[Sidenote: The Roman creators of civilization.]
[Sidenote: The Romans sought to govern.]
[Sidenote: The Romans sought to govern through laws.]
[Sidenote: Roman sense of justice.]
It is not from a survey of the material grandeur, or the arts, or the military prowess of Rome that we get the highest idea of her civilization. These indicate strength and even genius; but the checks and balances which were gradually introduced into the government of the city and empire, by which society was kept together, and a great prosperity secured for centuries, also show great foresight and practical wisdom. A State which favored individual development while it promoted law and order; which secured liberty, while it made the government stable and respectable; which guaranteed rights to the poorer citizens, while it placed power in the hands of those who were most capable of wielding it for the general good, is well worth our contemplation. The idea of aggrandizement was, it must be confessed, the most powerful which entered into the Roman mind; but the principles of national unity, the welfare of citizens, the reign of law, the security of property, the network of trades and professions, also received attention there. The aspirations for liberty and national prosperity never left the Roman mind. The Romans were great creators of civilization, though in a different sense from the Greeks. What the principles of art were to the Greeks, those of government were to the Romans. If the Greeks made statues, the Romans made laws. If the former speculated on the beautiful, or the good, or the true, the latter realized the boast of Diogenes--the power to govern men. The passion for government was the most powerful which a Roman citizen felt, next to the passion for war. For five hundred years after the expulsion of the kings, there was the most perfect system of checks and balances in the government of the state known in the ancient world, and which is scarcely rivaled in the modern. Power was so wisely distributed that not even a successful general was able to gain a dangerous preeminence. Every citizen was a politician, and every Senator a statesman. For five hundred years there was neither anarchy nor military despotism. If every citizen knew how to fight, every citizen also knew how to govern, to submit. No consul dared to exceed his trust; no general, till Caesar, ventured to cross the Rubicon. The Roman Senate never lost its dignity-- a supreme body which controlled all public interests. The Romans were sufficiently wise to bend to circumstances. Though proud, the patricians made concessions to plebeians whenever it was necessary. The right of citizenship was gradually extended throughout the Empire. Paul lived in a remote city of Asia Minor, but, by virtue of his citizenship, could appeal to a higher court than that of the governor. The Romans succeeded, by their wisdom, in extending their institutions over the countries they had conquered; and every part of the Empire was well governed even when military despotism had overturned the ancient constitution. There were, of course, cases of extortion and injustice, and most governors made large fortunes; yet the provinces were better administered, and the rule was more in accordance with justice than under the native princes. Throughout the vast limits of the Empire, life and property were safe, and the roads were free of robbers; nor were there riots in the cities, except on very rare occasions, in which they were put down with merciless severity. Yet a few hundred men were enough to preserve order in the largest cities, and a few thousand in the most extensive provinces. Even under the most tyrannical emperors, justice and order were enforced. The government was never better administered than by Tiberius, and further, was never better administered than when he was abandoned to pleasure in his guarded villa at Capri. There was the passion to govern the world, but in accordance with laws. The rule of the Romans was not that of brute force, even when the army was at the control of the Emperors. The citizens, to the last, enjoyed great social and political rights. They had great immunities, in reference to marriage, and the making of wills, and the possession of property. Their persons were secured from the disgrace of corporal punishment; they could appeal from the decision of magistrates; they were eligible to public offices; they were exempted from many oppressive taxes which still grind down the people in the most civilized states of Europe. The government of Octavius was the mildest despotism ever known to the ancient world. That Ulysses of state craft exercised the most extensive powers under the ancient forms, and all the early emperors disguised rather than paraded their powers. Contented with real power, the Roman was careless of its display. He had the tact to rule without seeming to rule; but rule he must, though not until he had first learned to obey-- obedience to laws and domination were inseparably connected. This made the Roman yoke endurable, because it was not offensive or unjust. The Romans were masters of the world by conquest, yet ruled the world they had subdued by arms in accordance with laws based on the principles of equity. This sense of justice, in the enjoyment of unbounded domination, undoubtedly gave permanence to their government. The centurion was ever present to enforce a decree, but the decree was in accordance with justice. This was the idea, the recognized principle of government, although often abused. Paul appealed to Caesar. He might have been released by the governor, had he not appealed. Here was justice to Paul in allowing the appeal; and still greater justice in keeping him in bonds until acquitted by Caesar himself. [Sidenote: Degeneracy under emperors.]
[Sidenote: Skill of the Romans for government.]
[Sidenote: On what the prosperity was based.]
[Sidenote: Government the great art and science of the Romans.]
[Sidenote: Prosperity of the government.]
It must, however, be confessed that, after the Caesars were fairly established on their throne, a great indifference to public affairs ensued. Every office was then, directly or indirectly, in the hands of the emperor. Cicero expressed the popular sentiment of his day when he said, "that was the most perfect government which was a combination of popular and aristocratic authority;"--but in the eighth century of the city, the system of checks and balances would have fallen to pieces in the hands of a degenerate people. A constitutional monarchy even was no longer possible. The vices of the oligarchy, and the fierce reactions of the democracy, had destroyed all the dreams of the earlier patriots. The mass of the people had long been passive under the sway of factions and political intriguers, and they resigned themselves to the despotism of the emperor without a struggle. But even in this degradation the power of government remained among the leading classes. The governors of provinces, taken generally from the Senate and the nobles, were skillful in their administration of public affairs. They were enlightened in all political duties. The traditional ideas of government survived for several generations, even as the mechanism of the army made it powerful after all real spirit had fled. The Roman still regarded himself as the favorite of the gods, destined to achieve a vast mission, even the reduction of the world to political unity. Augustus made every effort, while he reigned, in the ruin of political institutions, to revive the forms and traditions of other days. The patricians were favored and honored, and the Senate still was made to appear august, with a prostrate world at its feet, to which it was bound to dictate laws and institutions. Political unity was the grand idea of the Romans, and this idea has survived to our own times. It was one of the great elements of Roman civilization. Universal empire was based, in the better days of the Republic, on public morality, in the iron discipline of families, in a marvelously well-trained soldiery, in a military system which made the civil society an army almost ready for the field, in a recognition of public rights and duties, in a wise system of colonization, in conciliatory conduct to the conquered races, and in a central power as the dispenser of all honor and emoluments. The civil wars broke up, in a measure, this wise and considerate policy; still citizenship extended to all parts of the empire, even when it was manifest it must soon fall into the hands of barbarians. And as for the administration of justice, it was probably better conducted under the emperors than under the supreme rule of the Senate. Even bad emperors knew how to govern. To the Roman mind every thing was subordinate to the art of government. And every characteristic fitted the Romans to govern--energy of will, practical good sense, the conception of justice, an unyielding pride, fortitude, courage, and lust of power. And the spirit of domination was carried out into every thing. It was made a science, an art. Whatever would contribute to the ascendency of the state was remorselessly adopted; whatever would interfere with it was abandoned or swept away. Fierce and tolerant by turns, and as circumstances prompted--such was the Roman. With submission life was easy, and the government was mild. And the supreme government rarely entrusted power except to faithful, capable, and patriotic rulers. The wisest and best were selected for important offices. The governors of provinces were men of great experience; they were generals and senators who had passed their term of active service. They easily made great mistakes. They carried out the policy of the State. They were acquainted with laws, and the customs of the people whom they ruled. They were versed in the literature of their day. They were men of dignity and fortune. They were moderate, conciliatory, and firm. They were models for rulers for all subsequent ages. There were, of course, exceptions, but the small number of riots and rebellions shows the contentment of the people, for they were not ground down by oppressive laws and exactions, until their spirit was broken. How munificent were the emperors to such cities as Athens and Alexandria! Athens was the seat of learning and culture, to the very end of the empire. Arts and literature and science were fostered in all the cities. They were adopted as parts of the empire, not treated like conquered territories. After the destruction of Carthage, the Romans had no jealousy of cities that once were equals. Their arts were made to subserve Roman greatness, indeed, but they were left free to develop their resources. The development of resources was a vital principle of the Roman government. Spain, Syria, and Egypt, were never more prosperous than under the imperial rule. All the provinces were more thriving under the emperors than they had been under their ancient kings, until the era of barbaric invasions. If war had been the mission of the republic, peace was the pride of the empire. There were no wars of importance for three hundred years, except those of necessity. The end of the emperors was to govern, to preserve peace, and secure obedience to the laws.
