Roman Imperialism - Tenney Frank - ebook

My purpose in the following pages has been to analyze, so far as the fragmentary sources permit, the precise influences that urged the Roman republic toward territorial expansion. Imperialism, as we now use the word, is generally assumed to be the national expression of the individual's "will to live." If this were always true, a simple axiom would suffice to explain every story of conquest. I venture to believe, however, that such an axiom is too frequently assumed, particularly in historical works that issue from the continent, where the overcrowding of population threatens to deprive the individual of his means of subsistance unless the united nation makes for itself "a place in the sunlight." Old-world political traditions also have taught historians to accept territorial expansion as a matter of course. For hundreds of years the church, claiming universal dominion, proclaimed the doctrine of world-empire; the monarchs of the Holy Roman Empire and of France reached out for the inheritance of ancient Rome; the dynastic families, which could hold their own in a period of such doctrine only by the possession of strong armies, naturally employed those armies in wars of expansion. It is not surprising, therefore, that continental writers, at least, should assume that the desire to possess must somehow have been the mainspring of action whether in the Spanish-American war or the Punic wars of Rome. However, the causes of territorial growth cannot in every given instance be reduced to so simple a formula. Let us imagine a people far removed from the economic pressure as well as the political traditions of modern Europe, an agricultural people, not too thickly settled and not egged on by commercial ambitions; a republic in which the citizens themselves must vote whether or not to proclaim a war and in voting affirmatively must not only impose upon themselves the requisite war tax -- a direct tribute -- but must also go from the voting booths to the recruiting station and enroll in the legions; a republic, moreover, in which the directing power is vested in a group of a few hundred nobles, suspicious of the prestige that popular heroes gain in war and fearful of a military power that might overthrow its control. In such a nation are there not enough negative cross currents to neutralize the positive charge that rises from the blind instinct to acquire? Such a nation was the Roman republic.

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Tenney Frank


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Copyright © 2015 by Tenney Frank

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ISBN: 9781518352201























ROME IS SITUATED ABOUT FOURTEEN miles from the ancient coast line of the Mediterranean upon the low hills bordering the navigable Tiber. The Latian plain, which the city commands, stretches from the Tiber to the Volscian hills, and from the Sabine ridges to the sea; it may be crossed in either direction in a brisk day’s walk. The soil of the plain is productive. It is largely composed of disintegrating tufa and lava which flowed from surrounding volcanoes during the Tertiary period. Since, however, the land of central Latium is rolling, and consequently erodes quickly, whereas the basic tufa is comparatively hard and disintegrates very slowly, the arable soil is apt to wash away when stripped for long periods by the ax and plow. Nevertheless, the whole plain is so superior in productivity to the ragged limestone ridges which border it that its inhabitants were doubtless often compelled to defend their title by force of arms.

Before the Indo-European tribes reached central Italy, Latium was possessed by a race of unknown origin, men of short stature and dark complexion, who had not yet learned the use of metallic implements. They are usually classed as members of the Mediterranean race. The Indo-European invaders began to enter Italy from the north and east during the third millennium B.C., and continued to come in wave after wave until they mastered the greater part of Italy. In the marshes of the Po valley the sites of the earlier of these immigrants can still be identified in the peculiarly formed “terremare” or “pile-dwellings.” From a somewhat later period date the “Villanova” cemeteries of Umbria and Tuscany, which have yielded archæologists so rich a fund of treasure. It was doubtless a branch of this immigrating race which took possession of Latium some time before the millennium that ended with the birth of Christ.

The peoples of the terremare introduced the use of bronze implements and weapons into Italy. They employed most of the domestic animals and cultivated many of the cereals and fruits which were found in Italy in Cato’s day. The men of the Villanova settlements were workers in iron also, and adorned their utensils and weapons with many pleasing, though simple, designs. Even though the excavations in Latium have as yet proved unsatisfactory, we can hardly doubt that the immigrant tribe which took possession of the lower Tiber valley was also far advanced in the arts of a stable agricultural people.

How these invading Aryans disposed of the previous possessors we do not know. In view of the facts that the Romans of historical times practiced inhumation by the side of cremation, that they employed several different marriage ceremonies, and that their language contains a large number of words not of Aryan extraction, it would be futile to insist that the invading Aryan tribe kept itself free from racial contamination. It is more likely that the victors, after having overcome all armed opposition, incorporated the remaining inhabitants, chiefly women and children of course, into their own tribe. If this be true, the Roman people were a mixed race whose chief elements were immigrant Aryans and conquered non-Aryans. However this may be, certainly the predominant element was Aryan, for the Latin language is a close relative of Greek and of Celtic. The names of the more primitive deities, e.g. Jupiter, Janus, Diana, Saturnus, Vesta, Volcanus, Neptunus, contain Indo-European bases, and the characteristic institutions of family, tribe, and city are unmistakably Aryan in type.

By occupation the early Latins must have been shepherds and farmers, as, in fact, their ancestors had been before them, if the conditions revealed by the “terramara” and “Villanova” cemeteries may be drawn upon for evidence. The language of the Romans fairly smells of the soil: egregius, putare, planum facere, saeculum, felix, are all metaphors borrowed from the fields. Many of their noble families bear names like Fabius, Piso, Lentulus, and almost all the gods of the oldest calendar, the di indigetes, the hierarchy of Saturnus and Robigus ("Seed-god” and “Rust-god"), were spirits worshiped by farmer and shepherd. The gods of arts and crafts and commerce, Apollo, Minerva, and Mercury, find no place there. Remarkably few traces of elaborate craftsmanship in Latium, native or borrowed, have been discovered, although the Etruscan towns near by are storehouses of Oriental and Egyptian ware. Apparently the roving instincts of a commercial people, as well as the nervous impulses of a manufacturing folk, were absent or dormant south of the Tiber. These people knew nothing of seacraft, for in their native vocabulary most of the words needed by seafarers are lacking. Nor were they notably warlike. Their army organization was in almost all respects borrowed from their neighbors, and they did not learn the art of making strong fortifications until the Etruscans introduced it from the East. We may infer that they had not extended their conquests far afield during prehistoric times, otherwise they would have come into territorial contact with the Greeks of Cumæ in a way that must have introduced the arts of Greek civilization into Rome. It is apparent, therefore, that for centuries the Latins were a quiet, unwarlike, non-expanding, agricultural and pastoral people, and that, before the day when Etruscan conquests began to overcrowd central Italy, they had little call to resort to arms except to defend their flocks from the occasional raids of the Sabellic tribes which possessed less desirable land.

