves which they sold to Roman merchants.
Another series of laws aimed at securing the purity of an electorate exposed to the danger of corruption by the overwhelming influence of wealth. Laws against bribery, unknown in an earlier period, become painfully frequent from the date at which Rome came into contact with the riches of the East. Six years after the close of the great Asiatic campaign the people were asked, on the authority of the senate, to sanction more than one act which was directed against the undue influence exercised at elections; in 166 fresh scandals called for the consideration of the Council of State; and the year 159 saw the birth of another enactment. Yet the capital penalty, which seems to have been the consequence of the transgression of at least one of these laws, did not deter candidates from staking their citizenship on their success. The still-surviving custom of clientship made the object of largesses difficult to establish, and the secrecy of the ballot, which had been introduced for elections in 139, made it impossible to prove that the suspicious gift had been effective and thus to construct a convincing case against the donor.
The moral control exercised by the magistrate and the sumptuary or criminal ordinances expressed in acts of Parliament might serve as temporary palliatives to certain pronounced evils of the moment; but they were powerless to check the extravagance of an expenditure which was sanctioned by custom and in some respects actually enforced by law. One of the greatest of the practical needs of the new Roman was to increase his income in every way that might be deemed legitimate by a society which, even in its best days, had never been overscrupulous in its exploitation of the poor and had been wont to illustrate the sanctity of contract by visible examples of grinding oppression. The nature and intensity of the race for wealth differed with the needs of the anxious spendthrift; and in respect both to needs and to means of satisfaction the upper middle class was in a far more favourable position than its noble governors. It could spend its unfettered energies in the pursuit of the profits which might be derived from public contracts, trade, banking and money-lending, while it was not forced to submit to the drain created by the canvass for office and the exorbitant demands made by the electorate on the pecuniary resources of the candidate. The brilliancy of the life of the mercantile class, with its careless luxury and easy indifference to expenditure, set a standard for the nobility which was at once galling and degrading. They were induced to apply the measure of wealth even to members of their own order, and regarded it as inevitable that any one of their peers, whose patrimony had dwindled, should fill but a subordinate place both in politics and society; while the means which they were sometimes forced to adopt in order to vie with the wealth of the successful contractor and promoter were, if hardly less sound from a moral point of view, at least far more questionable from a purely legal standpoint.
A fraction of the present wealth which was in the possession of some of the leading families of the nobility may have been purely adventitious, the result of the lucky accident of command and conquest amidst a wealthy and pliant people. The spoils of war were, it is true, not for the general but for the State; yet he exercised great discretionary power in dealing with the movable objects, which in the case of Hellenic or Asiatic conquest formed one of the richest elements in the prize, and the average commander is not likely to have displayed the self-restraint and public spirit of the destroyer of Corinth. Public and military opinion would permit the victor to retain an ample share of the fruits of his prowess, and this would be increased by a type of contribution to which he had a peculiar and unquestioned claim. This consisted in the honorary offerings made by states, who found themselves at the feet of the victor and were eager to attract his pity and to enlist on their behalf his influence with the Roman government. Instances of such offerings are the hundred and fourteen golden crowns which were borne in the triumph of Titus Quinctius Flamininus, those of two hundred and twelve pounds’ weight shown in the triumph of Manlius, and the great golden wreath of one hundred and fifty pounds which had been presented by the Ambraciots to Nobilior. But the time had not yet been reached when the general on a campaign, or even the governor of a district which was merely disturbed by border raids, could calmly demand hard cash as the equivalent of the precious metal wrought into this useless form, and when the “coronary gold” was to be one of the regular perquisites of any Roman governor who claimed to have achieved military success. Nor is it likely that the triumphant general of this period melted down the offerings which he might dedicate in temples or reserve for the gallery of his house, and we must conclude that the few members of the nobility who had conducted the great campaigns were but slightly enriched by the offerings which helpless peoples had laid at their feet. It would be almost truer to say that the great influx of the precious metals had increased the difficulties of their position; for, if the gold or silver took the form of artistic work which remained in their possession, it but exaggerated the ideal to which their standard of life was expected to conform; and if it assumed the shape of the enormous amount of specie which was poured into the coffers of the State or distributed amongst the legionaries, its chief effects were the heightening of prices and a showy appearance of a vast increase of wealth which corresponded to no real increase in production.
