The Common People of Rome




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CORPORATIONS AND TRADE GUILDS

In a recent paper on "Ancient and Modern Imperialism," read before the British Classical Association, Lord Cromer, England's late consul-general in Egypt, notes certain points of resemblance between the English and the Roman methods of dealing with alien peoples. With the Greeks no such points of contact exist, because, as he remarks, "not only was the imperial idea foreign to the Greek mind; the federal conception was equally strange." This similarity between the political character and methods of the Romans and Anglo-Saxons strikes any one who reads the history of the two peoples side by side. They show the same genius for government at home, and a like success in conquering and holding foreign lands, and in assimilating alien peoples. Certain qualities which they have in common contribute to these like results. Both the Roman and the Anglo-Saxon have been men of affairs; both have shown great skill in adapting means to an end, and each has driven straight at the immediate object to be accomplished without paying much heed to logic or political theory. A Roman statesman would have said "Amen!" to the Englishman's pious hope that "his countrymen might never become consistent or logical in politics." Perhaps the willingness of the average Roman to co-operate with his fellows, and his skill in forming an organization suitable for the purpose in hand, go farther than any of the other qualities mentioned above to account for his success in governing other peoples as well as his own nation.

Our recognition of these striking points of resemblance between the Romans and ourselves has come from a comparative study of the political life of the two peoples. But the likeness to each other of the Romans and Anglo-Saxons, especially in the matter of associating themselves together for a common object, is still more apparent in their methods of dealing with private affairs. A characteristic and amusing illustration of the working of this tendency among the Romans is furnished by the early history of monasticism in the Roman world. When the Oriental Christian had convinced himself of the vanity of the world, he said: "It is the weakness of the flesh and the enticements of the wicked which tempt me to sin. Therefore I will withdraw from the world and mortify the flesh." This is the spirit which drove him into the desert or the mountains, to live in a cave with a lion or a wolf for his sole companion. This is the spirit which took St. Anthony into a solitary place in Egypt. It led St. Simeon Stylites to secure a more perfect sense of aloofness from the world, and a greater security from contact with it by spending the last thirty years of his life on the top of a pillar near Antioch. In the Western world, which was thoroughly imbued with the Roman spirit, the Christian who held the same view as his Eastern brother of the evil results flowing from intercourse with his fellow men, also withdrew from the world, but he withdrew in the company of a group of men who shared his opinions on the efficacy of a life of solitude. A delightful instance of the triumph of the principle of association over logic or theory! We Americans can understand perfectly the compelling force of the principle, even in such a case as this, and we should justify the Roman's action on the score of practical common sense. We have organizations for almost every conceivable political, social, literary, and economic purpose. In fact, it would be hard to mention an object for which it would not be possible to organize a club, a society, a league, a guild, or a union. In a similar way the Romans had organizations of capitalists and laborers, religious associations, political and social clubs, and leagues of veterans.

So far as organizations of capitalists are concerned, their history is closely bound up with that of imperialism. They come to our notice for the first time during the wars with Carthage, when Rome made her earliest acquisitions outside of Italy. In his account of the campaigns in Spain against Hannibal's lieutenants, Livy tells us[101] of the great straits to which the Roman army was reduced for its pay, food, and clothing. The need was urgent, but the treasury was empty, and the people poverty-stricken. In this emergency the prætor called a public meeting, laid before it the situation in Spain, and, appealing to the joint-stock companies to come to the relief of the state, appointed a day when proposals could be made to furnish what was required by the army. On the appointed day three societates, or corporations, offered to make the necessary loans to the government; their offers were accepted, and the needs of the army were met. The transaction reminds us of similar emergencies in our civil war, when syndicates of bankers came to the support of the government. The present-day tendency to question the motives of all corporations dealing with the government does not seem to color Livy's interpretation of the incident, for he cites it in proof of the patriotic spirit which ran through all classes in the face of the struggle with Carthage. The appearance of the joint-stock company at the moment when the policy of territorial expansion is coming to the front is significant of the close connection which existed later between imperialism and corporate finance, but the later relations of corporations to the public interests cannot always be interpreted in so charitable a fashion.

Our public-service companies find no counter-part in antiquity, but the Roman societies for the collection of taxes bear a resemblance to these modern organizations of capital in the nature of the franchises, as we may call them, and the special privileges which they had. The practice which the Roman government followed of letting out to the highest bidder the privilege of collecting the taxes in each of the provinces, naturally gave a great impetus to the development of companies organized for this purpose. Every new province added to the Empire opened a fresh field for capitalistic enterprise, in the way not only of farming the taxes, but also of loaning money, constructing public works, and leasing the mines belonging to the state, and Roman politicians must have felt these financial considerations steadily pushing them on to further conquests.

But the interest of the companies did not end when Roman eagles had been planted in a new region. It was necessary to have the provincial government so managed as to help the agents of the companies in making as much money as possible out of the provincials, and Cicero's year as governor of Cilicia was made almost intolerable by the exactions which these agents practised on the Cilicians, and the pressure which they brought to bear upon him and his subordinates. His letters to his intimate friend, Atticus, during this period contain pathetic accounts of the embarrassing situations in which loaning companies and individual capitalists at Rome placed him. On one occasion a certain Scaptius came to him[102], armed with a strong letter of recommendation from the impeccable Brutus, and asked to be appointed prefect of Cyprus. His purpose was, by official pressure, to squeeze out of the people of Salamis, in Cyprus, a debt which they owed, running at forty-eight per cent interest. Upon making some inquiry into the previous history of Scaptius, Cicero learned that under his predecessor in Cilicia, this same Scaptius had secured an appointment as prefect of Cyprus, and backed by his official power, to collect money due his company, had shut up the members of the Salaminian common council in their town hall until five of them died of starvation. In domestic politics the companies played an equally important rôle. The relations which existed between the "interests" and political leaders were as close in ancient times as they are to-day, and corporations were as unpartisan in Rome in their political alliances as they are in the United States. They impartially supported the democratic platforms of Gaius Gracchus and Julius Cæsar in return for valuable concessions, and backed the candidacy of the constitutionalist Pompey for the position of commander-in-chief of the fleets and armies acting against the Eastern pirates, and against Mithridates, in like expectation of substantial returns for their help. What gave the companies their influence at the polls was the fact that their shares were very widely held by voters. Polybius, the Greek historian, writing of conditions at Rome in the second century B.C., gives us to understand that almost every citizen owned shares in some joint-stock company[103]. Poor crops in Sicily, heavy rains in Sardinia, an uprising in Gaul, or "a strike" in the Spanish mines would touch the pocket of every middle-class Roman.