Regarding the early political institutions of the Latin tribe, we have only meager data, but there is little reason to believe that the city-state system which prevailed in historic times had long endured. Such a system is not usually found in conjunction with social conditions as primitive as those which must have prevailed in early Latium; for it tends to disintegrate tribal unity by creating strong centers of population. Now we know that the Latin tribe must have long remained a political unit, for no part of it developed a special dialect, and the worship of Jupiter Latiaris, the deity who dwelt upon Latium’s highest hill, was recognized throughout the tribe. Harmony was indeed an absolute necessity of existence, since the tribe was small, possessed land much coveted, and was surrounded by hungry hill tribes ready at any moment to take advantage of civil jealousies in Latium. If we keep this fact in mind, we shall understand the import of the so-called Latin league. This league, according to the Roman historians, was based upon a compact formed by the Latian city-states for mutual protection. Such may have been its character in historical times, but it must have existed as a mere tribal union based upon feeling of kinship and common religion long before it was ever expressed in writing. Its origin in fact lies simply in the aboriginal tribal government of the Latin gens. What we may suppose, then, is that the Aryan invaders who took possession of Latium settled the land in village communities, as indeed most Aryan tribes have done in other parts of Europe, that they built their small clusters of houses together on convenient hills, farming the adjacent lands in common, and that the tribal government embraced all the villages of Latium. Such was the system of settlement still in vogue among the kindred hill tribes of Italy at a much later date. And if we attribute this system to Latium for the earlier period, we may understand the source of the tradition repeated by Pliny, that Latium once had fifty cities. It may well be that when the Etruscan invasion rendered life in the unprotected villages precarious, many of them were abandoned, and only such survived as lent themselves to ready fortification. The inhabitants of the many vici thus drifted into a few strong cities, and nothing remained of the numerous villages but the vanishing names of their shrines. Out of these names grew the legend that Latium had once been a land of many cities. Common ownership of land also gave way to private possession, perhaps during the same time of stress — at least at an early date — for the decemviral code of the fifth century already recognizes free testamentary right, a right which presupposes a considerable development from the first recognition of private ownership.

In the social fabric of this early population a fairly rigid caste system came into existence, a record of which has survived in the well-known words “patrician” and “plebeian.” The origin of this class system is still an unsolved problem. The Romans themselves thought it political, that, in fact, Romulus had chosen certain elders as senators and that the descendants of these distinguished men were the nobility of Rome. But Romulus has now vanished from serious history, and, even if he had not, we should have to explain the nature of the success which designated these men as worthy of the distinction. The most widely accepted view discovers a basis for the distinction between plebeian and patrician in the racial differences of the conquered inhabitants and the victorious invaders, — a view which seems to receive the support of a good historical parallel in the Norman conquest of England. In searching the evidence for a conquest that might have created this difference, critics have referred to the original invasion of the Aryan tribe, to the temporary subjection of parts of Latium by the Etruscans, which apparently took place during the sixth century B.C., and to the partial conquest by the Sabine tribes recorded by a doubtful tradition. Suffice it to say, however, that every attempt to prove that there were racial differences between patricians and plebeians, whether in ritual and ceremony, or in national traits, has been wholly unconvincing. It would seem that the people who met in prehistoric Latium were still in the social condition in which race amalgamation is quickly accomplished.

It seems futile to search further for evidence of racial differences. A more satisfactory explanation is suggested by the fact that economic conditions were such in Latium as readily to create class distinctions. In the first place, the land varied greatly in productivity. The Alban hills are high enough to attract a greater rainfall than the Latian plain secures, while the lands beneath the Sabine and Roman hills are aided by subsoil moisture from mountain springs. These things gave certain farmers a great advantage over others, since the dry season in Latium is normally very long. Secondly, since the central plains were quickly washed bare of soil if kept constantly exposed by cultivation, the farmers who persisted in agriculture in such places must have found themselves reduced to a precarious existence. The cure for the evil lay in using such fields for winter grazing and acquiring summer pasturage on higher and less parched ground. But this remedy required both large capital and native wit. Under the circumstances it was inevitable that some men became lords of extended fields and persons of influence in the state, while others were reduced to economic and political dependence upon them. Eventually, the influential men took the legal steps necessary to secure predominance for themselves and their descendants; they stereotyped the caste system by ordaining that they alone, the patricii, could hold offices of state, they alone could consult the auspices in behalf of the city, and that their ranks should not be contaminated by intermarriage with plebeians.

