History of Rome





Anno Urbis - The Roman Empire Online

A HISTORY OF ROME DURING THE LATER REPUBLIC AND EARLY PRINCIPATE

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CHAPTER I

The period of Roman history on which we now enter is, like so many that had preceded it, a period of revolt, directly aimed against the existing conditions of society and, through the means taken to satisfy the fresh wants and to alleviate the suddenly realised, if not suddenly created, miseries of the time, indirectly affecting the structure of the body politic. The difference between the social movement of the present and that of the past may be justly described as one of degree, in so far as there was not a single element of discontent visible in the revolution commencing with the Gracchi and ending with Caesar that had not been present in the earlier epochs of social and political agitation. The burden of military service, the curse of debt, the poverty of an agrarian proletariate, the hunger for land, the striving of the artisan and the merchant after better conditions of labour and of trade--the separate cries of discontent that find their unison in a protest against the monopoly of office and the narrow or selfish rule of a dominant class, and thus gain a significance as much political as social--all these plaints had filled the air at the time when Caius Licinius near the middle of the fourth century, and Appius Claudius at its close, evolved their projects of reform. The cycle of a nation's history can indeed never be broken as long as the character of the nation remains the same. And the average Roman of the middle of the second century before our era[1] was in all essential particulars the Roman of the times of Appius and of Licinius, or even of the epoch when the ten commissioners had published the Tables which were to stamp its perpetual character on Roman law. He was in his business relations either oppressor or oppressed, either hammer or anvil. In his private life he was an individualist whose sympathies were limited to the narrow circle of his dependants; he was a trader and a financier whose humanitarian instincts were subordinated to a code of purely commercial morality, and who valued equity chiefly because it presented the line of least resistance and facilitated the conduct of his industrial operations. Like all individualists, he was something of an anarchist, filled with the idea, which appeared on every page of the record of his ancestors and the history of his State, that self-help was the divinely given means of securing right, that true social order was the issue of conflicting claims pushed to their breaking point until a temporary compromise was agreed on by the weary combatants; but he was hampered in his democratic leanings by the knowledge that democracy is the fruit of individual self-restraint and subordination to the common will--qualities of which he could not boast and symbols of a prize which he would not have cared to attain at the expense of his peculiar ideas of personal freedom--and he was forced, in consequence of this abnegation, to submit to an executive government as strong, one might almost say as tyrannous, as any which a Republic has ever displayed--a government which was a product of the restless spirit of self-assertion and self-aggrandisement which the Roman felt in himself, and therefore had sufficient reason to suspect in others.

The Roman was the same; but his environment had changed more startlingly during the last fifty or sixty years than in all the centuries that had preceded them in the history of the Republic. The conquest of Italy had, it Is true, given to his city much that was new and fruitful in the domains of religion, of art, of commerce and of law. Bat these accretions merely entailed the fuller realisation of a tendency which had been marked from the earliest stage of Republican history--the tendency to fit isolated elements in the marvellous discoveries made by the heaven-gifted race of the Greeks into a framework that was thoroughly national and Roman. Ideas had been borrowed, and these ideas certainly resulted in increased efficiency and therefore in increased wealth. But the gross material of Hellenism, whether as realised in intellectual ideas or (the prize that appealed more immediately to the practical Roman with his concrete mind) in tangible things, had not been seized as a whole as the reward of victory: and no great attempt had been made in former ages to assimilate the one or to enjoy the other. The nature of the material rewards which had been secured by the epochs of Italian conquest had indeed made such assimilation or enjoyment impossible. They would have been practicable only in a state which possessed a fairly complete urban life; and the effect of the wars which Rome waged with her neighbours in the peninsula had been to make the life of the average citizen more purely agricultural than it had been in the early Republic, perhaps even in the epoch of the Kings. The course of a nation's political, social and intellectual history is determined very largely by the methods which it adopts for its own expansion at the inevitable moment when its original limits are found to be too narrow to satisfy even the most modest needs of a growing population. The method chosen will depend chiefly on geographical circumstances and on the military characteristics of the people which are indissolubly connected with these. When the city of Old Greece began to feel the strength of its growing manhood, and the developing hunger which was both the sign and the source of that strength, it looked askance at the mountain line which cut it off from the inland regions, it turned hopeful eyes on the sea that sparkled along its coasts; it manned its ships and sent its restless youth to a new and distant home which was but a replica of the old. The results of this maritime adventure were the glories of urban life and the all-embracing sweep of Hellenism. The progress of Roman enterprise had been very different. Following the example of all conquering Italian peoples,[2] and especially of the Sabellian invaders whose movements immediately preceded their own, the Romans adopted the course of inland expansion, and such urban unity as they had possessed was dissipated over the vast tract of territory on which the legions were settled, or to which the noble sent his armed retainers, nominally to keep the land as the public domain of Rome, in reality to hold it for himself and his descendants. At a given moment (which is as clearly marked in Roman as in Hellenic history) the possibility of such expansion ceased, and the necessity for its cessation was as fully exhibited in the policy of the government as in the tastes of the people. No Latin colony had been planted later than the year 181, no Roman colony later than 157,[3] and the senate showed no inclination to renew schemes for the further assignment of territory amongst the people. There were many reasons for this indifference to colonial enterprise. In the first place, although colonisation had always been a relief to the proletariate and one of the means regularly adopted by those in power for assuaging its dangerous discontent, yet the government had always regarded the social aspect of this method of expansion as subservient to the strategic.[4] This strategic motive no longer existed, and a short-sighted policy, which looked to the present, not to the future, to men of the existing generation and not to their sons, may easily have held that a colony, which was not needed for the protection of the district in which it was settled, injuriously affected the fighting-strength of Rome. The maritime colonies which had been established from the end of the great Latin war down to the close of the second struggle with Carthage claimed, at least in many cases, exemption from military service,[5] and a tradition of this kind tends to linger when its justification is a thing of the past. But, even if such a view could be repudiated by the government, it was certain that the levy became a more serious business the greater the number of communities on which the recruiting commander had to call, and it was equally manifest that the veteran who had just been given an allotment on which to establish his household gods might be inclined to give a tardy response to the call to arms. The Latin colony seemed a still greater anachronism than the military colony of citizens. The member of such a community, although the state which he entered enjoyed large privileges of autonomy, ceased to be a Roman citizen in respect to political rights, and even at a time when self-government had been valued almost more than citizenship, the government had only been able to carry out its project of pushing these half-independent settlements into the heart of Italy by threatening with a pecuniary penalty the soldier who preferred his rights as a citizen to the benefits which he might receive as an emigrant.[6] Now that the great wars had brought their dubious but at least potential profits to every member of the Roman community, and the gulf between the full citizens and the members of the allied communities was ever widening, it was more than doubtful whether a member of the former class, however desperate his plight, would readily condescend to enroll himself amongst the latter. But, even apart from these considerations, it must have seemed very questionable to any one, who held the traditional view that colonisation should subserve the purposes of the State, whether the landless citizen of the time could be trusted to fulfil his duties as an emigrant. As early as the year 186 the consul Spurius Postumius, while making a judicial tour in Italy, had found to his surprise that colonies on both the Italian coasts, Sipontum on the Upper, and Buxentum on the Lower Sea, had been abandoned by their inhabitants: and a new levy had to be set on foot to replace the faithless emigrants who had vanished into space.[7] As time went on the risk of such desertion became greater, partly from the growing difficulty of maintaining an adequate living on the land, partly from the fact that the more energetic spirits, on whom alone the hopes of permanent settlement could depend, found a readier avenue to wealth and a more tempting sphere for the exercise of manly qualities in the attractions of a campaign that seemed to promise plunder and glory, especially when these prizes were accompanied by no exorbitant amount of suffering or toil. Thus when it had become known that Scipio Africanus would accompany his brother in the expedition against Antiochus, five thousand veterans, both citizens and allies, who had served their full time under the command of the former, offered their voluntary services to the departing consul,[8] and nineteen' years later the experience which had been gained of the wealth that might be reaped from a campaign in Macedonia and Asia drew many willing recruits to the legions which were to be engaged in the struggle with Perseus.[9] The semi-professional soldier was in fact springing up, the man of a spirit adventurous and restless such as did not promise contentment with the small interests and small rewards of life in an Italian outpost. But, if the days of formal colonisation were over, why might not the concurrent system be adopted of dividing conquered lands amongst poorer citizens without the establishment of a new political settlement or any strict limitation of the number of the recipients? This 'viritane' assignation had always run parallel to that which assumed the form of colonisation; it merely required the existence of land capable of distribution, and the allotments granted might be considered merely a means of affording relief to the poorer members of existing municipalities. The system was supposed to have existed from the times of the Kings; it was believed to have formed the basis of the first agrarian law, that of Spurius Cassius in 486;[10] it had been employed after the conquest of the Volscians in the fourth century and that of the Sabines in the third;[11] it had animated the agrarian legislation of Flaminius when in 232 he romanised the ager Gallicus south of Ariminum without planting a single colony in this region;[12] and a date preceding the Gracchan legislation by only forty years had seen the resumption of the method, when some Gallic and Ligurian land, held to be the spoil of war and declared to be unoccupied, had been parcelled out into allotments, of ten jugera to Roman citizens and of three to members of the Latin name.[13] But to the government of the period with which we are concerned the continued pursuance of such a course, if it suggested itself at all, appealed in the light of a policy that was unfamiliar, difficult and objectionable. It is probable that this method of assignment, even in its later phases, had been tinctured with the belief that, like the colony, it secured a system of military control over the occupied district: and that the purely social object of land-distribution, if it had been advanced at all, was considered to be characteristic rather of the demagogue than the statesman. From a strategic point of view such a measure was unnecessary; from an economic, it assumed, not only a craving for allotments amongst the poorer class, of which there was perhaps little evidence, but a belief, which must have been held to be sanguine in the extreme, that these paupers, when provided for, would prove to be efficient farmers capable of maintaining a position which many of them had already lost. Again, if such an assignment was to be made, it should be made on land immediately after it had passed from the possession of the enemy to that of Rome; if time had elapsed since the date of annexation, it was almost certain that claims of some kind had been asserted over the territory, and shadowy as these claims might be, the Roman law had, in the interest of the State itself, always tended to recognise a de facto as a de jure right. The claims of the allies and the municipalities had also to be considered; for assignments to Roman citizens on an extensive scale would inevitably lead to difficult questions about the rights which many of these townships actually possessed to much of the territory whose revenue they enjoyed. If the allies and the municipal towns did not suffer, the loss must fall on the Roman State itself, which derived one of its chief sources of stable and permanent revenue--the source which was supposed to meet the claims for Italian administration[14]--from its domains in Italy, on the contractors who collected this revenue, and on the Enterprising capitalists who had put their wealth and energy into the waste places to which they had been invited by the government, and who had given these devastated territories much of the value which they now possessed. Lastly, these enterprising possessors were strongly represented in the senate; the leading members of the nobility had embarked on a new system of agriculture, the results of which were inimical to the interest of the small farmer, and the conditions of which would be undermined by a vast system of distribution such as could alone suffice to satisfy the pauper proletariate. The feeling that a future agrarian law was useless from an economic and dangerous from a political point of view, was strengthened by the conviction that its proposal would initiate a war amongst classes, that its failure would exasperate the commons and that its success would inflict heavy pecuniary damage on the guardians of the State.

Thus the simple system of territorial expansion, which had continued in an uninterrupted course from the earliest days of conquest, might be now held to be closed for ever. From the point of view of the Italian neighbours of Rome it was indeed ample time that such a closing period should be reached. If we possessed a map of Italy which showed the relative proportions of land in Italy and Cisalpine Gaul which had been seized by Rome or left to the native cities or tribes, we should probably find that the possessions of the conquering State, whether occupied by colonies, absorbed by the gift of citizenship, or held as public domain, amounted to nearly one half of the territory of the whole peninsula.[15] The extension of such progress was clearly impossible unless war were to be provoked with the Confederacy which furnished so large a proportion of the fighting strength of Rome; but, if it was confessed that extension on the old lines was now beyond reach of attainment and yet it was agreed that the existing resources of Italy did not furnish an adequate livelihood to the majority of the citizens of Rome, but two methods of expansion could be thought of as practicable in the future. One was agrarian assignation at the expense either of the State or of the richer classes or of both; the other was enterprise beyond the sea. But neither of these seemed to deserve government intervention, or regulation by a scheme which would satisfy either immediate or future wants. The one was repudiated, as we have already shown, on account of its novelty, its danger and its inconvenience; the other seemed emphatically a matter for private enterprise and above all for private capital. It could never be available for the very poor unless it assumed the form of colonisation, and the senate looked on transmarine colonisation with the eye of prejudice.[16] It took a different view of the enterprise of the foreign speculator and merchant; this it regarded with an air of easy indifference. Their wealth was a pillar on which the State might lean in times of emergency, but, until the disastrous effects of commercial enterprise on foreign policy were more clearly seen, it was considered to be no business of the government either to help or to hinder the wealthy and enterprising Roman in his dealings with the peoples of the subject or protected lands.

Rome, if by this name we mean the great majority of Roman citizens, was for the first time for centuries in a situation in which all movement and all progress seemed to be denied. The force of the community seemed to have spent itself for the time; as a force proceeding from the whole community it had perhaps spent itself for ever. A section of the nominally sovereign people might yet be welded into a mighty instrument that would carry victory to the ends of the earth, and open new channels of enterprise both for the men who guided their movements and for themselves. But for the moment the State was thrown back upon itself; it held that an end had been attained, and the attainment naturally suggested a pause, a long survey of the results which had been reached by these long years of struggle with the hydra-headed enemy abroad. The close of the third Macedonian war is said by a contemporary to have brought with it a restful sense of security such as Rome could not have felt for centuries.[17] Such a security gave scope to the rich to enjoy the material advantages which their power had acquired; but it also gave scope to the poor to reflect on the strange harvest which the conquest of the great powers of the world had brought to the men whose stubborn patience had secured the peace which they were given neither the means nor the leisure to enjoy. The men who evaded or had completed their service in the legions lacked the means, although they had the leisure; the men who still obeyed the summons to arms lacked both, unless the respite between prolonged campaigns could be called leisure, or the booty, hardly won and quickly squandered, could be described as means. Even after Carthage had been destroyed Rome, though doubly safe, was still busy enough with her legions; the government of Spain was one protracted war, and proconsuls were still striving to win triumphs for themselves by improving on their predecessors' work.[18] But such war could not absorb the energy or stimulate the interest of the people as a whole. The reaction which had so often followed a successful campaign, when the discipline of the camp had been shaken off and the duties of the soldier were replaced by the wants of the citizen, was renewed on a scale infinitely larger than before--a scale proportioned to the magnitude of the strain which had been removed and the greatness of the wants which had been revived. The cries for reform may have been of the old familiar type but their increased intensity and variety may almost be held to have given them a difference of quality. There is a stage at which a difference of degree seems to amount to one of kind: and this stage seems certainly to have been reached in the social problems presented by the times. In the old days of the struggle between the orders the question of privilege had sometimes overshadowed the purely economic issue, and although a close scrutiny of those days of turmoil shows that the dominant note in the conflict was often a mere pretext meant to serve the personal ambition of the champions of the Plebs, yet the appearance rather than the reality of an issue imposes on the imagination of the mob, and political emancipation had been thought a boon even when hard facts had shown that its greater prizes had fallen to a small and selfish minority. Now, however, there could be no illusion. There was nothing but material wants on one side, there was nothing but material power on the other. The intellectual claims which might be advanced to justify a monopoly of office and of wealth, could be met by an intellectual superiority on the part of a demagogue clamouring for confiscation. The ultimate basis of the life of the State was for the first time to be laid bare and subjected to a merciless scrutiny; it remained to be seen which of the two great forces of society would prevail; the force of habit which had so often blinded the Roman to his real needs; or the force of want which, because it so seldom won a victory over his innate conservatism, was wont, when that victory had been won, to sweep him farther on the path of reckless and inconsistent reform than it would have carried a race better endowed with the gift of testing at every stage of progress the ends and needs of the social organism considered as a whole.

An analysis of social discontent at any period of history must take the form of an examination of the wants engendered by the age, and of the adequacy or inadequacy of their means of satisfaction. If we turn our attention first to the forces of society which were in possession of the fortress and were to be the object of attack, we shall find that the ruling desires which animated these men of wealth and influence were chiefly the product of the new cosmopolitan culture which the victorious city had begun to absorb in the days when conquest and diplomacy had first been carried across the seas. To this she fell a willing victim when the conquered peoples, bending before the rude force which had but substituted a new suzerainty for an old and had scarcely touched their inner life, began to display before the eyes of their astonished conquerors the material comfort and the spiritual charm which, in the case of the contact of a potent but narrow civilisation with one that is superbly elastic and strong in the very elegance of its physical debility, can always turn defeat into victory. But the student who begins his investigation of the new Roman life with the study of Roman society as it existed in the latter half of the second century before our era, cannot venture to gather up the threads of the purely intellectual and moral influences which were created by the new Hellenistic civilisation. He feels that he is only at the beginning of a process, that he lacks material for his picture, that the illustrative matter which he might employ is to be found mainly in the literary records of a later age, and that his use of this matter would but involve him in the historical sins of anticipation and anachronism. Of some phases of the war between the old spirit and the new we shall find occasion to speak; but the culminating point attained by the blend of Greek with Roman elements is the only one which is clearly visible to modern eyes. This point, however, was reached at the earliest only in the second half of the next century. It was only then that the fusion of the seemingly discordant elements gave birth to the new "Romanism," which was to be the ruling civilisation of Italy and the Western provinces and, in virtue of the completeness of the amalgamation and the novelty of the product, was itself to be contrasted and to live for centuries in friendly rivalry with the more uncompromising Hellenism of Eastern lands. But some of the economic effects of the new influences claim our immediate attention, for we are engaged in the study of the beginnings of an economic revolution, and an analysis must therefore be attempted of some of the most pressing needs and some of the keenest desires which were awakened by Hellenism, either in the purer dress which old Greece had given it or in the more gorgeous raiment which it had assumed during its sojourn in the East.