In these circumstances it is hard to see how the Roman got on without stock quotations in the newspapers. But Cæsar's publication of the Acta Diurna, or proceedings of the senate and assembly, would take the place of our newspapers in some respects, and the crowds which gathered at the points where these documents were posted, would remind us of the throngs collected in front of the bulletin in the window of a newspaper office when some exciting event has occurred. Couriers were constantly arriving from the agents of corporations in Gaul, Spain, Africa, and Asia with the latest news of industrial and financial enterprises in all these sections. What a scurrying of feet there must have been through the streets when the first news reached Rome of the insurrection of the proletariat in Asia in 88 B.C., and of the proclamation of Mithridates guaranteeing release from half of their obligations to all debtors who should kill money-lenders! Asiatic stocks must have dropped almost to the zero point. We find no evidence of the existence of an organized stock exchange. Perhaps none was necessary, because the shares of stock do not seem to have been transferable, but other financial business arising out of the organization of these companies, like the loaning of money on stock, could be transacted reasonably well in the row of banking offices which ran along one side of the Forum, and made it an ancient Wall Street or Lombard Street.

"Trusts" founded to control prices troubled the Romans, as they trouble us to-day. There is an amusing reference to one of these trade combinations as early as the third century before our era in the Captives of Plautus.[104] The parasite in the play has been using his best quips and his most effective leads to get an invitation to dinner, but he can't provoke a smile, to say nothing of extracting an invitation. In a high state of indignation he threatens to prosecute the men who avoid being his hosts for entering into an unlawful combination like that of "the oil dealers in the Velabrum." Incidentally it is a rather interesting historical coincidence that the pioneer monopoly in Rome, as in our day, was an oil trust--in the time of Plautus, of course, an olive-oil trust. In the "Trickster," which was presented in 191 B.C., a character refers to the mountains of grain which the dealers had in their warehouses.[105] Two years later the "corner" had become so effective that the government intervened, and the curule ædiles who had charge of the markets imposed a heavy fine on the grain speculators.[106] The case was apparently prosecuted under the Laws of the Twelve Tables of 450 B.C., the Magna Charta of Roman liberty. It would seem, therefore, that combinations in restraint of trade were formed at a very early date in Rome, and perhaps Diocletian's attempt in the third century of our era to lower the cost of living by fixing the prices of all sorts of commodities was aimed in part at the same evil. As for government ownership, the Roman state made one or two essays in this field, notably in the case of mines, but with indifferent success.

Labor was as completely organized as capital.[107] In fact the passion of the Romans for association shows itself even more clearly here, and it would be possible to write their industrial history from a study of their trades-unions. The story of Rome carries the founding of these guilds back to the early days of the regal period. From the investigations of Waltzing, Liebenam, and others their history can be made out in considerable detail. Roman tradition was delightfully systematic in assigning the founding of one set of institutions to one king and of another group to another king. Romulus, for instance, is the war king, and concerns himself with military and political institutions. The second king, Numa, is a man of peace, and is occupied throughout his reign with the social and religious organization of his people. It was Numa who established guilds of carpenters, dyers, shoemakers, tanners, workers in copper and gold, fluteplayers, and potters. The critical historian looks with a sceptical eye on the story of the kings, and yet this list of trades is just what we should expect to find in primitive Rome. There are no bakers or weavers, for instance, in the list. We know that in our own colonial days the baking, spinning, and weaving were done at home, as they would naturally have been when Rome was a community of shepherds and farmers. As Roman civilization became more complex, industrial specialization developed, and the number of guilds grew, but during the Republic we cannot trace their growth very successfully for lack of information about them. Corporations, as we have seen, played an important part in politics, and their doings are chronicled in the literature, like oratory and history, which deals with public questions, but the trades-guilds had little share in politics; they were made up of the obscure and weak, and consequently are rarely mentioned in the writings of a Cicero or a Livy.

It is only when the general passion for setting down records of all sorts of enterprises and incidents on imperishable materials came in with the Empire that the story of the Roman trades-union can be clearly followed. It is a fortunate thing for us that this mania swept through the Roman Empire, because it has given us some twenty-five hundred inscriptions dealing with these organizations of workmen. These inscriptions disclose the fact that there were more than eighty different trades organized into guilds in the city of Rome alone. They included skilled and unskilled laborers, from the porters, or saccarii, to the goldsmiths, or aurifices. The names of some of them, like the pastillarii, or guild of pastile-makers, and the scabillarii, or castanet-players, indicate a high degree of industrial specialization. From one man's tombstone even the conclusion seems to follow that he belonged to a union of what we may perhaps call checker-board makers. The merchants formed trade associations freely. Dealers in oil, in wine, in fish, and in grain are found organized all over the Empire. Even the perfumers, hay-dealers, and ragmen had their societies. No line of distinction seems to be drawn between the artist and the artisan. The mason and the sculptor were classed in the same category by Roman writers, so that we are not surprised to find unions of men in both occupations. A curious distinction between the professions is also brought out by these guild inscriptions. There are unions made up of physicians, but none of lawyers, for the lawyer in early times was supposed to receive no remuneration for his services. In point of fact the physician was on a lower social plane in Rome than he was even among our ancestors. The profession was followed almost exclusively by Greek freedmen, as we can see from the records on their tombstones, and was highly specialized, if we may judge from the epitaphs of eye and ear doctors, surgeons, dentists, and veterinarians. To the same category with the physician and sculptor belong the architect, the teacher, and the chemist. Men of these professions pursued the artes liberales, as the Romans put it, and constituted an aristocracy among those engaged in the trades or lower professions. Below them in the hierarchy came those who gained a livelihood by the artes ludicræ, like the actor, professional dancer, juggler, or gladiator, and in the lowest caste were the carpenters, weavers, and other artisans whose occupations were artes vulgares et sordidæ.

In the early part of this chapter the tendency of the Romans to form voluntary associations was noted as a national characteristic. This fact comes out very clearly if we compare the number of trades-unions in the Western world with those in Greece and the Orient. Our conclusions must be drawn of course from the extant inscriptions which refer to guilds, and time may have dealt more harshly with the stones in one place than in another, or the Roman government may have given its consent to the establishment of such organizations with more reluctance in one province than another; but, taking into account the fact that we have guild inscriptions from four hundred and seventy-five towns and villages in the Empire, these elements of uncertainty in our conclusions are practically eliminated, and a fair comparison may be drawn between conditions in the East and the West. If we pick out some of the more important towns in the Greek part of the Roman world, we find five guilds reported from Tralles in Caria, six from Smyrna, one from Alexandria, and eleven from Hierapolis in Phrygia. On the other hand, in the city of Rome there were more than one hundred, in Brixia (modern Brescia) seventeen or more, in Lugudunum (Lyons) twenty at least, and in Canabæ, in the province of Dacia, five. These figures, taken at random for some of the larger towns in different parts of the Empire, bring out the fact very clearly that the western and northern provinces readily accepted Roman ideas and showed the Roman spirit, as illustrated in their ability and willingness to co-operate for a common purpose, but that the Greek East was never Romanized. Even in the settlements in Dacia, which continued under Roman rule only from 107 to 270 A.D., we find as many trades-unions as existed in Greek towns which were held by the Romans for three or four centuries. The comparative number of guilds and of guild inscriptions would, in fact, furnish us with a rough test of the extent to which Rome impressed her civilization on different parts of the Empire, even if we had no other criteria. We should know, for instance, that less progress had been made in Britain than in Southern Gaul, that Salona in Dalmatia, Lugudunum in Gaul, and Mogontiacum (Mainz) in Germany were important centres of Roman civilization. It is, of course, possible from a study of these inscriptions to make out the most flourishing industries in the several towns, but with that we are not concerned here.