There is, however, a striking peculiarity in Rome’s caste system which deserves attention. In other states under conditions resembling those of early Latium, economic laws usually worked without check until a feudal system grew up in which the lower class was reduced to serfdom. Such serfs were the helots of Sparta, Crete, Thessaly, and other states of early Greece, the subject tenants of ancient Egypt and of medieval Europe. In early Rome the plebeians seem never to have become serfs; they were not, so far as we know, bound to the soil. This circumstance may be due to a certain sense of equity which is so prominent a characteristic in the legislation of this people. But it is more likely that local conditions saved the Romans from the paralyzing effects of a feudal system. A period of Etruscan rule checked the normal development of oligarchy at Rome, and, after the nobility succeeded in ridding itself of this, new methods of warfare had been introduced which made a real feudal system obsolete. The old — we may say the Homeric — military methods of single combat were being displaced. On the north the Etruscans had introduced the Greek armor and hoplite army. On the south, the Greek colonies were teaching the new methods to the neighboring Italic tribes. The Roman nobles were therefore compelled in self-defense to discard their ancient manner of warfare and to form solid legions for which the inclusion of the plebeian soldier was a necessity. But in bringing the plebeian host into the line they made it aware of its own worth and gave it an opportunity to demand political rights. Tradition is probably near the truth when it asserts that the populace of Rome saved its civil rights and won political privilege by means of military boycotts. But whatever it was that saved Rome from the feudal system, which established itself for a period at least in almost all other ancient states, the fact that she did escape is very important to an understanding of her later military successes.

Finally, the peculiar characteristics of the Roman people can be noticed in various legal institutions which it is well to bear in mind from the very beginning. A sense of fair play and a respect for legal orderliness permeates the whole early history of this people. The Romans were always unusually liberal in their practice of emancipating slaves and of giving the privileges of citizenship to freed slaves, whereas the Greeks consistently refused to incorporate freedmen into the citizen body. Again, the Romans early established a distinct court of equity — that of the praetor peregrinus — for cases in which foreigners were involved, so that strangers who did not know the Roman mos maiorum might find equitable treatment in their business dealings with citizens. Of the same general nature is the ancient custom of prohibiting the sale and employment of debtor slaves within the borders of Latium, and the practice of exacting a treaty of federation from conquered enemies rather than a proof of subjection in the form of tribute.

Most striking of all is the fetial institution, an institution which has a special significance for the study of Roman imperialism, since it reveals the spirit of Rome’s ius belli as nothing else can. From time immemorial a semipolitical, priestly board existed whose province it was to supervise the rites peculiar to the declaration of war and the swearing of treaties, and which formed, as it were, a court of first instance in such questions of international disputes as the proper treatment of envoys and the execution of extradition. When any complaint arose that a neighboring tribe had committed an act of war it was the duty of this board to investigate the matter for the senate, and, if it found the complaint just, to send its herald to the offending state with a demand for restitution. His formula reads: “If I unjustly or impiously demand that the aforesaid offenders be surrendered, then permit me not to return to my country.” If restitution was not made, a respite of thirty days was given, after which the herald notified the offending states that force would be used, employing the following formula: “Hear me, Jupiter and Quirinus, and all other gods, I call you to witness that this nation is unjust and does not duly practice righteousness; and our elders will consider by what measures we may secure our dues.” The same fetial board supervised the rites of treaty making at the conclusion of wars, using the following form of oath: “If the Roman people break this treaty, then do thou, Jupiter, so strike down the Roman people as I now strike this offering, and so much harder as thou art stronger.”

Now if the practices of the fetial board were observed in good faith, it is apparent that peace must have been the normal international status assumed between Rome and her neighbors, and that war was considered justifiable only on the score of an unjust act, — for example, the breach of a treaty, a direct invasion, or the aiding of an enemy. None of the phrases or formulæ of the fetials presupposes for a moment the conception of international policies that possessed Solon when he advocated conquest for the sake of national glory, or Aristotle when he justified the subjugation of barbarians on the score of national superiority, or that actuated oriental nations to fight for the extension of their religion, or modern statesmen to employ war as a means of furthering commercial interests. The early Roman practice rested rather upon the naïve assumption that tribes and states, being collections of individuals, must conduct themselves with justice and good faith, even as individuals.

Of course, no one would make the claim that the fetial rule invariably secured justice. Grievances usually appear more serious to the offended than to the offender, and a casus belli can readily be discovered when intertribal enmity reaches the breaking point through an accumulation of petty offenses, or through natural antipathy. But the important point after all is the fact established by the existence of this institution that the Roman mos maiorum did not recognize the right of aggression or a desire for more territory as just causes for war. That the institution was observed in good faith for centuries there can be little doubt. The use of flint implements in the ceremonies proves that it dated from the earliest times. The fact that Jupiter, who was guardian of the solemn fetial oath, was also the supreme deity of all the tribes adjacent to Latium must have tended toward a careful observance of the terms covered by the oath. In these circumstances the Romans could hardly imagine themselves as the god’s favorite people, possessing an exclusive monopoly of his protective power in the event that they chose to disregard the treaties which he had been called upon to witness. Finally, the respect that neighboring peoples showed for Rome’s pledge of faith during the Punic war and the high praise which Polybius, the first Greek observer of Roman institutions, accords the Roman rules of warfare, testify to the fact that the fetial law was by no means a dead letter in historical times.

Now we need not suppose that it was a peculiar predisposition for morality that induced the Romans to inaugurate this important custom. Law and order were particularly profitable in Latium, which was a plain much coveted by the tribes who eked out a scanty livelihood upon the Sabine and Volscian ridges. It is a commonplace that tribes of the plains have always discovered the advantages of peace before the highlanders. For centuries conditions were such that the Latins had all to lose and little to gain by recognizing practices of brigandage and lawlessness. They accordingly reached the conviction naturally that neighboring tribes must dwell in peace, that brigandage must be suppressed, and that the rules of equitable dealing which are observed by well-balanced individuals must also hold between neighboring tribes. And if their less fortunately blessed neighbors did not understand this perfectly apparent truism, they were ready to issue their quos ego! through the mouth of the fetial priest. Whatever the origin of the institution, it had a profound influence upon Rome’s international dealings, for it encouraged a calm deliberateness of action and spread the respect of Rome’s word, two factors which combined to make Rome’s organizing power irresistible.