A tendency to treat the city as the home, the country only as a means of refreshment and a sphere of elegant retirement during that portion of the year when the excitement of the urban season, its business and its pleasure, were suspended, began to be a marked feature of the life of the upper classes. The man of affairs and the man of high finance were both compelled to have their domicile in the town, and, if agriculture was still the staple or the supplement of their wealth, the needs of the estate had to be left to the supervision of the resident bailiff.[19] This concentration of the upper classes in the city necessarily entailed a great advance in the price and rental of house property within the walls. It is true that the reckless prices paid for houses, especially for country villas, by the grandees and millionaires of the next generation,[20] had not yet been reached; but the indications with which we are furnished of the general rise of prices for everything in Rome that could be deemed desirable by a cultivated taste,[21] show that the better class of house property must already have yielded large returns, whether it were sold or let, and we know that poor scions of the nobility, if business or pleasure induced them to spend a portion of the year in Rome, had soon to climb the stairs of flats or lodgings.[22] The pressure for room led to the piling of storey on storey. On The roof of old houses new chambers were raised, which could be reached by an outside stair, and either served to accommodate the increased retinue of the town establishment or were let to strangers who possessed no dwelling of their own;[23] the still larger lodging-houses or "islands," which derived their name from their lofty isolation from neighbouring buildings,[24] continued to spring up, and even private houses soon came to attain a height which had to be restrained by the intervention of the law. An ex-consul and augur was called on by the censors of 125 to explain the magnitude of a villa which he had raised, and the altitude of the structure exposed him not only to the strictures of the guardians of morals but to a fine imposed by a public court.[25] Great changes were effected in the interior structure of the houses of the wealthy--changes excused by a pardonable desire for greater comfort and rendered necessary both by the growing formality of life and the large increase in the numbers of the resident household, but tending, when once adopted, to draw the father of the family into that most useless type of extravagance which takes the form of a craze for building. The Hall or Atrium had once been practically the house. It opened on the street. It contained the family bed and the kitchen fire. The smoke passed through a hole in the roof and begrimed the family portraits that looked down on the members of the household gathered round the hearth for their common meal. The Hall was the chief bedroom, the kitchen, the dining-room and the reception room, and it was also the only avenue from the street to the small courtyard at the back. The houses of the great had hitherto differed from those of the poor chiefly in dimensions and but very slightly in structure. The home of the wealthy patrician had simply been on a larger scale of primitive discomfort; and if his large parlour built of timber could accommodate a vast host of clients, the bed and the cooking pots were still visible to every visitor. The chief of the early innovations had been merely a low portico, borrowed from the Greeks by the Etruscans and transmitted by them to Rome, which ran round the courtyard, was divided into little cells and chambers, and served to accommodate the servants of the house.[26] But now fashion dictated that the doorway should not front the street but should be parted from it by a vestibule, in which the early callers gathered before they were admitted to the hall of audience. The floor of the Atrium was no longer the common passage to the regions at the back, but a special corridor lying either on one or on both sides of the Hall[27] led past the Study or Tablinum, immediately behind it, to the inner court beyond. Even the sanctity of the nuptial couch could not continue to give it the publicity which was irksome to the taste of an age which had acquired notions of the dignity of seclusion, of the comfort that was to be found in retirement, and of the convenience of separating the chambers that were used for public from those which were employed for merely private purposes. The chief bedrooms were shifted to the back, and the sides of the courtyard were no longer the exclusive abode of the dependants of the household. The common hearth could no longer serve as the sphere of the culinary operations of an expensive cook with his retinue of menials; the cooking fire was removed to one of the rooms near the back-gate of the house, which finally became an ample kitchen replete with all the imported means of satisfying the growing luxury of the table; and the member of the family loitering in the hall, or the visitor admitted through its portals, was spared the annoyances of strong smells and pungent smoke. The Roman family also discovered the discomfort of dining in a large and scantily furnished room, not too well lit and accessible to the intrusions of the chance domestic and the caller. It was deemed preferable to take the common meal in a light and airy upper chamber, and the new type of Coenaculum satisfied at once the desire for personal comfort and for that specialisation in the use of apartments which is one of the chief signs of an advancing material civilisation. The great hall had become the show-room of the house, but even for this purpose its dimensions proved too small. Such was the quantity of curios and works of art collected by the conquering or travelled Roman that greater space was needed for the exhibition of their rarity or splendour. This space was gained by the removal from the Atrium of all the domestic obstacles with which it had once been cumbered. It might now be made slightly smaller in its proportion to the rest of the house and yet appear far more ample than before. The space by which its sides were diminished could now be utilised for the building of two wings or Alae, which served the threefold purpose of lighting the hall from the sides, of displaying to better advantage, as an oblong chamber always does, the works of art which the lord of the mansion or his butler[28] displayed to visitor or client, and lastly of serving as a gallery for the family portraits, which were finally removed from the Atrium, to be seen to greater advantage and in a better light on the walls of the wings. These now displayed the family tree through painted lines which connected the little shrines holding the inscribed imagines of the great ancestors of the house.[29] It is also possible that the Alae served as rooms for more private audiences than were possible in the Atrium.[30] From the early morning crowd which thronged the hall individuals or groups might have been detached by the butler, and led to the presence of the great statesman or pleader who paced the floor in the retirement of one of these long side-galleries.

  1. Business of a yet more private kind was transacted in the still greater security of the Tablinum, the archive room and study of the house. Here were kept, not only the family records and the family accounts, but such of the official registers and papers as a magistrate needed to have at hand during his year of office.[32] The domestic transaction of official business was very large at Rome, for the State had given its administrators not even the skeleton of a civil service, and it was in this room that the consul locked himself up with his quaestor and his scribes, as it was here that, as a good head of the family and a careful business man, he carefully perused the record of income and expenditure, of gains and losses, with his skilled Greek accountant.

The whole tendency of the reforms in domestic architecture was to differentiate between the public and private life of the man of business or affairs. His public activity was confined to the forepart of the house; his repose, his domestic joys, and his private pleasures were indulged in the buildings which lay behind the Atrium and its wings. As each of the departments of life became more ambitious, the sphere for the exercise of the one became more magnificent, and that which fostered the other the scene of a more perfect, because more quiet, luxury. The Atrium was soon to become a palatial hall adorned with marble colonnades;[33] the small yard with its humble portico at the back was to be transformed into the Greek Peristyle, a court open to the sky and surrounded by columns, which enclosed a greenery of shrubs and trees and an atmosphere cooled and freshened by the constant play of fountains. The final form of the Roman house was an admirable type of the new civilisation. It was Roman and yet Greek[34]--Roman in the grand front that it, presented to the world, Greek in the quiet background of thought and sentiment.

The growing splendour of the house demanded a number and variety in its human servitors that had not been dreamed of in a simpler age. The slave of the farm, with his hard hands and weather-beaten visage, could no longer be brought by his elegant master to the town and exhibited to a fastidious society as the type of servant that ministered to his daily needs. The urban and rustic family were now kept wholly distinct; it was only when some child of marked grace and beauty was born on the farm, that it was transferred to the mansion as containing a promise that would be wasted on rustic toil.[35] In every part of the establishment the taste and wealth of the owner might be tested by the courtliness and beauty of its living instruments. The chained dog at the gate had been replaced by a human janitor, often himself in chains.[36] The visitor, when he had passed the porter, was received by the butler in the hall, and admitted to the master's presence by a series of footmen and ushers, the show servants of the fore-part of the house, men of the impassive dignity and obsequious repose that servitude but strengthens in the Oriental mind.[37] In the penetralia of the household each need created by the growing ideal of comfort and refinement required its separate band of ministers. The body of the bather was rubbed and perfumed by experts in the art; the service of the table was in the hands of men who had made catering and the preparation of delicate viands the sole business of their lives. The possession of a cook, who could answer to the highest expectations of the age, was a prize beyond the reach of all but the most wealthy; for such an expert the sum of four talents had to be paid;[38] he was the prize of the millionaire, and families of more moderate means, if they wished a banquet to be elegantly served, were forced to hire the temporary services of an accomplished artist.[39] The housekeeper,[40] who supervised the resources of the pantry, guided the destinies of the dinner in concert with the chef; and each had under him a crowd of assistants of varied names and carefully differentiated functions.[41] The business of the outer world demanded another class of servitors. There were special valets charged with the functions of taking notes and invitations to their masters' friends; there was the valued attendant of quick eye and ready memory, an incredibly rich store-house of names and gossip, an impartial observer of the ways and weaknesses of every class, who could inform his master of the name and attributes of the approaching stranger. There were the lackeys who formed the nucleus of the attendant retinue of clients for the man when he walked abroad, the boys of exquisite form with slender limbs and innocent faces, who were the attendant spirits of the lady as she passed in her litter down the street. The muscles of the stouter slaves now offered facilities for easy journeying that had been before unknown. The Roman official need not sit his horse during the hot hours of the day as he passed through the hamlets of Italy, and the grinning rustic could ask, as he watched the solemn and noiseless transit of the bearers, whether the carefully drawn curtains did not conceal a corpse.[42]

The internal luxury of the household was as fully exhibited in lifeless objects as in living things. Rooms were scented with fragrant perfumes and hung with tapestries of great price and varied bloom. Tables were set with works of silver, ivory and other precious material, wrought with the most delicate skill. Wine of moderate flavour was despised; Falernian and Chian were the only brands that the true connoisseur would deem worthy of his taste. A nice discrimination was made in the qualities of the rarer kinds of fish, and other delicacies of the table were sought in proportion to the difficulty of their attainment. The fashions of dress followed the tendency of the age; the rarity of the material, its fineness of texture, the ease which it gave to the body, were the objects chiefly sought. Young men were seen in the Forum in robes of a material as soft as that worn by women and almost transparent in its thinness. Since all these instruments of pleasure, and the luxury that appealed to ambition even more keenly than to taste, were pursued with a ruinous competition, prices were forced up to an incredible degree. An amphora of Falernian wine cost one hundred denarii, a jar of Pontic salt-fish four hundred; a young Roman would often give a talent for a favourite, and boys who ranked in the highest class for beauty of face and elegance of form fetched even a higher price than this.[43] Few could have been inclined to contradict Cato when he said in the senate-house that Rome was the only city in the world where a jar of preserved fish from the Black Sea cost more than a yoke of oxen, and a boy-favourite fetched a higher price than a yeoman's farm.[44] One of the great objects of social ambition was to have a heavier service of silver-plate than was possessed by any of one's neighbours. In the good old days,--days not so long past, but severed from the present by a gulf that circumstances had made deeper than the years--the Roman had had an official rather than a personal pride in the silver which he could display before the respectful eyes of the distinguished foreigner who was the guest of the State; and the Carthaginian envoys had been struck by the similarity between the silver services which appeared at the tables of their various hosts. The experience led them to a higher estimate of Roman brotherhood than of Roman wealth, and the silver-plate that had done such varied duty was at least responsible for a moral triumph.[45] Only a few years before the commencement of the first war with Carthage Rufinus a consular had been expelled from the senate for having ten pounds of the wrought metal in his keeping,[46] and Scipio Aemilianus, a man of the present age, but an adherent of the older school, left but thirty-two pounds' weight to his heir. Less than forty years later the younger Livius Drusus was known to be in possession of plate that weighed ten thousand pounds,[47] and the accretions to the primitive hoard which must have been made by but two or three members of this family may serve as an index of the extent to which this particular form of the passion for display had influenced the minds and practice of the better-class Romans of the day.

There were other objects, valued for their intrinsic worth as much as for the distinction conveyed by their possession, which attracted the ambition and strained the revenues of the fashionable man. Works of art must once have been cheap on the Roman market; for, even if we refuse to credit the story of Mummius' estimate of the prize which fallen Corinth had delivered into his hands,[48] yet the transhipment of cargoes of the priceless treasures to Rome is at least an historic fact, and the Gracchi must themselves have seen the trains of wagons bearing their precious freight along the Via Sacra to the Capitol. The spoils of the generous conqueror were lent to adorn the triumphs, the public buildings and even the private houses, of others; but much that had been yielded by Corinth had become the property neither of the general nor of the State. Polybius had seen the Roman legionaries playing at draughts on the Dionysus of Aristeides and many another famous canvas which had been torn from its place and thrown as a carpet upon the ground;[49] but many a camp follower must have had a better estimate of the material value of the paintings of the Hellenic masters, and the cupidity of the Roman collector must often have been satisfied at no great cost to his resources. The extent to which a returning army could disseminate its acquired tastes and distribute its captured goods had been shown some forty years before the fall of Corinth when Manlius brought his legions back from the first exploration of the rich cities of Asia. Things and names, of which the Roman had never dreamed, soon gratified the eye and struck the ear with a familiar sound. He learnt to love the bronze couches meant for the dining hall, the slender side tables with the strange foreign name, the delicate tissues woven to form the hangings of the bed or litter, the notes struck from the psalter and the harp by the fingers of the dancing-women of the East.[50] This was the first irruption of the efflorescent luxury of Eastern Hellenism; but some five-and-twenty years before this date Rome had received her first experience of the purer taste of the Greek genius in the West. The whole series of the acts of artistic vandalism which marked the footsteps of the conquering state could be traced back to the measures taken by Claudius Marcellus after the fall of Syracuse. The systematic plunder of works of art was for the first time given an official sanction, and the public edifices of Rome were by no means the sole beneficiaries of this new interpretation of the rights of war. Much of the valuable plunder had found its way into private houses,[51] to stimulate the envious cupidity of many a future governor who, cursed with the taste of a collector and unblessed by the opportunity of a war, would make subtle raids on the artistic treasures of his province a secret article of his administration. When the ruling classes of a nation have been familiarised for the larger part of a century with the easy acquisition of the best material treasures of the world, things that have once seemed luxuries come to fill an easy place in the category of accepted wants. But the sudden supply has stopped; the market value, which plunder has destroyed or lessened, has risen to its normal level; another burden has been added to life, there is one further stimulus to wealth and, so pressing is the social need, that the means to its satisfaction are not likely to be too diligently scrutinised before they are adopted.

More pardonable were the tastes that were associated with the more purely intellectual elements in Hellenic culture--with the influence which the Greek rhetor or philosopher exercised in his converse with the stern but receptive minds of Rome, the love of books, the new lessons which were to be taught as to the rhythmic flow of language and the rhythmic movement of the limbs. The Greek adventurer was one of the most striking features of the epoch which immediately followed the close of the great wars. Later thinkers, generally of the resentfully national, academic and pseudo-historical type, who repudiated the amenities of life which they continued to enjoy, and cherished the pleasing fiction of the exemplary mores of the ancient times, could see little in him but a source of unmixed evil;[52] and indeed the Oriental Greek of the commoner type, let loose upon the society of the poorer quarters, or worming his way into the confidence of some rich but uneducated master, must often have been the vehicle of lessons that would better have been unlearnt. But Italy also saw the advent of the best professors of the age, golden-mouthed men who spoke in the language of poetry, rhetoric and philosophy, and who turned from the wearisome competition of their own circles and the barren fields of their former labours to find a flattering attention, a pleasing dignity, and the means of enjoying a full, peaceful and leisured life in the homes of Roman aristocrats, thirsting for knowledge and thirsting still more for the mastery of the unrivalled forms in which their own deeds might be preserved and through which their own political and forensic triumphs might be won. Soon towns of Italy--especially those of the Hellenic South--would be vying with each other to grant the freedom of their cities and other honours in their gift to a young emigrant poet who hailed from Antioch, and members of the noblest houses would be competing for the honour of his friendship and for the privilege of receiving him under their roof.[53] The stream of Greek learning was broad and strong;[54] it bore on its bosom every man and woman who aimed at a reputation for elegance, for wit or for the deadly thrust in verbal fence which played so large a part in the game of politics; every one that refused to float was either an outcast from the best society, or was striving to win an eccentric reputation for national obscurantism and its imaginary accompaniment of honest rustic strength.

Acquaintance with professors and poets led to a knowledge of books; and it was as necessary to store the latter as the former under the fashionable roof. The first private library in Rome was established by Aemilius Paulus, when he brought home the books that had belonged to the vanquished Perseus;[55] and it became as much a feature of conquest amongst the highly cultured to bring home a goodly store of literature as to gather objects of art which might merely please the sensuous taste and touch only the outer surface of the mind.[56]

But it was deemed by no means desirable to limit the influences of the new culture to the minds of the mature. There was, indeed, a school of cautious Hellenists that might have preferred this view, and would at any rate have exercised a careful discrimination between those elements of the Greek training which would strengthen the young mind by giving it a wider range of vision and a new gallery of noble lives and those which would lead to mere display, to effeminacy, nay (who could tell?) to positive depravity. But this could not be the point of view of society as a whole. If the elegant Roman was to be half a Greek, he must learn during the tender and impressionable age to move his limbs and modulate his voice in true Hellenic wise. Hence the picture which Scipio Aemilianus, sane Hellenist and stout Roman, gazed at with astonished eyes and described in the vigorous and uncompromising language suited to a former censor. "I was told," he said, "that free-born boys and girls went to a dancing school and moved amidst disreputable professors of the art. I could not bring my mind to believe it; but I was taken to such a school myself, and Good Heavens! What did I see there! More than fifty boys and girls, one of them, I am ashamed to say, the son of a candidate for office, a boy wearing the golden boss, a lad not less than twelve years of age. He was jingling a pair of castanets and dancing a step which an immodest slave could not dance with decency." [57] Such might have been the reflections of a puritan had he entered a modern dancing-academy. We may be permitted to question the immorality of the exhibition thus displayed, but there can be no doubt as to the social ambition which it reveals--an ambition which would be perpetuated throughout the whole of the life of the boy with the castanets, which would lead him to set a high value on the polish of everything he called his own--a polish determined by certain rigid external standards and to be attained at any hazard, whether by the ruinous concealment of honest poverty, or the struggle for affluence even by the most questionable means.

But the burdens on the wealth of the great were by no means limited to those imposed by merely social canons. Political life at Rome had always been expensive in so far as office was unpaid and its tenure implied leisure and a considerable degree of neglect of his own domestic concerns in the patriot who was willing to accept it. But the State had lately taken on itself to increase the financial expenditure which was due to the people without professing to meet the bill from the public funds. The 'State' at Rome did not mean what it would have meant in such a context amongst the peoples of the Hellenic world. It did not mean that the masses were preying on the richer classes, but that the richer classes were preying on themselves; and this particular form of voluntary self-sacrifice amongst the influential families in the senate was equivalent to the confession that Rome was ceasing to be an Aristocracy and becoming an Oligarchy, was voluntarily placing the claims of wealth on a par with those of birth and merit, or rather was insisting that the latter should not be valid unless they were accompanied by the former. The chief sign of the confession that political advancement might be purchased from the people in a legitimate way, was the adoption of a rule, which was established about the time of the First Punic War, that the cost of the public games should not be defrayed exclusively by the treasury.[58] It was seldom that the people could be brought to contribute to the expenses of the exhibitor by subscriptions collected from amongst themselves;[59] they were the recipients, not the givers of the feast, and the actual donors knew that the exhibition was a contest for favour, that reputations were being won or lost on the merits of the show, and that the successful competitor was laying up a store-house of gratitude which would materially aid his ascent to the highest prizes in the State. The personal cost, if it could not be wholly realised on the existing patrimony of the magistrate, must be assisted by gifts from friends, by loans from money-lenders at exorbitant rates of interest and, worst but readiest of all methods, by contributions, nominally voluntary but really enforced, from the Italian allies and the provincials. As early as the year 180 the senate had been forced to frame a strong resolution against the extravagance that implied oppression;[60] but the resolution was really a criticism of the new methods of government; the roots of the evil (the burden on the magistracy, the increase in the number of the regularly recurring festivals) they neither cared nor ventured to remove. The aedileship was the particular magistracy which was saddled with this expenditure on account of its traditional connection with the conduct of the public games; and although it was neither in its curule nor plebeian form an obligatory step in the scale of the magistracies, yet, as it was held before the praetorship and the consulship, it was manifest that the brilliant display given to the people by the occupant of this office might render fruitless the efforts of a less wealthy competitor who had shunned its burdens.[61] The games were given jointly by the respective pairs of colleagues,[62] the Ludi Romani being under the guidance of the curule,[63] the Ludi Plebeii under that of the plebeian aediles.[64] Had these remained the only annual shows, the cost to the exhibitor, although great, would have been limited, But other festivals, which had once been occasional, had lately been made permanent. The games to Ceres (Cerialia), the remote origins of which may have dated back to the time of the monarchy, first appear as fully established in the year 202;[65] the festival to Flora (Floralia) dates from but 238 B.C.,[66] but probably did not become annual until 173;[67] while the games to the Great Mother (Megalesia) followed by thirteen years the invitation and hospitable reception of that Phrygian goddess by the Romans, and became a regular feature in their calendar in 191.[68] This increase in the amenities of the people, every item of which falls within a term of fifty years, is a remarkable feature of the age which followed Rome's assumption of imperial power. It proved that the Roman was willing to bend his austere religion to the purposes of gratification, when he could afford the luxury, that the enjoyment of this luxury was considered a happy means of keeping the people in good temper with itself and its rulers, and that the cost of providing it was considered, not merely as compatible with the traditions of the existing regime, but as a means of strengthening those traditions by closing the gates of office to the poor.