But, whatever the effects of the metallic prizes of the great campaigns, these prizes could neither have benefited the members of the nobility as a whole nor, in the days of comparative peace which had followed the long epoch of war with wealthy powers, could they be contemplated as a permanent source of future capital or income. When the representative of the official caste looked round for modes of fruitful investment which might increase his revenues, his chances at first sight appeared to be limited by legal restrictions which expressed the supposed principles of his class. A Clodian law enacted at the beginning of the Second Punic War had provided that no senator or senator’s son should own a ship of a burden greater than three hundred amphorae. The intention of the measure was to prohibit members of the governing class from taking part in foreign trade, as carriers, as manufacturers, or as participants in the great business of the contract for corn which placed provincial grain on the Roman market; and the ships of small tonnage which they were allowed to retain were intended to furnish them merely with the power of transporting to a convenient market the produce of their own estates in Italy. The restriction was not imposed in a self-regarding spirit; it was odious to the nobility, and, as it was supported by Flaminius, must have been popular with the masses, who were blind to the fact that the restriction of a senator’s energies to agriculture would be infinitely more disastrous to the well-being of the average citizen than the expenditure of those energies in trade. The restriction may have received the support of the growing merchant class, who were perhaps pleased to be rid of the competition of powerful rivals, and it certainly served, externally at least, to mark the distinction between the man of large industrial enterprises and the man whose official rank was supported by landed wealth–a distinction which, in the shape of the contrast drawn between knights and senators, appears at every turn in the history of the later Republic. But, whatever the immediate motives for the passing of the measure, a great and healthy principle lay behind it. It was the principle that considerations of foreign policy should not be directly controlled or hampered by questions of trade, that the policy of the State should not become the sport of the selfish vagaries of capital. The spirit thus expressed was directly inimical to the interests of the merchant, the contractor and the tax-farmer. How inimical it was could not yet be clearly seen; for the transmarine interests of Rome had not at the time attained a development which invited the mastery of conquered lands by the Roman capitalist. But, whether this Clodian law created or merely formulated the antithesis between land and trade, between Italian and provincial profits, it is yet certain that this antithesis was one of the most powerful of the animating factors of Roman history for the better part of the two centuries which were to follow the enactment. It produced the conflict between a policy of restricted enterprise, pursued for the good of the State and the subject, and a policy of expansion which obeyed the interests of capital, between a policy of cautious protection and that madness of imperialism which is ever associated with barbarism, brigandage or trade.
But, if we inquire whether this enactment attained its ostensible object of completely shutting out senators from the profits of any enterprise that could properly be described as commercial, we shall find an affirmative answer to be more than dubious. The law was a dead letter when Cicero indicted Verres, but its demise may have been reached through a long and slow process of decline. But, even if the provisions of the law had been adhered to throughout the period which we are considering, the avenue to wealth derived from business intercourse with the provinces would not necessarily have been closed to the official class. We shall soon see that the companies which were formed for undertaking the state-contracts probably permitted shares to be held by individuals who never appeared in the registered list of partners at all, and we know that to hold a share in a great public concern was considered one of the methods of business which did not subject the participant to the taint of a vulgar commercialism. And, if the senator chose to indulge more directly in the profits of transmarine commerce, to what extent was he really hindered by the provisions of the law? He might not own a ship of burden, but his freedmen might sail to any port on the largest vessels, and who could object if the returns which the dependant owed his lord were drawn from the profits of commerce? Again there was no prohibition against loans on bottomry, and Cato had increased his wealth by becoming through his freedman a member of a maritime company, each partner in which had but a limited liability and the prospect of enormous gains. The example of this energetic money-getter also illustrates many ways in which the nobleman of business tastes could increase his profits without extending his enterprises far from the capital. It was possible to exploit the growing taste in country villas, in streams and lakes and natural woods; to buy a likely spot for a small price, let it at a good rental, or sell it at a larger price. The ownership of house property within the town, which grew eventually into the monopoly of whole blocks and streets by such a man as Crassus, was in every way consistent with the possession of senatorial rank. It was even possible to be a slave-dealer without loss of dignity, at least if one transacted the sordid details of the business through a slave. The young and promising boy required but a year’s training in the arts to enable the careful buyer to make a large profit by his sale. Yet such methods must have been regarded by the nobility as a whole as merely subsidiary means of increasing their patrimony: and, in spite of the fact that Cato took the view that agriculture should be an amusement rather than a business, there can be no doubt that the staple of the wealth of the official class was still to be found in the acres of Italy. It was not, however, the wealth of the moderate homestead which was to be won from a careful tillage of the fields; it was the wealth which, as we shall soon see, was associated with the slave-capitalist, the overseer, a foreign method of cultivation on the model of the grand plantation-systems of the East, and a belief in the superior value of pasturage to tillage which was to turn many a populous and fertile plain into a wilderness of danger and desolation.