[Sidenote: The aristocracy the real rulers of the state.]
[Sidenote: Defects of Democratic ascendency.]
[Sidenote: The people unfit to govern when unenlightened.]
[Sidenote: Popular element in the Roman state.]
[Sidenote: Rich Plebeians had a great influence in the government.]
But we must bear in mind that, whatever were the popular rights enjoyed in the republican era, and however vast were the powers wielded by the emperors after liberty had fled, yet the constitution of Roman society was essentially aristocratic. All the great conquests were made under the rule of patricians, and all the leading men under the emperors were nobles. The government was virtually, from first to last, in the hands of the aristocracy. Still there was an important popular element, especially in the latter days of the republic, to which revolutionary leaders appealed, like the Gracchi, Marius, Catiline, and Caesar. One of the most humiliating lessons which we learn of antiquity, we are forced to own, was the signal incapacity of the people to govern themselves, when they had obtained a greater share of power than the old constitution had allowed. The republic did not long survive when successful generals and eloquent demagogues were sustained by the people. Had Rome been a democracy, as some suppose, the empire never could have been established. We comfort ourselves, however, by the reflection, that when the people surrendered themselves to factions and demagogues and tyrants, they were both ignorant and depraved. Self- government has never yet succeeded, because there have never been virtue and intelligence among the masses. So long as we can boast of virtue and intelligence among the people, we need not despair with the government in their hands. An enlightened self-interest will suggest the wisest policy. We only despair of the government of the people when they are ignorant, brutal, and wicked. As there was no period in the ancient world when they were not unenlightened, we are reconciled to the fact that a wise and vigorous administration of public affairs was always conducted by kings or nobles who had intelligence and patriotism, if they were proud and imperious. Whatever faith we may justly cherish in reference to popular sovereignty, grounded on the principles of natural justice, and the hopes which are held out as the fruit of Christian ideas, still, as a fact, there is but little in the history of the Roman commonwealth which reflects much glory on the people, except when controlled and marshalled by the aristocracy. Just so far as the popular element prevailed, the state was hurried on to ruin. The aristocratical element had the ascendency when Rome was most prosperous and most respected. Yet, while the Roman constitution was essentially aristocratic for five hundred years, it had a strong popular element mingled with it. The patricians had the chief power, but they were not lords and masters in so absolute a sense as to trample on the people with impunity, nor were they able to deprive them of their rights, or of all share in the government. They were not feudal nobles, nor a Venetian oligarchy. And yet it were a mistake to suppose that the distinction between the classes implied that the aristocratic power was lodged with the patricians alone. The patricians were not necessarily aristocrats, nor the plebeians a rabble. The political distinctions passed away without destroying social inequalities. There were great families among the plebeians which really belonged to the aristocratic class, at least in the time of Cicero. Aristocracy may have been based on birth, as in England, but it was sustained by wealth, as in that country. A very rich man gained, ultimately, admission to the noble class, as Rothschild has in London. Without wealth to uphold distinctions, any aristocracy soon becomes contemptible. That organization of society is most aristocratic which confers great political and social privileges on a few men, and retains these privileges from generation to generation, as in France during the reign of Louis XV. The state of society at Rome under the republic, favored the monopoly of offices among powerful families. It was considered very remarkable for even Cicero to rise to the highest honors of the state with his magnificent genius, character, attainments, and services; but he shared the consulship with a man of very ordinary capacity. The great offices were all in the hands of the aristocracy, from the expulsion of the kings to the times of Julius Caesar. Even the tribunes of the people ultimately were selected from powerful families.
[Sidenote: The Patricians.]
[Sidenote: The Roman Gens.]
The Roman people--Romanus populus--under the kings, the original citizens, were the warriors who built Rome, and conquered the surrounding cities and districts. They were called patres, which is synonymous with Patricians. [Footnote: Cicero, De Repub., ii. 12 Liv., i. 8.] They were united among themselves by kindred and by political and religious ties. They supported themselves by agriculture although engaged continually in war. They consisted originally of three tribes, which gradually were united into the sovereign people. The first tribe was a Latin colony, and settled on the Palatine Hill; the second were Sabine settlers on the Quirinal; the third were Etruscans, who occupied the Caelian. They were distinct, at first, and were not united fully till the time of Tarquinius Priscus, himself an Etruscan. [Footnote: Dionys., ii. 62.] As there were no other Roman citizens but these patricians, they had no exclusive rights under the kings, and hence there was then no aristocracy of birth. Each of these three tribes of citizens consisted of ten curiae, and each curia of ten decuries, or gentes. The three tribes, therefore, contained three hundred gentes. A gens was a family, and the gentes were aggregates of kindred families. [Footnote: Nieb., Lect. V.] The name of a gens was generally characterized by the termination eia or ia, as Julia, Cornelia, and it is to be presumed that each gens had a common ancestor. But with the growth of the city it came to pass that a gens often included a great number of families; we read of three hundred Fabii forming the gens Fabia in the year 275. These families composed, ultimately, the aristocracy. They were the people who filled all offices, and alone had the right of voting in the assemblies. As the gentes were subdivisions of the three ancient tribes, the populus alone had gentes, so that to be a patrician and to have a gens were synonymous. With the growth of Rome new gentes or families were added which did not claim descent from the ancient tribes. The powerful gens of the Claudia came to Rome with Atta Claudius, their head, after the expulsion of the kings. Tullus Hostilius incorporated the Julii, Servilii and other gentes with the patricians. This ruling class, the descendants of the conquerors, became a powerful aristocracy, and ultimately learned to value pride of blood. There are very few names in Roman history, until the time of Marius, which did not belong to this noble class. What proud families were the Servilii, the Claudii, the Julii, the Cornelii, the Fabii, the Valerii, the Sempronii, the Octavii, the Sergii, and others. [Footnote: Liv., i. 33. Dionys., iii. 31.]