These guilds which we have been considering were trades-unions in the sense that they were organizations made up of men working in the same trade, but they differed from modern unions, and also from mediaeval guilds, in the objects for which they were formed. They made no attempt to raise wages, to improve working conditions, to limit the number of apprentices, to develop skill and artistic taste in the craft, or to better the social or political position of the laborer. It was the need which their members felt for companionship, sympathy, and help in the emergencies of life, and the desire to give more meaning to their lives, that drew them together. These motives explain the provisions made for social gatherings, and for the burial of members, which were the characteristic features of most of the organizations. It is the social side, for instance, which is indicated on a tombstone, found in a little town of central Italy. After giving the name of the deceased, it reads: "He bequeathed to his guild, the rag-dealers, a thousand sesterces, from the income of which each year, on the festival of the Parentalia, not less than twelve men shall dine at his tomb."[108] Another in northern Italy reads: "To Publius Etereius Quadratus, the son of Publius, of the Tribus Quirina, Etereia Aristolais, his mother, has set up a statue, at whose dedication she gave the customary banquet to the union of rag-dealers, and also a sum of money, from the income of which annually, from this time forth, on the birthday of Quadratus, April 9, where his remains have been laid, they should make a sacrifice, and should hold the customary banquet in the temple, and should bring roses in their season and cover and crown the statue; which thing they have undertaken to do."[109] The menu of one of these dinners given in Dacia[110] has come down to us. It includes lamb and pork, bread, salad, onions, and two kinds of wine. The cost of the entertainment amounted to one hundred and sixty-nine denarii, or about twenty-seven dollars, a sum which would probably have a purchasing value to-day of from three to four times that amount.

The "temple" or chapel referred to in these inscriptions was usually semicircular, and may have served as a model for the Christian oratories. The building usually stood in a little grove, and, with its accommodations for official meetings and dinners, served the same purpose as a modern club-house. Besides the special gatherings for which some deceased member or some rich patron provided, the guild met at fixed times during the year to dine or for other social purposes. The income of the society, which was made up of the initiation fees and monthly dues of the members, and of donations, was supplemented now and then by a system of fines. At least, in an African inscription we read: "In the Curia of Jove. Done November 27, in the consulship of Maternus and Atticus.... If any one shall wish to be a flamen, he shall give three amphorae of wine, besides bread and salt and provisions. If any one shall wish to be a magister, he shall give two amphorae of wine.... If any one shall have spoken disrespectfully to a flamen, or laid hands upon him, he shall pay two denarii.... If any one shall have gone to fetch wine, and shall have made away with it, he shall give double the amount."[111]

The provision which burial societies made for their members is illustrated by the following epitaph:

"To the shade of Gaius Julius Filetio, born in Africa, a physician, who lived thirty-five years. Gaius Julius Filetus and Julia Euthenia, his parents, have erected it to their very dear son. Also to Julius Athenodorus, his brother, who lived thirty-five years. Euthenia set it up. He has been placed here, to whose burial the guild of rag-dealers has contributed three hundred denarii."[112] People of all ages have craved a respectable burial, and the pathetic picture which Horace gives us in one of his Satires of the fate which befell the poor and friendless at the end of life, may well have led men of that class to make provisions which would protect them from such an experience, and it was not an unnatural thing for these organizations to be made up of men working in the same trade. The statutes of several guilds have come down to us. One found at Lanuvium has articles dealing particularly with burial regulations. They read in part:[113]

"It has pleased the members, that whoever shall wish to join this guild shall pay an initiation fee of one hundred sesterces, and an amphora of good wine, as well as five asses a month. Voted likewise, that if any man shall not have paid his dues for six consecutive months, and if the lot common to all men has befallen him, his claim to a burial shall not be considered, even if he shall have so stipulated in his will. Voted likewise, that if any man from this body of ours, having paid his dues, shall depart, there shall come to him from the treasury three hundred sesterces, from which sum fifty sesterces, which shall be divided at the funeral pyre, shall go for the funeral rites. Furthermore, the obsequies shall be performed on foot."

Besides the need of comradeship, and the desire to provide for a respectable burial, we can see another motive which brought the weak and lowly together in these associations. They were oppressed by the sense of their own insignificance in society, and by the pitifully small part which they played in the affairs of the world. But if they could establish a society of their own, with concerns peculiar to itself which they would administer, and if they could create positions of honor and importance in this organization, even the lowliest man in Rome would have a chance to satisfy that craving to exercise power over others which all of us feel, to hold titles and distinctions, and to wear the insignia of office and rank. This motive worked itself out in the establishment of a complete hierarchy of offices, as we saw in part in an African inscription given above. The Roman state was reproduced in miniature in these societies, with their popular assemblies, and their officials, who bore the honorable titles of quæstor, curator, prætor, ædile, and so forth.

To read these twenty-five hundred or more inscriptions from all parts of the Empire brings us close to the heart of the common people. We see their little ambitions, their jealousies, their fears, their gratitude for kindness, their own kindliness, and their loyalty to their fellows. All of them are anxious to be remembered after death, and provide, when they can do so, for the celebration of their birthdays by members of the association. A guild inscription in Latium, for instance, reads:[114] "Jan. 6, birthday of Publius Claudius Veratius Abascantianus, [who has contributed] 6,000 sesterces, [paying an annual interest of] 180 denarii." "Jan. 25, birthday of Gargilius Felix, [who has contributed] 2,000 sesterces, [paying an annual interest of] 60 denarii," and so on through the twelve months of the year.

It is not entirely clear why the guilds never tried to bring pressure to bear on their employers to raise wages, or to improve their position by means of the strike, or by other methods with which we are familiar to-day. Perhaps the difference between the ancient and modern methods of manufacture helps us to understand this fact. In modern times most articles can be made much more cheaply by machinery than by hand, and the use of water-power, of steam, and of electricity, and the invention of elaborate machines, has led us to bring together a great many workmen under one roof or in one factory. The men who are thus employed in a single establishment work under common conditions, suffer the same disadvantages, and are brought into such close relations with one another that common action to improve their lot is natural. In ancient times, as may be seen in the chapter on Diocletian's edict, machinery was almost unknown, and artisans worked singly in their own homes or in the houses of their employers, so that joint action to improve their condition would hardly be expected.

Another factor which should probably be taken into account is the influence of slavery. This institution did not play the important rôle under the Empire in depressing the free laborer which it is often supposed to have played, because it was steadily dying out; but an employer could always have recourse to slave labor to a limited extent, and the struggling freedmen who had just come up from slavery were not likely to urge very strongly their claims for consideration.