But, strive as he would, there was many a nobleman who found that his expenditure could not be met by dabbling in trade where others plunged, or by the revenues yielded by the large tracts of Italian soil over which he claimed exclusive powers. The playwright of the age has figured Indigence as the daughter of Luxury; and a still more terrible child was to be born in the Avarice which sprang from the useless cravings and fierce competitions of the time. The desire to get and to hold had ever been a Roman vice; but, it had also been the unvarying assumption of the Roman State, and the conviction of the Roman official–a conviction so deeply seated and spontaneous as to form no ground for self-congratulation that the lust for acquisition should limit itself to the domain of private right, and never cross the rigid barrier which divided that domain from the sphere of wealth and power which the city had committed to its servant as a solemn trust. The better sort of overseer was often found in the crabbed man of business–a Cato, for example–who would never waive a right of his own and protected those of his dependants with similar tenacity and passion. The honour which prevailed in the commercial code at home was considered so much a matter of course in all dealings with the foreign world, that the State scorned to scrutinise the expenditure of its ministers and was spared the disgrace of a system of public audit. Even in this age, which is regarded by the ancient historians as marking the beginning of the decline in public virtue, Polybius could contrast the attitude of suspicion towards the guardians of the State, which was the characteristic of the official life of his own unhappy country, with the well-founded confidence which Rome reposed in the honour of her ministers, and could tell the world that “if but a talent of money were entrusted to a magistrate of a Greek state, ten auditors, as many seals and twice as many witnesses are required for the security of the bond; yet even so faith is not observed; while the Roman in an official or diplomatic post, who handles vast sums of money, adheres to his duty through the mere moral obligation of the oath which he has sworn”; that “amongst the Romans the corrupt official is as rare a portent as is the financier with clean hands amongst other peoples”. When the elder Africanus tore up the account books of his brother–books which recorded the passage of eighteen thousand talents from an Asiatic king to a Roman general and from him to the Roman State–he was imparting a lesson in confidence, which was immediately accepted by the senate and people. And it seems that, so far as the expenditure of public moneys was concerned, this confidence continued to be justified. It is true that Cato had furiously impugned the honour of commanders in the matter of the distribution of the prizes of war amongst the soldiers and had drawn a bitter contrast between private and official thieves. “The former,” he said, “pass their lives in thongs and iron fetters, the latter in purple and gold.”  But there were no fixed rules of practice which guided such a distribution, and a commander, otherwise honest, might feel no qualms of conscience in exercising a selective taste on his own behalf. On the other hand, deliberate misappropriation of the public funds seems to have been seldom suspected or at least seldom made the subject of judicial cognisance, and for many years after a standing court was established for the trial of extortion no similar tribunal was thought necessary for the crime of peculation. Apart from the long, tortuous and ineffective trial of the Scipios, no question of the kind is known to have been raised since Manius Acilius Glabrio, the conqueror of Antiochus and the Aetolians, competed for the censorship. Then a story, based on the existence of the indubitable wealth which he was employing with a lavish hand to win the favour of the people, was raked up against him by some jealous members of the nobility. It was professed that some money and booty, found in the camp of the king, had never been exhibited in the triumph nor deposited in the treasury. The evidence of legates and military tribunes was invited, and Cato, himself a competitor for the censorship, was ready to testify that gold and silver vases, which he had seen in the captured camp, had not been visible in the triumphal procession. Glabrio waived his candidature, but the people were unwilling to convict and the prosecution was abandoned. Here again we are confronted by the old temptation of curio-hunting, which, the nobility deemed indecent in so “new” a man as Glabrio; the evidence of Cato–the only testimony which proved dangerous–did not establish the charge that money due to the State had been intercepted by a Roman consul.