The Equites were originally elected from the patricians, and were cavalry soldiers, and did not form a distinct class till the time of the Gracchi. They were composed of rich citizens, whose wealth enabled them to become judices. They had the privilege of wearing a gold ring, and had seats reserved for them, like the Senate, at the theatre and circus. They increased in number with the increase of wealth, and formed an honorable corps from which the highest officers of the army and the civil magistrates were chosen. Admission to this body was an introduction to public life, and was a test of social position. It was composed of rich plebeians as well as patricians, and was based wholly on wealth. Pliny says, "It became the third order in the state, and to the title of Senatus Populusque Romanus, there began to be added, et Equestris ordo."
[Sidenote: The Roman plebs.]
[Sidenote: The tribunes.]
[Sidenote: Gradual increase of their power.]
[Sidenote: Their usurpations.]
Beside this Romanus populus, which constituted the ruling class under kings, was another body, made up of conquered people. In early times their number was small, nor did they appear as a distinct class until the reign of Tullus Hostilius. After the subjection of Alba, the head of the Latin Confederacy, great numbers were transferred to Rome, and received settlements on the Caelian Hill, and were kept under submission to the patricians. As the Roman conquests extended, their numbers increased, until they formed the larger part of the population. They were called plebs, or commonalty, and had no political privileges whatever. They had not even the right of suffrage; but they were enrolled in the army, [Footnote: Liv., i. 33. Dionys., iii. 31. ] and made to bear the expenses of the state. At first they were not allowed to intermarry with the patricians. Their oppression provoked resistance. The struggle which ensued is one of the most memorable in Roman history. The haughty oligarchy were obliged gradually to concede rights. These rights the plebs retained. First they gained a law which prevented patricians from taking usurious interest. They secured the appointment of tribunes for their protection. Soon after they had the right of summoning before their own Comitia tributa any one who violated their rights. In 449 they had influence sufficient to establish the Connubium, by which they could intermarry with patricians. In 421 the plebeians were admitted to the quaestorship. Then, after a fierce contest, they were made decemvirs. Their next right was the dignity of the consulship, and led to the dictatorship. In 351 they secured the censorship, and in 336 the praetorship. Political distinctions now vanished. The possession of a share of the great offices created powerful families, and these were incorporated with the aristocracy. The great privilege of securing tribunes was the first step to political power, and the most important in the constitutional history of the state. And it was the tribunes who gradually usurped the greatest powers. They assumed the right, in 456, of convoking even the Senate. They also had the right to be present in the deliberations of the Senate; as their persons were inviolable, they interceded against any action which a magistrate might undertake during his term of office, and even a command issued by a praetor. They could compel the Senate to submit a question to a fresh consultation, and ultimately compelled the consuls to appoint a dictator. Their power grew to such a height that they acquired the right of proposing to the Comitia tributa, or the Senate, measures on nearly all the important affairs of the state, and finally were elected from among the Senators themselves.
[Sidenote: Advancement of Plebeians.]
Through the institution of tribunes, and other circumstances, especially the increase of wealth, the plebeians, originally so unimportant and insignificant that they could not obtain admission into the Senate, nor the high offices of state, nor the occupancy of the public lands, ultimately obtained all the rights of the patricians, so that gradually the political distinctions between patricians and plebeians vanished altogether, 286 B.C., and the term populus was applied to them as well as to the patricians. [Footnote: Liv., iv. 44; v. 11,12. Cicero de Repub., ii. 37.]
[Sidenote: Gradual increase of their power.]
These rights were only secured by bitter and fierce contests. The plebeians, during their long struggle, did not seek power to gratify their ambition, but to protect themselves from oppression. Nor was the power which they obtained abused until near the close of the Republic.
But while they ultimately were blended, politically, with the patricians, still the latter monopolized most of the great offices of the state until the time of Cicero, and socially, always were preeminent. Yet there were many noble plebeian families who were blended with the aristocratic class. Aristocracy survived, after the political distinctions between the two classes were abrogated. Rome was never a democracy. Great families, whether patrician or plebeian, controlled the State, either by their wealth or social connections. The Roman nobility was really composed of all the families rendered illustrious by the offices they had filled. And as the great officers were taken generally from the Senate, that body was particularly august.
[Sidenote: The Senate.]
[Sidenote: The prerogative of Senators.]