In this connection it is interesting to recall the fact that before slavery got a foothold in Rome, the masses in their struggle with the classes used what we think of to-day as the most modern weapon employed in industrial warfare. We can all remember the intense interest with which we watched the novel experience which St. Petersburg underwent some six years ago, when the general strike was instituted. And yet, if we accept tradition, that method of bringing the government and society to terms was used twice by the Roman proletariat over two thousand years ago. The plebeians, so the story goes, unable to get their economic and political rights, stopped work and withdrew from the city to the Sacred Mount. Their abstention from labor did not mean the going out of street lamps, the suspension of street-car traffic, and the closing of factories and shops, but, besides the loss of fighting men, it meant that no more shoes could be had, no more carpentry work done, and no more wine-jars made until concessions should be granted. But, having slaves to compete with it, and with conditions which made organization difficult, free labor could not hope to rise, and the unions could take no serious step toward the improvement of the condition of their members. The feeling of security on this score which society had, warranted the government in allowing even its own employees to organize, and we find unions of government clerks, messengers, and others. The Roman government was, therefore, never called upon to solve the grave political and economic questions which France and Italy have had to face in late years in the threatened strikes of the state railway and postal employees.

We have just been noticing how the ancient differed from the modern trades-union in the objects which it sought to obtain. The religious character which it took seems equally strange to us at first sight. Every guild put itself under the protection of some deity and was closely associated with a cult. Silvanus, the god of the woods, was a natural favorite with the carpenters, Father Bacchus with the innkeepers, Vesta with the bakers, and Diana with those who hunted wild animals for the circus. The reason for the choice of certain other divine patrons is not so clear. Why the cabmen of Tibur, for instance, picked out Hercules as their tutelary deity, unless, like Horace in his Satires, the ancient cabman thought of him as the god of treasure-trove, and, therefore, likely to inspire the giving of generous tips, we cannot guess. The religious side of Roman trade associations will not surprise us when we recall the strong religious bent of the Roman character, and when we remember that no body of Romans would have thought of forming any kind of an organization without securing the sanction and protection of the gods. The family, the clan, the state all had their protecting deities, to whom appropriate rites were paid on stated occasions. Speaking of the religious side of these trade organizations naturally reminds one of the religious associations which sprang up in such large numbers toward the end of the republican period and under the Empire. They lie outside the scope of this chapter, but, in the light of the issue which has arisen in recent years between religious associations and the governments of Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal, it is interesting to notice in passing that the Roman state strove to hold in check many of the ancient religious associations, but not always with much success. As we have noticed, its attitude toward the trade-guilds was not unfriendly. In the last days of the Republic, however, they began to enter politics, and were used very effectively in the elections by political leaders in both parties.[115] In fact the fortunes of the city seemed likely to be controlled by political clubs, until severe legislation and the transfer of the elections in the early Empire from the popular assemblies to the senate put an end to the use of trade associations for political purposes. It was in the light of this development that the government henceforth required all newly formed trades-unions to secure official authorization.

The change in the attitude of the state toward these organizations, as time went on, has been traced by Liebenam in his study of Roman associations. The story of this change furnishes an interesting episode in the history of special privilege, and may not be without profit to us. The Roman government started with the assumption that the operation of these voluntary associations was a matter of public as well as of private concern, and could serve public interests. Therefore their members were to be exempted from some of the burdens which the ordinary citizen bore. It was this reasoning, for instance, which led Trajan to set the bakers free from certain charges, and which influenced Hadrian to grant the same favors to those associations of skippers which supplied Rome with food. In the light of our present-day discussion it is interesting also to find that Marcus Aurelius granted them the right to manumit slaves and receive legacies--that is, he made them juridical persons. But if these associations were to be fostered by law, in proportion as they promoted the public welfare, it also followed logically that the state could put a restraining hand upon them when their development failed to serve public interests in the highest degree. Following this logical sequence, the Emperor Claudius, in his efforts to promote a more wholesome home life, or for some other reason not known to us, forbade the eating-houses or the delicatessen shops to sell cooked meats or warm water. Antoninus Pius, in his paternal care for the unions, prescribed an age test and a physical test for those who wished to become members. Later, under the law a man was allowed to join one guild only. Such a legal provision as this was a natural concomitant of the concession of privileges to the unions. If the members of these organizations were to receive special favors from the state, the state must see to it that the rolls were not padded. It must, in fact, have the right of final supervision of the list of members. So long as industry flourished, and so long as the population increased, or at least remained stationary, this oversight by the government brought no appreciable ill results. But when financial conditions grew steadily worse, when large tracts of land passed out of cultivation and the population rapidly dwindled, the numbers in the trades-unions began to decline. The public services, constantly growing heavier, which the state required of the guilds in return for their privileges made the loss of members still greater. This movement threatened the industrial interests of the Empire and must be checked at all hazards. Consequently, taking another logical step in the way of government regulation in the interests of the public, the state forbade men to withdraw from the unions, and made membership in a union hereditary. Henceforth the carpenter must always remain a carpenter, the weaver a weaver, and the sons and grandsons of the carpenter and the weaver must take up the occupation of their fathers, and a man is bound forever to his trade as the serf is to the soil.












A ROMAN POLITICIAN


The life of Gaius Scribonius Curio has so many points of interest for the student of Roman politics and society, that one is bewildered by the variety of situations and experiences which it covers. His private character is made up of a mélange of contradictory qualities, of generosity, and profligacy, of sincerity and unscrupulousness. In his public life there is the same facile change of guiding principles. He is alternately a follower of Cicero and a supporter of his bitterest enemy, a Tory and a Democrat, a recognized opponent of Cæsar and his trusted agent and adviser. His dramatic career stirs Lucan to one of his finest passages, gives a touch of vigor to the prosaic narrative of Velleius, and even leads the sedate Pliny to drop into satire.[116] Friend and foe have helped to paint the picture. Cicero, the counsellor of his youth, writes of him and to him; Cælius, his bosom friend, analyzes his character; Cæsar leaves us a record of his military campaigns and death, while Velleius and Appian recount his public and private sins. His story has this peculiar charm, that many of the incidents which make it up are related from day to day, as they occurred, by his contemporaries, Cicero and Cælius, in the confidential letters which they wrote to their intimate friends. With all the strange elements which entered into it, however, his career is not an unusual one for the time in which he lived. Indeed it is almost typical for the class to which he belonged, and in studying it we shall come to know something more of that group of brilliant young men, made up of Cælius, Antony, Dolabella, and others, who were drawn to Cæsar's cause and played so large a part in bringing him success. The life of Curio not only illuminates social conditions in the first century before our era, but it epitomizes and personifies the political history of his time and the last struggles of the Republic. It brings within its compass the Catilinarian conspiracy, the agitation of Clodius, the formation of the first triumvirate, the rivalry of Cæsar and Pompey, and the civil war, for in all these episodes Curio took an active part.