But the regard for the property of the State was unfortunately not extended to the property of its clients. Even before the provinces had yielded a prey rendered easy by distance and irresponsibility, Italian cities had been forced to complain of the violence and rapacity of Roman commanders quartered in their neighbourhood, and the passive silence with which the Praenestines bore the immoderate requisitions of a consul, was a fatal guarantee of impunity which threatened to alter for ever the relations of these free allies to the protecting power. But provincial commands offered greater temptations and a far more favourable field for capricious tyranny; for here the exactions of the governor were neither repudiated by an oath of office nor at first even forbidden by the sanctions of a law. Requisitions could be made to meet the needs of the moment, and these needs were naturally interpreted to suit the cravings and the tastes of the governor of the moment. Cato not only cut down the expenses that had been arbitrarily imposed on the unhappy natives of Sardinia, but seems to have been the author of a definite law which fixed a limit to such requisitions in the future. But it was easier to frame an ordinance than to guarantee its observation, and, at a time when the surrounding world was seething with war, the regulations made for a peaceful province could not touch the actions of a victorious commander who was following up the results of conquest. Complaints began to pour in on every hand–from the Ambraciots of Greece, the Cenomani of Gaul –and the senate did its best, either by its own cognisance or by the creation of a commission of investigation, to meet the claims of the dependent peoples. A kind of rude justice was the result, but it was much too rude to meet an evil which was soon seen to be developing into a trade of systematic oppression. A novel step was taken when in 171 delegates from the two Spains appeared in the Curia to complain of the avarice and insolence of their Roman governors. A praetor was commissioned to choose from the senatorial order five of such judges as were wont to be selected for the settlement of international disputes (_recuperatores_), to sit in judgment on each of the indicted governors, and the germ of a regular court for what had now become a regular offence was thus developed. The further and more shameful confession, that the court should be permanent and interpret a definite statute, was soon made, and the Calpurnian law of 149was the first of that long series of enactments for extortion which mark the futility of corrective measures in the face of a weak system of legal, and a still weaker system of moral, control. Trials for extortion soon became the plaything of politics, the favourite arena for the exercise of the energies of a young and rising politician, the favourite weapon with which old family feuds might be at once revenged and perpetuated. They were soon destined to gain a still greater significance as furnishing the criteria of the methods of administration which the State was expected to employ, as determining the respective rights of the administrator and the capitalist to guide the destinies of the inhabitants of a dependent district. Their manifold political significance destroys our confidence in their judgments, and we can seldom tell whether the acquittal or the condemnation which these courts pronounced was justified on the evidence adduced. But there can be no question of the evil that lay behind this legislative and judicial activity. The motive which led men to assume administrative posts abroad was in many cases thoroughly selfish and mean,–the desire to acquire wealth as rapidly as was consistent with keeping on the safe side of a not very exacting law. No motive of this kind can ever be universal in a political society, and in Rome we cannot even pronounce it to be general. Power and distinction attracted the Roman as much as wealth, and some governors were saved from temptation by the colossal fortunes which they already possessed. But how early it had begun to operate in the minds of many is shown by the eagerness which, as we shall see, was soon to be displayed by rival consuls for the conduct of a war that might give the victor a prolonged control over the rich cities which had belonged to the kingdom of Pergamon, if it is not proved by the strange unwillingness which magistrates had long before exhibited to assume some commands which had been entrusted to their charge.
A suspicion of another type of abuse of power, more degrading though not necessarily more harmful than the plunder of subjects, had begun to be raised in the minds of the people and the government. It was held that a Roman might be found who would sell the supposed interests of his country to a foreign potentate, or at any rate accept a present which might or might not influence his judgment, A commissioner to Illyria had been suspected of pocketing money offered him by the potentates of that district in 171, and the first hint was given of that shattering of public confidence in the integrity of diplomatists which wrought such havoc in the foreign politics of the period which forms the immediate subject of our work. The system of the Protectorate, which Rome had so widely adopted, with its secret diplomatic dealings and its hidden conferences with kings, offered greater facilities for secret enrichment, and greater security for the enjoyment of the acquired wealth, even than the plunder of a province. The proof of the committal of the act was difficult, in most cases impossible. We must be content to chronicle the suspicion of its growing frequency, and the suspicion is terrible enough. If the custom of wringing wealth from subjects and selling support to potentates continued to prevail, the stage might soon be reached at which it could be said, with that element of exaggeration which lends emphasis to a truth, that a small group of men were drawing revenues from every nation in the world.