Until the usurpation of Caesar, the Senate was the great controlling power of the republic. It not only had peculiar privileges and powers, but a monopoly of offices. It always remained powerful, in spite of the victories of the plebeians. The laws proclaimed equality, but for fifty- nine years after the plebeians had the right of appointment as military tribunes, only eighteen were plebeians, [Footnote: Hist. Julius Caesar, by Napoleon; chap. ii. 5.] while two hundred and forty-six were patricians; and while the right of admission to the Senate was acknowledged on principle, yet no one could enter it without having obtained a decree of the censor, or exercised a curule magistracy,-- favors almost always reserved for the aristocracy. The Senate was a judicial and legislative body, and numbered for several centuries but three hundred men, selected from the patricians. At first they were appointed by the kings, afterwards by the consuls, and subsequently by the censors. But as all those who had been appointed by the populus to the great offices had admission into this body, the people, that is, the patricians, virtually nominated the candidates for the Senate. But all magistrates were not necessarily members of the Senate, only those whom the censors selected from among them, and the curule magistrates during their office. It was from these curule magistrates that vacancies were filled up. The office of senator was for life. When the plebeians obtained the great offices, the Senate of course represented the whole people, as it formerly had represented the populus. But it was never a democratic assembly, for all its members belonged to the nobles. It required, under Augustus, 1,200,000 sesterces to support the senatorial dignity. Only a rich man could be, therefore, a senator. Nor could he carry on any mercantile business. The Senate was ever composed of men who had rendered great public services, or who were distinguished for wealth and talents. It was probably the most dignified and the proudest body of men ever assembled. The powers of the Senate were enormous. It had the general superintendence of matters of religion and foreign relations; it commanded the levies of troops; it regulated duties and taxes; it gave audience to ambassadors; it proposed, for a long time, the candidates for office to the Comitia; it determined upon the way that war should be conducted; it decreed to what provinces the consuls and praetors should be sent; it appointed governors of provinces; it sent out embassies to foreign states; it carried on the negotiations with foreign ambassadors; it declared martial law in the appointment of dictators, and it decreed triumphs to fortunate generals. In short it was the supreme power in the state, and was the medium through which all the affairs of government passed. It was neither an hereditary, nor a popular body, yet represented the state--at first the patrician order, and finally the whole people, retaining to the end its aristocratic character. The senators wore on their tunics a broad purple stripe,--a badge of distinction, like a modern decoration,--and they had the exclusive rights of the orchestra at theatres and amphitheatres. [Footnote: See article in Smith's Dict. of Ant., by Dr. Schmitz.] Under the emperors, the Senate was degraded, and was made entirely subservient to their will, and a mouth-piece; still it survived all the changes of the constitution, and was always a dignified and privileged body. It combined, in its glory, more functions than the English Parliament; it was convoked by the curule magistrates, and finally by the tribunes. The most ancient place of assembly was the Curia Hostilia, though subsequently many temples were used. The majority of votes decided a question, and the order in which senators spoke and voted was determined by their rank, in the following order: president of the Senate, consuls, censors, praetors, aediles, tribunes, quaestors. Their decisions, called Senatus Consulta, were laws--leges--and were entrusted to the care of aediles and tribunes. [Footnote: Nieb. Roman Hist.,
[Sidenote: The Senate composed of patricians and plebeians.]
[Sidenote: The Senate hold the great offices of state.]
Such was the Roman Senate--an assembly of nobles, whether patrician or plebeian. The descendants of all who had filled curule magistracies were nobiles, and had the privilege of placing in the atrium of the house the images and titles of their ancestors--an heraldic distinction in substance. And as the patricians carried back their pedigree to the remotest historical period, there was great pride of blood. Few plebeians could boast of a remote and illustrious ancestry, and every plebeian who obtained a curule office, was the founder of his family's nobility, like Cicero--a novus homo. This nobility contrived to keep possession of all the great offices, and it was difficult for a new man to get access to their ranks. The distinction of Patrician and Plebeian was secondary, after the Gracchi to that of Nobilitas, yet it was rare to find a patrician gens the families of which had not enjoyed the highest honors many times over. Thus the aristocracy was composed of the families of those who had held the highest offices of the state; but as these offices were controlled by the Senate and enjoyed by the patricians chiefly, it was difficult to determine whether nobility was the result of patrician blood, or the possession of great offices. A man could scarcely be a patrician who had not held a great office; nor could he often hold a great office unless he were a patrician. The great offices were held in succession by the members of the Senate. The two consuls, the ten tribunes, the eight praetors in the time of Sulla--the twenty quaestors, together with the governors of provinces, and the generals who were selected from the Senate, or belonged to it, would necessarily compose a large part of the nobility, when their term of office lasted but a limited time, so that a senator with any ability was sure, in the course of his life, of the highest honors of the state.
[Sidenote: But only those who had distinguished themselves.]
The great executive officers, therefore, belonged to the noble class, not of necessity, but as a general thing. Cicero was a novus homo, and yet rose by his talents to the highest dignities. It was rare, however, to confer the highest offices on those who had not distinguished themselves in war. Military fame, after all, gave the greatest prestige to the Roman name. Consuls commanded armies, but they would not have been chosen consuls except for military, as well as political, talent.
[Sidenote: The Consuls.]
The consul was, after the abolition of the monarchy, the highest officer of the state. It was not till the year 366 B.C. that a plebeian obtained this dignity. The powers of consuls were virtually those of the old kings, with the exception of priestly authority. They convened the Senate, introduced ambassadors, called together the people, conducted elections, commanded the armies and never appeared in public without lictors. Nor were they shorn of their powers till Julius Caesar assumed the dictatorship. The whole internal machinery of the state was under their control. But their term of office lasted only a single year. Their election took place in the Comitia Centuriata.
[Sidenote: The censors.]
The censors were next in dignity, and like the consuls, there were two, and elected in the same manner under the presidency of a consul; only men of consular rank were chosen to this high office, and hence it was really higher than the consulship. The censors were chosen for a longer term than the consuls, and had the oversight of the public morals, the care of the census, and the administration of the finances. They could brand with ignominy the highest persons of the state, and could elect to the Senate, and exclude from it unworthy men. They had, with the aediles, the control of the public buildings and all public works. They could take away from a knight his horse, and punish extravagance in living, or the improper dissolution of the marriage rite. They were held in the greatest reverence, and when they died were honored with magnificent funerals.
[Sidenote: The praetors.]
Next in rank were the praetors, at first two in number, and ultimately sixteen. They exercised the judicial power, both in civil and criminal cases.
[Sidenote: The aediles.]
The aediles were also curule magistrates, and to them was entrusted the care of the public buildings, and the superintendence of public festivals. They were the keepers of the decrees of the Senate, and of the plebiscita. They superintended the distribution of water, the care of the streets, the drainage of the city, and the distribution of corn to the people. It was their business to see that no new deities were introduced, and they had the general superintendence of the police, and the inspection of baths. Their office entailed large expenses, and they were forced into great extravagance to gain popularity, as in the case of Julius Caesar and Aemilius Scaurus; but the aediles exercised extensive powers, which, however, were essentially diminished under the emperors.
[Sidenote: The tribunes.]
Allusion has already been made to the tribunes, in connection with the development of the plebeian power. At first they were only two, then in creased to five, and finally to ten. It was their business to protect the plebs from the oppression of nobles, but their authority was so much increased in the time of Julius Caesar that they could veto an ordinance of the Senate. [Footnote: Caesar, De Beil Civ., 1, 2.] They not only could stop a magistrate in his proceedings, but command their viatores to seize a consul or a censor, to imprison him, or throw him from the Tarpeian rock. [Footnote: Liv. ii. 56, iv. 26; Cicero, De Legibus, iii. 9.] The college of tribunes had the power of making edicts. After the passage of the Hortensian law, there was no power equal to theirs, and they could dictate even to the Senate itself. In the latter days of the republic, the tribunes were generally elected from among the senators. It was the vast influence which the people had obtained through the tribunes which led to the usurpation of Caesar; for he, as well as Marius, rose into power by courting them against the interests of the aristocracy.
