Rome During the Later Republic (Serapis Classics) - A. H. J. Greenridge - ebook

Rome During the Later Republic (Serapis Classics) ebook

A. H. J. Greenridge



The period of Roman history on which we now enter is, like so many that had preceded it, a period of revolt, directly aimed against the existing conditions of society and, through the means taken to satisfy the fresh wants and to alleviate the suddenly realised, if not suddenly created, miseries of the time, indirectly affecting the structure of the body politic. The difference between the social movement of the present and that of the past may be justly described as one of degree, in so far as there was not a single element of discontent visible in the revolution commencing with the Gracchi and ending with Caesar that had not been present in the earlier epochs of social and political agitation...

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

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

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

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

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

A tendency to treat the city as the home, the country only as a means of refreshment and a sphere of elegant retirement during that portion of the year when the excitement of the urban season, its business and its pleasure, were suspended, began to be a marked feature of the life of the upper classes. The man of affairs and the man of high finance were both compelled to have their domicile in the town, and, if agriculture was still the staple or the supplement of their wealth, the needs of the estate had to be left to the supervision of the resident bailiff.[19] This concentration of the upper classes in the city necessarily entailed a great advance in the price and rental of house property within the walls. It is true that the reckless prices paid for houses, especially for country villas, by the grandees and millionaires of the next generation,[20] had not yet been reached; but the indications with which we are furnished of the general rise of prices for everything in Rome that could be deemed desirable by a cultivated taste,[21] show that the better class of house property must already have yielded large returns, whether it were sold or let, and we know that poor scions of the nobility, if business or pleasure induced them to spend a portion of the year in Rome, had soon to climb the stairs of flats or lodgings.[22] The pressure for room led to the piling of storey on storey. On The roof of old houses new chambers were raised, which could be reached by an outside stair, and either served to accommodate the increased retinue of the town establishment or were let to strangers who possessed no dwelling of their own;[23] the still larger lodging-houses or "islands," which derived their name from their lofty isolation from neighbouring buildings,[24] continued to spring up, and even private houses soon came to attain a height which had to be restrained by the intervention of the law. An ex-consul and augur was called on by the censors of 125 to explain the magnitude of a villa which he had raised, and the altitude of the structure exposed him not only to the strictures of the guardians of morals but to a fine imposed by a public court.[25] Great changes were effected in the interior structure of the houses of the wealthy—changes excused by a pardonable desire for greater comfort and rendered necessary both by the growing formality of life and the large increase in the numbers of the resident household, but tending, when once adopted, to draw the father of the family into that most useless type of extravagance which takes the form of a craze for building. The Hall or Atrium had once been practically the house. It opened on the street. It contained the family bed and the kitchen fire. The smoke passed through a hole in the roof and begrimed the family portraits that looked down on the members of the household gathered round the hearth for their common meal. The Hall was the chief bedroom, the kitchen, the dining-room and the reception room, and it was also the only avenue from the street to the small courtyard at the back. The houses of the great had hitherto differed from those of the poor chiefly in dimensions and but very slightly in structure. The home of the wealthy patrician had simply been on a larger scale of primitive discomfort; and if his large parlour built of timber could accommodate a vast host of clients, the bed and the cooking pots were still visible to every visitor. The chief of the early innovations had been merely a low portico, borrowed from the Greeks by the Etruscans and transmitted by them to Rome, which ran round the courtyard, was divided into little cells and chambers, and served to accommodate the servants of the house.[26] But now fashion dictated that the doorway should not front the street but should be parted from it by a vestibule, in which the early callers gathered before they were admitted to the hall of audience. The floor of the Atrium was no longer the common passage to the regions at the back, but a special corridor lying either on one or on both sides of the Hall[27] led past the Study or Tablinum, immediately behind it, to the inner court beyond. Even the sanctity of the nuptial couch could not continue to give it the publicity which was irksome to the taste of an age which had acquired notions of the dignity of seclusion, of the comfort that was to be found in retirement, and of the convenience of separating the chambers that were used for public from those which were employed for merely private purposes. The chief bedrooms were shifted to the back, and the sides of the courtyard were no longer the exclusive abode of the dependants of the household. The common hearth could no longer serve as the sphere of the culinary operations of an expensive cook with his retinue of menials; the cooking fire was removed to one of the rooms near the back-gate of the house, which finally became an ample kitchen replete with all the imported means of satisfying the growing luxury of the table; and the member of the family loitering in the hall, or the visitor admitted through its portals, was spared the annoyances of strong smells and pungent smoke. The Roman family also discovered the discomfort of dining in a large and scantily furnished room, not too well lit and accessible to the intrusions of the chance domestic and the caller. It was deemed preferable to take the common meal in a light and airy upper chamber, and the new type of Coenaculum satisfied at once the desire for personal comfort and for that specialisation in the use of apartments which is one of the chief signs of an advancing material civilisation. The great hall had become the show-room of the house, but even for this purpose its dimensions proved too small. Such was the quantity of curios and works of art collected by the conquering or travelled Roman that greater space was needed for the exhibition of their rarity or splendour. This space was gained by the removal from the Atrium of all the domestic obstacles with which it had once been cumbered. It might now be made slightly smaller in its proportion to the rest of the house and yet appear far more ample than before. The space by which its sides were diminished could now be utilised for the building of two wings or Alae, which served the threefold purpose of lighting the hall from the sides, of displaying to better advantage, as an oblong chamber always does, the works of art which the lord of the mansion or his butler[28] displayed to visitor or client, and lastly of serving as a gallery for the family portraits, which were finally removed from the Atrium, to be seen to greater advantage and in a better light on the walls of the wings. These now displayed the family tree through painted lines which connected the little shrines holding the inscribed imagines of the great ancestors of the house.[29] It is also possible that the Alae served as rooms for more private audiences than were possible in the Atrium.[30] From the early morning crowd which thronged the hall individuals or groups might have been detached by the butler, and led to the presence of the great statesman or pleader who paced the floor in the retirement of one of these long side-galleries. [31] Business of a yet more private kind was transacted in the still greater security of the Tablinum, the archive room and study of the house. Here were kept, not only the family records and the family accounts, but such of the official registers and papers as a magistrate needed to have at hand during his year of office.[32] The domestic transaction of official business was very large at Rome, for the State had given its administrators not even the skeleton of a civil service, and it was in this room that the consul locked himself up with his quaestor and his scribes, as it was here that, as a good head of the family and a careful business man, he carefully perused the record of income and expenditure, of gains and losses, with his skilled Greek accountant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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