Such were the sources of wealth that lay open to men, to whom commerce was officially barred and who were supposed to have no direct interest in financial operations. Far ampler spheres of pecuniary enrichment, more uniformly legal if sometimes as oppressive, were open to the class of men who by this time had been recognised as forming a kind of second order in the State. The citizens who had been proved by the returns at the census to have a certain amount of realisable capital at their disposal–a class of citizens that ranged from the possessors of a moderate patrimony, such as society might employ as a line of demarcation between an upper and a lower middle class, to the controllers of the most gigantic fortunes–had been welded into a body possessing considerable social and political solidarity. This solidarity had been attained chiefly through the community of interest derived from the similar methods of pecuniary investment which they employed, but also through the circumstance (slight in itself but significant in an ancient society which ever tended to fall into grades) that all the members of this class could describe themselves by the courtesy title of “Knights”–a description justified by the right which they possessed of serving on their own horses with the Roman cavalry instead of sharing the foot-service of the legionary. A common designation was not inappropriate to men who were in a certain sense public servants and formed in a very real sense a branch of the administration. The knight might have many avocations; he might be a money-lender, a banker, a large importer; but he was preeminently a farmer of the taxes. His position in the former cases was simply that of an individual, who might or might not be temporarily associated with others; his position in the latter case meant that he was a member of a powerful and permanent corporation, one which served a government from which it might wring great profits or at whose hands it might suffer heavy loss–a government to be helped in its distress, to be fought when its demands were overbearing, to be encouraged when its measures seemed progressive, to be hindered when they seemed reactionary from a commercial point of view. A group of individuals or private firms could never have attained the consistency of organisation, or maintained the uniformity of policy, which was displayed by these societies of revenue-collectors; even a company must have a long life before it can attain strength and confidence sufficient to act in a spirited manner in opposition to the State; and it seems certain that these societies were wholly exempted from the paralysing principle which the Roman law applied to partnership–a principle which dictated that every partnership should be dissolved by the death or retirement of one of the associates. The State, which possessed no civil service of its own worthy of the name, had taken pains to secure permanent organisations of private share-holders which should satisfy its needs, to give them something of an official character, and to secure to each one of them as a result of its permanence an individual strength which, in spite of the theory that the taxes and the public works were put up to auction, may have secured to some of these companies a practical monopoly of a definite sphere of operations. But a company, at Rome as elsewhere, is powerful in proportion to the breadth of its basis. A small ring of capitalists may tyrannise over society as long as they confine themselves to securing a monopoly over private enterprises, and as long as the law permits them to exercise this autocratic power without control; but such a ring is far less capable of meeting the arbitrary dictation of an aristocratic body of landholders, such as the senate, or of encountering the resentful opposition of a nominally all-powerful body of consumers, such as the Comitia, than a corporation which has struck its roots deeply in society by the wide distribution of its shares. We know from the positive assurance of a skilled observer of Roman life that the number of citizens who had an interest in these companies was particularly large. This observer emphasises the fact in order to illustrate the dependence of a large section of society on the will of the senate, which possessed the power of controlling the terms of the agreements both for the public works which it placed in the hands of contractors and for the sources of production which it put out to lease; but it is equally obvious that the large size of the number of shareholders must have exercised a profoundly modifying influence on the arbitrary authority of a body such as the senate which governed chiefly through deference to public opinion; and we know that, in the last resort, an appeal could be made to the sovereign assembly, if a magistrate could be found bold enough to carry to that quarter a proposal that had been discountenanced by the senate. In such crises the strength of the companies depended mainly on the number of individual interests that were at stake; the shareholder is more likely to appear at such gatherings than the man who is not profoundly affected by the issue, and it is very seldom that the average consumer has insight enough to see, or energy enough to resist, the sufferings and inconveniences which spring from the machinations of capital. It may have been possible at times to pack a legislative assembly with men who had some financial interest, however slight, in a dispute arising from a contract calling for decision; and the time was soon to come when such questions of detail would give place to far larger questions of policy, when the issues springing from a line of foreign activity which had been taken by the government might be debated in the cold and glittering light of the golden stakes the loss or gain of which depended upon the policy pursued. Nor could it have been easy even for the experienced eye to see from the survey of such a gathering that it represented the army of capital. Research has rendered it probable that the companies of the time were composed of an outer as well as of an inner circle; that the mass of shareholders differed from those who were the promoters, managers and active agents in the concern, that the liability of the former at least was limited and that their shares, whether small or great, were transmissible and subject to the fluctuations of the market. But, even if we do not believe that this distinction between _socii_ and _participes_ was legally elaborated, yet there were probably means by which members of the outside public could enter into business relations with the recognised partners in one of these concerns to share its profits and its losses. The freedman, who had invested his small savings in the business of an enterprising patron, would attach the same mercantile value to his own vote in the assembly as would be given to his suffrage in the senate by some noble peer, who had bartered the independence of his judgment for the acquisition of more rapid profits than could be drawn from land.