The types of spectacle, in which the masses took most delight, were also new and expensive creations. These types were chiefly furnished by the gladiatorial shows and the hunting of wild beasts. Even the former and earlier amusement had had a history of little more than a hundred years. It was believed to be a relic of that realistic view of the after life which lingered in Italy long after it had passed from the more spiritual civilisation of the Greeks. The men who put each other to the sword before the eyes of the sorrowing crowd were held to be the retinue which passed with the dead chieftain beyond the grave, and it was from the sombre rites of the Etruscans that this custom of ceremonial slaying was believed to have been transferred to Rome. The first year of the First Punic War witnessed the earliest combat that accompanied a Roman funeral,[69] and, although secular enjoyment rapidly took the place of grim funereal appreciation, and the religious belief that underlay the spectacle may soon have passed away, neither the State nor the relatives were supposed to have done due honour to the illustrious dead if his own decease were not followed by the death-struggle of champions from the rival gladiatorial schools, and men who aspired to a decent funeral made due provision for such combats in their wills. The Roman magistrate bowed to the prevalent taste, and displays of gladiators became one of the most familiar features of the aediles' shows. Military sentiment was in its favour, for it was believed to harden the nerves of the race that had sprung from the loins of the god of war,[70] and humane sentiment has never in any age been shocked at the contemporary barbarities which it tolerates or enjoys. But a certain element of coarseness in the sport, and perhaps the very fact that it was of native Italian growth, might have given it a short shrift, had the cultured classes really possessed the power of regulating the amusements of the public. Leaders of society would have preferred the Greek Agôn with its graceful wrestling and its contests in the finer arts. But the Roman public would not be hellenised in this particular, and showed their mood when a musical exhibition was attempted at the triumph of Lucius Anicius Gallus in 167. The audience insisted that the performers should drop their instruments and box with one another.[71] This, although not the best, was yet a more tolerable type of what a contest of skill should be. It was natural, therefore, that the professional fighting man should become a far more inevitable condition of social and political success than the hunter or the race-horse has ever been with us. Some enterprising members of the nobility soon came to prefer ownership to the hire system and started schools of their own in which the lanista was merely the trainer. A stranger element was soon added to the possessions of a Roman noble by the growing craze for the combats of wild beasts. The first recorded "hunt" of the kind was that given in 186 by Marcus Fulvius at the close of the Aetolian war when lions and panthers were exhibited to the wondering gaze of the people.[72] Seventeen years later two curule aediles furnished sixty-three African lions and forty bears and elephants for the Circensian games.[73] These menageries eventually became a public danger and the curule aedile (himself one of the chief offenders) was forced to frame an edict specifying the compensation for damage that might be committed by wild beasts in their transit through Italy or their residence within the towns.[74] The obligation of wealth to supply luxuries for the poor--a splendid feature of ancient civilisation in which it has ever taken precedence of that of the modern world--was recognised with the utmost frankness in the Rome of the day; but it was an obligation that had passed the limits at which it could be cheerfully performed as the duty of the patriot or the patron; it had reached a stage when its demoralising effects, both to giver and to receiver, were patent to every seeing eye, but when criticism of its vices could be met by the conclusive rejoinder that it was a vital necessity of the existing political situation.[75]

The review which we have given of the enormous expenditure created by the social and political appetites of the day leads up to the consideration of two questions which, though seldom formulated or faced in their naked form, were ever present in the minds of the classes who were forced to deem themselves either the most responsible authors, or the most illustrious victims, of the existing standards both of politics and society. These questions were "Could the exhausting drain be stopped?" and "If it could not, how was it to be supplied?" A city in a state of high fever will always produce the would-be doctor; but the curious fact about the Rome of this and other days is that the doctor was so often the patient in another form. Just as in the government of the provinces the scandals of individual rule were often met by the severest legislation proceeding from the very body which had produced the evil-doers, so when remedies were suggested for the social evils of the city, the senate, in spite of its tendency to individual transgression, generally displayed the possession of a collective conscience. The men who formulated the standard of purity and self-restraint might be few in number; but, except they displayed the irritating activity and the uncompromising methods of a Cato, they generally secured the support of their peers, and the sterner the censor, the more gladly was he hailed as an ornament to the order. This guardian of morals still issued his edicts against delicacies of the table, foreign perfumes and expensive houses;[76] as late as the year 169 people would hastily put out their lights when it was reported that Tiberius Sempronius Graccus was coming up the street on his return from supper, lest they should fall under the suspicion of untimely revelry,[77] and the sporadic activity of the censorship will find ample illustration in the future chapters of our work. Degradation from the various orders of the State was still a consequence of its animadversions; but a milder, more universal and probably far more efficacious check on luxury--the system, pursued by Cato, of adopting an excessive rating for articles of value[78] and thus of shifting the incidence of taxation from the artisan and farmer to the shoulders of the richest class[79]--had been taken out of its hands by the complete cessation of direct imposts after the Third Macedonian War.[80]

Meanwhile sumptuary laws continued to be promulgated from the Rostra and accepted by the people. All that are known to have been initiated or to have been considered valid after the close of the great wars have but one object--an attack on the expenses of the table, a form of sensuous enjoyment which, on account of the ease and barbaric abundance with which wealth may vaunt itself in this domain, was particularly in vogue amongst the upper classes in Rome. Other forms of extravagance seem for the time to have been left untouched by legislation, for the Oppian law which had been due to the strain of the Second Punic War had been repealed after a fierce struggle in 193, and the Roman ladies might now adorn themselves with more than half an ounce of gold, wear robes of divers colours and ride in their carriages through any street they pleased.[81] The first enactment which attempted to control the wastefulness of the table was an Orchian law of 181, limiting the number of guests that might be invited to entertainments. Cato was consistent in opposing the passing of the measure and in resisting its repeal. He recognised a futile law when he saw it, but he did not wish this futility to be admitted.[82] Twenty years later[83] a Fannian law grew out of a decree of the senate which had enjoined that the chief men (principes) of the State should take an oath before the consuls not to exceed a certain limit of expense in the banquets given at the Megalesian Games. Strengthened with a measure which prescribed more harassing details than the Orchian law. The new enactment actually determined the value and nature of the eatables whose consumption was allowed. It permitted one hundred asses to be spent on the days of the Roman Games, the Plebeian Games and the Saturnalia, thirty asses on certain other festival occasions, and but ten asses (less than twice the daily pay of a Roman soldier) on every other meal throughout the year; it forbade the serving of any fowl but a single hen, and that not fattened; it enjoined the exclusive consumption of native wine.[84] This enactment was strengthened eighteen years later by a Didian law, which included in the threatened penalties not only the giver of the feast which violated the prescribed limits, but also the guests who were present at such a banquet. It also compelled or induced the Italian allies to accept the provisions of the Fannian law[85]--an unusual step which may show the belief that a luxury similar to that of Rome was weakening the resources of the confederacy, on whose strength the leading state was so dependent, or which may have been induced by the knowledge that members of the Roman nobility were taking holiday trips to country towns, to enjoy the delights which were prohibited at home and to waste their money on Italian caterers.[86]

The frequency of such legislation, which we shall find renewed once again before the epoch of the reforms of Sulla[87] seems to prove its ineffectiveness,[88] and indeed the standard of comfort which it desired to enjoin was wholly incompatible with the circumstances of the age. The desire to produce uniformity[89] of standard had always been an end of Roman as of Greek sumptuary regulation, but what type of uniformity could be looked for in a community where the extremes of wealth and poverty were beginning to be so strongly marked, where capital was accumulating in the hands of the great noble and the great trader and being wholly withdrawn from those of the free-born peasant and artisan? The restriction of useless consumption was indeed favourable to the more productive employment of capital; but we shall soon see that this productive use, which had as its object the deterioration of land by pasturage and the purchase of servile labour, was as detrimental to the free citizen as the most reckless extravagance could have been. There is no question, however, that both the sumptuary laws and the censorian ordinances of the period did attempt to attain an economic as well as a social end; and, however mistaken their methods may have been, they showed some appreciation of the industrial evils of the time. The provision of the Fannian law in favour of native wines suggests the desire to help the small cultivator who had substituted vine-growing for the cultivation of cereals, and foreshadows the protective legislation of the Ciceronian period.[90] Much of this legislation, too, was animated by the "mercantile" theory that a State is impoverished by the export of the precious metals to foreign lands[91]--a view which found expression in a definite enactment of an earlier period which had forbidden gold or silver to be paid to the Celtic tribes in the north of Italy in exchange for the wares or slaves which they sold to Roman merchants.[92]

Another series of laws aimed at securing the purity of an electorate exposed to the danger of corruption by the overwhelming influence of wealth. Laws against bribery, unknown in an earlier period,[93] become painfully frequent from the date at which Rome came into contact with the riches of the East. Six years after the close of the great Asiatic campaign the people were asked, on the authority of the senate, to sanction more than one act which was directed against the undue influence exercised at elections;[94] in 166 fresh scandals called for the consideration of the Council of State;[95] and the year 159 saw the birth of another enactment.[96] Yet the capital penalty, which seems to have been the consequence of the transgression of at least one of these laws,[97] did not deter candidates from staking their citizenship on their success. The still-surviving custom of clientship made the object of largesses difficult to establish, and the secrecy of the ballot, which had been introduced for elections in 139, made it impossible to prove that the suspicious gift had been effective and thus to construct a convincing case against the donor.

The moral control exercised by the magistrate and the sumptuary or criminal ordinances expressed in acts of Parliament might serve as temporary palliatives to certain pronounced evils of the moment; but they were powerless to check the extravagance of an expenditure which was sanctioned by custom and in some respects actually enforced by law. One of the greatest of the practical needs of the new Roman was to increase his income in every way that might be deemed legitimate by a society which, even in its best days, had never been overscrupulous in its exploitation of the poor and had been wont to illustrate the sanctity of contract by visible examples of grinding oppression. The nature and intensity of the race for wealth differed with the needs of the anxious spendthrift; and in respect both to needs and to means of satisfaction the upper middle class was in a far more favourable position than its noble governors. It could spend its unfettered energies in the pursuit of the profits which might be derived from public contracts, trade, banking and money-lending, while it was not forced to submit to the drain created by the canvass for office and the exorbitant demands made by the electorate on the pecuniary resources of the candidate. The brilliancy of the life of the mercantile class, with its careless luxury and easy indifference to expenditure, set a standard for the nobility which was at once galling and degrading. They were induced to apply the measure of wealth even to members of their own order, and regarded it as inevitable that any one of their peers, whose patrimony had dwindled, should fill but a subordinate place both in politics and society;[98] while the means which they were sometimes forced to adopt in order to vie with the wealth of the successful contractor and promoter were, if hardly less sound from a moral point of view, at least far more questionable from a purely legal standpoint.

A fraction of the present wealth which was in the possession of some of the leading families of the nobility may have been purely adventitious, the result of the lucky accident of command and conquest amidst a wealthy and pliant people. The spoils of war were, it is true, not for the general but for the State; yet he exercised great discretionary power in dealing with the movable objects, which in the case of Hellenic or Asiatic conquest formed one of the richest elements in the prize, and the average commander is not likely to have displayed the self-restraint and public spirit of the destroyer of Corinth. Public and military opinion would permit the victor to retain an ample share of the fruits of his prowess, and this would be increased by a type of contribution to which he had a peculiar and unquestioned claim. This consisted in the honorary offerings made by states, who found themselves at the feet of the victor and were eager to attract his pity and to enlist on their behalf his influence with the Roman government. Instances of such offerings are the hundred and fourteen golden crowns which were borne in the triumph of Titus Quinctius Flamininus,[99] those of two hundred and twelve pounds' weight shown in the triumph of Manlius,[100] and the great golden wreath of one hundred and fifty pounds which had been presented by the Ambraciots to Nobilior.[101] But the time had not yet been reached when the general on a campaign, or even the governor of a district which was merely disturbed by border raids, could calmly demand hard cash as the equivalent of the precious metal wrought into this useless form, and when the "coronary gold" was to be one of the regular perquisites of any Roman governor who claimed to have achieved military success.[102] Nor is it likely that the triumphant general of this period melted down the offerings which he might dedicate in temples or reserve for the gallery of his house, and we must conclude that the few members of the nobility who had conducted the great campaigns were but slightly enriched by the offerings which helpless peoples had laid at their feet. It would be almost truer to say that the great influx of the precious metals had increased the difficulties of their position; for, if the gold or silver took the form of artistic work which remained in their possession, it but exaggerated the ideal to which their standard of life was expected to conform; and if it assumed the shape of the enormous amount of specie which was poured into the coffers of the State or distributed amongst the legionaries, its chief effects were the heightening of prices and a showy appearance of a vast increase of wealth which corresponded to no real increase in production.

But, whatever the effects of the metallic prizes of the great campaigns, these prizes could neither have benefited the members of the nobility as a whole nor, in the days of comparative peace which had followed the long epoch of war with wealthy powers, could they be contemplated as a permanent source of future capital or income. When the representative of the official caste looked round for modes of fruitful investment which might increase his revenues, his chances at first sight appeared to be limited by legal restrictions which expressed the supposed principles of his class. A Clodian law enacted at the beginning of the Second Punic War had provided that no senator or senator's son should own a ship of a burden greater than three hundred amphorae. The intention of the measure was to prohibit members of the governing class from taking part in foreign trade, as carriers, as manufacturers, or as participants in the great business of the contract for corn which placed provincial grain on the Roman market; and the ships of small tonnage which they were allowed to retain were intended to furnish them merely with the power of transporting to a convenient market the produce of their own estates in Italy.[103] The restriction was not imposed in a self-regarding spirit; it was odious to the nobility, and, as it was supported by Flaminius, must have been popular with the masses, who were blind to the fact that the restriction of a senator's energies to agriculture would be infinitely more disastrous to the well-being of the average citizen than the expenditure of those energies in trade. The restriction may have received the support of the growing merchant class, who were perhaps pleased to be rid of the competition of powerful rivals, and it certainly served, externally at least, to mark the distinction between the man of large industrial enterprises and the man whose official rank was supported by landed wealth--a distinction which, in the shape of the contrast drawn between knights and senators, appears at every turn in the history of the later Republic. But, whatever the immediate motives for the passing of the measure, a great and healthy principle lay behind it. It was the principle that considerations of foreign policy should not be directly controlled or hampered by questions of trade, that the policy of the State should not become the sport of the selfish vagaries of capital. The spirit thus expressed was directly inimical to the interests of the merchant, the contractor and the tax-farmer. How inimical it was could not yet be clearly seen; for the transmarine interests of Rome had not at the time attained a development which invited the mastery of conquered lands by the Roman capitalist. But, whether this Clodian law created or merely formulated the antithesis between land and trade, between Italian and provincial profits, it is yet certain that this antithesis was one of the most powerful of the animating factors of Roman history for the better part of the two centuries which were to follow the enactment. It produced the conflict between a policy of restricted enterprise, pursued for the good of the State and the subject, and a policy of expansion which obeyed the interests of capital, between a policy of cautious protection and that madness of imperialism which is ever associated with barbarism, brigandage or trade.

But, if we inquire whether this enactment attained its ostensible object of completely shutting out senators from the profits of any enterprise that could properly be described as commercial, we shall find an affirmative answer to be more than dubious. The law was a dead letter when Cicero indicted Verres,[104] but its demise may have been reached through a long and slow process of decline. But, even if the provisions of the law had been adhered to throughout the period which we are considering, the avenue to wealth derived from business intercourse with the provinces would not necessarily have been closed to the official class. We shall soon see that the companies which were formed for undertaking the state-contracts probably permitted shares to be held by individuals who never appeared in the registered list of partners at all, and we know that to hold a share in a great public concern was considered one of the methods of business which did not subject the participant to the taint of a vulgar commercialism.[105] And, if the senator chose to indulge more directly in the profits of transmarine commerce, to what extent was he really hindered by the provisions of the law? He might not own a ship of burden, but his freedmen might sail to any port on the largest vessels, and who could object if the returns which the dependant owed his lord were drawn from the profits of commerce? Again there was no prohibition against loans on bottomry, and Cato had increased his wealth by becoming through his freedman a member of a maritime company, each partner in which had but a limited liability and the prospect of enormous gains.[106] The example of this energetic money-getter also illustrates many ways in which the nobleman of business tastes could increase his profits without extending his enterprises far from the capital. It was possible to exploit the growing taste in country villas, in streams and lakes and natural woods; to buy a likely spot for a small price, let it at a good rental, or sell it at a larger price. The ownership of house property within the town, which grew eventually into the monopoly of whole blocks and streets by such a man as Crassus,[107] was in every way consistent with the possession of senatorial rank. It was even possible to be a slave-dealer without loss of dignity, at least if one transacted the sordid details of the business through a slave. The young and promising boy required but a year's training in the arts to enable the careful buyer to make a large profit by his sale.[108] Yet such methods must have been regarded by the nobility as a whole as merely subsidiary means of increasing their patrimony: and, in spite of the fact that Cato took the view that agriculture should be an amusement rather than a business,[109] there can be no doubt that the staple of the wealth of the official class was still to be found in the acres of Italy. It was not, however, the wealth of the moderate homestead which was to be won from a careful tillage of the fields; it was the wealth which, as we shall soon see, was associated with the slave-capitalist, the overseer, a foreign method of cultivation on the model of the grand plantation-systems of the East, and a belief in the superior value of pasturage to tillage which was to turn many a populous and fertile plain into a wilderness of danger and desolation.

But, strive as he would, there was many a nobleman who found that his expenditure could not be met by dabbling in trade where others plunged, or by the revenues yielded by the large tracts of Italian soil over which he claimed exclusive powers. The playwright of the age has figured Indigence as the daughter of Luxury;[110] and a still more terrible child was to be born in the Avarice which sprang from the useless cravings and fierce competitions of the time.[111] The desire to get and to hold had ever been a Roman vice; but, it had also been the unvarying assumption of the Roman State, and the conviction of the Roman official--a conviction so deeply seated and spontaneous as to form no ground for self-congratulation that the lust for acquisition should limit itself to the domain of private right, and never cross the rigid barrier which divided that domain from the sphere of wealth and power which the city had committed to its servant as a solemn trust. The better sort of overseer was often found in the crabbed man of business--a Cato, for example--who would never waive a right of his own and protected those of his dependants with similar tenacity and passion. The honour which prevailed in the commercial code at home was considered so much a matter of course in all dealings with the foreign world, that the State scorned to scrutinise the expenditure of its ministers and was spared the disgrace of a system of public audit. Even in this age, which is regarded by the ancient historians as marking the beginning of the decline in public virtue, Polybius could contrast the attitude of suspicion towards the guardians of the State, which was the characteristic of the official life of his own unhappy country, with the well-founded confidence which Rome reposed in the honour of her ministers, and could tell the world that "if but a talent of money were entrusted to a magistrate of a Greek state, ten auditors, as many seals and twice as many witnesses are required for the security of the bond; yet even so faith is not observed; while the Roman in an official or diplomatic post, who handles vast sums of money, adheres to his duty through the mere moral obligation of the oath which he has sworn"; that "amongst the Romans the corrupt official is as rare a portent as is the financier with clean hands amongst other peoples".[112] When the elder Africanus tore up the account books of his brother--books which recorded the passage of eighteen thousand talents from an Asiatic king to a Roman general and from him to the Roman State[113]--he was imparting a lesson in confidence, which was immediately accepted by the senate and people. And it seems that, so far as the expenditure of public moneys was concerned, this confidence continued to be justified. It is true that Cato had furiously impugned the honour of commanders in the matter of the distribution of the prizes of war amongst the soldiers and had drawn a bitter contrast between private and official thieves. "The former," he said, "pass their lives in thongs and iron fetters, the latter in purple and gold." [114] But there were no fixed rules of practice which guided such a distribution, and a commander, otherwise honest, might feel no qualms of conscience in exercising a selective taste on his own behalf. On the other hand, deliberate misappropriation of the public funds seems to have been seldom suspected or at least seldom made the subject of judicial cognisance, and for many years after a standing court was established for the trial of extortion no similar tribunal was thought necessary for the crime of peculation.[115] Apart from the long, tortuous and ineffective trial of the Scipios,[116] no question of the kind is known to have been raised since Manius Acilius Glabrio, the conqueror of Antiochus and the Aetolians, competed for the censorship. Then a story, based on the existence of the indubitable wealth which he was employing with a lavish hand to win the favour of the people, was raked up against him by some jealous members of the nobility. It was professed that some money and booty, found in the camp of the king, had never been exhibited in the triumph nor deposited in the treasury. The evidence of legates and military tribunes was invited, and Cato, himself a competitor for the censorship, was ready to testify that gold and silver vases, which he had seen in the captured camp, had not been visible in the triumphal procession. Glabrio waived his candidature, but the people were unwilling to convict and the prosecution was abandoned.[117] Here again we are confronted by the old temptation of curio-hunting, which, the nobility deemed indecent in so "new" a man as Glabrio; the evidence of Cato--the only testimony which proved dangerous--did not establish the charge that money due to the State had been intercepted by a Roman consul.