Students of history have called attention to the striking way in which the members of certain distinguished Roman families from generation to generation kept up the political traditions of the family. The Claudian family is a striking case in point. Recognition of this fact helps us to understand Curio. His grandfather and his father were both prominent orators and politicians, as Cicero tells us in his Brutus.[117] The grandfather reached the praetorship in the year in which Gaius Gracchus was done to death by his political opponents, while Curio pater was consul, in 76 B.C., when the confusion which followed the breaking up of the constitution and of the party of Sulla was at its height. Cicero tells us that the second Curio had "absolutely no knowledge of letters," but that he was one of the successful public speakers of his day, thanks to the training which he had received at home. The third Curio, with whom we are concerned here, was prepared for public life as his father had been, for Cicero remarks of him that "although he had not been sufficiently trained by teachers, he had a rare gift for oratory."[118]

On this point Cicero could speak with authority, because Curio had very possibly been one of his pupils in oratory and law. At least the very intimate acquaintance which he has with Curio's character and the incidents of his life, the fatherly tone of Cicero's letters to him, and the fact that Curio's nearest friends were among his disciples make this a natural inference. How intimate this relation was, one can see from the charming picture which Cicero draws, in the introductory chapters of his Essay on Friendship, of his own intercourse as a young man with the learned Augur Scævola. Roman youth attended their counsellor and friend when he went to the forum to take part in public business, or sat with him at home discussing matters of public and private interest, as Cicero and his companions sat on the bench in the garden with the pontiff Scævola, when he set forth the discourse of Lælius on friendship, and thus, out of his experience, the old man talked to the young men about him upon the conduct of life as well as upon the technical points of law and oratory. So many of the brilliant young politicians of this period had been brought into close relations with Cicero in this way, that when he found himself forced out of politics by the Cæsarians, he whimsically writes to his friend Pætus that he is inclined to give up public life and open a school, and not more than a year before his death he pathetically complains that he has not leisure even to take the waters at the spa, because of the demands which are made upon him for lessons in oratory.

If it did not take us too far from our chosen subject, it would be interesting to stop and consider at length what effect Cicero's intimate relations with these young men had upon his character, his political views, his personal fortunes, and the course of politics. That they kept him young in his interests and sympathies, that they kept his mind alert and receptive, comes out clearly in his letters to them, which are full of jest and raillery and enthusiasm. That he never developed into a Tory, as Catulus did, or became indifferent to political conditions, as Lucullus did, may have been due in part to his intimate association with this group of enthusiastic young politicians. So far as his personal fortunes were concerned, when the struggle between Cæsar and Pompey came, these former pupils of Cicero had an opportunity to show their attachment and their gratitude to him. They were followers of Cæsar, and he cast in his lot with Pompey. But this made no difference in their relations. To the contrary, they gave him advice and help; in their most hurried journeys they found time to visit him, and they interceded with Cæsar in his behalf. To determine whether he influenced the fortunes of the state through the effect which his teachings had upon these young men would require a paper by itself. Perhaps no man has ever had a better opportunity than Cicero had in their cases to leave a lasting impression on the political leaders of the coming generation. Curio, Cælius, Trebatius, Dolabella, Hirtius, and Pansa, who were Cæsar's lieutenants, in the years when their characters were forming and their political tendencies were being determined, were moulded by Cicero. They were warmly attached to him as their guide, philosopher, and friend, and they admired him as a writer, an orator, and an accomplished man of the world. Later they attached themselves to Cæsar, and while they were still under his spell, Cicero's influence over their political course does not seem to count for so much, but after Cæsar's death, the latent effect of Cicero's friendship and teaching makes itself clearly felt in the heroic service which such men as Hirtius and Pansa rendered to the cause of the dying Republic. Possibly even Curio, had he been living, might have been found, after the Ides of March, fighting by the side of Cicero.

Perhaps there is no better way of bringing out the intimate relations which Curio and the other young men of this group bore to the orator than by translating one of Cicero's early letters to him. It was written in 53 B.C., when the young man was in Asia, just beginning his political career as quæstor, or treasurer, on the staff of the governor of that province, and reads:[119]

"Although I grieve to have been suspected of neglect by you, still it has not been so annoying to me that my failure in duty is complained of by you as pleasant that it has been noticed, especially since, in so far as I am accused, I am free from fault. But in so far as you intimate that you long for a letter from me, you disclose that which I know well, it is true, but that which is sweet and cherished--your love, I mean. In point of fact, I never let any one pass, who I think will go to you, without giving him a letter. For who is so indefatigable in writing as I am? From you, on the other hand, twice or thrice at most have I received a letter, and then a very short one. Therefore, if you are an unjust judge toward me, I shall condemn you on the same charge, but if you shall be unwilling to have me do that, you must show yourself just to me.

"But enough about letters; I have no fear of not satisfying you by writing, especially if in that kind of activity you will not scorn my efforts. I did grieve that you were away from us so long, inasmuch as I was deprived of the enjoyment of most delightful companionship, but now I rejoice because, in your absence, you have attained all your ends without sacrificing your dignity in the slightest degree, and because in all your undertakings the outcome has corresponded to my desires. What my boundless affection for you forces me to urge upon you is briefly put. So great a hope is based, shall I say, on your spirit or on your abilities, that I do not hesitate to beseech and implore you to come back to us with a character so moulded that you may be able to preserve and maintain this confidence in you which you have aroused. And since forgetfulness shall never blot out my remembrance of your services to me, I beg you to remember that whatever improvements may come in your fortune, or in your station in life, you would not have been able to secure them, if you had not as a boy in the old days followed my most loyal and loving counsels. Wherefore you ought to have such a feeling toward us, that we, who are now growing heavy with years, may find rest in your love and your youth."

In a most unexpected place, in one of Cicero's fiery invectives against Antony,[120] we come upon an episode illustrating his affectionate care of Curio during Curio's youth. The elder Curio lies upon a couch, prostrate with grief at the wreck which his son has brought on the house by his dissolute life and his extravagance. The younger Curio throws himself at Cicero's feet in tears. Like a foster-father, Cicero induces the young man to break off his evil habits, and persuades the father to forgive him and pay his debts. This scene which he describes here, reminds us of Curio's first appearance in Cicero's correspondence, where, with Curio's wild life in mind, he is spoken of as filiola Curionis.[121]

It is an appropriate thing that a man destined to lead so stormy a life as Curio did, should come on the stage as a leader in the wild turmoil of the Clodian affair. What brought the two Curios to the front in this matter as champions of Cicero's future enemy Clodius, it is not easy to say. It is interesting to notice in passing, however, that our Curio enters politics as a Democrat. He was the leader, in fact, of the younger element in that party, of the "Catilinarian crowd," as Cicero styles them, and arrayed himself against Lucullus, Hortensius, Messala, and other prominent Conservatives. What the methods were which Curio and his followers adopted, Cicero graphically describes.[122] They blocked up the entrances to the polling places with professional rowdies, and allowed only one kind of ballots to be distributed to the voters. This was in 61 B.C., when Curio can scarcely have been more than twenty-three years old.