The farmers of the revenue fell into three broad classes. First there were the contractors for the creation, maintenance and repair of the public works possessed or projected by the State, such as roads, aqueducts, bridges, temples and other public buildings. Gigantic profits were not possible in such an enterprise, if the censors and their advisers acted with knowledge, impartiality and discretion; for the lowest possible tender was obtained for such contracts and the results might be repudiated if inspection proved them to be unsatisfactory. Secondly there were the companies which leased sources of production that were owned by the State such as fisheries, salt-works, mines and forest land. In some particular cases even arable land had been dealt with in this way, and the confiscated territories of Capua and Corinth were let on long leases to _publicani_. Thirdly there were the societies, which did not themselves acquire leases but acted as true intermediaries between the State and individuals who paid it revenue whether as occupants of its territory, or as making use of sites which it claimed to control, or as owing dues which had been prescribed by agreement or by law. These classes of debtors to the State with whom the middlemen came into contact may be illustrated respectively by the occupants of the domain land of Italy, the ship-masters who touched at ports, and the provincials such as those of Sicily or Sardinia who were burdened with the payment of a tithe of the produce of their lands. If we consider separately the characteristics of the three classes of state-farmers, we find that the first and the second are both direct employers of labour, the third reaping only indirect profits from the production controlled by others. It was in this respect, as employers of labour, that the societies of the time were free from the anxieties and restrictions that beset the modern employment of capital. Except in the rare case where the contractors had leased arable land and sublet it to its original occupants,–the treatment which seems to have been adopted for the Campanian territory–there can be no question that the work which they controlled was done mainly by the hands of slaves. They were therefore exempt from the annoyance and expense which might be caused by the competition and the organised resistance of free labour. The slaves employed in many of these industries must have been highly skilled; for many of these spheres of wealth which the State had delegated to contractors required peculiar industrial appliances and unusual knowledge in the foremen and leading artificers. The weakness of slave-labour,–its lack of intelligence and spirit–could not have been so keenly felt as it was on the great agricultural estates, which offered employment chiefly for the unskilled; and the difficulties that might arise from the lack of strength or interest, from the possession of hands that were either feeble or inert, were probably overcome in the same uncompromising manner in the workshop of the contractor and on the domains of the landed gentry. The maxim that an aged slave should be sold could not have been peculiar to the dabbler in agriculture, and the _ergastulum_ with its chained gangs must have been as familiar to the manufacturer as to the landed proprietor. As to the promoters and the shareholders of these companies, it could not be expected that they should trace in imagination, or tremble as they traced, the heartless, perhaps inhuman, means by which the regular returns on their capital were secured. Nor is it probable that the government of this period took any great care to supervise the conditions of the work or the lot of the workman. The partner desired quick and great returns, the State large rents and small tenders. The remorseless drain on human energy, the waste of human life, and the practical abeyance of free labour which was flooding the towns with idlers, were ideas which, if they ever arose, were probably kept in the background by a government which was generally in financial difficulties, and by individuals animated by all the fierce commercial competition of the age.
The desire of contractors and lessees for larger profits naturally took the form of an eagerness to extend their sphere of operations. Every advance in the Roman sphere of military occupation implied the making of new roads, bridges and aqueducts; every extension of this sphere was likely to be followed by the confiscation of certain territories, which the State would declare to be public domains and hand over to the company that would guarantee the payment of the largest revenue. But the sordid imperialism which animated the contractor and lessee must have been as nothing to that which fed the dreams of the true state-middleman, the individual who intervened between the taxpayer and the State, the producer and the consumer. Conquest would mean fresh lines of coast and frontier, on which would be set the toil-houses of the collectors with their local directors and their active “families” of freedmen and slaves. It might even mean that a more prolific source of revenue would be handed over to the care of the publican. The spectacle of the method in which the land-tax was assessed and collected in Sicily and Sardinia may have already inspired the hope that the next instance of provincial organisation might see greater justice done to the capitalists of Rome. When Sicily had been brought under Roman sway, the aloofness of the government from financial interests, as well as its innate conservatism, justified by the success of Italian organisation, which dictated the view that local institutions should not be lightly changed, had led it to accept the methods for the taxation of land which it found prevalent in the island at the time of its annexation. The methods implied assessment by local officials and collection by local companies or states. It is true that neither consequence entirely excluded the enterprise of the Roman capitalists; they had crossed the Straits of Messina on many a private enterprise and had settled in such large numbers in the business centres of the island that the charter given to the Sicilian cities after the first servile war made detailed provision for the settlement of suits between Romans and natives. It was not to be expected that they should refrain from joining in, or competing with, the local companies who bid for the Sicilian tithes, nor was such association or competition forbidden by the law. But the scattered groups of capitalists who came into contact with the Sicilian yeomen did not possess the official character and the official influence of the great companies of Italy. No association, however powerful, could boast a monopoly of the main source of revenue in the island. But what they had done was an index of what they might do, if another opportunity and a more complaisant government could be found. Any individual or any party which could promise the knights the unquestioned control of the revenues of a new province would be sure of their heartiest sympathy and support.
