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A History of Roman Literature by Charles Thomas Cruttwell

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their apparent dulness results from their having been always familiar
words. Their utility to the student of literature is so considerable, that
we have thought it worth while to append a translation of them to the
present chapter. [11]

The eleventh book chiefly turns on memory, which the Romans cultivated
with extreme diligence, and several remarkable instances of which have
been noticed in the course of this work. It was to them a much more vital
excellence than to us, who have adopted the practice of using rough notes
or other assistance to it. Delivery, too, is in the eleventh book fully
discussed; and these chapters will be read with interest as showing the
extreme and minute care bestowed by the Romans on the smallest details of
action as means of producing effect. Generally, their oratory was of a
vehement type. Gesture was freely used, and the voice raised to its
fullest pitch. Trachalus had such a noisy organ that it drowned the
pleaders in the other courts. Even after the decay of freedom the fiery
gestures that had been once its language were not discarded; at the same
time perfect modulation and symmetry were aimed at, so that even in the
most _empresse_ passages decorum was not violated. The systematized
rhetorical training at present general in France, and practised by all who
aspire to arouse the feeling of an assembly, is probably the nearest,
though it may be but a faint, equivalent of the vigorous action of the
Roman courts. The twelfth book treats of the moral qualifications
necessary for a great speaker. Quintilian insists strongly on these. The
good orator must be a good man. The highest talents are nothing if
distorted by evil thoughts. We thus see that he took a worthy view of his
profession, and would never have degraded it to be the instrument of
tyranny or a means of saturating the ears of the idle with seductive and
complaisant theories of life, by which a spurious popularity is so cheaply
obtained. He was a high-minded man "_quantum licuit_;" _i.e._, as far as a
debased age allowed of high-mindedness. His domestic life was clouded by
sorrow. His first wife died at the early age of nineteen, leaving him two
sons, the younger of whom only lived to the age of seven, and the elder
(for whose instruction he wrote the book, and whose precocious talent and
goodness of disposition he recounts with pardonable pride) only survived
his brother about four years. His death was an irremediable blow, which
the orator bewails in the preface to his sixth book. The passage is
instructive as revealing the taste of the day. The paternal regret clothes
itself in such a profusion of antithesis, trope, and hyperbole, that, did
we not know from other sources the excellence of his heart, we might fancy
he was exercising his talents in the sphere of professional
_advertisement_. Before his endowment as professor, which appears to have
brought him about L800 a year, he had occasionally pleaded in the courts;
he appears to have written declamations in various styles, but those now
current under his name are improperly ascribed to him.

Among his pupils was the younger Pliny, who alludes to him with gratitude
in one of his letters; [12] he was well thought of during his life, and is
frequently mentioned by Statius, Martial, and Juvenal, both as the
cleverest of rhetoricians, and the best and most trusted of teachers; [13]
by Juvenal also as a bright instance of good fortune very rare among the
brethren of the craft. [14]

The style of Quintilian is modelled on that of Cicero, and is intended to
be a return to the usages of the best period. He had a warm love for the
writers of the republican age, above all for Cicero, whom he is never
tired of praising; and he preached a crusade against the tinsel ornaments
of the new school whose viciousness, he thought, consisted chiefly in a
corrupt following of Seneca. It was necessary, therefore, to impugn the
authority of his brilliant compatriot, and this he appears to have done
with such warmth as to give rise to the opinion that he had a personal
grudge against him. Some critics have noticed that Quintilian, even when
blaming, often falls into the pointed antithetical style of his time. This
is true. But it was unavoidable; for no man can detach himself from the
mode of speaking common to those with whom he lives. It is sufficient if
he be aware of its worse faults, point out their tendency, and strive to
avoid them. This undoubtedly Quintilian did.

Among prose writers of less note we may mention LICINIUS MUCIANUS, CLUVIUS
RUFUS, who both wrote histories; and VIPSTANUS MESSALA, an orator of the
reactionary school, who, like Quintilian, sought to restore a purer taste,
and devoted some of his time to historical essays on the events he had
witnessed. M. APER and JULIUS SECUNDUS are important as being two of the
speakers introduced into Tacitus's dialogue on oratory, the former taking
the part of the modern style, the latter mediating between the two extreme
views, but inclining towards the modern. All these belonged to the reigns
of Vespasian and Titus, and lived into the first years of Domitian.

An important writer for students of ancient applied science is SEX. JULIUS
FRONTINUS, whose career extends from about 40 A.D. to the end of the first
century. He was praetor urbanus 70 A.D., and was employed in responsible
military posts in Gaul and Britain. In the former country he reduced the
powerful tribe of the Lingones, in Britain, as successor to Petilius
Cerealis, he distinguished himself against the Silures, showing, says
Tacitus, qualities as great as it was safe to show at that time. He was
thrice consul, once under Domitian, again under Nerva (97 A.D.), and
lastly under Trajan (100 A.D.), when he had for colleague the emperor
himself. He died 103 A.D. or perhaps in the following year. Pliny the
younger knew him well, and has several notices of him in his letters.
Throughout his active life he was above all things a man of business:
literature and science, though he was a proficient in both, were made
strictly subservient to the ends of his profession. His character was
cautious but independent, and he is the only contemporary writer we
possess who does not flatter Domitian. The work on gromatics, which
originally contained two books, has descended to us only in a few short
excerpts, which treat _de agrorum gualitate, de controversiis, de
limitibus, de controversiis aquarum_. This was written early in the reign
of Domitian. Another work of the same period was a theoretical treatise on
tactics, alluded to in the more popular work which we possess, and quoted
by Vegetius who followed him. In this he examined Greek theories of
warfare as well as Roman, and apparently with discrimination; for Aelian,
in his account of the Greek strategical writers, assigns Frontinus a high
place. The comprehensive manual called _Strategematon_ (_sollertia ducum
facta_) is intended for general reading among those who are interested in
military matters. The books are arranged according to their subjects, but
in the distribution of these there is no definite plan followed. Many
interpolations have been inserted, especially in the fourth and last book
which is a kind of appendix, adding general examples of strategic sayings
and doings (_strategematica_) to the specifically-selected instances of
the strategic art which are treated in the first three. Its introduction,
as Teuffel remarks, is written in a boastful style quite foreign to
Frontinus, and the arrangement of anecdotes under various moral headings
reminds us of a rhetorician like Valerius Maximus, rather than of a man of
affairs. The entire fourth book appears to be an accretion, perhaps as
early as the fourth century. The last treatise by Frontinus which we
possess is that _De Aquis Urbis Romae_, or with a slightly different
title, _De Aquaeductu_, or _De Cura Aquarum_, published under Trajan soon
after the death of Nerva. In an admirable preface he explains that his
invariable custom when intrusted with any work was to make himself
thoroughly acquainted with the subject in all its bearings before
beginning to act; he could thus work with greater promptitude and
despatch, and besides gained a theoretical knowledge which might have
escaped him amid the multitude of practical details. Frontinus's account
of the water-supply of Rome is complete and valuable: recent explorers
have found it thoroughly trustworthy, and have been aided by it in
reconstructing the topography of the ancient city. [15] The architecture
of Rome has been reproached with some justice for bestowing its finest
achievements on buildings destined for amusement, or on mere private
dwellings. But if from the amphitheatres, the villas, the baths, we turn
to the roads, the sewers, and the aqueducts, we shall agree with Frontinus
in deeply admiring so grand a combination of the artistic with the useful.
A practical recognition of some of the great sanitary laws seem to have
early prevailed at Rome, and might well excite our wonder, if such things
had not been as a rule passed by in silence by historians. Recent
discoveries are tending to set the early civilisation of Rome on a far
higher level than it has hitherto been able to claim.

The style of Frontinus is not so devoid of ornament as might be expected
from one so much occupied in business; but the ornament it has is of the
best kind. He shuns the conceits of the period, and goes back to the
republican authors, of whom (and especially of Caesar's _Commentaries_)
his language strongly reminds us. We observe that the very simplicity
which Quintilian sought in vain from a lifelong rhetorical training is
present unsought in Frontinus; a clear proof that it is the occupation of
life and the nature of the man, not the varnish of artistic culture,
however elaborately laid on, that determines the main characteristics of
the writer.

No other prose authors of any name have come down to us from this epoch. A
vast number of persons are flatteringly saluted by Statius and Martial as
orators, historians, jurists, &c.; but these venal poets had a stock of
complimentary phrases always ready for any one powerful enough to command
them. When we read therefore that Tutilius, Regulus, Flavius Ursus,
Septimius Severus, were great writers, we must accept the statement only
with considerable reductions. Victorius Marcellus, the friend to whom
Quintilian dedicates his treatise, was probably a person of some real
eminence; his juridical knowledge is celebrated by Statius. The _Silvae_
of Statius and the letters of Pliny imply that there was a very active and
generally diffused interest in science and letters; but it is easy to be
somebody where no one is great. Among grammarians AEMILIUS ASPER deserves
notice. [16] He seems to have been living while Suetonius composed his
biography of grammarians, since he is not included in it. He continued the
studies of Cornutus and Probus of Berytus, and was best known for his
_Quaestiones Virgilianae_ (of which several fragments still remain), and
his commentaries on Terence and Sallust. LARGUS LICINIUS, the author of
_Ciceromastix_, may perhaps be referred to this time. The reiterated
commendation of Cicero occurring in Quintilian may have roused the
modernising party into active opposition, and drawn out this _brochure_.
History and philosophy both sunk to an extremely low ebb; no writers on
these subjects worthy of mention are preserved.


_Quintilian's Account of the Roman Authors._

We subjoin a translation of Quintilian's criticism of the chief Roman
authors as very important for the student of Latin literature, premising,
however, that he judged them solely as regards their utility to one who is
preparing to become an orator. The criticism, although thus special, has a
permanent value, as embracing the best opinion of the time, temperately
stated (Inst. Or. xi. 85-131):--"The same order will be observed in
treating the Roman writers. As Homer among the Greeks, so _Virgil_ among
our own authors will best head the list; he is beyond doubt the second
epic poet of either nation. I will use the words I heard Domitius Afer use
when I was a boy. When I asked him who he considered came nearest to
Homer, he replied, 'Virgil is the second, but he is nearer the first than
the third;' and in truth, while Rome cannot but yield to that celestial
and deathless genius, yet we can observe more care and diligence in
Virgil; for this very reason, perhaps, that he was obliged to labour more.
And so it is that we make up for the lack of occasional splendour by
consistent and equable excellence. All the other epicists will follow at a
respectful distance. _Macer_ and _Lucretius_ are indeed worth reading, but
are of no value for the phraseology, which is the main body of eloquence.
Each is good in his own subject; but the former is humble, the latter
difficult. _Varro Atacinus_, in those works which have gained him fame,
appears as a translator by no means contemptible, but is not rich enough
to add to the resources of eloquence. _Ennius_ let us reverence as we
should groves of holy antiquity, whose grand and venerable trees have more
sanctity than beauty. Others are nearer our own day, and more useful for
the matter in hand. _Ovid_ in his heroics is as usual wanton, and too fond
of his own talent, but in parts he deserves praise. _Cornelius Severus_,
though a better versifier than poet, would still claim the second place,
if only he had written all his _Sicilian War_ as well as the first book.
But his early death did not allow his genius to be matured. His boyish
works show a great and admirable talent, and a desire for the best style
rare at that time of life. We have lately lost much in _Valerius Flaccus_.
The inspiration of _Salcius Bassus_ was vigorous and poetical, but old age
never succeeded in ripening it. _Rabirius_ and _Pedo_ are worth reading,
if you have time. _Lucan_ is ardent, earnest, and full of admirably
expressed sentiments, and, to give my real opinion, should be classed with
orators rather than poets. We have named these because Germanicus Augustus
(Domitian) has been diverted from his favourite pursuit by the care of the
world, and the gods thought it too little for him to be the first of
poets. Yet what can be more sublime, learned, matchless in every way, than
the poems in which, giving up empire, he spent the privacy of his youth?
Who could sing of wars so well as he who has so successfully waged them?
To whom would the goddesses who watch over studies listen so propitiously?
To whom would Minerva, the patroness of his house, more willingly reveal
the mysteries of her art? Future ages will recount these things at greater
length. For now this glory is obscured by the splendour of his other
virtues. We, however, who worship at the shrine of letters will crave your
indulgence, Caesar, for not passing the subject by in silence, and will at
least bear witness, as Virgil says,

'That ivy wreathes the laurels of your crown.'

"In elegy, too, we challenge the Greeks. The tersest and most elegant
author of it is in my opinion _Tibullus_. Others prefer _Propertius_.
_Ovid_ is more luxuriant, _Gallus_ harsher, than either. Satire is all our
own. In this _Lucilius_ first gained great renown, and even now has many
admirers so wedded to him, as to prefer him not only to all other
satirists but to all other poets. I disagree with them as much as I
disagree with Horace, who thinks Lucilius flows in a muddy stream, and
that there is much that one would wish to remove. For there is wonderful
learning in him, freedom of speech with the bitterness that comes
therefrom, and an inexhaustible wit. _Horace_ is far terser and purer, and
without a rival in his sketches of character. _Persius_ has earned much
true glory by his single book. There are men now living who are renowned,
and others who will be so hereafter. That earlier sort of satire not
written exclusively in verse was founded by _Terentius Varro_, the most
learned of the Romans. He composed a vast number of extremely erudite
treatises, being well versed in the Latin tongue as well as in every kind
of antiquarian knowledge; he will, however, contribute much more to
science than to oratory.