But the regard for the property of the State was unfortunately not extended to the property of its clients. Even before the provinces had yielded a prey rendered easy by distance and irresponsibility, Italian cities had been forced to complain of the violence and rapacity of Roman commanders quartered in their neighbourhood,[118] and the passive silence with which the Praenestines bore the immoderate requisitions of a consul, was a fatal guarantee of impunity which threatened to alter for ever the relations of these free allies to the protecting power.[119] But provincial commands offered greater temptations and a far more favourable field for capricious tyranny; for here the exactions of the governor were neither repudiated by an oath of office nor at first even forbidden by the sanctions of a law. Requisitions could be made to meet the needs of the moment, and these needs were naturally interpreted to suit the cravings and the tastes of the governor of the moment.[120] Cato not only cut down the expenses that had been arbitrarily imposed on the unhappy natives of Sardinia,[121] but seems to have been the author of a definite law which fixed a limit to such requisitions in the future.[122] But it was easier to frame an ordinance than to guarantee its observation, and, at a time when the surrounding world was seething with war, the regulations made for a peaceful province could not touch the actions of a victorious commander who was following up the results of conquest. Complaints began to pour in on every hand--from the Ambraciots of Greece, the Cenomani of Gaul[123] --and the senate did its best, either by its own cognisance or by the creation of a commission of investigation, to meet the claims of the dependent peoples. A kind of rude justice was the result, but it was much too rude to meet an evil which was soon seen to be developing into a trade of systematic oppression. A novel step was taken when in 171 delegates from the two Spains appeared in the Curia to complain of the avarice and insolence of their Roman governors. A praetor was commissioned to choose from the senatorial order five of such judges as were wont to be selected for the settlement of international disputes (recuperatores), to sit in judgment on each of the indicted governors,[124] and the germ of a regular court for what had now become a regular offence was thus developed. The further and more shameful confession, that the court should be permanent and interpret a definite statute, was soon made, and the Calpurnian law of 149[125]was the first of that long series of enactments for extortion which mark the futility of corrective measures in the face of a weak system of legal, and a still weaker system of moral, control. Trials for extortion soon became the plaything of politics, the favourite arena for the exercise of the energies of a young and rising politician, the favourite weapon with which old family feuds might be at once revenged and perpetuated. They were soon destined to gain a still greater significance as furnishing the criteria of the methods of administration which the State was expected to employ, as determining the respective rights of the administrator and the capitalist to guide the destinies of the inhabitants of a dependent district. Their manifold political significance destroys our confidence in their judgments, and we can seldom tell whether the acquittal or the condemnation which these courts pronounced was justified on the evidence adduced. But there can be no question of the evil that lay behind this legislative and judicial activity. The motive which led men to assume administrative posts abroad was in many cases thoroughly selfish and mean,--the desire to acquire wealth as rapidly as was consistent with keeping on the safe side of a not very exacting law. No motive of this kind can ever be universal in a political society, and in Rome we cannot even pronounce it to be general. Power and distinction attracted the Roman as much as wealth, and some governors were saved from temptation by the colossal fortunes which they already possessed. But how early it had begun to operate in the minds of many is shown by the eagerness which, as we shall see, was soon to be displayed by rival consuls for the conduct of a war that might give the victor a prolonged control over the rich cities which had belonged to the kingdom of Pergamon, if it is not proved by the strange unwillingness which magistrates had long before exhibited to assume some commands which had been entrusted to their charge.[126]

A suspicion of another type of abuse of power, more degrading though not necessarily more harmful than the plunder of subjects, had begun to be raised in the minds of the people and the government. It was held that a Roman might be found who would sell the supposed interests of his country to a foreign potentate, or at any rate accept a present which might or might not influence his judgment, A commissioner to Illyria had been suspected of pocketing money offered him by the potentates of that district in 171,[127] and the first hint was given of that shattering of public confidence in the integrity of diplomatists which wrought such havoc in the foreign politics of the period which forms the immediate subject of our work. The system of the Protectorate, which Rome had so widely adopted, with its secret diplomatic dealings and its hidden conferences with kings, offered greater facilities for secret enrichment, and greater security for the enjoyment of the acquired wealth, even than the plunder of a province. The proof of the committal of the act was difficult, in most cases impossible. We must be content to chronicle the suspicion of its growing frequency, and the suspicion is terrible enough. If the custom of wringing wealth from subjects and selling support to potentates continued to prevail, the stage might soon be reached at which it could be said, with that element of exaggeration which lends emphasis to a truth, that a small group of men were drawing revenues from every nation in the world.[128]

Such were the sources of wealth that lay open to men, to whom commerce was officially barred and who were supposed to have no direct interest in financial operations. Far ampler spheres of pecuniary enrichment, more uniformly legal if sometimes as oppressive, were open to the class of men who by this time had been recognised as forming a kind of second order in the State. The citizens who had been proved by the returns at the census to have a certain amount of realisable capital at their disposal--a class of citizens that ranged from the possessors of a moderate patrimony, such as society might employ as a line of demarcation between an upper and a lower middle class, to the controllers of the most gigantic fortunes--had been welded into a body possessing considerable social and political solidarity. This solidarity had been attained chiefly through the community of interest derived from the similar methods of pecuniary investment which they employed, but also through the circumstance (slight in itself but significant in an ancient society which ever tended to fall into grades) that all the members of this class could describe themselves by the courtesy title of "Knights"--a description justified by the right which they possessed of serving on their own horses with the Roman cavalry instead of sharing the foot-service of the legionary. A common designation was not inappropriate to men who were in a certain sense public servants and formed in a very real sense a branch of the administration. The knight might have many avocations; he might be a money-lender, a banker, a large importer; but he was preeminently a farmer of the taxes. His position in the former cases was simply that of an individual, who might or might not be temporarily associated with others; his position in the latter case meant that he was a member of a powerful and permanent corporation, one which served a government from which it might wring great profits or at whose hands it might suffer heavy loss--a government to be helped in its distress, to be fought when its demands were overbearing, to be encouraged when its measures seemed progressive, to be hindered when they seemed reactionary from a commercial point of view. A group of individuals or private firms could never have attained the consistency of organisation, or maintained the uniformity of policy, which was displayed by these societies of revenue-collectors; even a company must have a long life before it can attain strength and confidence sufficient to act in a spirited manner in opposition to the State; and it seems certain that these societies were wholly exempted from the paralysing principle which the Roman law applied to partnership--a principle which dictated that every partnership should be dissolved by the death or retirement of one of the associates.[129] The State, which possessed no civil service of its own worthy of the name, had taken pains to secure permanent organisations of private share-holders which should satisfy its needs, to give them something of an official character, and to secure to each one of them as a result of its permanence an individual strength which, in spite of the theory that the taxes and the public works were put up to auction, may have secured to some of these companies a practical monopoly of a definite sphere of operations. But a company, at Rome as elsewhere, is powerful in proportion to the breadth of its basis. A small ring of capitalists may tyrannise over society as long as they confine themselves to securing a monopoly over private enterprises, and as long as the law permits them to exercise this autocratic power without control; but such a ring is far less capable of meeting the arbitrary dictation of an aristocratic body of landholders, such as the senate, or of encountering the resentful opposition of a nominally all-powerful body of consumers, such as the Comitia, than a corporation which has struck its roots deeply in society by the wide distribution of its shares. We know from the positive assurance of a skilled observer of Roman life that the number of citizens who had an interest in these companies was particularly large.[130] This observer emphasises the fact in order to illustrate the dependence of a large section of society on the will of the senate, which possessed the power of controlling the terms of the agreements both for the public works which it placed in the hands of contractors and for the sources of production which it put out to lease;[131] but it is equally obvious that the large size of the number of shareholders must have exercised a profoundly modifying influence on the arbitrary authority of a body such as the senate which governed chiefly through deference to public opinion; and we know that, in the last resort, an appeal could be made to the sovereign assembly, if a magistrate could be found bold enough to carry to that quarter a proposal that had been discountenanced by the senate.[132] In such crises the strength of the companies depended mainly on the number of individual interests that were at stake; the shareholder is more likely to appear at such gatherings than the man who is not profoundly affected by the issue, and it is very seldom that the average consumer has insight enough to see, or energy enough to resist, the sufferings and inconveniences which spring from the machinations of capital. It may have been possible at times to pack a legislative assembly with men who had some financial interest, however slight, in a dispute arising from a contract calling for decision; and the time was soon to come when such questions of detail would give place to far larger questions of policy, when the issues springing from a line of foreign activity which had been taken by the government might be debated in the cold and glittering light of the golden stakes the loss or gain of which depended upon the policy pursued. Nor could it have been easy even for the experienced eye to see from the survey of such a gathering that it represented the army of capital. Research has rendered it probable that the companies of the time were composed of an outer as well as of an inner circle; that the mass of shareholders differed from those who were the promoters, managers and active agents in the concern, that the liability of the former at least was limited and that their shares, whether small or great, were transmissible and subject to the fluctuations of the market.[133] But, even if we do not believe that this distinction between socii and participes was legally elaborated, yet there were probably means by which members of the outside public could enter into business relations with the recognised partners in one of these concerns to share its profits and its losses.[134] The freedman, who had invested his small savings in the business of an enterprising patron, would attach the same mercantile value to his own vote in the assembly as would be given to his suffrage in the senate by some noble peer, who had bartered the independence of his judgment for the acquisition of more rapid profits than could be drawn from land.

The farmers of the revenue fell into three broad classes. First there were the contractors for the creation, maintenance and repair of the public works possessed or projected by the State, such as roads, aqueducts, bridges, temples and other public buildings. Gigantic profits were not possible in such an enterprise, if the censors and their advisers acted with knowledge, impartiality and discretion; for the lowest possible tender was obtained for such contracts and the results might be repudiated if inspection proved them to be unsatisfactory. Secondly there were the companies which leased sources of production that were owned by the State such as fisheries, salt-works, mines and forest land. In some particular cases even arable land had been dealt with in this way, and the confiscated territories of Capua and Corinth were let on long leases to publicani. Thirdly there were the societies, which did not themselves acquire leases but acted as true intermediaries between the State and individuals[135] who paid it revenue whether as occupants of its territory, or as making use of sites which it claimed to control, or as owing dues which had been prescribed by agreement or by law. These classes of debtors to the State with whom the middlemen came into contact may be illustrated respectively by the occupants of the domain land of Italy, the ship-masters who touched at ports, and the provincials such as those of Sicily or Sardinia who were burdened with the payment of a tithe of the produce of their lands.[136] If we consider separately the characteristics of the three classes of state-farmers, we find that the first and the second are both direct employers of labour, the third reaping only indirect profits from the production controlled by others. It was in this respect, as employers of labour, that the societies of the time were free from the anxieties and restrictions that beset the modern employment of capital. Except in the rare case where the contractors had leased arable land and sublet it to its original occupants,--the treatment which seems to have been adopted for the Campanian territory[137]--there can be no question that the work which they controlled was done mainly by the hands of slaves. They were therefore exempt from the annoyance and expense which might be caused by the competition and the organised resistance of free labour. The slaves employed in many of these industries must have been highly skilled; for many of these spheres of wealth which the State had delegated to contractors required peculiar industrial appliances and unusual knowledge in the foremen and leading artificers. The weakness of slave-labour,--its lack of intelligence and spirit--could not have been so keenly felt as it was on the great agricultural estates, which offered employment chiefly for the unskilled; and the difficulties that might arise from the lack of strength or interest, from the possession of hands that were either feeble or inert, were probably overcome in the same uncompromising manner in the workshop of the contractor and on the domains of the landed gentry. The maxim that an aged slave should be sold could not have been peculiar to the dabbler in agriculture, and the ergastulum with its chained gangs must have been as familiar to the manufacturer as to the landed proprietor.[138] As to the promoters and the shareholders of these companies, it could not be expected that they should trace in imagination, or tremble as they traced, the heartless, perhaps inhuman, means by which the regular returns on their capital were secured.[139] Nor is it probable that the government of this period took any great care to supervise the conditions of the work or the lot of the workman. The partner desired quick and great returns, the State large rents and small tenders. The remorseless drain on human energy, the waste of human life, and the practical abeyance of free labour which was flooding the towns with idlers, were ideas which, if they ever arose, were probably kept in the background by a government which was generally in financial difficulties, and by individuals animated by all the fierce commercial competition of the age.

The desire of contractors and lessees for larger profits naturally took the form of an eagerness to extend their sphere of operations. Every advance in the Roman sphere of military occupation implied the making of new roads, bridges and aqueducts; every extension of this sphere was likely to be followed by the confiscation of certain territories, which the State would declare to be public domains and hand over to the company that would guarantee the payment of the largest revenue. But the sordid imperialism which animated the contractor and lessee must have been as nothing to that which fed the dreams of the true state-middleman, the individual who intervened between the taxpayer and the State, the producer and the consumer. Conquest would mean fresh lines of coast and frontier, on which would be set the toil-houses of the collectors with their local directors and their active "families" of freedmen and slaves. It might even mean that a more prolific source of revenue would be handed over to the care of the publican. The spectacle of the method in which the land-tax was assessed and collected in Sicily and Sardinia may have already inspired the hope that the next instance of provincial organisation might see greater justice done to the capitalists of Rome. When Sicily had been brought under Roman sway, the aloofness of the government from financial interests, as well as its innate conservatism, justified by the success of Italian organisation, which dictated the view that local institutions should not be lightly changed, had led it to accept the methods for the taxation of land which it found prevalent in the island at the time of its annexation. The methods implied assessment by local officials and collection by local companies or states.[140] It is true that neither consequence entirely excluded the enterprise of the Roman capitalists; they had crossed the Straits of Messina on many a private enterprise and had settled in such large numbers in the business centres of the island that the charter given to the Sicilian cities after the first servile war made detailed provision for the settlement of suits between Romans and natives.[141] It was not to be expected that they should refrain from joining in, or competing with, the local companies who bid for the Sicilian tithes, nor was such association or competition forbidden by the law. But the scattered groups of capitalists who came into contact with the Sicilian yeomen did not possess the official character and the official influence of the great companies of Italy. No association, however powerful, could boast a monopoly of the main source of revenue in the island. But what they had done was an index of what they might do, if another opportunity and a more complaisant government could be found. Any individual or any party which could promise the knights the unquestioned control of the revenues of a new province would be sure of their heartiest sympathy and support.

And it would be worth the while of any individual or party which ventured to frame a programme traversing the lines of political orthodoxy, to bid for the co-operation of this class. For recent history had shown that the thorough organisation of capital, encouraged by the State to rid itself of a tiresome burden in times of peace and to secure itself a support in times of need, might become, as it pleased, a bulwark or a menace to the government which had created it. The useful monster had begun to develop a self-consciousness of his own. He had his amiable, even his patriotic moments; but his activity might be accompanied by the grim demand for a price which his nominal master was not prepared to pay. The darkest and the brightest aspects of the commercial spirit had been in turn exhibited during the Second Punic War. On the one hand we find an organised band of publicans attempting to break up an assembly before which a fraudulent contractor and wrecker was to be tried;[142] on the other, we find them meeting the shock of Cannae with the offer of a large loan to the beggared treasury, lent without guarantee and on the bare word of a ruined government that it should be met when there was money to meet it.[143] Other companies came forward to put their hands to the public works, even the most necessary of which had been suspended by the misery of the war, and told the bankrupt State that they would ask for their payment when the struggle had completely closed.[144] A noble spectacle! and if the positions of employer and employed had been reversed only in such crises and in such a way, no harm could come of the memory either of the obligation or the service. But the strength shown by this beneficence sometimes exhibited itself in unpleasant forms and led to unpleasant consequences. The censorships of Cato and of Gracchus had been fierce struggles of conservative officialdom against the growing influence and (as these magistrates held) the swelling insolence of the public companies; and in both cases the associations had sought and found assistance, either from a sympathetic party within the senate, or from the people. Cato's regulations had been reversed and their vigorous author had been threatened with a tribunician prosecution before the Comitia;[145] while Gracchus and his colleague had actually been impeached before a popular court.[146] The reckless employment of servile labour by the companies that farmed the property of the State had already proved a danger to public security. The society which had purchased from the censors the right of gathering pitch from the Bruttian forest of Sila had filled the neighbourhood with bands of fierce and uncontrolled dependants, chiefly slaves, but partly men of free birth who may have been drawn from the desperate Bruttians whom Rome had driven from their homes. The consequences were deeds of violence and murder, which called for the intervention of the senate, and the consuls had been appointed as a special commission to inquire into the outrages.[147] Nor were complaints limited to Italy; provincial abuses had already called for drastic remedies. A proof that this was the case is to be found in the striking fact that on the renewed settlement of Macedonia in 167 it was actually decreed that the working of the mines in that country, at least on the extended scale which would have required a system of contract, should be given up. It was considered dangerous to entrust it to native companies, and as to the Roman-their mere presence in the country would mean the surrender of all guarantees of the rule of public law or of the enjoyment of liberty by the provincials.[148] The State still preferred the embarrassments of poverty to those of overbearing wealth; its choice proved its weakness; but even the element of strength displayed in the surrender might soon be missed, if capital obtained a wider influence and a more definite political recognition. As things were, these organisations of capital were but just becoming conscious of their strength and had by no means reached even the prime of their vigour. The opening up of the riches of the East were required to develop the gigantic manhood which should dwarf the petty figure of the agricultural wealth of Italy.

Had the state-contractors stood alone, or had not they engaged in varied enterprises for which their official character offered a favourable point of vantage, the numbers and influence of the individuals who had embarked their capital in commercial enterprise would have been far smaller than they actually were. But, in addition to the publican, we must take account of the business man (negotiator) who lent money on interest or exercised the profession of a banker. Such men had pecuniary interests which knew no geographical limits, and in all broad questions of policy were likely to side with the state-contractor.[149] The money-lender (fenerator) represented one of the earliest, most familiar and most courted forms of Roman enterprise--one whose intrinsic attractions for the grasping Roman mind had resisted every effort of the legislature by engaging in its support the wealthiest landowner as well as the smallest usurer. It is true that a taint clung to the trade--a taint which was not merely a product of the mistaken economic conception of the nature of the profits made by the lender, but was the more immediate outcome of social misery and the fulminations of the legislature. Cato points to the fact that the Roman law had stamped the usurer as a greater curse to society than the common thief, and makes the dishonesty of loans on interest a sufficient ground for declining a form of investment that was at once safe and profitable.[150] Usury, he had also maintained, was a form of homicide.[151] But to the majority of minds this feeling of dishonour had always been purely external and superficial. The proceedings were not repugnant to the finer sense if they were not made the object of a life-long profession and not blatantly exhibited to the eyes of the public. A taint clung to the money-lender who sat in an office in the Forum, and handed his loans or received his interest over the counter;[152] it was not felt by the capitalist who stood behind this small dealer, by the nobleman whose agent lent seed-corn to the neighbouring yeomen, by the investor in the state-contracts who perhaps hardly realised that his profits represented but an indirect form of usury. But, whatever restrictions public opinion may have imposed on the money-lender as a dealer in Rome and with Romans, such restrictions were not likely to be felt by the man who had the capital and the enterprise to carry his financial operations beyond the sea. Not only was he dealing with provincials or foreigners, but he was dealing on a scale so grand that the magnitude of the business almost concealed its shame. Cities and kings were now to be the recipients of loans and, if the lender occupied a political position that seemed inconsistent with the profession of a usurer, his personality might be successfully concealed under the name of some local agent, who was adequately rewarded for the obloquy which he incurred in the eyes of the native populations, and the embarrassing conflicts with the Roman government which were sometimes entailed by an excess of zeal. Cato had swept both principals and agents out of his province of Sardinia;[153] but he was a man who courted hostility, and he lived before the age when the enmity of capital would prove the certain ruin of the governor and a source of probable danger to the senate. In the operations of the money-lender we find the most universal link between the Forum and the provinces. There was no country so poor that it might not be successfully exploited, and indeed exploitation was often conditioned by simplicity of character, lack of familiarity with the developed systems of finance, and the lack of thrift which amongst peoples of low culture is the source of their constant need. The employment of capital for this purpose was always far in advance of the limits of Roman dominion. A protectorate might be in the grasp of a group of private individuals long before it was absorbed into the empire, the extension of the frontiers was conditioned by considerations of pecuniary, not of political safety, and the government might at any moment be forced into a war to protect the interests of capitalists whom, in its collective capacity as a government, it regarded as the greatest foes of its dominion.