And it would be worth the while of any individual or party which ventured to frame a programme traversing the lines of political orthodoxy, to bid for the co-operation of this class. For recent history had shown that the thorough organisation of capital, encouraged by the State to rid itself of a tiresome burden in times of peace and to secure itself a support in times of need, might become, as it pleased, a bulwark or a menace to the government which had created it. The useful monster had begun to develop a self-consciousness of his own. He had his amiable, even his patriotic moments; but his activity might be accompanied by the grim demand for a price which his nominal master was not prepared to pay. The darkest and the brightest aspects of the commercial spirit had been in turn exhibited during the Second Punic War. On the one hand we find an organised band of publicans attempting to break up an assembly before which a fraudulent contractor and wrecker was to be tried; on the other, we find them meeting the shock of Cannae with the offer of a large loan to the beggared treasury, lent without guarantee and on the bare word of a ruined government that it should be met when there was money to meet it. Other companies came forward to put their hands to the public works, even the most necessary of which had been suspended by the misery of the war, and told the bankrupt State that they would ask for their payment when the struggle had completely closed. A noble spectacle! and if the positions of employer and employed had been reversed only in such crises and in such a way, no harm could come of the memory either of the obligation or the service. But the strength shown by this beneficence sometimes exhibited itself in unpleasant forms and led to unpleasant consequences. The censorships of Cato and of Gracchus had been fierce struggles of conservative officialdom against the growing influence and (as these magistrates held) the swelling insolence of the public companies; and in both cases the associations had sought and found assistance, either from a sympathetic party within the senate, or from the people. Cato’s regulations had been reversed and their vigorous author had been threatened with a tribunician prosecution before the Comitia; while Gracchus and his colleague had actually been impeached before a popular court. The reckless employment of servile labour by the companies that farmed the property of the State had already proved a danger to public security. The society which had purchased from the censors the right of gathering pitch from the Bruttian forest of Sila had filled the neighbourhood with bands of fierce and uncontrolled dependants, chiefly slaves, but partly men of free birth who may have been drawn from the desperate Bruttians whom Rome had driven from their homes. The consequences were deeds of violence and murder, which called for the intervention of the senate, and the consuls had been appointed as a special commission to inquire into the outrages. Nor were complaints limited to Italy; provincial abuses had already called for drastic remedies. A proof that this was the case is to be found in the striking fact that on the renewed settlement of Macedonia in 167 it was actually decreed that the working of the mines in that country, at least on the extended scale which would have required a system of contract, should be given up. It was considered dangerous to entrust it to native companies, and as to the Roman-their mere presence in the country would mean the surrender of all guarantees of the rule of public law or of the enjoyment of liberty by the provincials. The State still preferred the embarrassments of poverty to those of overbearing wealth; its choice proved its weakness; but even the element of strength displayed in the surrender might soon be missed, if capital obtained a wider influence and a more definite political recognition. As things were, these organisations of capital were but just becoming conscious of their strength and had by no means reached even the prime of their vigour. The opening up of the riches of the East were required to develop the gigantic manhood which should dwarf the petty figure of the agricultural wealth of Italy.
Had the state-contractors stood alone, or had not they engaged in varied enterprises for which their official character offered a favourable point of vantage, the numbers and influence of the individuals who had embarked their capital in commercial enterprise would have been far smaller than they actually were. But, in addition to the publican, we must take account of the business man (_negotiator_) who lent money on interest or exercised the profession of a banker. Such men had pecuniary interests which knew no geographical limits, and in all broad questions of policy were likely to side with the state-contractor. The money-lender (_fenerator_) represented one of the earliest, most familiar and most courted forms of Roman enterprise–one whose intrinsic attractions for the grasping Roman mind had resisted every effort of the legislature by engaging in its support the wealthiest landowner as well as the smallest usurer. It is true that a taint clung to the trade–a taint which was not merely a product of the mistaken economic conception of the nature of the profits made by the lender, but was the more immediate outcome of social misery and the fulminations of the legislature. Cato points to the fact that the Roman law had stamped the usurer as a greater curse to society than the common thief, and makes the dishonesty of loans on interest a sufficient ground for declining a form of investment that was at once safe and profitable. Usury, he had also maintained, was a form of homicide. But to the majority of minds this feeling of dishonour had always been purely external and superficial. The proceedings were not repugnant to the finer sense if they were not made the object of a life-long profession and not blatantly exhibited to the eyes of the public. A taint clung to the money-lender who sat in an office in the Forum, and handed his loans or received his interest over the counter; it was not felt by the capitalist who stood behind this small dealer, by the nobleman whose agent lent seed-corn to the neighbouring yeomen, by the investor in the state-contracts who perhaps hardly realised that his profits represented but an indirect form of usury. But, whatever restrictions public opinion may have imposed on the money-lender as a dealer in Rome and with Romans, such restrictions were not likely to be felt by the man who had the capital and the enterprise to carry his financial operations beyond the sea. Not only was he dealing with provincials or foreigners, but he was dealing on a scale so grand that the magnitude of the business almost concealed its shame. Cities and kings were now to be the recipients of loans and, if the lender occupied a political position that seemed inconsistent with the profession of a usurer, his personality might be successfully concealed under the name of some local agent, who was adequately rewarded for the obloquy which he incurred in the eyes of the native populations, and the embarrassing conflicts with the Roman government which were sometimes entailed by an excess of zeal. Cato had swept both principals and agents out of his province of Sardinia; but he was a man who courted hostility, and he lived before the age when the enmity of capital would prove the certain ruin of the governor and a source of probable danger to the senate. In the operations of the money-lender we find the most universal link between the Forum and the provinces. There was no country so poor that it might not be successfully exploited, and indeed exploitation was often conditioned by simplicity of character, lack of familiarity with the developed systems of finance, and the lack of thrift which amongst peoples of low culture is the source of their constant need. The employment of capital for this purpose was always far in advance of the limits of Roman dominion. A protectorate might be in the grasp of a group of private individuals long before it was absorbed into the empire, the extension of the frontiers was conditioned by considerations of pecuniary, not of political safety, and the government might at any moment be forced into a war to protect the interests of capitalists whom, in its collective capacity as a government, it regarded as the greatest foes of its dominion.
