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The Mediterranean Sea with its various branches, penetrating far into the great Continent, forms the largest gulf of the ocean, and, alternately narrowed by islands or projections of the land and expanding to considerable breadth, at once separates and connects the three divisions of the Old World. The shores of this inland sea were in ancient times peopled by various nations belonging in an ethnographical and philological point of view to different races, but constituting in their historical aspect one whole. This historic whole has been usually, but not very appropriately, entitled the history of the ancient world. It is in reality the history of civilization among the Mediterranean nations; and, as it passes before us in its successive stages, it presents four great phases of development—the history of the Coptic or Egyptian stock dwelling on the southern shore, the history of the Aramaean or Syrian nation which occupied the east coast and extended into the interior of Asia as far as the Euphrates and Tigris, and the histories of the twin-peoples, the Hellenes and Italians, who received as their heritage the countries on the European shore. Each of these histories was in its earlier stages connected with other regions and with other cycles of historical evolution; but each soon entered on its own distinctive career. The surrounding nations of alien or even of kindred extraction—the Berbers and Negroes of Africa, the Arabs, Persians, and Indians of Asia, the Celts and Germans of Europe—came into manifold contact with the peoples inhabiting the borders of the Mediterranean, but they neither imparted unto them nor received from them any influences exercising decisive effect on their respective destinies. So far, therefore, as cycles of culture admit of demarcation at all, the cycle which has its culminating points denoted by the names Thebes, Carthage, Athens, and Rome, may be regarded as an unity. The four nations represented by these names, after each of them had attained in a path of its own a peculiar and noble civilization, mingled with one another in the most varied relations of reciprocal intercourse, and skilfully elaborated and richly developed all the elements of human nature. At length their cycle was accomplished. New peoples who hitherto had only laved the territories of the states of the Mediterranean, as waves lave the beach, overflowed both its shores, severed the history of its south coast from that of the north, and transferred the centre of civilization from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean. The distinction between ancient and modern history, therefore, is no mere accident, nor yet a mere matter of chronological convenience. What is called modern history is in reality the formation of a new cycle of culture, connected in several stages of its development with the perishing or perished civilization of the Mediterranean states, as this was connected with the primitive civilization of the Indo-Germanic stock, but destined, like the earlier cycle, to traverse an orbit of its own. It too is destined to experience in full measure the vicissitudes of national weal and woe, the periods of growth, of maturity, and of age, the blessedness of creative effort in religion, polity, and art, the comfort of enjoying the material and intellectual acquisitions which it has won, perhaps also, some day, the decay of productive power in the satiety of contentment with the goal attained. And yet this goal will only be temporary: the grandest system of civilization has its orbit, and may complete its course but not so the human race, to which, just when it seems to have reached its goal, the old task is ever set anew with a wider range and with a deeper meaning...
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Copyright © 2016 by Theodor Mommsen
Published by Perennial Press
Interior design by Pronoun
Distribution by Pronoun
CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION
CHAPTER II: THE EARLIEST MIGRATIONS INTO ITALY
CHAPTER III: THE SETTLEMENT OF THE LATINS
CHAPTER IV: THE BEGINNINGS OF ROME
CHAPTER V: THE ORIGINAL CONSTITUTION OF ROME
CHAPTER VI: THE NON-BURGESSES AND THE REFORMED CONSTITUTION
CHAPTER VII: THE HEGEMONY OF ROME IN LATIUM
CHAPTER VIII: THE UMBRO-SABELLIAN STOCKS – BEGINNINGS OF THE SAMNITES
CHAPTER IX: THE ETRUSCANS
CHAPTER X: THE HELLENES IN ITAL – MARITIME SUPREMACY OF THE TUSCANS AND CARTHAGINIANS
CHAPTER XI: LAW AND JUSTICE
CHAPTER XII: RELIGION
CHAPTER XIII: AGRICULTURE, TRADE AND COMMERCE
CHAPTER XIV: MEASURING AND WRITING
CHAPTER XV: ART
TABLE OF CALENDAR EQUIVALENTS—A. U. C vs. B. C.
The Period Anterior to the Abolition of the Monarchy
—Ta palaiotera saphos men eurein dia chronou pleithos adunata ein ek de tekmeirion on epi makrotaton skopounti moi pisteusai xumbainei ou megala nomizo genesthai oute kata tous polemous oute es ta alla.—
The Mediterranean Sea with its various branches, penetrating far into the great Continent, forms the largest gulf of the ocean, and, alternately narrowed by islands or projections of the land and expanding to considerable breadth, at once separates and connects the three divisions of the Old World. The shores of this inland sea were in ancient times peopled by various nations belonging in an ethnographical and philological point of view to different races, but constituting in their historical aspect one whole. This historic whole has been usually, but not very appropriately, entitled the history of the ancient world. It is in reality the history of civilization among the Mediterranean nations; and, as it passes before us in its successive stages, it presents four great phases of development—the history of the Coptic or Egyptian stock dwelling on the southern shore, the history of the Aramaean or Syrian nation which occupied the east coast and extended into the interior of Asia as far as the Euphrates and Tigris, and the histories of the twin-peoples, the Hellenes and Italians, who received as their heritage the countries on the European shore. Each of these histories was in its earlier stages connected with other regions and with other cycles of historical evolution; but each soon entered on its own distinctive career. The surrounding nations of alien or even of kindred extraction—the Berbers and Negroes of Africa, the Arabs, Persians, and Indians of Asia, the Celts and Germans of Europe—came into manifold contact with the peoples inhabiting the borders of the Mediterranean, but they neither imparted unto them nor received from them any influences exercising decisive effect on their respective destinies. So far, therefore, as cycles of culture admit of demarcation at all, the cycle which has its culminating points denoted by the names Thebes, Carthage, Athens, and Rome, may be regarded as an unity. The four nations represented by these names, after each of them had attained in a path of its own a peculiar and noble civilization, mingled with one another in the most varied relations of reciprocal intercourse, and skilfully elaborated and richly developed all the elements of human nature. At length their cycle was accomplished. New peoples who hitherto had only laved the territories of the states of the Mediterranean, as waves lave the beach, overflowed both its shores, severed the history of its south coast from that of the north, and transferred the centre of civilization from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean. The distinction between ancient and modern history, therefore, is no mere accident, nor yet a mere matter of chronological convenience. What is called modern history is in reality the formation of a new cycle of culture, connected in several stages of its development with the perishing or perished civilization of the Mediterranean states, as this was connected with the primitive civilization of the Indo-Germanic stock, but destined, like the earlier cycle, to traverse an orbit of its own. It too is destined to experience in full measure the vicissitudes of national weal and woe, the periods of growth, of maturity, and of age, the blessedness of creative effort in religion, polity, and art, the comfort of enjoying the material and intellectual acquisitions which it has won, perhaps also, some day, the decay of productive power in the satiety of contentment with the goal attained. And yet this goal will only be temporary: the grandest system of civilization has its orbit, and may complete its course but not so the human race, to which, just when it seems to have reached its goal, the old task is ever set anew with a wider range and with a deeper meaning.