[Sidenote: The quaestors.]
The last of the great magistrates whose office entitled them to a seat in the Senate were the quaestors, who had charge of the public money. Originally only two in number, they were raised by Sulla to twenty, and by Caesar to forty, for political influence. As the Senate had the supreme direction of the finances they were merely its agents or paymasters. The proconsul or praetor, who had the administration of a province, was attended with a quaestor to regulate the collection of the revenues. The quaestors also were the paymasters of the army.
Such were the great executive officers of the state, having a seat in the Senate, and belonging to the noble class by their official position as well as by birth. No one could be consul until he had passed through all these offices successively, except the censorship.
[Sidenote: Pontifex maximus.]
There was, however, another great Roman dignitary who held his office for life, which was one of transcendent importance. He was at the head of the college of priests, which had the superintendence of all matters of religion. The college of pontiffs, of which, under Julius Caesar, there were sixteen, were not priests, but stood above all priests, and regulated the worship of the gods, and punished offenses against religion. The chief pontiff lived in a public palace in the Via Sacra, and might also hold other offices. It is a great proof of the talents of Caesar and of the estimation in which he was held, that, at the age of thirty-seven, he was chosen to this high dignity, against the powerful opposition of Catulus, prince of the Senate, and when he had only reached the aedileship.
[Sidenote: Assemblies of the people.]
[Sidenote: The Comitia Cenuriata.]
In regard to the assemblies of the people, where they voted for the great officers of state, it must be borne in mind that they were not made up of the rabble, but of the populus or the patricians till nearly the close of the republic. Each of the thirty curia had its building for the discussion of political and legal questions. They had also collectively an assembly, called Comitia Curiata, where the people voted on the measures proposed by the magistrates. The votes were given by the curiae, each curia having one collective vote. The assembly originated nothing, but decided upon the life of Roman citizens, upon peace and war, and the election of magistrates. This was the primitive form under the kings. But Servius Tullius instituted the Comitia Centuriata, and hence divided the populus into six property classes, and one hundred and ninety-three centuriae. The first class was composed of ninety-eight centuriae, with a property qualification of one hundred thousand asses; the second of twenty-two centuriae with seventy-five thousand asses; the third of twenty, with fifty thousand asses; the fourth of twenty-two, with twenty-five thousand asses; the fifth of thirty, with eleven thousand asses; and the sixth of any one of those below twelve and a half minae. Yet this class was the most numerous. The wealthier classes voted first, and when a majority of the centuries was obtained the voting stopped. Hence the power was virtually in the hands of the rich; for, united, they made a majority before the poorer classes were called upon to vote. The Comitia Centuriata elected the magistrates and made laws, and formed the highest court of appeal, but all its decisions had to be sanctioned by the curiae, although in course of time the curia was a formality. The centuries met in the Campus Martius, and were presided over by the consuls, who read the names of the candidates. In the assemblies by centuries, the vote of the first class prevailed over all the others; in the comitia by curiae the patricians were supreme.
[Sidenote: The Comitia Tributa.]
[Sidenote: Decline of power of the comitia.]
The Comitia Tributa represented the thirty Roman tribes according to the Servian constitution, to whom was originally given the right to elect inferior magistrates. This was a plebian assembly, and had very insignificant powers, chiefly relating to the local affairs of the tribes. But when these tribes began to be real representatives of the people, with the increase of the plebeian classes, matters affecting the whole state were brought before them by the tribunes. This gave to the assembly the initiative of measures, which was sanctioned by a law of L. Valerius Publicola, B.C. 449. This law gave to the decrees passed by the tribes the power of a real lex, binding upon the whole people, provided it had the sanction of the Senate and the populus in the Comitia Centuriata. In 287 B.C. the Hortensian law made the plebiscita independent of the sanction of the Senate. When the plebeians began to be recognized as an essential element in the state, it was found inconvenient to have the first class, which included the equites, so greatly preponderant in the comitia of the centuries; and it was designed to blend the Comitia Centuriata and the Tributa in such a manner as to make only one assembly. This took place after the completion of the thirty-five tribes, B.C. 241. The citizens of each tribe were divided into five property classes, and each tribe into ten centuries, making three hundred and fifty centuries. This comitia was far more democratic than the comitia of the centuries, and was guided by the tribunes. When all the Italians were incorporated with the thirty- five tribes, violence and bribery became the order of the day. Sulla took away the jurisdiction of the people, and Julius Caesar encroached still more on popular rights when he decided upon peace and war in connection-with the Senate--which great question was formerly settled by the comitia alone. The people retained nothing under him but the election of magistrates, which amounted to little, since Caesar had the right to appoint half the magistrates himself, with the exception of the consuls. After the death of Caesar, the comitia continued to be held, but was always controlled by the rulers, whose unlimited powers were ultimately complied with without resistance. Finally the comitia became a mere farce, and all legislation passed away forever, and was completely in the hands of the emperor and Senate.
[Sidenote: The nobles retain the chief ascendency.]
[Sidenote: The dictator.]
[Sidenote: The idea of popular government.]
[Sidenote: The Senate retains all real power.]
