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The Empire's Dignity.
pressed upon the minds of men in the opening years of our era. Upon this hope, as well as upon the incapacity of the Romans to govern themselves and their dependencies, Augustus founded his Empire. That men were no longer politically free, as under the Republic, was a source of pain to many, and of discontent and opposition to the Cæsars; for with the Romans, as with the Greeks, the memory of liberty died hard. But, as compensation, the state was more grandly fulfilling its destinies and carrying out the great charge of Rome. The majesty of the commonwealthres publicæ, republic, as for centuries it continued to be called-reached its culmination under the Empire. This majesty of the united realm presented a haughty imperial front to the outside world. The Roman people, as in the days of Fabricius and Pyrrhus, needed not to stoop to base conquests of dreaded foes, if indeed Rome dreaded any foes. To the proposals of chiefs of the Chatti to poison Armenius, the senate under Tiberius replied: “Non fraude neque occultis, sed palam et armatum populum Romanum hostes suos ulcisci." And a mighty sense of this great majesty lived in the soldiers and officers of the Empire, no matter how vile or crazed might be the imperial monster revelling in Rome. Rome had always sons able and brave, and, whether Romans born or Romans through merit and adoption, devoted to the state. When Nero went idly mad, there was a Corbulo to uphold Rome's majesty against her enemies. In the struggles of the succession after Nero's death, whatever might be the weakness or treachery of their leaders, the Roman legions kept their soldiers' honor, faced each other in internecine struggle, and conquered or fell with wounds in front.' And Vespasian, intent upon his contest for the throne, would no whit relax the desperate war to subdue the Jews, but left Titus, with legions, to bring it to conclusion. One is impressed with the enduring 1 Tac., Ann., ii, 88. See Ibid., Historia, iii, passim.
strength of the Roman Empire, its cohesive solidarity as against revolts of provinces. It was this that overcame the widespread insurrection of Batavians, Gauls, and Germans under Civilis in the first months of Vespasian's reign. And as the years and centuries went on, the thought of the greatness of the Empire gathered dignity; it outlived other greatness. Down even through the Empire's expiring decadence, the traditionary glory of the Roman Senate, the honor of the Roman Consulate surrounded these phantoms.
Another portion of Rome's public charge, to impose the ways of peace, was to make the Roman world one in habit, thought, and feeling, and civilize the barbarous races within its bounds.
Part of this
task it inherited from Alexander. In days when Greece was free, there had often come the hope of Hellenic unity, the hope that not only the city-states of Hellas, but also the Hellenic islands of the Mediterranean and the cities upon the Bosphorus and along the coasts of Asia Minor, might make one nation as they were one race. Free Greece was never to realize this hope. Subject Hellendom attained it for a moment under Alexander; then his empire fell apart, yet leaving monarchs of Greek race rulers through the eastern Mediterranean lands. Alexander was no pure Hellene; the final lasting political union of Greek peoples was to come through subjection to Rome, who was no Hellene at all. Yet, while Rome was becoming mistress of the Hellenic world, Hellas was entwining herself about her heartstrings. It seemed the purpose of Rome's rule in the East to preserve Greek social and political institutions.' Political honesty and self-control, all capacity for selfgovernment, had left Greek cities before Augustus' time. But throughout Hellas and the East, the motives of civic life were still Greek, and so were even the political institutions. The Romans originated little, but kept the 1 See Mommsen, Provinces of the Roman Empire, ii, 254; i, 274, etc.
peace with a strong hand, and permitted the Greek cities still to live their lives.' Language, literature, coinage, public and private modes of life, remained Greek; and, under the Empire, Rome herself becomes so Hellenized in thought that it is difficult longer to distinguish Greek from Roman elements, as could be done for times of the Republic. In Hadrian's time, Latin literature itself totters, and forty years afterwards a Roman emperor writes his Thoughts in Greek. Greek life and language held their own wherever they had formerly prevailed; while the Mediterranean world, with all internal barriers levelled under imperial rule, became a Græco-Roman Empire.
But it was the Roman office to civilize the more barbarous West. Greek institutions did not spring up in Gaul or Spain or Britain. There, Hellenism acted only through its previous effect on Rome. It was Roman life, Roman coinage, Italian municipal institutions and the Latin tongue that civilized-Romanized-these countries. They were never distinctly Hellenized. No Greek authors came from them, but many Latin ones, Spain furnishing the elder Seneca, Martial, and Quintilian.' And to all these western countries imperial Rome freely extended her citizenship, even as she extended her taxation. The edict of Caracalla was an expression of the expanding homogeneity and unity of the Roman world. Beyond this, no factor was more potent in making Spaniards, Gauls, and Britons like-minded members of the Empire, than the Latin language. Speaking Latin by a provincial went far towards Romanizing him; writing Latin made a man distinctly a Latin author. A language helps to mould, as well as express, character and thought. Using it, a man thinks and feels in accord with the character of the people from whom the language comes, and is imbued
1 See Mommsen, Provinces, etc., i, 388.
Except of course in an old Greek city like Marseilles.
3 See Mommsen, Provinces, etc., i, 74, etc.
with the associations of its words, especially when the new language is that of the ruling race. Strong were the forces drawing Latin-speaking Spaniards, Gauls, and Britons into the currents of the Roman Empire which represented the strength and civilization of the world.' Down to the barbarian invasions the multifarious denizens of the western portions of the Empire continue to become Roman, reaching ever more complete homogeneity; and in the latest Roman literature, with pagan writers like Claudian or Rutilius, as well as with a Christian poet like Prudentius, there still comes clearly to expression the pervading sense of the unity and greatness of the Roman Empire.'
So Rome's imperial function was to enforce peace throughout the world, civilize the barbarous West, and, for the rest, give play to human life in all its activities. Within the Empire, the Jews alone held themselves aloof; they would buy and sell with the Gentiles; they would submit to Gentile government. Yet they felt no lot in common with the Empire or its destinies. A scattered race, yet intensely national, as before so after the destruction of their holy city, they held themselves severed from other men, expectant on the coming of a kingly Messiah, though the Messiah had already come.
1 These influences from using Latin were increased by rhetorical studies, which were prosecuted through the provinces. They made the provincial learners feel like Romans, filling them with the ardor of Roman associations. See Boissier, Fin du Paganisme, i, 228, etc.
'See Boissier, Fin du Paganisme, vol. ii, p. 160. No one of these three writers was a native of Italy.
THE EMPIRE: THE SPIRITUAL CHANGE.
VIRGIL heralded his times in other ways than by
giving expression to the imperial destinies of Rome. He was the herald of the change coming in the hearts of men. This change lay in a fuller appreciation of life through feeling, and in the consequent expansion of the entire nature of man through apprehension of more of life's factors. It lay in the awakening of broader feelings of sympathy with joys and sorrows not immediately touching the individual experiencing them; it lay in a growing sense of the universal pathos of life and in a development of the higher emotions.
Comparisons between Homer and Virgil are trite. Virgil could not but borrow a large part of the structure of the Eneid from the Odyssey; and from both the great poems of Homer, Virgil, as a matter of course, took incidents and similes without number. His mind was imbued with Greek poetry and myth; they had become part of his artistic personality. It was not thought plagiarism in a Roman poet to borrow from the Greeks; and Virgil filled his epic with Homeric figure and incident as naturally as a Puritan who read nothing but the Bible would have expressed himself in Biblical phrase. To devise a new epic frame and novel mythical events was no more expected of Virgil than the invention of a new metre. To be sure, the unavoidable result is that, while Homer is original, or seems so to us, Virgil in many respects is not, and seems