Our aim is to exhibit the last act of this great historical drama, to relate the ancient history of the central peninsula projecting from the northern continent into the Mediterranean. It is formed by the mountain-system of the Apennines branching off in a southern direction from the western Alps. The Apennines take in the first instance a south-eastern course between the broader gulf of the Mediterranean on the west, and the narrow one on the east; and in the close vicinity of the latter they attain their greatest elevation, which, however, scarce reaches the line of perpetual snow, in the Abruzzi. From the Abruzzi the chain continues in a southern direction, at first undivided and of considerable height; after a depression which formsa hill-country, it splits into a somewhat flattened succession of heights towards the south-east and a more rugged chain towards the south, and in both directions terminates in the formation of narrow peninsulas.
The flat country on the north, extending between the Alps and the Apennines as far down as the Abruzzi, does not belong geographically, nor until a very late period even historically, to the southern land of mountain and hill, the Italy whose history is here to engage our attention. It was not till the seventh century of the city that the coast-district from Sinigaglia to Rimini, and not till the eighth that the basin of the Po, became incorporated with Italy. The ancient boundary of Italy on the north was not the Alps but the Apennines. This mountain-system nowhere rises abruptly into a precipitous chain, but, spreading broadly over the land and enclosing many valleys and table-lands connected by easy passes, presents conditions which well adapt it to become the settlement of man. Still more suitable in this respect are the adjacent slopes and the coast-districts on the east, south, and west. On the east coast the plain of Apulia, shut in towards the north by the mountain-block of the Abruzzi and only broken by the steep isolated ridge of Garganus, stretches in a uniform level with but a scanty development of coast and stream. On the south coast, between the two peninsulas in which the Apennines terminate, extensive lowlands, poorly provided with harbours but well watered and fertile, adjoin the hill-country of the interior. The west coast presents a far-stretching domain intersected by considerable streams, in particular by the Tiber, and shaped by the action of the waves and of the once numerous volcanoes into manifold variety of hill and valley, harbour and island. Here the regions of Etruria, Latium, and Campania form the very flower of the land of Italy. South of Campania, the land in front of the mountains gradually diminishes, and the Tyrrhenian Sea almost washes their base. Moreover, as the Peloponnesus is attached to Greece, so the island of Sicily is attached to Italy—the largest and fairest isle of the Mediterranean, having a mountainous and partly desert interior, but girt, especially on the east and south, by a broad belt of the finest coast-land, mainly the result of volcanic action. Geographically the Sicilian mountains are a continuation of the Apennines, hardly interrupted by the narrow “rent” —Pegion—of the straits; and in its historical relations Sicily was in earlier times quite as decidedly a part of Italy as the Peloponnesus was of Greece, a field for the struggles of the same races, and the seat of a similar superior civilization.
The Italian peninsula resembles the Grecian in the temperate climate and wholesome air that prevail on the hills of moderate height, and on the whole, also, in the valleys and plains. In development of coast it is inferior; it wants, in particular, the island-studded sea which made the Hellenes a seafaring nation. Italy on the other hand excels its neighbour in the rich alluvial plains and the fertile and grassy mountain-slopes, which are requisite for agriculture and the rearing of cattle. Like Greece, it is a noble land which calls forth and rewards the energies of man, opening up alike for restless adventure the way to distant lands and for quiet exertion modes of peaceful gain at home.
But, while the Grecian peninsula is turned towards the east, the Italian is turned towards the west. As the coasts of Epirus and Acarnania had but a subordinate importance in the case of Hellas, so had the Apulian and Messapian coasts in that of Italy; and, while the regions on which the historical development of Greece has been mainly dependent—Attica and Macedonia—look to the east, Etruria, Latium, and Campania look to the west. In this way the two peninsulas, so close neighbours and almost sisters, stand as it were averted from each other. Although the naked eye can discern from Otranto the Acroceraunian mountains, the Italians and Hellenes came into earlier and closer contact on every other pathway rather than on the nearest across the Adriatic Sea, In their instance, as has happened so often, the historical vocation of the nations was prefigured in the relations of the ground which they occupied; the two great stocks, on which the civilization of the ancient world grew, threw their shadow as well as their seed, the one towards the east, the other towards the west.
We intend here to relate the history of Italy, not simply the history of the city of Rome. Although, in the formal sense of political law, it was the civic community of Rome which gained the sovereignty first of Italy and then of the world, such a view cannot be held to express the higher and real meaning of history. What has been called the subjugation of Italy by the Romans appears rather, when viewed in its true light, as the consolidation into an united state of the whole Italian stock—a stock of which the Romans were doubtless the most powerful branch, but still were only a branch.