Thus it would appear that the Roman constitution was essentially aristocratic, especially for three hundred years after the expulsion of kings. The Senate and the populus had the whole power. Gradually, as wealth increased, the equites became an influential order, not less aristocratical than the patricians. The plebs were not of much consideration till the time of the Gracchi, and always obtained office with difficulty. It was two hundred years after the expulsion of kings before the plebeians could even obtain a share of the public lands. So long as the aristocracy preserved their virtue and patriotism, the state was most ably administered, and continually increased in wealth and power. The conquest of Italy was entirely under the regime of nobles, and even when wealthy plebeian families mingled with the ancient patricians there was still great difficulty in reaching preferment, without the advantages of birth. [Footnote: Mommsen, Roman Hist., i. p. 241.] In fourteen years, from 399 to 412, the patricians allowed only six plebeians to reach the consulship. The lives of the citizens were protected by the laws, but public opinion remained powerless at the assassination of those who incurred the hatred of the Senate. The comitia were free, but the Senate had at its disposal either the veto of the tribunes or the religious scruples of the people, for a consul could prevent the meeting of the assemblies, and the augurs could cut short their deliberations. Even the dictatorship was often a means of oppressing the plebs, and was a lever in the hands of the aristocracy, since the dictator was appointed by the consuls under the direction of the Senate. [Footnote: Liv., viii. 23.] He was a patrician as a matter of course, until the political distinctions between patrician and plebeian were removed, and had absolute authority for six months. He was not held responsible for his acts while in office, [Footnote: Becker, Handbuch der Romanisch Alterthumer, vii. p. 2; Nieb. History of Rome. vol. i. p. 563.] nor was there any appeal from his decisions. He was preceded by twenty-four lictors, and was virtually supreme. Between 390 and 416 there were eighteen dictators. The Senate thus remained all-powerful, in spite of the victories of the plebeians, and such were its patriotism and intelligence that it preserved its preponderance. It was during the conquest of Italy that aristocratic power shone in all its splendor, and the most able men were entrusted with public affairs. Every thing was sacrificed to patriotism, and discipline was enforced with cruelty. The most powerful patricians readily exposed their lives in battle, and a town became a people which ultimately embraced the world. When the plebeians had grown to be a power the decline of the republic commenced, and a new organization was necessary. Great chieftains became dictators for life, and the imperial sceptre was seized by an unscrupulous but enlightened general. The Roman populus in an important sense carried out the great idea of self- government, but, strictly speaking, self-government, as applied to the people generally, never existed in the Roman Commonwealth. But the idea was advanced which gave birth to future republics. Nor did the fall of the old patrician oligarchy divest the Roman commonwealth of its aristocratic character, for a new aristocracy arose. When the plebeian families obtained the consulate and other high offices of state, they were put on a level with the old patrician families, and were allowed the privilege of placing the wax images of their illustrious ancestors in the family hall, and to have these images carried in the funeral procession. As curule magistrates, they had a seat in the Senate, and wore the insignia of rank--the gold finger-ring and the purple border on the toga. "The result of the Licinian laws," says Mommsen, "in reality, only amounted to what we now call the creation of a new batch of officers." [Footnote: Mommsen, B. III. c. xi.] As all the descendants of those who had enjoyed the curule magistracy were entitled to the privilege of these distinctions, the nobility became hereditary. And as the great officers of state were generally selected from this class, since they controlled the comitia, the nobility was not merely hereditary, but it was a governing nobility. The nobility had the possession of the Senate itself. It monopolized the great offices of state. The stability of the Roman aristocracy is seen in the fact, that, from the year 388 to 581, when the consulate was held by one patrician and one plebeian, one hundred and forty of the consuls, out of the three hundred and eighty-six, belonged to sixteen great houses. The Cornelii furnished thirty consuls in one hundred and ninety-three years, the Valerii eighteen, the Claudii twelve, the Aemilii fifteen, the Fabii twelve, the Manlii ten, the Postumii eight, the Servilii seven, the Sulpicii eight, the Papirii four, to say nothing of other curule offices. Thus the nobility was not composed exclusively of patrician families, although these were the most numerous, but of old plebeian families also, in the same way that the English House of Lords is composed of families which trace their origin to Saxons as well as Normans, although the Normans, for several centuries, were the governing class. And as the House of Lords has accessions occasionally from the ranks of the people, in consequence of great wealth, or political interest, or eminent genius, or signal success in war, so the Roman nobility was increased, as old families died out, by the successful generals who gained the great offices of state. Marius arose from the people, but his exploits in the field of battle insured his entrance among the nobility in consequence of the offices he held, even as the Lord Chancellors of England, who have been eminent lawyers merely, are made herditary peers in consequence of their judicial position.
[Sidenote: Roman citizens.]
The Roman burgesses again were any thing but a rabble. They were composed of men of standing and wealth. If they did not compose the motive-power, they constituted a firm foundation of the state. They had a clear conception of the common good, and a sagacity in the election of rulers, and a spirit of sacrifice for the general interests. They had a lofty patriotism that nothing could seduce. The rabble of Rome were of no account until the enormous wealth of the senatorial houses raised up clients and parasites. And when this rabble, who were merely the dependents of the rich, obtained the privilege of voting, then the decline of liberties was rapid and fearful, since they were merely the tools of powerful demagogues.
[Sidenote: Balance of power.]
Thus among the Romans, until the prostration of their liberties, the powers of government were not in the hands of kings, as among the Orientals, nor in those of the aristocracy, exclusively, nor in those of the people; but in all combined, one class acting as a check against another class. They were shared between the Senate, the magistrates, and the people in their assemblies. Theoretically, the populus was the real sovereign by whom power was delegated; but, for several centuries, the populus meant the patricians, who alone could take part in the assemblies. The preponderating influence was exercised by the Senate. The judicial, the legislative, and the executive authority were as clearly defined as in our times. The magistrates were all elected by the Senate or the people, and sometimes proposed by the one and confirmed by the other. No case, involving the life of a Roman citizen, could be decided except by the Comitia Centuriata. The election of a magistrate, or the passing of a law, though made on the ground of a senatus consultum, yet required the sanction of the curiae. In legislative measures, a senatus consultum was brought before the people by the consul, or the senator who originated the measure, after it had previously been exhibited in public for seventeen days. The inferior magistrates, whose office it was to superintend affairs of local interest, were elected by the Comitia Tributa. All the magistrates, however great their power, could, at the expiration of their office, be punished for transcending their trust. No person was above the authority of the laws. No one class could subvert the liberties and prerogatives of another. The Senate had the most power, but it could not ride over the Constitution. The consuls were not the creatures of the Senate; they were elected by the centuries, and presided over the Senate, as well as the assembly of the people. The abuse of power by a consul was prevented by his colleague, and by the certainty of being called to account on the expiration of his office. His power was also limited by the Senate, since he was dependent upon it. There was no absolute power exercised at Rome, except by the dictators, but they were appointed only in a national crisis, and then only for six months. Unless their power were perpetuated, not even they could overturn the constitution. The senators again, the most powerful body in the state, were not entirely independent. They could not elect members of their own body, nor keep them in office. The censors had the right of electing the senators from among the ex-magistrates and the equites, and of excluding such as they deemed unworthy. And as the Senate was thus composed wholly of men who had held the highest offices or had great wealth, it was a body of great experience and wisdom. Yet even this august assembly was obliged to submit to the introduction of any subject of discussion by the tribune. What a counterpoise to the authority of this powerful body were the tribunes! From their right of appearing in the Senate, and of taking part in its discussions, and from their being the representatives of the whole people, in whom power was supposed primarily to be lodged, they gradually obtained the right of intercession against any action which a magistrate might undertake during the time of his office, and without giving a reason. They could not only prevent a consul from convening the Senate, but could veto an ordinance of the Senate itself. They could even seize a consul and a censor and imprison him. Thus was power marvelously distributed, even while it remained in the hands of the higher classes. The people were not powerless when their assemblies could make laws and appoint magistrates, and when their tribunes could veto the most important measures. The consuls could not remain in office long enough to be dangerous, and the senators could be ejected from their high position when flagrantly unworthy. "The nobiles had no legal privileges like a feudal aristocracy, but they were bound together by a common distinction derived from a legal title, and by a common interest; and their common interest was to endeavor to confine the election to all the high magistracies to the members of their own body." The term nobilitas implied that some one of a man's ancestors had filled a curule magistracy, and it also implied the possession of wealth. Theoretically it would seem that the nobiles were very numerous, since so many people can ordinarily boast of an illustrious ancestor; but practically the class was not so large as we might expect. A noble might be poor, but still, like Sulla, he remained noble. The distinction of patrician was, long before the reforms of the Gracchi, of secondary importance; that of nobilitas remained to the close of the republic. The nobility kept themselves exclusive and powerful from the possession of the great offices of state from generation to generation; they prevented their own extinction by admitting into their ranks those who distinguished themselves to an eminent degree.
