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Trinity College, Hartford, Cona.




In the fourth century of our era the division of the enormous Roman empire into its eastern and western halves was accomplished, and in the fifth the line of western emperors became extinct. The empire was suffering from grave economic ills. The lesser landed proprietors, weighed down by the burden of excessive taxation, found it difficult to maintain their independence: their holdings were swallowed up in the vast estates of great landowners, and they themselves, receiving perhaps an annuity in exchange, went to spend it in a neighboring city, or, if they chose to remain upon the land, were at last reduced to the rank of adscripts to the soil and tilled as serfs their ancestral fields. Population steadily declined; this fact, coupled with the destruction of the rural

middle class—the sinews of a state-makes it easy to understand how small bodies of barbarian invaders could take possession of vast districts within the empire: the oppressed people actually welcomed them,-barbarians were more merciful than imperial tax-collectors. The boundless domains of the landed aristocracy were cultivated by troops of slaves.

The incomes thus provided were consumed in the pleasures and extravagance of city life. The crift of population toward the cities was a prominent feature of the times, and went on, as such movements will go on, despite the resistance of a government that sought to keep things as they were. Thus the huge centres of population were maintained at an ever-increasing disproportion to the exhausted rural districts. Beside the greatest of them all, imperial Rome, there rose, dotting the margin of the Mediterranean sea, the great provincial capitals and ports, Milan, Marseilles, Tarragona, Carthage and Syracuse in the West, Corinth, Ephesus, Antioch and Alexandria in the East-the last second only to Rome in wealth and numbers. These were all alike in that they swarmed with men of every nation and language; their outward aspect, too, was similar: they were crossed by magnificent avenues, bordered with gleaming colonnades in endless perspective, and were provided with spacious amphitheatres and

numerous baths supplied with water by aqueducts that strode on giant arches over the neighboring plains. The splendid palaces of the wealthy glittered upon commanding sites—but the dark background of all this glory was the noisome labyrinth where the poor were huddled together in unimaginable squalor. Immense possessions and utmost destitution, magnificence and misery, delicacy amounting to effeminacy, filth and disease, such were the contrasts life presented in the long decline of ancient Rome. Moral disorders were no less marked than economic: it is impossible to describe the effrontery of immorality in high places in that day; luxury, gilded vice and gross debauchery were doing their deadly work in diminishing the human species in all those great aggregates of population, which must have rapidly declined had they not been reinforced by accessions from without. The government of the cities was oligarchic in its character; it was conducted by a self-perpetuating council, whose onerous duty it was to see that the imperial assessment upon the community was paid in full. As the members of the council were personally responsible for any deficiency, desperate but generally futile efforts were made to avoid the fatal honor of serving upon it: the authorities were gently inexorable,-and the wealthier the victim, the better. In this way men of moderate means were ruined, and even the

wealthy were impoverished. The culture of the age was degenerate: poetry and oratory declined into declamation,-into fulsome panegyric, presenting its palm for reward,-into mere and often indecent literary trifling and patchwork quotation. Taste was extinct: sculpture inferior to that of the age

of Constantine it would be difficult to find. There was utter dearth of creative ability; the source of genius had run dry; men lived and moved among memorials of a noble past which they were incapable of emulating, of appreciating even; the best they could do was to rearrange the artistic material that they inherited in new but not original combinations. The industrial life of the towns was controlled by colleges, or guilds; the processes of manufacture were, like agriculture, relegated to slaves; in many branches enterprise languished through inability to compete with large concerns (run in the interest of the imperial government) that enjoyed, through free transportation of their products, a practical monopoly. After an interval of centuries, commerce was steadily returning to the control of Greeks. In the cities men congregated and whiled away their mornings at the baths, their afternoons at the theatre or circus,-SO passed their empty days. The idle and insolent populace of Rome—the paupers of the empirewas entertained in a two-fold sense at the public charge. The monotony of this existence was en.

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