A more beneficent employment of capital was illustrated by the profession of banking which, like most of the arts which exhibit the highest refinement of the practical intellect, had been given to the Romans by the Greeks. It had penetrated from Magna Graecia to Latium and from Latium to Rome, and had been fully established in the city by the time of the Second Punic War. The strangers, who had introduced an art which so greatly facilitated the conduct of business transactions, had been welcomed by the government, and were encouraged to ply their calling in the shops rented from the State on the north and south sides of the Forum. These _argentarii_ satisfied the two needs of the exchange of foreign money, and of advances in cash on easier terms than could be gained from the professional or secret usurer, to citizens of every grade who did not wish, or found it difficult, to turn their real property into gold. Similar functions were at a somewhat later period usurped by the money-testers (_nummularii_), who perhaps entered Rome shortly after the issue of the first native silver coinage, and competed with the earlier-established bankers in most of the branches of their trade. Ultimately there was no department of business connected with the transference and circulation of money which the joint profession did not embrace. Its representatives were concerned with the purchase and sale of coin, and the equalisation of home with foreign rates of exchange; they lent on credit, gave security for others’ loans, and received money on deposit; they acted as intermediaries between creditors and debtors in the most distant places and gave their travelling customers circular notes on associated houses in foreign lands; they were equally ready to dissipate by auction an estate that had become the property of a congress of creditors or a number of legatees. Their carefully kept books improved even the methodical habits of the Romans in the matter of business entries, and introduced the form of “contract by ledger” (_litterarum obligatio_), which greatly facilitated business operations on an extended scale by substituting the written record of obligation for other bonds more difficult to conclude and more easy to evade.
The business life of Rome was in every way worthy of her position as an imperial city, and her business centre was becoming the greatest exchange of the commercial world of the day. The forum still drew its largest crowds to listen to the voice of the lawyer or the orator; but these attractions were occasional and the constant throng that any day might witness was drawn thither by the enticements supplied by the spirit of adventure, the thirst for news and the strain of business life. The comic poet has drawn for us a picture of the shifting crowd and its chief elements, good and bad, honest and dishonest. He has shown us the man who mingles pleasure with his business, lingering under the Basilica in extremely doubtful company; there too is a certain class of business men giving or accepting verbal bonds. In the lower part of the Forum stroll the lords of the exchange, rich and of high repute; under the old shops on the north sit the bankers, giving and receiving loans on interest.
The Forum has become in common language the symbol of all the ups and downs of business life, and the moralist of later times could refer all students, who wish to master the lore of the quest and investment of money, to the excellent men who have their station by the temple of Janus. The aspect of the market place had altered greatly to meet the growing needs. Great Basilicae–sheltered promenades which probably derived their names from the Royal Courts of the Hellenic East–had lately been erected. Two of the earliest, the Porcian and Sempronian, had been raised on the site of business premises which had been bought up for the purpose, and were meant to serve the purposes of a market and an exchange. Their sheltering roofs were soon employed to accommodate the courts of justice, but it was the business not the legal life of Rome that called these grand edifices into existence.
The financial activity which centred in the Forum was a consequence, not merely of the contract-system encouraged by the State and of the business of the banker and the money-lender, but of the great foreign trade which supplied the wants and luxuries of Italy and Rome. This was an import trade concerned partly with the supply of corn for a nation that could no longer feed itself, partly with the supply of luxuries from the East and of more necessary products, including instruments of production, from the West. The Eastern trade touched the Euxine Sea at