A more beneficent employment of capital was illustrated by the profession of banking which, like most of the arts which exhibit the highest refinement of the practical intellect, had been given to the Romans by the Greeks.[154] It had penetrated from Magna Graecia to Latium and from Latium to Rome, and had been fully established in the city by the time of the Second Punic War.[155] The strangers, who had introduced an art which so greatly facilitated the conduct of business transactions, had been welcomed by the government, and were encouraged to ply their calling in the shops rented from the State on the north and south sides of the Forum. These argentarii satisfied the two needs of the exchange of foreign money, and of advances in cash on easier terms than could be gained from the professional or secret usurer, to citizens of every grade[156] who did not wish, or found it difficult, to turn their real property into gold. Similar functions were at a somewhat later period usurped by the money-testers (nummularii), who perhaps entered Rome shortly after the issue of the first native silver coinage, and competed with the earlier-established bankers in most of the branches of their trade.[157] Ultimately there was no department of business connected with the transference and circulation of money which the joint profession did not embrace. Its representatives were concerned with the purchase and sale of coin, and the equalisation of home with foreign rates of exchange; they lent on credit, gave security for others' loans, and received money on deposit; they acted as intermediaries between creditors and debtors in the most distant places and gave their travelling customers circular notes on associated houses in foreign lands; they were equally ready to dissipate by auction an estate that had become the property of a congress of creditors or a number of legatees. Their carefully kept books improved even the methodical habits of the Romans in the matter of business entries, and introduced the form of "contract by ledger" (litterarum obligatio), which greatly facilitated business operations on an extended scale by substituting the written record of obligation for other bonds more difficult to conclude and more easy to evade.

The business life of Rome was in every way worthy of her position as an imperial city, and her business centre was becoming the greatest exchange of the commercial world of the day. The forum still drew its largest crowds to listen to the voice of the lawyer or the orator; but these attractions were occasional and the constant throng that any day might witness was drawn thither by the enticements supplied by the spirit of adventure, the thirst for news and the strain of business life. The comic poet has drawn for us a picture of the shifting crowd and its chief elements, good and bad, honest and dishonest. He has shown us the man who mingles pleasure with his business, lingering under the Basilica in extremely doubtful company; there too is a certain class of business men giving or accepting verbal bonds. In the lower part of the Forum stroll the lords of the exchange, rich and of high repute; under the old shops on the north sit the bankers, giving and receiving loans on interest.[158]

The Forum has become in common language the symbol of all the ups and downs of business life,[159] and the moralist of later times could refer all students, who wish to master the lore of the quest and investment of money, to the excellent men who have their station by the temple of Janus.[160] The aspect of the market place had altered greatly to meet the growing needs. Great Basilicae--sheltered promenades which probably derived their names from the Royal Courts of the Hellenic East--had lately been erected. Two of the earliest, the Porcian and Sempronian, had been raised on the site of business premises which had been bought up for the purpose,[161] and were meant to serve the purposes of a market and an exchange.[162] Their sheltering roofs were soon employed to accommodate the courts of justice, but it was the business not the legal life of Rome that called these grand edifices into existence.

The financial activity which centred in the Forum was a consequence, not merely of the contract-system encouraged by the State and of the business of the banker and the money-lender, but of the great foreign trade which supplied the wants and luxuries of Italy and Rome. This was an import trade concerned partly with the supply of corn for a nation that could no longer feed itself, partly with the supply of luxuries from the East and of more necessary products, including instruments of production, from the West. The Eastern trade touched the Euxine Sea at Dioscurias, Asia Minor chiefly at Ephesus and Apamea, and Egypt at Alexandria. It brought Pontic fish, Hellenic wines, the spices and medicaments of Asia and of the Eastern coast of Africa, and countless other articles, chiefly of the type which creates the need to which it ministers. More robust products were supplied by the West through the trade-routes which came down to Gades, Genua and Aquileia. Hither were brought slaves, cattle, horses and dogs; linen, canvas and wool; timber for ships and houses, and raw metal for the manufacture of implements and works of art. Neither in East nor West was the product brought by the producer to the consumer. In accordance with the more recent tendencies of Hellenistic trade, great emporia had grown up in which the goods were stored, until they were exported by the local dealers or sought by the wholesale merchant from an Italian port. As the Tyrrhenian Sea became the radius of the trade of the world, Puteoli became the greatest staple to which this commerce centred; thence the goods which were destined for Rome were conveyed to Ostia by water or by land, and taken by ships which drew no depth of water up the Tiber to the city.[163] But it must not be supposed that this trade was first controlled by Romans and Italians when it touched the shores of Italy. Groups of citizens and allies were to be found in the great staples of the world, receiving the products as they were brought down from the interior and supplying the shipping by which they were transferred to Rome.[164] They were not manufacturers, but intermediaries who reaped a larger profit from the carrying trade than could be gained by any form of production in their native land. The Roman and Italian trader was to be inferior only to the money-lender as a stimulus and a stumbling-block to the imperial government; he was, like the latter, to be a cause of annexation and a fire-brand of war, and serves as an almost equal illustration of the truth that a government which does not control the operations of capital is likely to become their instrument.[165]

If we descend from the aristocracy of trade to its poorer representatives, we find that time had wrought great changes in the lot of the smaller manufacturer and artisan. It is true that the old trade-gilds of Rome, which tradition carried back to the days of Numa, still maintained their existence. The goldsmiths, coppersmiths, builders, dyers, leather-workers, tanners and potters[166] still held their regular meetings and celebrated their regular games. But it is questionable whether even at this period their collegiate life was not rather concerned with ceremonial than with business, whether they did not gather more frequently to discuss the prospects of their social and religious functions than to consider the rules and methods of their trades. We shall soon see these gilds of artificers a great political power in the State--one that often alarmed the government and sometimes paralysed its control of the streets of Rome. But their political activity was connected with ceremonial rather than with trade; it was as religious associations that they supported the demagogue of the moment and disturbed the peace of the city. They made war against any aristocratic abuse that was dangled for the moment before their eyes; but they undertook no consistent campaign against the dominance of capital. Their activity was that of the radical caucus, not of the trade-union. But, if even their industrial character had been fully maintained and trade interests had occupied more of their attention than street processions and political agitation, they could never have posed as the representatives of the interests of the free-born sons of Rome. The class of freedmen was freely admitted to their ranks, and the freedman was from an economic point of view the greatest enemy of the pure-blooded Italian. We shall also see that the freedman was usually not an independent agent in the conduct of the trade which he professed. He owed duties to his patron which limited his industrial activity and rendered a whole-hearted co-operation with his brother-workers impossible. It is questionable whether any gild organisation could have stood the shock of the immense development of industrial activity of which the more fortunate classes at Rome were now reaping the fruits. The trades represented by Numa's colleges would at best have formed a mere framework for a maze of instruments which formed the complex mechanism needed to satisfy the voracious wants of the new society. The gold-smithery of early times was now complicated by the arts of chasing and engraving on precious stones; the primitive builder, if he were still to ply his trade with profit, must associate it with the skill of the men who made the stuccoed ceilings, the mosaic pavements, the painted walls. The leather-worker must have learnt to make many a kind of fashionable shoe, and the dyer to work in violet, scarlet or saffron, in any shade or colour to which fashion had given a temporary vogue. Tailoring had become a fine art, and the movable decorations of houses demanded a host of skilled workmen, each of whom was devoted to the speciality which he professed. It would seem as though the very weaknesses of society might have benefited the lower middle class, and the siftings of the harvest given by the spoils of empire might have more than supplied the needs of a parasitic proletariate. It is an unquestioned fact that the growing luxury of the times did benefit trade with that doubtful benefit which accompanies the diversion of capital from purposes of permanent utility to objects of aesthetic admiration or temporary display; but it is an equally unquestioned fact that this unhealthy nutriment did not strengthen to any appreciable extent such of the lower classes as could boast pure Roman blood. The military conscription, to which the more prosperous of these classes were exposed, was inimical to the constant pursuit of that technical skill which alone could enable its possessor to hold the market against freer competitors. Such of the freedmen and the slaves as were trained to these pursuits--men who would not have been so trained had they not possessed higher artistic perception and greater deftness in execution than their fellows--were wholly freed from the military burden which absorbed much of the leisure, and blunted much of the skill, possessed by their free-born rivals. The competition of slaves must have been still more cruel in the country districts and near the smaller country towns than in the capital itself. At Rome the limitations of space must have hindered the development of home-industries in the houses of the nobles, and, although it is probable that much that was manufactured by the slaves of the country estate was regularly supplied to the urban villa, yet for the purchase of articles of immediate use or of goods which showed the highest qualities of workmanship the aristocratic proprietor must have been dependent on the competition of the Roman market. But the rustic villa might be perfectly self-supporting, and the village artificer must have looked in vain for orders from the spacious mansion, which, once a dwelling-house or farm, had become a factory as well. Both in town and country the practice of manumission was paralysing the energies of the free-born man who attempted to follow a profitable profession. The frequency of the gift of liberty to slaves is one of the brightest aspects of the system of servitude as practised by the Romans; but its very beneficence is an illustration of the aristocrat's contempt for the proletariate; for, where the ideal of citizenship is high, manumission--at least of such a kind as shall give political rights, or any trading privileges, equivalent to those of the free citizen--is infrequent. In the Rome of this period, however, the liberation of a slave showed something more than a mere negative neglect of the interests of the citizen. The gift of freedom was often granted by the master in an interested, if not in a wholly selfish, spirit. He was freed from the duty of supporting his slave while he retained his services as a freedman. The performance of these services was, it is true, not a legal condition of manumission; but it was the result of the agreement between master and slave on which the latter had attained his freedom. The nobleman who had granted liberty to his son's tutor, his own doctor or his barber, might still bargain to be healed, shaved or have his children instructed free of expense. The bargain was just in so far as the master was losing services for which he had originally paid, and juster still when the freedman set up business on the peculium which his master had allowed him to acquire during the days of his servitude. But the contracting parties were on an unequal footing, and the burden enforced by the manumittor was at times so intolerable that towards the close of the second century the praetor was forced to intervene and set limits to the personal service which might be expected from the gratitude of the liberated slave.[167] The performance of such gratuitous services necessarily diminished the demand for the labour of the free man who attempted to practise the pursuit of an art which required skill and was dependent for its returns on the custom of the wealthier classes; and even such needs as could not be met by the gratuitous services of freedmen or the purchased labour of slaves, were often supplied, not by the labour of the free-born Roman, but by that of the immigrant peregrinus. The foreigner naturally reproduced the arts of his own country in a form more perfect than could be acquired by the Roman or Italian, and as Rome had acquired foreign wants it was inevitable that they should be mainly supplied by foreign hands. We cannot say that most of the new developments in trade and manufacture had slipped from the hands of the free citizens; it would be truer to maintain that they had never been grasped by them at all. And, worse than this, we must admit that there was little effort to attain them. Both the cause and the consequence of the monopoly of trade and manufacture of a petty kind by freedmen and foreigners is to be found in the contempt felt by the free-born Roman for the "sordid and illiberal sources of livelihood." [168] This prejudice was reflected in public law, for any one who exercised a trade or profession was debarred from office at Rome.[169] As the magistracy had become the monopoly of a class, the prejudice might have been little more than one of the working principles of an aristocratic government, had not the arts which supplied the amenities of life actually tended to drift into the hands of the non-citizen or the man of defective citizenship. The most abject Roman could in his misery console himself with the thought that the hands, which should only touch the plough and the sword, had never been stained by trade. His ideal was that of the nobleman in his palace. It differed in degree but not in kind. It centred round the Forum, the battlefield and the farm.

For even the most lofty aristocrat would have exempted agriculture from the ban of labour;[170] and, if the man of free birth could still have toiled productively on his holding, his contempt for the rabble which supplied the wants of his richer fellow-citizens in the towns would have been justified on material, if not on moral, grounds. He would have held the real sources of wealth which had made the empire possible and still maintained the actual rulers of that empire. Italian agriculture was still the basis of the brilliant life of Rome. Had it not been so, the epoch of revolution could not have been ushered in by an agrarian law. Had the interest in the land been small, no fierce attack would have been made and no encroachment stoutly resisted. We are at the commencement of the epoch of the dominance of trade, but we have not quitted the epoch of the supremacy of the landed interest.

The vital question connected with agriculture was not that of its failure or success, but that of the individuals who did the work and shared the profits. The labourer, the soil, the market stand in such close relations to one another that it is possible for older types of cultivation and tenure to be a failure while newer types are a brilliant success. But an economic success may be a social failure. Thus it was with the greater part of the Italian soil of the day which had passed into Roman hands. Efficiency was secured by accumulation and the smaller holdings were falling into decay.

A problem so complex as that of a change in tenure and in the type of productive activity employed on the soil is not likely to yield to the analysis of any modern historian who deals with the events of the ancient world. He is often uncertain whether he is describing causes or symptoms, whether the primary evil was purely economic or mainly social, whether diminished activity was the result of poverty and decreasing numbers, or whether pauperism and diminution of population were the effects of a weakened nerve for labour and of a standard of comfort so feverishly high that it declined the hard life of the fields and induced its possessors to refuse to propagate their kind. But social and economic evils react so constantly on one another that the question of the priority of the one to the other is not always of primary importance. A picture has been conjured up by the slight sketches of ancient historians and the more prolonged laments of ancient writers on agriculture, which gives us broad outlines that we must accept as true, although we may refuse to join in the belief that these outlines represent an unmixed and almost incurable evil. These writers even attempt to assign causes, which convince by their probability, although there is often a suspicion that the ultimate and elusive truth has not been grasped.

The two great symptoms which immediately impress our imagination are a decline, real or apparent, in the numbers of the free population of Rome, and the introduction of new methods of agriculture which entailed a diminution in the class of freehold proprietors who had held estates of small or moderate size. The evidence for an actual decline of the population must be gathered exclusively from the Roman census lists.[171] At first sight these seem to tell a startling tale. At the date of the outbreak of the First Punic War (265 B.C.) the roll of Roman citizens had been given as 382,284,[172] at a census held but three years before the tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus (136 B.C.) the numbers presented by the list were 307,833.[173] In 129 years the burgess roll had shrunk by nearly 75,000 heads of the population. The shrinkage had not always been steadily progressive; sometimes there is a sudden drop which tells of the terrible ravages of war. But the return of peace brought no upward movement that was long maintained. In the interval of comparative rest which followed the Third Macedonian War the census rolls showed a decrease of about 13,000 in ten Years.[174] Seven years later 2,000 more have disappeared,[175] and a slight increase at the next lustrum is followed by another drop of about 14,000.[176] The needs of Rome had increased, and the means for meeting them were dwindling year by year. This must be admitted, however we interpret the meaning of these returns. A hasty generalisation might lead us to infer that a wholesale diminution was taking place in the population of Rome and Italy. The returns may add weight to other evidence which points this way; but, taken by themselves, they afford no warrant for such a conclusion. The census lists were concerned, not only purely with Roman citizens, but purely with Roman citizens of a certain type. It is practically certain that they reproduce only the effective fighting strength of Rome,[177] and take no account of those citizens whose property did not entitle them to be placed amongst the classes.[178] But, if it is not necessary to believe that an actual diminution of population is attested by these declining numbers, the conclusion which they do exhibit is hardly less serious from an economic and political point of view. They show that portions of the well-to-do classes were ceasing to possess the property which entitled them to entrance into the regular army, and that the ranks of the poorer proletariate were being swelled by their impoverishment. It is possible that such impoverishment may have been welcomed as a boon by the wearied veterans of Rome and their descendants. It meant exemption from the heavier burdens of military service, and, if it went further still, it implied immunity from the tribute as long as direct taxes were collected from Roman citizens.[179] As long as service remained a burden on wealth, however moderate, there could have been little inducement to the man of small means to struggle up to a standard of moderately increased pecuniary comfort, which would certainly be marred and might be lost by the personal inconvenience of the levy.

The decline in the numbers of the wealthier classes is thus attested by the census rolls. But indications can also be given which afford a slight probability that there was a positive diminution in the free population of Rome and perhaps of Italy. The carnage of the Hannibalic war may easily be overemphasised as a source of positive decline. Such losses are rapidly made good when war is followed by the normal industrial conditions which success, or even failure, may bring. But, as we shall soon see reason for believing that these industrial conditions were not wholly resumed in Italy, the Second Punic War may be regarded as having produced a gap in the population which was never entirely refilled. We find evidences of tracts of country which were not annexed by the rich but could not be repeopled by the poor. The policy pursued by the decaying Empire of settling foreign colonists on Italian soil had already occurred to the statesmen of Rome in the infancy of her imperial expansion. In 180 B.C. 40,000 Ligurians belonging to the Apuanian people were dragged from their homes with their wives and children and settled on some public land of Rome which lay in the territory of the Samnites. The consuls were commissioned to divide up the land in allotments, and money was voted to the colonists to defray the expense of stocking their new farms.[180] Although the leading motive for this transference was the preservation of peace amongst the Ligurian tribes, yet it is improbable that the senate would have preferred the stranger to its kindred had there been an outcry from the landless proletariate to be allowed to occupy and retain the devastated property of the State.

But moral motives are stronger even than physical forces in checking the numerical progress of a race. Amongst backward peoples unusual indulgence and consequent disease may lead to the diminution or even extinction of the stock; amongst civilised peoples the motives which attain this result are rather prudential, and are concerned with an ideal of life which perhaps increases the efficiency of the individual, but builds up his healthy and pleasurable environment at the expense of the perpetuity of the race. The fact that the Roman and Italian physique was not degenerating is abundantly proved by the military history of the last hundred years of the Republic. This is one of the greatest periods of conquest in the history of the world. The Italy, whom we are often inclined to think of as exhausted, could still pour forth her myriads of valiant sons to the confines marked by the Rhine, the Euphrates and the Sahara; and the struggle of the civil wars, which followed this expansion, was the clash of giants. But this vigour was accompanied by an ideal, whether of irresponsibility or of comfort, which gave rise to the growing habit of celibacy--a habit which was to stir the eloquence of many a patriotic statesman and finally lead to the intervention of the law. When the censor of 131 uttered the memorable exhortation "Since nature has so ordained that we cannot live comfortably with a wife nor live at all without one, you should hold the eternal safety of the State more dear than your own brief pleasure," [181] it is improbable that he was indulging in conscious cynicism, although there may have been a trace of conscious humour in his words. He was simply bending to the ideal of the people whom he saw, or imagined to be, before him. The ideal was not necessarily bad, as one that was concerned with individual life. It implied thrift, forethought, comfort--even efficiency of a kind, for the unmarried man was a more likely recruit than the father of a family. But it sacrificed too much--the future to the present; it ignored the undemonstrable duty which a man owes to the permanent idea of the State through working for a future which he shall never see. It rested partly on a conviction of security; but that feeling of security was the most perilous sign of all.

The practice of celibacy generally leads to irregular attachments between the sexes. In a society ignorant of slavery, such attachments, as giving rise to social inconveniences far greater than those of marriage, are usually shunned on prudential grounds even where moral motives are of no avail. But the existence in Italy of a large class of female dependants, absolutely outside the social circle of the citizen body, rendered the attachment of the master to his slave girl or to his freedwoman fatally easy and unembarrassing. It was unfortunately as attractive as it was easy. Amidst the mass of servile humanity that had drifted to Italy from most of the quarters of the world there was scarcely a type that might not reproduce some strange and wonderful beauty. And the charm of manner might be secured as readily as that of face and form. The Hellenic East must often have exhibited in its women that union of wit, grace and supple tact which made even its men so irresistible to their Roman masters. The courtesans of the capital, whether of high or low estate,[182] are from the point of view which we are considering not nearly so important as the permanent mistress or "concubine" of the man who might dwell in any part of Italy. It was the latter, not the former, that was the true substitute for the wife. There is reason to believe that it was about this period that "concubinage" became an institution which was more than tolerated by society.[183] The relation which it implied between the man and his companion, who was generally one of his freedwomen, was sufficiently honourable. It excluded the idea of union with any other woman, whether by marriage or temporary association; it might be more durable than actual wedlock, for facilities for divorce were rapidly breaking the permanence of the latter bond; it might satisfy the juristic condition of "marital affection" quite as fully as the type of union to which law or religion gave its blessing. But it differed from marriage in one point of vital importance for the welfare of the State. Children might be the issue of concubinatus, but they were not looked on as its end. Such unions were not formed liberûm quaerendorum causâ.