"The iambus is not much in vogue among the Romans as a separate form of
poetry; it is more often interspersed with other rhythms. Its bitterness
is found in _Catullus_, _Bibaculus_, and _Horace_, though in the last the
epode breaks its monotony.

"Of lyricists _Horace_ is, I may say, the only one worth reading; for he
sometimes rises, and he is always full of sweetness and grace, and most
happily daring in figures and expressions. If any one else be added, it
must be Caesius Bassus, whom we have lately seen, but there are living
lyricists far greater than he.

"Of the ancient tragedians _Accius_ and _Pacuvius_ are the most renowned
for the gravity of their sentiments, the weight of their words, and the
dignity of their characters. But brilliancy of touch and the last polish
in completing their work seems to have been wanting, not so much to
themselves as to their times. Accius is held to be the more powerful
writer; Pacuvius (by those who wish to be thought learned) the more
learned. Next comes the _Thyestes_ of _Varius_, which may be compared with
any of the Greek plays. The _Medea_ of _Ovid_ shows what that poet might
have achieved if he had but controlled instead of indulging his
inspiration. Of those of my own day _Pomponius Secundus_ is by far the
greatest. The old critics, indeed, thought him wanting in tragic force,
but they confessed his learning and brilliancy.

"In comedy we halt most lamentably. It is true that Varro declares (after
Aelius Stilo) that the muses, had they been willing to talk Latin, would
have used the language of Plautus. It is true also that the ancients had a
high respect for Caecilius, and that they attributed the plays of Terence
to Scipio--plays that are of their kind most elegant, and would be even
more pleasing if they had kept within the iambic metre. We can scarcely
reproduce in comedy a faint shadow of our originals, so that I am
compelled to believe the language incapable of that grace, which even in
Greek is peculiar to the Attic, or at any rate has never been attained in
any other dialect. _Afranius_ excels in the national comedy, but I wish he
had not defiled his plots by licentious allusions.

"In history at all events, I would not yield the palm to Greece. I should
have no fear in matching _Sallust_ against Thucydides, nor would Herodotus
disdain to be compared with _Livy_--Livy, the most delightful in
narration, the most candid in judgment, the most eloquent in his speeches
that can be conceived. Everything is perfectly adapted both to the
circumstances and personages introduced. The affections, and, above all,
the softer ones, have never (to say the least) been more persuasively
introduced by any writer. Thus by a different kind of excellence he has
equalled the immortal rapidity of Sallust. _Servilius Nonianus_ well said
to me: 'They are not like, but they are equal.' I used often to listen to
his recitations; a man of lofty spirit and full of brilliant sentiments,
but less condensed than the majesty of history demands. This condition was
better fulfilled by _Aufidius Bassus_, who was a little his senior, at any
rate in his books on the German War, in which the author was admirable in
his general treatment, but now and then fell below himself. There still
survives and adorns the literary glory of our age a man worthy of an
immortal record, who will be named some day, but now is only alluded to.
He has many to admire, none to imitate him, as if freedom, though he clips
her wings, had injured him. But even in what he has allowed to remain you
can detect a spirit full lofty, and opinions courageously stated. There
are other good writers; but at present we are tasting, as it were, the
samples, not ransacking the libraries.

"It is the orators who more than any have made Latin eloquence a match for
that of Greece. For I could boldly pitch Cicero against any of their
champions. Nor am I ignorant how great a strife I should be stirring up
(especially as it is no part of my plan), were I to compare him with
Demosthenes. This is the less necessary, since I think Demosthenes should
be read (or rather learnt by heart) above every one else. Their
excellences seem to me to be very similar; there is the same plan, order
of division, method of preparation, proof, and all that belongs to
invention. In the oratorical style there is some difference. The one is
closer, the other more fluent; the one draws his conclusion with more
incisiveness, the other with greater breadth; the one always wields a
weapon with a sharp edge, the other frequently a heavy one as well; from
the one nothing can be taken, to the other nothing can be added; the one
shows more care, the other more natural gift. In wit and pathos, both
important points, Cicero is clearly first. Perhaps the custom of his state
did not allow Demosthenes to use the epilogue, but then neither does the
genius of Latin oratory allow us to employ ornaments which the Athenians
admire. In their letters, of which both have left several, there can be no
comparison; nor in their dialogues, of which Demosthenes has not left any.
In one point we must yield: Demosthenes came first, and of course had a
great share in making Cicero what he was. For to me Cicero seems in his
intense zeal for imitating the Greeks to have united the force of
Demosthenes, the copiousness of Plato, and the sweetness of Isocrates. Nor
has he only acquired by study all that was best in each, but has even
exalted the majority if not the whole of their excellences by the
inexpressible fertility of his glorious talent. For, as Pindar says, he
does not collect rain-water, but bursts forth in a living stream; born by
the gift of providence that eloquence might put forth and test all her
powers. For who can teach more earnestly or move more vehemently? to whom
was such sweetness ever given? The very concessions he extorts you think
he begs, and while by his swing he carries the judge right across the
course, the man seems all the while to be following of his own accord.
Then in everything he advances there is such strength of assertion that
one is ashamed to disagree; nor does he bring to bear the eagerness of an
advocate, but the moral confidence of a juryman or a witness; and
meanwhile all those graces, which separate individuals with the most
constant care can hardly obtain, flow from him without any premeditation;
and that eloquence which is so delicious to listen to seems to carry on
its surface the most perfect freedom from labour. Wherefore his
contemporaries did right to call him 'king of the courts;' and posterity
to give him such renown that Cicero stands for the name not of a man but
of eloquence itself. Let us then fix our eyes on him; let his be the
example we set before us; let him who loves Cicero well know that his own
progress has been great. In _Asinius Pollio_ there is much invention,
much, according to some, excessive, diligence; but he is so far from the
brilliancy and sweetness of Cicero that he might be a generation earlier.
But _Messala_ is polished and open, and in a way carries his noble birth
into his style of eloquence, but he lacks vigour. If _Julius Caesar_ had
only had leisure for the forum, he would be the one we should select as
the rival of Cicero. He has such force, point, and vehemence of style,
that it is clear he spoke with the same mind that he warred. Yet all is
covered with a wondrous elegance of expression, of which he was peculiarly
studious. There was much talent in _Caelius_, and in accusations chiefly
he showed a great urbanity; he was a man worthy of a better mind and a
longer life. I have found those who prefer _Calvus_ to any orator; I have
found others who thought with Cicero that by too strict criticism of
himself he lost real power; but his style is weighty and noble, guarded,
and often vehement. He was an enthusiastic atticist, and his early death
may be considered a misfortune, if we can believe that a longer life would
have added something to his over concise manner. _Servius Sulpicius_ has
earned considerable fame by his three speeches. _Cassius Severus_ will
give many points for imitation if he be read judiciously; if he had added
colour and weight to his other good qualities of style, he would be placed
extremely high. For he has great talent and wonderful power of satire. His
urbanity, too, is great, but he gave himself up to passion rather than
reason. And as his wit is always bitter, so the very bitterness of it
sometimes makes it ludicrous. I need not enumerate the rest of this long
list. Of my own contemporaries _Domitius Afer_ and _Julius Africanus_ are
far the greatest; the former in art and general style, the latter in
earnestness, and the sorting of words, which sorting, however, is perhaps
excessive, as his arrangements are lengthy and his metaphors immoderate.
There have been lately some great masters in this line. _Trachalus_ was
often sublime, and very open in his manner, a man to whom you gave credit
for good motives; but he was much greater heard than read. For he had a
beauty of voice such as I have never known in any other, an articulation
good enough for the stage, and grace of person and every other external
advantage were at their height in him. _Vibius Crispus_ was neat, elegant,
and pleasing, better for private than public causes. Had _Julius Secundus_
lived longer, his renown as an orator would be first-rate. For he would
have added, as indeed he had already began to add, all the desiderata for
the highest ideal. He would have been more combative, and more attentive
to the subject, even to an occasional neglect of the manner. Cut off as he
was, he nevertheless merits a high place; such is his facility of speech,
his charm in explaining what he has to say; his open, gentle, and specious
style, his perfect selection of words, even those which are adopted on the
spur of the moment; his vigorous application of analogies extemporaneously
suggested. My successors in rhetorical criticism will have a rich field
for praising those who are now living. For there are now great talents at
work who do credit to the bar, both finished patrons, worthy rivals of the
ancients, and industrious youths, following them in the path of

"There remain the philosophers, few of whom have attained to eloquence.
_Cicero_, here as ever, is the rival of Plato. _Brutus_ stands in this
department much higher than as an orator; he suffices for the weight of
his matter; you can see he feels what he says. _Cornelius Celsus_,
following the _Sextii_, has written a good deal with point and elegance.
_Plancus_ among the Stoics is useful for his knowledge. Among Epicureans,
_Catius_ though a light is a pleasant writer. I have purposely deferred
_Seneca_ until the end, because of the false report current that I condemn
him, and even personally dislike him. This results from my endeavour to
recal to a severer standard a corrupt and effeminate taste. When I began
my crusade, Seneca was almost the only writer in the hands of the young.
Nor did I try to 'disestablish' him altogether, but only to prevent his
being placed above better men, whom he continually attacked, from a
consciousness that his special talents would never allow him to please in
the way they pleased. And then his pupils loved him better than they
imitated him, and in their imitations fell as much below him as he had
fallen below the ancients. I only wish they could have been equals or
seconds to such a man. But he pleased them solely through his faults; and
it was to reproduce these that they all strove with their utmost efforts,
and then, boasting that they spoke in his style, they greatly injured his
fame. He, indeed, had many and great excellences; an easy and fertile
talent, much study, much knowledge, though in this he was often led astray
by those he employed to 'research' for him. He treated nearly the whole
cycle of knowledge. For he has left speeches, poems, letters, and
dialogues. In philosophy he was not very accurate, but he was a notable
rebuker of vice. Many brilliant apophthegms are scattered through his
works; much, too, may be read with a moral purpose. But from the point of
view of eloquence his style is corrupt, and the more pernicious because he
abounds in pleasant faults. One could wish he had used his own talent and
another person's judgment. For had he despised some modes of effect, had
he not striven after others (_partem_), if he had not loved all that was
his own, if he had not broken the weight of his subjects by his short cut-
up sentences, he would be approved by the consent of the learned rather
than by the enthusiasm of boys. For all this, he should be read, but only
by those who are robust and well prepared by a course of stricter models;
and for this object, to exercise their judgment on both sides. For there
is much that is good in him, much to admire; only it requires picking out,
a thing he himself ought to have done. A nature which could always achieve
its object was worthy of having striven after a better object than it




The poet is usually credited with a genius more independent of external
circumstances than any other of nature's favourites. His inspiration is
more creative, more unearthly, more constraining, more unattainable by
mere effort. He seems to forget the world in his own inner sources of
thought and feeling. As circumstances cannot produce him, so they do not
greatly affect his genius. He is the product of causes as yet unknown to
the student of human progress; he is a boon for which the age that has him
should be grateful, a sort of _aerii mellis caelestia dona_. Modern
literature is full of this conception. The poet "does but speak because he
must; he sings but as the linnets sing." Never has the sentiment been
expressed with deeper pathos than by Shelley's well-known lines:

"Like a poet hidden
In the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not."

The idea that the poet can neither be made on the one hand, nor repressed
if he is there, on the other, has become deeply rooted in modern literary
thought. And yet if we look through the epochs that have been most fertile
of great poets, the instances of such self-sufficing hardiness are rare.
In Greek poetry we question whether there is one to be found. In Latin
poetry there is only Lucretius. In modern times, it is true, they are more
numerous, owing to the greater complexity of our social conditions, and
the greater difficulty for a strongly sensuous or deeply spiritual poetic
nature to be in harmony with them all. Putting aside these solitary voices
we should say on the whole that poetry, at least in ancient times, was the
tenderest and least hardy of all garden flowers. It needed, so to say, a
special soil, constant care, and shelter from the rude blast. It could
blossom only in the summer of patronage, popular or imperial; the storms
of war and revolution, and the chill frost of despotism, were equally
fatal to its tender life. Where its supports were strong its own strength
came out, and that with such luxuriance as to hide the props which lay
beneath; but when once the inspiring consciousness of sympathy and aid was
lost, its fair head drooped, its fragrance was forgotten, and its seeds
were scattered to the waste of air.