The history of Italy falls into two main sections: (1) its internal history down to its union under the leadership of the Latin stock, and (2) the history of its sovereignty over the world. Under the first section, which will occupy the first two books, we shall have to set forth the settlement of the Italian stock in the peninsula; the imperilling of its national and political existence, and its partial subjugation, by nations of other descent and older civilization, Greeks and Etruscans; the revolt of the Italians against the strangers, and the annihilation or subjection of the latter; finally, the struggles between the two chief Italian stocks, the Latins and the Samnites, for the hegemony of the peninsula, and the victory of the Latins at the end of the fourth century before the birth of Christ—or of the fifth century of the city. The second section opens with the Punic wars; it embraces the rapid extension of the dominion of Rome up to and beyond the natural boundaries of Italy, the long status quo of the imperial period, and the collapse of the mighty empire. These events will be narrated in the third and following books.
Notes for Book I Chapter I
1. The dates as hereafter inserted in the text are years of the City (A.U.C.); those in the margin give the corresponding years B.C.
Primitive Races of Italy
We have no information, not even a tradition, concerning the first migration of the human race into Italy. It was the universal belief of antiquity that in Italy, as well as elsewhere, the first population had sprung from the soil. We leave it to the province of the naturalist to decide the question of the origin of different races, and of the influence of climate in producing their diversities. In a historical point of view it is neither possible, nor is it of any importance, to determine whether the oldest recorded population of a country were autochthones or immigrants. But it is incumbent on the historical inquirer to bring to light the successive strata of population in the country of which he treats, in order to trace, from as remote an epoch as possible, the gradual progress of civilization to more perfect forms, and the suppression of races less capable of, or less advanced in, culture by nations of higher standing.
Italy is singularly poor in memorials of the primitive period, and presents in this respect a remarkable contrast to other fields of civilization. The results of German archaeological research lead to the conclusion that in England, France, the North of Germany and Scandinavia, before the settlement of the Indo-Germans in those lands, there must have dwelt, or rather roamed, a people, perhaps of Mongolian race, gaining their subsistence by hunting and fishing, making their implements of stone, clay, or bones, adorning themselves with the teeth of animals and with amber, but unacquainted with agriculture and the use of the metals. In India, in like manner, the Indo-Germanic settlers were preceded by a dark-coloured population less susceptible of culture. But in Italy we neither meet with fragments of a supplanted nation, such as the Finns and Lapps in the Celto-Germanic domain and the black tribes in the Indian mountains; nor have any remains of an extinct primitive people been hitherto pointed out there, such as appear to be revealed in the peculiarly-formed skeletons, the places of assembling, and the burial mounds of what is called the stone-period of Germanic antiquity. Nothing has hitherto been brought to light to warrant the supposition that mankind existed in Italy at a period anterior to the knowledge of agriculture and of the smelting of the metals; and if the human race ever within the bounds of Italy really occupied the level of that primitive stage of culture which we are accustomed to call the savage state, every trace of such a fact has disappeared.
Individual tribes, or in other words, races or stocks, are the constituent elements of the earliest history. Among the stocks which in later times we meet with in Italy, the immigration of some, of the Hellenes for instance, and the denationalization of others, such as the Bruttians and the inhabitants of the Sabine territory, are historically attested. Setting aside both these classes, there remain a number of stocks whose wanderings can no longer be traced by means of historical testimony, but only by a priori inference, and whose nationality cannot be shown to have undergone any radical change from external causes. To establish the national individuality of these is the first aim of our inquiry. In such an inquiry, had we nothing to fall back upon but the chaotic mass of names of tribes and the confusion of what professes to be historical tradition, the task might well be abandoned as hopeless. The conventionally received tradition, which assumes the name of history, is composed of a few serviceable notices by civilized travellers, and a mass of mostly worthless legends, which have usually been combined with little discrimination of the true character either of legend or of history. But there is another source of tradition to which we may resort, and which yields information fragmentary but authentic; we mean the indigenous languages of the stocks settled in Italy from time immemorial. These languages, which have grown with the growth of the peoples themselves, have had the stamp of their process of growth impressed upon them too deeply to be wholly effaced by subsequent civilization. One only of the Italian languages is known to us completely; but the remains which have been preserved of several of the others are sufficient to afford a basis for historical inquiry regarding the existence, and the degrees, of family relationship among the several languages and peoples.
In this way philological research teaches us to distinguish three primitive Italian stocks, the Iapygian, the Etruscan, and that which we shall call the Italian. The last is divided into two main branches,—the Latin branch, and that to which the dialects of the Umbri, Marsi, Volsci, and Samnites belong.
As to the Iapygian stock, we have but little information. At the south-eastern extremity of Italy, in the Messapian or Calabrian peninsula, inscriptions in a peculiar extinct language(1) have been found in considerable numbers; undoubtedly remains of the dialect of the Iapygians, who are very distinctly pronounced by tradition also to have been different from the Latin and Samnite stocks. Statements deserving of credit and numerous indications lead to the conclusion that the same language and the same stock were indigenous also in Apulia. What we at present know of this people suffices to show clearly that they were distinct from the other Italians, but does not suffice to determine what position should be assigned to them and to their language in the history of the human race. The inscriptions have not yet been, and it is scarcely to be expected that they ever will be, deciphered. The genitive forms, -aihi- and -ihi-, corresponding to the Sanscrit -asya- and the Greek —oio—, appear to indicate that the dialect belongs to the Indo-Germanic family. Other indications, such as the use of the aspirated consonants and the avoiding of the letters m and t as terminal sounds, show that this Iapygian dialect was essentially different from the Italian and corresponded in some respects to the Greek dialects. The supposition of an especially close affinity between the Iapygian nation and the Hellenes finds further support in the frequent occurrence of the names of Greek divinities in the inscriptions, and in the surprising facility with which that people became Hellenized, presenting a striking contrast to the shyness in this respect of the other Italian nations. Apulia, which in the time of Timaeus (400) was still described as a barbarous land, had in the sixth century of the city become a province thoroughly Greek, although no direct colonization from Greece had taken place; and even among the ruder stock of the Messapii there are various indications of a similar tendency. With the recognition of such a general family relationship or peculiar affinity between the Iapygians and Hellenes (a recognition, however, which by no means goes so far as to warrant our taking the Iapygian language to be a rude dialect of Greek), investigation must rest content, at least in the meantime, until some more precise and better assured result be attainable.(2) The lack of information, however, is not much felt; for this race, already on the decline at the period when our history begins, comes before us only when it is giving way and disappearing. The character of the Iapygian people, little capable of resistance, easily merging into other nationalities, agrees well with the hypothesis, to which their geographical position adds probability, that they were the oldest immigrants or the historical autochthones of Italy. There can be no doubt that all the primitive migrations of nations took place by land; especially such as were directed towards Italy, the coast of which was accessible by sea only to skilful sailors and on that account was still in Homer’s time wholly unknown to the Hellenes. But if the earlier settlers came over the Apennines, then, as the geologist infers the origin of mountains from their stratification, the historical inquirer may hazard the conjecture that the stocks pushed furthest towards the south were the oldest inhabitants of Italy; and it is just at its extreme south-eastern verge that we meet with the Iapygian nation.