In the following year Cæsar was back in Rome from his successful proprætorship in Spain, and found little difficulty in persuading Pompey and Crassus to join him in forming that political compact which controlled the fortunes of Rome for the next ten years. As a part of the agreement, Cæsar was made consul in 59 B.C., and forced his radical legislation through the popular assembly in spite of the violent opposition of the Conservatives. This is the year, too, of the candidacy of Clodius for the tribunate. Toward both these movements the attitude of Curio is puzzling. He reports to Cicero[123] that Clodius's main object in running for the tribunate is to repeal the legislation of Cæsar. It is strange that a man who had been in the counsels of Clodius, and was so shrewd on other occasions in interpreting political motives, can have been so deceived. We can hardly believe that he was double-faced toward Cicero. We must conclude, I think, that his strong dislike for Cæsar's policy and political methods colored his view of the situation. His fierce opposition to Cæsar is the other strange incident in this period of his life. Most of the young men of the time, even those of good family, were enthusiastic supporters of Cæsar. Curio, however, is bitterly opposed to him.[124] Perhaps he resented Cæsar's repression of freedom of speech, for he tells Cicero that the young men of Rome will not submit to the high-handed methods of the triumvirs, or perhaps he imbibed his early dislike for Cæsar from his father, whose sentiments are made clear enough by a savage epigram at Cæsar's expense, which Suetonius quotes from a speech of the elder Curio.[125] At all events he is the only man who dares speak out. He is the idol of the Conservatives, and is surrounded by enthusiastic crowds whenever he appears in the forum. He is now the recognized leader of the opposition to Cæsar, and a significant proof of this fact is furnished at the great games given in honor of Apollo in the summer of 59. When Cæsar entered the theatre there was faint applause; when Curio entered the crowd rose and cheered him, "as they used to cheer Pompey when the commonwealth was safe."[126] Perhaps the mysterious Vettius episode, an ancient Titus Oates affair, which belongs to this year, reflects the desire of the triumvirs to get rid of Curio, and shows also their fear of his opposition. This unscrupulous informer is said to have privately told Curio of a plot against the life of Pompey, in the hope of involving him in the meshes of the plot. Curio denounced him to Pompey, and Vettius was thrown into prison, where he was afterward found dead, before the truth of the matter could be brought out. Of course Curio's opposition to Cæsar effected little, except, perhaps, in drawing Cæsar's attention to him as a clever politician.

To Curio's quæstorship in Asia reference has already been made. It fell in 53 B.C., and from his incumbency of this office we can make an approximate estimate of his date of birth. Thirty or thirty-one was probably the minimum age for holding the quæstorship at this time, so that Curio must have been born about 84 B.C. From Cicero's letter to him, which has been given above, it would seem to follow that he had performed his duties in his province with eminent success. During his absence from Rome his father died, and with his father's death one stimulating cause of his dislike for Cæsar may have disappeared. To Curio's absence in his province we owe six of the charming letters which Cicero wrote to him. In one of his letters of this year he writes:[127] "There are many kinds of letters, as you well know, but one sort, for the sake of which letter-writing was invented, is best recognized: I mean letters written for the purpose of informing those who are not with us of whatever it may be to our advantage or to theirs that they should know. Surely you are not looking for a letter of this kind from me, for you have correspondents and messengers from home who report to you about your household. Moreover, so far as my concerns go, there is absolutely nothing new. There are two kinds of letters left which please me very much: one, of the informal and jesting sort; the other, serious and weighty. I do not feel that it is unbecoming to adopt either of these styles. Am I to jest with you by letter? On my word I do not think that there is a citizen who can laugh in these days. Or shall I write something of a more serious character? What subject is there on which Cicero can write seriously to Curio, unless it be concerning the commonwealth? And on this matter this is my situation: that I neither dare to set down in writing that which I think, nor wish to write what I do not think."

The Romans felt the same indifference toward affairs in the provinces that we show in this country, unless their investments were in danger. They were wrapped up in their own concerns, and politics in Rome were so absorbing in 53 B.C. that people in the city probably paid little attention to the doings of a quæstor in the far-away province of Asia. But, as the time for Curio's return approached, men recalled the striking rôle which he played in politics in earlier days, and wondered what course he would take when he came back. Events were moving rapidly toward a crisis. Julia, Cæsar's daughter, whom Pompey had married, died in the summer of 54 B.C., and Crassus was defeated and murdered by the Parthians in 53 B.C. The death of Crassus brought Cæsar and Pompey face to face, and Julia's death broke one of the strongest bonds which had held these two rivals together. Cæsar's position, too, was rendered precarious by the desperate struggle against the Belgæ, in which he was involved in 53 B.C. In Rome the political pot was boiling furiously. The city was in the grip of the bands of desperadoes hired by Milo and Clodius, who broke up the elections during 53 B.C., so that the first of January, 52, arrived with no chief magistrates in the city. To a man of Curio's daring and versatility this situation offered almost unlimited possibilities, and recognizing this fact, Cicero writes earnestly to him,[128] on the eve of his return, to enlist him in support of Milo's candidacy for the consulship. Curio may have just arrived in the city when matters reached a climax, for on January 18, 52 B.C., Clodius was killed in a street brawl by the followers of Milo, and Pompey was soon after elected sole consul, to bring order out of the chaos, if possible.

Curio was not called upon to support Milo for the consulship, because Milo's share in the murder of Clodius and the elevation of Pompey to his extra-constitutional magistracy put an end to Milo's candidacy. What part he took in supporting or in opposing Pompey's reform legislation of 52 B.C., and what share he had in the preliminary skirmishes between Cæsar and the senate during the early part of 51, we have no means of knowing. As the situation became more acute, however, toward the end of the year, we hear of him again as an active political leader. Cicero's absence from Rome from May, 51 to January, 49 B.C., is a fortunate thing for us, for to it we owe the clever and gossipy political letters which his friend Cælius sent him from the capital. In one of these letters, written August 1, 51 B.C., we learn that Curio is a candidate for the tribunate for the following year, and in it we find a keen analysis of the situation, and an interesting, though tantaizingly brief, estimate of his character. Coming from an intimate friend of Curio, it is especially valuable to us. Cælius writes:[129] "He inspires with great alarm many people who do not know him and do not know how easily he can be influenced, but judging from my hopes and wishes, and from his present behavior, he will prefer to support the Conservatives and the senate. In his present frame of mind he is simply bubbling over with this feeling. The source and reason of this attitude of his lies in the fact that Cæsar, who is in the habit of winning the friendship of men of the worst sort at any cost whatsoever, has shown a great contempt for him. And of the whole affair it seems to me a most delightful outcome, and the view has been taken by the rest, too, to such a degree that Curio, who does nothing after deliberation, seems to have followed a definite policy and definite plans in avoiding the traps of those who had made ready to oppose his election to the tribunate--I mean the Lælii, Antonii, and powerful people of that sort." Without strong convictions or a settled policy, unscrupulous, impetuous, radical, and changeable, these are the qualities which Cælius finds in Curio, and what we have seen of his career leads us to accept the correctness of this estimate. In 61 he had been the champion of Clodius, and the leader of the young Democrats, while two years later we found him the opponent of Cæsar, and an ultra-Conservative. It is in the light of his knowledge of Curio's character, and after receiving this letter from Cælius, that Cicero writes in December, 51 B.C., to congratulate him upon his election to the tribunate. He begs him "to govern and direct his course in all matters in accordance with his own judgment, and not to be carried away by the advice of other people." "I do not fear," he says, "that you may do anything in a fainthearted or stupid way, if you defend those policies which you yourself shall believe to be right.... Commune with yourself, take yourself into counsel, hearken to yourself, determine your own policy."