If Lucan's claim to the name of poet be disputed, what shall we say to the
so-called poets of the Flavian age? to Valerius Flaccus, Silius, Statius,
and Martial? In one sense they are poets certainly; they have a thorough
mastery over the form of their art, over the hackneyed themes of verse.
But in the inspiration that makes the bard, in the grace that should adorn
his mind, in the familiarity with noble thoughts which lends to the
_Pharsalia_ an undisputed greatness, they are one and all absolutely
wanting. None of them raise in the reader one thrill of pleasure, none of
them add one single idea to enrich the inheritance of mankind. The works
of Pliny and Quintilian cannot indeed be ranked among the masterpieces of
literature. But in elegant greatness they are immeasurably superior to the
works of their brethren of the lyre. Science can seek a refuge in the
contemplation of the material universe; if it can find no law there, no
justice, no wisdom, no comfort, it at least bows before unchallenged
greatness. Rhetoric can solace its aspirations in a noble though hopeless
effort to rekindle an extinct past. Poetry, that should point the way to
the ideal, that should bear witness if not to goodness at least to beauty
and to glory, grovels in a base contentment with all that is meanest and
shallowest in the present, and owns no source of inspiration but the
bidding of superior force, or the insulting bribe of a despot's minion
which derides in secret the very flattery it buys.

These poets need not detain us long. There is little to interest us in
them, and they are of little importance in the history of literature. The
first of them is C. VALERIUS FLACCUS SETINUS BALBUS. [1] He was born not,
as his name would indicate, at Setia, but at Patavium. [2] We gather from
a passage in his poem [3] that he filled the office of _Quindecimvir
sacris faciundis_, and from Quintilian [4] that he was cut off by an early
death. The date of this event may be fixed with probability to the year 88
A.D. [5] Dureau de la Malle has disputed this, and thinks it probable that
he lived until the reign of Trajan; but this is in itself unlikely, and
inconsistent with the obviously unfinished state of the poem. The legend
of the Argonauts which forms its subject was one that had already been
treated by Varro Atacinus apparently in the form of an imitation or
translation from the same writer, Appollonius Rhodius, whom Valerius also
chose as his model. But whereas Varro's poem was little more than a free
translation, that of Valerius is an amplification and study from the
original of a more ambitious character. It consists of eight books, of
which the last is incomplete, and in estimating its merits or demerits we
must not forget the immaturity of its author's talent.

The opening dedication to Vespasian fixes its composition under his reign.
Its profane flattery is in the usual style of the period, but lacks the
brilliancy, the audacity, and the satire of that of Lucan. From certain
allusions it is probable that the poem was written soon after the conquest
of Jerusalem by Titus [6] (A.D. 70). There is considerable learning shown,
but a desire to compress allusions into a small space and to suggest
trains of mythological recollection by passing hints, interfere with the
lucidity of the style. In other respects the diction is classical and
elegant, and both rhythm and language are closely modelled on those of
Virgil. Licences of versification are rare. The spondaic line, rarely used
by Ovid, almost discarded by Lucan, but which reappears in Statius, is
sparingly employed by Valerius. Hiatus is still rarer, but the shortening
of final _o_ occurs in verbs and nominatives, such as _Juno, Virgo_,
whenever it suits the metre. His speeches are rhetorical but not
extravagant, some, _e.g._, that of Helle to Jason, are very pretty. In
descriptive power he rises to his highest level; some of his subjects are
extremely vivid and might form subjects for a painting. [7] During the
time that he was writing the eruption of Vesuvius occurred, and he has
described it with the zeal of a witness. [8]

"Sic ubi prorupti tonuit cum forte Vesevi
Hesperiae letalis apex; vixdum ignea montem
Torsit hiems, iamque Eoas einis induit urbes."

But in this, as in all the descriptive pieces, however striking and
elaborate, of the period of the decline, are prominently visible the
strained endeavour to be emphatic, and the continual dependence upon book
reminiscence instead of first-hand observation. Valerius is no exception
to the rule. Nor is the next author who presents himself any better in
this respect, the voluptuary and poetaster C. SILIUS ITALICUS.

This laborious compiler and tasteless versifier was born 25 A.D., or
according to some 24 A.D., and died by his own act seventy-six years
later. He is known to us as a copyist of Virgil; to his contemporaries he
was at least as well known as a clever orator and luxurious virtuoso. His
early fondness for Virgil's poetry may be presumed from the dedication of
Cornutus's treatise on that subject to him, but he soon deserted
literature for public life, in which (68 A.D.) he attained the highest
success by being nominated consul. He had been a personal friend of
Vitellius and of Nero; but now, satisfied with his achievements, he
settled down on his estates, and composed his poem on the Punic Wars in
sixteen books. Most of the information we possess about him is gathered
from the letter [9] in which Pliny narrates his death. We translate the
most striking passages for the reader's benefit.

"I have just heard that Silius has closed his life in his Neapolitan
villa by voluntary abstinence. The cause of his preferring to die was
ill-health. He suffered from an incurable tumour, the trouble arising
from which determined him with singular resolution to seek death as a
relief. His whole life had been unvaryingly fortunate, except that he
had lost the younger of his two sons. On the other hand, he had lived
to see his elder and more promising son succeed in life and obtain the
consulship. He had injured his reputation under Nero. It was believed
he had acted as an informer. But afterwards, while enjoying
Vitellius's friendship, he had conducted himself with courtesy and
prudence. He had gained much credit by his proconsulship in Asia, and
had since by an honourable leisure wiped out the blot which stained
the activity of his former years. He ranked among the first men in the
state, but he neither retained power nor excited envy. He was saluted,
courted; he received levees often in his bed, always in his chamber,
which was crowded with visitors, who came attracted by no
considerations of his fortune. When not occupied with writing, he
passed his days in learned discourse. His poems evince more diligence
than talent: he now and then by reciting challenged men's opinions
upon them. Latterly, owing to advancing years, he retired from Rome
and remained in Campania, nor did even the accession of a new emperor
draw him forth. To allow this inactivity was most liberal on the
emperor's part, to have the courage to accept it was equally
honourable to Silius. He was a virtuoso, and was even blamed for his
propensities for collecting. He owned several country-houses in the
same district, and was always so taken with each new house he
purchased as to neglect the old for it. All of them were well stocked
with books, statues, and busts of great men. These last he not only
treasured but revered, above all, that of Virgil, whose birthday he
kept more religiously than his own. He preferred celebrating it at
Naples, where he visited the poet's tomb as if it had been a temple.
Amid such complete tranquillity he passed his seventy-fifth year, not
exactly weak in body, but delicate."

To this notice of Pliny's we might add several by Martial; but as these
refer to the same facts, adding beside only fulsome praises of the wealthy
and dignified litterateur, they need not be quoted here. Quintilian does
not mention him. But his silence is no token of disrespect; it is merely
an indication that Silius was still alive when the great critic wrote.

There is little that calls for remark in his long and tedious work. He is
a poet only by memory. Timid and nerveless, he lacks alike the vigorous
beauties of the earlier school, and the vigorous faults of the later. He
pieces together in the straggling mosaic of his poem hemistichs from his
contemporaries, fragments from Livy, words, thoughts, epithets, and
rhythms from Virgil; and he elaborates the whole with a pre-Raphaelite
fidelity to details which completely destroys whatever unity the subject

This subject is not in itself a bad one, but the treatment he applies to
it is unreal and insipid in the highest degree. He cannot perceive, for
instance, that the divine interventions which are admissible in the
quarrel of Aeneas and Turnus are ludicrous when imported into the struggle
between Scipio and Hannibal. And this inconsistency is the more glaring,
since his extreme historical accuracy (an accuracy so strict as to make
Niebuhr declare a knowledge of him indispensable to the student of the
Punic Wars) gives to his chronicle a prosaic literalness from which
nothing is more alien than the caprices of an imaginary pantheon. Who can
help resenting the unreality, when at Saguntum Jupiter guides an arrow
into Hannibal's body, which Juno immediately withdraws? [10] or when, at
Cannae, Aeolus yields to the prayer of Juno and blinds the Romans by a
whirlwind of dust? [11] These are two out of innumerable similar
instances. Amid such incongruities it is no wonder if the heroes
themselves lose all body and consistency, so that Scipio turns into a kind
of Paladin, and Hannibal into a monster of cruelty, whom we should not be
surprised to see devouring children. Silius in poetry represents, on a
reduced scale, the same reactionary sentiments that in prose animated
Quintilian. So far he is to be commended. But if we must choose a
companion among the Flavian poets, let it be Statius with all his faults,
rather than this correct, only because completely talentless, compiler.

To him let us now turn. With filial pride he attributes his eminence to
the example and instruction of his father, P. PAPENIUS STATIUS, who was,
if we may believe his son, a distinguished and extremely successful poet.
[12] He was born either at Naples or at Selle; and the doubt hanging over
this point neither the father nor the son had any desire to clear up; for
did not the same ambiguity attach to the birthplace of Homer? At any rate
he established himself at Naples as a young man, and opened a school for
rhetoric and poetry, engaging in the quinquennial contests himself, and
training his pupils to do the same. It is not certain that he ever settled
at Rome; his modest ambition seems to have been content with provincial
celebrity. What the subjects of his prize poetry were we have no means of
ascertaining, but we know that he wrote a short epic on the wars between
Vespasian and Vitellius and contemplated writing another on the eruption
of Vesuvius. His more celebrated son, P. PAPINIUS STATIUS the younger, was
born at Naples 61 A.D., and before his father's death had carried off the
victory in the Neapolitan poetical games by a poem in honour of Ceres.
[13] Shortly after this he returned to Rome, where it is probable he had
been educated as a boy, and in his twenty-first year married a young widow
named Claudia (whose former husband seems to have been a singer or
harpist), [14] and their mutual attachment is a pleasing testimony to the
poet's goodness of heart, a quality which the habitual exaggeration of his
manner ineffectually tries to conceal.

Domitian had instituted a yearly poetical contest at the Quinquatria, in
honour of Minerva, held on the Alban Mount. Statius was fortunate enough
on three separate occasions to win the prize, his subject being in each
case the praises of Domitian himself. [15] But at the great quinquennial
Capitoline contest, in which apparently the subject was the praises of
Jupiter, [16] Statius was not equally successful. [17] This defeat, which
he bewails in more than one passage, was a disappointment he never quite
overcame, though some critics have inferred from another passage [18] that
on a subsequent occasion he came off victor; but this cannot be proved.

Statius had something of the true poet in him. He had the love of nature
and of those "cheap pleasures" of which Hume writes, the pleasures of
flowers, birds, trees, fresh air, a country landscape, a blue sky. These
could not be had at Rome for all the favours of the emperor. Statius pined
for a simpler life. He wished also to provide for his step-daughter, whom
he dearly loved, and whose engaging beauty while occupied in reciting her
father's poems, or singing them to the music of the harp, he finely
describes. Perhaps at Naples a husband could be found for her? So to
Naples he went, and there in quiet retirement passed the short remainder
of his days, finishing his _opus magnum_ the _Thebaid_, and writing the
fragment that remains of his still more ambitious _Achilleid_. The year of
his death is not certain, but it may be placed with some probability in 98

Statius was not merely a brilliant poet. He was a still more brilliant
_improvisator_. Often he would pour forth to enthusiastic listeners, as
Ovid had done before him,

"His profuse strains of unpremeditated art."

Improvisation had long been cultivated among the Greeks. We know from
Cicero's oration on behalf of Archias that it was no rare accomplishment
among the wits of that nation. And it was not unknown among the Romans,
though with them also it was more commonly exercised in Greek than in
Latin. The technicalities of versification had, since Ovid, ceased to
involve any labour. Not an aspirant of any ambition but was familiar with
every page of the _Gradus ad Parnassum_, and could lay it under
contribution at a moment's notice. Hence to write fluent verses was no
merit at all; to write epigrammatic verses was worth doing; but to
extemporize a poem of from one to two hundred lines, of which every line
should display a neat turn or a _bon mot_, this was the most deeply
coveted gift of all; and it was the possession of this gift in its most
seductive form that gave Statius unquestioned, though not unenvied, pre-
eminence among the _beaux esprits_ of his day. His _Silvae_, which are
trifles, but very charming ones, were most of them written within twenty-
four hours after their subjects had been suggested to him. Their elegant
polish is undeniable; the worst feature about them is the base
complaisance with which this versatile flatterer wrote to order, without
asking any questions, whatever the eunuchs, pleasure-purveyors, or
freedmen of the emperor desired. They are full of interest also as
throwing light on the manners and fashions of the time and disclosing the
frivolities which in the minds of all the members oL the court had quite
put out of sight the serious objects of life. They contain many notices of
the poet and his friends, and we learn that when they were composed he was
at work on the _Thebaid_. He excuses these short _jeux d'esprit_ by
alleging the example of Homer's _Battle of the Frogs and Mice_ and
Virgil's _Culex_. "I hardly know," he says, "of one illustrious poet who
has not prefaced his nobler triumphs of song by some prelude in a lighter
strain." [20] The short prose introductions in which he describes the
poems that compose each book are well worth reading. The first book is
addressed to his friend ARRUNTIUS STELLA, who was, if we may believe
Statius and Martial, himself no mean poet, and in his little _Columba_, an
ode addressed to his mistress's dove, rivalled, if he did not surpass, the
famous "sparrow-poem" of Catullus. He wrote also several other love poems,
and perhaps essayed a heroic flight in celebrating the Sarmatian victories
of Domitian. [21]

The _Silvae_ were for the most part read or recited in public. We saw in a
former chapter [22] that Asinius Pollio first introduced these readings.
His object in doing so is uncertain. It may have been to solace himself
for the loss of a political career, or it may have been a device for
ascertaining the value of new works before granting them a place in his
public library. The recitations thus served the purpose of the modern
reviews. They affixed to each new work the critic's verdict, and assigned
to it its place among the list of candidates for fame. No sooner was the
practice introduced than it became popular. Horace already complains of
it, and declares that he will not indulge it: [23]

"Non recito cuiquam nisi amicis, idque coactus,
Non ubivis coramve quibuslibet."