IN THE PRECEDING CHAPTER WE have dealt with the institutions and practices of the whole Latin tribe rather than with those of Rome, for the imperial city was not yet a separate political power. In fact, it would seem that the Latins acted in unison under tribal laws and customs for centuries before disintegrating forces set to work to elevate one community above the rest. And even when certain cities sprang up and began to gain predominance over large parts of the tribe, feelings of kinship, respect for common worship, and fear of common enemies still continued for added centuries to preserve a certain unity of action within the tribe. In this chapter we shall observe how Rome becomes the strongest city within the league.

Roman tradition preserved in the first book of Livy presents a very circumstantial account of the several battles by which Rome supposedly razed the Latin cities one after another until she was supreme mistress of the Tiber valley. Needless to say, if the Latin tribe had lived in such civil discord as legend assumes, it would quickly have succumbed to the inroads of the mountain tribes, which were eagerly watching for opportunities to raid. Of course legend had to account somehow for the abandoned shrines and old place names scattered over Latium, and being unable to comprehend the slower processes of civilization, it took a more picturesque route, attached a rumor of war to a hero’s name, and made the villages disappear in fire and blood. How the original village communities were actually absorbed by cities growing up in more favorable locations can be illustrated by the transformation of various parts of Italy and Sicily in more recent times, when, in order to escape the brigandage which they were unable to suppress, the peasants abandoned their small villages and crowded together in a few well-fortified hill cities, even though by so doing they were compelled to live several miles away from their own fields. Something of the same nature must have occurred in central Italy when, during the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., the rapidly expanding Etruscan people began crowding the Sabellic tribes in upon Latium, and finally pushed their own way over the Tiber. The villages upon the plains had to be abandoned, since they could not be made defensible, and as a result, communities like Rome, Tibur, Præneste, and Aricia, which could readily be fortified, and which had an unfailing water supply within their walls, secured an accretion of population and grew into strong cities. It is to this redistribution and the aggregation of the population at certain favored points that we trace the beginnings of the Latin city-states. Before long, when these new cities made up their contingent in the tribal army, they became aware of their own power, and then they began to exert this power in the furtherance of such policies as favored their own interests. Henceforth they acted more and more as individual units, regardless of the wishes of kindred cities.

A further step toward the dissolution of the tribe was taken when the Etruscans eventually secured a foothold in various parts of Latium. The mystery surrounding this interesting people is only now yielding in some small measure to patient research. It seems that about the eighth century an Oriental tribe, once closely connected with Babylonia, came overseas, settled upon the Italian coast north of the Tiber, and subdued a part of the Umbrians, mingling with them in marriage. There are several ancient sites, e.g. at Tarquinii, Clusium, and Volci, where it is evident that the “Villanova” cemeteries ceased to be used in the eighth and seventh centuries. In the immediate vicinity of these cemeteries new ones sprang up containing rock-tombs made for the inhumation of the dead. This change clearly records the arrival of the Etruscan conquerors, who built their splendid cities upon the sites of the subjugated Umbrians, and the new race, half Oriental, half Italic, spread with such remarkable rapidity that before the sixth century it had taken possession of all that region of western Italy which lies between the Tiber and the Alps. Presently various groups, pushing southward, succeeded in gaining a strong foothold in the richest part of Campania. Orthodox Roman historians never admitted that the Etruscans conquered Latium, but archæological evidence of a temporary occupation of parts at least of this territory is now fairly overwhelming. Many of the military practices and some of the political and religious ceremonies of historical Rome are demonstrably Etruscan. A large number of the old family names that appear in the early legends have Etruscan bases. The great Capitoline temple was built in the Etruscan style, and the conception of deity itself — of gods possessing human form and living in temples — seems to have come from Etruria, for the native Latin deities were spirits which manifested themselves in varying shapes and aspects. Tusculum surely must have been a city of Etruscan foundation, if the name has any real significance. Etruscan remains are found in abundance at Palestrina and Velletri, and the remains of an Etruscan temple have been discovered on the ancient site of Satricum, between Alba and the sea. Finally, the Emperor Claudius, an antiquarian of wide reading, records the fact that the ancient Etruscan authorities identified the Roman king, Servius Tullius, with an Etruscan prince, Mastarna; and this identification seems to be confirmed by an Etruscan tomb painting of about 400 B.C., which represents Mastarna slaying a Roman chieftain, a chieftain who, furthermore, is represented as surrounded by an Etruscan bodyguard. To be sure, each individual piece of evidence might be explained as indicating nothing more than a temporary commercial and military contact, but the cumulative effect of the whole mass is so great that the historian must at least admit the likelihood of a brief period of political domination.

Now in order to understand the effect of this conquest upon Rome and Latium, it becomes necessary to take into account the methods of procedure of the Etruscans. These strange conquerors seem to have operated in a manner peculiar to themselves. They had apparently come overseas in ships and in relatively small numbers. Mere bands of adventurers, they subjugated city after city, pressing the native population into service as subject clients. They did not destroy the cities they found, but took possession, organized the populace into effective armies, grafted their own ceremonies upon the native religion without wholly displacing it, introduced new architectural and artistic methods, developed crafts and commerce for their own profit, levied tribute on their subjects and thus transformed the cities of the conquered into strongholds of their princely power. The effect of such a conquest upon various Latian cities, including Rome, must have been revolutionary. Consciousness of tribal unity in Latium could not but suffer severely after several of the more important cities had fallen into the power of separate non-Latin princes, each of whom was concerned solely with the development of his particular possession. There can be little doubt that the overlords of the cities attempted to extend the boundaries of their own power as far as possible, and it is not at all improbable that some of the Latin communities in the vicinity of Rome were taken by her and destroyed during this period of regal Etruscan domination. The persistent tradition of Rome’s destruction of Alba, a place which seems to have been the center of the old tribal worship of Latium, can thus be explained, and can hardly be explained in any other way. At any rate, owing to the combined effects of the slow natural process of city growth which had early set in, and the aggressive policy of the Etruscan princes, Rome, by the beginning of the fifth century, when the foreigners were finally driven beyond the Tiber, had become the metropolis of almost a third of the Latian plain.