The other point in the letter of Cælius, his analysis of the political situation, so far as Curio is concerned, is not so easy to follow. Cælius evidently believes that Curio had coquetted with Cæsar and had been snubbed by him, that his intrigues with Cæsar had at first led the aristocracy to oppose his candidacy, but that Cæsar's contemptuous treatment of his advances had driven him into the arms of the senatorial party. It is quite possible, however, that an understanding may have been reached between Cæsar and Curio even at this early date, and that Cæsar's coldness and Curio's conservatism may both have been assumed. This would enable Curio to pose as an independent leader, free from all obligations to Cæsar, Pompey, or the Conservatives, and anxious to see fair play and safeguard the interests of the whole people, an independent leader who was driven over in the end to Cæsar's side by the selfish and factious opposition of the senatorial party to his measures of reform and his advocacy of even-handed justice for both Cæsar and Pompey.[130]

Whether Curio came to an understanding with Cæsar before he entered on his tribunate or not, his policy from the outset was well calculated to make the transfer of his allegiance seem forced upon him, and to help him carry over to Cæsar the support of those who were not blinded by partisan feelings. Before he had been in office a fortnight he brought in a bill which would have annulled the law, passed by Cæsar in his consulship, assigning land in Campania to Pompey's veterans.[131] The repeal of this law had always been a favorite project with the Conservatives, and Curio's proposal seemed to be directed equally against Cæsar and Pompey. In February of 50 B.C. he brought in two bills whose reception facilitated his passage to the Cæsarian party. One of them provided for the repair of the roads, and, as Appian tells us,[132] although "he knew that he could not carry any such measure, he hoped that Pompey's friends would oppose him so that he might have that as an excuse for opposing Pompey." The second measure was to insert an intercalary month. It will be remembered that before Cæsar reformed the calendar, it was necessary to insert an extra month in alternate years, and 50 B.C. was a year in which intercalation was required. Curio's proposal was, therefore, a very proper one. It would recommend itself also on the score of fairness. March 1 had been set as the day on which the senate should take up the question of Cæsar's provinces, and after that date there would be little opportunity to consider other business. Now the intercalated month would have been inserted, in accordance with the regular practice, after February 23, and by its insertion time would have been given for the proper discussion of the measures which Curio had proposed. Incidentally, and probably this was in Curio's mind, the date when Cæsar might be called upon to surrender his provinces would be postponed. The proposal to insert the extra month was defeated, and Curio, blocked in every move by the partisan and unreasonable opposition of Pompey and the Conservatives, found the pretext for which lie had been working, and came out openly for Cæsar.[133] Those who knew him well were not surprised at the transfer of his allegiance. It was probably in fear of such a move that Cicero had urged him not to yield to the influence of others, and when Cicero in Cilicia hears the news, he writes to his friend Cælius: "Is it possible? Curio is now defending Cæsar! Who would have expected it?--except myself, for, as surely as I hope to live, I expected it. Heavens! how I miss the laugh we might have had over it." Looking back, as we can now, on the political rôle which Curio played during the next twelve months, it seems strange that two of his intimate friends, who were such far-sighted politicians as Cicero and Cælius were, should have underestimated his political ability so completely. It shows Cæsar's superior political sagacity that he clearly saw his qualities as a leader and tactician. What terms Cæsar was forced to make to secure his support we do not know. Gossip said that the price was sixty million sesterces,[134] or more than two and a half million dollars. He was undoubtedly in great straits. The immense sums which he had spent in celebrating funeral games in honor of his father had probably left him a bankrupt, and large amounts of money were paid for political services during the last years of the republic. Naturally proof of the transaction cannot be had, and even Velleius Paterculus, in his savage arraignment of Curio,[135] does not feel convinced of the truth of the story, but the tale is probable.

It was high time for Cæsar to provide himself with an agent in Rome. The month of March was near at hand, when the long-awaited discussion of his provinces would come up in the senate. His political future, and his rights as a citizen, depended upon his success in blocking the efforts of the senate to take his provinces from him before the end of the year, when he could step from the proconsulship to the consulship. An interval of even a month in private life between the two offices would be all that his enemies would need for bringing political charges against him that would effect his ruin. His displacement before the end of the year must be prevented, therefore, at all hazards. To this task Curio addressed himself, and with surpassing adroitness. He did not come out at once as Cæsar's champion. His function was to hold the scales true between Cæsar and Pompey, to protect the Commonwealth against the overweening ambition and threatening policy of both men. He supported the proposal that Cæsar should be called upon to surrender his army, but coupled with it the demand that Pompey also should be required to give up his troops and his proconsulship. The fairness of his plan appealed to the masses, who would not tolerate a favor to Pompey at Cæsar's expense. It won over even a majority of the senate. The cleverness of his policy was clearly shown at a critical meeting of the senate in December of the year 50 B.C. Appian tells us the story:[136] "In the senate the opinion of each member was asked, and Claudius craftily divided the question and took the votes separately, thus: 'Shall Pompey be deprived of his command?' The majority voted against the latter proposition, and it was decreed that successors to Cæsar should be sent. Then Curio put the question whether both should lay down their commands, and twenty-two voted in the negative, while three hundred and seventy went back to the opinion of Curio in order to avoid civil discord. Then Claudius dismissed the senate, exclaiming: 'Enjoy your victory and have Cæsar for a master!'" The senate's action was vetoed, and therefore had no legal value, but it put Cæsar and Curio in the right and Pompey' s partisans in the wrong.

As a part of his policy of defending Cæsar by calling attention to the exceptional position and the extra-constitutional course of Pompey, Curio offset the Conservative attacks on Cæsar by public speeches fiercely arraigning Pompey for what he had done during his consulship, five years before. When we recall Curio's biting wit and sarcasm, and the unpopularity of Pompey's high-handed methods of that year, we shall appreciate the effectiveness of this flank attack.