The middle of the peninsula was inhabited, as far back as trustworthy tradition reaches, by two peoples or rather two branches of the same people, whose position in the Indo-Germanic family admits of being determined with greater precision than that of the Iapygian nation. We may with propriety call this people the Italian, since upon it rests the historical significance of the peninsula. It is divided into the two branch-stocks of the Latins and the Umbrians; the latter including their southern offshoots, the Marsians and Samnites, and the colonies sent forth by the Samnites in historical times. The philological analysis of the idioms of these stocks has shown that they together constitute a link in the Indo-Germanic chain of languages, and that the epoch in which they still formed an unity is a comparatively late one. In their system of sounds there appears the peculiar spirant -f, in the use of which they agree with the Etruscans, but decidedly differ from all Hellenic and Helleno-barbaric races as well as from the Sanscrit itself. The aspirates, again, which are retained by the Greeks throughout, and the harsher of them also by the Etruscans, were originally foreign to the Italians, and are represented among them by one of their elements—either by the media, or by the breathing alone -f or -h. The finer spirants, -s, -w, -j, which the Greeks dispense with as much as possible, have been retained in the Italian languages almost unimpaired, and have been in some instances still further developed. The throwing back of the accent and the consequent destruction of terminations are common to the Italians with some Greek stocks and with the Etruscans; but among the Italians this was done to a greater extent than among the former, and to a lesser extent than among the latter. The excessive disorder of the terminations in the Umbrian certainly had no foundation in the original spirit of the language, but was a corruption of later date, which appeared in a similar although weaker tendency also at Rome. Accordingly in the Italian languages short vowels are regularly dropped in the final sound, long ones frequently: the concluding consonants, on the other hand, have been tenaciously retained in the Latin and still more so in the Samnite; while the Umbrian drops even these. In connection with this we find that the middle voice has left but slight traces in the Italian languages, and a peculiar passive formed by the addition of -r takes its place; and further that the majority of the tenses are formed by composition with the roots -es and -fu, while the richer terminational system of the Greeks along with the augment enables them in great part to dispense with auxiliary verbs. While the Italian languages, like the Aeolic dialect, gave up the dual, they retained universally the ablative which the Greeks lost, and in great part also the locative. The rigorous logic of the Italians appears to have taken offence at the splitting of the idea of plurality into that of duality and of multitude; while they have continued with much precision to express the relations of words by inflections. A feature peculiarly Italian, and unknown even to the Sanscrit, is the mode of imparting a substantive character to the verb by gerunds and supines,—a process carried out more completely here than in any other language.
Relation of the Italians to the Greeks
These examples selected from a great abundance of analogous phenomena suffice to establish the individuality of the Italian stock as distinguished from the other members of the Indo-Germanic family, and at the same time show it to be linguistically the nearest relative, as it is geographically the next neighbour, of the Greek. The Greek and the Italian are brothers; the Celt, the German, and the Slavonian are their cousins. The essential unity of all the Italian as of all the Greek dialects and stocks must have dawned early and clearly on the consciousness of the two great nations themselves; for we find in the Roman language a very ancient word of enigmatical origin, -Graius-or -Graicus-, which is applied to every Greek, and in like manner amongst the Greeks the analogous appellation —Opikos— which is applied to all the Latin and Samnite stocks known to the Greeks in earlier times, but never to the Iapygians or Etruscans.
Relation of the Latins to the Umbro-Samnites
Among the languages of the Italian stock, again, the Latin stands in marked contrast with the Umbro-Samnite dialects. It is true that of these only two, the Umbrian and the Samnite or Oscan, are in some degree known to us, and these even in a manner extremely defective and uncertain. Of the rest some, such as the Marsian and the Volscian, have reached us in fragments too scanty to enable us to form any conception of their individual peculiarities or to classify the varieties of dialect themselves with certainty and precision, while others, like the Sabine, have, with the exception of a few traces preserved as dialectic peculiarities in provincial Latin, completely disappeared. A conjoint view, however, of the facts of language and of history leaves no doubt that all these dialects belonged to the Umbro-Samnite branch of the great Italian stock, and that this branch, although much more closely related to Latin than to Greek, was very decidedly distinct from the Latin. In the pronoun and other cases frequently the Samnite and Umbrian used -p where the Roman used -q, as -pis- for -quis-; just as languages otherwise closely related are found to differ; for instance, -p is peculiar to the Celtic in Brittany and Wales, -k to the Gaelic and Erse. Among the vowel sounds the diphthongs in Latin, and in the northern dialects generally, appear very much destroyed, whereas in the southern Italian dialects they have suffered little; and connected with this is the fact, that in composition the Roman weakens the radical vowel otherwise so strictly preserved,—a modification which does not take place in the kindred group of languages. The genitive of words in -a is in this group as among the Greeks -as, among the Romans in the matured language -ae; that of words in -us is in the Samnite -eis, in the Umbrian -es, among the Romans -ei; the locative disappeared more and more from the language of the latter, while it continued in full use in the other Italian dialects; the dative plural in -bus is extant only in Latin. The Umbro-Samnite infinitive in -um is foreign to the Romans; while the Osco-Umbrian future formed from the root -es after the Greek fashion (-her-est- like —leg-so—) has almost, perhaps altogether, disappeared in Latin, and its place is supplied by the optative of the simple verb or by analogous formations from -fuo-(-amabo-). In many of these instances, however—in the forms of the cases, for example—the differences only exist in the two languages when fully formed, while at the outset they coincide. It thus appears that, while the Italian language holds an independent position by the side of the Greek, the Latin dialect within it bears a relation to the Umbro-Samnite somewhat similar to that of the Ionic to the Doric; and the differences of the Oscan and Umbrian and kindred dialects may be compared with the differences between the Dorism of Sicily and the Dorism of Sparta.