[Sidenote: The reign of demagogues.]
But this state of things applied only to the republic in its palmy days. When democratical influences favored the ascendency of demagogues,--thus far in the history of our world, the inevitable consequence of a greater extension of popular liberties than what the people are prepared for,-- then wholesome restraints were removed, and the people were the most enslaved, when they thought themselves most free. There is no more melancholy slavery than the slavery of the passions. Ignorant self- indulgent people are led by their passions; they are rarely influenced by reason or by enlightened self-interest. Those who most skillfully and unscrupulously appeal to popular passions, when the people have power, have necessarily the ascendency in the community. The people, deceived, flattered, headstrong, follow them willingly. In times of war, and especially among a martial people, military chieftains, by inflaming the warlike passions, by holding out exaggerated notions of glory, by appealing to vanity and patriotism mingled, have ever had a most extraordinary influence in republics. They have also great influence in monarchies, when the monarch is crazed by the passion of military success. Monarchs, with the passions of the people, are led by men who flatter them even as the people are led. Hence the reign of favorites with kings. The ascendency of favorites, with sovereigns like Louis XIII., or even like Louis XIV., is maintained by the same policy as that which animated Marius and Caesar, or animates the popular favorites of our times. And this ascendency may be for the better or the worse, according to the character of the demagogue rulers, or royal favorites. When a Richelieu or a Cavour holds the reins, a country may be indirectly benefited by the wisdom of their public acts. When a Buckingham or a Catiline prevails, a nation suffers a calamity. In either case, the power which is conceded to be legitimate becomes a mockery. With Caesar, the popular power is a mere name, even, as with Richelieu, the kingly is a shadow. In the better days of the Roman republic, the executive power was kept in a healthy state by the great authority of the Senate, and the senatorial influence was prevented from undue encroachment by the watchfulness of the tribunes. And when the aristocratical ascendency was most marked, the aristocratical body had too much virtue and ability to be enslaved by ambitious and able men of their own number. Had the Roman Senate, in the height of its power, been composed of ignorant, inexperienced, selfish, unpatriotic members, then it would have been easy for a great intellect among them, whether accompanied by virtue or not, by appealing perpetually to their pride, to their rank, to their privileges, to their peculiar passions, to have led them, as Pitt led the House of Commons. The real rulers of our world are few, in any community, or under any form of government. They are always dangerous, when there is a low degree of virtue or intelligence among those whom they represent. Certain it is, that their power is nearly absolute when they are sustained by passion or prejudice. The representative of a fanatical constituency has no continued power, unless he perpetually flatters those whom, in his heart, he knows to be lost to the control of reason. And his influence is greater or less, according to the strength of the popular passions which he inflames, or in which, as is often the case, he shares. The honest representative of fanatics is himself a fanatic. Thus Cromwell had so great an ascendency with his party, because he felt more strongly than they in matters where they sympathized. But the liberties of Rome were not overturned by fanatical rulers, but by those who availed themselves of the passions which they themselves did not feel, in order to compass their selfish ends. And that is the greater danger in republics--that bad men rise by the suffrage of foolish people whom they deceive, by affecting to fall in with their wishes, like Napoleon and Caesar, rather than that honest men climb to power by the very excess of their enthusiasm, like Cromwell, or Peter the Hermit. Hence a Mirabeau is more dangerous than a Robespierre. The former would have betrayed the people he led; the latter would have urged them on to consistent courses, even if the way was lined with death. Had Mirabeau lived, and retained his power, he would have compromised the Revolution, of which Napoleon was the product, and the work would have had to be done over. But Robespierre pushed his principles to their utmost logical sequence, and the nation was satisfied with their folly, in a practical point of view. Napoleon arose to rebuke anarchy as well as feudal kings, and though maddened and intoxicated by war, so that his name is a Moloch, he never dreamed of restoring the unequal privileges which the Revolution swept away.
[Sidenote: Greatness of the constitution.]
The Roman constitution, as gradually developed by the necessities and crises which arose, is a wonderful monument of human wisdom. The people were not ground down. They had rights which they never relinquished; and they constantly gained new privileges, as they were prepared to appreciate them, or as they were in danger of subjection by the governing classes. They never had the ascendency, but they enjoyed renewed and increasing power, until they were strong enough to tempt aristocratic demagogues and successful generals. When Caesar condescended to flatter the people, they had become a power, but a power incapable of holding its own, or using it for the welfare of the state. Then it was subverted, as Napoleon rode into absolute dominion over the bridge which the Revolution had built. And the Roman constitution was remarkable, not only because it prevented a degrading subjection of the masses, even while it refused them the rights of government, but because it maintained a balance among the governing classes themselves, and restricted the usurpations of powerful families, as well as military heroes. For nearly five hundred years, not a man arose whom the Romans feared, or whom they could not control--whom they could not at any time have hurled from the Tarpeian rock had he contemplated the subversion, I will not say of the liberties of the people, but of the constitution which made the aristocracy supreme. There were ambitious and unscrupulous men, doubtless, among those fortunate generals whom the Senate snubbed, and whom the people adored. But, great as they were in war, and powerful from family interest and vast wealth, no one of them ever dared to make himself supreme until Caesar passed the Rubicon--not Scipio, crowned with the laurels which he had taken from the head of Hannibal; not Marius, fresh from his great victories over the barbaric hosts of northern Europe; not even Sulla, after his magnificent conquests in the east, and his triumph over all the parties and factions which democracy raised against him. Pompey may have contemplated what it was the fortune of Caesar to secure. But that pompous magnate could have succeeded only by using the watchwords and practicing the acts to which none but a demagogue could have stooped. Before his time, at least for fifty years, there were too many men in the Senate who had the spirit of Cato, of Cicero, and of Brutus.