Another weapon which he used freely was his unlimited right of veto as tribune. As early as April Cælius appreciated how successful these tactics would be, and he saw the dilemma in which they would put the Conservatives, for he writes to Cicero: "This is what I have to tell you: if they put pressure at every point on Curio, Cæsar will defend his right to exercise the veto; if, as seems likely, they shrink [from overruling him], Cæsar will stay [in his province] as long as he likes." The veto power was the weapon which he used against the senate at the meeting of that body on the first of December, to which reference has already been made. The elections in July had gone against Cæsar. Two Conservatives had been returned as consuls. In the autumn the senate had found legal means of depriving Cæsar of two of his legions. Talk of a compromise was dying down. Pompey, who had been desperately ill in the spring, had regained his strength. He had been exasperated by the savage attacks of Curio. Sensational stories of the movements of Cæsar's troops in the North were whispered in the forum, and increased the tension. In the autumn, for instance, Cæsar had occasion to pay a visit to the towns in northern Italy to thank them for their support of Mark Antony, his candidate for the tribunate, and the wild rumor flew to Rome that he had advanced four legions to Placentia,[137] that his march on the city had begun, and tumult and confusion followed. It was in these circumstances that the consul Marcellus moved in the senate that successors be sent to take over Cæsar's provinces, but the motion was blocked by the veto of Curio, whereupon the consul cried out: "If I am prevented by the vote of the senate from taking steps for the public safety, I will take such steps on my own responsibility as consul." After saying this he darted out of the senate and proceeded to the suburbs with his colleague, where he presented a sword to Pompey, and said: "My colleague and I command you to march against Cæsar in behalf of your country, and we give you for this purpose the army now at Capua, or in any other part of Italy, and whatever additional forces you choose to levy."[138] Curio had accomplished his purpose. He had shown that Pompey as well as Cæsar was a menace to the state; he had prevented Cæsar's recall; he had shown Antony, who was to succeed him in the tribunate, how to exasperate the senate into using coercive measures against his sacrosanct person as tribune and thus justify Cæsar's course in the war, and he had goaded the Conservatives into taking the first overt step in the war by commissioning Pompey to begin a campaign against Cæsar without any authorization from the senate or the people.

The news of the unconstitutional step taken by Marcellus and Pompey reached Rome December 19 or 20. Curio's work as tribune was done, and on the twenty-first of the month he set out for the North to join his leader. The senate would be called together by the new consuls on January 1, and since, before the reform in the calendar, December had only twenty-nine days, there were left only eight days for Curio to reach Cæsar's head-quarters, lay the situation before him, and return to the city with his reply. Ravenna, where Cæsar had his head-quarters, was two hundred and forty miles from Rome. He covered the distance, apparently, in three days, spent perhaps two days with Cæsar, and was back in Rome again for the meeting of the senate on the morning of January 1. Consequently, he travelled at the rate of seventy-five or eighty miles a day, twice the rate of the ordinary Roman courier.

We cannot regret too keenly the fact that we have no account of Curio's meeting with Cæsar, and his recital to Cæsar of the course of events in Rome. In drawing up the document which was prepared at this conference, Cæsar must have been largely influenced by the intimate knowledge which Curio had of conditions in the capital, and of the temper of the senate. It was an ultimatum, and, when Curio presented it to the senate, that body accepted the challenge, and called upon Cæsar to lay down his command on a specified date or be declared a public enemy. Cæsar replied by crossing the border of his province and occupying one town after another in northern Italy in rapid succession. All this had been agreed upon in the meeting between Curio and Cæsar, and Velleius Paterculus[139] is probably right in putting the responsibility for the war largely on the shoulders of Curio, who, as he says, brought to naught the fair terms of peace which Cæsar was ready to propose and Pompey to accept. The whole situation points to the conclusion that Cæsar did not desire war, and was not prepared for it. Had he anticipated its immediate outbreak, he would scarcely have let it arise when he had only one legion with him on the border, while his other ten legions were a long distance away.

From the outset Curio took an active part in the war which he had done so much to bring about, and it was an appropriate thing that the closing events in his life should have been recorded for us by his great patron, Cæsar, in his narrative of the Civil War. On the 18th or 19th of January, within ten days of the crossing of the Rubicon, we hear of his being sent with a body of troops to occupy Iguvium,[140] and a month later he is in charge of one of the investing camps before the stronghold of Corfinium.[141] With the fall of Corfinium, on the 21st of February, Cæsar's rapid march southward began, which swept the Pompeians out of Italy within a month and gave Cæsar complete control of the peninsula. In that brilliant campaign Curio undoubtedly took an active part, for at the close of it Cæsar gave him an independent commission for the occupation of Sicily and northern Africa. No more important command could have been given him, for Sicily and Africa were the granaries of Rome, and if the Pompeians continued to hold them, the Cæsarians in Italy might be starved into submission. To this ill-fated campaign Cæsar devotes the latter half of the second book of his Civil War. In the beginning of his account of it he remarks: "Showing at the outset a total contempt for the military strength of his opponent, Publius Attius Varus, Curio crossed over from Sicily, accompanied by only two of the four legions originally given him by Cæsar, and by only five hundred cavalry."[142] The estimate which Cælius had made of him was true, after all, at least in military affairs. He was bold and impetuous, and lacked a settled policy. Where daring and rapidity of movement could accomplish his purpose, he succeeded, but he lacked patience in finding out the size and disposition of the enemy's forces and calmness of judgment in comparing his own strength with that of his foe. It was this weakness in his character as a military leader which led him to join battle with Varus and Juba's lieutenant, Saburra, without learning beforehand, as he might have done, that Juba, with a large army, was encamped not six miles in the rear of Saburra. Curio's men were surrounded by the enemy and cut down as they stood. His staff begged him to seek safety in flight, but, as Cæsar writes,[143] "He answered without hesitation that, having lost the army which Cæsar had entrusted to his charge, he would never return to look him in the face, and with that answer he died fighting."

Three years later the fortunes of war brought Cæsar to northern Africa, and he traversed a part of the region where Curio's luckless campaign had been carried on. With the stern eye of the trained soldier, he marked the fatal blunders which Curio had made, but he recalled also the charm of his personal qualities, and the defeat before Utica was forgotten in his remembrance of the great victory which Curio had won for him, single-handed, in Rome. Even Lucan, a partisan of the senate which Curio had flouted, cannot withhold his admiration for Curio's brilliant career, and his pity for Curio's tragic end. As he stands in imagination before the fallen Roman leader, he exclaims:[144] "Happy wouldst thou be, O Rome, and destined to bless thy people, had it pleased the gods above to guard thy liberty as it pleased them to avenge its loss. Lo! the noble body of Curio, covered by no tomb, feeds the birds of Libya. But to thee, since it profiteth not to pass in silence those deeds of thine which their own glory defends forever 'gainst the decay of time, such tribute now we pay, O youth, as thy life has well deserved. No other citizen of such talent has Rome brought forth, nor one to whom the law would be indebted more, if he the path of right had followed out. As it was, the corruption of the age ruined the city when desire for office, pomp, and the power which wealth gives, ever to be dreaded, had swept away his wavering mind with sidelong flood, and the change of Curio, snared by the spoils of Gaul and the gold of Cæsar, was that which turned the tide of history. Although mighty Sulla, fierce Marius, the blood-bespattered Cinna, and all the line of Cæsar's house have held our throats at their mercy with the sword, to whom was e'er such power vouchsafed? All others bought, he sold the state."













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the common people of rome
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