He with greater wisdom read his poems to some single friend whose judgment
and candour he could trust--some Quinctilius Varus, or Maecius Tarpa--and
he advised his friends the Pisos to do the same; but his advice was little
heeded. Even during his lifetime the vain thirst for applause tempted many
an author to submit his compositions to the hasty judgment of a
fashionable assembly, and (fond hope!) to promise himself an immortality
proportioned to their compliments. Ovid's muse drew her fullest
inspiration from the excitements of the hall, and the poet bitterly
complains in exile that now this stimulus to effort is withdrawn he has
lost the power and even the desire to write. [24] Nor was it only poetry
that was thus criticised; grave historians read their works before
publishing them, and it is related of Claudius that on hearing the
thunders of applause which were bestowed on the recitations of Servilius
Nonianus, he entered the building and seated himself uninvited among the
enthusiastic listeners. Under Nero, the readings, which had hitherto been
a custom, became a law, that is, were upheld by legal no less than social
obligations. The same is true of Domitian's reign. This ill-educated
prince wished to feign an interest in literature, the more so, since Nero,
whom he imitated, had really been its eager votary. Accordingly, he
patronised the readings of the principal poets, and above all, of Statius.
This was the golden time of recitations, or _ostentationes_, as they now
with sarcastic justice began to be called, and Statius was their chief
hero. As Juvenal tells us, he made the whole city glad when he promised a
day. [25] His recitations were often held at the houses of his great
friends, men like Abascantius or Glabrio, adventurers of yesterday, who
had come to Rome with "chalked feet," and now had been raised by Caesar to
a height whence they looked with scorn upon the scattered relics of
nobility. It is these men that Statius so adroitly flatters; it is to them
that he looks for countenance, for patronage, for more substantial
rewards; and yet so wretched is the recompense even of the highest
popularity, that Statius would have to beg his bread if he did not find a
better employer in the actor and manager, Paris, who pays him handsomely
for the tragedies that at each successive exhaustion of his exchequer he
is fain to write for the taste of a corrupt mob. [26] But at last Statius
began to see the folly of all this. He grew tired of hiring himself out to
amuse, of practising the affectation of a modesty, an inspiration, an
emotion he did not feel, of hearing the false plaudits of rivals who he
knew carped at his verses in his absence and libelled his character, of
running hither and thither over Parnassus dragging his poor muse at the
heels of some selfish freedman; he was man enough and poet enough to wish
to write something that would live, and so he left Rome to con over his
mythological erudition amid a less exciting environment, and woo the
genius of poesy where its last great master had been laid to rest.

After Statius had left Rome, the popularity of the recitations gradually
decreased. No poet of equal attractiveness was left to hold them. So the
ennui and disgust, which had perhaps long been smothered, now burst forth.
Many people refused to attend altogether. They sent their servants,
parasites, or hired applauders, while they themselves strolled in the
public squares or spent the hours in the bath, and only lounged into the
room at the close of the performance. Their indifference at last rejected
all disguise; absence became the rule. Even Trajan's assiduous attendance
could hardly bring a scanty and listless concourse to the once crowded
halls. Pliny the younger, who was a finished reciter, grievously complains
of the incivility shown to deserving poets. Instead of the loud cries, the
uneasy motions that had attested the excitement of the hearers, nothing is
heard but yawns or shuffling of the feet; a dead silence prevails. Even
Pliny's gay spirits and cheerful vanity were not proof against such a
reception. The "little grumblings" (_indignatiunculae_), of which his
letters are full, attest how sorely he felt the decline of a fashion in
which he was so eminently fitted to excel. And if a wealthy noble
patronised by the emperor thus complains, how intolerable must have been
the disappointment to the poet whose bread depended on his verses, the
poet depicted by Juvenal, to whom the patron graciously lends a house,
ricketty and barred up, lying at a distance from town, and lays on him the
ruinous expense of carriage for benches and stalls, which after all are
only half-filled!

The frenzy of public readings, then, was over; but Statius had learned his
style in their midst, and country retirement could not change it. The
whole of his brilliant epic savours of the lecture room. The verbal
conceits, the florid ornament, the sparkling but quite untranslatable
epigrams which enliven every description and give point to every speech,
need only be noted in passing; for no reader of a single book of the
_Thebaid_ can fail to mark them.

This poem, which is admitted by Merivale to be faultless in epic
execution, and has been glorified by the admiration of Dante, occupied the
author twelve years in the composing, [27] probably from 80 to 92 A.D. Its
elaborate finish bears testimony to the labour expended on it. Had Statius
been content with trifles such as are sketched in the _Silvae_ he might
have been to this day a favourite and widely-read poet. As it is, the
minute beauties of his epic lie buried in such a wilderness of
unattractive learning and second-hand mythological reminiscence, that few
care to seek them out. His mastery over the epic machinery is complete;
but he fails not only in the ardour of the bard, but in the vigour of the
mere narrator. His action drags heavily through the first ten books, and
then is summarily finished in the last two, the accession of Creon after
Oedipus's exile, his prohibition to bury Polynices, the interference of
Theseus, and the death of Creon being all dismissed in fifteen hundred

The two most striking features in the poem are the descriptions of battles
and the similes. The former are greatly superior to those of Lucan or
Silius. They have not the hideous combination of horrors of the one, nor
the shadowy unreality of the other. Though hatched in the closet and not
on the battle-field, a defect they share with all poets from Virgil
downwards, they have sufficient verisimilitude to interest, and not
sufficient reality to shock us. The similes merit still higher praise. The
genius of Latin poetry was fast tending towards the epigram, and these
similes are strictly _epigrammatic_. The artificial brevity which suggests
many different lines of reminiscence at the same time is exhibited with
marked success. As the simile was so assiduously cultivated by the Latin
epicists and forms a distinctive feature of their style, we shall give in
the appendix to this chapter a comparative table of the more important
similes of the three chief epic poets. At present we shall quote only two
from the _Thebaid_, both admirable in their way, and each exemplifying one
of Statius's prominent faults or virtues. The first compares an army
following its general across a river to a herd of cattle following the
leading bull: [28]

"Ac velut ignotum si quando armenta per amnem
Pastor agit, stat triste pecus, procul altera tellus [29]
Omnibus, et _late medius timor_: ast ubi ductor
Taurus init fecitque vadum, tune mollior unda,
Tunc faciles saltus, visaeque accedere ripae."

This is elegant in style but full of ambiguities, if not experiments, in
language. The words in italics are an exaggerated imitation of a mode of
expression to which Virgil is prone, _i.e._, a psychological indication of
an effect made to stand for a description of the thing. Then as to the
three forced expressions of the last two lines--to say nothing of _fecit
vadum_, which may be a pastoral term, as we say _made the ford_, _i.e._
struck it--we have the epithet _mollior_, which, here again in caricature
of Virgil, mixes feeling with description, used for _facilior_ in the
sense of "kinder," "more obliging" (for he can hardly mean that it feels
_softer_); _faciles saltus_, either the "leap across seems easier," or
perhaps "the woods on the other side look less frowning;" while to add to
the hyperbole, "the bank appears to come near and meet them." Three subtle
combinations are thus expended where Virgil would have used one simple

The next simile exemplifies the use of hyperbole at its happiest, an
ornament, by the way, to which Statius is specially prone. It is a very
short one. [30] It compares an infant to the babe Apollo crawling on the
shore of Delos:

"Talis per litora reptans
Improbus Ortygiae latus inclinabat Apollo."

This is delightful. The mischievous little god crawls near the edge of the
island, and by his divine weight nearly overturns it! We should observe
the gross materialism of idea which underlies this pretty picture. Not one
of the Roman poets is free from this taint. To take a well-known instance
from Virgil; when Aeneas gets into Charon's boat

"Gemuit sub pondere cymba
Sutilis et multam accepit rimosa paludem." [31]

The effect of the "Ingens Aeneas" bursting Charon's crazy skiff is
decidedly grotesque. Lucan has not failed to seize and exaggerate this
peculiarity. To repeat the example we have already noticed in the first
book, [32] when asking Nero which part of heaven he is selecting for his
abode, he prays him not to choose one far removed from the centre, lest
his vast weight should disturb the balance of the universe!

"Aetheris immensi partem si presseris unam
Sentiet axis onus."

Statius, as we have seen, adds the one element that was wanting, namely
the abstraction of the heroic altogether; nevertheless, in small effects
of this kind, he must be pronounced superior to both Virgil and Lucan.

The _Achilleis_ is a mere fragment, no doubt left as such owing to the
author's early death. The design, of which it was the first instalment,
was even more ambitious than that of the _Thebaid_. It aimed at nothing
less than an exhaustive treatment of all the legends of which Achilles was
the hero, excepting those which form the subject of the _Iliad_. Its style
shows a slight advance on that of the earlier poem; it is equally long-
winded, but less bombastic, and consequently somewhat more natural. In one
or two passages Statius [33] promises Domitian an epic celebrating his
deeds, but probably he never had any serious intention of fulfilling his
word. Statius had a high opinion of his own merits, especially when he
compared himself with the poet fraternity of his day; but his careful
study of Homer and Virgil had shown him that there was a domain into which
he could not enter, and so even while vaunting his claims to immortality,
he is careful not to aspire to be ranked with the poet of the _Aeneid_:

"Nec tu divinam Aeneida tenta:
Sed longe sequere et vestigia semper adora."

VALERIUS MARTIALIS was born at Bilbilis, in Hispania Tarraconensis (March
1, 43 A.D.), and retained through life an affectionate admiration for the
place of his birth, which he celebrates in numerous poems. [35] At twenty-
two [36] years of age he came to Rome, Nero being then on the throne. He
does not appear to have been known to that emperor, but rose into great
favour with Titus, which was continued under Domitian, who conferred on
him the _Jus trium liberorum_ [37] and the tribunate, together with the
rank of a Roman knight, [38] and a pension from the imperial treasury,
[39] probably attached to the position of court poet. It is difficult to
ascertain the truth as to his circumstances. The facts above mentioned, as
well as his possession of a house in the city and a villa at Nomentum,
[40] would point to an easy competence; on the other hand the poet's
continual complaints of poverty [41] prove that he was either less wealthy
than his titles suggest, or else that he was hard to satisfy. On the
accession of Trajan he seems to have left Rome for Spain, it is said
because the emperor refused to recognise his genius; but as he had been a
prominent author for upwards of thirty years, it is likely that his
character, not his talent, was what Trajan looked coldly on. A poet who
had prostituted his pen in a way unexampled even among the needy and
immoral pickers-up of chance crumbs that crowded the avenues of the
palace, could hardly be acceptable to a prince of manly character. At the
same time there is this excuse for Martial, that he did not belong to the
old families of Rome. He and such as he owed everything to the emperor's
bounty, and if the emperor desired flattery in return, it cost them little
pains and still less loss of self-respect to give it. Politics had become
entirely a system of palace intrigue. Only when the army intervened was
any general interest awakened. The supremacy of the emperor's person was
the one great fact, rapidly becoming a great inherited idea, which formed
the point of union among the diverse non-political classes, and gave the
poets their chief theme of inspiration. It mattered not to them whether
their lord was good or bad. It is well-known that the people liked
Domitian, and it was only by the firmness of the senate that he was
prevented from being formally proclaimed as a god. Martial does not
pretend to be above the level of conduct which he saw practised by emperor
and people alike. Without strength of character, without independence of
thought, both of which indeed were almost extinct at this epoch, his one
object was to ingratiate himself with those who could fill his purse.
Hence the indifference he shows to the vices of Nero. Juvenal, Tacitus,
and Pliny use a very different language. But then they represented the
old-fashioned ideas of Rome. Martial, indeed, alludes to Nero as a well-
known type of crime: [42]

"Quid Nerone peius?
Quid thermis melius Neronianis?"

but he has no real passion. The only thing he really hates him for is his
having slain Lucan. [43]

Martial, then, is much on a level with the society in which he finds
himself; the society, that is, of those very freedmen, favourites, actors,
dancers, and needy bards, that Juvenal has made the objects of his satire.
And therefore we cannot expect him to rise into lofty enthusiasm or pure
views of conduct. His poems are a most valuable adjunct to those of
Juvenal; for perhaps, if we did not possess Martial, we might fancy that
the former's sardonic bitterness had over-coloured his picture. As it is,
these two friends illustrate and confirm each other's statements.