Each of these linguistic phenomena is the result and the attestation of an historical event. With perfect certainty they guide us to the conclusion, that from the common cradle of peoples and languages there issued a stock which embraced in common the ancestors of the Greeks and the Italians; that from this, at a subsequent period, the Italians branched off; and that these again divided into the western and eastern stocks, while at a still later date the eastern became subdivided into Umbrians and Oscans.
When and where these separations took place, language of course cannot tell; and scarce may adventurous thought attempt to grope its conjectural way along the course of those revolutions, the earliest of which undoubtedly took place long before that migration which brought the ancestors of the Italians across the Apennines. On the other hand the comparison of languages, when conducted with accuracy and caution, may give us an approximate idea of the degree of culture which the people had reached when these separations took place, and so furnish us with the beginnings of history, which is nothing but the development of civilization. For language, especially in the period of its formation, is the true image and organ of the degree of civilization attained; its archives preserve evidence of the great revolutions in arts and in manners, and from its records the future will not fail to draw information as to those times regarding which the voice of direct tradition is dumb.
During the period when the Indo-Germanic nations which are now separated still formed one stock speaking the same language, they attained a certain stage of culture, and they had a vocabulary corresponding to it. This vocabulary the several nations carried along with them, in its conventionally established use, as a common dowry and a foundation for further structures of their own. In it we find not merely the simplest terms denoting existence, actions, perceptions, such as -sum-, -do-, -pater-, the original echo of the impression which the external world made on the mind of man, but also a number of words indicative of culture (not only as respects their roots, but in a form stamped upon them by custom) which are the common property of the Indo-Germanic family, and which cannot be explained either on the principle of an uniform development in the several languages, or on the supposition of their having subsequently borrowed one from another. In this way we possess evidence of the development of pastoral life at that remote epoch in the unalterably fixed names of domestic animals; the Sanscrit -gaus- is the Latin -bos-, the Greek —bous—; Sanscrit -avis- is the Latin -ovis-, Greek —ois—; Sanscrit -asvas-, Latin -equus-, Greek —ippos—; Sanscrit -hansas-, Latin -anser-, Greek —chein—; Sanscrit -atis-, Latin -anas-, Greek —neissa—; in like manner -pecus-, -sus-, -porcus-, -taurus-, -canis-, are Sanscrit words. Even at this remote period accordingly the stock, on which from the days of Homer down to our own time the intellectual development of mankind has been dependent, had already advanced beyond the lowest stage of civilization, the hunting and fishing epoch, and had attained at least comparative fixity of abode. On the other hand, we have as yet no certain proofs of the existence of agriculture at this period. Language rather favours the negative view. Of the Latin-Greek names of grain none occurs in Sanscrit with the single exception of —zea—, which philologically represents the Sanscrit -yavas-, but denotes in the Indian barley, in Greek spelt. It must indeed be granted that this diversity in the names of cultivated plants, which so strongly contrasts with the essential agreement in the appellations of domestic animals, does not absolutely preclude the supposition of a common original agriculture. In the circumstances of primitive times transport and acclimatizing are more difficult in the case of plants than of animals; and the cultivation of rice among the Indians, that of wheat and spelt among the Greeks and Romans, and that of rye and oats among the Germans and Celts, may all be traceable to a common system of primitive tillage. On the other hand the name of one cereal common to the Greeks and Indians only proves, at the most, that before the separation of the stocks they gathered and ate the grains of barley and spelt growing wild in Mesopotamia,(3) not that they already cultivated grain. While, however, we reach no decisive result in this way, a further light is thrown on the subject by our observing that a number of the most important words bearing on this province of culture occur certainly in Sanscrit, but all of them in a more general signification. -Agras-among the Indians denotes a level surface in general; -kurnu-, anything pounded; -aritram-, oar and ship; -venas-, that which is pleasant in general, particularly a pleasant drink. The words are thus very ancient; but their more definite application to the field (-ager-), to the grain to be ground (-granum-), to the implement which furrows the soil as the ship furrows the surface of the sea (-aratrum-), to the juice of the grape (-vinum-), had not yet taken place when the earliest division of the stocks occurred, and it is not to be wondered at that their subsequent applications came to be in some instances very different, and that, for example, the corn intended to be ground, as well as the mill for grinding it (Gothic -quairinus-, Lithuanian -girnos-,(4)) received their names from the Sanscrit -kurnu-. We may accordingly assume it as probable, that the primeval Indo-Germanic people were not yet acquainted with agriculture, and as certain, that, if they were so, it played but a very subordinate part in their economy; for had it at that time held the place which it afterwards held among the Greeks and Romans, it would have left a deeper impression upon the language.