The decline, or at least the stationary character, of the population may thus be shown to be partly the result of a cause at once social and economic; for this particular social evil was the result of the economic experiment of the extended use of slavery as a means of production. This extension was itself partly the result of the accidents of war and conquest, and in fact, throughout this picture of the change which was passing over Italy, we can never free ourselves from the spectres of militarism and hegemony. But an investigation of the more purely economic aspects of the industrial life of the period affords a clear revelation of the fact that the effects of war and conquest were merely the foundation, accidentally presented, of a new method of production, which was the result of deliberate design and to some extent of a conscious imitation of systems which had in turn built up the colossal wealth, and assisted the political decay, of older civilisations with which Rome was now brought into contact. The new ideal was that of the large plantation or latifundium supervised by skilled overseers, worked by gangs of slaves with carefully differentiated duties, guided by scientific rules which the hoary experience of Asia and Carthage had devised, but, in unskilled Roman hands, perhaps directed with a reckless energy that, keeping in view the vast and speedy returns which could only be given by richer soils than that of Italy, was as exhaustive of the capacities of the land as it was prodigal of the human energy that was so cheaply acquired and so wastefully employed. The East, Carthage and Sicily had been the successive homes of this system, and the Punic ideal reached Rome just at the moment when the tendency of the free peasantry to quit their holdings as unprofitable, or to sell them to pay their debts, opened the way for the organisation of husbandry on the grand Carthaginian model.[184] The opportunity was naturally seized with the utmost eagerness by men whose wants were increasing, whose incomes must be made to keep pace with these wants, and whose wealth must inevitably be dependent mainly on the produce of the soil. Yet we have no warrant for accusing the members of the Roman nobility of a deliberate plan of campaign stimulated by conscious greed and selfishness. For a time they may not have known what they were doing. Land was falling in and they bought it up; domains belonging to the State were so unworked as to be falling into the condition of rank jungle and pestilent morass. They cleared and improved this land with a view to their own profit and the profit of the State. Free labour was unattainable or, when attained, embarrassing. They therefore bought their labour in the cheapest market, this market being the product of the wars and slave-raids of the time. They acted, in fact, as every enlightened capitalist would act under similar circumstances. It seemed an age of the revival of agriculture, not of its decay. The official class was filled with a positive enthusiasm for new and improved agricultural methods. The great work of the Carthaginian Mago was translated by order of the senate.[185] Few of the members of that body would have cared to follow the opening maxim of the great expert, that if a man meant to settle in the country he should begin by selling his house in town;[186] the men of affairs did not mean to become gentlemen farmers, and it was the hope of profitable investment for the purpose of maintaining their dignity in the capital, not the rustic ideal of the primitive Roman, that appealed to their souls. But they might have hoped that most of the golden precepts of the twenty-eight books, which unfolded every aspect of the science of the management of land, would be assimilated by the intelligent bailiff, and they may even have been influenced by a patriotic desire to reveal to the small holder scientific methods of tillage, which might stave off the ruin that they deplored as statesmen and exploited as individuals. But the lessons were thrown away on the small cultivator; they probably presupposed the possession of capital and labour which were far beyond his reach; and science may have played but little part even in the accumulations of the rich, although the remarkable spectacle of small holdings, under the personal supervision of peasant proprietors, being unable to hold their own against plantations and ranches managed by bailiffs and worked by slaves, does suggest that some improved methods of cultivation were adopted on the larger estates. The rapidity with which the plantation system spread must have excited the astonishment even of its promoters. Etruria, in spite of the fact that three colonies of Roman citizens had lately been founded within its borders,[187] soon showed one continuous series of great domains stretching from town to town, with scarcely a village to break the monotonous expanse of its self-tilled plains. Little more than forty years had elapsed since the final settlement of the last Roman colony of Luna when a young Roman noble, travelling along the Etruscan roads, strained his eyes in vain to find a free labourer, whether cultivator or shepherd.[188] In this part of Italy it is probable that Roman enterprise was not the sole, or even the main, cause of the wreckage of the country folk. The territory had always been subject to local influences of an aristocratic kind; but the Etruscan nobles had stayed their hand as long as a free people might help them to regain their independence.[189] Now subjection had crushed all other ambition but that of gain and personal splendour, while the ravages of the Hannibalic war had made the peasantry an easy victim of the wholesale purchaser. Farther south, in Bruttii and Apulia, the hand of Rome had co-operated with the scourge of war to produce a like result. The confiscations effected in the former district as a punishment for its treasonable relations with Hannibal, the suitability of the latter for grazing purposes, which had early made it the largest tract of land in Italy patrolled by the shepherd slave,[190] had swept village and cultivator away, and left through whole day's journeys but vast stretches of pasture between the decaying towns.

For barrenness and desolation were often the results of the new and improved system of management. There were tracts of country which could not produce cereals of an abundance and quality capable of competing with the corn imported from the provinces; but even on territories where crops could be reared productively, it was tempting to substitute for the arduous processes of sowing and reaping the cheaper and easier industry of the pasturage of flocks. We do not know the extent to which arable land in fair condition was deliberately turned into pasturage; but we can imagine many cases in which the land recently acquired by capitalists, whether from the State or from smaller holders, was in such a condition, either from an initial lack of cultivation or from neglect or from the ravages of war, that the new proprietor may well have shrunk from the doubtful enterprise of sinking his capital in the soil, for the purpose of testing its productive qualities. In such cases it was tempting to treat the great domain as a sheep-walk or cattle-ranch. The initial expenses of preparation were small, the labour to be employed was reduced to a minimum, the returns in proportion to the expenses were probably far larger than could be gained from corn, even when grown under the most favourable conditions. The great difficulty in the way of cattle-rearing on a large scale in earlier times had been the treatment of the flocks and herds during the winter months. The necessity for providing stalls and fodder for this period must have caused the proprietor to limit the heads of cattle which he cared to possess. But this constraint had vanished at once when a stretch of warm coast-line could be found, on which the flocks could pasture without feeling the rigour of the winter season. Conversely, the cattle-rearer who possessed the advantage of such a line of coast would feel his difficulties beginning when the summer months approached. The plains of the Campagna and Apulia could have been good neither for man nor beast during the torrid season. The full condition which freed a grazier from all embarrassment and rendered him careless of limiting the size of his flocks, was the combined possession of pastures by the sea for winter use, and of glades in the hills for pasturage in summer.[191] Neither the men of the hills nor the men of the plains, as long as they formed independent communities, could become graziers on an extensive scale, and it has been pointed out that even a Greek settlement of the extent of Sybaris had been forced to import its wool from the Black Sea through Miletus.[192] But when Rome had won the Apennines and extended her influence over the coast, there were no limits to the extent to which cattle rearing could be carried.[193] It became perhaps the most gigantic enterprise connected with the soil of Italy. Its cheapness and efficiency appealed to every practical mind. Cato, who had a sentimental attachment to agriculture, was bound in honesty to reply to the question "What is the best manner of investment?" by the words "Good pasturage." To the question as to the second-best means he answered "Tolerable pasturage." When asked to declare the third, he replied "Bad pasturage." To ploughing he would assign only the fourth place in the descending Scale.[194] Bruttii and Apulia were the chief homes of the ranch and the fold. The Lucanian conquest of the former country must, even at a time preceding the Roman domination, have formed a connection between the mountains and the plains, and pasturage on a large scale in the mountain glades of the Bruttian territory may have been an inheritance rather than a creation of the Romans; but the ruin caused in this district by the Second Punic War, the annexation to the State of large tracts of rebel land,[195] and the reduction of large portions of the population to the miserable serf-like condition of dediticii,[196] must have offered the capitalists opportunities which they could not otherwise have secured; and both here and in Apulia the tendency to extend the grazing system to its utmost limits must have advanced with terrible rapidity since the close of the Hannibalic war. It was the East coast of Southern Italy that was chiefly surrendered to this new form of industry, and we may observe a somewhat sharp distinction between the pastoral activity of these regions and the agricultural life which still continued, although on a diminished scale, in the Western districts.[197]

We have already made occasional reference to the accidents on which the new industrial methods that created the latifundia were designedly based. It is now necessary to examine these accidents in greater detail, if only for the purpose of preparing the ground for a future estimate of the efficacy of the remedies suggested by statesmen for a condition of things which, however naturally and even honestly created, was deplorable both on social and political grounds. The causes which had led to the change from one form of tenure and cultivation to another of a widely different kind required to be carefully probed, if the Herculean task of a reversion to the earlier system was to be attempted. The men who essayed the task had unquestionably a more perfect knowledge of the causes of the change than can ever be possessed by the student of to-day; but criticism is easier than action, and if it is not to become shamelessly facile, every constraining element in the complicated problem which is at all recoverable (all those elements so clearly seen by the hard-headed and honest Roman reformers, but known by them to possess an invulnerability that we have forgotten) must be examined by the historian in the blundering analysis which is all that is permitted by his imperfect information, and still more imperfect realisation, of the temporary forces that are the millstones of a scheme of reform.

The havoc wrought by the Hannibalic invasion[198] had caused even greater damage to the land than to the people. The latter had been thinned but the former had been wasted, and in some cases wasted, as events proved, almost beyond repair. The devastation had been especially great in Southern Italy, the nations of which had clung to the Punic invader to the end. But such results of war are transitory in the extreme, if the numbers and energy of the people who resume possession of their wrecked homes are not exhausted, and if the conditions of production and sale are as favourable after the calamity as they were before. The amount of wealth which an enemy can injure, lies on the mere surface of the soil, and is an insignificant fraction of that which is stored in the bosom of the earth, or guaranteed by a favourable commercial situation and access to the sea. Carthage could pay her war indemnity and, in the course of half a century, affright Cato by her teeming wealth and fertility. Her people had resumed their old habits, bent wholeheartedly to the only life they loved, and the prizes of a crowded haven and bursting granaries were the result. If a nation does not recover from such a blow, there must be some permanent defect in its economic life or some fatal flaw in its administrative system. The devastation caused by war merely accelerates the process of decay by creating a temporary impoverishment, which reveals the severity of the preceding struggle for existence and renders hopeless its resumption. Certainly the great war of which Italy had been the theatre did mark such an epoch in the history of its agricultural life. A lack of productivity began to be manifested, for which, however, subsequent economic causes were mainly responsible. The lack of intensity, which is a characteristic of slave labour, lessened the returns, while the secondary importance attached to the manuring of the fields was a vicious principle inherent in the agricultural precepts of the time.[199] But it is probable that from this epoch there were large tracts of land the renewed cultivation of which was never attempted; and these were soon increased by domains which yielded insufficient returns and were gradually abandoned. The Italian peasant had ever had a hard fight with the insalubrity of his soil. Fever has always been the dreaded goddess of the environs of Rome. But constant labour and effective drainage had kept the scourge at bay, until the evil moment came when the time of the peasant was absorbed, and his energy spent, in the toils of constant war, when his land was swallowed up in the vast estates that had rapid profits as their end and careless slaves as their cultivators. Then, the moist fields gave out their native pestilence, and malaria reigned unchecked over the fairest portion of the Italian plain.[200]

One of the leading economic causes, which had led to the failure of a certain class of the Italian peasant-proprietors, was the competition to which they were exposed from the provinces. Rome herself had begun to rely for the subsistence of her increasing population on corn imported from abroad, and many of the large coast-towns may have been forced to follow her example. The corn-producing powers of the Mediterranean lands had now definitely shifted from the regions of the East and North to those of the South.[201] Greece, which had been barely able to feed itself during the most flourishing period of its history, could not under any circumstances have possessed an importance as a country of export for Italy; but the economic evils which had fallen on this unhappy land are worthy of observation, as presenting a forecast of the fate which was in store for Rome. The decline in population, which could be attributed neither to war nor pestilence, the growing celibacy and childlessness of its sparse inhabitants,[202] must have been due to an agricultural revolution similar to that which was gradually being effected on Italian soil. The plantation system and the wholesale employment of slave labour must have swept across the Aegean from their homes in Asia Minor. Here their existence is sufficiently attested by the servile rising which was to assume, shortly after the tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus, the pretended form of a dynastic war; and the troubles which always attended the collection of the Asiatic tithes, in the days when a Roman province had been established in those regions, give no favourable impression of the agricultural prosperity of the countries which lay between the Taurus and the sea. As far south as Sicily there was evidence of exhaustion of the land, and of unnatural conditions of production, which excluded the mass of the free inhabitants from participation both in labour and profits. But even Sicily had learned from Carthage the evil lesson that Greece had acquired from Asia; the plantation system had made vast strides in the island, and the condition of the aratores, whether free-holders or lessees, was not what it had been in the days of Diocles and Timoleon. The growing economic dependence of Rome on Sicily was by no means wholly due to any exceptional productive capacities in the latter, but was mainly the result of proximity, and of administrative relations which enabled the government and the speculator in corn to draw definite and certain supplies of grain from the Sicilian cultivators. This was true also, although to a smaller degree, of Sardinia. But Sicily and Sardinia do mark the beginning of the Southern zone of lands which were capable of filling the markets of the Western world. It was the Northern coast of Africa which rose supreme as the grain-producer of the time. In the Carthaginian territory the natural absence of an agricultural peasantry amidst a commercial folk, and the elaboration of a definite science of agriculture, had neutralised the ill effects which accompanied the plantation system amongst other peoples less business-like and scientific; the cultivators had shown no signs of unrest and the soil no traces of exhaustion. It has been inferred with some probability that the hostility of Cato, the friend of agriculture and of the Italian yeoman, to the flourishing Punic state was directed to some extent by the fear that the grain of Africa might one day drive from the market the produce of the Italian fields;[203] and, if this view entered into the calculations which produced the final Punic War, the very short-sightedness of the policy which destroyed a state only to give its lands to African cities and potentates or to Roman speculators, who might continue the methods of the extinct community, is only too characteristic of that type of economic jealousy which destroys an accidental product and leaves the true cause of offence unassailed. The destruction of Carthage had, as a matter of fact, aggravated the danger; for the first use which Masinissa of Numidia made of the vast power with which Rome had entrusted him, was an attempt to civilise his people by turning them into cultivators;[204] and the virgin soil of the great country which stretched from the new boundaries of Carthage to the confines of the Moors, was soon reckoned amongst the competing elements which the Roman agriculturist had to fear.

But the force of circumstances caused the Sicilian and Sardinian cultivator to be the most formidable of his immediate competitors. The facility of transport from Sicily to Rome rendered that island superior as a granary to even the more productive portions of the Italian mainland. Sicily could never have revealed the marvellous fertility of the valley of the Po, where a bushel and a half of wheat could be purchased for five pence half-penny, and the same quantity of barley was sold for half this price;[205] but it was easier to get Sicilian corn to Rome by sea than to get Gallic corn to Rome by land; and the system of taxation and requisitions which had grown out of the provincial organisation of the island, rendered it peculiarly easy to place great masses of corn on the Roman market at very short notice. Occasionally the Roman government enforced a sale of corn from the province (frumentum emptum),[206] a reasonable price being paid for the grain thus demanded for the city or the army; but this was almost the only case in which the government intervened to regulate supplies. In the ordinary course of things the right to collect the tithes of the province was purchased by public companies, who paid money, not grain, into the Roman treasury, and these companies placed their corn on the market as best they could. The operations of the speculators in grain doubtless disturbed the price at times. But yet the certainty, the abundance and the facilities for transport of this supply were such as practically to shut out from competition in the Roman market all but the most favourably situated districts of Italy. Their chance of competition depended mainly on their accidental possession of a good road, or their neighbourhood to the sea or to a navigable river.[207] The larger proprietors in any part of Italy must have possessed greater facilities for carrying their grain to a good market than were enjoyed by the smaller holders. The Clodian law on trade permitted senators to own sea-going ships of a certain tonnage; they could, therefore, export their own produce without any dependence on the middle-man, while the smaller cultivators would have been obliged to pay freight, or could only have avoided such payment by forming shipping-companies amongst themselves. But such combination was not to be looked for amongst a peasant class, barely conscious even of the external symptoms of the great revolution which was dragging them to ruin, and perhaps almost wholly oblivious of its cause.

It required less penetration to fathom the second of the great reasons for the accumulation of landed property in the hands of the few; for this cause had been before the eyes of the Roman world, and had been expounded by the lips of Roman statesmen, for generations or, if we credit a certain class of traditions,[208] even for centuries. This cause of the growing monopoly of the land by the few was the system of possession which the State had encouraged, for the purpose of securing the use and cultivation of its public domain. The policy of the State seems to have changed from time to time with reference to its treatment of this particular portion of its property, which it valued as the most secure of its assets and one that served, besides its financial end, the desirable purpose of assisting it to maintain the influence of Rome throughout almost every part of Italy. When conquered domain had first been declared "public," the government had been indifferent to the type of occupier which served it by squatting on this territory and reclaiming land that had not been divided or sold chiefly because its condition was too unattractive to invite either of these processes.[209] It had probably extended its invitation even to Latin allies,[210] and looked with approval on any member of the burgess body who showed his enterprise and patriotism by the performance of this great public service. If the State had a partiality, it was probably for the richer and more powerful classes of its citizens. They could embrace a greater quantity of land in their grasp, and so save the trouble which attended an estimate of the returns of a great number of small holdings; they possessed more effective means of reclaiming waste or devastated land, for they had a greater control of capital and labour; lastly, through their large bands of clients and slaves, they had the means of efficiently protecting the land which they had occupied, and this must have been an important consideration at a time when large tracts of the ager publicus lay amidst foreign territories which were barely pacified, and were owned by communities that often wavered in their allegiance to Rome. But, whatever the views of the government, it is tolerably clear that the original occupiers must have chiefly represented men of this stamp. These were the days when the urban and the rustic tribes were sharply divided, as containing respectively the men of the town and the men of the country, and when there were comparatively few of the latter folk that did not possess some holding of their own. It was improbable that a townsman would often venture on the unfamiliar task of taking up waste land; it was almost as improbable that a small yeoman would find leisure to add to the unaided labour on his own holding the toil of working on new and unpromising soil, except in the cases where some unclaimed portion of the public domain was in close proximity to his estate.

We may, therefore, infer that from very early times the wealthier classes had asserted themselves as the chief occupiers of the public domain. And this condition of things continued to be unchallenged until a time came[211] when the small holders, yielding to the pressure of debt and bankruptcy, sought their champions amongst the tribunes of the Plebs. The absolute control of the public domain by the State, the absolute insecurity of the tenure of its occupants, furnished an excellent opportunity for staving off schemes of confiscation and redistribution of private property, such as had often shaken the communities of Greece, and even for refusing to tamper with the existing law of debtor and creditor.[212] It was imagined that bankrupt yeomen might be relieved by being allowed to settle on the public domain, or that the resumption or retention of a portion of this domain by the State might furnish an opportunity for the foundation of fresh colonies, and a law was passed limiting the amount of the ager publicus that any individual might possess. The enactment, whatever its immediate results may have been, proved ineffective as a means of checking the growth of large possessions. No special commission was appointed to enforce obedience to its terms, and their execution was neglected by the ordinary magistrates. The provisions of the law were, indeed, never forgotten, but as a rule they were remembered only to be evaded. Devious methods were adopted of holding public land through persons who seemed to be bonâ fide possessors in their own right, but were in reality merely agents of some planter who already held land up to the permitted limit.[213] Then came the agricultural crisis which followed the Punic Wars. The small freeholds, mortgaged, deserted or selling for a fraction of their value, began to fall into the meshes of the vast net which had spread over the public domain. In some cases actual violence is said to have been used to the smaller yeomen by their neighbouring tyrants,[214] and we can readily imagine that, when a holding had been deserted for a time through stress of war or military service, it might be difficult to resume possession in the face of effective occupation by the bailiff of some powerful neighbour. The latifundium--acquired, as it was believed, in many cases by force, fraud and shameless violation of the law--was becoming the standard unit of cultivation throughout Italy.[215] When we consider the general social and economic circumstances of the time, it is possible to imagine that large properties would have grown in Italy, as in Greece, had Rome never possessed an inch of public domain; but the occupation of ager publicus by the rich is very important from two points of view. On the one hand, it unquestionably accelerated the process of the formation of vast estates; and a renewed impulse had lately been given to this process by the huge confiscations in the South of Italy, and perhaps by the conquest of Cisalpine Gaul; for it is improbable that the domain possessed by the State in this fertile country had been wholly parcelled out amongst the colonies of the northern frontier.[216] But on the other hand, the fact that the kernel of these estates was composed of public land in excess of the prescribed limit seemed to make resumption by the State and redistribution to the poor legally possible. The ager publicus, therefore, formed the basis for future agitation and was the rallying point for supporters and opponents of the proposed methods of agricultural reform.