Little as his conduct agrees with the respectability of a married man,
Martial was married twice. His first wife was Cleopatra, [44] of whose
morose temper he complains, [45] and from whom he was divorced [46] soon
after obtaining the _Jus trium liberorum_. His second was Marcella, whom
he married after his return to Spain. [47] Of her he speaks with respect
and even admiration. [48] It is possible that his town house and country
estate were part of his first wife's dowry, so that on his divorce they
reverted to her family; this would account for the otherwise inexplicable
poverty in which he so often declares himself to be plunged. While at Rome
he had many patrons. Besides Domitian, he numbered Silius Italicus, Pliny,
Stella the friend of Statius, Regulus the famous pleader, Parthenius,
Crispinus, and Glabrio, among his influential friends. It is curious that
he never mentions Statius. The most probable reason for his silence is the
old one, given by Hesiod, but not yet obsolete:

_kai kerameus keramei koteei kai aoidos aoido._

He and Statius were indisputably the chief poets of the day. One or other
must hold the first place. We have no means of knowing how this quarrel,
if quarrel it was, arose. Among Martial's other friends were Quintilian,
Valerius Flaccus, and Juvenal. His intimacy with these men, two of whom at
least were eminently respectable, lends some support to his own statement,
advanced to palliate the impurity of his verses:

"Lasciva est nobis pagina: vita proba est."

The year of his death is not certain. But it must have occurred
soon after 100 A.D. Pliny in his grand way gives an obituary notice of him
in one of his letters, [49] which, interesting as all his letters are, we
cannot do better than translate:

"I hear with regret that Valerius Martial is dead. He was a man of
talent, acuteness, and spirit, with plenty of wit and gall, and as
sincere as he was witty. I gave him a parting present when he left
Rome, which was due both to our friendship and to some verses which he
wrote in my praise. It was an ancestral custom of ours to enrich with
honours or money those who had written the praises of individuals or
cities, but among other noble and seemly customs this has now become
obsolete. I suppose since we have ceased to do things worthy of
laudation, we think it in bad taste to receive it."

Pliny then quotes the verses, [50] and proceeds--

"Was I not justified in parting on the most friendly terms with one
who wrote so prettily of me, and am I not justified now in mourning
his loss as that of an intimate friend? What he could he gave me; if
he had had more he would have gladly given it. And yet what gift can
be greater than glory, praise, and immortality? It is possible,
indeed, as I think I hear you saying, that his poems may not last for
ever. Nevertheless, he wrote them in the belief that they would."

Martial is the most finished master of the epigram, as we understand it.
Epigram is with him condensed satire. The harmless plays on words, sudden
surprises, and neat turns of expression, which had satisfied the Greek and
earlier Latin epigrammatists, were by no means stimulating enough for the
_blase_ taste of Martial's day. The age cried for _point_, and with point
Martial supplies it to the full extent of its demand. His pungency is
sometimes wonderful; the whole flavour of many a sparkling little poem is
pressed into one envenomed word, like the scorpion's tail whose last joint
is a sting. The marvel is that with that biting pen of his the poet could
find so many warm friends. But the truth is, he was far more than a mere
sharp-shooter of wit. He had a genuine love of good fellowship, a warm if
not a constant heart, and that happy power of graceful panegyric which was
so specially Roman a gift. Juvenal, indeed, complains that the Greeks were
hopelessly above his countryman in the art of praise. But this is not an
opinion in which we can agree. Their fulsome adulation may indeed have
been more acceptable to the vulgar objects of it than that of the Roman
panegyrist, who, even while flattering, could not shake off the fetters of
the great dialect in which he wrote; but the efforts in this department by
Cicero, Ovid, Horace, Pliny, and Martial, mast be allowed to be master-
achievements to which it would be hard to find an equal in the literature
of any other nation.

Martial is one of the most difficult of Roman authors. Scarce once or
twice does he relax his style sufficiently to let the reader _read_
instead of spelling through his poems. When he does this he is elegant and
pleasing. The epicedion on a little girl who died at the age of six, is a
lovely gem that may almost bear comparison with Catullus; but then it is
spoilt by the misplaced wit of the last few lines. [51] Few indeed are the
poems of Martial that are natural throughout. His constant effort to be
terse, to condense description into allusion, and allusion into
indication, and to indicate as many allusions as possible by a single
word, compels the reader to weigh each expression with scrupulous care
lest he may lose some of the points with which every line is weighted; and
yet even Martial is less perfect in this respect than Juvenal. But then
the shortness of his pieces takes away that relief which a longer satire
must have, not only for its author's sake, but for purposes of artistic
success. He must have read Juvenal with care, and sometimes seems to give
a _decoction_ of his satires. [52] It is probable that we do not possess
all Martial's poems. It is also possible that many of those we possess
under his name are not by him. The list embraces one book of _Spectacula_,
celebrating the shows in which emperor and people took such delight;
twelve of _Epigrams_, edited separately, and partially revised for each
edition; [53] two of _Xenia_ and _Apophoreta_, written before the tenth
book of Epigrams, and devoted to the flattery of Domitian. The obscenities
which defile almost every book make it impossible to read Martial with any
pleasure, but those who desire to make his acquaintance will find Book IV.
by far the least objectionable in this respect, as well as otherwise more

At this time Rome teemed with poets; as Pliny in one of his letters tells
us, people reckoned the year by the abundance of its poetic harvest.
TURNUS seems to have been a satirist of some note; [54] among others he
satirised the poisoner Locusta. SCAEVIUS MEMOR was a tragedian; [55] a
_Hecuba_, a _Troades_, and perhaps a _Hercules_, are ascribed to him.
VERGINIUS RUFUS wrote erotic poems, and an epigram of his is quoted by
Pliny. [56] VESTRICIUS SPURINNA was a lyricist, and had been consul under
Domitian; a fine account of him is given by Pliny. [57] The only Roman
poetess of whom we possess any fragment, belongs to this epoch, the
highborn lady SULPICIA. She is celebrated by Martial for her chaste love-
elegies, [58] and for fidelity to her husband Calenus. We suspect,
however, that Martial is a little satiric here. For the epithets bestowed
by other writers on Sulpicia imply warmth, not to say wantonness of tone,
though her muse seems to have been constant to its legitimate flame. We
possess about seventy hexameters bearing the title _Sulpiciae Satira_,
supposed to have been written after the banishment of all philosophers by
Domitian (94 A.D.). It is a dialogue between the poetess and her muse: she
excuses herself for essaying so slight a subject in epic metre, and
implies that she is more at home in lighter rhythms. This may be believed
when we find that she makes the _i_ of iambus long! However, the poem is
corrupt, and the readings in many parts uncertain. Teuffel regards it as a
forgery of the fifteenth century, following Boot's opinion. It is full of
harsh constructions [59] and misplaced epithets, but on the other hand
contains some pretty lines. If it be genuine, its boldness is remarkable.
Great numbers of other poets appear in the pages of Martial, Statius, and
Pliny, but they need not be named. The fact that verse-writing was an
innocuous way of spending one's leisure doubtless drove many to it.
CODRUS, or Cordus, [60] was the author of an ambitious epic, the
_Theseid_, composed on the scale, but without the wit, of the _Thebaid_.
The stage, too, engaged many writers. Tragedy and comedy [61] were again
reviving, though their patrons seem to have preferred recitation to
acting; mimes still flourished, though they had taken the form of
pantomime. We hear of celebrated actors of them in Juvenal, as Paris,
Latinus, and Thymele.


_On the Similes of Virgil, Lucan, and Statius._

The Roman epicists bestowed great elaboration on their similes, and as a
rule imitated them from a certain limited number of Greek originals. In
Virgil but a few are original, _i.e._, taken from things he had himself
witnessed, or feelings he had known. Lucan is less imitative in form, and
he first used with any frequency the simile founded on a recollection of
some well-known passage of Greek literature or conception of Greek art. In
this Statius follows him; the simile of the infant Apollo noticed in this
chapter is a good instance.

We give a few examples of the treatment of a similar subject by the three
poets. We first take the simile of a storm, _described_ by Virgil in the
first Aeneid, and _alluded_ to by the other two poets (Lucan i. 493):

"Qualis cum turbidus auster
Repulit e Libycis immensum syrtibus aequor
Fractaque veliferi sonuerunt pondera mali,
Desilit in fluctus deserta puppe magister
Navitaque, et nondum sparsa compage carinae
_Naufragium sibi quisque facit_."

Here we have no great elaboration, but a good point at the finish. Statius
(Theb. i. 370) is more subtle but more commonplace:

"Ac velut hiberno deprensus navita ponto,
Cui neque Temo piger, nec amico sidere monstrat
Luna vias, medio caeli pelagique tumultu
Stat rationis inops; iam iamque aut saxa maliguis
Expectat submersa vadis, aut vertice acuto
Spumantes scopulos erectae incurrere prorae."

The next simile is that of a shepherd robbing a nest of wild bees. It
occurs in Virgil and Statius. Virgil's description is (Aen. xii. 587)--

"Inclusas ut cum latebroso in pumice pastor
Vestigavit apes, fumoque implevit amaro;
Illae intus trepidae rerum per cerea castra
Discurrunt, magnisque acuunt stridoribus iras;
Volvitur ater odor tectis; tum murmure caeco
Intus saxe sonant: vaeuas it fumus ad auras."

That of Statius (Th. x. 574) presents some characteristic refinements on
its original:

"Sic ubi pumiceo pastor rapturas ab antro
Armatas erexit apes, fremit aspera nubes:
Inque vicem sese stridere hortantur et omnes
Hostis in ora volant; mox deficientibus alis
Amplexae flavamque domum captivaque plangunt
Mella, laboratasque _premunt ad pectora ceras_."

The smoke which is the agent of destruction is _described_ by Virgil:
obscurely _hinted at_ in Statius by the single epithet "deficientibus."

The next example is the description of a landslip by the same two. Virg.
Aen. xii. 682.

"Ac velati montis saxum de vertice praeceps
Quum ruit avolsum vento, seu turbidus imber
Proluit, aut annis solvit sublapsa vetustas,
Fertur in abruptum vasto mons improbus actu,
Exsultatque solo, silvas armenta virosque
Involvens secum."

The copy is found Stat. Theb. vii. 744:

"Sic ubi _nubiferum_ montis latus aut nova ventis
Solvit hiems aut _victa situ_ non pertulit aetas;
Desilit horrendus campo timor, arma virosque
_Limite, non uno_ longaevaque robora secum
Praecipitans, tandemque _exhaustus_ turbine _fesso_
Aut vallum cavat, aut medios intercipit amnes."

The additions are here either exaggerations, trivialities, or ingenious
adaptations of other passages of Virgil.

The next is a thunderstorm from Virgil and Lucan, (Aen. xii. 451):

"Qualis ubi ad terras abrupto sidere nimbus
It mare per medium; miseris, heu, praescia longe
Horrescunt corda agricolis; dabit ille ruinas
Arboribus stragemque satis, ruet omnia late;
Antevolant somtumque ferunt ad litora venti."

The simile of Lucan, which describes one disastrous flash rather than a
storm (Phars. i. 150) refers to Caesar:

"Qualiter expressum ventis per nubila fulmen
Aetheris impulsi sonitu _mundi_ que fragore.
Emicuit, rupitque diem, populosque paventes
Terruit, obliqua praestringens lumina flamma:
In _sua templa_ furit, nullaque exire vetante
Materia, magnamque cadens, magnamque revertens
Dat stragem late, sparsosque recolligitignes."

No comparison is more common in Latin poetry than that of a warrior to a
bull. All the three poets have introduced this, some of them several
times. The instances we select will be Virg. Aen. xii. 714:

"Ac velut ingenti Sila summove Taburno
Cum duo conversis inimica in proelia tauri
Frontibus incurrunt, pavidi cessere magistri,
Stat pecus omne metu mutum mussantque iuvencae,
Quis nemori imperitet, quem tota armenta sequantur."

Lucan's simile is borrowed largely from the _Georgics_. It is, however, a
fine one (Phars. ii. 601):

"Pulsus ut armentis primo cerramine taurus
Silvarum secreta petit, vacuosque per agros
Exul in adversis explorat cornua truncis;
Nec redit in pastus nisi quum cervice recepta
Excussi placuere tori; mox reddita victor
_Quoslibet_ in saltus comitantibus agmina tauris
_Invito pastore trahit_."

That of Statius is in a similar strain (Theb. xi. 251):

"Sic ubi regnator post exulis otia tauri
Mugitum hostilem summa tulit aure iuvencus,
Agnovitque minas, magna stat fervidus ira
Ante gregem, spumisque animos ardentibus effert,
Nunc pede torvus humum nunc cornibus aera lindens,
_Horret ager, trepidaeque expectant proelia valles_."

How immeasurably does Virgil's description in its unambitious truth exceed
these two fine but bombastic imitations!