On the other hand the building of houses and huts by the Indo-Germans is attested by the Sanscrit -dam(as)-, Latin -domus-, Greek —domos—; Sanscrit -vesas-, Latin -vicus-, Greek —oikos—; Sanscrit -dvaras-, Latin -fores-, Greek —thura—; further, the building of oar-boats by the names of the boat, Sanscrit -naus-, Latin -navis-, Greek —naus—, and of the oar, Sanscrit -aritram-, Greek —eretmos—, Latin -remus-, -tri-res-mis-; and the use of waggons and the breaking in of animals for draught and transport by the Sanscrit -akshas- (axle and cart), Latin -axis-, Greek —axon—, —am-axa—; Sanscrit -iugam-, Latin -iugum-, Greek —zugon—. The words that denote clothing- Sanscrit -vastra-, Latin -vestis-, Greek —esthes—; as well as those that denote sewing and spinning-Sanscrit -siv-, Latin -suo-; Sanscrit -nah-, Latin -neo-, Greek —netho—, are alike in all Indo-Germanic languages. This cannot, however, be equally affirmed of the higher art of weaving.(5) The knowledge of the use of fire in preparing food, and of salt for seasoning it, is a primeval heritage of the Indo-Germanic nations; and the same may be affirmed regarding the knowledge of the earliest metals employed as implements or ornaments by man. At least the names of copper (-aes-) and silver (-argentum-), perhaps also of gold, are met with in Sanscrit, and these names can scarcely have originated before man had learned to separate and to utilize the ores; the Sanscrit -asis-, Latin -ensis-, points in fact to the primeval use of metallic weapons.
No less do we find extending back into those times the fundamental ideas on which the development of all Indo-Germanic states ultimately rests; the relative position of husband and wife, the arrangement in clans, the priesthood of the father of the household and the absence of a special sacerdotal class as well as of all distinctions of caste in general, slavery as a legitimate institution, the days of publicly dispensing justice at the new and full moon. On the other hand the positive organization of the body politic, the decision of the questions between regal sovereignty and the sovereignty of the community, between the hereditary privilege of royal and noble houses and the unconditional legal equality of the citizens, belong altogether to a later age.
Even the elements of science and religion show traces of a community of origin. The numbers are the same up to one hundred (Sanscrit -satam-, -ekasatam-, Latin -centum-, Greek —e-katon—, Gothic -hund-); and the moon receives her name in all languages from the fact that men measure time by her (-mensis-). The idea of Deity itself (Sanscrit -devas-, Latin -deus-, Greek —theos—), and many of the oldest conceptions of religion and of natural symbolism, belong to the common inheritance of the nations. The conception, for example, of heaven as the father and of earth as the mother of being, the festal expeditions of the gods who proceed from place to place in their own chariots along carefully levelled paths, the shadowy continuation of the soul’s existence after death, are fundamental ideas of the Indian as well as of the Greek and Roman mythologies. Several of the gods of the Ganges coincide even in name with those worshipped on the Ilissus and the Tiber:—thus the Uranus of the Greeks is the Varunas, their Zeus, Jovis pater, Diespiter is the Djaus pita of the Vedas. An unexpected light has been thrown on various enigmatical forms in the Hellenic mythology by recent researches regarding the earlier divinities of India. The hoary mysterious forms of the Erinnyes are no Hellenic invention; they were immigrants along with the oldest settlers from the East. The divine greyhound Sarama, who guards for the Lord of heaven the golden herd of stars and sunbeams and collects for him the nourishing rain-clouds as the cows of heaven to the milking, and who moreover faithfully conducts the pious dead into the world of the blessed, becomes in the hands of the Greeks the son of Sarama, Sarameyas, or Hermeias; and the enigmatical Hellenic story of the stealing of the cattle of Helios, which is beyond doubt connected with the Roman legend about Cacus, is now seen to be a last echo (with the meaning no longer understood) of that old fanciful and significant conception of nature.
The task, however, of determining the degree of culture which the Indo-Germans had attained before the separation of the stocks properly belongs to the general history of the ancient world. It is on the other hand the special task of Italian history to ascertain, so far as it is possible, what was the state of the Graeco-Italian nation when the Hellenes and the Italians parted. Nor is this a superfluous labour; we reach by means of it the stage at which Italian civilization commenced, the starting-point of the national history.
While it is probable that the Indo-Germans led a pastoral life and were acquainted with the cereals, if at all, only in their wild state, all indications point to the conclusion that the Graeco-Italians were a grain-cultivating, perhaps even a vine-cultivating, people. The evidence of this is not simply the knowledge of agriculture itself common to both, for this does not upon the whole warrant the inference of community of origin in the peoples who may exhibit it. An historical connection between the Indo-Germanic agriculture and that of the Chinese, Aramaean, and Egyptian stocks can hardly be disputed; and yet these stocks are either alien to the Indo-Germans, or at any rate became separated from them at a time when agriculture was certainly still unknown. The truth is, that the more advanced races in ancient times were, as at the present day, constantly exchanging the implements and the plants employed in cultivation; and when the annals of China refer the origin of Chinese agriculture to the introduction of five species of grain that took place under a particular king in a particular year, the story undoubtedly depicts correctly, at least in a general way, the relations subsisting in the earliest epochs of civilization. A common knowledge of agriculture, like a common knowledge of the alphabet, of war chariots, of purple, and other implements and ornaments, far more frequently warrants the inference of an ancient intercourse between nations than of their original unity. But as regards the Greeks and Italians, whose mutual relations are comparatively well known, the hypothesis that agriculture as well as writing and coinage first came to Italy by means of the Hellenes may be characterized as wholly inadmissible. On the other hand, the existence of a most intimate connection between the agriculture of the one country and that of the other is attested by their possessing in common all the oldest expressions relating to it; -ager-, —agros—; -aro aratrum-, —aroo arotron—; -ligo-alongside of —lachaino—; -hortus-, —chortos—; -hordeum-, —krithei—; -milium-, —melinei—; -rapa-, —raphanis-; -malva-, —malachei—; -vinum-, —oinos—. It is likewise attested by the agreement of Greek and Italian agriculture in the form of the plough, which appears of the same shape on the old Attic and the old Roman monuments; in the choice of the most ancient kinds of grain, millet, barley, spelt; in the custom of cutting the ears with the sickle and having them trodden out by cattle on the smooth-beaten threshing-floor; lastly, in the mode of preparing the grain -puls- —poltos—, -pinso- —ptisso—, -mola- —mulei—; for baking was of more recent origin, and on that account dough or pap was always used in the Roman ritual instead of bread. That the culture of the vine too in Italy was anterior to the earliest Greek immigration, is shown by the appellation “wine-land” (—Oinotria—), which appears to reach back to the oldest visits of Greek voyagers. It would thus appear that the transition from pastoral life to agriculture, or, to speak more correctly, the combination of agriculture with the earlier pastoral economy, must have taken place after the Indians had departed from the common cradle of the nations, but before the Hellenes and Italians dissolved their ancient communion. Moreover, at the time when agriculture originated, the Hellenes and Italians appear to have been united as one national whole not merely with each other, but with other members of the great family; at least, it is a fact, that the most important of those terms of cultivation, while they are foreign to the Asiatic members of the Indo-Germanic family, are used by the Romans and Greeks in common with the Celtic as well as the Germanic, Slavonic, and Lithuanian stocks.(6)