But it was not merely the negligence of the State which led to the crushing of the small man by the great; the positive burdens which the government was forced to impose by the exigencies of the career of conquest and hegemony into which Rome had drifted, rendered the former an almost helpless competitor in the uneven struggle. The conscription had from early days been a source of impoverishment for the commons and of opportunity for the rich. The former could obey the summons of the State only at the risk of pledging his credit, or at least of seeing his homestead drift into a condition of neglect which would bring the inevitable day when it could only be rehabilitated by a loan of seed or money. The lot of the warrior of moderate means was illustrated by the legend of Regulus. He was believed to have written home to the consuls asking to be relieved of his command in Africa. The bailiff whom he had left on his estate of seven jugera was dead, the hired man had stolen the implements of agriculture and run away; the farm lay desolate and, were its master not permitted to return, his wife and children would lack the barest necessaries of existence.[217] The struggle to maintain a household in the absence of its head was becoming more acute now that corn-land was ceasing to pay, except under the most favourable conditions, and now that the demand for conscripts was sometimes heavier and always more continuous than it had ever been before. Perhaps one-tenth of the adult male population of Rome was always in the field;[218] the units came and went, but the men who bore the brunt of the long campaigns and of garrison duty in the provinces were those to whom leisure meant life--the yeomen who maintained their place in the census lists by hardy toil, and who risked their whole subsistence through the service that had been wrested from them as a reward for a laborious career. When they ceased to be owners of their land, they found it difficult to secure places even as labourers on some rich man's property. The landholder preferred the services of slaves which could not be interrupted by the call of military duty.[219]

The economic evils consequent on the conscription must have been felt with hardly less severity by such of the Italian allies as lived in the regions within which the latifundia were growing up. To these were added the pecuniary burdens which Rome had been forced to impose during the Second Punic War. These burdens were for the most part indirect, for Rome did not tax her Italian socii, but they were none the less severe. Every contingent supplied from an allied community had its expenses, except that of food during service, defrayed from the treasury of its own state,[220] and ten continuous years of conscription and requisition had finally exhausted the loyalty even of Rome's Latin kindred.[221] It is true that the Italians were partially, although not wholly, free from the economic struggle between the possessors of the public land and the small freeholders; but there is no reason for supposing that those of Western Italy were exempt from the consequences of the reduction in price that followed the import of corn from abroad, and the drain on their incomes and services which had been caused by war could scarcely have fitted them to stand this unexpected trial. Rome's harsh dealings with the treasonable South, although adopted for political motives, was almost unquestionably a political blunder. She confiscated devastated lands, and so perpetuated their devastation. She left ruined harbours and cities in decay. She crippled her own resources to add to the pastoral wealth of a handful of her citizens. In the East of Italy there was a far greater vitality than elsewhere in agriculture of the older type. The Samnites in their mountains, the Peligni, Marrucini, Frentani and Vestini between the Apennines and the sea still kept to the system of small freeholds. Their peasantry had perhaps always cultivated for consumption rather than for sale; their inhabitants were rather beyond the reach of the ample supply from the South; and for these reasons the competition of Sicilian and African corn did not lead them to desert their fields. They were also less exposed than the Romans and Latins to the aggressions of the great possessor; for, since they possessed no commercium with Rome, the annexation of their property by legal means was beyond the reach even of the ingenious cupidity of the times.[222] The proof of the existence of the yeoman in these regions is the danger which he caused to Rome. The spirit which had maintained his economic independence was to aim at a higher goal, and the struggle for equality of political rights was to prove to the exclusive city the prowess of that class of peasant proprietors which she had sacrificed in her own domains.

But, although this sacrifice had been great, we must not be led into the belief that there was no hope for the agriculturist of moderate means either in the present or in the future. Even in the present there were clear indications that estates of moderate size could under careful cultivation hold their own. The estate of Lucius Manlius, which Cato sketches in his work on agriculture,[223] was far from rivalling the great demesnes of the princes of the land. It consisted of 240 jugera devoted to the olive and of 100 jugera reserved for the vine. Provision was made for a moderate supply of corn and for pasturage for the cattle that worked upon the fields. But the farm was on the whole a representative of the new spirit, which saw in the vine and the olive a paying substitute for the decadent culture of grain. Even on an estate of this size we note as significant that the permanent and even the higher personnel of the household (the latter being represented by the villici and the villicae) was composed of slaves; yet hirelings were needed for the harvest and the corn was grown by cottagers who held their land on a métayer tenure. But such an estate demanded unusual capital as well as unusual care. On the tiny holdings, which were all that the poorest could afford, the scanty returns might be eked out by labour on the fields of others, for the small allotment did not demand the undivided energies of its holder.[224] There was besides a class of _politores_[225] similar to that figured as cultivating the Cornland on the estate of Manlius, who received in kind a wage on which they could at least exist. They were nominally métayer tenants who were provided with the implements of husbandry by their landlord; but the quantity of grain which they could reserve to their own use was so small, varying as it did from a ninth to a fifth of the whole of the crop which they had reaped,[226] that their position was little better than that of the poorest labourer by the day.[227] The humblest class of freemen might still make a living in districts where pasturage did not reign supreme. But it was a living that involved a sacrifice of independence and a submission to sordid needs that were unworthy of the past ideal of Roman citizenship. It was a living too that conferred little benefit on the State; for the day-labourers and the politores could scarcely have been in the position on the census list which rendered them liable to the conscription.

If it were possible to lessen the incidence of military service and to secure land and a small amount of capital for the dispossessed, the prospects for the future were by no means hopeless. The smaller culture, especially the cultivation of the vine and the olive, is that to which portions of Italy are eminently suited. This is especially true of the great volcanic plain of the West extending from the north of Etruria to the south of Campania and comprising, besides these territories, the countries of the Latins, the Sabines, the Volsci and the Hernici. The lightness and richness of the alluvion of this volcanic soil is almost as suited to the production of cereals as to that of the vine and the olive or the growth of vegetables.[228] But, even on the assumption that corn-growing would not pay, there was nothing to prevent, and everything to encourage the development of the olive plantation, the vineyard and the market garden throughout this region. It was a country sown with towns, and the vast throat of Rome alone would cry for the products of endless labour. Even Cato can place the vine and the olive before grazing land and forest trees in the order of productivity,[229] and before the close of the Republic the government had learnt the lesson that the salvation of the Italian peasantry depended on the cultivation of products like these. The conviction is attested by the protective edict that the culture of neither the vine nor the olive was to be extended in Transalpine Gaul.[230] Market gardening was also to have a considerable future, wherever the neighbourhood of the larger towns created a demand for such supplies.[231] A new method of tenure also gave opportunities to those whose capital or circumstances did not enable them to purchase a sufficient quantity of land of their own. Leaseholds became more frequent, and the coloni thus created[232] began to take an active share in the agricultural life of Italy. Like the villici, they were a product, of the tendency to live away from the estate; but they gained ground at the expense of the servile bailiffs, probably in consequence of their greater trustworthiness and keener interest in the soil.

But time was needed to effect these changes. For the present the reign of the capitalist was supreme, and the plantation system was dominant throughout the greater part of Italy. The most essential ingredient in this system was the slave,--an alien and a chattel, individually a thing of little account, but reckoned in his myriads the most powerful factor in the economic, and therefore in the political, life of the times, the gravest of the problems that startled the reformer. The soil of Italy was now peopled with widely varied types, and echoes of strange tongues from West and East could be heard on every hand. Italy seemed a newly discovered country, on which the refuse of all lands had been thrown to become a people that could never be a nation. The home supply of slaves, so familiar as to seem a product of the land, was becoming a mere trifle in comparison with the vast masses that were being thrust amongst the peasantry by war and piracy. At the time of the protest of Tiberius Gracchus against the dominance of slave labour in the fields scarcely two generations had elapsed since the great influx had begun. The Second Punic War had spread to every quarter of the West; Sicily, Sardinia, Cisalpine Gaul and Spain all yielded their tribute in the form of human souls that had passed from the victor to the dealer, from the dealer to the country and the town. Only one generation had passed since a great wave had swept from Epirus and Northern Greece over the shores of Italy. In Epirus alone one hundred and fifty thousand prisoners had been sold.[233] Later still the destruction of Carthage must have cast vast quantities of agricultural slaves upon the market.[234] Asia too had yielded up her captives as the result of Roman victories; but the Oriental visages that might be seen in the streets of Rome or the plains of Sicily, were less often the gift of regular war than of the piracy and the systematised slave-hunting of the Eastern Mediterranean. Rome, who had crushed the rival maritime powers that had attempted, however imperfectly, to police the sea, had been content with the work of destruction, and seemed to care nothing for the enterprising buccaneers who sailed with impunity as far west as Sicily. The pirates had also made themselves useful to the Oriental powers which still retained their independence; they had been tolerated, if they had not been employed, by Cyprus and Egypt when these states were struggling against the Empire of the Seleucids.[235] But another reason for their immunity was the view held in the ancient world that slave-hunting was in itself a legitimate form of enterprise.[236] The pirate might easily be regarded as a mere trader in human merchandise. As such, he had perhaps been useful to Carthage;[237] and, as long as he abstained from attacking ports or nationalities under the protectorate of Rome, there was no reason why the capitalists in power should frown on the trade by which they prospered. For the pirates could probably bring better material to the slave market than was usually won in war.[238] A superior elegance and culture must often have been found in the helpless victims on whom they pounced; beauty and education were qualities that had a high marketable value, and by seizing on people of the better class they were sure of one of two advantages--either of a ransom furnished by the friends of the captives, or of a better price paid by the dealer. There was scarcely a pretence that the traders were mere intermediaries who bought in a cheap market and sold in a dear. They were known to be raiders as well, and numbers of the captives exhibited in the mart at Side in Pamphylia were known to have been freemen up to the moment of the auction.[239] The facility for capture and the proximity of Delos, the greatest of the slave markets which connected the East with the West, rendered the supply enormous; but it was equalled by the demand, and myriads of captives are said to have been shipped to the island and to have quitted it in a single day. The ease and rapidity of the business transacted by the master of a slave-ship became a proverb;[240] and honest mercantile undertakings with their tardy gains must have seemed contemptible in comparison with this facile source of wealth.

An abundant supply and quick returns imply reasonable prices; and the cheapness of the labour supplied by the slave-trade, whether as a consequence of war or piracy, was at once a necessary condition of the vitality of the plantation system and a cause of the recklessness and neglect with which the easily replaced instruments might be used. Cato, a shrewd man of business, never cared to pay more than fifteen hundred denarii for his slaves.[241] This must have been the price of the best type of labourer, of a man probably who was gifted with intelligence as well as strength. Ordinary unskilled labour must have fetched a far smaller sum; for the prices which are furnished by the comic poetry of the day--prices which are as a rule conditioned by the value of personal services or qualities of a particular kind, by the attractions of sex and the competition for favours--do not on the average far exceed the limit fixed by Cato.[242] For common work newly imported slaves were actually preferred, and purchasers were shy of the veterator who had seen long service.[243] Employment in the fashionable circles of the town doubtless enhanced the value of a slave, when he was known to have been in possession of some peculiar gift, whether it were for cookery, medicine or literature; but the labours of the country could easily be drilled into the newest importation, and prices diminished instead of rising with the advancing age and experience of the rustic slave.[244]

The cheapened labour which was now spread over Italy presented as many varieties of moral as of physical type, and these came to be well known to the prospective owner, not because he aimed at being a moral influence, but because he objected to being worried by the vagaries of an eccentric type. Sardinians were always for sale, not because they were specially abundant, but because they showed an indocility that rendered them a sorry possession.[245] The passive Oriental, the Spaniard fierce and proud, required different methods of management and inspired different precautions; yet experience soon proved that the hellenised sons of the East had a better capacity for organising revolt than their fellow-sufferers from the North and West, and much of the harshness of Roman slavery was prompted by the panic which is the nemesis of the man who deals in human lives. But more of it was due to the indifference which springs from familiarity, and from the cold practical spirit in which the Roman always tended to play with the pawns of his business game, even when they were freemen and fellow-citizens. A man like Cato, who had sense and honesty enough to look after his own business, elaborated a machine-like system for governing his household, the aim of which was the maximum of profit with the minimum amount of humanity which is consistent with the attainment of such an end. The element of humanity is, however, accidental. There is no conscious appeal to such a feeling. The slaves seem to be looked on rather as automata who perform certain mental and physical processes analogous to those of men. Cato's servants were never to enter another house except at his bidding or at that of his wife, and were to express utter ignorance of his domestic history to all inquirers; their life was to alternate between working and sleeping, and the heavy sleeper was valued as presumably a peaceful character; little bickerings between the servants were to be encouraged, for unanimity was a matter for suspicion and fear; the death sentence pronounced on any one of them by the law was carried out in the presence of the assembled household, so as to strike a wholesome terror into the rest. If they wished to propagate their kind, they must pay for the privilege, and a fixed sum was demanded from the slave who desired to find a mate amongst his fellow-servants.[246] The rations were fixed and only raised at the people's festivals of the Saturnalia and Compitalia;[247] a sick slave was supposed to need less than his usual share[248]--perhaps an excellent hygienic maxim, but one scarcely adopted on purely hygienic grounds. Such a life was an emphatic protest against the indulgence of the city, the free and careless intercourse which often reversed the position of master and slave and formed part of the stock-in-trade of the comedian. Yet, even when the bond between the man of fashion and his artful Servants had merely a life of pleasure and of mischief as its end, we Are at least lifted by such relations into a human sphere, and it is exceedingly questionable whether the warped humanity of the city did mark so low a level as the brutalised life of the estate over which Cato's fostering genius was spread. If we develop Cato's methods but a little, if we admit a little more rigour and a little less discrimination, we get the dismal barrack-like system of the great plantations--a barrack, or perhaps a prison, nominally ruled by a governor who might live a hundred miles away, really under the control of an anxious and terrified slave, who divided his fears between his master who wanted money and his servants who wanted freedom. The villicus had been once the mere intendant of the estate on which his master lived; he was now sole manager of a vast domain for his absent lord,[249] sole keeper of the great ergastulum which enclosed at nightfall the instruments of labour and disgorged them at daybreak over the fields. The gloomy building in which they were herded for rest and sleep showed but its roof and a small portion of its walls above the earth; most of it lay beneath the ground, and the narrow windows were so high that they could not be reached by the hands of the inmates.[250] There was no inspection by the government, scarcely any by the owners.[251] There was no one to tell the secrets of these dens, and if the unwary traveller were trapped and hidden behind their walls, all traces of him might be for ever lost.[252] When the slaves were turned out into the fields, the safety of their drivers was secured by the chains which bound their limbs, but which were so adjusted as not to interfere with the movements necessary to their work.[253] Some whose spirit had been broken might be left unbound, but for the majority bonds were the only security against escape or vengeance.[254]

There was, however, one type of desperate character who was permitted to roam at large. This was the guardian of the flocks, who wandered unrestrained over the mountains during the summer months and along the prairies in the winter season. These herdsmen formed small bands. It was reckoned that there should be one for every eighty or hundred sheep and two for every troop of fifty horses.[255] It was sometimes found convenient that they should be accompanied by their women who prepared their meals--women of robust types like the Illyrian dames to whom child-birth was a mere incident in the daily toils.[256] Such a life of freedom had its attractions for the slave, but it had its drawbacks too. The landowner who preferred pasturage to tillage, saved his capital, not only by the small number of hands which the work demanded, but also by the niggardly outlay which he expended on these errant serfs. It was not needful to provide them with the necessaries of life when they could take them for themselves. When Damophilus of Enna was entreated by his slaves to give them something better than the rags they wore, his answer was: "Do travellers then travel naked through the land? Have they nothing for the man who wants a coat?" [257] Brigandage, in fact, was an established item In the economic creed of the day.

The desolation of Italy was becoming dangerous, and the master of the lonely villa barred himself in at nights as though an enemy were at his gates. On one occasion Scipio Africanus was disturbed in his retreat at Liternum by a troop of bandits. He placed his armed servants on the roof and made every preparation for repelling the assault. But the visitors proved to be pacific. They were the very élite of the fraternity of brigands and had merely come to do honour to the great man. They sent back their troops, threw down their arms, laid presents before his door and departed in joyous mood.[258] The immunity of such bands proved that a slave revolt might at any moment imperil every life and every dwelling in some unprotected canton. It was indeed the epoch of peace, when Roman and Phoenician armies no longer held the field in Italy, that first suggested the hope of liberation to the slave. Hannibal would have imperilled his character of a protector of Italian towns had he encouraged a slave revolt, even if the Phoenician had not shrunk from a precedent so fatal to his native land. But one of the unexpected results of the Second Punic War was to kindle a rising in the very heart of Latium, and it was the African slave, not the African freeman, that stirred the last relics of the war in Italy. At Setia were guarded the noble Carthaginians who were a pledge of the fidelity of their state. These hostages, the sons of merchant princes, were allowed to retain the dignity of their splendid homes, and a vast retinue of slaves from Africa attended on their wants. The number of these was swelled by captive members of the same nationalities whom the people of Setia had acquired in the recent war.[259] A spirit of camaraderie sprung up amongst men who understood one another's language and had acquired the spurious nationality that comes from servitude in the same land. Their numbers were obvious, the paucity of the native Setians was equally clear, and no military force was close at hand. They planned to increase their following by spreading disaffection amongst the servile populations of the neighbouring country towns, and emissaries were sent to Norba in the North and Circei in the South. Their project was to wait for the rapidly approaching games of the Setian folk and to rush on the unarmed populace as they were gazing at the show; when Setia had been taken, they meant to seize on Norba and Circei. But there was treason in their ranks. The urban praetor was roused before dawn by two slaves who poured the whole tale of the impending massacre into his ear. After a hasty consultation of the senate he rushed to the threatened district, gathering recruits as he swept with his legates through the country side, binding them with the military oath, bidding them arm and follow him with all speed. A hasty force of about two thousand men was soon gathered; none knew his destination till he reached the gates of Setia. The heads of the conspiracy were seized, and such of their followers as learnt the fact fled incontinently from the town. From this point onward it was only a matter of hunting down the refugees by patrols sent round the country districts. Southern Latium was freed from its terror; but it was soon found that the evil had spread almost to the gates of Rome. A rumour had spread that Praeneste was to be seized by its slaves, and it was sufficient to stimulate a praetor to execute nearly five hundred of the supposed delinquents.[260]

Two years later a rising, which almost became a war, shook the great plantation lands of Etruria.[261] Its suppression required a legion and a pitched battle. The leaders were crucified; others of the slaves who had escaped the carnage were restored to their masters. But these disturbances, that may have seemed mere sporadic relics of the havoc and exhaustion left by the Hannibalic war, were only quelled for the moment. It was soon found that the seeds of insecurity were deeply planted in the settlement that was called a peace. During the year 185 the shepherds of Apulia were found to have formed a great society of plunder, and robbery with violence was of constant occurrence on the grazing lands and public roads. The praetor who was in command at Tarentum opened a commission which condemned seven thousand men. Many were executed, although a large number of the criminals escaped to other regions.[262]