These examples will suffice to show that each poet kept his predecessors
in his eye, and tried to vie with them in drawing a similar picture. But
the similes are not always taken from the common-place book. Virgil, who
reserves nearly all his similes for the last six books, occasionally
strikes an original key. Such are (or appear) the similes of the sedition
quelled by an orator (i. 148), the top (vii. 378), the labyrinth (v, 588),
the housewife (viii. 407), and the fall of the pier at Baiae (ix. 707);
perhaps also of the swallow (xii. 473); mythological similes are common in
him, but not so much, so as in Lucan and Statius. We have those of the
Amazons (xi. 659), of Mars' shield in Thrace (xii. 331), condensed by
Statius (_Theb._ vi. 665), of Orestes (iv. 471), copied by Lucan (_Ph._
vii. 777).

The lion, as may be supposed, furnishes many. We subjoin a further list
which may be useful to the reader.

_The Lion_--Aen. xii. 4; x. 722; ix. 548(?). Phars. i. 206. Theb. ii. 675;
iv. 494; v. 598; vii. 670; viii. 124; ix. 739, and perhaps v. 231.

_The Serpent, dragon, &c._--Aen. xi, 751; v. 273. Theb. v. 599; xi. 310.

_Mythological_--Phars. ii. 715; iv. 549; vii. 144. Theb. ii. 81; iv. 140;
xii. 224, 270.

_The Sea_--Aen. xi. 624; vii. 586 (?). Theb. i. 370; iii. 255; vi. 777;
vii. 864.

_The Winds_--Aen. x. 856. Phars. i. 498. Theb. i. 194; iii. 432; v. 704.

_The Boar_--Aen. x. 707. Theb. viii. 533.

_Trees_--Aen. ix. 675. Phars. i. 136. Theb. viii. 545.

_Birds_--Aen. v. 213; xii. 473; xi. 721; vii. 699. Theb. ix. 858; xii. 15.

We may note detached similes like that of the light reflected in water,
Aen. viii. 15, imitated in Theb. vi. 578; that of the horse from Homer,
Aen. xi. 491, which Statius has not dared to imitate; and others not
referable to any of the above groups may easily be found. It is clear that
Virgil and Statius attached more importance to this ornament than Lucan.
Their verbal elaboration was greater, and thus they both excel him. A
careful study of all the similes in Latin poetry would bring to light some
interesting facts of literary criticism. That descriptive power in which
all the Romans excelled is nowhere more striking than in these short and
pleasing cameos.



The death of Domitian was the end of tyranny in Rome. Under Nerva a new
regime was inaugurated. Liberty of speech and action was allowed, and
authors were not slow to profit by it. The forced repression of so many
years had matured, not quenched, the talent of the greatest writers.
Virtuous men had pondered in gloomy silence over the wickedness of the
time, and they now gave to the world the condensed result of their bitter
reflections. Amid the numerous talents of the period three have sent down
to us a large portion of their works. These three are all writers of the
highest mark, and two of them of commanding genius. For grace, urbanity,
and polish, Pliny yields only to Cicero; for realistic intensity directed
to a satiric purpose, Juvenal yields to no writer whatever; for piercing
insight into the human heart and an imagination which casts its characters
as in a white-hot furnace, Tacitus well deserves the name of Rome's
greatest historian. Chronologically speaking, Pliny is posterior to the
other two. But he is so good a type of this comparatively happy age that
he may well come before us first. The other two, occupied with past
regrets, reflect in their tone of mind an earlier time.

C. PLINIUS CAECILIUS SECUNDUS, the nephew of Pliny the elder, was born at
Novocomum [1] 62 A.D. When he was eight years old his father died, and two
years after his uncle adopted him. In the interim he was assigned to the
care of his guardian, that Virginius Rufus of whom Tacitus deigned to be
the panegyrist. He was brought early to Rome, and placed under Quintilian
and other celebrated teachers, among whom was Nicetes of Smyrna, one of
the foremost rhetoricians of the day. He served his first campaign in
Syria, but seems to have given his time to philosophy more than
soldiering. He was even more emphatically a man of peace than Cicero, and
it is not easy to fancy him wielding the sword, though we can well picture
him to ourselves resplendent in full dress uniform, well satisfied with
his appearance, and trying his best to assume the martial air. While in
Asia he spent much time with the old philosopher Euphrates, of whose daily
life he has given a pleasing description in the tenth letter of his first

On his return he studied for the bar, and pleaded with success. He passed
through the several offices of state, and prided himself not a little on
the fact that he attained the consulate and pontificate at an earlier age
than Cicero. Somewhat later he was elected to the college of augurs, an
honour which prompts him to remind the world that Cicero had been augur
too! In 98 A.D., when Trajan had been two years emperor, Pliny was raised
for the second time to the consulate, and was admitted to some share of
his sovereign's confidence. The points, it is true, on which he was
consulted were not of the most important, but he was extremely pleased,
and has recorded his pleasure in more than one of his charming letters. In
103 he was sent to fill the office of proconsul in Pontus and Bithynia;
and while there, he kept up the interesting correspondence with Trajan, to
which the tenth book of his letters is devoted.

Though eloquence was not what it had been, it still remained the highest
career that an ambitious man could adopt. Even under the tyrants it had
served as the keenest weapon of attack, the surest buckler of defence. The
_public accusation_, which had once been the stepping-stone to fame, had
changed its name, and become _delation_. And he who hoped to parry its
blows must needs have been able to defend himself by the same means. Pliny
was ahead of all his rivals in both departments of eloquence. He was the
most telling pleader before the centumviral tribunal, and he was the
boldest orator in the revived debates of the senate. His best forensic
speech, his _De Corona_, as he loved to style it, was that on behalf of
Accia Variola, a lady unjustly disinherited by her father, whom Pliny's
eloquence reinstated in her rights. In the senate Pliny rose to even
higher efforts. He rejoiced to plead the cause of injured provinces
against the extortion of rapacious governors, who (as Juvenal tells us)
pillaged the already exhausted wealth of their helpless victims. On more
than one occasion Pliny's boldness was crowned with success. Caecilius
Classicus, who had ground down the Baeticenses, was so powerfully
impeached by him that, to avoid conviction, he sought a voluntary death,
and what was better, the confiscated property was returned to its owners.
The still worse criminal, Marius Priscus, who in exile "enjoyed the anger
of the gods," [2] was compelled by Pliny and Tacitus to disgorge no small
portion of his plunder. When carried away by his subject Pliny spoke with
such vehemence as to endanger his delicate lungs, and he tells us with no
small complacency that the emperor sent him a special message "to be
careful of his health." But his greatest triumph was the accusation of
Publicius Certus, a senator, and expectant of the consulship. The fathers,
long used to servitude, could not understand the freedom with which Pliny
attacked one of their own body, and at first they tried to chill him into
silence. But he was not to be daunted. He compelled them to listen, and at
last so roused them by his fervour that he gained his point. It is true
that he risked neither life nor fortune by his boldness; but none the less
does he deserve honour for having recalled the senate to a tardy sense of
its position and responsibilities.

Roman eloquence was now split into two schools or factions, one of which
favoured the ancient style, the other the modern. Pliny was the champion
of reaction: Tacitus the chief representative of the modern tendency.
Unfortunately, Pliny's best oratory has perished, but we can hardly doubt
that its brilliant wit and courtly finish would have impressed us less
than they did the ears of those who heard him. One specimen only of his
oratorical talent remains, the panegyric addressed to Trajan. This was
admitted to be in his happiest vein, and it is replete with point and
elegance. The impression given on a first reading is, that it is full also
of flattery. This, however, is not in reality the case. Allowing for a
certain conventionality of tone, there is no flattery in it; that is,
there is nothing that goes beyond truth. But Pliny has the unhappy talent
of speaking truth in the accents of falsehood. Like Seneca, he strikes us
in this speech as _too clever_ for his audience. Still, with all its
faults, his oratory must have made an epoch, and helped to arrest the
decline for at least some years. It is on his letters that Pliny's fame
now rests, and both in tone and style they are a monument that does him
honour. They show him to have been a gentleman and a man of feeling, as
well as a wit and courtier. They were deliberately written with a view to
publication, and thus can never have the unique and surpassing interest
that belongs to those of Cicero. But they throw so much light on the
contemporary history, society, and literature, that no student of the age
can afford to neglect them. They are arranged neither according to time
nor subject, but on an aesthetic plan of their author's, after the fashion
of a literary nosegay. As extracts from several have already been given,
we need not enlarge on them here. Their language is extremely pure, and
almost entirely free from that poetical colouring which is so conspicuous
in contemporary and subsequent prose-writing.

The tenth book possesses a special interest, as containing the
correspondence between Pliny while governor of Bithynia and the emperor
Trajan, to whose judgment almost every question that arose, however
insignificant, was referred. [3] As he says in his frank way: "Solemne est
mihi, Domine, omnia de quibus dubito ad te referre." [4] The letter which
opens with these words is the celebrated one on the subject of the
Christians. Perhaps it may not be out of place to translate it, as a
highly significant witness of the relations between the emperors and their
confidential servants. It runs thus:--

"I had never attended at the trial of a Christian; hence I knew not
what were the usual questions asked them, or what the punishments
inflicted. I doubted also whether to make a distinction of ages, or to
treat young and old alike; whether to allow space for recantation, or
to refuse all pardon whatever to one who had been a Christian;
whether, finally, to make the name penal, though no crime should be
proved, or to reserve the penalty for the combination of both.
Meanwhile, when any were reported to me as Christians, I followed this
plan. I asked them whether they were Christians. If they said yes, I
repeated the question twice, adding threats of punishment; if they
persisted, I ordered punishment to be inflicted. For I felt sure that
whatever it was they confessed, their inflexible obstinacy well
deserved to be chastised. There were even some Roman citizens who
showed this strange persistence; those I determined to send to Rome.
As often happens in cases of interference, charges were now lodged
more generally than before, and several forms of guilt came before me.
An anonymous letter was sent, containing the names of many persons,
who, however, denied that they were or had been Christians. As they
invoked the gods and worshipped with wine and frankincense before your
image, at the same time cursing Christ, I released them the more
readily, as those who are really Christians cannot be got to do any of
these things. Others, who were named to me, admitted that they were
Christians, but immediately afterwards denied it; some said they had
been so three years ago, others at still more distant dates, one or
two as long ago as twenty years. All these worshipped your image and
those of the gods, and abjured Christ. But they declared that all
their guilt or error had amounted to was this: they met on certain
mornings before daybreak, and sang one after another a hymn to Christ
as God, at the same time binding themselves by an oath not to commit
any crime, but to abstain from theft, robbery, adultery, perjury, or
repudiation of trust; after this was done, the meeting broke up; they,
however, came together again to eat their meal in common, being quite
guiltless of any improper conduct. [5] But since my edict forbidding
(as you ordered) all secret societies, they had given this practice
up. However, I thought it necessary to apply the torture to some young
women who were called _ministrae_, [6] in order, if possible, to
find out the truth. But I could elicit nothing from them except
evidence of some debased and immoderate superstition; so I deferred
the trial, and determined to ask your advice. For the matter seemed
important, especially since the number of those who run into danger
increases daily. All ages, all ranks, and both sexes are among the
accused, and the taint of the superstition is not confined to the
towns; it has actually made its way into the villages. But I believe
it possible to cheek and repress it. At all events it is certain that
temples which were lately almost empty are now well attended, and
sacred festivals long disused are being revived. Victims too are
flowing in, whereas a few years ago such things could scarcely find a
purchaser. From this I infer that vast numbers might be reformed if an
opportunity of recantation were allowed them."

Trajan's reply, brief, clear, and to the point, as all his letters are, is
as follows:--

"I entirely approve of your conduct with regard to those Christians of
whom you had received information. We can never lay down a universal
rule, as if circumstances were always the same. They are not to be
searched for; but if they are reported and convicted, they must be
punished. But if any denies his Christianity and proves his words by
sacrificing to our divinity, even though his former conduct may have
laid him under suspicion, he must be allowed the benefit of his
recantation. No weight whatever should be attached to anonymous
communications; they are no Roman way of dealing, and are altogether

Pliny died in 113. He shone in nearly every department of literature, and
thought himself no inelegant poet. His vanity has led him to record some
of his verses, but they only show that he had little or no talent in this
direction. His long and prosperous life was marked by no reverse. Popular
among his equals, splendid in his political successes, in his vast wealth,
and his friendship wife, the emperor, Pliny is almost a perfect type of a
refined pagan gentleman. In some ways he reminds us of Xenophon. He was in
complete harmony with his age; he had neither the harassing thoughts of
Seneca, nor the querulousness of his uncle, nor the settled gloom of
Tacitus, to overcast his bright and happy disposition. Few works in all
antiquity are more pleasing than his friendly correspondence. We learn
from it the names of a large number of orators and other distinguished
literary men, of whom, indeed, Rome was full. VOCONIUS ROMANUS, [7]
among the most renowned. They are mentioned as possessing every gift that
could contribute to the highest eloquence; but as Pliny's good nature
leads him to praise all his friends indiscriminately, we cannot lay much
stress on his opinion. In jurisprudence we meet with PRISCUS NERATIUS,
JUVENTIUS CELSUS, and JAVOLENUS PRISCUS. The two former were men of mark,
and obtained the consulate. The last was less distinguished, and had the
misfortune to offend Pliny by an ill-timed jest. [11] Once, when Statius
had given a reading, and had just left the hall, the audience asked
Passienus Paulus, who had a manuscript ready, to take his place. Paulus
was somewhat diffident, but finally consented, and began his poem with the
words, "You bid me, Priscus...," on which Javolenus, who was sitting near,
called out, "You mistake! I do not bid you!" The audience greeted this
sally with a laugh, and so put an end to the unlucky Paulus's recitation.
Pliny contemptuously remarks that it is doubtful whether Javolenus was
quite sane, but admits that there are people imprudent enough to trust
their business to him. [12] We may think a single jest is somewhat scanty
evidence of _dementia_.