It is not probable that the Etruscan domination lasted more than a generation or two, or that it ever brought a large number of Etruscans into Rome, for the Latin language suffered very little contamination, and there is no evidence that new deities were introduced, even though new ceremonies were taught. Moreover, excavations have laid bare relatively few objects of Etruscan workmanship or style within Rome, and we know that all important political institutions remained Latin in type after the departure of the strangers.

The revolution which drove the foreign lords out of Latiu m was probably that which tradition places in the year 509 and credits to the efforts of Brutus to avenge the disgrace of Lucretia upon the tyrant Tarquin the Proud. What truth there is in this picturesque legend we shall never know, but we may well believe that the date is not far from right, for nations have always proved to be fairly tenacious of the dates which mark their most important revolutions. The contest itself had a twofold cause, if we may judge from subsequent events. It was partly a patriotic uprising of the Latin peoples against foreign rulers, since Etruscan influences seem to disappear from the whole of Latium about this time, and since we find the Latins again acting in harmony afterwards. Partly, in Rome at least, it must have been a movement led by the aristocracy against a monarchical rule which, relying upon the support of the populace, oppressed the nobles. This we may infer from the fact that the new government formed after the revolution was strictly oligarchic in character, recognizing the political rights of the patricians only.

At the beginning of Rome’s republican period the situation of the Latin peoples was as follows. The Latin tribe, although Latium was now broken up into a few city-states, again worked in harmony in face of a common danger. Its strongest cities were Rome, on the Tiber; Præneste and Tibur on the Sabine slopes, guarding the eastern edge of the plain; Tusculum and Aricia, holding the central Alban ridge; Laurentum, Ardea, Antium, and Tarracina, commanding the coast-lands. On the north of the Tiber were several Etruscan towns, notably Cære, Clusium, and Veii, whose princes long entertained the ambition of regaining the possessions in Latium which they had lost. On the east, in the Apennine hills, were several Sabellic tribes, ever on the watch for booty. The Æqui, on the southeast, were constantly using the Trerus valley as a convenient raiding route into Latium. On the south, in the Volscian mountains, that broken-off spur of the Apennines now called the Lepini, lived the hardy Volscian peoples. They held several strongly fortified cities, like Cora, Norba, Setia, and Privemum, upon the heights and sought to extend their possessions in the fertile plains which bordered upon the Latian fields. The Sabines, the Æqui, and the Volsci were tribes closely akin to the Latins in origin, and spoke Italic dialects that might, without great difficulty, be understood by the Latins. But it is probable that all consciousness of kinship had been lost in the centuries of separation, and that the pressure of economic circumstances had made each tribe the natural enemy of every other. Latium was obviously the goal for all of them, and her people, under the constant pressure from without, slowly developed an endurance and an organizing faculty which eventually, when aggressively applied, proved irresistible.

When the Latins had rid themselves of the Etruscan princes, they next met their common enemy of the south, the Volsci, and, taking possession of several of their strongholds, planted Latin colonies upon the captured sites. This event is significant because it inaugurates a scheme of colonization which was later adopted by Rome as the corner stone of her federal policy. A Latin colony, then as later, was composed of citizens of the various Latin cities, and it became at once a member in full standing of the league of Latin cities. It therefore served as an outpost of the league, protecting the frontier and, since its citizens were drawn from all the members of the league, as a unifying factor within that body itself. This colonization is furthermore significant because it proves that after the disturbing Etruscan element had been removed the Latins were again ready to act in harmony. The sites selected for settlement were excellently chosen: Signia commanded the Trerus valley, the gateway of the Æqui, and Velitræ and Norba, the fertile plain behind the Alban hills. This plain, to be sure, is to-day marshy and malarial, and was so in Cicero’s time, and many visitors who have seen Norba’s extensive walls have wondered how the marshy valley below could have supported so large a city. The explanation apparently lies in the fact that the Lepini, which now stand so bare and ragged, were probably covered by forests in Volscian days. When later the inhabitants began exploiting these forests, the usual results of deforestation ensued. Rains washed down the soil, choking up the streams with torrents of alluvium, and, once the water had gathered in stagnant pools, the malaria-bearing anopheles invaded the region with the disastrous effect apparent to-day. But this destruction of the fertile plain seems not to have been an immediate result of the Roman colonization, for the land was still considered very valuable a century and a half later. Deforestation probably dates from a time when timber nearer Rome had been used up and lumber merchants, in order to supply the needs of the metropolis, were obliged to resort to the Volscian mountains.

After the successful colonization of Signia, Velitræ, and Norba, the league met with severe reversals. Just why the league should have failed to hold its own at this time we are not told. Perhaps it had been weakened past quick recovery by the wars of the Etruscan revolutions, or perhaps the aristocracy, which was now in power at Rome, proved unable or unwilling to carry on the successful military leadership which that city had acquired under the aggressive foreign princes. Certain it is that the Æqui, whose native home was in central Italy, succeeded in making their way down the valley between Præneste and the Hernican towns and in seizing Labici and Tusculum on the very Alban hills, while the Volsci swept past the new colony of Norba, which they completely isolated by taking Velitræ, Ardea, and all the seacoast from Antium to Tarracina. In other words, the league lost fully a third of its territory and population. The loss, however, was in some measure compensated for by the fact that the advances of the Æqui and Volsci so endangered the existence of the Hernican tribe southeast of Latium that it made common cause with the Latins. From this time on these two tribes acted in harmony against the common enemy.