These movements in Italy were but the symptoms of a spirit that was spreading over the Mediterranean lands. The rising of the serfs only just preceded the great awakening of the masses of the freemen.[263] Both classes were ground down by capital; both would make an effort to shake the burden from their shoulders; and, as regards the methods of assertion, it is a matter of little moment whether they took the form of a national rising against a government or a protectorate, a sanguinary struggle in the Forum against the dominance of a class, or an attack by chattels, not yet brutalised by serfdom but full of the traditions and spirit of freemen, against the cruelty and indifference of their owners. In one sense the servile movements were more universal, and perhaps better organised, than those of the men to whom, free birth gave a nominal superiority. A sympathy for each other's sufferings pervaded the units of the class who were scattered in distant lands. Sometimes it was a sympathy based on a sense of nationality, and the Syrian and Cilician in Asia would feel joy and hope stirring in his heart at the doings of his brethren who had been deported to the far West. The series of organised revolts in the Roman provinces and protectorate which commence shortly after the fall of Carthage and close for the moment with the war of resistance to the Romans in Asia, forms a single connected chain. Dangerous risings had to be repressed at the Italian coast towns of Minturnae and Sinuessa; at the former place four hundred and fifty slaves were crucified, at the latter four thousand were crushed by a military force; the mines of Athens, the slave market of Delos, witnessed similar outbreaks,[264] and we shall find a like wave of discontent spreading over the serf populations of the countries of the Mediterranean just before the second great outbreak in Sicily which darkens the close of the second century. The evil fate which made this island the theatre of the two greatest of the servile wars is explicable on many grounds. The opportunity offered by the sense of superiority in numbers was far ampler here than in any area of Italy of equal size. For Sicily was a wheat-growing country, and the cultivated plains demanded a mass of labour which was not needed in more mountainous or less fertile lands, where pasturage yielded a surer return than the tilling of the soil. The pasture lands of Sicily were indeed large, but they had not yet dwarfed the agriculture of the island. The labour of the fields was in the hands of a vast horde of Asiatics, large numbers of whom may conceivably have been shipped from Carthage across the narrow sea, when that great centre of the plantation system had been laid low and the fair estates of the Punic nobles had been seized and broken up by their conquerors.[265] In the history of the great Sicilian outbreaks Syrians and Cilicians meet us at every turn. These Asiatic slaves had different nationalities and they or their fathers had been citizens of widely separated towns. But there were bonds other than a common suffering which produced a keen sense of national union and a consequent feeling of ideal patriotism in the hearts of all. They were the products of the common Hellenism of the East; they or their fathers could make a claim to have been subjects of the great Seleucid monarchy; many, perhaps most of them, could assert freedom by right of birth and acknowledged slavery only as a consequence of the accidents of war or piracy. The mysticism of the Oriental, the political ideal of the Hellene, were interwoven in their moral nature--a nature perhaps twisted by the brutalism of slavery to superstition in the one direction, to licence in the other, but none the less capable of great conceptions and valiant deeds. The moment for both would come when the prophet had appeared, and the prophet would surely show himself when the cup of suffering had overflowed.[266]

The masters who worked this human mechanism were driving it at a pace which must have seemed dangerous to any human being less greedy, vain and confident than themselves. The wealth of these potentates was colossal, but it was equalled by their social rivalry and consequent need of money. A contest in elegance was being fought between the Siceliot and the Italian.[267] The latter was the glass of fashion, and the former attempted to rival, first his habits of domestic life and, as a consequence, the economic methods which rendered these habits possible. Here too, as in Italy, whole gangs of slaves were purchased like cattle or sheep; some were weighed down with fetters, others ground into subordination by the cruel severity of their tasks. All without exception were branded, and men who had been free citizens in their native towns, felt the touch of the burning iron and carried the stigma of slavery to their graves.[268] Food was doled out in miserable quantities,[269] for the shattered instrument could so easily be replaced. On the fields one could see little but abject helplessness, a misery that weakened while it tortured the soul. But in some parts of Sicily bodily want was combined with a wild daring that was fostered by the reckless owners, whose greed had overcome all sense of their own security or that of their fellow-citizens. The treatment of pastoral slaves which had been adopted by the Roman graziers was imitated faithfully by the Italians and Siceliots of the island. These slaves were turned loose with their flocks to find their food and clothing where and how they could. The youngest and stoutest were chosen for this hard, wild life: and their physical vigour was still further increased by their exposure to every kind of weather, by their seldom finding or needing the shelter of a roof, and by the milk and meat which formed their staple food. A band of these men presented a terrifying aspect, suggesting a scattered invasion of some warlike barbarian tribe. Their bodies were clad in the skins of wolves and boars; slung at their sides or poised in their hands were clubs, lances and long shepherds' staves. Each squadron was followed by a pack of large and powerful hounds. Strength, leisure, need, all suggested brigandage as an integral part of their profession. At first they murdered the wayfarer who went alone or with but one companion. Then their courage rose and they concerted nightly attacks on the villas of the weaker residents. These villas they stormed and plundered, slaying any one who attempted to bar their way. As their impunity increased, Sicily became impracticable to travellers by night, and residence in the country districts became a tempting of providence. There was violence, brigandage or murder on every hand. The governors of Sicily occasionally interposed, but they were almost powerless to check the mischief. The influence of the slave-owners was such that it was dangerous to inflict an adequate punishment.[270]

The proceedings of these militant shepherds must have opened the eyes of the mass of the slaves to the possibilities of the position. Secret meetings began to be held at which the word "revolt" was breathed. An occasion, a leader, a divine sanction were for the moment lacking. The first requisite would follow the other two, and these were soon found combined in the person of Eunus. This man was a Syrian by birth, a native of Apamea, and he served Antigenes of Enna. He was more than a believer in the power of the gods to seize on men and make them the channel of their will; he was a living witness to it in his own person. At first he saw shadows of superhuman form and heard their voices in his dreams. Then there were moments when he would be seized with a trance; he was wrapt in contemplation of some divine being. Then the words of prophecy would come; they were not his utterance but the bidding of the great Syrian goddess. Sometimes the words were preceded by a strange manifestation of supernatural power; smoke, sparks or flame would issue from his open mouth.[271] The clairvoyance may have been a genuine mental experience, the thaumaturgy the type of fiction which the best of media may be tempted to employ; but both won belief from his fellows, eager for any light in the darkness, and a laughing acceptance from his master, glad of a novelty that might amuse his leisure. As a matter of fact, Eunus's predictions sometimes came true. People forgot (as people will) the instances of their falsification, but applauded them heartily when they were fulfilled. Eunus was a good enough medium to figure at a fashionable séance. His latest profession was the promise of a kingdom to himself; it was the Syrian goddess who had held out the golden prospect. The promise he declared boldly to his master, knowing perhaps the spirit in which the message would be received. Antigenes was delighted with his prophet king. He showed him at his own table, and took him to the banquets given by his friends. There Eunus would be questioned about his kingdom, and each of the guests would bespeak his patronage and clemency. His answers as to his future conduct were given without reserve. He promised a policy of mercy, and the quaint earnestness of the imposture would dissolve the company in laughter. Portions of food were handed him from the board, and the donors would ask that he should remember their kindness when he came into his kingdom. These were requests which Eunus did not forget.

With such an influence in its centre, Enna seemed destined to be the spring of the revolt. But there was another reason which rendered it a likely theatre for a deed of daring. The broad plateau on which the town was set was thronged with shepherds in the winter season,[272] and some of the great graziers of Enna owned herds of these bold and lawless men. Conspicuous amongst these graziers for his wealth, his luxury and his cruelty was one Damophilus, the man who had formulated the theory that the shepherd slave should keep himself by robbing others. Damophilus was a Siceliot, but none of the Roman magnates of the island could have shown a grander state than that which he maintained. His finely bred horses, his four-wheeled carriages, his bodyguard of slaves, his beautiful boys, his crowd of parasites, were known all over the broad acres and huge pasture lands which he controlled. His town house and villas displayed chased silverwork, rich carpets of purple dye and a table of royal elegance. He surpassed Roman luxury in the lavishness of his expense, Roman pride in his sense of complete independence of circumstance, and Roman niggardliness and cruelty in his treatment of his slaves. Satiety had begotten a chronic callousness and even savagery that showed itself, not merely in the now familiar use of the ergastulum and the brand, but in arbitrary and cruel punishments which were part of the programme of almost every day. His wife Megallis, hardened by the same influences, was the torment of her maidens and of such domestics as were more immediately under her control. The servants of this household had one conviction in common--that nothing worse than their present evils could possibly be their lot.

This is the conviction that inspires acts of frenzy; but the madness of these slaves was of the orderly, systematic and therefore dangerous type. They would not act without a divine sanction to their whispered plans. Some of them approached Eunus and asked him if their enterprise was permitted by the gods. The prophet first produced the usual manifestations which attested his inspiration and then replied that the gods assented, if the plan were taken in hand forthwith. Enna was the destined place; it was the natural stronghold of the whole island; it was foredoomed to be the capital of the new race that would rule over Sicily.[273] Heartened by the belief that Heaven was aiding their efforts, the leaders then set to work. They secretly released such of Damophilus's household as were in bonds; they gathered others together, and soon a band to the number of about four hundred were mustered in a field in the neighbourhood of Enna. There in the early hours of the night they offered a sacrifice and swore their solemn compact. They had gathered everything which could serve as a weapon, and when midnight was approaching they were ready for the first attempt. They marched swiftly to the sleeping town and broke its stillness with their cries of exhortation. Eunus was at their head, fire streaming from his mouth against the darkness of the night. The streets and houses were immediately the scene of a pitiless massacre. The maddened slaves did not even spare the children at the breast; they dragged them from their mothers' arms and dashed them upon the ground. The women were the victims of unspeakable insult and outrage.[274] Every slave had his own wrongs to avenge, for the original assailants had now been joined by a large number of the domestics of the town. Each of these wreaked his own peculiar vengeance and then turned to take his share in the general massacre.

Meanwhile Eunus and his immediate following had learnt news of the arch-enemy Damophilus, He was known to be staying in his pleasance near to the city. Thence he and his wife were fetched with every mark of ignominy, and the unhappy pair were dragged into the town with their hands bound behind their backs. The masters of the city now mustered in the theatre for an act of justice; but Damophilus did not lose his wits even when he scanned that sea of hostile faces and accusing eyes. He attempted a defence and was listened to in silence--nay, with approval, for many of his auditors were visibly stirred by his words. But some bolder spirits were tired of the show or fearful of its issue. Hermeias and Zeuxis, two of his bitterest enemies, shouted out that he was an Impostor[275] and rushed upon him. One of the two thrust a sword through his side, the other smote his head off with an axe. It was then the women's turn. Megallis's female slaves were given the power to treat her as they would. They first tortured her, then led her up to a high place and dashed her to the ground. Eunus avenged his private wrongs by the death of his own masters, Antigenes and Python. The scene in the theatre had perhaps revealed more than the desire for a systematised revenge. It may have shown that there was some sense of justice, of order in the savage multitude. And indeed vengeance was not wholly indiscriminate. Eunus concealed and sent secretly away the men who had given him meat from their tables.[276] Even the whole house of Damophilus did not perish. There was a daughter, a strange product of such a home, a maiden with a pure simplicity of character and a heart that melted at the sight of pain. She had been used to soothe the anguish of those who had been scourged by her parents and to relieve the necessities of such as were put in bonds. Hence the abounding love felt for her by the slaves, the pity that thrilled them when her home was doomed. An escort was selected to convey her in safety to some relatives at Catana. Its most devoted member was Hermeias,[277] perhaps the very man whose hands were stained by her father's blood.

The next step in the progress of the revolt was to form a political and military organisation that might command the respect of the countless slaves who were soon to break their bonds in the other districts of Sicily. Eunus was elected king. His name became Antiochus, his subjects were "Syrians." [278] It was not the first time that a slave had assumed the diadem; for was it not being worn for the moment by Diodotus surnamed Tryphon, the guardian and reputed murderer of Alexander of Syria?[279] The elevation of Eunus to the throne was due to no belief in his courage or his generalship. But he was the prophet of the movement, the cause of its inception, and his very name was considered to be of good omen for the harmony of his subjects. When he had bound the diadem on his brow and adopted regal state, he elevated the woman who had been his companion (a Syrian and an Apamean like himself) to the rank of queen. He formed a council of such of his followers as were thought to possess wits above the average, and he set himself to make Enna the adequate centre of a lengthy war. He put to death all his captives in Enna who had no skill in fashioning arms; the residue he put in bonds and set to the task of forging weapons.

Eunus was no warrior, but he had the regal gift of recognising merit. The soul of the military movement which spread from Enna was Achaeus,[280] a man pre-eminent both in counsel and in action,[281] one who did not permit his reason to be mastered by passion and whose anger was chiefly kindled by the foolish atrocities committed by some of his followers.[282] Under such a leader the cause rapidly advanced. The original four hundred had swelled in three days to six thousand; it soon became ten thousand. As Achaeus advanced, the ergastula were broken open and each of these prison-houses furnished a new multitude of recruits.[283] Soon a vast addition to the available forces was effected by a movement in another part of the island. In the territory of Agrigentum one Cleon a Cilician suddenly arose as a leader of his fellows. He was sprung from the regions about Mount Taurus and had been habituated from his youth to a life of brigandage. In Sicily he was supposed to be a herdsman of horses. He was also a highwayman who commanded the roads and was believed to have committed murders of varied types. When he heard of the success of Eunus, he deemed that the moment had come for raising a revolt on his own account. He gathered a band of followers, overwhelmed the city of Agrigentum and ravaged the surrounding territory.[284]

The terrified Siceliots, and perhaps some of the slaves themselves, believed that this dual movement might ruin the servile cause. There were daily expectations that the armies of Eunus and Cleon would meet in conflict. But such hopes or fears were disappointed. Cleon put himself absolutely under the authority of Eunus and performed the functions of a general to a king. The junction of the forces occurred about thirty days after the outbreak at Enna, and the Cilician brought five thousand men to the royal standard. The full complement of the slaves when first they joined battle with the Roman power amounted to twenty thousand men; before the close of the war their army numbered over sixty thousand.[285]

The Roman government exhibited its usual slowness in realising the gravity of the situation; yet it may be excused for believing that it had only to deal with local tumults such as those which had been so easily suppressed in Italy. The force of eight thousand men which it put into the field under the praetor Lucius Hypsaeus may have seemed more than sufficient. Yet it was routed by the insurgent army, now numbering twenty thousand men, and in the skirmishes which followed the balance of success inclined to the rebels. The immediate progress of the struggle cannot be traced in any detail, but there is a general record of the storming of Roman camps and the flight of Roman generals.[286]

The theatre of the war was certainly extending at an alarming rate. The rebels had first controlled the centre and some part of the South Western portion of the island, the region between Enna and Agrigentum; but now they had pushed their conquests up to the East, had reached the coast and had gained possession of Catana and Tauromenium.[287] The devastation of the conquered districts is said to have been more terrible than that which followed on the Punic War.[288] But for this the slaves were not wholly, perhaps not mainly, responsible. The rebel armies, looking to a settlement in the future when they should enjoy the fruit of their victories, left the villas standing, their furniture and stores uninjured, and did no harm to the implements of husbandry. It was the free peasantry of Sicily that now showed a savage resentment at the inequality of fortune and of life which severed them from the great landholders. Under pretext of the servile war[289] they sallied out, and not only plundered the goods of the conquered, but even set fire to their villas.

The words of Eunus when, at the beginning of the revolt, he claimed Enna as the metropolis of the new nation, and the conduct of his followers in sparing the grandeur and comfort which had fallen into their hands, are sufficient proofs that the revolted slaves, in spite of their possession of the seaports of Catana and Tauromenium, had no intention of escaping from Sicily. Perhaps even if they had willed it, such a course might have been impossible. They had no fleet of their own; the Cilician pirates off the coast might have refused to accept such dangerous passengers and to imperil their reputation as honest members of the slave trade. And, if the fugitives crossed the sea, what homes had they to which they could return? To their own cities they were dead, and the long arm of Rome stretched over her protectorates in the East.[290]

It was therefore with a power which intended a permanent settlement in Sicily, that the Roman government had to cope. Its sense of the gravity of the situation was seen in the despatch of consular armies. The first under Caius Fulvius Flaccus seems to have effected little.[291] The second under Lucius Calpurnius Piso, the consul of the following year, laid siege to Enna,[292] and captured a stronghold of the rebels. Eight thousand of the slaves were slain by the sword, all who could be seized were nailed to the cross.[293] The crowning victories, and the nominal pacification of the island, remained for Piso's successor, Publius Rupilius. He drove the rebels into Tauromenium and sat down before the city until they were reduced to unspeakable straits by famine. The town was at length yielded through treachery; Sarapion a Syrian betrayed the acropolis, and the Roman commander found a multitude of starving men at his mercy, He was pitiless in his use of victory. The captives were first tortured, then taken up to a high place and dashed downwards to the ground. The consul then moved on Enna. The rebels defended their last stronghold with the utmost courage and persistence. Achaeus seems to have already fallen, but the brave Cilician leaders still held out with all the native valour of their race. Cleon made a sortie from the town and fought heroically until he fell covered with wounds. Cleon's brother Coma[294] was captured during the siege and brought before Rupilius, who questioned him about the strength and the plans of the remaining fugitives. He asked for a moment to collect his thoughts, covered his head with his cloak, and died of suffocation, in the hands of his guard and in sight of the general, before a compromising word had passed his lips. King Eunus was not made of such stern stuff. When Enna, impregnable in its natural strength, had been taken by treachery, he fled with his bodyguard of a thousand men to still more precipitous regions. His companions, knowing that it was impossible to escape their fate (for Rupilius was already moving) fell on each others swords. But Eunus could not face this death. He took refuge in a cave, from which he was dragged with the last poor relics of his splendid court--his cook, his baker, his bath attendant and his buffoon. The Romans for some reason spared his life, or at least did not doom him to immediate death. He was kept a prisoner at Morgantia, where he died shortly afterwards of disease.

It is said that by the date of the fall of Enna more than twenty thousand slaves had perished.[295] Even without this slaughter, the capture of their seaport and their armoury would have been sufficient to break the back of the revolt.[296] It only remained to scour the country with picked bands of soldiers for organised resistance to be shattered, and even for the curse of brigandage to be rooted out for a while. Death was no longer meted out indiscriminately to the rebels. Such of the slave-owners as survived would probably have protested against wholesale crucifixion, and the destruction of all of the fugitives would have impaired the resources of Sicily. Thus many were spared the cross and restored to their bonds.[297] The extent to which reorganisation was needed before the province could resume its normal life, is shown by the fact that the senate thought it worth while to give Sicily a new provincial charter. Ten commissioners were sent to assist Rupilius in the work, which henceforth bore the proconsul's name.[298] The work, as we know it, was of a conservative character; but it is possible that no complete charter had ever existed before, and the war may have revealed defects in the arrangements of Sicily that had heretofore been unsuspected.

A climax of the type of the servile war in Sicily was perhaps needed to bring the social problem home to thinking men in Rome. Not that it by any means sufficed for all who pondered on the public welfare or laboured at the business of the State. The men who measured happiness by wealth and empire might still have retained their unshaken confidence in the Fortune of Rome. Had a Capys of this class arisen, he might have given a thrilling picture of the immediate future of his city, dark but grimly national in its emergence from trial to triumph. He might have seen her conquering arms expanding to the Euphrates and the Rhine, and undreamed sources of wealth pouring their streams into the treasury or the coffers of the great. If there was blood in the picture, when had it been absent from the annals of Rome? Even civil strife and a new Italian war might be a hard but a necessary price to pay for a strong government and a grand mission. If an antiquated constitution disappeared in the course of this glorious expansion, where was the loss?

But there were men in Rome who measured human life by other canons: who believed that the State existed for the individual at least as much as the individual for the State: who, even when they were imperialists, saw with terror the rotten foundations on which the empire rested, and with indignation the miserable returns that had been made to the men who had bought it with their blood. To them the brilliant present and the glorious future were veiled by a screen that showed the ghastly spectres of commercial imperialism. It showed luxury running riot amongst a nobility already impoverished and ever more thievishly inclined, a colossal capitalism clutching at the land and stretching out its tentacles for every source of profitable trade, the middle class fleeing from the country districts and ousted from their living in the towns, and the fair island that was almost a part of their Italian home, its garden and its granary, in the throes of a great slave war.



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