Grammar was in this reign actively pursued. FLAVIUS CAPER was the author
of a treatise on orthography, and another "on doubtful words," both of
which we possess. He seems to have been a learned man, and is often quoted
by the grammarians of the fourth and fifth centuries. VELIUS LONGUS also
wrote on orthography, and, as we learn from Gellius, a treatise _De Usu
Antiquae Lectionis_. All the chief grammarians now exercised themselves on
the interpretation of Virgil, who was fast rising into the position of an
oracle in nearly every department of learning, an elevation which, in the
time of Macrobius, he had completely attained. Of scientific writers we
possess in part the works of three; that of HYGINUS on munitions, and
another on boundaries (if indeed this last be his), which are based on
good authorities; that of BALBUS _On the Elementary Notions of Geometry_;
and perhaps that of SICULUS FLACCUS, _De Condidonibus Agrorum_, all of
which are of importance towards a knowledge of Roman surveying. It is
doubtful whether Flaccus lived under Trajan, but in any case he cannot be
placed later than the beginning of Hadrian's reign.

The only poet of the time of Trajan who has reached us, but one of the
greatest in Roman literature, is D. JUNIUS JUVENALIS (46-130? A.D.). He
was born during the reign of Claudius, and thus spent the best years of
his life under the regime of the worst emperors. His parentage is
uncertain, but he is said to have been either the son or the adopted son
of a rich freedman, and a passage in the third Satire [13] seems to point
to Aquinum as his birth-place. We have unfortunately scarcely any
knowledge of his life, a point to be the more regretted, as we might then
have pronounced with confidence on his character, which in the _Satires_
is completely veiled. An inscription placed by him in the temple of Ceres
Helvina, at Aquinum (probably in the reign of Domitian), has been
published by Mommsen. It contains one or two biographical notices, which
show that he held positions of considerable importance. [14] We have also
a memoir of him, attributed to Suetonius by some, but to Probus by Valla,
which tells us that until middle life he practised declamation as an
amateur, neither pleading at the bar nor opening a rhetorical school. We
are informed also that under Domitian he wrote a satire on the pantomime
Paris, which was so highly approved by his friends that he determined to
give himself to poetry. He did not, however, publish until the reign of
Trajan. It was in the time of Hadrian that some of his verses on an actor
[15] were recited, probably, by the populace in a theatre, in consequence
of which the poet, now eighty years of age, was exiled under the specious
pretext of a military command, the emperor's favourite player having taken
offence at the allusion. From a reference to Egypt in one of his later
satires, [16] the scholiast came to the conclusion that this was the place
of his exile. But it is more likely to have been Britain, though in this
case the relegation would have taken place under Trajan. [17] He appears
to have died soon after from disgust, though here the two accounts differ,
one bringing him back to Rome, and making him survive until the time of
Antoninus Pius. The obvious inference from all this is that we know very
little about the matter. In default of external evidence we might turn to
the _Satires_ themselves, but here the most careful sifting can find
nothing of importance. The great vigour of style, however, which is
conspicuous in the seventh Satire makes it clear that it was not the work
of the poet's old age. Hence the Caesar referred to cannot be Hadrian. He
must, therefore, be some earlier emperor, and there can be little doubt it
is Trajan. Under Trajan, then, we place the maturity of Juvenal's genius
as it is displayed in the first ten Satires. The four following ones show
a falling off in concentration and dramatic power, and are no doubt later
productions, when years of good government had softened his asperity of
mind. The fifteenth, sixteenth, and to a certain extent the twelfth, show
unmistakable signs of senility. The fifteenth contains evidence of its
date. The consulship of Juncus (127 A.D.) is mentioned as recent. [18] We
may therefore safely place the Satire within the two following years. The
sixteenth, which treats of the privileges of military service, a very
promising subject, has often been thought spurious, but without sufficient
reason. The poet speaks of himself as a civilian, appearing to have no
goodwill towards the camp, and as Juvenal had been in the army, it is
argued that he would scarcely have written so. But to this it may be
replied that Juvenal chose the subject for its literary capabilities, not
from any personal feeling. As an expert rhetorician, he could not fail to
see the humorous side of the relations between militaire and civilian. The
feebleness of the style, and certain differences from the diction usual
with the author, are not sufficient to found an argument upon, and have
besides been much exaggerated. They would apply equally, and even with
greater force, to the fifteenth.

The words "_ad mediam fere aetatem declamavit_," as Martha has justly
remarked, form the key to Juvenal's literary position. He is the very
quintessence of a declaimer, but a declaimer of a most masculine sort.
Boileau characterises him in two epigrammatic lines:

"Juvenal eleve dans les cris de l'ecole
Poussa jusqu'a l'exces son mordant hyperbole."

Poet in the highest sense of the word he certainly is not. The love of
beauty, which is the touchstone of the poetic soul, is absent from his
works. He rather revels in depicting horror and ugliness. But the other
qualification of the poet, viz. a mastery of words, [19] he possesses to a
degree not surpassed by any Roman writer, and in intensity and terseness
of language is perhaps superior to all. Not an epithet is wasted, not a
synonym idle. As much is pressed into each verse as it can possibly be
made to bear, so that fully to appreciate the _Satires_ it is necessary to
have a commentary on every line. Even now, after the immense erudition
that has been expended on him, many passages remain obscure, not only in
respect to allusions, but even in matters of language. [20] The tension of
his style, which is never relaxed, [21] represents not only great effort,
but long-matured and late-born thought. In the angry silence of forty
years had been formed that fierce and almost brutal directness of
description which paints, as has been well said, with a vividness truly
horrible. In preaching virtue, he first frightens away modesty. There is
scarce one of his poems that does not shock even where it rebukes. And
three of them are so hideous in their wonderful power that it is
impossible to read them with any pleasure, though one of these (the sixth)
is perhaps the most vigorous piece of writing in the entire Latin
language. For compressed power it may he compared to the first chorus of
the _Agamemnon_ of Aeschylus, but here the likeness ceases. While the
Athenian, even among dreadful scenes, rises to notes of sweet and almost
divine pathos, the Roman's dark picture is not relieved by one touch of
the beautiful, or one reminiscence of the ideal.

The question naturally arises, What led Juvenal to write poetry after
being so long content with declamation? He partly answers us in his first
Satire, where he tells us that it is in revenge for the poetry that has
been inflicted on himself:

"Semper ego auditor tantum nunquamne reponam?"

But it arises also from a higher motive--

"Facit indignatio versum
Qualemcunque potest, quales ego vel Cluvienus."

These two qualities, vexation (_vexatus toties_, i. 2) and indignation,
are the salient characteristics of Juvenal. How far the vexation was
righteous, the indignation sincere, is a question hard to answer. There is
no denying the power with which they are expressed. But to submit to this
power is one thing, to sift its author's heart is another. After a long
and careful study of Juvenal's poems, we confess to being able to make
nothing of Juvenal himself. We cannot get even a glimpse of him. He never
doffs the iron mask, the "_rigidi censura cachinni_;" he has so long
hidden his face that he is afraid to see it himself or to let it be seen.
Some have thought that in the eleventh and twelfth Satires they can find
the man, and have been glad to figure him as genial, simple, and kind. But
it is by no means certain that even these are not mere rhetorical
exercises, modelled on the Horatian epistles, but themselves having no
relation to any actual event. The fifteenth, again, represents a softer
view of life, the thirteenth and fourteenth a higher faith in providence;
in these, it has been thought, appears the true nature, which had allowed
itself to lie hid among the denunciations of the earlier satires. But, in
truth, the character of Juvenal must be one of the _incognita_ of
literature. It is a retaliation on Satire's part for the intimate
knowledge she had allowed us to gain of Horace and Persius through their
works. [22]

In manner Juvenal is the most original of poets; in matter he is the
glorifier of common-place. His strength lies in his prejudices. He is not
a moralist, but a _Roman_ moralist; the vices he lashes are not lashed as
vices _simpliciter_, but as vices that Roman ethics condemn. This one-
sided patriotism is the key to all his ideas. In an age which had seen
Seneca, Juvenal can revert to the patriotism of Cato. The burden of his
complaints is given in the third Satire:

"Non possum ferre Quintes Graecam Urbem." [23]

While the Greeks lead fashion, the old Roman virtues can never be
restored. If only men could be disabused of their strange reverence for
all that is Greek, society might be reconstructed. The keen satirist
scents a real danger; in half a century from his death Rome had become a
Greek city.

In estimating the political character of Juvenal's satire we must not
attach too much weight to his denunciation of former tyrants. In the first
place "_tyrannicide_" was a common-place of the schools: [24] Xerxes,
Periander, Phalaris, and all the other despots of history, had been
treated in rhetoric as they had treated others in reality; Juvenal's
tirade was nothing new, but it was something much more powerful than had
yet been seen. In the second place the policy of Trajan encouraged abuse
of his predecessors. He could hardly claim to restore the Republic unless
he showed how the Republic had been overthrown. Pliny, the courtly
flatterer, is far more severe on Domitian than Juvenal; and in truth such
severity was only veiled adulation. When Juvenal ridicules the senate of
Domitian, [25] we may believe that he desired to stimulate to independence
the senate of his day; and when he speaks of Trajan, it is in language of
enthusiastic praise. [26] Flattery it is not, for Juvenal is no sycophant,
nor would Trajan have liked him better if he had been one. Indeed, with
all his invective he keeps strictly to truth; his painting of the emperors
is from the life. It is highly coloured, but not out of drawing. Juvenal's
Domitian is nearer to history than Tacitus's Tiberius.

It is in his delineations of society that Juvenal is at his greatest.
There is nothing ideal about him, but his pictures of real life, allowing
for their glaring lights, have an almost overpowering truthfulness. Every
grade of society is made to furnish matter for his dramatic scenes. The
degenerate noble is pilloried in the eighth, the cringing parasite in the
fifth, the vicious hypocrite in the second, the female profligate in the
sixth. It is rarely that he touches on contemporary themes. His genius was
formed in the past and feeds on bitter memories. As he says, he "kills the
dead." [27] To attack the living is neither pleasant nor safe. Still, in
the historic incidents he resuscitates, a piercing eye can read a
reference to the present. Hadrian's favourite actor saw himself in Paris.
Freedmen and upstarts could read their original in Sejanus. [28] Frivolous
noblemen could feel their follies rebuked in the persons of Lateranus and
Damasippus. [29] Even an emperor might find his lesson in the gloomy
pictures of Hannibal and Alexander. [30] So constant is this reference to
past events that Juvenal's writings may be called historic satire, as
those of Tacitus satiric history.

The exaggeration of Juvenal's style if employed in a different way might
have led us to suspect him of less honesty of purpose than he really has.
As it is, the very violence of his prejudices betrays an earnestness
which, if his views had been more elevated, we might have thought feigned.
A man might pretend to enthusiasm for truth, or holiness; he would hardly
pretend to enthusiasm for national exclusiveness, [31] or for the dignity
of his own profession. [32] When Juvenal attacks the insolent parvenu,
[33] the Bithynian or Cappadocian knight, [34] the Greek adventurer who
takes everything out of the Roman's hands, [35] the Chaldean impostor,
[36] we may be sure he means what he says.

It is true that all his accusations are not thus limited in their scope.
Some are no doubt inspired by moral indignation; and the language in which
they are expressed is noble and well deserves the praise universally
accorded to it. But in other instances his patriotism obscures his moral
sense. For example, the rich upstarts against whom he is perpetually
thundering, are by no means all worthy of blame. Very many of them have
obtained their wealth by honourable commerce, which the nobles were too
proud to practise, and the rewards of which they yet could not see reaped
without envy and scorn. [37] The increasing importance of the class of
_libertini_, so far from being an unmixed evil, as Juvenal thinks it, was
productive of immense good. It was the first step towards the breaking
down of the party-wall of pride which, if persisted in, must have caused
the premature ruin of the Empire. It familiarised men's minds with ideas
of equality, and prepared the way for the elevation to the citizenship of
those vast masses of slaves who were fast becoming an anachronism.

Popular feeling was ahead of men like Juvenal and Tacitus in these
respects. In all cases of disturbance the senate and great literary men
sided with the old exclusive views. The emperors, as a rule, interfered
for the benefit of the slave: and this helps us to understand the
popularity of some even of the worst of their number.