The distinction between the common inheritance of the nations and their own subsequent acquisitions in manners and in language is still far from having been wrought out in all the variety of its details and gradations. The investigation of languages with this view has scarcely begun, and history still in the main derives its representation of primitive times, not from the rich mine of language, but from what must be called for the most part the rubbish-heap of tradition. For the present, therefore, it must suffice to indicate the differences between the culture of the Indo-Germanic family in its oldest undivided form, and the culture of that epoch when the Graeco-Italians still lived together. The task of discriminating the results of culture which are common to the European members of this family, but foreign to its Asiatic members, from those which the several European groups, such as the Graeco-Italian and the Germano-Slavonic, have wrought out for themselves, can only be accomplished, if at all, after greater progress has been made in linguistic and historical inquiries. But there can be no doubt that, with the Graeco-Italians as with all other nations, agriculture became and in the mind of the people remained the germ and core of their national and of their private life. The house and the fixed hearth, which the husbandman constructs instead of the light hut and shifting fireplace of the shepherd, are represented in the spiritual domain and idealized in the goddess Vesta or —Estia— almost the only divinity not Indo-Germanic yet from the first common to both nations. One of the oldest legends of the Italian stock ascribes to king Italus, or, as the Italians must have pronounced the word, Vitalus or Vitulus, the introduction of the change from a pastoral to an agricultural life, and shrewdly connects with it the original Italian legislation. We have simply another version of the same belief in the legend of the Samnite stock which makes the ox the leader of their primitive colonies, and in the oldest Latin national names which designate the people as reapers (-Siculi-, perhaps also -Sicani-), or as field-labourers (-Opsci-). It is one of the characteristic incongruities which attach to the so-called legend of the origin of Rome, that it represents a pastoral and hunting people as founding a city. Legend and faith, laws and manners, among the Italians as among the Hellenes are throughout associated with agriculture.(7)
Cultivation of the soil cannot be conceived without some measurement of it, however rude. Accordingly, the measures of surface and the mode of setting off boundaries rest, like agriculture itself, on a like basis among both peoples. The Oscan and Umbrian -vorsus- of one hundred square feet corresponds exactly with the Greek —plethron—. The principle of marking off boundaries was also the same. The land-measurer adjusted his position with reference to one of the cardinal points, and proceeded to draw in the first place two lines, one from north to south, and another from east to west, his station being at their point of intersection (-templum-, —temenos— from —temno—); then he drew at certain fixed distances lines parallel to these, and by this process produced a series of rectangular pieces of ground, the corners of which were marked by boundary posts (-termini-, in Sicilian inscriptions -termones-, usually —oroi—). This mode of defining boundaries, which is probably also Etruscan but is hardly of Etruscan origin, we find among the Romans, Umbrians, Samnites, and also in very ancient records of the Tarentine Heracleots, who are as little likely to have borrowed it from the Italians as the Italians from the Tarentines: it is an ancient possession common to all. A peculiar characteristic of the Romans, on the other hand, was their rigid carrying out of the principle of the square; even where the sea or a river formed a natural boundary, they did not accept it, but wound up their allocation of the land with the last complete square.
Other Features of Their Economy
It is not solely in agriculture, however, that the especially close relationship of the Greeks and Italians appears; it is unmistakably manifest also in the other provinces of man’s earliest activity. The Greek house, as described by Homer, differs little from the model which was always adhered to in Italy. The essential portion, which originally formed the whole interior accommodation of the Latin house, was the -atrium-, that is, the “blackened” chamber, with the household altar, the marriage bed, the table for meals, and the hearth; and precisely similar is the Homeric —megaron—, with its household altar and hearth and smoke-begrimed roof. We cannot say the same of ship-building. The boat with oars was an old common possession of the Indo-Germans; but the advance to the use of sailing vessels can scarcely be considered to have taken place during the Graeco-Italian period, for we find no nautical terms originally common to the Greeks and Italians except such as are also general among the Indo-Germanic family. On the other hand the primitive Italian custom of the husbandmen having common midday meals, the origin of which the myth connects with the introduction of agriculture, is compared by Aristotle with the Cretan Syssitia; and the earliest Romans further agreed with the Cretans and Laconians in taking their meals not, as was afterwards the custom among both peoples, in a reclining, but in a sitting posture. The mode of kindling fire by the friction of two pieces of wood of different kinds is common to all peoples; but it is certainly no mere accident that the Greeks and Italians agree in the appellations which they give to the two portions of the touch-wood, “the rubber” (—trypanon—, -terebra-), and the “under-layer” (—storeus—, —eschara—, -tabula-, probably from -tendere-, —tetamai—). In like manner the dress of the two peoples is essentially identical, for the -tunica- quite corresponds with the —chiton—, and the -toga- is nothing but a fuller —himation—. Even as regards weapons of war, liable as they are to frequent change, the two peoples have this much at least in common, that their two principal weapons of attack were the javelin and the bow,—a fact which is clearly expressed, as far as Rome is concerned, in the earliest names for warriors (-pilumni—arquites-),(8) and is in keeping with the oldest mode of fighting which was not properly adapted to a close struggle. Thus, in the language and manners of Greeks and Italians, all that relates to the material foundations of human existence may be traced back to the same primary elements; the oldest problems which the world proposes to man had been jointly solved by the two peoples at a time when they still formed one nation.