The recovery of the ground which they had lost proved a tedious task for the Latins. Diodorus, who generally follows an earlier — and therefore less interpolated — tradition than Livy, gives the following steps in the process. Tusculum was retaken from the Æqui in 480, Labici in 418, and Bola in 415. By the end of the century, therefore, the Æqui had been driven back over the Trerus valley into their mountain fastnesses. Ardea was retaken from the Volsci and settled as a Latin colony in 442, Tarracina was recovered by the league in 406, and Velitræ recolonized in 404. It is probable, however, that many of the Volscian inhabitants were left in possession of their lands, since pro-Volscian sympathies repeatedly came into evidence in the region south of the Alban hills later, and a Volscian inscription has been found at Velitræ.

It is apparent that these gains, losses, and recoveries of territory concerned the Latin league as a whole. Rome had doubtless shared in all the contests, but had not, so far as we know, been subjected to any alterations in her own boundaries. It was, however, much to her advantage that by her position she had been saved from the harrowing raids visited upon the other Latins, and we may therefore assume that the fifth century ended with a balance of advantages in her favor.

At the opening of the fourth century we find the Romans engaged on their own account in a mortal struggle with Veii, an Etruscan city twelve miles north of Rome and an old-time enemy. This city, if we may judge from the remains, was at one time fully as large as Rome. Its fortifications were certainly as good, its territory was equally extensive, and the personal wealth of its citizens was probably greater. The struggle is said to have lasted eleven years. When the Romans finally won they incorporated the enemy’s territory into the Roman city-state, dividing it into four Roman wards, and reallotting it in small citizen holdings, a procedure which seems to indicate that Rome did not here have the support of the league, and that the league’s constitution at this time was so loose that individual members might carry on wars independently.

A very important result of this victory was that it doubled Rome’s territory, making her without question the largest city-state in Latium. Another result, ultimately of far- reaching consequence, was that the allotment of the extensive Veian territory in small holdings immensely increased the force of the Roman army, since soldiers of the line had to be men of property. Finally, since the allotment of land placed a fair competence in the hands of hitherto uninfluential plebeians, it gave an irresistible impetus to the democratic movement. In fact, within twenty years after the distribution of this land the plebeians gained the right to hold the highest office of state. The importance of this circumstance for the question of Roman imperialism lies in the fact that in the future it was usually the democratic element at Rome which favored a policy of expansion.

The conquest of Veii was, however, followed by a disaster that nearly destroyed Rome. A Gallic horde from the Po region made a successful raid through Etruria, defeated the Roman army at Allia in 387, sacked and burned the greater part of Rome, and laid siege to the Capitoline fort, the only portion of the city that remained standing. Fortunately the invaders were recalled by the urgent necessity of defending their own homes before they had succeeded in capturing the Roman citadel. They accordingly bargained for as high a price of ransom as possible and departed well laden with booty.

The city therefore survived, but it was for the time being terribly weakened, not only in resources, but also in prestige, and Rome’s old enemies, the Volsci and Æqui, naturally chose this occasion to renew their raids upon Latium, and some of the Latin cities, apparently through a growing dread of Rome’s supremacy, seem to have made terms with the enemy. At least Præneste is placed in the list of Rome’s foes by our best authority. The enemy, however, was repulsed and new Latin colonies were placed at Satricum (385) and at Setia (382) in territory wrested from the Volsci. An invading troop of Æqui was also repulsed, after which these people disappear from Latium.

The next forty years was a period of ferment within the league, caused apparently by the mutual jealousies of the various city-states, and especially by their common jealousy of Rome, now rapidly repairing the losses of 387. Rome’s rapid growth is not difficult to explain. Her citizens had been taught valuable lessons in arts and crafts, in trade and political organization, by the Etruscan princes, and had received from them an ambition and impetus which they had not before possessed. The recent doubling of Rome’s territory enabled the city to absorb a far greater population than hitherto. Rome had a fairly safe harbor which attracted traders from Sicily, Carthage, and Etruria, and by commanding a bridge over the Tiber she became the natural emporium for the products of both sides of the river. Rome thus offered the amenities of a more heterogeneous urban life than other Latin cities could afford, and the races of Italy have always been sociable. When we add that Latin immigrants to the city immediately secured all the civil rights of citizens because of their common membership in the Latin tribe, we can readily understand how Rome might attract the surplusage of Latian population and grow doubly fast at the expense of less favorably situated or less progressive communities.

But this rapid growth could only have created a consciousness of superiority at Rome and a feeling of envy and insecurity among the other league members. The resulting discord was aggravated, moreover, by increasingly divergent social ideals which made it difficult for the Latins to understand one another. The accumulation of wealth, and the new advance in political and military ideas growing out of highly diversified activities developed new practices in the leading city that could hardly have arisen in the smaller villages. For instance, Rome, because of her rapid material progress, had early recognized free testamentary rights, a proof of an advanced conception of civil law. She was already breaking up her caste system by a series of tribunician compromises and entering upon a career of liberal politics with which the rest of Latium could hardly sympathize. Furthermore, in her contact at the harbor with Greek, Carthaginian, and Etruscan traders, Rome had learned many new lessons in the school of diplomacy through the necessity of making trading treaties with men of higher civilization — lessons which the cities of the interior had no opportunity of learning. Naturally the force of the old feeling that kinship of blood, worship, and language constituted the sole bond of friendship and alliance — a feeling so persistent with primitive peoples — must have been diminished at Rome. The Romans soon discovered that political and trading alliances — alliances carved on stone and based only upon a mutual consent dictated by considerations of common advantage — rather than of reputed kinship — were the rule among civilized peoples. In fact they conceived the idea of reducing the ancient tribal understanding to writing, thus placing the Latin alliance on the same plane as any other treaty. After that had been done, the pact became a mere record of the duties and privileges between bargaining states; the old bond of sentiment disappeared; the letter of the agreement took the place of the spirit. Obviously the days of the old Latin league were numbered. The actual written treaty, inscribed upon a metallic column which stood in the Roman forum in Cicero’s day, was by no means a simple expression of the old tribal customs of co- operation. This treaty in fact recognized Rome, not as unus inter pares, but as the equal of all the other Latin cities combined. Rome signed as one of the two parties to the agreement, and therefore became practically the leader of the league. Nor were Rome’s powers of expansion curtailed, for although the treaty stipulated that both parties must call out their forces in defense of any invaded city, it did not prevent either party from conducting a war on its own account. The alliance also perpetuated the old practice of dividing the booty among league-members, an important point, since it thereby preserved the custom of creating Latin colonies upon territory taken in any war conducted by the league.