Juvenal, then, was not above his age, as Cicero and Seneca had been. He
does protest against the cruel treatment of slaves by the Roman ladies;
but he nowhere exerts his eloquence to advocate their rights as men to
protection and friendship. Nor does he enter a protest against the
gladiatorial shows, which was the first thing a high moralist would have
impugned, and which the Christians attacked with equal enthusiasm and
courage. We observe, however, with pleasure, that as Juvenal advanced in
years his tone became gentler and purer, though his literary powers
decayed. The thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth Satires evince a kindly
vein which we fail to find in the earlier ones. Some have fancied that in
the interval he became acquainted with the teaching of Christianity. But
this is a supposition as improbable as it is unsupported.

On the style of Juvenal but little need be added. Its force, brevity, and
concision have already been noticed, At the same time they do not seem to
have been natural to him. Where he writes more easily he is diffuse and
even verbose. The twelfth and fifteenth Satires are conspicuous examples
of this. One is tempted to think that the fifteenth, had he written it
twenty years earlier, would have been compressed into half its length. The
diction is classical; but like that of Tacitus, it is the classicality of
the Silver Age. It shows, however, no diminution of power, and the gulf
between it and that of Fronto and Apuleius in the next age is immense.
Juvenal's language is based on a minute study of Virgil; [38] his rhythm
is based rather on that of Lucan, with whom in other respects he shows a
great affinity. His verse is sonorous and powerful; he is fond of the
break after the fourth foot. Though monotonous, its weight makes it very
impressive; it is easily retained in the memory, and stands next to that
of Virgil and Lucretius as a type of what the language can achieve.

The resentment that goaded Juvenal to write satire seems also to have
inspired the pen of C. CORNELIUS TACITUS. [39] He was born 54 A.D., or,
according to Arnold, 57 A.D., probably in Rome. His father was perhaps the
same who is alluded to by Pliny [40] as procurator of Belgian Gaul. It is,
at any rate, certain that the historian came of a noble and wealthy stock;
his habit of thought, prejudices, and tastes all reflect these of the
highest and most exclusive society. He began the career of honours under
Vespasian [41] by obtaining his quaestorship, and, some years later, the
aedileship. The dates of both these events are uncertain--another instance
of the vagueness with which writers of this time allude to the
circumstances of their own lives. We know that at twenty-one he married
the daughter of Cn. Julius Agricola, and that he was praetor ten years
afterwards. He was also quindecimvir at the secular games under Domitian
(88 A.D.). For some years he held a military command abroad, perhaps in
Germany. On his return he was constant in his senatorial duties [42] and
we find him joined with Pliny in the accusation of Marius Priscus, which
was successful but unavailing. Under Nerva (97 A.D.) he was made consul;
but soon retired from public life, and dedicated the rest of his days to
literature, having sketched out a vast plan of Roman history the greater
part of which he lived to fulfil. The year of his death is uncertain.
Brotier, followed by Arnold, thinks he was prematurely cut off before the
close of Trajan's reign, but it is possible he lived somewhat longer,
perhaps until 118 A.D.

The first remark one naturally makes on reading the life of Tacitus, is
that he was admirably fitted by his distinguished military and political
career for the duties of a historian. Gibbon said that his year in the
yeomanry had been of more service to him in describing battles than any
closet study could have been; and Tacitus has this great advantage over
Livy that he had helped to make history as well as to relate it. His
elevation to the rank of senator enabled him to understand the iniquity of
Domitian's government in a way that would otherwise have been impossible;
and of the complicity shown by the servile fathers in their ruler's acts
of crime, he speaks in the _Agricola_ with something like the shame of
repentance. His character seems to have been naturally proud and
independent, but unequal to heroism in action. Like almost all literary
minds he shrunk from facing peril or discomfort, and tried to steer a
course between the harsh self-assertion of a Thrasea [43] and the cringing
servility of the majority of senators. This led him to become dissatisfied
with himself, with the world, and with Divine Providence, [44] and has
left a stamp of profound and rebellious melancholy on all his works.

As a young man he had studied rhetoric under Aper Secundus, [45] and
perhaps Quintilian. He pleaded with the greatest success, and Pliny gives
it as his own highest ambition to be ranked next, he dare not say second,
to Tacitus. [46] Nor was his deliberative eloquence inferior to his
judicial. We learn, from Pliny again, that there was a peculiar solemnity
in his language, which gave to all he uttered the greatest weight. The
panegyric he pronounced on Virginius Rufus, the man who twice refused the
chance of empire, "the best citizen of his time," was celebrated as a
model of that kind of oratory. [47]

The earliest work of his that has reached us is the _Dialogus de caussis
corruptae Eloquentiae_, composed under Titus, or early under Domitian. It
attributes the decay of eloquence to the decay of freedom; but believes in
a future development of imperial oratory under the mild sway of just
princes, founded not on feeble and repining imitation of the past, but on
a just appreciation of the qualifications attainable in the present
political conditions and state of the language. The argument is conducted
throughout with the greatest moderation, but the conclusion is decided in
favour of the modern style, if kept within proper bounds. The time of the
dialogue is laid in 75 A.D.; the speakers are Curiatius Maternus, Aper
Secundus, and Vipstanus Messala. The point of debate is one frequently
discussed in the schools of rhetoric, and the work may be considered as a
literary exercise; but the author must have outgrown youth when he wrote
it, and its ability is such as to give promise of commanding eminence in
the future. The style is free and flowing, and full of imitations of
Cicero. This has caused some of the critics to attribute it to other
authors, as Pliny the younger and Quintilian, [48] who were known to be
Ciceronianists. But independently of the fact that it is distinctly above
the level of these writers, we observe on looking closely many indications
of Tacitus's peculiar diction. [49] The most striking personal notice
occurs in the thirteenth chapter, where the author announces his
determination to give up the life of ambition, and, like Virgil, to be
content with one of literary retirement. This seems at first hard to
reconcile with the known career of Tacitus; but as the dialogue bears all
the marks of early manhood, the resolve, though real, may have been a
passing one only; or, in comparison with what he felt himself capable of
doing, the activity actually displayed by him may have seemed as nothing,
and to have merited the depreciatory notice he here bestows upon it.

The work next in order of priority is the _Agricola_, a biography of his
father-in-law, composed near the commencement of Trajan's reign, about 98
A. D. The talent of the author has now undergone a change; he is no longer
the bright flowing spirit of the _Dialogus_, who acknowledged the decline
while making the most of the excellences of his time; he has become the
stern, back-looking moralist, the burning panegyrist, whose very pictures
of virtue are the most withering rebukes of vice. This treatise represents
what Teuffel calls his _Sallustian_ epoch; _i.e._, a phase or period of
his mental development, in which his political and moral feeling, as well
as his literary aspirations, led him to recall the manner of the great
rhetorical biographer. The short preface, in which occurs a fierce protest
against the wickedness of the time just past, reminds us of the more
verbose but otherwise not dissimilar introduction to the _Catiline_: and
the subordination of general history to the main subject of the
composition is earned out in Sallust's way, but with even greater
completeness. At the same time the Silver Age is betrayed by the extremely
high colouring of the rhetoric, especially in the last chapters, where an
impassioned outpouring of affection and despair seems by its prophetic
eloquence to summon forth the genius that is to be. Already, in this work,
[50] we find that Tacitus has conceived the design of his _Historiae_, to
which, therefore, the _Agricola_ must be considered a preliminary study.

As yet, Tacitus's manner is only half-formed. He must have acquired by
painful labour that wonderful suggestive brevity which in the _Annals_
reaches its culmination, and is of all styles the world of letters has
ever seen, the most compressed and full of meaning. The _Germania_,
however, in certain portions [51] approximates to it, and in other ways
shows a slight increase of maturity over the biography of Agricola. His
object in writing this treatise has been much contested. Some think it was
in order to dissuade Trajan from a projected expedition that he painted
the German people as foes so formidable; others that it is a satire on the
vices of Rome couched under the guise of an innocent ethnographic
treatise; others that it is inspired by the genuine scientific desire to
investigate the many objects of historic and natural interest with which a
vast and almost unknown territory abounded. But none of these motives
supplies a satisfactory explanation. The first can hardly be maintained
owing to historical difficulties; the second, though an object congenial
to the Roman mind, is not lofty enough to have moved the pen of Tacitus;
the third, though it may have had some weight with him, would argue a
state of scientific curiosity in advance of Tacitus's position and age,
and besides is incompatible with his culpable laziness in sifting
information on matters of even still greater ethnographic interest. [52]

The true motive was no doubt his fear lest the continual assaults of these
tribes should prove a permanent and insurmountable danger to Rome. Having
in all probability been himself employed in Germany, Tacitus had seen with
dismay of what stuff the nation was made, and had foreseen what the defeat
of Varus might have remotely suggested, that some day the degenerate
Romans would be no match for these hardy and virtuous tribes. Thus, the
design of the work was purely and pre-eminently patriotic; nor is any
other purpose worthy of the great historian, patrician, patriot, and
soldier that he was. At the same time subsidiary motives are not excluded;
we may well believe that the gall of satire kindles his eloquence, and
that the insatiable desire of knowledge stimulates his research while
inquiring into the less accessible details of the German polity. The work
is divided into two parts. The first gives an account of the situation,
climate, soil, and inhabitants of the country; it investigates the
etymology of several German names of men and gods, describes the national
customs, religion, laws, amusements, and especially celebrates the
people's moral strictness; but at the same time not without contrasting
them unfavourably with Rome whenever the advantage is on her side. The
second part contains a catalogue of the different tribes, with the
geographical limits, salient characteristics, and a short historical
account of each, whenever accessible.

Next come the _Histories_, which are a narrative of the reigns of Galba,
Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian, written under Trajan.
This work, of which we possess only four entire books, with part of the
fifth, consisted originally of fourteen books, and was the most authentic
and complete of all his writings. The loss of the last nine and a half
books must be considered irreparable. In the _Germania_ he had shown the
power of that liberty which the barbarians enjoyed, had indicated their
polity, in which, even then the germs of feudalism, chivalry, the worship
of the sex, troubadour minstrelsy, fairy mythology, and, above all,
representative government, existed. In the _Historiae_ he paints with
tremendous power the disorganisation, of the Roman state, the military
anarchy which made the diadem the gift of a brutal soldiery, and revealed
the startling truth that an emperor could be created elsewhere than at

At this period his style still retains some traces of its former copious
flow; it has not yet been pressed tight into the short _sententiae_, which
were its final and most characteristic development, and which in the
_Annals_ dominate to the exclusion of every other style.

The _Annals, ab excessu divi Augusti_, in sixteen books, treated the
history of the Empire until the extinction of the Claudian dynasty. They
contain two separate threads of history, one internal, the other external.
The latter is important and interesting; but the former is both in an
immeasurably greater degree. It has been likened to a tragedy in two acts,
the first terminating with the death of Tiberius, the second with the
death of Nero. Tacitus in this work shows his personal sympathies more
strongly than in any of the others. He appears as a Roman of the old
school, but still more, as an oligarchical partisan. Not that he indulged
in chimerical plans for restoring the Republic. That he saw was
impossible; nor had he much sympathy with those who strove for it. But his
resignation to the Empire as an unavoidable evil does not inspire him with
contentment. His blood boils with indignation at the steady repression of
the liberty of action of the old families, which the instincts of
imperialism forced upon the monarchs from the very beginning; nor do the
general security of life and property, the bettered condition of the
provinces, and the long peace that had allowed the internal resources of
the empire to be developed, make amends for what he considers the
iniquitous tyranny practised upon the higher orders of the state. Thus he
writes under a strong sense of injustice, which reaches its culmination in
treating of the earlier reigns. But this does not provoke him into
intemperate language, far less into misrepresentation of fact; if he
disdained to complain, he disdained still more to falsify. But he cannot
help insinuating; and his insinuations are of such searching power that,
once suggested, they grasp hold of the mind, and will not be shaken off.
Of all Latin authors none has so much power over the reader as Tacitus. If
by eloquence is meant the ability to persuade, then he is the most
eloquent historian that ever existed. To doubt his judgment is almost to
be false to the conscience of history. Nevertheless, his saturnine
portraits have been severely criticised both by English and French
historians, and the arguments for the defence put forward with enthusiasm
as well as force. The result is, that Tacitus's verdict has been shaken,
but not reversed. The surpassing vividness of such characters as his
Tiberius and Nero forbids us to doubt their substantial reality. But once
his prepossessions are known and discounted, the student of his works can
give a freer attention to the countervailing facts, which Tacitus is too
honourable to hide.

After long wavering between the two styles, he adopted the brilliant one
fashionable in his time, but he has glorified it in adopting it. Periods
such as those of Pliny would be frigid in him. He still retains some
traces (though they are few) of the rhetorician. In an interesting passage
he complains of the comparative poverty of his subject as contrasted with
that of Livy: "Ingentia illi bella, expugnationes urbium, fusos captosque
reges libero egressu memorabant; nobis in arcto et inglorius labor. Immota
quippe aut modice lacessita pax maestae urbis res et princeps proferendi
imperii incuriosus;"--[53] but he certainly had no cause to complain. The
sombre annals of the Empire were not less amenable to a powerful dramatic
treatment than the vigorous and aggressive youth of the Republic had been.
Nor does the story of guilt and horror depicted in the _Annals_ fall below
even the finest scenes of Livy; in intensity of interest it rather exceeds

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