Difference of the Italian and the Greek Character
It was otherwise in the mental domain. The great problem of man—how to live in conscious harmony with himself, with his neighbour, and with the whole to which he belongs—admits of as many solutions as there are provinces in our Father’s kingdom; and it is in this, and not in the material sphere, that individuals and nations display their divergences of character. The exciting causes which gave rise to this intrinsic contrast must have been in the Graeco-Italian period as yet wanting; it was not until the Hellenes and Italians had separated that that deep-seated diversity of mental character became manifest, the effects of which continue to the present day. The family and the state, religion and art, received in Italy and in Greece respectively a development so peculiar and so thoroughly national, that the common basis, on which in these respects also the two peoples rested, has been so overgrown as to be almost concealed from our view. That Hellenic character, which sacrificed the whole to its individual elements, the nation to the township, and the township to the citizen; which sought its ideal of life in the beautiful and the good, and, but too often, in the enjoyment of idleness; which attained its political development by intensifying the original individuality of the several cantons, and at length produced the internal dissolution of even local authority; which in its view of religion first invested the gods with human attributes, and then denied their existence; which allowed full play to the limbs in the sports of the naked youth, and gave free scope to thought in all its grandeur and in all its awfulness;—and that Roman character, which solemnly bound the son to reverence the father, the citizen to reverence the ruler, and all to reverence the gods; which required nothing and honoured nothing but the useful act, and compelled every citizen to fill up every moment of his brief life with unceasing work; which made it a duty even in the boy modestly to cover the body; which deemed every one a bad citizen who wished to be different from his fellows; which regarded the state as all in all, and a desire for the state’s extension as the only aspiration not liable to censure,—who can in thought trace back these sharply-marked contrasts to that original unity which embraced them both, prepared the way for their development, and at length produced them? It would be foolish presumption to desire to lift this veil; we shall only endeavour to indicate in brief outline the beginnings of Italian nationality and its connections with an earlier period—to direct the guesses of the discerning reader rather than to express them.
The Family and the State
All that may be called the patriarchal element in the state rested in Greece and Italy on the same foundations. Under this head comes especially the moral and decorous arrangement of social life,(9) which enjoined monogamy on the husband and visited with heavy penalties the infidelity of the wife, and which recognized the equality of the sexes and the sanctity of marriage in the high position which it assigned to the mother within the domestic circle. On the other hand the rigorous development of the marital and still more of the paternal authority, regardless of the natural rights of persons as such, was a feature foreign to the Greeks and peculiarly Italian; it was in Italy alone that moral subjection became transformed into legal slavery. In the same way the principle of the slave being completely destitute of legal rights—a principle involved in the very nature of slavery—was maintained by the Romans with merciless rigour and carried out to all its consequences; whereas among the Greeks alleviations of its harshness were early introduced both in practice and in legislation, the marriage of slaves, for example, being recognized as a legal relation.
On the household was based the clan, that is, the community of the descendants of the same progenitor; and out of the clan among the Greeks as well as the Italians arose the state. But while under the weaker political development of Greece the clan-bond maintained itself as a corporate power in contradistinction to that of the state far even into historical times, the state in Italy made its appearance at once complete, in so far as in presence of its authority the clans were quite neutralized and it exhibited an association not of clans, but of citizens. Conversely, again, the individual attained, in presence of the clan, an inward independence and freedom of personal development far earlier and more completely in Greece than in Rome—a fact reflected with great clearness in the Greek and Roman proper names, which, originally similar, came to assume very different forms. In the more ancient Greek names the name of the clan was very frequently added in an adjective form to that of the individual; while, conversely, Roman scholars were aware that their ancestors bore originally only one name, the later -praenomen-. But while in Greece the adjectival clan-name early disappeared, it became, among the Italians generally and not merely among the Romans, the principal name; and the distinctive individual name, the -praenomen-, became subordinate. It seems as if the small and ever diminishing number and the meaningless character of the Italian, and particularly of the Roman, individual names, compared with the luxuriant and poetical fulness of those of the Greeks, were intended to illustrate the truth that it was characteristic of the one nation to reduce all to a level, of the other to promote the free development of personality. The association in communities of families under patriarchal chiefs, which we may conceive to have prevailed in the Graeco-Italian period, may appear different enough from the later forms of Italian and Hellenic polities; yet it must have already contained the germs out of which the future laws of both nations were moulded. The “laws of king Italus,” which were still applied in the time of Aristotle, may denote the institutions essentially common to both. These laws must have provided for the maintenance of peace and the execution of justice within the community, for military organization and martial law in reference to its external relations, for its government by a patriarchal chief, for a council of elders, for assemblies of the freemen capable of bearing arms, and for some sort of constitution. Judicial procedure (-crimen-, —krinein—, expiation (-poena-, —poinei—), retaliation (-talio-, —talao—, —tleinai—, are Graeco-Italian ideas. The stern law of debt, by which the debtor was directly responsible with his person for the repayment of what he had received, is common to the Italians, for example, with the Tarentine Heracleots. The fundamental ideas of the Roman constitution—a king, a senate, and an assembly entitled simply to ratify or to reject the proposals which the king and senate should submit to it—are scarcely anywhere expressed so distinctly as in Aristotle’s account of the earlier constitution of Crete. The germs of larger state-confederacies in the political fraternizing or even amalgamation of several previously independent stocks (symmachy, synoikismos) are in like manner common to both nations. The more stress is to be laid on this fact of the common foundations of Hellenic and Italian polity, that it is not found to extend to the other Indo-Germanic stocks; the organization of the Germanic community, for example, by no means starts, like that of the Greeks and Romans, from an elective monarchy. But how different the polities were that were constructed on this common basis in Italy and Greece, and how completely the whole course of their political development belongs to each as its distinctive property,(10) it will be the business of the sequel to show.
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