[Sidenote: The Revolution.]
[Sidenote: Effects of imperial rule.]
But, tempora mutantur. When the Senate was made up of men whom great generals selected, whether aristocratic sycophants or rich plebeians; when the tribunes played into the hands of the very men whom they were created to oppose; when the high priest of a people, originally religious, was chosen without regard to either moral or religious considerations, but purely political; when the high offices of the state were filled by senators who had never seen military life except for some brief campaign; when factions and parties set old customs aside; when the most aristocratic nobles sought entrance into plebeian ranks in order, like Mirabeau, to steal the few offices which the people controlled, and when the people, mad and fierce from demoralizing spectacles, raised mobs and subverted law, then the constitution, under which the Romans had advanced to the conquest of the world, became subverted. Under the emperors, there was no constitution. They controlled the Senate, the army, the tribunals of the law, the distant provinces, the city itself, and regulated taxes and imposed burdens, and appointed to high offices whomever they wished. The Senate lost its independence, the courts their justice, the army its spirit, and the people their hopes. Yet the old form remained. The Senate met as in the days of the Gracchi. There were consuls and praetors still. But it was merely equites or rich men who filled the senatorial benches--tools of the emperor, as were all the officers of the state. The government of nobles was succeeded by the government of emperors who, in their turn, were too often the tools of favorites, or of praetorian guards, until the assassin's dagger cut short their days.
[Sidenote: The rule of emperors a necessity.]
This is not the place to speculate on the good or evil which resulted from this change in the Roman government. Most historians and philosophers agree that the change was inevitable, and proved, on the whole, benignant. It was simply the question whether the Romans should have civil wars and anarchies and factions, which decimated the people, and kept society in a state of fear and insecurity, and prevented the triumph of law, or whether they should submit to an absolute ruler, who had unbounded means of doing good, and whom interest and duty alike prompted to secure the public welfare. The people wanted, above all things, safety, and the means of prosecuting their various interests. Under the emperors they obtained the greatest boons possible, when the condition of society was hollow and rotten to the core. The people were governed, sometimes wisely, sometimes recklessly, but there were order and law for three hundred years. It little mattered to the vast population of the empire who was supreme master, provided they were not oppressed. The proud Imperator, the title and praenomen of all the Roman monarchs, and which had been invented for Octavian, remained the fountain of law, the arbiter of all interests, the undisputed ruler of the world. The old offices nominally remained, but, by virtue of the censorship, the emperor had the power of excluding persons from the Senate, and of calling others into it. Thus the august body which was, under the republic, the counterpoise to executive authority, was rendered dependent on the imperial will. There was no Senate, but in name, when it could be controlled by the government. It became a mere form, or an instrument in the hands of the administration, to facilitate business. By obtaining the proconsular power over the whole of the Roman Empire, Octavian made the provincial governors his vicegerents. The tribunicia potestas which he also enjoyed, enabled him to annul any decree of the Senate, and of interfering in all the acts of the magistrates. An appeal was open to him, as tribune, from all the courts of justice; he had a right to convoke the Senate, and to put any subject under consideration to the vote of senators. Augustus even seized the pontificate, which office, that of Pontifex Maximus, put into his hands all the ecclesiastical courts. As tribune and censor, he also controlled the treasury, so that all the powers of the state were concentrated in him alone--that of consul, tribune, censor, praetor, and high priest. What a power to be exercised by one man in so great an empire! The Roman constitution was subverted when one man usurped the offices which were formerly shared by many. No sovereign was ever so absolute as the Roman Imperator, since he combined all the judicial, the executive, and the legislative branches of the government; that is, he controlled them all.
[Sidenote: The old forms of government preserved.]
Yet the old machinery was kept up, the old forms, the old offices in name, otherwise even Augustus might not have been secure on his throne. The Comitia still elected magistrates, but only such as were proposed by the government. The Senate assembled as usual, but it was composed of rich men, merely to register the decrees of the Imperator. The consuls were elected as before, but they were mere shadows in authority. The only respectable part of the magistracy was that which interpreted the laws. The only final authority was the edict of the emperor, who not only controlled all the great offices of state, but was possessed of enormous and almost unlimited private property. They owned whole principalities. Augustus changed the whole registration of property in Gaul on his own responsibility, without consulting any one. [Footnote: Niebuhr, Lecture 105.] His power was so unlimited that soldiers took the oath of allegiance to him, as they once did to the imperium populi Romani. His armies, his fleets, and his officers were everywhere, and no one dreamed of resisting a power which absorbed everything into itself.
[Sidenote: The imperial power unable to save the state.]
It is altogether another question whether the prosperity of the state was greater or less after the subversion of the constitution. For three hundred years the state was probably kept together by the ancient mechanism controlled by one central will. The change from civil war and party faction to imperial centralized power, considering the demoralized condition of society, was doubtless beneficial. The emperor could rule; he could not, however, conserve the empire. Doubtless, in most cases, he ruled well, since he ruled by the of great experience and ability. It is peculiarly the interest of despots to have able men as ministers. They never select those whom they deem to be weak and corrupt; they are simply deceived in their estimate of ability and fidelity. For several generations, the provinces had experienced governors, the armies had able generals, the courts of law learned judges. The provinces were not so inexorably robbed as in the time of Cicero. The people had their pleasures and spectacles and baths. Property was secure, unless enormous fortunes tempted the cupidity of the emperors. Justice was well administered. Cities were rebuilt and adorned. Rome owed its greatest monuments of art to the emperors. There was a cold and remorseless despotism; but the unnoticed millions toiled in peace. Literature did not thrive, since that can only live with freedom, but art received great encouragement, and genius, in the useful professions, did not go unrewarded. The empire did not fall till luxury and prosperity enervated the people and rendered them unable to cope with the barbarian hosts. Rome was never so rich as when she fell into the hands of Goths and Vandals. But the empire, under the old constitution, might have protected itself against external enemies. The mortal wound to Roman power and glory was inflicted by traitors.
* * * * *
AUTHORITIES.--Niebuhr, Lectures on the History of Rome; Mommsen, History of Rome; Arnold, History of Rome; Merivale, History of the Romans; Gibbon, Decline and Fall; Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities gives the details, and points out the old classical authorities, as does Napoleon's Life of Caesar. Dionysius, Polybius, Livy, Plutarch, Cicero, Sallust, all shed light on important points. See also Gottling, Gesch der Rom. Staat. A large catalogue of writers could be mentioned, but allusion is only made to those most accessible to American readers.