There are several fairly well-authenticated events of the half century before the final disruption of the league which indicate the trend of its fortunes. The fact that in 383-2 two Latin colonies, Sutrium and Nepet, were planted north of Rome’s newly acquired Veian lands seems to prove that Rome at that time was willing to let herself be completely surrounded by Latin communities, that, in other words, she had no idea of ever extending her own territory farther, and that the oligarchy then in power was exercising the conservatism for which it was always noted. But shortly after 367, the year in which the plebeians succeeded in winning their long-fought battle for the privilege of holding the consulship, a policy of expansion set in, a policy doubtless to be explained by the new democratic influences at work in Rome. In 357 Rome and the Etruscan city, Falerii, went to war, with the result that a few years later an alliance was made between that city and Rome, in which apparently the league had no part. Other individual alliances of a similar character were signed (354) with the Samnites, at that time the most powerful people of Italy, and (348) with the Carthaginians. But the most striking proof that Rome was ready to extend her own influence apart from that of the league was her formation of two new city wards (tribus), the Publilia and the Pomptina, in the very center of the Latin possessions below Norba, thus creating a Roman island, as it were, severed from the old ager Romanus by a wide strip of Latian territory. How this came about we do not know, and we hear of no dissatisfaction at the act. It may be that there was still unallotted Volscian land in that region which Rome secured by friendly agreements or in payment for good services. The important point, however, is that Rome was now ready to extend the confines of the city-state a considerable distance from home. Such readiness to expand may well have made the Latins apprehensive, and, what is more pertinent, the presence of Romans on the southern confines of Latium could not but bring within the Roman sphere of interest the region that had hitherto concerned the Latins alone. Rome immediately became a neighbor of the Aurunci, and presently (345) found herself involved in disagreeable complications with them. In order to support her claims she had to send her armies across Latin territory, and within a few years the whole of Latium was up in arms against Rome.



DURING THE CENTURIES WHEN THE Latin group was struggling to hold its own and adjusting itself to new internal conditions, the rest of Italy was experiencing great changes. The Etruscans, arriving about the eighth century, had, by the sixth, mastered most of western Italy from the Alps to Naples. Then Celtic invaders had taken most of north Italy from them; Latium had driven them out of its cities; and, finally, in the fifth century, Samnite mountain tribes had taken Capua from them. The Etruscans were thenceforth confined to the land that later bore their name, Etruria. The mountainous central Italy was all the while held by the rapidly growing tribe of Safini, commonly known as Samnites. These peoples quickly spread southward through the Apennines. Each new horde of them, advancing into a separate valley, severed from the rest by some mountain ridge, adopted a distinct name and soon developed its own dialect, its own customs and traditions apart from the kindred tribes. In historical times we find in the separate valleys of the central Apennines the Marsi, Pæligni, Prætuttii, Vestini, Marrucini, and Sabini, — all hardy clans of this same stock. The group which kept the Samnite name spread through the south-central mountains; then a part of them went westward over the fertile Campania, where they drove out the Etruscans from Capua, the Greeks from Cumæ, and with surprising readiness adopted the life of their new neighbors, the Greeks of Naples. Other branches of the same race pushed on into southern Italy, and under the name of Hirpini, Lucani, Bruttii, and Mamertini populated the land as far as the very Greek cities of the southern coast.

These tribes were all jealous of their liberty, courageous in battle, and persistent in defense, and might well have become the possessors of the whole of Italy, if they could have been united. But the mountain barriers which divided them precluded the preservation of tribal unity. The separate groups soon lost consciousness of their kinship with one another, and in the fourth century, the Samnites of the mountains are constantly found plundering their more fortunate Campanian brethren.

It was a struggle between the Samnites and the Campanians that finally involved Rome in extra-Latian politics and induced her to make her first defensive alliance of far-reaching consequences. The Campanians — or Capuani, as the Greeks called them from their city — were, as we have seen, Samnites in origin, and at this time they had lived in the plain not more than a century. But they possessed the richest land of Italy, land which, because of favorable climate and the practicability of irrigation, yielded three crops of garden produce per year. Besides, the nearness of Naples and Pompeii with good harbors insured the people a profitable market. In a word, they had grown very wealthy and possessed a city which was probably as large as Rome. In their success, however, they seem to have grown indolent, neglecting their army, and exposing themselves to the onslaught of the mountaineers. What they needed was a strong ally whose power would be more respected than their own. Rome was just such a state, but Rome was one hundred and forty miles away, separated from Capua by the Volsci and Aurunci. What could have induced the Romans to form entangling alliances so far afield it is now difficult to comprehend. Perhaps her statesmen argued that it would be desirable to have friends beyond their ancient foe, the Volsci, and their new enemy, the Aurunci. They may also have been looking for friends in case the Latins should some day break out into revolt against the terms of the Cassian treaty. At any rate, the alliance was made, and with serious consequences to both signatories, for it imposed upon Rome the duty of policing the frontier of the unruly Samnite tribes and aggravated the discord with the Latins, while on the other hand it subjected the Capuans to the orders of a strong power soon destined to overshadow them.

The Roman historians say that Capua purchased this aid at the price of her own independence and that Rome sent her armies into Campania to help drive the Samnite mountaineers back. The former statement seems to be incorrect, for later events indicate that Capua remained an independent state. The latter statement, though probable, has been doubted because Diodorus makes no mention of it. This, however, is no adequate reason for doubt, since Diodorus omits several important battles from his narrative of the events of this period. However, it concerns us little whether there was or was not a “first Samnite war.” The main facts remain undisputed that after the year 340 Rome had a very vital interest in her alliance with Capua and that in her efforts to secure her Campanian interests she was soon involved in wars which did not end until she was mistress of the greater part of Italy.

The first of these wars came in 340 with the revolt of the Latins, a civil outbreak the causes of which are not far to seek. Community of interest had long been waning, and it disappeared entirely when the Gauls ceased to threaten central Italy after 348. The danger to Latin independence that lay in Rome’s possession of the Pomptine and Publilian wards near Norba became apparent when Roman troops marched through Latium against the Aurunci in 345. And now that Rome had become the arbiter of nations as far south as Capua the position of the Latin allies was growing intolerable. The allies, of course, were compelled by the terms of the league-treaty to aid Rome in war, and so although every new alliance that Rome made gained her individually an increase of prestige and new practical advantages, it merely involved the Latins in further obligations and potential wars. Rome’s maneuvers, moreover, practically tied the hands of the Latins, for they dared not attempt to increase their domain at the expense of Rome’s new allies. Rome had, to be sure, only exerted her full rights throughout her new course of diplomatic expansion, but the Latins had all unwittingly been put into a vise by her course, and unless they were ready to become helpless subject villages without ambitions for the future, they must struggle to break the old treaty and demand terms dictated by the lessons of recent experience. Rome naturally declined to hear of a substitution of new terms, and war broke out. The Latins were aided, as was to be expected, by some of the Volsci and Aurunci, and also by some of the Campanians. The latter were probably not citizens of Capua, but a branch that lived on the Falernian fields near the Aurunci, and that may have been displeased with the Romano-Campanian alliance.

When it came to the actual contest the Latins found themselves in bitter discord and without efficient leadership, the penalty of having followed Rome’s dictates for so long. Diodorus informs us that the Romans decisively defeated the disaffected allies at Sinuessa in 340. The several cities laid down their arms one by one, and the war was completely over when Antium yielded in 338.

But the details of this contest are of little importance compared with its results: the political reorganization of the defeated allies by some far-sighted statesmen, who, for the first time in history, showed how a republican city-state might build a world-empire, and who thus shaped a policy that endured for centuries. The central idea of this statesmanship was that a prudent liberality should bind the conquered and the conqueror for the sake of their mutual interests. Its method was to remove as quickly as possible all the disabilities usually entailed by subjection and by carefully graduated stages to elevate the subject to full citizenship and thereby arouse patriotic interest in a common national welfare. The idea dominating Greek states that conquerors had a perpetual right to a parasitical life at the expense of the conquered, an idea which precluded a healthy and permanent growth of the state, was rejected entirely at Rome. A more revolutionary policy history can hardly display. The specific methods evolved for the appropriate incorporation of the defeated states were in each case adapted to the behavior, the position, the strength, the race, the capacity for Roman civilization, and the remoteness of the particular tribe or city concerned.

The nearest Latin towns like Nomentum, Tusculum, Aricia, and Lanuvium were incorporated in the Roman state outright, but were at the same time allowed to continue their former municipal government. These were municipalities (municipia) with full Roman citizenship.

A temporary probationary stage of citizenship was devised for towns that contained a less friendly population, like Velitræ, which was half Volscian, and for cities farther off, whose loyalty was not yet tried, like the Auruncan Fundi and Formiæ. Such peoples were given citizenship at Rome which entailed regular citizen service in Rome’s army; though, on the other hand, they were denied the right to vote or to hold office at Rome. To these cities Rome sent a prefect to administer Roman law. Cities of this class were called civitates sine suffragio — Roman municipalities without suffrage. All of them were sooner or later, according to their individual behavior, elevated to full citizenship.

For most of the Latin cities a modified form of the old Latin-league alliance was provided, and such socii Latini nominis remained nominally on the same footing as Rome. This type of federation which put upon the cities no outward evidence of their subjection was, of course, highly respectable and eagerly accepted. The reasons for bestowing it varied in specific cases. The old Latin colonies (Signia, Norba, Setia, Circeii, Ardea, Sutrium, and Nepet) secured the advantage because they had partly been settled by former Roman citizens and had doubtless given little encouragement to the Latin revolt. Rome was afterwards so pleased with the behavior of these colonies that for centuries to come she adopted the Latin colonization scheme as her own favorite device for holding doubtful frontiers. In this same class of “Latin cities” were placed Tibur and Præneste, two cities which were still so strong that they were able to dictate favorable terms for themselves. The treaty given this class was called a foedus aequum, “an alliance on terms of equality,” and it stipulated mutual aid in time of danger. But it must have been apparent to the cities that, since they individually were far inferior in strength to Rome and since Rome’s interests in foreign affairs now extended much beyond theirs, the allied armies would in the future fight the battles of Rome, not those of the allies. This disadvantage was inherent in the nature of the case, not in any wording of the treaties. One disability, however, was actually imposed by Rome. In order that the Latin cities which retained their old position might at the same time not retain the old esprit of the Latin league and unite once more against Rome, they were bound for an indefinite term to sever certain commercial relations and rights of intermarriage with each other, while keeping them with Rome. When the purpose of this imposition had been attained, the clause was struck out.